This Tribune article details how Cook County Board President John Stroger, in his imperious, meandering way, cut off debate during the Cook County Board of Commissioners meeting to remark that many black constituents have been asking him if the (all-white) group of reform Commissioners are targeting his bloated budget because he is black.
The article's tone is a bit appalled by the "spectre of race divisions on the board."
Stroger argues that since Mayor Daley gets essentially a free ride fron the Chicago City Council on his budgets, and Governor Blagojevich gets an easy time from the Illinois General Assembly, why should he have such a hard time with his legislature?
On the issue of race and the County Board, Stroger said, "There are people who want to know why I have been treated differently from the governor and the mayor.
First of all, Governor Blagojevich has a harder time with his budget than President Stroger does. Second, it's a bad thing that our aldermen defer to Mayor Daley on the budget. We ought not be replicating that institutional deference in the County Board.
Third, I think the Trib is a little hard on Stroger. I mean, the man is simply telling the truth. I have been amazed at how many black people believe that Stroger is unfairly targeted because he is black. Not because he's an old school machine politician who would rather spend our precious resources on patronage than expansive public investment that benefits all of us, but because he is black. President Stroger simply said that lots of black people have told him what they think. And he went out of his way to say that he doesn't think the reform commissioners have a shred of racial animus.
Race is always with us. There isn't anything wrong with talking about it. And that being said: let's get some black commissioners to oppose Stroger's tax increases! With all the money we spend in Cook County, we might be able to offer universal health care. This is where progress will come from -- not D.C. but our overlooked, unglamorous local governments.