Is Cook County Clerk Resolution a $375 Million Smokescreen?


Maze Jackson

May 10, 2016


Black community activists were outraged, at what has been perceived as a blatant attempt at voter disenfranchisement, when Cook County Commissioner Peter Silvestri introduced a resolution to change the position of Clerk of the Circuit Court from elected to appointed. This would effectively nullify the election of current Clerk Dorothy Brown, who was re-elected overwhelmingly, in spite of the Cook County Democratic Party flip-flopping on her endorsement.

Cook County Commissioner Peter Silvertri
Cook County Commissioner Peter Silvestri. (Photo credit Daily Herald.)

While Silvestri sponsored the ordinance and maintains it’s not “personal,” insiders say Silvestri does not make a move without Preckwinkle’s approval, and Preckwinkle’s disdain for Brown is no secret. Preckwinkle led the charge to have Brown dumped by the Democratic Party, and when she couldn’t defeat her at the ballot box, she’s apparently decided to go the legislative route, hoping to cash in on her growing political clout.

Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court Dorothy Brown
Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court Dorothy Brown. (Photo credit ABC 7.)

Brown did not help matters by requesting a raise earlier this week. While some of her colleagues agreed Brown’s points were valid, they also agreed the timing was not good. In today’s toxic political environment, no politician wants to tbe on record voting for a raise, especially another politician’s raise, so Brown’s proposal was dead on arrival. Preckwinkle, apparently seeing that as another opportunity to attack her nemesis, allowed Silvestri to float the resolution of changing the position from elected to appointed.

In a county, city, and state with a reputation for corruption and cronyism, any attempt to place more decision-making power in the hands of politicians is sure to be met with fierce resistance by the local activist community, and like clockwork,  activists are organizing a protest for tomorrow’s Cook County Board meeting. Even if the resolution passes, it must be approved by the Illinois General Assembly, which is dominated by the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus. Black caucus members have already signaled they would oppose any such legislation, as the have in the past, especially when it limits opportunities for elected advancement.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle is feeling her power.
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle is feeling her power. (Photo credit NBC.)

Understanding all of those dynamics, I had to wonder why would the Cook County Board President allow such an outrageous resolution to see the light of day, knowing the potential outrage it would cause, particularly among the activist community? I mean I understand using Silvestri to keep her hand hidden, but why such a bold move against another Black woman?  So I did some calling around, and while I expected to discuss the Brown resolution I was pointed to this from today’s Finance Committee Meeting:

To pay the costs of the Refunding, the Bonds shall be issued from time to time in one or more Series, all as may be determined by the Chief Financial Officer, provided that the aggregate principal amount of any Bonds issued pursuant to this Ordinance shall not exceed $375,000,000. The Bonds shall be designated substantially as “General Obligation Refunding Bonds, Series 2016,” with such additions or modifications as shall be determined to be necessary by the Chief Financial Officer at the time of the sale of the Bonds.

16-2696 PROPOSED ORDINANCE Bond Refunding

The Cook County Board will be authorizing $375 MILLION DOLLARS in bonds, coincidentally on the same day we have to save Dorothy Brown?  Now don’t get me wrong, I think the bonds will go for a great cause, the redevelopment of the of Cook County Hospital. I think it will be an awesome project, and I will be glad when it is rebuilt. I love Chicago and I think our city is becoming more dynamic everyday. But with $375 MILLION on the line, I had to ask…What’s in it for the Black People?”

The old Cook County Hospital is finally getting redeveloped. (photo courtesy od Chicago Sun-Times)
The old Cook County Hospital is finally getting redeveloped.  (Photo courtesy of Chicago Sun-Times.)

What I found out was troubling. I found out that some commissioners actually asked, “What’s in it for the Black People?”  They got a community benefits agreement, but it was rushed.  They asked WHO would get the contracts and some of the same old characters who sold their contracts last time they rebuilt Cook County Hospital were back representing Black business again. Who is ensuring that the Black people participate in the contracts and job opportunities? You guessed it, the same company that had Black people doing less than 5% of the business in the city of Chicago. Which one of them has helped create new economic opportunities for the Black community? You don’t know? Neither did they, so coincidentally the Dorothy Brown issue comes up on the same day as they have to answer the question regarding that $375 million bond vote.  May 11th Cook County Board Meeting.

The reality is Dorothy Brown isn’t going anywhere, but that $375 million dollars is…in a cloud of smoke!




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