Never a dull moment in CC

The first page of the Web site has Howard Brookins looking like he is ready to grab hold of someone he is not happy with, attack mode so to speak. For the most part he is brief and to the point, the video of the Three Howards was....interesting, was he trying to show he is your average guy? Do you think his Dad was shot in a flattering way? And then there is Brookins himself passing out campaign flyers to people at an El station, some looked like they did not want to be bothered with him. None-the-less it is an interesting Web site, in a rather interesting race.
Brookins web site

I’m Howard B. Brookins, Jr. candidate for Cook County State’s Attorney. Currently, I am the alderman and committeeman of the 21st Ward.

I am running for the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office because I believe that I am the only candidate who can change the culture of an office which has been maligned by a series of failures and costly mistakes.

The mistakes have cost taxpayers of Cook County, tens of millions of dollars in settlements for a string of wrongful convictions that sent several people to prison. Some were even sent to death row.

I have the experience, the integrity and the discipline to change the direction of the office through a new vision of strength and fairness.

I am well aware of the enormous power and responsibility of this office. To that end, I will work hard to make sure that every decision out of my office is the right decision.

As your Cook County State’s Attorney, I will dedicate myself to you, the homeowner, the business owner, the taxpayer, and the law-abiding citizen.

Under my leadership, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office will work in your interest.

As your next Cook County State’s Attorney, integrity and justice are what I will guarantee.

This is a lot of money, how did they get away with it for so long?
Cook County Employees Charged in $1.6 Million Scheme
Produced by Ammad Omar on Friday, January 25, 2008

Three current and former Cook County employees are among a group of people accused of defrauding banks and government agencies of over $1.6 million.

The Cook County President's Office of Employment Training—or POET for short—distributes government funds to groups that teach job skills to employees.

Rudolph Sanchez, Roberto Rivera, and Ronald Harper were all high ranking POET officials. All three were arrested yesterday, for what prosecutors call their "involvement in a series of fraudulent schemes."

The trio allegedly helped an unqualified company named United Front get a POET certification. That certification resulted in more than $400,000 in government money flowing to United Front. Prosecutors say the group did little to no actual work.

Five United Front employees were also charged. Three of those defendants were ministers at Christian Hope Church on the South Side of Chicago. Defense attorneys could not immediately be reached for comment.

Wow, when I heard this morning that we lost Randy Salerno I could not believe what I was hearing. I remember him on the WGN 9 PM news out in the field reporting, and filling in as anchor. He was not your average boring, stiff newsman, he actually was a nice relief from all of that. Randy Salerno was not afraid to ask the questions we wanted to know, he was not afraid of breaking the mold of newsman, he was not afraid to joke, or be sarcastic, he was real. I did not get to watch him on the day news since I work days. I did catch Roseanne Tellez and him on the very early morning news before work every now and then. Wow, we could sure use more newsmen like him. He will be sorely missed. I really feel bad for his family, friends and coworkers, sudden deaths are hard.

CBS 2's Randy Salerno Dies In Snowmobile Accident
CHICAGO (CBS) ― We have some very sad news about someone who has helped us say good morning for a very long time in Chicago.

CBS 2 morning anchor Randy Salerno was killed late last night in a snowmobiling accident--and now criminal charges have been filed against the snowmobile's driver, Salerno's childhood friend, Scott Hirschey.

Salerno was snowmobiling with friends in Sayner, Wis., near Eagle River, late Thursday night when the snowmobile driven by Hirschey broke down. Hirschey then agreed to drive Salerno's snowmobile with Salerno riding as a passenger.

They were riding together on a 2007 model Ski-Doo, designed for just one rider. They apparently headed across Plum Lake and then struck several trees, according to a Vilas County Sheriff's Department press release. Hirschey was thrown from the snowmobile, while Salerno took the full force of the impact. Salerno was pronounced dead at the scene.
Hirschey has been charged with homicide for using a vehicle while intoxicated, and cited for operating a snowmobile while intoxicated. according to the sheriff's department. Conviction on the charge could result in a 15-year sentence and a $100,000 fine. At the scene, Hirschey reportedly refused to take a breathalyzer test.

Tim Price, a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources warden who investigated the crash, said the 45-year-old Salerno was riding as a passenger because Hirschey's snowmobile would not start after their group had stopped at a pub.
Price, who said he was told Thursday was the first time Salerno had ever been snowmobiling, said Hirschey and Salerno missed a trail exit off Plum Lake. The snowmobile hit an embankment and flew at least 20 feet before striking a tree.

Hirschey, 44, was airlifted to an area hospital, and Price suffered at least some broken ribs.
An autopsy is being performed Friday in Fond du Lac. It is believed that Randy died instantly after slamming into those trees.
Randy had rented the snowmobile from St. Germain rentals in Eagle River. The man who runs the firm said that it was, in his words, "a dangerous mistake" for the two men to ride on a vehicle with a seat for just one.

Salerno has been with CBS 2 since September 2004. Prior to working at CBS 2, he worked at WGN-TV (1993-2004), as anchor of the midday newscast. Previously, he served as a general assignment reporter and as the weekend morning news anchor (1994-1999).

"Randy was a talented news anchor and a major reason for our recent morning show success,'' CBS 2 President and General Manager Joe Ahern said in a statement. "But it was Randy's sense of humor and quick wit that separated him from the rest. He was a skilled journalist, trusted colleague and dear friend to many in our newsroom--especially to our morning team.''

Co-anchor Roseanne Tellez worked with Salerno for 16 years, both here at CBS and at WGN. "I just want everybody to know how lucky I feel to work with this guy, who was just so funny,'' Tellez said. "He was so smart and so talented.''

In the CBS 2 newsroom this morning, reporters, producers and photographers tearfully hugged each other and laughed as they shared their stories of working with one of Chicago's most gifted television journalists. At the same time, they all were preparing for the next newscast--a difficult, but necessary task.

