Todd Stroger (born January 14, 1963) is the current Cook County, Illinois, Board president 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.
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. 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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
Stroger has also drawn fire for perceived nepotism, such as hiring Donna Dunnings (Stroger's cousin) as the County's chief financial officer. 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). 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".
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 of 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. 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.
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 will increase from 0.75 percent to 1.75 percent and Chicago's overall sales tax stand at 10.25 percent, what will be the highest of any major U.S. city. In suburban Cook County, the sales tax will be 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.
Despite the 133% increase, Dunnings stated on March 31 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. A county spokesman indicated that it would most likely happen in three or four years, well into the next county presidential term.
5 May 2008Because 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, have agreed to hold a town hall meeting at Harper College on April 30 to discuss details of the hike that remain unclear.
- Steve Patterson. Stroger suffers apparent stroke. Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved on 2006-03-06.
- Fran Spielman. Todd Stroger expects dad to stay on ballot. Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved on 2006-05-17.
- Fran Spielman. Stroger to resign as county chief; son to run. Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved on 2006-06-30.
- Ben Bradley. Stroger defends decision to hire cousin as CFO. ABC 7 Chicago.com. Retrieved on 2007-02-06.
- Dan Mihalopoulos. Stroger cousin defends her pay raise as county chief financial officer. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved on 2008-03-27.
- Sarah Schult. Cook County Board to vote on proposed sales tax increase. ABC 7 Chicago.com. Retrieved on 2007-09-30.
- Associated Press. Cook Co. OKs budget with sales tax hike. Chicago Business. Retrieved on 2008-03-05.
- Craig Dellimore. Stroger's CFO Cousin Defends Steep Tax Hikes. WBBM780.com. Retrieved on 2008-04-03.
- Hal Dardick. Despite big sales tax, shortfall seen for Cook County. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved on 2008-04-03.
- Kimberly Pohl. Palatine will get chance to pepper Stroger. The Daily Herald. Retrieved on 2008-04-03.
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