While Mayor Daley can almost always count on City Council members to vote his way, the opposite is true across the hall in the county boardroom, according to a new study released this week by the University of Illinois at Chicago.
In the report, entitled “County Wars,” political science professor Dick Simpson and Tom Kelly, a graduate student, found only four of 17 county commissioners are likely to vote with County Board President Todd Stroger between 76 and 100 percent of the time. Meanwhile, 11 commissioners who have served at the same time as Stroger vote against him more than 50 percent of the time.
The report’s analysis notes that four commissioners have consistently voted with Stroger 90 to 100 percent of the time: William Beavers (100 percent), Jerry Butler (93 percent), Deborah Sims (93 percent) and Joseph Mario Moreno (93 percent).
Those least likely to vote with Stroger are: the collective efforts of former 10th District Commissioner U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley and Bridget Gainer (7 percent); Tony Peraica (8 percent) and Timothy Schneider (14 percent) and Forrest Claypool (15 percent).
It concludes that major reforms are needed to bring the county into the 21st Century and to streamline government, but does not specify what steps should be taken.
The UIC duo examined 14 major votes from 2006 to the latest controversial tally, the partial repeal of the sales tax. It says the board has been “in turmoil” since the 2006 election.
The report predicts Stroger will be defeated in the upcoming Democratic primary election, and theorizes a number of commissioners who voted with the president on the sales tax hike and county budgets will be, as well, though it doesn’t go into specifics. It notes that Stroger’s first budget passed 13 to 4.
It focuses heavily on the sales tax issue, and the events leading to it, especially the removal of the health system from the president’s office’s oversight. In exchange for a vote in favor of the sales tax, Commissioner Larry Suffredin asked that the former health bureau be made independent.
It also notes the issues surrounding the 2008 appointment of Patrick Blanchard as the county’s new Inspector General. Attorney Michael Shakman, whose lawsuit established more stringent hiring requirements, believed Blanchard was not the best choice because he previously served as assistant state’s attorney for Cook County.
Blanchard was appointed, with commissioners voting 10 to 3 in favor. Commissioner Earlean Collins voted present, and Commissioner Tony Peraica left the boardroom before the vote. Commissioners Robert Steele and William Beavers were absent, according to records.
Of the 14 votes the study analyzes, eight could be considered anti-Stroger votes: They all hinge on the repeal of the sales tax and the subsequent vetoes. Commissioners failed to repeal the sales tax the first time such an attempt was made. They succeeded on the next three attempts, but only overrode Stroger’s veto once, earlier this month.
On the “pro-Stroger” measures – the implementation of the sales tax, budgets and the appointment of Blanchard – the closest votes were 9 to 8 in favor of increasing the sales tax and 10 to 7 in passing the 2008 budget.
Some of the findings are hard to digest. For example, the study doesn’t definitively say that commissioners are flat-out unlikely to vote with Stroger. It doesn’t give measures like “all of the time,” “most of the time,” or “rarely.” Instead, it breaks commissioners’ voting records down by individual, and leaves it up to the reader to determine the likelihood of a commissioner’s voting habits.
It also doesn’t give comparisons to previous administrations. It’s easy to pick on Stroger and say commissioners don’t vote with him, but the study doesn’t show how commissioners voted under President John H. Stroger or his predecessor, Richard Phelan.
Now, there may be a good reason for that: The county’s records do not break down each board meeting by how each commissioner voted, and it’s unclear if such records exist from former administrations.