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EDITORIAL: Plan for new cemetery makes sense

Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Daily Southtown

Better government does not need invention as much as more common sense. So we have nothing but a positive reaction to a plan by Cook County Commissioner John Fritchey (D-Chicago).

His plan, unveiled last week, to use five acres at the former Oak Forest Hospital grounds as a county cemetery for the poor is timely and proper. It will likely save the county a lot of money, it’s a duty that the county should not contract out to private cemeteries and it returns control to the county in preserving respect for those who die often without much dignity.

As with all government proposals, the plan must meet the financial test and using the former hospital property fulfills that goal. Fritchey estimates that the cemetery could accommodate indigent burials for 100 years and save the county millions. Sheriff Tom Dart backs the plan and says county jail inmates should be tasked with helping build pauper caskets and managing the grounds.

But the underlying issue with burying the poor in Cook County has come to be nearly as much morality as efficiency.

Eventually the land might have been used for something more profitable, but we can’t think of many uses more necessary. In light of periodic and embarrassing problems at the county’s current contractor, Homewood Memorial Gardens in Thornton Township, and a disturbing mess with bodies piling up at the county morgue, it’s time for restoration of order and competence.

Cook County has stumbled in its responsibility to make sure the poor exit this world with dignity. It didn’t occur suddenly last year It has been building for years with ever-decreasing resources and rising indifference.

Fritchey has stepped forward with a sound plan, but the county still must fund the service adequately and commit to sufficient management and oversight of the pauper cemetery.

The county board should move quickly to approve the new cemetery so it can begin handling burials as of January. Competence in government is just common sense.

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