Political Amnesia Strikes Board at Stroger's Final Meeting

It was as if the Cook County Board had gotten whacked with a case of political amnesia on Wednesday, as many commissioners doted over outgoing President Todd Stroger after years of knocking him down.

"I appreciate that you were always in the arena and that you were here to fight for what you thought was right," said Commissioner Larry Sufferdin (D-Evanston).

Wednesday's meeting of the board was Stroger's last as president, and his peers passed a resolution to honor him.

Stroger's was a term that was marked with turmoil.  He was repeatedly hammered for spearheading a county-wide sales tax hike and for his controversial hires of friends and family. 

Stroger also got into the political pattycake, praising his cousin and former Chief Financial Officer, Donna Dunnings.

"She knew more about the county than anyone else," he said, months after asking for and receiving her resignation as questions surfaced about her relationship with a county employee. 

Dunnings broke down amid the praise, with Stroger telling the board that one of his regrets was not having more foot soldiers like her to take on the often-critical Chicago press.

"There is some bitterness, you know, about how things are portrayed [in the media], and it's not always about getting out in front, it's about being able to give your message," he said.

Stroger said he leaves the office with no big regrets and calls the sales tax hike his single-proudest accomplishment.

"That penny, literally, kept the government running, and without that money, we would have had to shut some doors," he said.

Former alderwoman Toni Preckwinkle assumes the office beginning Monday.

Wednesday was also the curtain call for one of Stroger's most vocal of adversaries, Commissioner Tony Peraica (R-Riverside)
These two significant exits, on the surface, could have made for a meeting marked by parting shots and more of the verbal fireworks that have dominated the four years of the Stroger administration.  But that clearly wasn't the case.
Peraica, never one to sidestep the limelight, said before the meeting that he intended to sound a warning during his final remarks.  He wants Cook County taxpayers to know he's worried that the incoming Administration of current Chicago Alderman Tony Preckwinkle could be "more business as usual." 

He pointed out that the unions spent millions of dollars to help fund her campaign and he alleges that the new Administration will be beholden to these unions.  "Taxpayers must be mindful of all of this."

Wednesday also marks the end for Forrest Claypool and Jose Moreno. Next time the board meets, former alderwoman Toni Preckwinkle will be at the helm.  She'll be sworn in on Monday.

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