Great Moments In Cook County Board History

Two members present and unaccounted for

When it came time to be counted in the Great Sales Tax Repeal Wars of 2009, history will record that Cook County commissioners Earlean Collins and Robert Steele took their oaths of office and responsibilities to the taxpayers so seriously that they voted "present" while the rest of the board loafed with typical "yes" and "no" votes.

Because voting present on perhaps the defining battle of era takes a lot of guts - or at least chutzpah.

In the scheme of things, voting present was akin to voting to uphold board president Todd Stroger's veto of the sales tax repeal because 14 votes were needed to overturn Stroger.

Instead, Collins and Steele went on record not supporting Stroger's veto - or overriding it. Bravo!

"Let's stop playing the games and get serious about what needs to be done," said Collins (D-Chicago).

So voting present was Collins' way of being serious.

It that doesn't suit you, she's begging to be thrown out of office.

"You want to vote me out of office? Hooray. I would just love to go home for once in my life and relax," she said in explaining her vote to the rest of the board.

Collins makes $85,000 a year representing the 1st District. Not including perks.

Steele's vote can be explained by the fact that he was reportedly not fully supportive of Stroger's veto - just partially. Which means he was partially opposed as well. Hence, present.

"I don't think it's a good thing in politics to try to use executive authority to make rules and laws work when the majority is going a certain way," Steele told WBEZ before the vote.


Steele (D-Chicago) also makes $85,000, and it's worth remembering that he got his seat on the board because his mommy gave it to him after she became board president long enough to add a nice chunk of change to her taxpayer-funded pension.

On his Web site you can see a photo of Steele, who represents the 2nd District, being sworn in next to the words "Choosing to be part of the solution."

Maybe he'll change that to "Choosing to vote present" in time for his re-election bid.

It worked for the president.

Steve Rhodes is the proprietor of The Beachwood Reporter, a Chicago-centric news and culture review.

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