Preserves cash goes to county coffers
Thursday, February 08, 2007
by Mickey Ciokajlo
Cook County commissioners voted Wednesday to transfer $13.3 million from the Forest Preserve District to ease the county's budget crunch at the urging of Board President Todd Stroger.
"We're not going to put trees over people," said Commissioner Deborah Sims (D-Chicago). "All I'm asking is for people to have a little common sense."
The county transferred the money to the Forest Preserve District in 2001 and 2002 when that agency was having budget problems. The same 17 commissioners oversee the county and the forest preserves although they are separate governments.
Stroger proposed transferring the money back to Cook County in an effort to forgo closing two community health clinics and discontinuing other programs.
Commissioners voted 11-5 to give the money to Cook County and included language in the resolution that would allow the transfer of surplus land around Oak Forest Hospital to the forest preserve in exchange.
The money transfer was opposed by Democrats John Daley, Mike Quigley, Forrest Claypool and Larry Suffredin and Republican Timothy Schneider. Several of them wanted the issue sent to the Finance Committee for further debate, a move Stroger opposed.
The forest district has consistently raised its property tax levy in recent years, helping it to build the surplus. Quigley argued that with the transfer, Stroger would not be able to say the county's 2007 budget does not include a tax hike, a notion Stroger rejected.
Showing flashes of his father's demeanor, Stroger interrupted Quigley several times during the debate, something former President John Stroger did frequently. At one point, Todd Stroger accused Quigley of trying to "stab me in the back."
"This is deja vu," Quigley said.