We're in the Money
Readers of the Chicago Reader received some erroneous information about Cook County's finances in a story about the proposed West Side Courthouse ("Case Dismissed," March 30). Here are the facts:
Cook County is not facing a "budget crisis brought on by too many public works projects," as the story stated. While we have our challenges like most other employers in this uncertain economy, let me first assure your readers that the county's budget is balanced and that our financial outlook is positive in the published opinion of various rating agency analysts. In fact, Cook County's "AA/AA-" bond ratings are the highest they have been in more than a quarter of a century. Second, the county's various capital projects, such as the new Cook County Hospital, are necessary and economically important investments in the delivery of our public health and public safety services. As reflected in our high bond ratings, the county can afford every project to which it commits bond funds.
As for the opinion expressed by one commissioner that the decision to review the proposed courthouse required a "more complicated" rationale, this simply is not the case. First, based upon the city's sale of the old traffic court building, the chief judge requested that the county seek new facilities to house traffic court operations. Secondly, there is no "spending cap" which this project would have been exceeded by the county and, as most commissioners know, a courthouse "tax increase" was never a prospect.
Chief Financial Officer
Cook County Bureau of Finance
Ben Joravsky replies:
The county's fiscal problems have been widely covered in the press. The Forest Preserve, for instance, is struggling with debt. And many commissioners agree that building a new traffic courthouse would have resulted in either a tax increase or budget cuts. At any rate, if the county's now getting in better financial shape it's at least partly because the commissioners aren't building the courthouse.