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Fixing slides needs to be a priority for President Stroger

Sunday, November 12, 2006
Daily Southtown
Editorial

THE ISSUE: Once again, there is a delay in repairing and reopening the Swallow Cliff toboggan slides in Palos Township.

WE SAY: Todd Stroger can show his effectiveness as a leader by placing the slides high on his list of things to do.
Todd Stroger no doubt has a lot on his mind now that he -- in the Election Day culmination of a backroom deal concocted by a bunch of Democratic ward bosses -- has ascended to the job of president of the Cook County Board. First, there's that $500 million budget deficit the county government faces. It'll be interesting to see how Stroger deals with that issue.

But a bigger problem is Stroger's perception as a leader. Forget the 550,000 or so people who voted for his opponent, Tony Peraica, in last week's election. There are many Democrats who, though they loyally voted for him, wonder if Stroger has what it takes to be a president of action, to shape policy, to stand up to long-time county board members and political bosses and hold county employees accountable.
Stroger must hit the ground running. He shouldn't wait until he is sworn in on Dec. 4. Here's a suggestion. As soon as possible he should hold a news conference at the Swallow Cliff Toboggan Slides on Calumet Sag Road west of LaGrange Road in Palos Township. Tell whoever shows up that you're going to get the slides fixed as soon as possible no matter what it takes. Then, at the first board meeting over which you preside, tell the commissioners they're going to help you get the slides fixed no matter what it takes.
We know in the scheme of things that there are more important matters facing the county than the toboggan slides. But nothing better exemplifies the ineptitude of county government than the saga of the slides.
The six Swallow Cliff slides, which start at a height of 90 feet and extend 900 feet with a roller-coaster-like drop, have been closed for the past two winters after falling into disrepair. The county board, which oversees the county's forest preserve system, concluded that Cook County employees didn't have the wherewithal to maintain the wildly popular slides. So they decided to hire an outside firm to oversee the repair and operations of the slides. For months we've been hearing the county has been negotiating with a firm on a plan for the slides and other forest preserve attractions.
But last week, the board rejected a proposed contract from the firm, saying the terms put the county at a financial risk. "This basically sends us back to the drawing board," said Commissioner Elizabeth Doody Gorman, one of two commissioners who voted to approve the contract (Peraica was the other).We weren't figuring on the slides being open this winter, but we were hoping they'd be open next year or the year after. Now we wonder if they'll be open by the time Todd Stroger's son is in line to succeed him as board president somewhere down the road. But Todd can do something about it. He can demand answers and solutions, announce he will not take no for an answer, and then he can move on to the bigger problems.
The Swallow Cliff slides need to be open. They are an absolute joy. They could serve as a perfect entrée into the wonders of the forest preserve system and as an example of how county government can serve the people. Instead, they are nothing but six chunks of wood on a hill. It's time to get them fixed.
How about it, Mr. President-elect?



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