Stroger answers the big questions
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
by Ashok Selvam
If suburban officials want to secede and create their own county -- Lincoln, Reagan or whatever -- Cook County Board President Todd Stroger said he wouldn't stop the naming contest.
"I got so many problems, (fighting secession) would derail everything that we're trying to do," he said.
Stroger clutched the microphone calmly Monday night at Harper College in Palatine as he walked around the auditorium while addressing the audience and answering questions. Here's a synopsis of some things Stroger had to say:
The sales tax
Stroger blamed union contracts for the size of the 1 percentage point hike in the sales tax. A $230 million deficit forced the increase, which is projected to bring in $426 million annually, with the extra building a surplus to meet future pay increases.
"There comes a time when you have pay the piper, and we've come to that point," he said, adding that a consultant the county hired said increasing taxes was the only way county government could continue.
Stroger also advocated a raise in the state's income tax, saying that would alleviate many problems.
"That's just my philosophy," he said.
Stroger wants to educate suburban residents who don't feel they're getting their money's worth about county services such as the jail, sheriff's police, courts, health department and forest preserves.
Surrounded by department heads who could speak in detail about county services, he touted a public access cable television channel that is planned for Comcast to keep residents informed.
"We don't want you to live in a vacuum; we want you to know what' s going on," he said.
On nepotism in hiring practices:
"It's simply not true," he said, taking shots at media coverage criticizing him for giving friends and family members jobs.
His cousin, Donna Dunnings, the county's chief financial officer, was among those in attendance. And he cited Carmen Triche-Colvin, wife of Stroger's friend, state Rep. Mario Colvin.
"These are two highly qualified women who I'm proud to have serve in my administration," Stroger said, adding they look out for his best interests, which coincide with Cook County's best interests.
But when Stroger introduced Dr. Steven Martin, chief operating officer for the department of public health, he didn't mention Martin is his brother-in-law.