Stroger-Preckwinkle Dispute Boils Over At Board Meeting
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UPDATED 11/16/10 – 4:58 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) - It might be a bumpier-than-expected transition when Cook County Board President-elect Toni Preckwinkle takes over for sitting Board President Todd Stroger next month.
There are concerns that Stroger isn’t playing fair with his successor’s transition team and Preckwinkle is hardly getting a warm welcome from everyone at the County Building.
The dispute led Cook County Commissioner William Beavers (D-4th), a Stroger ally, to tell Preckwinkle to “shut up and get over here and try to do some work.”
CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov reports that other Cook County commissioners had asked Stroger point blank Tuesday if he was Preckwinkle’s team the information it needed to run the county.
Commissioners asked Stroger if he had threatened to hold back his cooperation unless Preckwinkle kept some of Stroger’s aides in their county jobs.
A disgusted Stroger simply said Preckwinkle has to stop playing politics.
LISTEN: Newsradio 780 Political Editor Craig Dellimore Reports
“I think it’s hard to lose, I think it’s very hard to lose,” County Board Finance Committee Chairman John Daley (D-11th) said.
Could that be the reason charges have been flying that Stroger isn’t helping Preckwinkle take over?
“There’s clearly a disconnect between the president and the president elect,” Commissioner Larry Suffredin (D-13th) added.
Commissioners wanted to get to the bottom of the problem at their meeting on Tuesday, so they asked Stroger if he’s giving Preckwinkle’s team all the information it needs.
Daley requested an update on the reportedly testy talks between Stroger and Preckwinkle. Stroger was anxious to give him one.
“If you called me, I’d have told you I’m working with her. It is she who said I’m not, but if you ask me, you’ll find out from the source,” Stroger said.
“On that, Mr. President, as of yesterday, we were informed that the cooperation was still coming, and not to the degree that they hoped for,” Daley said.
“Well, what they hope for is that they can call and say ‘I want this in 15 minutes,’ and you can get it to them,” Stroger responded.
Preckwinkle, currently alderman of Chicago’s 4th Ward, trounced Stroger in the Democratic primary in February and handily beat her Republican opponent this month.
She’s taking over at a time when the county is facing a massive deficit and, depending on whom you ask, she might be facing more opposition than expected, too.
Beavers said “I think she has a fight ahead of her. Either she bends and give in or she’s gonna have a fight.”
Beavers said Preckwinkle would get more cooperation if she stopped talking about how many county employees she will fire when she takes over.
“If she’d quit playing politics and threatening everybody about how many people she gonna fire, and she gonna get rid of this and get rid of that, and then she expect somebody to bend over backwards to help her? People are not crazy,” Beavers said. “They not gonna help her if she gonna fire ‘em the next day. All she had to do is keep her mouth shut. Shut up and get over here and try to do some work. That’s what she need to do.”
Chicago’s City Council was infamous for the “Council Wars” in the 1980s between Mayor Harold Washington and a majority of aldermen led by Aldermen Ed Vrdokyak and Edward Burke.
Could the dispute between Stroger and Preckwinkle be a prelude to a “Board Wars” after Preckwinkle takes office?
“I don’t believe it whatsoever,” Daley said. “Contrary to what people say, I think there’s been cooperation with the president-elect.”
Stroger said he’s living up to his obligations to share information and also denied charges he wouldn’t cooperate unless some of his staffers kept their jobs.
Calls to Preckwinkle’s transition team were not returned.
Stroger told the Chicago Tribune that talks with Preckwinkle broke down last week, when Stroger asked her to consider keeping some county executives in their jobs.
Preckwinkle said she would not do so.
Stroger told the Tribune that he believed “competent people in jobs” were needed for county government to function, and he wanted to talk to Preckwinkle about the executives who were “competent” versus those who were “shaky.”
But Preckwinkle told the newspaper that Stroger wanted her to pledge that she would keep some of his executives in their posts, and she said she would not make any such promise.
Previously, the Tribune reported the two met for the first time on Tuesday of last week, after what Preckwinkle calls “zero” cooperation from Stroger and the meeting lasted only a few minutes.
WBBM Newsradio 780 Political Editor Craig Dellimore and CBS 2′s Dana Kozlov contributed to this report.