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Cook Co. board scurries to prepare for critical tax vote

Tuesday, September 01, 2009
Daily Herald
by Ted Cox

The Cook County Board faced a critical tax showdown with President Todd Stroger today after a new commissioner was hurriedly appointed in the 8th District.

Local Democratic committeemen named Edwin Reyes, an Illinois State Trooper reportedly assigned to Gov. Quinn's security detail, to fill the seat previously occupied by Roberto Maldonado.

The appointment was critical, as today's meeting is the County Board's only chance to override President Stroger's veto of a July measure to roll back the 1 percent increase in the county sales tax imposed earlier this year.

There appears to be bipartisan support in the heavily Democratic body to roll back the tax increase, although with 14 of 17 votes necessary for an override, each is essential. Republican commissioners like Liz Gorman, Timothy Schneider and Tony Peraica back it, of course, but so do progressives like Larry Suffredin and Forrest Claypool, as well as clouted commissioners like John Daley, brother of Chicago's Mayor Richard Daley.

"We have our 14th vote," said Evanston's Commissioner Suffredin, "so I'm optimistic that we'll be able to override."

The rollback measure passed in July by a 12-2 vote, with one commissioner abstaining and two presumed supporters - Forrest Claypool and Tony Peraica - absent.

Maldonado, who resigned his 8th District seat in July after being appointed alderman of Chicago's 26th Ward by Daley, was one of the 11 Democratic committeemen to select his replacement at a closed-door meeting Monday at a West Side Chicago Mexican restaurant. He backed the rollback and insisted his replacement do so as well. Reyes immediately announced he would support it.

"My guess is he would be voting to override Stroger's veto," said Jim Clark, a spokesman for Schneider, "for the fact that Maldonado thought that way."

"Obviously, this is the biggest vote - talk about hitting the ground running - for whoever gets this position," said West suburban 17th District Commissioner Gorman.

Stroger rallied opposition with a posting on his Facebook page.

Schneider, representing the Northwest suburban 15th District, got a key piece of campaign-finance reform through the Rules and Administration Committee Monday. According to Clark, it halved the amount of money county vendors can give candidates or elected officials from $1,500 to $750 and from $3,000 to $1,500 in the first year of a candidacy. Schneider had sought a cutback from $1,500 to $250, but the $750 was reached as a compromise.

The proposal was to go before the full County Board today, along with the veto override.

In other news, Claypool called a news conference for today downtown near the County Building before the board meeting along with U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley and state Rep. John Fritchey. Sources said Fritchey would be announcing his candidacy to replace Claypool when he leaves office as North Side commissioner next year.



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