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Todd won't share ride, you get the shaft
Aide says Stroger too chatty to take elevator with public

Friday, December 22, 2006
Chicago Sun-Times
by STEVE PATTERSON Staff Reporter

Going up?
Only if you're the Cook County Board president.
A public elevator recently was roped off at the County Building, 118 N. Clark, for the exclusive use of newly elected board President Todd Stroger.
Such special treatment usually is reserved for the likes of Mayor Daley or Gov. Blagojevich, for security reasons.
Muzzles reporters, residents
But Stroger's perk, a spokesman said, is needed because he's just too chatty. And with a hectic schedule, his friendly nature often makes him late.
"It's really for expediting his schedule so we can get him places and get everything completed," spokesman Bill Figel said. "It's one of many features to modernize county operations, but it also speaks to his inclination to stop and talk to everybody."
The elevator is roped off, with the door open, when Stroger is in the building. When he's not, an orange cone is placed inside as it is parked on the building's fifth floor.
The president's elevator is closest to his fifth-floor office, leaving 11 others for the general public.
This new perk comes on the heels of other moves by Stroger that keep him away from the public and press.
He has demanded that reporters not talk to him while he's in the hallways near commissioners' offices. And he has put an end to public comments at County Board meetings, meaning residents can no longer stand up and address elected officials as they gather there.
There also has been a stiffer security presence around Stroger at those board meetings -- though his staffers admit there have been no recent threats against him.
"A little dose of reality, a little unfiltered interaction with the public, even in an elevator, wouldn't be the worst thing in the world for him," said Jay Stewart of the Better Government Association.
"It strikes me that in the same week we're hearing about 17 percent cuts in the county budget, 'Oh, I get my own elevator.' It's not the end of the world, but while some are sacrificing, others get special treatment."
Dad, Dunne more open
Many county employees have grumbled about waiting for an elevator on the fifth floor while looking over at Stroger's empty, unused elevator. But Figel insists it's a practical move for scheduling.
Stroger's father -- the very chatty John Stroger -- never got a special elevator when he was County Board president, not even when the 77-year-old suffered health troubles.
The late County Board President George Dunne was well-known for walking from his Streeterville home to the County Building each morning, without a security detail in tow, and talking with residents along the way.


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