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A missed chance to fight county patronage

Sunday, March 18, 2007
Chicago Tribune
by Claypool, Peraica, Schneider & Suffredin
Letter to the Editor

Last month, the Cook County Board missed a historic opportunity to strike a blow against a bloated patronage system and protect the interests of those without clout.

This is in response to a letter to the editor defending their votes for President Todd Stroger's business-as-usual budget ("Downsizing Cook County government," Voice of the people, March 12), from Commissioners Liz Doody-Gorman, Gregg Goslin, Mike Quigley and Pete Silvestri.

In the week prior to the budget vote, 12 of the 17 commissioners--including Gorman, Goslin, Quigley and Silvestri--sponsored an alternative budget to cut deeply into the county's wasteful, patronage-laden bureaucracy and restore critical law-enforcement and health-care services.

In the hours prior to the vote, however, the four commissioners abandoned their own proposal and provided the swing votes to pass Stroger's budget. The four commissioners now express anger that some (including newspaper columnists) questioned their motives for the flip-flop.

The commissioners' letter states that Stroger's budget "restored front-line state's attorneys, public defenders and sheriff's police officers and deputies."

In fact, it fired several dozen police officers while laying off 43 prosecutors. The Stroger budget also decimated health-care services, shutting down neighborhood clinics and the hospital family practices.

The choice before the board was a simple one: fire police officers fighting gangs and drugs and nurses treating the afflicted, or fire hundreds of the paper-pushing county bureaucrats in Stroger's "friends and family" hiring plan.

The alternative budget originally co-sponsored by the four defecting commissioners would have been a rare win for taxpayers and citizens. Why they didn't stick with the majority of their colleagues, as one news columnist wrote, remains "a mystery."

Forrest Claypool, Anthony Peraica, Timothy Schneider, Larry Suffredin, Commissioners Cook County Board of Commissioners

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