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Reckoning with Stroger

Tuesday, September 01, 2009
Chicago Tribune
by Chicago Tribune editorial staff

Monday's selection of a new Cook County Board member should assure that President Todd Stroger loses half of his beloved sales tax hike. The board keeps passing reductions in the tax, and Stroger keeps vetoing them. Tuesday, though, ought to be the day when enough board members finally vote to override a Stroger veto.

That's not a prediction: We'll believe the outcome when we see it. Stroger still could sway some board members to renege on their commitments and vote against the interests of their constituents. Although, as the little calendar beneath this editorial attests, only 22 weeks remain until the Feb. 2 Illinois primary. Any board member who flops into Stroger's camp now -- or who invents some reason not to show up Tuesday -- is begging to be defeated.

That risk is particularly menacing for Edwin Reyes, whom Democratic ward bosses chose Monday to replace Roberto Maldonado on the County Board. Maldonado, who left county government to become alderman of the 26th Ward, was one of 14 County Board co-sponsors of the half-point reduction in Stroger's tax hike. To his great credit, Maldonado also worked hard to assure that his County Board replacement(a) would be selected before Tuesday's override vote and (b) would vote to override Stroger. That's crucial, because if 14 of the 17 members don't vote against Stroger, his tax hike stays whole.

Reyes said Monday that he'll vote for the override. That would put him in the company of board members who want to improve Cook County's business competitiveness -- and slow the death of jobs and employers hobbled by high taxes.

We applaud the 13 remaining co-sponsors and trust that they'll vote accordingly. They are Forrest Claypool, Earlean Collins, John Daley, Bridget Gainer, Elizabeth Doody Gorman, Gregg Goslin, Joan Patricia Murphy, Tony Peraica, Tim Schneider, Pete Silvestri, Deborah Sims, Robert Steele and Larry Suffredin.

(Note to potential County Board candidates: Three board members -- William Beavers, Jerry "Iceman" Butler and Joseph Mario Moreno -- repeatedly have fought to preserve all of Stroger's tax increase. They'll likely do so again Tuesday.)

So we'll all see whether the County Board finally relieves some of the pressure Stroger's regressive tax increase imposed on poor households. The rest of the increase probably won't be killed until voters dump Stroger for a board president who wants to modernize and streamline this too-costly government.

-- -- --

Tuesday also is the day the five women board members, joined by an unknown number of male co-sponsors, introduce a measure to outlaw video gambling in unincorporated Cook. Companies that stand to make bazillions from the legalization of video gambling have been hiring the usual insider suspects as their lobbyists. If, as expected, the measure is referred to committee, public hearings likely will follow.

Good. We're eager to see who approaches the microphone to speak for or against video gambling in Cook County. Just as we're eager for the County Board to eventually follow Gainer, the lead sponsor, in voting to opt out of this scourge.

First things first, though: Tuesday needs to bring a slashing of the Todd Stroger sales tax hike that never should have been.


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