Monday, December 05, 2005

Better than Monday Night Football: Quigley/Claypool/Stroger

Our show with Mike Quigley, Cook County Commissioner and candidate for County Board President in the Democratic Primary, is airing now on Public Affairs Cinema Verite [See here]; The show with candidate Quigley will also air tonight, Monday night, Dec. 5, through-out the City of Chicago on Cable Ch. 21 [CANTV] at 8:30 pm.

It looks like Democrat voters have a choice, not an echo, for the Cook County Board President Nominee: Quigley and Stroger have previously made their official announcements, and Claypool made his announcement this morning. Of course, Quigley and Claypool couldn't be more different than Stroger. And, even reformer allies Quigley and Claypool are not exactly the Bobsey twins.

For example, Claypool argues that Quigley has no executive experience, to speak of. Quigley shoots back--see our show tonight or watch it [here] that Claypool, if he was such a hot executive,-- should have known what was up with the Daley personnel scandals and done something about that stuff when he was Chief of Staff for Daley in ’98-99 or perhaps even when he first held that position in 89-91.

Claypool has argued on my show that City of Chicago personnel decisions were not a part of the COS’s job in the Daley Administration. Further, Claypool shoots back that he fired over a one thousand patronage workers when Claypool was Superintendent of and cleaned up the waste and inefficiency of the Chicago Parks’ Department in the mid-90s.

Quigley shoots back that he is the leader of the revolution in County Government, as Quigley was the first reformer to arrive there in 1998, creating the climate for all that has followed. Of course, Quigley likes Claypool and vice-versa, but Quigley still talks of Claypool as if he is a Johnny come lately, having arrived as a Cook County reformer four years after Quigley.

Of course, both Claypool and Quigley argue that Stroger’s eleven year reign as County Board President is most notable for waste, bloat, inefficiency and patronage, which means fewer services for those who Stroger claims to care about, i.e., low income Cook County residents.

Stroger, for his part, says if it is not all about race, that is a good part of it. Stroger wonders out loud why there is not more criticism of the white Mayor Daley for raising taxes, and instead everybody complains when African American Stroger wants to raise taxes. [Of course, somewhat ironically, Mayor Daley is officially backing Stroger and Stroger’s 8th Ward patronage laden organization has always been there for Mayor Richard M. Daley and other regular Democrats].

Further, Stroger, African American, points out Claypool and Quigley, both white, don’t understand the needs of the African- American Community, and each time they deny Cook County government the revenue Stroger asks for, they deny low income African Americans and other minorities the services County Government is intended to provide. Stroger argues County Government is the government of last resort for poor people.

And, of course, we haven’t even gotten to Republican Cook County Board Commissioner Tony Peraica, who hopes to be running in an uncontested primary for the Republican nomination for County Board President.

During the election off season, Republican County Commissioner Peraica teams with Democrat County Commissioners Quigley, Suffredin and Claypool to form the Four Horsemen, who hope to bring Stroger his Apocalypse Now.

However, in the Democratic Primary, Quigley and Claypool would each like the other to fall over now, so that he would be the only one riding tall, when Stroger takes a header. And, of course, if either Quigley or Claypool should win the primary, then again you would have two reformer horsemen in the general election, with room at the top for only one.

Indeed, again ironically, Peraica has to be pulling for Stroger to win the Democratic Primary. The last thing Peraica wants is to face a reformer in the general election. In that case, the election becomes solely about whether voters want a D or an R, at which point it becomes advantage in overwhelmingly Democratic Cook County to the D, of course.

Therefore, Peraica is no doubt happy that nobody expects seventy-six year old Stroger, who has been on the Cook County Board since Quigley, Claypool and Peraica were teenagers-- or not even that, to go quietly into the night. Should be interesting.
For more on the County Board Presidency race, see here and here.
For a partial transcript of the show, see below. **********************************************************
Jeff Berkowitz: Do you think you can beat Claypool?

Comm. Mike Quigley: Yes.

Jeff Berkowitz: Do you think you can beat Stroger?

Comm. Mike Quigley: Absolutely.

Jeff Berkowitz: It’s all about race? That’s what [Cook County Board President John] Stroger says, right?

Comm. Mike Quigley: I think Stroger would like it to be all about race. That way he would evoke some sort of sympathy. Unfortunately, what it’s all about is an inefficient government that can’t get a handle on its finances. So, he leans upon other issues to try to deflect away the real problem.

Jeff Berkowitz: So, one topic on this show is “race,” or taxes, or race or lower taxes. You’re saying you could do it more efficiently, certainly don’t raise taxes, maybe you could even lower taxes. Am I getting that right?

Comm. Mike Quigley: You’re getting that right. When you look at the forest preserve itself, we’re looking at an 8.5, 9 percent tax hike this year, in the forest preserve alone. So, over a two year period, it would be a twenty percent increase in people’s property tax. Just based on the forest preserve alone.

Jeff Berkowitz: Where’s that money going?

Comm. Mike Quigley: Well, unfortunately, it’s to run a government that’s pretty much top heavy, it’s bloated government that’s still leaning upon the old age of patronage first, efficiency second.

Jeff Berkowitz: A three billion dollar budget?

Comm. Mike Quigley: On the county side, a three billion dollar budget.

Jeff Berkowitz: Which includes the forest preserve.

Comm. Mike Quigley: Well, they are separate budgets, separate government.

Jeff Berkowitz: What’s the budget for Cook County forest preserves?

