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Plan would make it harder for Cook County Board to raise taxes

Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Daily Herald
by Rob Olmstead

After decades of authoritarian rule, the office of the president of the Cook County Board could look significantly different by the time the next president takes over.
First, after John H. Stroger suffered a stroke, commissioners took advantage of his absence to end the tradition of putting the president’s name on all park district signs.
Now, the same commissioner who pushed that change is trying to rein in the president’s office a little further.
Commissioner Peter Silvestri, an Elmwood Park Republican, is proposing a change that would require a supermajority of 60 percent — or 11 votes out of the 17 total — to raise taxes if the budget is not passed by Jan. 1. The proposal is co-sponsored by Democrat Larry Suffredin of Evanston.
In the last few years, the budget process has consistently crept into the next year instead of being finished by the fall.
“The intent of the ordinance would be to motivate the administration to present the budget in a very timely fashion,” Silvestri said.
The change from nine to 11 votes is key, because on the last two budgets, approval has come down to a 9-8 vote.
Cook County Board President Bobbie Steele’s office said the president hasn’t seen the proposed change and could not yet enunciate a position.
In another challenge to presidential power, Suffredin is proposing a rule change that would require the board to sign off on any appointments to the zoning board of appeals, which was formerly strictly the purview of the president’s office.
Silvestri, who supports Suffredin’s proposal on the zoning board, denied the recent moves are a power play.
“It’s not taking any power from anybody,” he said. The moves simply “re-establish the power that the legislature gave to the board in the first place.”

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