"Randy had a way of walking down the hall and into the room that I'll never forget,'' CBS 2 News Director Carol Fowler said. "He took charge, always. Randy was a tough competitor as a street reporter, and a sharp wit on the anchor desk. This is a huge loss for us all.''
Before working at WGN, Salerno was a reporter and weekend anchor at WNYT-TV in Albany, N.Y. Prior to that, he worked at WMBD-TV and WHOI-TV in Peoria. He began his broadcasting career at WIFR-TV in Rockford as a general assignment reporter.

He won a local Emmy Award for his work on CBS 2's 2004 broadcast of the LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon.
Salerno lived in Crystal Lake, the town where he grew up.
Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Irene, their three children, Haley, 13, Slone, 9 and Charlie 7, and their extended family at this very difficult time.
Memories have been pouring in from those who knew Salerno – either personally or just through the TV screen.

"He was a really good and funny guy… he was a good broadcaster, and there aren't that many of those around," Steve Dahl of 104.3 JACK-FM said on his show Friday morning. Salerno often worked with Gary Meier on his show on the former WCKG-FM radio. Dahl, Meier's longtime radio partner, said Randy was "very funny" on Meier's show.
Numerous CBS 2 viewers have emailed their thoughts and prayers.
"I could not believe the tragic news when I heard it on the radio. He really grew on me and I loved his humor," wrote Carol Walters. "He will be sorely missed."
"I just loved his personality... his smirk... his sarcasm," added Mary Ann Knepper. "He was just a "real guy"... in a suit!"
He always made us all laugh, and that is how we will always remember him.

Visitation will be Tuesday, from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Querhammer & Flagg Funeral Home, 500 W. Terra Cotta Ave., Crystal Lake. The funeral will be held Wednesday at 11 a.m. at Immanuel Lutheran Church, 178 McHenry Ave. in Crystal Lake.

Donations can be made to the Muscular Dystrophy Association at
430 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 603, Chicago, IL 60611. Identify Randy Salerno in the memo section of the check. All donations made in support of Randy will benefit Duchenne Research.

Cook state's attorney hopefuls trade barbs
By Michael Higgins | Tribune reporter
January 25, 2008
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Digg Facebook Fark Google Newsvine Reddit Yahoo Print Reprints Post comment Text size: Democratic Cook County state's attorney candidate Anita Alvarez accused opponent Howard Brookins Jr. on Thursday of dragging his feet on child-support obligations, but he called the attack "disgraceful" and said the dispute stemmed from bills involving a doctor not fully covered by his insurance.

The highly charged dust-up comes less than two weeks before voters will pick a Democratic nominee in the contest to replace retiring State's Atty. Richard Devine.

Citing court records, Alvarez said the former wife of Brookins, the 21st Ward alderman, had to file petitions in court at least four times since 2003 to get the payments she believed she was owed.

Alvarez and Brookins released court documents showing Nanette Comeaux Brookins filed a petition in September 2006 to force him to turn over income tax records as well as separate petitions filed in July 2006 and April 2007 seeking reimbursement for about $1,000 in medical expenses.

Brookins said in a statement that the dispute arose as a result of his former wife's decision to take their son to a doctor who was not part of their HMO. "As a result, we needed the judge to determine who was responsible for the out-of-network payments," Brookins said.

Speaking after an afternoon candidates forum, Alvarez accused Brookins of engaging in a "pattern" of financial irresponsibility that also includes a controversy about rent payments.

"He doesn't seem to accept responsibility until he's sued," said Alvarez, noting that one of the state's attorney's duties is to help collect child support.

Brookins fired back later in the day with documents appearing to back up his claim that he's fully paid up on child-support payments.

"Unfortunately, it is common for a husband and wife to have disputes when going through a divorce,' Brookins said in a statement. "It's disgraceful that my opponents have decided to bring a 9-year-old boy into their negative campaign tactics."

Nanette Brookins could not be reached for comment. The complete case file from the couple's divorce was not available Thursday from circuit clerk's office.

At the Chicago-Kent College of Law forum, Ald. Tom Allen (38th) sparred with Robert Milan, Devine's top assistant, over whether the office does enough to crack down on police officers who lie in court.

But Milan said Devine's office had prosecuted bad officers for everything from theft to perjury to first-degree murder. Milan said he had developed a training program to help prosecutors detect when one of their witnesses may be lying.

The purpose of the forum was to get the candidates' views on a report that the Criminal Justice Project of the Chicago Appleseed Fund for Justice issued in December on the county's justice system.

The candidates largely agreed with the report's call for more spending on specialized drug and mental health courts. The courts' purpose is to provide treatment programs to divert low-level offenders out of the more expensive jail and prison system.

CC States Attorney race and CC Hospital

What is surprising about the endorsements is Bobbie Steele, former interim CC President endorses, CC Commissioner Suffredin, and her son, Robert Steele who inherited her CC Commissioner seat endorses Brookins. I am not sure how the race is going to go, but the South Siders come out and vote for South Siders, this may help Brookins.

Prosecutor race divides Dems
'TOTALLY UP IN THE AIR' | Alvarez, Brookins add high-profile support
January 21, 2008
BY ERIC HERMAN Criminal Courts Reporter
In a sign of how fractured Democratic support has become in the race for Cook County state's attorney, two candidates vying to succeed Dick Devine trumpeted endorsements by high-profile officials Sunday.

At a news conference at the Union League Club, Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn threw his support to Anita Alvarez, a career prosecutor who is the No. 3 official in Devine's office.

U.S. Rep. Danny Davis (right) reiterated his support Sunday for Ald. Howard Brookins (left), who gained the endorsements Sunday of Aldermen Isaac Carothers and Emma Mitts.
(Al Podgorski/Sun-Times)
"She happens to be a woman. She happens to be Hispanic. And she also happens to be the most qualified person. We have a chance to make history," Quinn said.

