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Todd H. Stroger

Incumbent
Assumed office 
December 4, 2006
Preceded by Bobbie L. Steele

In office
September 5, 2001 – December 4, 2006
Preceded by Lorraine Dixon
Succeeded by Michelle A. Harris
Constituency 8th Ward, Chicago

Member of the Illinois House of Representatives from the 31st district
In office
1992 – 2001

Born January 14, 1963 (1963-01-14) (age 47)
Political party Democratic
Residence Chicago
Occupation Politician

Todd H. Stroger (born January 14, 1963) is the current president of the Cook County, Illinois, Board and former alderman for the 8th Ward in Chicago. Stroger is a member of the Democratic Party. In 2001, he was appointed to the Chicago City Council by Richard M. Daley. He is the son of the late John Stroger who served as Cook County Board president for 12 years.

Contents

Early life

Stroger was raised in the Chatham-Avalon neighborhood, located on Chicago's South Side. He attended St. Ignatius College Preparatory School and later received his bachelor’s degree from Xavier University in New Orleans. Before becoming an alderman he worked as an investment banker for SBK Brooks Investment Corporation.

Public service

In 1992, Stroger was elected as State Representative for the 31st District of Illinois. Stroger worked as a statistician for the Office of the Chief Judge of Cook County; later he was also a jury supervisor with the Cook County Jury Commissioners. He worked for the Chicago Park District during the tenure of Forrest Claypool.

Currently, Stroger is an active fundraiser for the United Negro College Fund and a member of the Young Democrats.

Aldermanic career

In 2001 Stroger was appointed by Mayor Richard M. Daley to replace Lorraine Dixon, who had died while in office. Stroger served on seven committees: Budget and Government Operations; Committees, Rules, and Ethics; Housing and Real Estate; Human Relations; Police and Fire; Special Events and Cultural Affairs; and Traffic Control and Safety.

County Board Presidential nomination

On March 14, 2006, John Stroger, Cook County Board of Commissioners president since 1994 and Todd Stroger's father, suffered a serious stroke one week before the Democratic primary.[1] John Stroger eventually won the Democratic nomination, winning about 53 percent of the votes cast, defeating Forrest Claypool. For months after the elder Stroger's stroke he did not appear in public, and his family provided little information about his condition.

Shortly after the stroke, Todd Stroger gave noncommittal responses about the likelihood that his father would remain on the ballot. But in May, he reversed his previous stance, saying his father would return to office.[2] Ultimately, John Stroger would submit his resignation. At the same time that John Stroger submitted his resignation, it was announced that alderman William Beavers would assume the County Commissioner seat while Todd Stroger, if elected, would take over the County Board presidency. This announcement came four days after the deadline for third-party candidates to file for the Board presidency race.[3]

In the aftermath of his father's resignation, Todd Stroger emerged as the front-runner for his father's presidential seat. His main opponent was U.S. Representative Danny K. Davis. Another opponent, County Commissioner Bobbie Steele, dropped out of the race shortly before party leaders chose a new candidate.[3]

On July 18, 2006, the Cook County Democratic Central Committee (a collection of 80 county Democratic party leaders also known as "ward committeemen" or "township committeemen") overwhelmingly chose Todd Stroger to replace his father as the Democratic candidate for Cook County Board president for the Nov. 7, 2006 election. The following day, Steele was unanimously elected by the Board as interim president.

According to state election officials, in July 2008, Stroger's campaign paid almost $27,000 in fines for failing to file paperwork in a timely manner. Paperwork was not filed on time for the 2006 election contributions it received along with late organization papers that were sent to the election board. The campaign also filed incomplete and late reports to the State Board of Elections during the week of July 21, 2008, so more fines are expected to be brought forth. [4]

Criticism and response

Since defeating Tony Peraica by a relatively close 55-45 margin in heavily Democratic Cook County, Stroger has been criticized by a number of detractors.

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Budget cuts

After taking office, Stroger proposed budget cuts for the Cook County Sheriff's Office, Cook County State's Attorney's Office, and Cook County Public Defender's Office that were unpopular with other commissioners. Stroger responded that these cuts were necessary for fiscal responsibility.

Hiring

Stroger has also drawn fire for perceived nepotism, including hiring his cousin Donna Dunnings as the County's chief financial officer.[5] Dunnings and Stroger received additional criticism when she received a $17,000 raise after she initially agreed to not accept a pay hike (in an attempt to help county finances).[6] Dunnings stated that critics could have blocked the pay raise by submitting an amendment to the proposed budget "if they were so concerned about the salary of the first African-American female CFO".[6]

Dunnings was forced to resign her position after the press reported that she had posted bail for Tony Cole, a former University of Georgia basketball player and busboy whom Stroger had hired to a $60,000/year Cook County position despite Cole's having an extensive felony record. On April 16, 2009, Dunnings resigned at Stroger's request over a scandal involving the hiring of Tony Cole, who had a criminal record, as a human resources assistant in the County Highway Department. Stroger had earlier fired Cole (in Cook County Jail in connection with a domestic violence case at the time Dunnings resigned) for concealing his felony record.[7]

