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With county budget passed, borrowing is still at issue

Thursday, March 05, 2009
Daily Herald
by Rob Olmstead

Although Cook County commissioners have agreed in theory in the budget passed last month how much they want to borrow this year, how they do it is still a sticking point.

With last month's approximately $3 billion budget, commissioners loyal to President Todd H. Stroger cried uncle and cut the spending plan instead of borrowing to pay for recurring legal expenses. But all commissioners agreed that borrowing $260 million to $290 million for capital projects - things like constructing new buildings and medical equipment for the hospital - was OK.

But when Stroger forces tried to advance such a proposal Wednesday, wary opposition commissioners defeated the measure, worried that the legal language could still leave vague how much Stroger was authorized to borrow.

The revolt was led by Larry Suffredin, an Evanston Democrat, and a lawyer very familiar with legislative law. But he was partially aided by the normally solid Stroger vote of John Daley, who voted present, rather than for the bond measure.

Suffredin's opposition was just a minor setback for Stroger, since Suffredin indicated if the bond deal was worded and handled differently, he would go along with it.

More significant was Daley's growing discontent with Stroger. Daley said after the meeting he voted present because there might be the perception of a conflict of interest because one of the bond companies employs his nephew. But Daley added that even had he not had that conflict, he would have voted no out of dissatisfaction with Stroger's inability to get his votes in a row before bringing ordinances to the floor.

Stroger should have dealt with Suffredin beforehand, Daley said.

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