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Beavers sees eased cuts
Stroger posturing, trusted ally says

Saturday, January 27, 2007
Chicago Tribune
by Mickey Ciokajlo

Cook County budget negotiations will reduce the deep cuts to law enforcement and health services proposed by Board President Todd Stroger, his political ally William Beavers said Friday.

Beavers, who is Stroger's political mentor and floor leader on the board, said county employees and the public need to realize that the severity of Stroger's cuts are part of a negotiating posture to get other county officials to agree to reduce spending. Beavers said he would not support the proposed reduction of sheriff patrol officers or the closure of 16 of the county's health clinics.
"We're not laying off any police officers. You know it as well as I know it," Beavers said in an interview Friday.

Beavers' comments followed State's Atty. Richard Devine's visit before the board's Finance Committee, where he made his case for reducing some of Stroger's proposed cuts. A number of commissioners appeared to be sympathetic to Devine's position.

"The president is not about getting rid of 100 police officers, he's not about closing all of these clinics," Beavers said. "There has to be some changes made, but you throw this out and negotiate where everybody can be comfortable with a budget."

Stroger spokesman Steve Mayberry said the budget is "certainly sincere and proffered for honest consideration."

In recent days as overflow crowds have attended public hearings on the budget, commissioners have begun to show the first real signs that they're ready to take a hands-on approach to dealing with the $500 million deficit.

Stroger has pledged to balance the budget without raising taxes, and board members say there is not support for a tax hike. But as department heads and elected officials such as Devine appear before the committee, the realization has set in that Stroger's blunt approach to budget-cutting could result in significant service cuts.

"There's no way that the members of this board would allow this budget to pass as is," Commissioner Earlean Collins (D-Chicago) told Devine. "We really need to calm the storm out there."

Commissioner Mike Quigley (D-Chicago), a proponent of budget-cutting and government-restructuring, told Devine to set priorities in his budget and be prepared to work closely with the board in the coming weeks.

"I think you're going to see this budget morph dramatically over the next month," said Quigley, adding that he didn't want to "sugarcoat it" and that tough decisions lie ahead.

Beavers said part of Stroger's strategy is to get the commissioners to work actively on the budget and not simply pass his proposal.

"He's sharper than a lot of people think," Beavers said. "He's taking some heat, real heat, right now. But like he said the other day, in the end, it'll all work out."

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