Opinion Cook County "Stroger" Hospital isn't located in the suburbs because the focus of services is on Chicago. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Why opposing Cook County taxes is important

Suburban Chicagoland

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Why opposing Cook County taxes is important

Cook County has tried to force suburban businesses to pay more in wages in an effort to allow Chicago based politicians to extend their reach into the suburbs. They’ve targeted the suburbs with taxes like the 1 cent hike in the Soda Tax. The people most hurt by that tax will be people living in the suburbs, not Chicago where Cook County government is controlled. Our suburban county board members are doing everything they can to prevent this exploitation but it’s a difficult fight

By Ray Hanania

Ray HananiaThe first thing you need to know about Cook County is that it is not run by the people of the suburbs. It is run by politicians and their organizations in Chicago. Every time Cook County passes a law, they do everything to minimize the impact on Chicago residents — their voters — and put the majority of the burden on suburban taxpayers.

There are 17 districts and the power is with Chicago. They dilute suburban power by including portions of the suburbs in the Chicago districts, but not enough to give the suburbs the power.

That’s why Cook County government is so corrupt. It cares ONLY about Chicago residents and ignores the needs of the suburbs. Cook County provides the majority of its services to Chicago residents but makes suburban residents pay most of the bills.

Cook County "Stroger" Hospital isn't located in the suburbs because the focus of services is on Chicago. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Cook County “Stroger” Hospital isn’t located in the suburbs because the focus of services is on Chicago. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That’s why:

  • Cook County imposed a 1 cent sales tax on soda pop and sweetened drinks — the majority of people impacted are suburbanites.
  • Cook County tried to impose a minimum wage hike that Chicago already imposed — it’s to help Chicago politicians extend their influence and voter appeal into poorer communities in the suburbs.
  • Cook County is doing everything it can to squeeze suburbanites for income — Cook County sheriff’s police have been seen issuing more and more tickets inside suburban communities.
  • County government is just one big problem after another, taking money out of my pocket that I have to wonder, how does it really help me? And I was a Cook County reporter for two years!
  • Cook County is run by Chicago politicians who don’t care about suburbanites.
  • Cook County collects most of its money from the suburbs and yet, again, it is run by politicians in Chicago.

The Tax Bill you get from Cook County is very misleading. When you look at it, you think, oh, the County is only taking about 8 percent of my taxes. For example, out of a typical $6,000 a year property tax bill, the schools are probably taking 64 percent of your taxes. Your local municipality is taking about 12 percent. The “Miscellaneous” section (Mosquito abatement, Water reclamation, separate government agencies) are taking 17 percent.

So why should anyone care that the County is only taking 7 percent of your taxes, or about $400?

Because that 7 percent that Cook County collects is ginormous when you add up all the 132 communities that are feeding money into Cook County government.

The reason your schools take so much is because they are drawing from a smaller region. Cook County is siphoning funds from 132 suburban municipalities, which explains why they “only” take 7 percent of your taxes and yet their budget is the largest of all of the region’s governments, $5 billion for this year alone. (Chicago takes $8.22 billion and receives an additional $1.6 billion in Federal Grants. Talk about a waste. Although that’s why I don’t live in Chicago).

The anti-Suburb, pro-Chicago trend

The County passed two ordinances to force local businesses to raise the “minimum wage” to levels set by Chicago, and to require businesses to provide up to five sick days to employees.

“Minimum wage” is a code phrase that generates voter support mostly in Chicago where the minimum wage is really an issue. It’s all about solidifying their voter base while squeezing the suburbs for more money.

The minimum wage ordinance would require businesses in Cook County to increase the minimum wage they pay employees from the state-mandated $8.25 to $10 an hour, with plans to go to $11 a year later, $12 in 2019, and $13 in 2020. The State already mandates a minimum wage in Illinois. But Chicago did it now the Chicago politicians want to make the suburbs do it, too.

