The battle for control over
borrowing in Cook County government escalated Wednesday, with
Republicans and reform Democrats forcing the administration to reduce
its borrowing even further in 2009.
Initially, Cook County Board President Todd Stroger and
commissioners loyal to him insisted the county needed to borrow about
$740 million in 2009, including hundreds of millions for operating
expenses in 2009.
But opposition commissioners, led by Democratic Cook
County Commissioners Forrest Claypool and Michael Quigley insisted it
was bad financial practice to borrow for recurring expenses, and
Stroger and fellow commissioners eventually dropped the demand, passing
the 2009 budget without borrowing for operating expenses.
But Stroger and regular Democratic commissioners
thought that they had agreement with the opposition commissioners on
$262 million in borrowing for capital projects, such as for a new
prisoner intake facility at the Cook County Jail.
Commissioners like Claypool had signaled they could
accept borrowing for capital projects because it is accepted financial
But now some commissioners, like Bartlett Republican
Tim Schneider, want to go over each and every capital project one more
time to make sure they're all really necessary.
Apparently, they're not.
Faced Wednesday with an all-day revolt by Schneider and
company, Stroger's director of capital planning, Bruce Washington,
tried to pre-empt more cuts by offering up another $20 million in
projects he said could wait or be canceled.
The move infuriated Finance Committee Chairman John
Daley, who was under the impression Washington had promised the list
was pared to the bone already.
"I would really ... wonder if we waited another month
(to approve these bonds) what else would be canceled," scoffed Daley.
"I'm disappointed, Bruce."
Commissioners took the offered cuts, but did not appear
to yet be sated. They recessed Wednesday's meeting until after
Thursday's forest preserve meeting, when they vowed to keep combing
through the list line-by-line to pare even more projects.
Cook County Commissioner Bill Beavers said the
commissioners' refusal to approve the bonds was based in race, because
Stroger has selected bond counsel who are from the minority community.
"Make it all white (the bond counsel and underwriters)
and I guarantee you could get it passed before you could make it to the
newspapers," said Beavers.
"Do we honestly believe that anyone here is objecting
to the team?" replied Republican Pete Silvestri of Elmwood Park. "I
don't care what they are. There's even a Pinelli here, so we got every
(race) going. ... The issue is what's in the bond issue."