Friday, July 07, 2006

Crook County - third world elections?

Looking back over the last few months since President Stroger's incapacitating stroke I sometimes wonder where I am. Nearly everyday I read yet another plan for the filling of his vacant positions and I feel as though I've been transported into a third world country or a fledgling democracy, struggling to overcome a past entrenched in nepotism. Sometimes I think we should call in the U.N. election monitors because the maneuvering I am seeing is far from democratic.

Since the primary, and the attending speculation about Stroger's ability to return to work, I have become increasingly irritated by the proclamations from the Democratic Committeeman that they have the authority to choose his replacement, and the press' attendant acceptance of these statements. Not believing that the Illinois Legislature would pass a statute that says the Democratic Committee can fill any and all vacancies and can slide their candidate into a slot on the ballot, I looked up the law.

According to Illinois Compiled statute 55 ILCS 5/2﷓6001, "If a vacancy occurs in the office of a commissioner from the city of Chicago, the remaining commissioners from the city of Chicago shall appoint a suitable person from the city of Chicago to fill the vacancy." So why haven't they complied with Illinois law? And where is the Attorney General on this one? Can't she sit down and explain it to them if they don't understand?

Then there is the presidential vacancy. Again, Illinois law is very clear on the handling of this event. According to Illinois Statute 55 ILCS 5/2﷓6003, "Vacancy in office of president. In case of the death, resignation, removal from office or other inability to act of the president so elected.... If less than two years and sixty days of the unexpired term remain, the board of commissioners shall elect one of their number to serve the unexpired term of the president." This also is pretty clear-cut, but you wouldn't know it reading the press reports.

The last bit of county business is the empty slot on the ballot. Illinois law requires that the board president be elected directly by the people. Stroger was. But the Democratic Committee wants to slide someone else in the slot for the general election, someone who didn't even run in the primary, someone who showed no interest in the job whatsoever until the current president was deemed unable to serve out his term. Their choice for the general election wasn't elected by the people; he didn't even run.

It would seem that if the machine wants Todd Stroger to be County Board President, fulfilling the wishes of his father, they should call for a special election and slate him. If they don't want a special election, they must put up the Democrat who came in second in the primary who did receive the votes of the people of Cook County. That's about as directly elected as we're going to get.

Ignoring the will of the people and sliding your own candidate into the slot on the ballot denies the people of Cook County the ability to choose the individual that will control a $3 billion budget. It does not allow for a direct election, which violates Illinois law. Can we have a ruling by the Attorney General or is she, too, beholden to the party that slated her?

The voters of Cook County, contrary to press speculation, are outraged. To express our outrage, we have put a letter out, addressed to commissioners who have email addresses and other elected officials, expressing our displeasure, and our view of how the succession should take place. Though news of this has been sent to columnists such as Mary Mitchell and Carol Marin, no one, as yet, has chosen to publicize it.

The link, should you choose to participate, is And I want to thank the press for their complicity in reinforcing the notion that the voters don't care when you have been informed that we do, and congratulate you on your inability to read the applicable statutes which would have allowed you to question the participants in this travesty intelligently. Your silence and willingness to accept what you're being told speaks volumes about the absence of the press in protecting our democracy. I wasn't aware sheep could type. Kool-Aid anyone?


At July 09, 2006 11:27 PM, Blogger Michael J. Harrington said...

Excellent summary and analysis! Thank you for distilling the thorny and confusing components of this tragedy down to it's essence. I've been trying to explain the Stroger Debacle to a friend far away. I plan to send this to him. Peace, Michael


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