September 2, 2009
BY CAROL MARIN Sun-Times Columnist
No wonder Todd Stroger looked so darned happy at Tuesday's Cook County Board meeting.
He knew he had a surprise vote to pull from his pocket -- like a rabbit from a hat -- to show his critics he is the Big Tuna of Cook County.
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The embattled Stroger had heard the ominous news reports. The predictions that he would get his lunch handed to him, that commissioners would finally overrule him on his hated, highest-in-the-nation sales tax.
Not since the Ice Age (practically) had majority Machine Democrats and minority spineless Republicans teamed with reformers to stare down the mighty president of Cook County.
It was going to be "history-making."
Reformers, return to your caves.
Todd Stroger's win is no small deal.
He proved he's someone to be reckoned with.
And that his victory, even in the face of terrible Cook County unemployment, high foreclosures, and consumer flight to collar counties with lower sales taxes, is something to sit back and study.
Especially if you are Mayor Richard M. Daley and his brother, County Commissioner John Daley.
John Daley is head of the county's powerful Finance Committee. The Daleys have been Stroger allies dating back to Todd's father and predecessor, John Stroger.
Thus, John Daley's reproof of Stroger, his willingness to repeal part of the sales tax, was a sign from the Daleys that Todd Stroger was in big political trouble and needed to rethink his career path.
But now comes the Chicago parking meter revolt and Olympic discontent. And the lone African American in the U.S. Senate, Roland Burris of Illinois, is beginning to look less like an opportunist and more like a martyr. And then there's Gov. Quinn, throwing himself into reverse over the removal of the entire University of Illinois Board of Trustees to make an exception for two African Americans.
There is a simmering resentment in the African-American community that could reach a boil in the coming 2010 election.
It's something Todd Stroger is counting on.
Yes, Barack Obama, a black man from Chicago, is president. But here at home? There is no longer an African American in top leadership in the Illinois General Assembly since Senate President Emil Jones retired; no evident enthusiasm from the state Democratic Party for the African-American candidacies of Chicago Urban League President Cheryle Jackson, who is running for U.S. Senate, or former legislator Robin Kelly, who's running for state treasurer; no apparent African-American candidate in the governor's race.
Meanwhile, federal investigators continue to ask questions about U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson's alleged negotiations with Rod Blagojevich for appointment to the U.S. Senate. And there's a federal indictment of Ald. Isaac Carothers on matters of zoning. Not to mention the fight over another Wal-Mart in black neighborhoods, opposed, in significant part, by powerful white aldermen.
Is there a double standard here, African Americans ask?
Even black candidates who seriously -- and properly -- question County Board President Todd Stroger's leadership are treading carefully right now as they oppose him.
Like I said, Todd Stroger's victory today is no small thing.