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Stroger and Peraica Slug It Out
by Andrew Davis
2006-10-18

This article shared 4511 times since Wed Oct 18, 2006
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Peraica with gay activist Rick Garcia at the debate. RIGHT: Stroger. Photos by Andrew Davis

__________

If someone somehow thought that things were warm and fuzzy between Cook County Board President candidates Ald. Todd Stroger ( Democrat ) and Cook County Board Commissioner Tony Peraica ( Republican ) , that idea was immediately erased Oct. 10 at the posh Union League Club, 65 W. Jackson. A luncheon crowd witnessed the two baring their claws at a debate moderated by WBBM 780's political editor, Craig Dellimore.

Stroger and Peraica started with their own opening statements and then answered questions that had been previously written by both club members and the general audience. Then, in what turned out to be an interesting exchange, each candidate got to ask each other questions, followed by closing statements.

In his opening statement, Stroger drew first blood by stating that the election boils down to a choice between 'a progressive, Bill Clinton Democrat with 15 years experience ... who believes in equal rights and tax relief' and 'a radical Republican on the far-right fringe [ and ] a man who won't hesitate to take away our rights.' He added that he wants to get rid of 'corruption, waste and scandal,' appointing an independent inspector general to prosecute those guilty of such violations—and voiced support for women having access to reproductive health services 'without question, without delay and, most importantly, without judgment.' Stroger also ignited tensions by stating that even Peraica's fellow party members have called him 'Two-Faced Tony.'

Peraica responded that Stroger is not the reformer he claims to be. He added that the Democratic candidate is riding on the coattails of his father, former Board President John Stroger: 'It's a fact that if his name was Todd Smith, he would not be the nominee of the Democratic Party.' In addition, he said that how Cook County has been run has become a 'national embarrassment.'

The candidates were just as contentious while answering the submitted questions. What follow are highlights of their responses ( with the opponent's rebuttals ) :

Stroger on handling a ballooning deficit: The alderman proposed having each department explain its core mission and 'starting at zero and going line by line, tell us why they need to do certain functions.' He also talked about cutting down on 'the duplication of human resources' at the Bureau of Health and cutting down on excess employment. In addition, he discussed bringing in new technology to improve efficiency. Peraica responded that he believed there is 'a deficit in leadership, drive, determination and discipline' and that what needs to be done is to bring down 'overtime through attrition.' The Republican drew laughs when he said that workers were absent because they, among others, 'get indicted [ and ] go to jail.'

Stroger on delaying the firing of friend and former patronage chief Gerald Nichols, who the moderator said was under suspension and being investigated by the FBI: The alderman, who started his campaign six weeks ago, said that he needs to bring in new people and that Nichols 'is one of the people who would have to be let go.' Peraica said that 'we know what needs to be done [ and ] we don't need blue-ribbon studies. We need to move.' He also said that John Stroger was 'a hands-off manager [ and ] an absentee landlord.' He also mentioned the past appointments of [ Cook County Forest Preserve District administrative assistant ] Sam Simone, 'who's inspecting picnic tables for $80,000 a year,' and [ former fiscal manager of the President's Office of Employment and Training program ] Shirley Glover, 'a woman with 10 felony convictions ... who stole $180,000 in taxpayer money.' He called Ald. Stroger 'surprisingly unaware of county government.'

Peraica on enforcing the new rules regarding parental notification concerning abortion: Although his personal view is that 'parents should be involved [ with abortion ] , particularly with minors,' Peraica added that he would not 'mess with the law of land, as stated in Roe v. Wade' and that Stroger claimed the Republican would do otherwise. 'I quite frankly resent, Ald. Stroger, that you constantly misrepresent my view on this,' he thundered at one point. Stroger responded that he has always been pro-choice and emphasized the importance of the issue in the election.

Peraica on why he withdrew his name from the resolution welcoming the 2006 Gay Games to Chicago: The commissioner claimed that the resolution was on the county consent calendar and that his name was added without his 'knowledge and permission' and did not think that the measure 'reflected the constituency I represent in the western suburbs.' [ Note: All of the Republican commissioners had their names removed from the resolution. ] However, in a move that seemed contradictory to what he had just said, Peraica added that he 'firmly believes in equal protection under the law for all individuals regardless of race, ethnicity, national origin or sexual orientation.' In his rebuttal, Stroger commented that resolutions 'go through all the time' and called his opponent 'mean-spirited.' The alderman, who said he voted for the Human Rights Act many times, added that Peraica found out that his name was on the resolution only when a supporter 'put a stop payment on a $5,000 check.'

The section that allowed each debater to ask his opponent a question was short—mercifully so, some observers contended, given the rising tensions between the opponents. Peraica asked Stroger why, if the alderman considers himself progressive, Commissioner Forrest Claypool said he will never vote for him. Stroger said he didn't know why Claypool said that but added that many local Democratic officials—including U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky and Cook County Commissioner Mike Quigley and State Sen. Carol Ronen—support him. The alderman asked Peraica why there are links to the commissioner's businesses and a contribution page on the official Cook County Web site when no other commissioner does so. Peraica replied that 'my Web site and e-mail address allow me to serve the public as a public servant so I can be accessible. [ I have my information there ] so people can easily access me, [ not for ] some nefarious purpose, as you seem to think.'


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