Beavers' bid to stop unions gets boost
September 1, 2007
By Jonathan Lipman Staff writer
A bid to sharply restrict local unions' ability to donate to Cook County political campaigns got a boost Friday with the release of a favorable legal opinion.
Commissioner Bill Beavers, who bears a grudge against the unions, has been pushing the proposal to limit any county employee union or its national affiliate from donating more than $3,000 a year to a county politician.
When he proposed the restriction in June, Beavers (D-Chicago) accused unions of trying to "buy elections." Beavers' daughter, Darcel Beavers, lost her recent bid to replace her father on the Chicago City Council after unions helped fund the campaign of her opponent, Sandi Jackson.
The proposal was roundly criticized on the county board floor by Beavers' fellow Democrats, many of whom rely on union donations at election time. But Beavers has kept the bill alive in the finance committee, where it gets a hearing Thursday.
Critics said Beavers' proposal was an unconstitutional restriction of free speech. But the Cook County state's attorney issued a formal opinion Friday dismissing that claim.
Most of Beavers' proposal "would likely survive legal challenge as similar statutory provisions in the United States Code and in state law have been upheld," the opinion said.
Portions of Beavers ordinance would likely not hold up in court, the opinion said, including a provision that calls for any politician found violating the limit on donations to be thrown out of office.
Commissioner Larry Suffredin, who blasted the ordinance in June, said Friday he doesn't think Beavers has the votes to pass it, regardless of its legality.
"I just don't understand this, other than he's upset with what happened to his daughter," said Suffredin (D-Evanston). "I think he's out there on his own."
Beavers did not return a message left Friday.
Meanwhile Sheriff Dart is busy
Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said Thursday he hopes to end the process of strip searches at the Cook County Jail through the use of high-tech body scanning machines.
"They're much like the ones they're using at some of the airports now," Dart said during a taping of WBBM-AM (780) radio's "At Issue" program. "You step into a booth, and something spins around you."
Dart said he hoped the machines will prove useful in preventing contraband from entering the jail and hoped it would reduce the onslaught of lawsuits against the county from inmates who object to being stripped naked when admitted.
"We get just annihilated with lawsuits," Dart said. "There's a cottage industry."
Dart estimated the office has spent $10 million in legal fees and settlements during the past decade on strip-search lawsuits.
During the interview, Dart mostly ruled out a run for state's attorney. Incumbent Dick Devine is not running for re-election in the spring, and Dart said many people have tried to get Dart in the race as a successor.
"I love what I'm doing right now," Dart said. "I don't see a scenario where I would run -- but I want to leave myself that little bit of wiggle room."
One in every 930 houses in Illinois was under foreclosure last month, putting the state at 15th in the nation.Renters who live in buildings under foreclosure will be protected from eviction if their landlords default on mortgage payments thanks to a new law sponsored by Sen. Maggie Crotty (D-Oak Forest).
The legislation allows tenants who are up-to-date on rent payments to stay in their homes for 120 days after notice of a foreclosure hearing. Tenants could be evicted with little or no warning under previous law.
"If somebody is making their rent payments and unbeknownst to them the landlords themselves aren't making their mortgage payments, I didn't think that's fair to give no notice to the renters," Crotty said.