Todd Stroger


Apparently Todd Stroger doesn’t like his job as Cook County Board president very much. How else — other than arrogance, possibly — can his decision to veto a repeal of the unpopular Cook County sales tax increase be explained?

Stroger already is unpopular for a variety of reasons (including nepotism and an IRS lien recently filed on his home for nearly $12,000 in unpaid taxes), and he is expected to face plenty of opposition from within his own political party when the Democrat runs for re-election next year. So I suppose he may just be thumbing his nose at everyone, figuring he would still be disliked whether or not he allowed repeal of the 1-percent sales tax increase he championed last year.

New taxes often are unpopular, but the wisdom of this particular penny-on-the-dollar tax is a bit more baffling than usual. The 1-percent tax increase raised the overall sales tax in Chicago to 10.25 percent — the highest among America’s major cities — and was done in the middle of a dreadful recession. That doesn’t exactly make you want to go shopping in downtown Chicago, does it?

Twelve of the 17 Cook County commissioners voted for the tax rollback earlier this month, but only 11 of them voted to override Stroger’s veto — three shy of the number needed for the motion to pass. Four commissioners — William Beavers, Jerry Butler, Joseph Mario Moreno and Deborah Sims — voted against overriding Stroger’s veto. I don’t agree with those four commissioners, but at least they took a position. Two other commissioners, Earlean Collins and Robert Steele, voted “present” because they were too chicken to take a stand on the matter.

Chicago Tribune reporter Hal Dardick covered the attempt to overturn Stroger’s veto. You can find two of his stories about it on the newspaper’s Clout Street blog by clicking here.

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More than a dozen elected officials have called on Roland Burris to resign his U.S. Senate seat, but three notable Chicago politicians are not among them: Cook County Board President Todd Stroger, Mayor Richard Daley and U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush.

Stroger supports Burris, which isn’t surprising when you consider both men are political hacks with low approval ratings. But part of what Stroger said Friday makes sense.

“I don’t think he should resign. I think he immediately tried to let people know outside of the questions that were asked,” Stroger said. “In the end, this is really part of Gov. Blagojevich’s tenure. It’s not Roland they care about, they don’t like to see anything that had Gov. Blagojevich’s fingerprints on. Roland Burris is paying the price for being appointed by him. That’s all.”

Burris didn’t try to let voters know the whole story behind his appointment until his testimony-altering affidavit was unearthed by the Chicago Sun-Times. But Stroger is right that there is intense scrutiny on Burris because of his connection to former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who was kicked out of office last month. That’s not to say Burris doesn’t deserve the scrutiny — his evolving story about the events leading to his appointment reeks of half-truths and reluctant “honesty.”

Yet Daley, arguably the most powerful politician in Illinois, refuses to call for Burris’s resignation. Instead, he acts as if the Burris controversy isn’t a big deal.

“Let’s put everything in perspective and give him an opportunity to explain himself,” Daley told reporters. “Automatically, every time something happens, people want everybody to resign. Is it becoming very common now to tell people to resign after he was appointed?”

Asked if he thought voters who wanted more transparency in government were disappointed with the controversy over Burris’ appointment, Daley said he thought people would eventually “move on with their lives.”

“Three people got killed [Friday night]. Do you think the people who killed them care who is their U.S. senator?” Daley said. “Life goes on.”

Those paragraphs are from the end of a Chicago Tribune story about Burris being interviewed by federal authorities Saturday. What the story neglected to mention was Daley probably will never criticize Burris because he is no political angel himself. The omission is understandable since the article isn’t a commentary piece. However, the story could have helped readers connect the dots if the federal probe into Daley’s administration was mentioned.

As for Rush, I’m still waiting to hear what he has to say about the Burris controversy. When Blagojevich appointed Burris to the U.S. Senate in late December, Rush was quick to play the race card and say Burris had to be accepted because he is black and there are no other blacks in the U.S. Senate. But now Rush is silent. I’m sure some reporters tried to get him to comment about Burris’s changing story, but Rush won’t talk about it. That’s a shame because voters deserve to know his opinion about the matter since he made it a point to involve himself in the Burris situation in the first place.