Exasperating for voters
Meanwhile, Ald. Howard Brookins (21st) picked up endorsements from West Side Aldermen Isaac Carothers (29th) and Emma Mitts (37th), and from other African-American officials. U.S. Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.) reiterated his support.

"We're going to be with Howard 100 percent. We're going to have every precinct captain, every volunteer" working for him, Carothers said.

For primary voters who use endorsements for guidance, the state's attorney's race has likely become exasperating.

Six Democrats are seeking their party's nomination. Three are officeholders -- Brookins, Ald. Tom Allen (38th) and Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin (D-Evanston) -- and two, Alvarez and First Assistant State's Attorney Robert Milan, are career prosecutors. Defense lawyer Tommy Brewer is also running.

Since no candidate mustered sufficient support to be slated, the Cook County Democratic Party opted for an open primary. Seasoned observers are calling it a free-for-all.

Newspapers also split
Brookins, who is African-American, has substantial support on the South Side and said the Sunday endorsements "give us a tremendous shot in the arm." Suffredin has also garnered high-profile black support -- from U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.), Secretary of State Jesse White, and former County Board President Bobbie Steele. Steele's son, Cook County Commissioner Robert Steele, has endorsed Brookins.

Suffredin and Allen both have union support. Allen also has the backing of many elected officials, including 14 aldermen. Milan got Devine's endorsement last week.

Even Chicago's two major newspapers are split, with the Sun-Times endorsing Suffredin and the Tribune endorsing Allen on Sunday.

"It's totally up in the air," said a former Cook County officeholder, who asked that his name not be used.

The winner of the Feb. 5 Democratic primary will face the lone Republican candidate, Commissioner Tony Peraica.

Toddler wants to turn control of the healthcare over to someone else
CHICAGO -- After years of fighting to keep county hospitals under the control of the Cook County Board, it appears board president Todd Stroger is ready to turn them over to a new independent government board.

Officials say the move would save the county hospital system and its deteriorating financial situation.
The new board would have taxing power and control all contracts and hiring. This proposal is being considered as several more clinics could close by the end of the year.
With his father having died last week, Cook County Board President Todd Stroger was unavailable to comment on the report in Crain's Chicago Business. But several commissioners ABC7 interviewed Monday confirmed that the county is on the verge of a major change in how it pays for its public healthcare system.
At a cost nearing $1 billion a year, the Bureau of Health is Cook County government's single biggest expense and is blamed for most of the county's repeated, annual deficits.
For years, several commissioners have argued the county should get out of the healthcare business, and now, reportedly, board president Todd Stroger has agreed to consider one of their plans. It would cede control of the health bureau to an independent authority. The authority would include seven members, mostly healthcare professionals, appointed by President Stroger.
"We want to make sure they are health professionals and how you make it work with all the federal funding," said Larry Suffredin, (D) Cook County commissioner.
Critics charge the county's current health bureau costs are bloated by political patronage. Under the reorganization plan, all hospital and clinic operations and contracts would be controlled by the independent board. That also would have its own taxing authority, much like the park district in the City of Chicago.
"Can we really say it's free from patronage? Free from political influence? Absolutely not," said Roberto Maldonado, (D) county commissioner.
Meanwhile, pressure is building on Stroger and board members to find a long-term funding solution for the county's hospitals and clinics, several more of which could be closed later this year.
Commissioner Suffredin said the state legislature would have final approval over any new health authority with taxing power. He said he did not believe such a move necessarily would mean higher taxes.
"It would depend upon what they decide. It's possible there could be a tax increase. I would hope with a professional administrator, we would be able to get more federal dollars than we're getting now," Suffredin said.
The plan to set up an independent health authority also could be a key to breaking the ongoing budget stalemate in Cook County. President Stroger supports a sales tax increase to fill a $238 million deficit. It is hoped that some commissioners opposed to the increase might reconsider if Stroger agrees to reform in how the health bureau is run.

Eugene Sawyer, who Daley defeated to start his reign
Eugene Sawyer was elected Chicago Mayor by the City Council. Eugene Sawyer was the Alderman of the 6th Ward while serving under Mayor Harold Washington. Little did Eugene Sawyer know he would replace Mayor Washington, after his sudden and unexpected passing. Alderman Dorothy Tillman of the 3rd Ward, and her big hat fought Sawyer. It was an all night election that had Dick Mell, father-in-law of Governor Blagojevich and Alderman of the 33rd Ward jumped up on the desk at the City Council chambers. That night in the City Council was better than any reality TV, it was Chicago politics. Then night ended, or rather early morning at 4 AM a very tired Eugene Sawyer was elected by the City Council the next Mayor of Chicago. Almost passing out and being held up to accept his new position.
Former Chicago Mayor Eugene Sawyer, who served only briefly but during a deeply divisive period in city politics in the late 1980s, has died. He was 73.

Mr. Sawyer, the city's second black mayor, served for just 16 months after the sudden death of Chicago's first black mayor, Harold Washington. Mr. Sawyer died Saturday after several recent strokes, his family said.

"He guided Chicago through one of its most turbulent times," the Rev. Jesse Jackson said Sunday. "He served without rancor. ... He was a bridge, a man of calm demeanor and dignity."

Immediately after the death of the popular Washington, the quiet, soft-spoken Mr. Sawyer, then alderman for Chicago's 6th Ward, found himself in the midst of a political maelstrom.

Many blacks opposed him, accusing him of being a figurehead for white powerbrokers who had bitterly opposed Washington during his four years in office.

"There was a lot of hostility directed toward him," said Gary Rivlin, author of a Washington biography "Fire on the Prairie." "He was portrayed as getting the backing of the old machine."

The city council session held to elect Mr. Sawyer as acting mayor was highly contentious, with many blacks angrily accusing the Greensboro, Ala., native of selling out, Rivlin said.

