Stroger, Claypool scuffle on budget issue

December 3, 2008 3:06:18 PM PST
A heated debate over the Cook County budget erupted on the radio.Cook County Commissioner Forrest Claypool was a guest on WLS Radio Tuesday. He made critical remarks about Cook County Board President Todd Stroger, who grabbed a phone and gave the radio audience an earful.

The Stroger/Claypool rivalry was underway long before the current debate over the 2009 Cook County budget. In fact, Stroger allies say that Claypool has not stopped running for board president since he lost the Democratic primary to Todd's father, John, in 2006.

Todd Stroger began his third year as Cook County board president with a statement explaining that whatever happens or has happened is not entirely his fault or to his credit.

"I think it's time for all of us to stand up and say that this government is our government. We're running it. And it's not being run by one person," said Stroger.

Stroger was still smarting from remarks aired on the radio Tuesday by Commissioner Claypool. Claypool criticized the president's plan to float bond issues to borrow money next year after the county board passed a sales tax increase last year.

"No other government borrows money to pay the bills. That's the equivalent of you taking out a home mortgage to pay your cable bill and groceries," said Claypool.

Stroger says he heard Claypool on WLS Radio while at home in the shower. So he called the program and a live debate began.

"You talk about waste and corruption. I asked you the question, where is it? You've been there six years, what do you say? It's waste and corruption. And you're just talking. And you're just talking because you want to run for president," Stroger said via phone on the radio show.

The president insists the money he proposes to borrow would not be used for operating expenses but for self-insurance, pension obligations and capital projects. And he says Claypool,-a former city park district commissioner, should know the strategy.

"When he was the head of the park district, he had to float bonds to do the things that they needed to do," Stroger said.

Claypool was asked if he is running for board president in 2010.

"The election is only 14 months away. It's a democratic primary," he said.

Stroger still counts a majority nine of the 17 commissioners as being on his side and just as fed up with Claypool.

"He's a born loser. He's not going to win nothing," said William Beavers, (D) Cook Co. commissioner.

While the North Sider will not announce his candidacy for 2010 quite yet, he did call this week's back and forth "an early skirmish" and said to expect more of the same next year.

"We just have a fundamental disagreement. That's what this is about. This is about a fundamental disagreement about who government should work for," Claypool said.

Non-candidate Claypool says he still has not held any fundraisers for a 2010 campaign. When he has that first fundraiser, possibly sometime early next year, that will be the confirmation that he's serious about another run.


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