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A Cook County numbers game

Thursday, July 13, 2006
Daily Southtown
by Kati Phillips

The Cook County commissioner who will replace ailing John Stroger as president will not need backing from a majority of the 16-member board.
Commissioners learned Wednesday they will be allowed to vote "yes," "no" or "present" for presidential nominees during a special meeting Wednesday.
The president will be elected by a simple majority of those present and whose votes count. "Present" votes will not count.
That means if a nominee receives eight "yes" votes, seven "no" votes and one "present," he or she will become the next president of the state's largest county government. Two "yes" votes and a remainder of "present" votes would win, too.
This adds a new wrinkle to the selection of a president to serve out the four months left of Stroger's term. Prior to the board meeting, it appeared no potential nominees had nine votes.
A resolution setting the special meeting and the voting process was proposed by Commissioner Larry Suffredin (D-Evanston). It was approved on a vote of 14 to 2.
Commissioners Earlean Collins and Jerry "The Iceman" Butler, both Chicago Democrats, opposed the resolution and questioned how a president elected by just three or four or five members could effectively lead.
"The 'present' vote is a political ploy as opposed to being a vote of 'yea' or 'nay'," Butler said.
The ordinance is based on state statute and case law. Commissioners cannot be compelled to vote "yes" or "no," the board's legal counsel said.
Commissioner Peter Silvestri (R-Elmwood Park) said the debate over how votes will be counted is moot.
"Everybody who sits down in this room will know who the interim president will be because there's going to be discussions between the 12th and the 19th," he said. "I don't think it's going to be an open convention on July 19th."
Commissioner Elizabeth Doody Gorman (R-Orland Park) had proposed an alternative succession ordinance, which would automatically give the presidency to the finance chairman in case of a permanent vacancy, followed by the most senior commissioner. She withdrew the ordinance.


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