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Stroger to resign as county chief; son to run

Friday, June 30, 2006
Chicago Sun-Times
by FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter

Under fire for the leadership vacuum in Cook County government, stroke-stricken John Stroger has decided to resign as county board president on June 31 rather than serve until the end of the year -- paving the way for Mayor Daley's brother to become Stroger's interim replacement.
"This was a decision he made for the good of the county government, so that the county govenment could continue to operate without his presence," said Ald. William Beavers (7th), confirming Thursday night Stroger's intent to resign at the end of the month.
Under a complex deal, Beavers would be tapped to replace Stroger as a county commissioner.
Stroger's original plan was to remain in office while his son, Ald. Todd Stroger (8th), replaced him on the November ticket to run for board president.
"I believe he will serve out his term," Todd Stroger had told reporters earlier this week.
But that was before newspaper editorials raised an important question: If John Stroger is too ill and incapacitated to remain on the ticket, how could he be well enough to remain in office through November?
Board balks at original plan
"I don't know the answer to that question. If he thinks he can finish his term, then so be it," Todd Stroger told reporters during Wednesday's City Council meeting.
County Board members reacted angrily to the contradictory declaration. They said they would refuse to go along with John Stroger's plan to serve out his term in absentia -- emboldened by a recent state's attorney's opinion that they have the authority to remove him from office.
"Something has to happen . . . Somebody's got to be there making decisions," said County Commissioner Gregg Goslin, who said the scenario was "getting insulting."
On Thursday, Beavers, self-declared spokesman for the Stroger family, did an about-face. He called Democratic ward bosses whose support he needs to replace one Stroger with another on the November ballot to say that John Stroger has decided to resign as board president.
Stroger's resignation as president on July 31 would not affect his seat on the board.
Either way, it paves the way for John Daley, the mayoral brother who chairs the County Board's Finance Committee, to fill the leadership void temporarily and do the political dirty work of balancing the county budget.
Son to focus on winning election
Todd Stroger appears to be counting on it. Asked earlier this week how he planned to erase the county's $44 million deficit, the alderman wouldn't touch the political hot potato.
"You know what? I believe they're going to have to handle that deficit this year. I'm actually running for a post that will be for next year," he said.
Once his father's job is temporarily filled, at least a portion of the political baggage will be lifted from Todd Stroger's shoulders.
"He doesn't have to answer that question anymore. He can focus on presenting his qualifications. It narrows the issues the candidate has to deal with on the campaign trail," said Ald. Freddrenna Lyle (6th).
"I thought having a board provided that leadership. I thought things had to be done with their consent -- that they were actively involved in the process of budgeting and [union] negotiations. Apparently, they were not as involved as I thought. Many of them kept saying, 'We can't do anything without the leader.' If that's the case, we need somebody there. But it undermines the need for the rest of the folks." Another Democratic ward boss, who asked to remain anonymous, said John Stroger's decision to resign as board president "takes the focus off Todd. Now the focus goes back to the County Board."
Neither Beavers nor Todd Stroger could be reached for comment.

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