Sometimes I think I could turn this entire blog over to a critique of the Cook County Board and nothing else.
Most of the commissioners are fine people who I respect — Democrat and Republican. While I disagree strongly with Tony Peraica’s conservative social agenda, for example, I have a great deal of respect for his verbal calls for honesty in government. While I don’t quite understand their commitment to Board President Todd Stroger, Commissioners Joan Patricia Murphy and Deborah Sims work hard for those of us in the south suburbs of Chicagoland.
And Forrest Claypool? Well, here’s to what might have been.
President Stroger, your problem is not PR.
When I read earlier this week in the Sun-Times that Todd Stroger was “set to bring on a p.r. consultant, records show, to help improve his image and that of the hospital system he runs,” I just about choked. Of course, I’m not the only one who took notice. From the article:
“Of the multitude of problems facing the health bureau, p.r. is the least of them,” said Jay Stewart of the Better Government Association. “President Stroger should save the money, no matter how difficult that may be for the administration, and let the independent board decide how to use the money on things like actual health care services.”
Stroger already has people who are working the public relations angle:
Stroger’s p.r. staff is larger than that of many other county governments across the country, records show, but it’s hardly the most expensive.
Cook County Assessor Jim Houlihan’s communications chief, Lucio Guerrero, makes more than $120,000, though he said he’s also in charge of about a dozen people, heading up outreach and research.
Stroger’s top p.r. staffer, Mullins, is budgeted to be paid $105,059 — and Stroger still employs all of his former spokesmen in other, comparably salaried positions.
“The need for yet another p.r. consultant or staffer for President Stroger is ridiculous,” Stewart said.
Honestly, now, Todd, do you really think your problem is a decided lack of public relations? You do remember shortly after you swore your oath to “support the Constitution of the United States, and the Constitution of the State of Illinois, and that I will faithfully discharge the duties of the office of Cook County Board President to the best of my ability,” you roped off an elevator for your own private use.
Sir, with all due respect, the problem is not a lack of p.r. It’s you.
I’m going to remind you of the 10 tips the Sun-Times offered you at the beginning of the month:
1. Please, don’t hire anybody in your family to fill the job.
2. Nope, not even a cousin.
3. A childhood friend? See above.
4. A national search for the new inspector general does mean looking outside your political home base of the 8th Ward.
5. Ask yourself: “What would my political mentor, Bill ‘The Hog with the Big Nuts’ Beavers, do?” Then do the opposite.
6. Let the inspector hire his or her own staff. Don’t view the 12 new jobs as a political dumping ground.
7. Hire someone familiar with corruption. Familiar, that is, with investigating and prosecuting it, not committing it.
8. The new inspector general will not require the services of a private chauffeur, as do some political big shots. Or a private elevator.
9. Do not brag to taxpayers that the new inspector general is coming in at a bargain salary, then give the new hire a double-digit raise within a year. For reference, see the Chicago Sun-Times, March 24, “Todd’s Cousin Cashes In.”
10. Follow the lead of Mayor Daley. He hired a first-rate inspector general for the city, David Hoffman, a former federal prosecutor. Hoffman’s smart, independent, experienced and beholden to no one. He drives Daley nuts. But he’s a friend to taxpayers.
For too long, county government has been a cesspool of patronage. You see, Todd, that’s what we’re looking at: individuals who take advantage of the tax payers by setting aside privileges for themselves and people they favor. That’s what it’s really all about. Just stop doing that.
Forget the p.r. binge. Just stop all of that and govern. Good p.r. will follow good actions.