"Sawyer's election wasn't joyous. He had a resigned posture, like, 'OK, I'll be mayor, but I have to survive this night,' " Rivlin said. "You couldn't help feeling sorry for him. I always saw Sawyer as a tragic figure. ... He was caught in the middle."
Mayor Richard Daley defeated Mr. Sawyer in the Democratic primary in 1989 and went on to win the mayoral election. After his defeat, Mr. Sawyer left public life and became involved in several business ventures.

Mr. Sawyer never sought to get back at his critics after he became mayor, his brother said.

"His major concern was to be a healer, to ensure the city continued to function," John Sawyer said Sunday. "He didn't want to contribute to any strife - be it racial or economic."
Among Mr. Sawyer's proudest accomplishments was helping to ensure minorities had a fair chance to bid on city contracts, his brother said.

The Chicago Cubs fan also was proud that the installation of lighting at Wrigley Field, allowing for night games at the famed baseball park, happened during his term, his brother said.
"He was proud of Chicago. He loved Chicago," John Sawyer said.
Mr. Sawyer died at Adventist Hinsdale Hospital about 11 p.m Saturday; he had suffered a series of recent strokes, the most recent in November, and he was hospitalized Friday with heart problems, his brother said.

Mr. Sawyer is survived by his wife; three children; and four grandchildren.

Please don't talk about putting Casino's on the South Side

Casino talk surfaces in Illinois’ south suburbs
StoryDiscussionFont Size: Default font size Larger font size By Kartikay Mehrotra | Sunday, January 20, 2008 | No comments posted

SPRINGFIELD — One of Chicago’s south suburbs is making a pitch to land a new casino if the state ever approves a plan to expand gambling.

The village of Lynwood sits on the Illinois-Indiana border, and Village President Eugene Williams says his community would be a prime location for getting the most money out of a new casino license.

“If your real intention is to create economic stimulus in a region that’s economically depressed or needs a boost, we fit that right here in this area,” Williams said Friday, adding that a casino on the Illinois side of the border would keep gamblers in Illinois instead of losing their bets at three Indiana casinos just across the border.

New casinos and the tax revenue they generate for the state have become the focal point in a debate over how to finance a long-sought statewide construction plan.

Municipalities across the state are declaring themselves open to a new casino. Rockford, Danville and Waukegan, along with other south suburban communities such as Country Club Hills, Calumet City and Dolton, have expressed an interest in hosting a new casino.

A gambling expansion measure was approved in the Illinois Senate last summer, but the legislation is being reworked in the House.

House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, has proposed new legislation that includes three new licenses, including one for Chicago, and security measures to prevent organized crime, and the governor or other politicians from getting too involved in operating the casinos.

“I think the flaws in the Senate bill were so profound the judgment was that it would be best if they start from the beginning,” Madigan spokesperson Steve Brown said.

While the final location of the new casinos ultimately would be decided by the Illinois Gaming Board, south suburban lawmakers say they will not support the addition of casinos unless one is located in their region.

“What we are doing is stealing back the gambling business that’s merely crossing the state line,” said state Rep. George Scully, D-Flossmoor. “We already have all the social ills of gambling without the economic benefits.”

State Rep. David Miller, D-Lynwood, agreed, saying, “It would be hard for me to support” legislation that did not include a plan for the south suburbs by name. “I think we make a strong case to have it.”

Kartikay Mehrotra can be contacted at (217) 789-0865 or

John Stroger passes at age 78

Ex-County Board President John Stroger dead at 78

Unfortunately all the unscrupulous behavior following John Stroger's illness is what people remember most. How John Stroger was a President who held a Cook County District, as well as being president then became Bill Beavers', the Alderman who left his 7th Ward post. Bill Beavers, "The Hog with Big Nuts" leaves his Ward to his daughter Darcell, who was stomped in the election by Sandi Jackson, probably because so many people were upset with all the goings on around the Cook County Presidential election. People remember the surprised look on the faces of Physicians treating John Stroger as they snuck in and out of Rush Hospital using service elevators through the alley, as camera men caught them on film. People remember how after the deadline for any candidate to enter the CC President's race had expired, there was an illegible scribble on what supposedly was a resignation letter written by John Stroger. Yes, it's too bad that the things John Stroger had no control over is what people will remember most.And lest we forget, son Todd Stroger getting on the ballot for CC President, which he won, and all the activities that have followed.

January 18, 2008
It’s “the end of an era.”

John Stroger was so much larger than life they did not even wait until he was dead to put his name on the Cook County Hospital he defied the critics to build.

According to officials, former Cook County Board President John Stroger has died.

Stroger had loyalty to family, supporters

I've been through a lot: Todd says

One of Stroger's final interviews
Stroger, a former Cook County Board president, died today at 8 a.m., nearly two years after suffering a stroke that ended a political career spanning four decades.

Mayor Daley announced the sad news at a Martin Luther King Jr. prayer breakfast where Stroger’s closest political allies — none of whom had seen him since the stroke — were gathered.

“He was an inspiration to all of us in politics,” Daley said. “He really believed government could make changes. His greatest legacy is building Cook County Hospital. When people told him that public hospitals had ended many years ago, he firmly believed people needed good, quality health care.”

Stroger’s son Todd, who succeeded him as president, released this statement: “He dedicated his life to his family and gave generously of himself as an elected official. His love for this county knew no bounds and he will be deeply missed.’’

John Stroger suffered a stroke on March 14, 2006, and he had been in hospice care at Warren Barr Pavilion in the city during the days leading up to his death. His condition started worsening last night, close associates said.

His family was by his side Thursday night, said Donna Dunnings, John Stroger’s niece.

“My family appreciates all the prayers and support that we’ve had during this long struggle,” said Dunnings, referring to the period since John Stroger’s stroke as “a long, tiring process with peaks and valleys throughout.”

Dunnings described her uncle as “a caring, giving, loving man,” who always put people first.

Todd Stroger was dropping his children off at daycare at the time John Stroger died, Dunnings said.

