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February 2012 Archives

The mysteriously missing Cook County commissioners

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When the sensitive question of merging the Cook County recorder of deeds office into that of the county clerk came up Tuesday, another peculiar footnote was added to the county's long history of political oddities.

Somehow, the board was just one commissioner shy of a quorum. So there could be no vote. Hmmm.

The Cook County Building

The question of merging the two offices came up Tuesday before the Finance Committee, which is a committee of the whole. That means all 17 county commissioners are supposed to show up. But just eight came. Nine are needed for a quorum.

Commissioner John Fritchey wants to put the question to the voters via referendum in November. He thinks it could save taxpayers $1 million a year. He says the county's tech people assure him the two different offices' computer systems could be blended just fine. But he can't get the question onto the ballot if the County Board doesn't OK it.

Cook County to vote on combining recorder/clerk offices

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Politics on Valentine's Day can be like a box of chocolates. You don't what you are going to get next.

The Cook County Board's Finance Committee has picked Valentine's Day to debate an issue pushed by Commissioner John Fritchey: combining the Cook County clerk and recorder of deeds offices. Fritchey thinks it could save the county $1 million a year.

If the Finance Committee, which is a committee of the whole, approves the plan, the County Board could vote on it the very next day. A yes vote there would put the issue to referendum in November. (The County Board all by itself doesn't have the power to eliminate an elected office.)

State Rep. Karen Yarbrough of Maywood

Expect a close vote. It's always hard to change the status quo. Some people will worry about losing jobs. And state Rep. Karen Yarbrough, who has no primary opposition on March 20 in her campaign to leave the Legislature and become recorder of deeds, would go from having a clear path to a four-year term in a countywide office to an uncertain future. (There's also no Republican on the ballot, but the party can appoint one after the primary.)

Metra's phantom trains were there all along

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Jaime DeSmit got a momentary shock last Sunday as her bus from Minnesota neared Union Station, from which she planned to scurry to the nearby Richard B. Ogilvie Transporation Center to catch the 6:30 p.m. train on Metra's UP-Northwest Line.

The momentary shock? According to Metra's online trip planner, which she consulted, the train had become a phantom train. Long a bulwark of the Sunday evening schedule, it had just disappeared. There was a 4:30 p.m. departure and an 8:30 p.m. departure. But no 6:30.

She called a friend, who consulted Metra's full schedule on a laptop and got the same result. But the friend had what turned out to be good advice: Go look for the train anyway.

Metra schedule omitting the 6:30 p.m. Sunday departure

The phantom train turned out to be there after all.

The problem, Metra says, occurred on Jan. 29, when some minor schedule changes were made on the Union Pacific North and West lines, and some trains were renumbered -- although the train times didn't change -- on the Northwest Line. Somehow in the process, computer gremlins eliminated the 6:30 p.m. train (as well as a couple of trains on the North Line) from the schedules and the trip planner.

Metra says everything should be OK now. But the bad news for commuters? The computers were working just fine on Wednesday morning when new ticket prices took a hefty jump upward.

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