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Cook County is rife with patronage
Letter to the Editor
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Published: 4/15/2008 12:11 AM

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Recently, Cook County Board President Todd Stroger and his loyal Democratic commissioners decided the best way to grapple with the county's budget deficit was not to cut wasteful spending and political patronage, but rather raise the county's share of the sales tax rate by well over 100 percent, from .75 percent to 1.75 percent.

In the lead up to the massive tax hike, President Stroger was confronted with criticism that the county is wasteful and laden with patronage hacks.

No politician, including President Stroger, is ever going to voluntarily admit that their administration has engaged in patronage hiring.

Fortunately, former Judge Julia Nowicki has some access to how county hiring is really conducted and she doesn't paint a pretty picture.

Ms. Nowicki is the Shakman compliance administrator for Cook County.

On Feb. 29, the same day President Stroger and his allies voted to raise taxes before getting rid of the hacks, Ms. Nowicki issued her latest report. The 54-page report is full of examples where politics has intruded into the personnel system. This is the very patronage the critics have condemned and President Stroger denies exists.

Among the report's findings are that the county isn't actively investigating the extent of unlawful patronage hires nor has it committed to fully funding an independent inspector general.

More importantly, the information gathered thus far by Ms. Nowicki indicates patronage hiring was a common occurrence in the county and those who blow the whistle on illegal patronage have reason to fear retaliation for pointing out wrongdoing.

Further, Ms. Nowicki has reasonable evidence to support the over 200 complaints of illegal patronage she is investigating.

The next time the county votes to raise our taxes, remember Ms. Nowicki's report as critics decry illegal patronage and the status quo defenders of the machine deny its existence.

Jay Stewart
Executive Director
Better Government Assn.
Chicago