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Stroger's first broken promise

Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Chicago Tribune

Memo to Mayor Richard M. Daley, U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Barack Obama, Cook County Board President Bobbie Steele ... :

That didn't take long, did it? Todd Stroger, whom you each touted as a "progressive" or a "reformer" when you endorsed him for Cook County Board president, won't even take office until next month. And already he has broken a key campaign pledge he made to voters.

"I will ask [for] and accept his resignation--period."

That's what Stroger said on Sept. 29 about his father's patronage boss, Gerald Nichols, when it was clear that a federal investigation into hiring irregularities in county government was a political problem for Stroger. He said that if he won the election, Nichols would be gone.

But Stroger now says that he needs Nichols' advice. So he won't promptly dump Nichols, who's being paid $114,000 a year by the county to do nothing.

"I'm going to bring Gerald on to help me figure out who's who and what's what," Stroger told the Sun-Times. He said he'll get around to dumping Nichols in, oh, January. At least, that's what Stroger says now. Check back in January.

So, public officials, what does this episode tell voters about each of you? That when you stand before a crowd to praise a candidate for his reform credentials, or you record robo-calls to tell citizens he's "the real reformer," or you tell voters who trust you to trust him--does Todd Stroger's already-slippery performance tell voters that the worth of your word approaches zero?

... U.S. Reps. Bobby Rush, Jesse Jackson Jr., Daniel Lipinski, Rahm Emanuel, Danny Davis, Jan Schakowsky ...

You know Gerald Nichols. He was the 8th Ward man to see when John Stroger ran the patronage dump that is Cook County government. A few years back, when Todd Stroger was a state representative, he quietly sponsored a $12,000 tuition grant for Nichols' daughter.

When Bobbie Steele took over this summer as interim board president, she suspended Nichols--she said she couldn't figure out what he was supposed to be doing for the county. That was Steele's way of saying Nichols was too hot to handle, given that FBI agents were showing very intense interest in county hirings and promotions.

... Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn, Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan, Comptroller Dan Hynes, Secretary of State Jesse White ...

Todd Stroger spokesman Bill Figel confirmed Tuesday that Stroger the Younger plans to keep Nichols around for a while so Stroger can learn everything Nichols knows about county government. You'd think a guy being paid to sit at home and wait for the mail might donate his supposedly crucial knowledge to the county. Instead, this walking symbol of Democratic clout politics in Cook County will be advising ... Todd Stroger, the putative reformer each of you endorsed.

... State Senate President Emil Jones, Sens. Rickey Hendon, Jeff Schoenberg, Kwame Raoul, Donne E. Trotter, Maggie Crotty, Don Harmon ...

This isn't "just politics," any more than endemic county corruption is "just politics." This is about services to needy and sometimes desperate people. Example: A new report from the court-appointed monitor at Cook County's juvenile detention center documents recent efforts by county administrators at the center to impede her investigations. This at a facility that has chronically abused girls and boys by the hundreds.

Todd Stroger is about to take responsibility for that hellhole--in part because each of you told voters he was the best candidate for the job.

... House Speaker Michael Madigan, Reps. Calvin Giles, Sara Feigenholtz, Lou Lang, Julie Hamos, Barbara Flynn Currie, Bob Rita, Marlow Colvin, Connie Howard, Elaine Nekritz, Deborah Graham ...

So, each of you, ask yourselves: Is the man you said would be a fine Cook County Board president making you proud you endorsed him?

Will you now speak out in public? Or do you do that only in campaign season when party leaders tell you whom you're going to endorse?

... Cook County Board members Deborah Sims, Earlean Collins, Jerry Butler, Joan Patricia Murphy, John Daley, Roberto Maldonado, Joseph Mario Moreno, Larry Suffredin ...

As is, each of your names remains on Todd Stroger's Web site. Telling him to remove you from his endorsement list won't take back what you told voters about him before the election. So leave your name right where it is. As a record.

... State's Atty. Dick Devine, County Recorder Gene Moore, Ald. Ed Burke, Toni Preckwinkle, Richard Mell, Ed Smith, Tom Tunney ...

He's all yours.

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