Most 8th graders know the executive and legislative
branches of government are separate—a concept that for more than a
century has escaped those who ran Cook County.
That may change, after the County Board yesterday voted by a narrow
margin to changes its rules so candidates cannot run for both a
commissioner’s seat and the president’s post. Whether Board President
Todd Stroger will sign the measure, which was opposed by his allies, is
not yet known.
Stroger ran in 2006 for just the president’s post. William Beavers
is the commissioner in the 4th District, where Stroger lives. Beavers
said today he does not yet know whether he will run again next year,
when Stroger will be up for re-election as board president.
John Stroger, Todd Stroger's late father, was both president and 4th
District commissioner. John Stroger’s pedecessor, Richard Phelan, also
held both posts.
The practice dates back to the late 19th century, said Commissioner
Larry Suffredin (D-Evanston), who has researched the history of Cook
Burt Odelson, one of Stroger’s attorneys and a local government
expert, noted township supervisors run day-to-day operations and vote
at township meetings.
In the commissioner form of government once practiced in many
Illinois towns, commissioners both ran government departments and
served on the town board. In Cicero, which has the town form of
government, some trustees hold administrative posts.
Those examples, Odelson said, shows Cook County’s government as practiced for generations “is not unique at all.”
Nevertheless, Commissioner Peter Silvestri (R-Elmwood Park), a
sponsor of the change approved yesterday, said it makes more sense to
separate legislative and executive duties in the county.
“I think it’s much fairer and more efficient for the president to be outside of the legislative body,” Silvestri said.
Trying to serve both the whole county, as president, and a single
district, as commissioner, also could pose conflicts, he added.