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Stroger should skip veto of sales tax repeal, manage better

Thursday, May 07, 2009
Chicago Sun-Times
by Sun Times editorial staff

Cook County Board President Todd Stroger sounds as if he's ready to do the right thing, if only because he has no other choice.

On Tuesday, Stroger defiantly pledged to veto a measure passed 12-3 by the county board to repeal last year's sales tax increase.

By Wednesday, though, he was wavering, telling Don Wade and Roma on their WLS-890 AM radio show: "I may veto, I may not."

Here's our preference: "Not."

Facing intense political pressure and the loss of support on the board, Stroger looks poised to let the repeal stand, reducing Cook County's 1.75 percent sales tax to .75. But he remains profoundly resistant to the need to reform the management of county government.

Stroger played the victim Wednesday, suggesting he's the only one who cares about Cook County residents. Hospitals and medical clinics will close, he warned, if the tax repeal stands. "It can't just be me," he said. "If I'm the only one who cares about the services we render, nothing will be done."

Plenty of other people, it turns out, also care about county residents -- and they don't think that less tax revenue means services have to suffer, as long as mismanagement and waste end.

As much as we support the tax repeal, there were no heroes Tuesday. If the flippers on the board who first supported the tax and then voted to repeal it were truly motivated only by good public policy, we suspect they could have achieved the same end without the ruthless political kick in the pants.

The flippers -- including mayoral brother John Daley -- dropped Stroger cold in public with Tuesday's surprise vote. Despite that, Stroger should forget about a veto and get to work on reforms in hiring, firing and day-to-day management.

This page has backed other recent proposed tax increases. Gov. Quinn, for example, has our support in his bid to raise taxes to fill a massive budget deficit.

But Quinn, unlike Stroger, laid out a compelling case that the state has nowhere else to turn. And, frankly, we're inclined to trust him. After a lifetime of public service, he has built up a reserve of good will.

The same can't be said of Stroger.

Maybe he'll prove us wrong in the next few months, and we hope he does, but we're not betting on it.

Instead, we look forward to the 2010 elections, when Stroger will likely face a slew of quality candidates, including Ald. Toni Preckwinkle, Cook County Commissioner Forrest Claypool and former Chicago Schools CEO Paul Vallas.



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