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Cook's next forest chief to be unlisted

Wednesday, July 12, 2006
Chicago Tribune
by Mickey Ciokajlo

Politicians' names have long been plastered on signs around Illinois, but one Cook County agency is moving to end the practice and will no longer post the name of its leader.

Cook County Forest Preserve District commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to omit the name of the new president of the County Board after John Stroger retires July 31. The 17 commissioners who sit on the County Board also run the Forest Preserve District, although it is a separate unit of government.
Citing cost concerns, commissioners approved the measure with little discussion, which contrasted sharply with debates last year when the district was ordering new signs with Stroger's name.

"I think there was a lot of emotion and feeling about the signs and the cost of replacing the president's name," said Commissioner Peter Silvestri (R-Elmwood Park), who sponsored the resolution. "I thought originally, when he was still in office, it was inappropriate to try to change them then ... But now that we have to change them, it is the appropriate time to save the taxpayers money."

Silvestri, whose name is listed on a dozen signs in west suburban Elmwood Park where he is the mayor, said he is not taking a stance against posting politicians' names on signs.

"It was not my intent to make a larger statement," Silvestri said. "You'll find my name on certain signs and different pamphlets and documents too. It's just that because of the cost, the number of signs, because of the district's financial condition, it's not appropriate to spend that kind of money on replacing a president's name."

The district did not have a total cost estimate to change all of its signs. But an official told commissioners it would cost about $100 per sign to cover Stroger's name on 100 new aluminum entrance signs that the board approved last year.

The district has about 250 older wooden entrance signs that could be painted at minimal cost, said Dave Kircher, chief landscape architect.

Commissioner Tony Peraica, the Republican nominee for board president in the Nov. 7 election, said the move was not meant to disrespect any past or future board president.

"I don't believe that we should spend the funds to constantly update the names on any signage of property belonging to the taxpayers," Peraica said. "And I think a generic description ... is sufficient to indicate the ownership on any signage that's prepared now or in the future."

Commissioner Bobbie Steele (D-Chicago) said the county is going through a transition period where it could have two new presidents, an interim and one elected in the fall, in a matter of months.

"I don't think it's worth it. We don't have that kind of money," said Steele, who has been lobbying to be named interim president. "I think we showed prudence in taking the action we took."

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