Comm. Mike Quigley: The forest preserve district is just a [small] fraction of a [small] fraction of the budget; that’s about one percent of the levy, actually. It’s a much smaller government. But, inefficiencies really capture the notion that government isn’t operating well. Cook County Government is a 3 billion dollar budget. It started at 2.2 [billion dollars] when President Stroger took office [at the end of 1994]. It’ll be over 3 [billion dollars] in less than ten years [Ed. Note: That is, Quigley is saying the budget increased from about 2.2 billion dollars to more than 3.0 billion dollars in the last decade, or so, that Stroger has held the County Board Presidency]
Comm. Mike Quigley: Last year-- we are operating under a budget that is about three billion dollars. The budget that will be proposed for the next calendar year-has not been introduced-it’s a fair bet that it will be significantly higher, as introduced by the President [John Stroger].

Jeff Berkowitz: …You’re saying that Stroger will come out with another proposed tax increase, because he’ll say you folks are two hundred million dollars short for next year. Is that right?

Comm. Mike Quigley: That’s right. And the range of what the president has said we’ll be short has changed through the last months, up to three hundred and fifty, down to three hundred, down to two hundred fifty [million dollars]. Who knows where it will end? But it’s a ploy the President used. He has said, oh our deficit, our shortfall is so high, and then magically, when they introduce the budget, it’s about a hundred, a hundred and twenty million and he says, “See how far I’ve brought it?” No, he hasn’t brought it anywhere. The shortfall was what the shortfall was and that comes from our “structural,” deficit, not from any of the efficiencies that he has put together.

Jeff Berkowitz: The structural deficit means you should have lower spending, more efficient spending. He would say there’s a structural deficit. In fairness to Cook County Board president John Stroger-he would say you folks have a structural deficit in that you have all these demands for all those services the County is trying to provide, and you don’t have an adequate revenue system. Isn’t that Stroger’s argument?

Comm. Mike Quigley: His argument will be, unfortunately, that--a structural deficit, is, by definition, that your revenues don’t meet your increasing costs. And, our increasing costs are because of the inefficiencies in how this government is structured. He never got to that point. The fundamental problem with Cook County government is that it’s structured for a hundred years ago. It’s still set up to have a large, centralized government to handle unincorporated Cook County, for example. Less than sixty square miles. One of the most inefficient means of providing those services still exists. So, they fight like the Dickens to keep the system just the way it is, even though it operates so dramatically inefficiently.

Jeff Berkowitz: He would say, though, you don’t understand-- this is where race enters into it-because you’re white. Forrest Claypool’s white; both of you folks are running against him. He’s African American. Even [Chicago Sun-Times Columnist] Laura Washington has referred to his accomplishments with the Stroger Hospital, right? Which was Cook County Hospital, and others have pointed out—in an era in which there were a lot of white politicians out there-- over the last thirty years, in the city and the county, this guy has succeeded, as an African American politician. You give him credit for that?

Comm. Mike Quigley: I give him credit for his story, for a man who came from where he came from to become the Cook County Board president. I think at some point, though, he needs to turn the keys over because he’s just not willing to change [with] the times. Even President Stroger, several years, put out a report called the “Court Report,” talking about restructuring this county, right? He said these were all his ideas in the first place. But he wasn’t willing to do that. And, the problem with his argument is, if he really cared about the poor, and if he really cared about the indigent, he would implement the plans he himself suggested would provide greater efficiencies. Why? Because if you operate this government more efficiently, you can care for more people who are poor. If he really cared about these folks, he’d operate a lean, mean machine that could care for as many people as possible. He’s not doing that.

Jeff Berkowitz: Why? What does he care about?

Comm. Mike Quigley: I think the first gut reaction of the President is a generational one. That is, you protect your turf, your power and your jobs, and that gets in the way with any change [that is] necessary.

Jeff Berkowitz: Jobs? Those are patronage jobs?

Comm. Mike Quigley: Patronage jobs, contracts. Millions of dollars worth of very important contracts that go to your buddies and your friends when you’re [County Board] President.

Jeff Berkowitz: Any friends and buddies you’d like to name that are getting contracts from John Stroger?

Comm. Mike Quigley: They know who they are. The public’s become very acquainted-

Jeff Berkowitz: Give us some names. Don’t be coy.

Comm. Mike Quigley: No. There’s no coyness
. I think that, without names, we’re hiring people to tell us how to-for a ton of money-to tell us how to clean bathrooms at the County. We’re hiring US Equities for a lot of money to tell us what to do with the old hospital.

Jeff Berkowitz: Whose company is that?

Comm. Mike Quigley: Again, you know the names as well as any--

Jeff Berkowitz: You don’t want to name names.

Comm. Mike Quigley: No.

Jeff Berkowitz: You’re going to run this whole campaign without naming names?

Comm. Mike Quigley: The names of people I’m running against. The problem with that project is that it cost a lot of money, when the private sector could have told us that. The market could have told us that. If we would have put out a reasonable request for a proposal, what to do with the old County Hospital, the market would have driven that, putting that great old building back on the tax rolls. It would have saved a great historical landmark, and it would have started bringing tax dollars in and revitalized it. There would be people using that building now instead of us paying to keep the heat on over there.
Mike Quigley, recorded on November 20, 2005 and as is airing on the City of Chicago edition of Public Affairs tonight, December 5 at 8:30 pm on CANTV, Cable Ch. 21 and has been and still is airing at the "Public Affairs Cinema."
Transcript drafts prepared by Amy Allen, who also does research for “Public Affairs,” and has her own political blog [See here].
Jeff Berkowitz, Host and Producer of Public Affairs and an Executive Recruiter doing Legal Search, can be reached at