Tax increase

Stroger has also drawn criticism when he began raising certain taxes in his effort to balance the county budget and resolve staffing issues. In September 2007, he voiced his support for a proposal to raise the county-wide sales tax to 11 percent (an additional two cents on the dollar) to remedy a $307 million budget deficit, which would force public facilities such as Stroger Hospital to cut services or even close.[8] Critics of the plan included fellow Commissioners Claypool, Peraica, and Mike Quigley who argued that spending cuts would accomplish the same purpose. Peraica additionally responded that Cook County's poorest citizens, who the tax hike is ultimately designed to serve, would find it to be the most unaffordable. Peraica's argument was seconded by Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, who expressed his opposition to the plan.[8]

On February 29, 2008, the Cook County Board, by a measure of 10-7, passed a budget initiated by Stroger. Stroger's budget contained a tax increase of 1 percent, the largest ever passed by Cook County, with the intent of creating more than 1,000 new County jobs. As a result of Stroger's bill, on July 1 the County sales tax increased from 0.75 percent to 1.75 percent. Chicago's overall sales tax currently stands at 10.25 percent, which is the highest of any major U.S. city. In suburban Cook County, the sales tax is a minimum of 8.75 percent. All five Republican members of the County Board voted against the tax increase and they were joined by two of the twelve Democrats. Commissioners who voted against the tax increase were Peter N. Silvestri, Quigley, Claypool, Gregg Goslin, Timothy Schneider, Peraica, and Elizabeth Ann Doody Gorman.[9] Despite the 133% increase, Dunnings stated on March 31 that the budget shortfall resolved this year is expected to return. She explained that the expected cost increase would be the result of what she describes as a 'structural deficit', meaning increases in revenue being unable to match increases in expense, citing runaway health care costs among other problems.[10] A county spokesman indicated that it would most likely happen in three or four years, well into the next county presidential term.[11]

Because of a number of unanswered questions and unresolved issues surrounding the county tax increase, Cook County's outlying communities, particularly Palatine, IL, have been considering secession and have threatened to do so unless an explanation is provided. To avoid this schism, officials from Palatine and Cook County, including Stroger initially, agreed to hold a town hall meeting at Harper College on April 30 to discuss details of the hike that remain unclear.[12] However on April 29, Stroger announced that he won't attend, accusing Palatine officials of using the meeting for political grandstanding indicating that he "will not debate local Palatine elected officials who expect to exploit this opportunity to further their own political agendas".[13] Eventually, Stroger did attend the Town Hall, which resulted in heavy press coverage and several Daily Herald articles refuting the claims he made while presenting there.

References

  1. ^ Steve Patterson. "Stroger suffers apparent stroke". Chicago Sun-Times. http://www.suntimes.com/output/news/stroger14.html. Retrieved 2006-03-06.  
  2. ^ Fran Spielman. "Todd Stroger expects dad to stay on ballot". Chicago Sun-Times. http://www.suntimes.com/output/news/cst-nws-stroger17.html. Retrieved 2006-05-17.  
  3. ^ a b Fran Spielman. "Stroger to resign as county chief; son to run". Chicago Sun-Times. http://www.suntimes.com/output/news/cst-nws-stroger30.html. Retrieved 2006-06-30.  
  4. ^ Dardick, Hal and Rick Pearson (2008-07-22). ""Todd Stroger campaign hit with nearly $27,000 state fine"". Chicago Tribune. http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chicago/chi-todd-stroger-finesjul23,0,599437.story. Retrieved 2008-07-23.  
  5. ^ Ben Bradley. "Stroger defends decision to hire cousin as CFO". ABC 7 Chicago.com. http://abclocal.go.com/wls/story?section=politics&id=5009209. Retrieved 2007-02-06.  
  6. ^ a b Dan Mihalopoulos. "Stroger cousin defends her pay raise as county chief financial officer". Chicago Tribune. http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chi-strogermar25,0,2904385.story. Retrieved 2008-03-27.  
  7. ^ Chicago Breaking News Center - Stroger fires cousin over hiring scandal, WGN-TV, April 17, 2009
  8. ^ a b Sarah Schult. "Cook County Board to vote on proposed sales tax increase". ABC 7 Chicago.com. http://abclocal.go.com/wls/story?section=local&id=5683415. Retrieved 2007-09-30.  
  9. ^ Associated Press. "Cook Co. OKs budget with sales tax hike". Chicago Business. http://www.chicagobusiness.com/cgi-bin/news.pl?id=28420. Retrieved 2008-03-05.  
  10. ^ Craig Dellimore. "Stroger's CFO Cousin Defends Steep Tax Hikes". WBBM780.com. http://www.wbbm780.com/Stroger-s-CFO-Cousin-Defends-Steep-Tax-Hikes/1918215. Retrieved 2008-04-03.  
  11. ^ Hal Dardick. "Despite big sales tax, shortfall seen for Cook County". Chicago Tribune. http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chi-county-dunnings-01apr01,1,4261275.story. Retrieved 2008-04-03.  
  12. ^ Kimberly Pohl. "Palatine will get chance to pepper Stroger". The Daily Herald. http://www.dailyherald.com/story/?id=166344&src=1. Retrieved 2008-04-03.  
  13. ^ Kevin Robinson. "Todd Stroger to Skip Palatine Meeting After All". Chicagoist. http://chicagoist.com/2008/04/30/todd_stroger_to.php. Retrieved 2008-04-30.  
Political offices
Preceded by
Bobbie L. Steele
Cook County Board President
2006–
Succeeded by
incumbent

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