Late this morning, workers were putting up purple and black bunting at the County Building in remembrance of John Stroger.

“John Stroger followed in Dr. Martin Luther King’s footsteps,” former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun said. “It could be the end of an era of the people who helped forge Chicago politics. He will be missed because he made such a huge contribution, left such a big footprint.”

John Stroger’s fans cite the hospital that bears his name as proof of his commitment to helping the poor.

“When I remember John Stroger is every time I go by Cook County Hospital,” said the Rev. Michael Pfleger, an activist-priest. “I remember that nobody wanted to do it because nobody really gives a damn about poor people. John Stroger decided that if he did nothing else the whole time he was in Cook County government, that he was going to build a new hospital for poor people. Everybody tried to stop him.”

And while critics point out all the political friends of John Stroger’s who got jobs or contracts at the hospital and throughout county government, Pfleger and other defenders make no apologies for the use of county government as a jobs program for Chicago’s poor neighborhoods.

“The people who have been boxed out for so long, when you can use your position to help poor people, to hire poor people, go do it,” Pfleger said.

Loyalty was one of John Stroger’s most important refrains and he lectured County Board members when he thought they were being disloyal to him or the party. In 1983, when Daley was running for mayor against Harold Washington, John Stroger broke with his friend Washington to back his older friends, the Daleys, who had been loyal to him. Mayor Daley and his brother John, a county commissioner, still express gratitude.

“After I lost the election, he supported Harold Washington,” Mayor Daley said. “There’s nothing wrong with that. That isn’t loyalty. Maybe he believed in someone. That isn’t disloyalty. It’s like after a game you shake someone’s hand.”

Braun said she and John Stroger “would hang out every Friday night at a hotel by where we lived and talk about the good old days and have fish.”

The elder Stroger moved to Chicago in 1953, joining the 3rd Ward organization of Ralph Metcalfe, the Democratic committeeman and future congressman. John Stroger was named Democratic committeeman of the 8th Ward in 1968 and elected to the County Board two years later with the support of then-Mayor Richard J. Daley. John Stroger became board president in 1994.

What would be John Stroger’s final campaign took a tragic turn just one week before the March 2006 primary when he was hospitalized after suffering a stroke that physicians ultimately concluded was “serious” and would prevent him from returning to “a baseline normal state.”

Last month, Todd Stroger talked about his father.

“Life is what it is. You’ve got to deal with it. Hell, Job didn’t complain,” Todd Stroger told the Sun-Times. Seizures stunted his father’s progress, he said.

“There comes a point where the biggest thing is just trying to make sure he’s comfortable,” his son said. “Make sure he’s comfortable. Make sure he doesn’t get sick. That’s about all you can do.”

Visitation is scheduled for Tuesday from noon to 8 p.m. at St. Columbanus Church, 7120 S. Calumet Ave.

On Wednesday, viewing will be from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at St. Felicitas Catholic Church, 1526 E. 84th St. A funeral mass will be celebrated at 11 a.m.

Springfield update

Fur flying in Springfield"
The Illinois House of Representatives and Senate approved an amendatory veto by Gov. Rod Blagojevich Thursday on a bill to support statewide mass-transit systems.

The legislators originally approved an increase in sales and real estate taxes for Chicago-area residents to bail out the city's public transportation and allocate $100 million for downstate systems. Immediately after the approval, Blagojevich said he would not sign the bill unless all seniors and people with disabilities could ride public transportation for free.

Originally, legislators across Illinois said a mass-transit bailout should be included in the $9 billion Capital Construction Plan - which would have provided the SIU system with $145 million for new facilities, and to finish the renovation of Morris Library. But a group of Chicago and downstate Democrats, including State Rep. John Bradley (D-Marion), gathered enough of the House's vote to advance the bill anyways.

"Shame on them," said State Rep. Mike Bost, R-Carbondale.

Bost said the promised free ride for all seniors is untrue. According to Bost, no senior citizen living south of Interstate-64 would be eligible for a free ride because of requirements in how a public transportation system is organized.

The amendment, which was approved in the House by only one vote, awaits approval from Blagojevich. Members of the Senate said they hope Blagojevich will sign the bill late Thursday or Friday.

More on the vote
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - State lawmakers staved off cuts and layoffs for one of the nation's biggest mass-transit systems Thursday but did so with sparring that exposed deep divisions between Chicago and downstate and a huge rift between the governor and many lawmakers.

The measure boosting regional taxes to provide more than $500 million in transit aid passed 61-47 Thursday in the House and 32-19 in the Senate, so it now becomes law.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich applauded legislators for approving his changes, even if they did so unhappily. Transit riders in Chicago were glad to learn there would not be cutbacks but criticized lawmakers for the delay.

"I know its about funding," said Mike Witiw, 32, a civil engineer from Chicago. "It shouldn't have come to that. There's really no excuse."

The plan increases sales and real estate taxes in the Chicago region to generate transit money. Without the aid, officials were set to slash bus and train routes, raise fares and lay off more than 2,000 employees.

Legislators approved the tax increase last week, but the Democratic governor used his amendatory veto to send the measure back to the General Assembly and demand senior citizens across the state get free rides on their local mass transit services.

Blagojevich's move tried to put lawmakers who opposed the transit bill in a tough position by forcing them to vote against free rides for seniors, a dedicated group of voters.

But his action unleashed a flood of complaints that he endangered the bailout by making last-minute demands. Those complaints dominated Thursday's debate.

Lawmakers of both parties said the free-ride provision was a clumsy attempt by the governor to divert attention from the fact that he was agreeing to a general tax increase, something he had vowed never to do.

"I did not get one phone call in support of the governor's action," said Rep. Harry Osterman, D-Chicago. "I would assume most of the people in the state saw right through his action."

Rep. John Fritchey, D-Chicago, said he was drafting legislation to abolish amendatory vetoes.

"If the governor is unable to play with his toys, we will take his toys away from him," Fritchey said.

