With only weeks left in the reign of Cook County Board President Todd Stroger, stories continue to surface about his administration's absurd ethical misdeeds. This weekend, Fox Chicago reported on a Cook County "clout list" showing that a $10.3 million federal disaster grant awarded to the county to pay for disaster flood relief in 2008 was in fact used to give jobs to friends and relatives of administration officials. It was the latest reminder of how bad things have gotten under Stroger and how promising a new era, led by incoming President Toni Preckwinkle, could be.
Stroger's loss to Preckwinkle in the February Democratic primary appeared to signal a new day for the board -- one in which personal connections aren't more important than your resume. But the outgoing president is certainly using every minute he has left to make sure all the right backs get scratched. Since his loss, a top aide was arrested for funneling contracts to her public relations firm; a lawsuit accused him of violating the so-called "Shakman decree" 157 times; and he handed out raises to his staff despite facing a huge budget gap. In the midst of this, the Board has taken steps to limit outside influence, but clearly more reforms are needed.
On election night, Preckwinkle told a celebrating crowd that the "party's over." Since then, she has mostly focused on the need to fix a "desperate" budget situation, which will include changes in the way the county does business. She has promised to cut 10 percent of the 2,300 jobs in the president's office and vowed to fight cronyism. Her first day on the job is December 6, which means its the last day for Stroger and a whole bunch of his friends.