Not long after Cook County commissioner William Beavers blasted critics of board president Todd Stroger for picking on the guy because he's black, I got a call from an outraged north-sider.
She wanted me to slam Beavers for playing the race card.
But I won't do that. I think Beavers has a point.
Beavers is the sort of politician who makes no bones about what he believes in or who he is: an old-fashioned, patronage-loving machine Democrat. What infuriates him are so-called independents who pretend they're courageous reformers out to topple the throne, then bow to it meekly.
With the exception of commissioner Mike Quigley, the county board is full of just these types of phonies. They rant and rail against Todd Stroger, but when it comes to Mayor Daley they look the other way. The fact is, Todd Stroger, like his father before him, is a cog in Mayor Daley's machine. The mayor's own brother, Cook County commissioner John Daley, sits at Stroger's side at commission meetings. The board operates largely as an extension of City Hall. If you're going to criticize Stroger, you ought to be consistent and criticize the mayor.
But most county board reformers wouldn't dare do that. Instead they polish their reform credentials by pounding on Stroger -- he doesn't have enough power to punish them. He's not popular in their districts. On the contrary, the so-called reformers score points with their voters by bashing Stroger. Meanwhile, they won't say a word about Daley. As a matter of fact, I just got off the phone with a nice young man who wants to be a committeeman. True to form, he ripped into Stroger. When I asked about Mayor Daley he said no comment.
No comment? If you're running as a reformer, how can you have no comment about a mayor who's presided over scandal after scandal while the schools fall apart, the CTA collapses, and taxes skyrocket, millions diverted into TIF funds? The answer, he told me: he wants to get elected.
Is there waste, inefficiency, and nepotism at the county level? You bet. Could Stroger have better handled the budget mess? Absolutely. But there's more to reform than squawking at a stand-in. And at least Beavers, the "hog with the big nuts," lines up behind all the bosses, not just the white ones.