Cook Co. commissioner has his say over meetingOfficial who missed meeting defends himself, county, but not Peraica
Friday, May 02, 2008
by Kimberly Pohl
Cook County Board Commissioner Gregg Goslin says there's a good reason he didn't join his constituents at Wednesday's town hall meeting in Palatine.
He was traveling on business and told Palatine Mayor Rita Mullins so last week. A staff member would have attended in his place, but Goslin nixed that when board President Todd Stroger canceled his own appearance.
After the meeting, many residents asked Mullins for their county commissioner's name and whereabouts. They wondered why their own representative didn't make the effort to show up, especially when Tony Peraica, a commissioner from the Western suburbs, was there.
"Of course it would have been nice if (Goslin) could have been there," said Mullins. "It's disappointing, but he had prior business."
Goslin, a Glenview Republican, said he realizes people may have felt let down by his absence but that the meeting was supposed to be a dialogue between them and Stroger.
"I was there with my vote when they really needed me," Goslin said. "I voted against 13 different tax increases."
Goslin theorized that, for Peraica, the event was just a campaign stop in his bid for Cook County state's attorney. Peraica is running against Democrat Anita Alvarez.
His visit surprised the approximately 100 people gathered in the Harper College theater. He began by criticizing Stroger and proceeded to answer questions from the audience for much of the 2˝-hour session.
"It ended up being a political side show. We all saw it coming," Goslin said. "I think that's what Stroger figured was going to happen."
Goslin agrees with many suburban criticisms of county government: It's inefficient, and more accountability is needed.
But he disputes the claim his district's residents are paying an inordinate share of taxes, saying his district gets a "fairly good return" on its contribution.
Goslin knows that's a hard sell, especially considering 2006 figures show his district got $2 in tangible services for every $7 spent.
The county's portion of a resident's tax bill is "extremely low," he says, and many county services aren't meant to target comparatively affluent communities.
A third of the county budget, he said, is spent on health care for needy residents, noting Palatine's Vista Health Center is one of the busiest clinics in the county.
Another third of the budget funds the largest jail system in the U.S., housing more than 10,000 inmates.
"The county gives you your day in court, but that's not a tangible thing that most people can wrap their hands around," Goslin said.
Unlike Peraica's claim that the board makes it impossible for him to get anything done, Goslin cited several initiatives he got through, including the privatization of forest preserve district golf courses and a vehicle policy for the county's 2,000 cars.
As for the calls for the Northwest suburbs to secede from Cook County, Goslin says to be careful what you wish for. He predicts spikes in property tax rates should the region join Lake County.
"We're all concerned about taxes, but the court system and jails are very expensive operations," he said. "We should try to work on increasing efficiency."
He backs Stroger and suburban officials who want to try arranging another dialogue with residents.
Stroger spokesman Gene Mullins said the county is still working with several suburbs to set up community meetings in the near future. He declined to provide more details as talks continue.
"We are reaching out to them as we speak," he said.
• Projects and Political Writer Joseph Ryan contributed to this report.