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Stroger kills housing bill, miffs board

Wednesday, June 16, 2004
Daily Southtown
by Kristen McQueary

Despite an overwhelming vote on the Cook County Board supporting an affordable housing bill in Springfield, board President John Stroger quietly stifled the legislation, adding new ammunition to a push to streamline the county's lobbying services.

Board members voted in March to support legislation adding a surcharge to real estate recordings in the county recorder of deeds office.

The $10 surcharge would subsidize rent for low-income families, giving landlords an incentive to lower their asking price.

Cook County Recorder of Deeds Eugene Moore opposed the bill because his office would take the brunt of criticism for the fee hike. Stroger expressed similar reservations about the county collecting a fee for a state program, but he still supported the resolution when it came before the county board.

But when the House later scheduled the bill for a hearing in Springfield, Stroger's lead lobbyist and a lobbyist representing the county board appeared at the hearing as opponents of the bill.

"The president himself voted for the resolution, along with 14 other members, which makes it even more outrageous he'd direct his own lobbyist to try to kill it. We need to make sure this board speaks with one voice," Commissioner Forrest Claypool (D-Chicago) said after Tuesday's county board meeting.

Stroger didn't offer an explanation but said he was consistent in raising questions about the program.

His action snuffed out the legislation during the General Assembly's spring session, and housing advocates probably will have to wait until next year to try again.

County board members exploring how to streamline lobbying contracts used the housing bill as an example of the need for reform.

Several countywide officers, including Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown, hire their own lobbyists to keep them apprised of issues in Springfield. Brown pays Steve Brown (no relation), who also works with House Speaker Michael Madigan as his chief spokesman.

Cook County Assessor Jim Houlihan and others use their own firms.

A bill ending that practice was assigned to the county's legislative committee.

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