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County motto: Give and you shall receive

Sunday, January 28, 2007
Chicago Sun-Times
by CAROL MARIN Sun-Times Columnist

I used to think budgets were so boring. Not anymore. Reading Todd Stroger's budget is becoming a real page-turner for me. Like a good detective novel, I just can't put it down.
Last week, in this space, I told you about all the lucky friends and family of the new Cook County Board president who were bountifully rewarded with great jobs, six-figure salaries, even raises. People like Todd's dad's primary campaign manager, Bruce Washington, who was hired as the director of capital planning policy for $133,424. Or Carmen Triche Colvin, wife of Todd's best friend, state Rep. Marlo Colvin, whose promotion to county purchasing agent jumped her salary from $95,000 to $126,670.
All of this is occurring in a time of radical austerity when the gaping county budget shortfall is estimated to be a staggering half-billion dollars. A time when the county's doctors will have to be let go and neighborhood health clinics shut down. A time when county prosecutors will be laid off and successful drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs thrown overboard.
So this week I went back to the budget, to see what else I could see. This document just doesn't disappoint.
It turns out that a number of interesting people will not be laid off, let go, or thrown into the street.
Who are they?
They are givers.
Here's a short list that explains what I mean:
Frank Giglio gets $95,027 in the Department of Facilities Management. But he gives, too. A former Thornton Township committeeman, he has, according to state records, given $6,570 in the last eight years to a number of worthy Democrats. That includes eight separate contributions to Todd Stroger, his father, former County Board president John Stroger, or the 8th Ward Regular Democratic Organization which, as we all know, is the Stroger family's home ward.
Birdge Givens gets $120,287 as an associate administrator at Stroger Hospital. He loves the 8th Ward. Nineteen of his 21 political contributions totaling $5,010 went to the Strogers.
Michael Bryant gets $74,863 as an analyst in the Revenue Department. He's forked over a load of campaign contributions -- $24,760 to be exact -- to a bipartisan bunch of pols including the never-ready-for-reform campaigns of those Dolton political despots, Bill and Bob Shaw. But the Stroger team got a decent share of his bounty too.
Bernard Scavella gets $136,515 as deputy director of Stroger Hospital. He works at a place named Stroger, he gives to people named Stroger: 20 times in the last six years, totaling $9,345.
Laura Burman gets $143,061 as county auditor. She has given 12 contributions since 2000 to the Strogers totaling $2,830. Now, that may seem relatively modest compared with others I've listed. But should an auditor be giving any money at all to the people she's hired to check up on? Just asking.
Lance Tyson makes $162,232. He is one of Todd's new hires, his brand new chief of staff. In just five years, Tyson has given $25,950 in campaign donations to a veritable army of Democrats from Mayor Daley to Lisa Madigan to, of course, Todd Stroger.
Tyson has defended his boss' need to hire good people and pointed out that his own sizable salary will be reduced this year because he, like other executive staff, will be taking 20 days in furlough, working those days without salary. It's another way, Tyson pointed out to me last week, that Stroger will cut his own budget by the same 17 percent he is asking of all other county department heads.
While I'm sure all sacrifices are appreciated in these tight economic times, it seems to me someone making 162-grand might be a little better able to afford losing 20 days of salary than, say, a $18,000-a-year guy picking up litter in the Forest Preserve if he keeps his job at all. I'm not convinced a 20-day furlough qualifies as a surgical budget slash.
And let's remember that every one of those listed above who are keeping their jobs have some very attractive perks. All holidays off, including Casimir Pulaski Day, for heaven's sake. Sick days. Two to four weeks of vacation. Excellent health and pension benefits funded by taxpayers.
And, one more thing.
If they remember to give at the office, job security too, it seems.

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