* The Sun-Times takes up the debate today over Cook County Commissioner Bill Beavers’ statement that County Board President Todd Stroger can’t get his tax hikes approved “because he’s black.”
The editorial was unnecessarily harsh. Entitled “Clash clown,” it excoriates Beavers from the get-go…
Cook County Commissioner William Beavers likes to call himself “the hog with the big nuts.” We think he’s nuts, all right, especially for injecting race into the county tax debate.
The editorial even quotes a random black person who agrees with their perspective…
“That’s ridiculous. There’s a big backlash against Todd Stroger. He came in and cut a lot of people then went back to the old patronage system and put in his own people,” said Alan Holman, 40, who is black and from the South Side
* And Mark Brown asks…
Bill Beavers says Todd Stroger can’t get his county budget approved “because he’s black.”
That would be the budget that contains about $900 million in tax increases.
Does anybody think that might be part of the problem?
* At the risk of being flamed on my own blog, I’d say that the editorial is way out of bounds and that anyone who thinks that race plays no factor in Todd Stroger’s treatment in the press and his difficulties in passing a tax hike while (white) Mayor Daley has his own tax increase agenda is fooling himself.
* Mary Mitchell makes some excellent points in her own column today…
Still, there is a longstanding perception that what Beavers said is a sad fact — that if a white man were sitting in the president’s chair, commissioners would have passed the 2 percent sales tax increase without a ruckus rather than force Stroger to take a meat cleaver to the departments funded by the county.
She goes on…
Still, the perception that race is relevant when it comes to who heads up local government didn’t start with Beavers or Todd Stroger. It was no secret that the elder Stroger, who supported the regular Democratic Party in the face of a steamroller like the late Mayor Harold Washington, was installed in the top slot at the board because he was a loyal Democrat.
But contrary to off-repeated criticisms, patronage didn’t start with John Stroger, either. Black politicians didn’t invent patronage. They inherited it and learned how to make it work for their own constituents.
Interestingly, when the political pie was carved up, one of the region’s most powerful black politicians got the branch of government that primarily provides services used by people in the lower-income brackets.
Now, the old rules don’t apply — at least when it comes to the County Board.
So while Beavers’ comments were rude, he likely struck a chord with some blacks. After all, isn’t this the type of thing that happens all too often? As soon as a black person is in charge of something, the scope of his or her authority is challenged.
What’s going on at the Cook County Board is that kind of power grab. Stroger may have won his father’s seat, but his foes will be darned if they let him have even the amount of power his father had — or his clout.
The fact that many of Stroger’s harshest critics are angry white men has given Beavers’ outlandish remarks room to fester, and that will make it even harder for Stroger to pass a budget.
That’s unfortunate, especially since it will be Beavers’ constituents who will suffer.
* Look, there’s no doubt whatsoever that Todd Stroger is not the most competent politician in the world. But some of the criticisms have been far over the line, and Mitchell is right to point them out.
Are Stroger’s tax hikes excessive? Absolutely. Is Beavers a supreme goofball looking for an advantage in his nearly hopeless committeeman’s race against Sandi Jackson? Undoubtedly. But everyone needs to take a deep breath here and stop denying the reality that’s right in front of their faces.
Beavers certainly deserves criticism, but to say racism plays no role in this theater is patently absurd and flies in the face of how Chicago politics has operated forever.