We’ve long realized that spending in Cook County is out of control.  Perhaps I would personally have more confidence in President Stroger if he had made a better entrance on a public elevator instead of insisting on a personal elevator.

We know we’re in recession that’s likely to get worse before it gets better, but Stroger is fooling himself that his a budget that borrows $740 million in bond issues is free of additional taxes.  Bonds need to be paid somehow.  Where’s the new sustained revenue stream in the budget to pay the debt service on these bonds?

Some wise voices on the board agree:

“There’s an economic crisis just short of the Depression, so for us to suggest that nothing’s changed and it’s OK to borrow our way through this problem is foolhardy,” Commissioner Mike Quigley said.

“This is a re-election budget for Todd Stroger,” Commissioner Forrest Claypool said. “It is designed to give him hundreds of millions of dollars of borrowed money to get through the elections and then after the election, [there will be] tax increase No. 2 from Stroger because that money has to be paid back.”

Stroger has other ideas, claiming his budget demonstrates a continued “pathway of reform, efficiency and modernization.”

But Stroger refused to release the proposed budget in its entirety.  That’s a huge mistake from a public relations standpoint, but characteristic of Stroger’s much-less-than-transparent style of governing.

I’d love to see what Commissioner Forrest Claypool saw when he read the first draft of Stroger’s Not-Ready-For-Prime-Time budget. Mark Konkol has the story:

“I’ve never seen a government that put out a budget so chock full of errors, inaccuracy and misinformation. I don’t even think they know their own financial picture,” Commissioner Forrest Claypool said. “It shows remarkable ineptness and is symbolic of general mismanagement of county government that taxpayers pay a heavy price for.”

On Wednesday, Stroger’s staff “demanded” some commissioners return the error-riddled copies while corrected versions are being made.

According to Konkol, the errors in the budget amount to very, very bad math:

The biggest problem with the budget document was in calculating the difference between 2009 budget line items and the 2008 spending plan. The 2009 proposed funding levels were subtracted from what individual departments requested rather than last year’s appropriation.

Cook County residents deserve much, much better.  I hope voters who were so hungry for change will remember the call to the polls when primary season rolls around again.

Cook County desperately needs change.

My money is on Forrest Claypool.  I hope he considers another run.

And Stroger needs to release his draft budget now so we can all have a look.  Maybe we can help him with his math.