Cook Co. commissioner honored for courage

September 6, 2009 3:55:11 PM PDT
A Cook County Commissioner who fought racist threats against her received a special honor Sunday.The threats were made after Cmsr. Deborah Sims changed her vote on a partial county tax rollback. Hundreds of people gathered Sunday in a show of support for her.

"My vote is not for sale to anybody. My vote is for the people I represent," said Sims, a Democrat who represents the 5th District.

That was Sims' reaction to racially charged telephone calls she received after she switched her vote.

"I don't think I've every been called the 'N' word. When I got that phone call, that was like saying it in my face," she told ABC7 Chicago.

The two profanity and racially laced death threats were made within hours of each other and were captured by an answering machine Wednesday evening in Sims' county board office. The callers, who sounded like the same man, lambasted Sims' for her pivotal vote on Tuesday to uphold the county's current sales tax rate.

Sunday, the congregation of Sweet Holy Spirit Baptist Church honored Sims for her bravery and for her decision.

"We need to let people know there are those who are on the front lines and that they do endure some harsh adversities to stand up for what is right," the church's Bishop Larry Trotter said.

Sims says she changed her mind about the sales tax override because she believed losing that tax revenue would closed health clinics in her district. Although other commissioners voted with her, Sims has come under some criticism because she was the only one who changed her position from an earlier vote.

"She co-sponsored the ordinance to roll back the county sales tax. And then, during roll call vote, she changed her position without telling anybody in advance. That's a classic definition of a flip flop," Cook Co. Commissioner Tony Peraica said.

Sims has the support of Cook County Board Pres. Todd Stroger, who called her vote courageous.

Sims says, because of the support from Sweet Holy Spirit and other churches, she doesn't feel like she's in any danger. Still, the Cook County sheriff's department has launched an investigation and is monitoring her home and her offices.


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