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Stroger's budget must pass: Claypool, showdown certain!

Wednesday, December 17, 2003
Special to
by Melvin Caldwell

Contrary to Cook County Commissioner Forrest Claypool's belief, Board President John Stroger cannot be accused of operating a dictatorship government his proposed 2004 budget, deserves support and passage. Claypool and three commissioners deeming themselves reformers have opposed Stroger and his proposed 2004 budget.

Claypool and others have referred to Stroger's budget supporters as flunkies and unfair to taxpayers. However, Claypool's political rhetoric is abort on substance. Stroger has been the standard bearer for fairness and equal representation in county government throughout his political career.

Prior to Stroger's election as president in 1994 the Cook County Board of commissioners were elected at-large, 10 from the city and 7 from the suburbs. The 10 city commissioner were democrats and the seven suburban were mostly were mostly republican. The board represented 2.8 million Chicagoans and 2.3 million suburbanites managing a $2.1 billion annual budget.

In the early 1990s Stroger spearheaded the effort to enact single member districts establishing 17 districts for the board. The U.S. Supreme Court one man one vote ruling mandated the change, however, democrats refused to give up one of their seats after the 1970 census.

The republicans filed a law suit which resulted in a compromise adding an additional suburban republican district. Later the suburbs gained a 7th seat in the 1980s.

In 1993 it was Stroger during the drawing of the district map in adherence to the United States Constitution and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that advocated a fair map that equally represented all of cook county's constituencies. Stroger considered the "father of districting" believed that districts would bring new vigor to cook county government. In November 1990 Stroger stated, "It will enhance the visibility of government, people identify with individual commissioners. It will require those elected to become more accountable and accessible to a constituency, which is now hard to single out."

In 1989, it was Stroger's support of single member districting that served as a catalyst in the development of the Cook County sub-circuit judicial legislation at the state level. The legislation resulted in a new cook county system of 15 sub-circuits ensuring more minorities and women elect to the judiciary.

In 1993, voters elected 31 new judges from the 15 new districts, 165 subcircuit positions exist with judges elected county wide and the bench making appointments of associate judges to fill its roster.

In the same election year, there were 172 full circuit judges in cook county and 189 associate judges, African American accounted for 13 percent of both categories. African Americans represented 29 percent of the total elected from all sub-circuit districts in cook county were African Americans make up 25 percent of the county's population.

Stroger's egalitarian principles of government guide the decisions underpinning his proposed 2004 budget, designed to properly fund county agencies and close the $100 million short fall. Surely, Stroger wants to avoid the city's current situation of 600 firings in which 270 city employees most African Americans received layoff notices last week in the transportation and water departments.

Claypool has stated proudly, "for the first time there is democracy on this board and that is healthy." Proclaiming victory for leading his gang of flunkies in blocking a vote on the county's budget last week. Claypool has long served as a political strategists concentrating on seizing power, control, and opportunity for cronies.

In 1984 Claypool helped David Axelrod a high powered political consultant found the firm Axelrod & Associates. Claypool served as managing partner until 1989 when he became Mayer Daley's chief of staff, later seizing the Chicago Park District.

The lingering affects of Claypool's rein as Czar of the park district from 1993 to 1998 continue to haunt Chicago.

Although the Chicago Bears organization absorbed the debt, inevitably the cost will pass on to consumers. Park District officials insisted that the project was on time and within its budget despite the $72 million in change orders for work not contained in renovation contracts. In 1994, Claypool spearheaded the privatization of Soldier Field to Soldier Field Joint Venture Inc.

In 2002 prior to his election to the Board's 12th district that encompasses 13 city wards, Claypool served as Vice President of management and business development for, a government services software firm. The firm does business with municipal agencies that use the Internet to collect parking fines and business licenses, post property auctions, court records and e-mail constituents. The firm maintains 105 employees and reports revenues of $4 million annually.

Obviously, Claypool unlike many county workers, is not concerned about employment. Stroger's budget must pass and deserves full support from the board.

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