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Rebuild county government from scratch

Friday, November 18, 2005
Special to suffredin.org
by Mike Quigley, Commissioner
Letter to the Editor

VOICE OF THE PEOPLE (LETTER)

Chicago -- Thank you for calling upon Cook County Board President John H. Stroger Jr. to balance the county's budget without raising taxes in "A sound Chicago budget" (Editorial, Nov. 4). Your suggestions are valid and your goals are achievable. Unfortunately Stroger's response to your editorial ("Medical, safety concerns challenge county," Voice of the people, Nov. 14) makes one point completely clear: John Stroger refuses to make the tough decisions necessary to reform Cook County government and balance our budget without raising taxes. By failing to offer alternative solutions to fill the $300 million budget shortfall, Stroger isn't just hinting at a tax increase, he's guaranteeing one.

I believe Cook County taxpayers deserve more for their money. Stroger regularly wants to increase the cost of living and working in Cook County because he is unwilling to undertake the fundamental and sweeping reforms our county government needs.

Tinkering with the engine of Cook County government will never balance our budget or improve our delivery of services. We need to scrap our current model and start over.

I've proposed a detailed blueprint for a new Cook County government that responds to the needs of our residents--not to the needs of insiders and bureaucrats. I offer a comprehensive review of Cook County government that includes recommendations to make service delivery more efficient, more accessible and more fiscally responsible. The 23 solutions that I propose to fix Cook County government include dramatic cost-cutting reforms, such as eliminating duplicative functions at many county agencies and departments; consolidating property taxing bodies into an Office of Tax Administration; merging the offices of county clerk and recorder of deeds; and eliminating the Suburban Cook County Tuberculosis Sanitarium District.

These measures alone would save Cook County millions of dollars while providing additional money to combat the costs of funding health care for the uninsured and maintaining an effective public safety department.

They are common-sense reforms of the antiquated programs that bloat county government at the taxpayers' expense. They will improve services and help us to balance the budget without raising taxes.

The only alternative to real reform is to ask the residents and businesses of Cook County to pay higher taxes to subsidize our waste and inefficiency. The people of Cook County have carried this burden long enough.

The Tribune is right; we need a sensible budget, and the only way to provide one is to start from scratch and rebuild Cook County agency by agency and service by service.

Working families depend on Cook County government to provide vital health care, preserve open space and keep our communities safe. We can reform county government and still deliver the services people count on such as health care and assistance to the poor. Unfortunately our important mission is lost in a sea of favoritism, patronage and inefficiency.

A balanced budget without tax increases is a necessary first step toward fulfilling that mission.

†Mike Quigley, Commissioner, Cook County Board of Commissioners; Democratic candidate for Cook County Board president



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