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Stroger lets all know who's boss
2 County Board upstarts see their proposals stymied

Thursday, May 06, 2004
Chicago Tribune
by Mickey Ciokajlo

One county commissioner hoped for a vote on his pet project. The other simply wanted his placed on the agenda.

Both had orchestrated media coverage drawing attention to their issues and, coincidentally, themselves.

Yet, both were snubbed by a County Board president who wants everybody to know who's the boss.

When the shouting and posturing of County Board political theater were over, John Stroger, its president, had succeeded in diverting one proposal to committee while keeping another off the board's agenda for a month.

The net impact was minimal and Stroger himself said he agreed with the general ideas put forward by Commissioners Forrest Claypool and Mike Quigley.

But what was really at stake in Wednesday's Forest Preserve District meeting was power, and Stroger, the third-term president who's had his hands full with upstart commissioners ever since the 2002 election, was drawing a line.

"My interest is the same as your interest but my interest is not to beat up on you. And I won't let you beat up on me," Stroger said in the direction of Claypool and Quigley.

Claypool sought the immediate approval of a resolution calling for the district to obtain appraisals of houses it owns and end the practice of renting them to employees for a low, flat fee.

The board president said he was in favor of evaluating the fee structure but he felt it needed more discussion at the committee level.

As he did during the recent budget battle, Stroger invoked the Council Wars days of the 1980s when Mayor Harold Washington battled Ald. Edward Vrdolyak and his supporters.

"You can use all of the diversionary political tactics you want, but the bottom line is the taxpayers are being hosed by this system," Claypool responded.

Claypool called for a roll-call vote, which Stroger won, 10-5, and the resolution went to committee.

Claypool had a leg up on Quigley, who couldn't even get Stroger to add his proposals to the agenda.

Quigley had drafted an ordinance as well as language revisions dealing with land-use policy at the forest preserves. But Stroger contended that Quigley introduced his measures too late in the day Tuesday to get them on Wednesday's agenda.

Quigley pointed out that Stroger frequently adds agenda items on the day of meetings. Quigley also noted that he wasn't seeking approval but rather to have the proposals sent to committee for discussion.

"Tyranny has gone out of fashion, Mr. President," Quigley said at one point.

Stroger didn't balk. After arguing with Quigley, Stroger ignored the commissioner despite Quigley's continued attempts to be recognized.

At one point, Stroger tapped his gavel and announced the meeting was adjourned even though three items remained on the agenda and five members of the public were waiting to speak.

The proceedings continued, more quietly, for another 20 minutes.

"This is just ego," Quigley said. "So the people of Cook County who want to protect their open lands now have to wait another month because he didn't like it . . . . This is a throwback to where we thought we were in the `40s and `50s and `60s in Chicago politics."

Stroger downplayed the clash, saying he was simply following established rules.

"I was in favor of (Quigley's) resolution, I was in favor of Claypool's, I made that crystal clear," Stroger said. "But I do think their decorum is bad."

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