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The Public is Catching on to Stroger’s Deceptions

Bill Dwyer 31 December 2007 3 Comments

In the midst of its epic mismanagement of

Cook County government, the Todd Stroger

administration was caught in an embarrassing lie last

week when one of his political hires attempted to get

cute with a radio talk show host.

But Andre Garner’s feeble effort at deceit isn’t close

to being the biggest lie by the Stroger camp. The

biggest fallacy Stroger is trying to foist on the

public is that county commissioners Forrest Claypool

and Tony Peraica want to trim ten percent from the

2008 county budget.

What the two commissioners actually have proposed is a

modest two percent cut of the 2007 budget, and no

increase in the 2008 budget, which Stroger wants hiked

by eight percent. In other words, Stroger & Company

are complaining about “cuts” to a proposed budget not

yet approved by the county board.

Pushing those inconvenient facts aside, last Thursday,

Dec. 20 county healthcare workers marched outside the

county building with signs decrying alleged draconian

budget cuts. Meanwhile Stroger went on WGN radio Dec.

20 to make his case. That’s when things got

entertaining.

It’s fascinating to watch people who don’t possess the

requisite smarts attempting to be clever. George Bush

may have lied about any number of things, but at least

he had Karl Rove and Dick Cheney to finesse matters.

Stroger has William Beavers and Andre Garner, the Mick

and Mope of governmental public relations.

Yet when Beaver’s moronic and vulgar chest thumping

about the Stroger administration’s supposed political

virility backfired recently, the Stroger forces opted

for clever. The thing about patronage hires is that in

many instances they’re not employed for their smarts

or abilities, but rather for their political loyalty.

So it should be no surprise when they perform as

ineptly as Garner did.

Garner’s behavior was a flat out hoot, unless, of

course, you’re a fan of honest government. In

something akin to a Saturday Night Live skit, Garner

phoned into the John Williams Show on WGN radio.

Disguising his voice and calling himself “Jonathon

from Chicago,” he argued in favor of his boss’s tax

hike. Opponents of the proposed two percent county

sales tax increase, “Jonathon” said, were just gloom

and doomers.

When his deceit was uncovered, Garner admitted to a

“terrible lapse in judgment,” but protested that his

dishonesty had been born of “frustration” that certain

budget information hasn’t been passed onto to the

public, apparently through a compliant and uncritical

media.

How ironic, given that the Stroger administration has

yet to release budget figures on exactly how many tens

of millions of dollars the county has in three reserve

funds, and how much may remain in the general fund

after the fiscal year ended Nov. 30. The Peraica camp

has documents showing reserve funds totaling $125

million to the good, with $304 million left in the

general fund with four weeks unaccounted for. Don’t

expect Stroger’s people to release those figures

anytime soon, however, since they’ll likely hurt

rather than help their case.

If the county were to expend, say, half its reserve

funds, use what ever general fund surplus that

remains, and secure the many tens of millions in funds

available simply by hiring reasonably competent people

to properly fill out and submit the Medicaid and

Medicare reimbursement paperwork reportedly stacked to

the ceiling in a room at County Hospital, it would

likely be within spitting distance of breaking even.

Add the reasonable cuts in administrative staffing

costs proposed by Peraica and Claypool, and you’re

there.

But that wouldn’t allow for the additional increases

Stroger seeks for patronage hires. And additional

patronage is what it’s all about with Stroger- money

and jobs to pass out to bolster his political muscle,

that famous political virility of which Beavers is so

proud. Stroger and his allies have already showed they

don’t care a whit about serving those most in need of

county services. For them, real estate and sales taxes

are ATM machines for their benefit, not Cook County

residents.

One media outlet referred to Garner’s dishonesty as a

“blunder.” But it was no blunder, just as Stroger’s

inflated ten percent budget reduction figure wasn’t

inadvertently poor math. Both were intentional,

cynical lies on a scale worthy of Joseph Goebbels,

lies perpetrated by an administration that has much to

fear from the truth.

As for Garner’s “terrible lapse in judgment,” that

suggests there have been periods where good judgment

was the norm. But Stroger’s approach to governance is

all but bankrupt of any principle other than self

service. Expediency is all that matters- say and do

whatever you think might get past the public and worry

about the consequences later. Lie about your father’s

health. Lie about your own health. Lie about facts and

figures and obscure your real intentions until you get

past the next election.

But the next election may no longer be as inviting as

Stroger believes it to be. The naked arrogance and

blatant buffoonery we’ve seen at the county building

the past 18 months has, hopefully, finally…finally

created an image that will stick in the minds of the

voting populace through the next election cycle.

That may be wishful thinking, as were hopes that

Claypool or Peraica would prevail against Stroger in

the county board president race last year. But at long

last, actual political consequences may eventually

result from our county government’s institutionalized

arrogance.

The current budgetary melodrama is playing badly to a

far bigger audience than just the usual suspects in

the reflexive anti-tax crowd. Go to the Dec. 19 on

line issue of Oak Park’s Wednesday Journal

.

If the letters to the editor section is any indication

is any indication, residents of a village long

accepting of tax hikes to pay for needed services and

infrastructure improvements have clearly had enough,

People have literally been forced to sell their homes

over the past several years by bloated real estate tax

bills.

With the continuing down housing market, many

Oak Park home owners are now finding themselves

trapped in houses on which they can’t afford to pay

both the mortgage and real estate taxes, and can’t

afford to sell. Similar complaints are heard in

affluent River Forest.

Many homeowners are no longer merely putting off

vacations or restaurant dining, but arre now deferring

new car purchases and home maintenance. What was once

an annoyance grew into discomfort and now finally

genuine pain.

WGN’s Williams question if, since the Stroger

administration would “lie or cheat” over “something as

minor as this, what is the president’s office going to

do when it’s truly consequential?” The answer is

clearly “Lie some more.” Lie bigger. Do a Goebbels and

go for broke. Tell people anything but the truth.

Someone should ask Stroger if he recognized his aide’s

voice over the phone. It’ll be interesting to see how

The Toddler answers.

If all else fails, he can always disguise his voice

and lie about his identity.

_____________________________________________________

Bill Dwyer is a regular political columnist for The Chicago Daily Observer.

3 Comments »

  • Jim Bowman (author) said:

    As good a skewering of Todd S. as I’ve seen.

  • Dan Kelley (author) said:

    The Cook County Democrats have to face the obvious and dump Stroger at the next slating sessions. This may provoke a revolt, but defeat is inevitable if Todd runs for reelection.

  • Carrie (author) said:

    Oak Park is so over taxed as it is, they have no medium or large businesses in the town to pay taxes so the residents are the only revenue source and have to pay for everything. The largest employer in OP/RF is the Rush OP hospital then 2nd is the town itself. Please stop over taxing the people there and attract some larger businesses to shoulder some of the tax burden.

    This joker Stroger is just making it worse by taking advantage of things with his stupidity. Seriously how do you legally remove him from office ASAP?

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