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Passing the Torch

By Kevin Robinson in News on Nov 24, 2006 2:50PM

While Chicagoist was busy stuffing our faces with traditional Thanksgiving fare, another tradition of sorts was taking place here in our fair city. Taking her lead from the recent coronation of Todd Stroger as the the replacement of his father on the Cook County Board, interim President Bobby Steele announced that she wants her son, Robert, to take her place on the Board when she retires in early December. This is more than just a case of nepotism, though.

Having won another term as a County Commisioner in the most recent election, Bobbie Steele was set to step down from her role as placeholder for the Toddler and serve another four years as a County Commisioner. But with this announcement, not only does she have the power to hand her seat over to her son, for the next four years, she also stands to gain nearly $1 million dollars more in pension! Because of the complex way that pensions are calculated for public office holders in the County, her current pension will double to $136,000 per year, because it will be based on the board president's $170,000 salary, rather than her commissioner's pay. Funny stuff considering that she had told the Sun-Times in July that she had no plans to step down after serving as interim Board President.

"I don't want anyone to think that I'm a bandit and I'm taking something and running," said Steele, adding "I didn't make the law and if I become the beneficiary of it, it's by no doing of my own." Of course. It just happened that way. While shennanigans and playing fast and loose with the rules is certainly part of what makes this city what it is, Chicagoist thinks that things have gotten a little out of hand in Cook County. Maybe if the County was operating at a surplus in its budget, and social services for the working poor in the county were something that we could all be proud of, we could look away, and let it go. But with the amount of human suffering going on in places like the Juvenile Detention Center, we don't think it's fair to the taxpayers of Cook County, let along the people that get caught up in the system, to do anything less than try and clean up the utter disaster that county government has become. Perhaps most depressing in this entire situation is knowing that the so-called leadership in county government has made it their life's work to hold on to power by claiming to be working for the best interests of their constituency, (the black community) while doing the very things that are so fundamentally damaging to the most vulnerable part of that community (young black men).