Fritchey and other legislators also suggested the measure might be challenged in court as an unconstitutional stretch of the governor's amendatory veto power.

Blagojevich said he understands why lawmakers are upset with him but thinks "some of them need to get a grip."

"I know some of them are angry at me, but they really ought to take a deep breath and stop and look in the mirror and frankly realize what we've gotten done here," Blagojevich said at a Thursday evening news conference outside his Capitol office after the votes.

Some legislators complained their seniors wouldn't benefit from the free rides because they only applied to transit services with fixed routes, which are not common in rural areas. They also criticized supporters for adding more expenses to an already cash-strapped transit system.

"Why in the world would you blow a hole in something you just fixed? It doesn't make any sense," said Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro.

Blagojevich had opposed tax increases such as those in the bill and wanted to divert taxes on gasoline sales in the Chicago area to pay for mass transit. But he said would OK the measure _ after including the free rides for seniors _ in a "spirit of compromise."

Senate President Emil Jones, D-Chicago, was one of the few legislators to defend the governor's change to the bill.

"The only problem with this amendatory veto is that we did not think of it," Jones said.

The House followed the transit vote by approving legislation that would put an income limit on the free rides for seniors and offer the rides to people with disabilities. Supporters said that would focus the benefit on people who most need the aid.

Eligibility would be tied to the state Circuit Breaker program that provides aid with taxes and medication. Senior citizens living alone can qualify if their annual income is below $22,218.

The Senate did not take up that so-called "trailer bill" before leaving town. Jones said he had a problem with the income limits included in the House measure but intends to solve those when legislators return to work in February.

"I want to make sure it's right," Jones said. "I want to make sure it's right for seniors."

The governor and lawmakers have debated for more than six months about how to help the struggling transportation agencies. During that time, Blagojevich approved two temporary bailouts, including one $27 million grant that came from money set aside for other construction needs.

Some lawmakers, particularly Republicans, had wanted to tie a transit bailout with a statewide program for schools, highways and government construction. Blagojevich and lawmakers have been unable to agree on a capital program for five years.

Legislators recently have discussed a plan to expand legalized gambling to pay for a capital program, but the politically volatile proposal will take time to work out.

Associated Press Political Writer John O'Connor in Springfield and Writer Caryn Rousseau in Chicago contributed to this report.

The bill is HB656.

The Doomsday vote in Springfield today

The Doomsday vote for transit will be in Springfield today, it will cost between $50,000 and $100,000 in travel expenses for congress alone. I wonder doesn't Governor Blagojevich know that seniors already ride at half price? This has been the most talked about subject in the news since Blagojevich came up with this. It is predicted it will pass, and not by a lot. This will be a close vote.
Doomsday plan up for vote

State lawmakers are set to vote Thursday on a last-minute measure that would avert major CTA service cuts and employee layoffs scheduled for Sunday while giving free rides to all senior citizens statewide.

Fares would rise to a maximum of $3.25 for rush hour train service from their current price of $2, and 2,400 employees will lose their jobs.

The 81 CTA bus routes provide more than 320,000 rides daily, according to CTA officials. Only about 70,000 of those rides are expected to find other bus routes or train lines, which means the CTA could potentially lose 250,000 rides a day, nearly one quarter of its current total.

"The original bill would have increased sales taxes in Cook County and the collar counties, and ordered the Chicago City Council to approve a 40 percent increase in the real estate transfer tax - from $7.50 to $10.50 per $1,000 of the sale price. Blagojevich amended the bill to provide free rides for senior citizens to defray the impact of the tax hike.

Critics, including Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, have questioned Blagojevich's proposal, calling it a political measure to save face after the governor promised not to raise sales or income taxes during his campaign.

The measure would provide more than $494 million in funding to get the CTA through its current budget crisis and $50 million for transit agencies in other parts of Illinois. The proposed spending has angered some lawmakers from other parts of the state, who feel their constituents should not have to subsidize Chicago's mass transit.

Senior citizen Nate Clark said he rides CTA buses every day but thinks the governor's plan to provide seniors with free rides is a waste.

"Senior citizens get a pretty good break right now," said Clark, a Rogers Park resident. "It's more of a political ploy."

It is estimated that the free rides will cost the agency between $20 and $30 million a year, with 1.3 million Illinois residents 65-and-over able to ride for free.
"There are a lot of seniors who can afford to pay," he said. "We should give free rides to the people who can't afford it and really could use them."

The threatened service cuts are unlikely to go into effect, said Jonathan Perman, executive director of the Evanston Chamber of Commerce.
When Governor Blagojevich came up with free rides for seniors didn't he realize they are already riding for half price? I was listening to Steve Dahl on the radio and he said this is the Governors major plan so the seniors will have free rides to vote him in again. Actually this subject is the most talked about in the news, in print and on the radio. I also heard today's vote in Springfield will cost $50,000 to $100,000 in travel expenses for the congress.

"I've been around here a long time, and these 'Doomsdays' come up time and time again, and they don't happen," he said.

The CTA Crisis

-Sept. 14, 2007: Cuts postponed until Nov. 4 when CTA president Ron Huberman accepted a $24 million advance from Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

-Nov. 4, 2007: Cuts postponed again to 2008 after Blagojevich secures a $27 million grant.

-Nov. 7, 2007: To compensate for a $158 million shortfall, the CTA schedules its bus cuts, layoffs and fare increases for Jan. 20.

-Jan. 10, 2008: The General Assembly passes the CTA funding bill which relies on a 0.25 percent increase in sales tax to make up for the deficit.

-Jan. 15, 2008: The measure passes an Illinois House of Representatives transit panel Wednesday in a 16-5 vote.

-Today: The General Assembly is expected to vote on the measure with Blagojevich's amendment as early as today.

-Jan. 20, 2008: If the proposal for government funding is not approved, the CTA's service cuts and fare hikes will take effect.

