Tag Archives: Cook County

Barack Bits

1. “Barack Obama wore a flag lapel pin during the first debate and John McCain did not, for those who monitor patriotic accessorizing,” Zay Smith notes in his Sun-Times Quick Takes column today.

Maybe both candidates were trolling for crossover votes.

2. “Forty-six percent of American voters are still unable to correctly identify Barack Obama as a Christian,” Smith also writes.

Yeah, but that’s a higher percentage of Republicans who identify John McCain as a Christian.

3. “The people of Cook County need a state’s attorney who is ready to run the office now, not someone ready to learn on the job,” the Sun-Times writes today in its endorsement of Anita Alvarez for Cook County State’s Attorney.

Experience will be much less important when the paper endorses Barack Obama for president – just as it was when the paper endorsed Obama over Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary.

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Publisher Stroger

Among the ideas suggested by Chicagoist readers for ways to dispose of the ill-fated Cook County magazine: a gigantic papier-mache statue of Tony Peraica.

Another commenter says: “I love the fact that Stroger and his moronic staff are too incompetent to publish a magazine designed to create the illusion that they aren’t incompetent.”

Over at Chicagoland, commenter joelb writes: “From the day a flyer with nearly the entire Chicago Democratic lineup endorsing this guy sadly found its way into my mailbox, I knew we were in for years of comedy gold.”

Personally, I just love how spectacularly Cook County magazine reflects its subject matter: Bid out by secret contract to an incompetent vendor who delivers an embarrassing product, all on the taxpayers’ dime. Well-played!

County Credit

Making fun of Todd Stroger – even when laced with outrage – can become so entertaining and commonplace that we can lose sight of the stakes. Now we have a fresh look at Cook County finances that isn’t funny at all in the form of a credit report from Fitch Ratings.

“Even as controversy rages over Cook County’s big new sales tax hike, a major financial ratings service is warning that the county’s fiscal picture is darkening and suggests that a sales-tax increase now may not have been a good idea,” Crain’s reported on the Fitch analysis last week.

“In a statement issued late Tuesday, Fitch Ratings moved its outlook for about $3 billion in Cook County debt from ‘stable’ to ‘negative, a step short of an actual rating downgrade that would increase the county’s costs of borrowing.”

That’s a cost that taxpayers bear.

“The New York firm cited weakening county finances, structural deficits in the county’s massive health system and ‘an increasingly high-tax environment for retail sales in a down economy.’

“Fitch is not taking a position on the public policy question of whether the county should or should not have raised its sales tax from 0.75% to 1.75%, says Melanie A. J. Shaker, a Fitch director who was the lead analyst on the report. But she says the agency is questioning the viability of the levy given that, in the midst of an economic downturn, combined with the city sales tax, Chicago now has the highest rate in the country, at 10.25%.”

Here are some highlights from the Fitch analysis itself.

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Bird Nerds

This proposed ordinance to make county buildings bird-friendly will be discussed at a meeting of the Construction Committee of the Board of Commissioners of Cook County next Tuesday.

PROPOSED ORDINANCE AMENDMENT

AN AMENDMENT TO SECTION 2-6 (BUILDING CONSTRUCTION)

WHEREAS, the Cook County Forest Preserves and surrounding areas are home to at least 290 known species of birds; and

WHEREAS, Cook County lies along the Mississippi Flyway, through which millions of birds of 300 different species pass every year; and

WHEREAS, birding is a hobby enjoyed by 64 million Americans and generates more than $40 billion a year in economic activity in the United States; and

WHEREAS, as many as one billion birds may be killed by collisions with windows every year in the United States, according to studies by Dr. Daniel Klem, professor of ornithology and conservation biology at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania; and

WHEREAS, Field Museum scientists studying bird collisions at McCormick Place found that turning off lights reduces bird collision deaths by 83 percent; and

WHEREAS, the Chicago area is emerging as a national leader in protecting birds from collision; and

