Green Cook County, IL candidate on Chicago corruption

Tom Tresser is the Green Party’s candidate for Cook County Board President in Illinois.  Cook County encompasses part of the city of Chicago.  Mike Volpe of The Provocateur recently interviewed him on the topic of corruption in local politics:

Tresser announced his candidacy for Cook County Board President back in October. With several scandals hanging over the head of Todd Stroger, the issue of corruption was going to be a major part of the campaign. It is, however, the central part of Tresser’s campaign. In fact, Tresser first made a name for himself, politically, here in Chicago fighting against privatization. Privatization and corruption are now mentioned in the same breath here in Chicago ever since the parking meter debacle. It was this debacle that gave all Chicagoans a first hand taste of the corrosive power of government privatization. Back in 2007, privatization was still being done at the margins. That was when the Chicago Park District tried to give away one of its parks to the private Latin High School. Tresser lead a group of citizen activists to stop this and he succeeded. He also got a first hand taste of Chicago corruption…

I first asked Tresser how Chicago’s city hall machine is connected to the machine at the County level. Tresser first pointed out that John Stroger, the father of current Cook County Board President Todd Stroger, got his own political muscle when he supported then candidate Richard M. Daley for mayor over then Mayor Harold Washington in the mid 1980’s. That would have been something near scandalous then since both Stroger and Washington are African American and Daley is white. Second, Tresser pointed out that the most powerful Cook County Commissioner is John Daley, the brother of Richard M. Daley. Daley heads the finance committee on the Cook County Board. Through this chairmanship, John Daley is able to wield all sorts of power…
To put the corruption on the county level into context, Tresser next opened up the minutes to the last Cook County Board meeting held on December 2nd. The major news out of this meeting was the roll back of sales tax increase. What was of interest to Tresser was found in the first fifteen minutes of the meeting. According to the minutes, there was an approval of settlements of no less than eleven different court cases against the county.

Five of these settlements had to do with Shakman suits. What are Shakman suits? They’re named after Michael Shakman. Shakman fought a vicious battle in the 1960’s to make sure that city hiring and firing wasn’t politically motivated. There was little explanation of the settlements in these five cases but we can assume that someone was passed over for a crony of the machine, they sued, and this is the settlement. The other six settlements were suit settled to injuries that were job related. In one case, an individual received $1000 for spilling coffee on himself. Because John Daley runs the Finance Committee, he has great power in authorizing these settlements. When Cook County Commissioners Tony Peraica and Bridget Gainor each asked for explanations of these settlements, they were quickly summarized in two minutes and the meeting moved on.

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