One mystery solved

I grew up rurally challenged and only saw farm animals at the Zoo. But every time I saw this ad in Newsweek or Time, I wondered what this beast was and why you would want to have it in your dreams. OK, mystery solved, it's a beaver, as in the animal and not William Beavers, aka "Hog with big Nuts". One mystery remains, why would you want this beaver in your dreams?
I could understand Lincoln. All you have to do is go to Springfield the State Capital of Illinois to know why this is "The Land of Lincoln" and why that is on our license plates. You can visit Lincoln's home, and walk from there to the Lincoln/Herraden law offices where he worked. And you could walk across the street from his law office to the Old Capital building where the courts were that he tried cases and where he served in the State House of Representatives.
You can also understand why Barak Obama picked Springfield and the Old State Capital to annouce his running for President. You can also see the excitement in this State that we have hope for having another President, since Lincoln.
You can also go out to the Lincoln Tomb, and see on the backside bottom of it, there was a tomb that held Lincoln and one of his son's until the completion of the current one. Yes, walk down the hill the tomb is on and to the back of the tomb and you will see the first tomb. You can take a short drive to New Salem where he lived before moving to Springfield. I can even understand some of the ads with an astronaut, although not ones that are crazed and wear a diaper, that would be a nightmare.
But I just don't understand the Beaver?

Why not?

Devine endorses top aide in state's attorney race

January 14, 2008
By ERIC HERMAN , Sun-Times News Group
After keeping silent for months, Cook County State's Attorney Dick Devine has endorsed his top aide to succeed him.

Devine - who was rumored to be privately backing First Assistant State's Attorney Robert Milan - made his support public at a Sunday news conference. By endorsing Milan, Devine snubbed another top aide seeking the office, Chief Deputy State's Attorney Anita Alvarez. He also bypassed four other lawyers who, like Milan and Alvarez, are vying for the Democratic nomination in the Feb. 5 primary.

Devine told reporters he was ready to state his "full and wholehearted support for Bob Milan." Milan, 46, is a career prosecutor who has been Devine's No. 2 for the past four years.

Devine said the office would be better off in the hands of a professional prosecutor than those of a politician.

"In the last several years, I've relied on Bob Milan as an adviser, someone to bring leadership to the state's attorney's office," Devine said. "Bob has the respect of the prosecutors in our office." Devine, elected the county's top prosecutor in 1996, said last August he wouldn't run again.

Since then, the race to succeed him has become wide open. The Democratic Party declined to endorse a candidate. Each of the three officeholders seeking the nomination - Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin (D-Evanston), Ald. Tom Allen (38th) and Ald. Howard Brookins (21st) - has lined up support and a raft of endorsements.

Meanwhile, Milan and Alvarez - each with more than 20 years of experience in the state's attorney's office - have faced an uphill battle, since many voters do not know who they are. Defense lawyer Tommy Brewer also is running.

Milan, for his part, has raised eyebrows by appearing at recent bond hearings in two high-profile cases, something the first assistant does not typically do. And while Alvarez has taken a leave of absence to campaign, Milan has not.

"I was surprised by Mr. Devine's endorsement today because he gave me his word that he would remain neutral in this race, and he usually keeps his word," Alvarez said in a statement. "My candidacy represents change," she added.

Suffredin, who has criticized Devine for being soft on public corruption, said, "It is understandable that the incumbent would support the status quo candidate in this race. My candidacy is about change."

The primary winner will face county Commissioner Tony Peraica, the lone Republican candidate.

Best Reality TV, the State's Attorney's race

State's attorney race makes its best case

By Mickey Ciokajlo and Robert Becker | Tribune staff reporters
January 11, 2008

But with the primary election less than four weeks away, the six Democrats vying for the right to try to succeed retiring State's Atty. Richard Devine are gearing up for a final push to break through the clutter.

"This primary is sneaking up on people," said candidate Larry Suffredin. "You're going to see a flurry of television ads. I think you're going to see a flurry of endorsements."
At stake is the party's nomination to seek a $100 million office with more than 900 lawyers and the power to launch investigations, issue subpoenas and convene grand juries. Its size and stature makes it one of the highest-profile political jobs in Illinois.

With the county Democratic Party not making an endorsement and a large field that headlines with Devine's top two aides, two Chicago aldermen and a County Board member, the state's attorney tilt arguably is the hottest primary not featuring the names Clinton, Obama, McCain and Giuliani.

It's the first time in 40 years that the incumbent state's attorney isn't seeking re-election and the contest so far is stacking up as a battle of prosecutorial experience versus political pedigree.

Robert Milan, Devine's first assistant state's attorney, has increased his public profile by speaking for the office on a few recent attention-grabbing cases.

At a Thursday debate sponsored by the Chicago Bar Association, however, Milan, 46, found himself on the defensive on the issues of Chicago police torture and police shootings. Milan lashed out at tough questioning, saying the overwhelming majority of police shootings are justified and pointing out that he was in college when the alleged police torture under former Cmdr. Jon Burge was taking place.

In his closing remarks, Milan said: "We've been painted tonight as racists, the men and women of the Cook County state's attorney's office. Let me tell you something, we're not. ... We've been painted as people that turn a blind eye to police corruption, which is just completely untrue."

Anita Alvarez, 47, is third in Devine's pecking order and stresses the need to have a trained prosecutor rather than a politician running the office. She's also billing herself as the only woman and only Hispanic in the contest. Her campaign has shown few signs of momentum thus far, however.

On Thursday, she hammered home her experience message in a veiled dig at Suffredin, who has come under fire for his longtime career as a lobbyist of casino, tobacco and pharmaceutical interests. "The only lobbying I've done is for victims [of crime]," Alvarez said.

Suffredin, 60, a County Board member from Evanston, points to his endorsement by U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., who called Suffredin the "purest" candidate in the race.

