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Palatine residents attend gathering despite Stroger's decision not to go

Thursday, May 01, 2008
Daily Herald
by Kimberly Pohl

Cook County Board President Todd Stroger may have done himself a favor by steering clear of Wednesday's town hall meeting in Palatine.

About 100 northwest suburban residents united in their disdain for county government showed up at Harper College despite the late-breaking news of Stroger's absence.

"We're disappointed this did not come together as planned because the unfortunate victims are the shared constituents (of Palatine and Cook County)," said Palatine Mayor Rita Mullins.

Elected officials, business leaders and residents walked away encouraged by the candid dialogue but skeptical that it pays to belong to Cook County.

Council members will continue to scratch their heads as to why a 1 percentage point hike in sales tax bringing in an extra $426 million in revenue was needed to cover a $230 million budget deficit. They didn't learn what, if any, additional county services Palatine will see with its $4.5 million contribution.

What they did get was a crash course in county politics.

Board commissioner and Stroger nemesis Tony Peraica turned heads when he unexpectedly walked into the theater shortly after the meeting was called to order. He proceeded to take questions from the audience for much of the two-and-a-half-hour session.

Peraica, the Republican candidate for Cook County state's attorney, said there's an "inordinate taxation burden" put on Palatine and that the village doesn't get as big a return on its investment compared to other municipalities. He lambasted fellow commissioners for rarely seconding his motions and criticized court system atrocities and health bureau inefficiencies.

"There are incompetent people running essential operations of the county," he said. "Cook County is getting to be known nationwide as "Crook County" and there's good reason for that."

Palatine Mayor Rita Mullins credited Peraica for showing up and questioned the whereabouts of Gregg Goslin, the Republican commissioner who represents Palatine.

Peraica, like many elected officials, said he wasn't surprised Stroger was a no-show.

"He has a long line of behavior I think kind of exemplifies a high level of hubris," he said. "I apologize for him. I just felt compelled to make the trip out to at least talk about Cook County taxation in general to the people who pay our salaries."

Stroger pulled out late Tuesday, saying the format of the session changed from a community meeting to a special village council meeting, enabling political grandstanding by council members.

Other budding politicians stepped up to the microphone.

Steve Greenberg, a Long Grove businessman who's challenging two-term Democrat Melissa Bean for the 8th District House seat, lauded Palatine for its leadership.

Buffalo Grove atheist activist Rob Sherman also chimed in, asking the council what they thought about legislation that would make it easier to secede as well as implementing a sales tax cap. He's running for state representative.

The purpose of inviting Stroger out, Mayor Rita Mullins has said, was not to talk about secession. But several residents cheered on the village to pursue the idea.

"I want to congratulate you for finally fighting the unbelievably corrupt Cook County," said Roman Golash of Palatine. "(I hope) you'll take the lead on this Ö and aggressively start the process."

Mullins said Palatine will provide Stroger with a recap of the meeting and says she'll work with him to set up a less formal community meeting.

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