WHEREAS, the City of Chicago was the second city in the nation to sign the Urban Conservation Treaty for Migratory Birds in 2000, a partnership between individual cities and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect migratory birds through habitat conservation and educational programs; and

WHEREAS, the City of Chicago has developed a very successful Lights Out program in recent years, encouraging the owners and managers of skyscrapers to reduce illumination during migration periods; and

WHEREAS, in 2005 the City of Chicago and the Birds and Buildings Forum hosted the first-ever national conference on bird-safe buildings; and

WHEREAS, Cook County adopted the Green Buildings Ordinance in 2002, committing itself to construct buildings which minimize environmental harm; and

WHEREAS, bird-safe design features can be incorporated into new construction and major renovation projects at no extra cost, and existing buildings may be made bird-safe through the use of simple, low cost adaptations; and

WHEREAS, bird-safe practices often go hand-in-hand with energy efficiency improvements.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT ORDAINED, by the Cook County Board of Commissioners that Chapter 2 Administration, Article I, Section 2-6 (Building construction) of the Cook County Code is amended as follows:

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Transparency

Your window into Cook County government. That’s right, it’s blank.

Tax Sale

This just came in over the transom.

PRESIDENT TODD H. STROGER’S STATEMENT CONCERNING THE SALES TAX

For Immediate Release
James Ramos, Press Secretary
Attention: News Assignment
312-603-0365
jaramos@cookcountygov.com

The government of Cook County is mandated by the state of Illinois to provide an array of services to its citizens. Governments throughout the nation, and in the state of Illinois, have imposed taxes to combat the rise in costs and cuts made by the federal government. The state of Illinois just recently raised its sales tax a quarter (1/4) of a percent to meet transportation costs.

The federal government’s cuts in Medicaid and Medicare will result in the Cook County Bureau of Health losing over 500 million dollars over the next five years.

Cook County offers other essential services that must be provided as mandated by the state of Illinois. These services include, but are not limited to, the Recorder of Deeds; State’s Attorney’s office; Sheriff’s office; Assessors office; the Circuit Court of Cook County; Board of Elections; Public Defender’s office; Animal Control; Board of Review; Treasurer’s office; the Medical examiner’s office; the Chief Judge’s office; the County Clerk’s office, and the Public Guardian’s office.

In the passing of the FY2008 Budget, the Cook County Board of Commissioners made a fiscally sound decision by increasing revenue to ensure that these services would not be interrupted.

This new revenue increases the sales tax by 1 percent, or “one penny on a dollar.” This tax is the only new tax increase passed by the board in the FY2008. This tax does NOT affect Real Estate Property Taxes – or anything attached with a TITLE. It is important to remember that this sales tax does NOT apply to goods, particularly groceries items such as food, milk and meats, prescription drugs, medicines and medical supplies.

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Also, the new tax will fund more press releases like this one.

Tax Foundation

The Tribune editorial page today reminds readers of the “Stroger-Daley Tax” that goes into effect on Tuesday.

(Why not the Daley-Stroger Tax? Without Daley, the tax doesn’t happen; without Stroger, it does.)

The paper includes a graphic comparing our new 10.25 percent sales tax burden to other area communities.

What the Trib didn’t do was break down the sales tax and show what our money will be funding. Fortunately, the Division Street accounting department had some free time this morning and crunched the numbers. Here’s what they found:

* Richard M. Daley Defense Fund: 3 percent

* Diversion of funds to Richard M. Daley campaign fund: 1 percent

* John Daley insurance fees: 1 percent

* Michael Daley legal fees: 1 percent

* Bill Daley sympathy fund for being the smart one: 2 percent

* Todd Stroger Friends & Family Plan: .5 percent

* Walkaround money: .5 percent

* Raise to David Axelrod: .5 percent

* Cook County Democratic Party Swiss bank account: .5 percent

* Funds to tear down the Swallow Cliff toboggan slide: .25 percent