With six candidates in the Democratic field, campaign insiders say the winner could very easily claim the nomination with less than 40 percent of the vote. Nailing down support from ward and township organizations is proving key after the county party deadlocked among Alds. Tom Allen (38th), Howard Brookins Jr. (21st) and Suffredin.

Brookins long has made clear he expects to benefit from a large turnout of African-American voters who will be heading to the polls to cast ballots for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. As the only major black candidate in a primary where black voters could account for 40 percent or more of the ballots cast, Brookins, 44, is widely viewed as a front-runner. He's also been endorsed by U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush and U.S. Rep. Danny Davis.

The other black candidate is Evanston defense lawyer Tommy Brewer, 56, a perennial candidate. Among organized labor, Allen, 55, won the nod from the Fraternal Order of Police and the Chicago Federation of Labor while Suffredin is backed by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, and the Service Employees International Union. Milan has struggled to gain traction, losing to Allen both the FOP endorsement and support of the politically powerful 19th Ward, his native territory.

Devine, thus far, has remained on the sidelines, happy to share supportive words about Milan and Alvarezbut refusing to make an endorsement.

As the contest heats up, Brookins might face increased scrutiny over a civil case in which the landlord for his law firm and campaign office sued after Brookins fell behind on his rent payments. Brookins also had several tax liens filed against his law firm a few years ago by the Internal Revenue Service.

Brookins said his firm was struggling financially at the time but the taxes have since been paid. "I don't owe the IRS any money," he said.

The winner of the Democratic primary is expected to face Republican Tony Peraica of Riverside, who lost the 2006 election for county board president to Todd Stroger.

The Democratic debate will air at 6:30 p.m. Sunday on WYCC-Ch. 20.

Suffredin supported, slammed
Jackson Jr., White endorse him; rival hits gambling work

January 7, 2008
BY ERIC HERMAN Criminal Courts Reporter
Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin snagged endorsements from two prominent African-American officials Sunday in his race for state's attorney -- but drew criticism for lobbying on behalf of the gambling industry.

Suffredin (D-Evanston) is one of six Democrats vying to succeed Cook County State's Attorney Dick Devine.

Larry Suffredin has won the support of U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. in his bid for Cook County State's Attorney.

With the primary set for Feb. 5, the candidates have one month to grab voters' attention. U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. and Secretary of State Jesse White bypassed the two African-American candidates Sunday and threw their support to Suffredin.

"Larry Suffredin is a serious lawyer who will transform the state's attorney's office," said Jackson (D-Ill.).

Suffredin has painted public corruption as the No. 1 issue in the campaign and proposed creating a "public corruption strike force." Jackson said corruption in county government is an especially acute problem.

As a county commissioner, Suffredin "knows where the bones are buried," Jackson said.

'Public needs ... full story'
Suffredin's opponents for the nomination include Aldermen Tom Allen (38th) and Howard Brookins (21st), career prosecutors Anita Alvarez and Robert Milan, and defense lawyer Tommy Brewer. Brookins and Brewer are African American.

Suffredin said the endorsements show he will be competitive in southern Cook County, where he could eat into Brookins' support.

"I am the only candidate reaching out to every part of Cook County," Suffredin said.

But Alvarez slammed Suffredin for lobbying on behalf of casino companies as a lawyer in private practice.

Alvarez, currently Devine's chief deputy, said if casinos come to Cook County, Suffredin would be barred from investigating and prosecuting crimes associated with gambling. She called on him to disclose all of his lobbying work on behalf of casinos.

"Mr. Suffredin seems to be labeled as the progressive, as the reformer. Well, I think the public needs to have the full story," Alvarez said.

Suffredin said he has lobbied for Penn National Gaming and MGM and that he earned less than $50,000 in the last year for the work.

13th District, Larry Suffredin

Jesse Jackson Jr., South Side CongressmanChicago is a great center of both commerce and industry, and if its white collar offices are heavily concentrated in the Loop, its blue collar heavy industries are most visible on the far South Side. This heavy industry Chicago, diminished in importance economically today, is historically significant and, with the remnants of its great hulking factories around Lake Calumet and the nearby rail yards, has a certain undeniable majesty.

The last Cook County Meeting

Actually the last CC meeting was pretty tame. I think it's because there are too many running for CC State's Attorney, since Dick Devine will not be running. I think the Toddler was the last straw for Mr. Devine. The Toddler calling Devine the biggest pain in the Ass in public life he has ever met, did not help thier relationship.
So far Tony Peraica, Forrest Claypool and Mike Quigley are the only Commissioners that have expressed interest in Dick Devine's post. Actually Peraica has been quite subdued since he has expressed interest in becoming CC State's Attorney. This is going to be a very interesting CC State's Attorney's race, very interesting. Also Tom Dart CC Sheriff is interested in running as well. This is going to get good.
Earlean Collins seems to be the smartest of all of the Cook County Commissioners. Tim Schneider, first term Commissioner seems to have a lot of ambition, and really wants to work at being a good Commissioner. He also seems to have a lot of brains and common sense, a lot like Earlean Collins.
Deborah Sims seems to bring up a lot of good points, but she can get whiny, just like she did last meeting.
Just when you think Commissioner Butler is sleeping he speaks, not much but every so often. Speaking of whiny, Donna Dunnings always sounds whiny. Does she ever have a good day or is she naturally like this all the time? And why is it that the Toddler asks her to identify herself each and every time she is asked a question? Like no one knows who she is by now? And why doesn't he do that to everyone?
Andre Garner was absent, I guess after playing "Jonathan" on WGN radio, he is trying to avoid the press.
Bill Beavers, "the Hog with Big Nuts" has to jump in and throw, well...things around so you know he's there and needs nut room.
John Daley, .....well he will be John Daley.
Lance Tyson was busy jumping around and whispering in every one's ear, especially people who the Commissioners were questioning. Maybe he wanted to make sure they gave the right answers?
Well, and Todd, smiling, smirking, chuckling throughout the whole meeting. What else is new?

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