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County tax foes challenged to debate.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Medill Report
by Sri Raman

Defending the proposed addition of new employees in his department, the head of the Cook County Bureau of Health Services Wednesday challenged three commissioners to debate charges of waste in the system.

"I will debate any of those three; show me what you'd cut," an impassioned Dr. Robert Simon said following a meeting of the Cook County Board.

The three commissioners referred to are Tony Peraica, Forrest Claypool and Mike Quigley

Quigley said he was willing to debate Dr. Simon at any time but he added that gross mismanagement and patronage were evident in a report issued Tuesday by an independent panel which examined alleged inefficiences within the county's health system.

"He doesn't have to debate us--let him debate the blue ribbon committee," Quigley said.

Dr. Simon noted that the proposed increases are necessary to hire employees, particularly physicians, who are needed to tackle a backlog of cases.  He challenged the three to come up with their own viable solution.

Dr. Simon also accused the commissioners as being the main source of low morale and high exodus among the county’s doctors. 

“It’s because of those three commissioners--that is why they’re upset,” Simon said.

Board President Todd Stroger's 2008 budget calls for tax increases totaling $557 million.

Peraica said that Stroger's proposed tax increases are onerous because they come at a time when the county is experiencing an 80% increase in foreclosure rates and a 40% increase in bankruptcy rates. 

"We’re going to have to learn to live within our means,” Peraica said.

Stroger also called for l,l00 new employes, with 690 of them slated for the Bureau of Health Services based on the independent panel's findings.

“My commitment to cost efficiency in this government remains firm,” Stroger said.

The board’s finance committee will reconvene on Monday to begin analyzing the budget. 

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