Fortunately the majority of local governments used their powers to “Opt Out” of the ordinance before the deadline on July 1. In fact, nearly three-quarters of the suburbs were smart enough to see through the Chicago-controlled Cook County Board’s politics.

Why did Cook County do it? Because Cook County is run by politicians in Chicago, one of the most wasteful spending cities in America. Nearly 90 percent of the state’s problems are directly tied to mismanagement and wasteful spending in Chicago.

The politicians who approved the minimum wage ordinance are controlled by Chicago — the County ordinance doesn’t impact Chicago. Cook County is doing what Chicago did. The minimum wage is important in Chicago because the city has the largest number of poorer income families who are impacted by minimum wage jobs and the politicians there want to keep them happy so they get re-elected.

Chicago’s poor get a raise of $1.75 an hour and the Chicago politicians get slick new cars, Gold-lined pension plans and health benefits that go away beyond the health debate in this country, by the way.

The impact of the minimum wage hike on Cook County would be onerous for local businesses. That’s why most suburban communities said NO to the Cook County minimum wage.

What’s the bottom line? Cook County is a Chicago driven enterprises and its whole purpose is to subjugate people who live int he suburbs while spending most of its money inside Chicago. That’s where most of the money is spent to fight crime, to provide healthcare (at Stroger Hospital inside Chicago) and to pad the salaries of big shot Chicago politicians.

The only thing going for us are the suburban elected members of the Cook County board, most of whom are fighting for the rights of suburbanites. But, although suburban Cook County has more residents than Chicago, there are more Chicago based county board members than suburban based county board members. So Chicago gets its way all the time.

Cook County Sheriff Police are issuing more and more traffic citations to motorists? What are they doing in the Southwest Suburbs issuing more and more traffic tickets? Cook County needs money.

When the City of Chicago schools or the CTA have problems, who do they turn to for more money when Chicagoans can’t pay? The suburbs! And now they are going even further.

Chicago politicians also were behind the push to impose a 1 cent hike on the retail sale of soda pop and drinks that have sweeteners. A 20 ounce bottle of Diet Coke, under the law pushed by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who is from Chicago, would add 20 cents more to the cost.

Ah, but there is one exception. Yes, again, poor people will be effectively exempt from paying the tax. More than 1 million residents of Cook County — most of them living in Chicago — who receive SNAP benefits will be exempt from paying the higher tax.

That makes Chicago happy because the city is a sea of poverty, high crime and welfare recipients.

If the Soda Tax is intended to improve our health, don’t the poor deserve to have better health, too?

This isn’t about health, folks. It is about money and it is about votes.

I’m not saying welfare recipients don’t need help to. I am saying that the Chicago politicians who are slamming us with these higher taxes rely more on poorer voters in Chicago to get elected. So, they pass legislation that slams people who don’t vote for them. US! The people who live in the suburbs.

The Preckwinkle soda tax is about protecting Chicago votes, not about protecting our “health.”

I applaud those county county commissioners who have stood up with the county’s anti-Suburban policies. Commissioners like Sean Morrison and Jeff Tobolski deserve our praise and support. They are up against overwhelming pressures from Chicago.

Ironically, the suburbs have the clout to put a stop to this system. They can prevent Chicago politicians from squeezing our pocket books.

Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist, author and former Chicago City Hall reporter (1976-1992).

He is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club Lisagor Awards, the 2009 Sigma Delta Chi Award for journalism, and was named Best Ethnic American Columnist by the New America Media in 2007.

His personal web page is The Daily Hookah at www.TheDailyHookah.com (and www.RayHanania.com).

Hanania writes a weekly syndicated column for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia and is the managing editor of the American Arab online news website, www.TheArabDailyNews.com.

His mainstream columns are published in Chicago's Southwest Side and Suburbs in The Regional News, The Reporter Newspapers, the Southwest News-Herald and the Des Plaines Valley News.

Hanania is the managing editor of Suburban Chicagoland Online News website www.SuburbanChicagoland.com.

Email Ray Hanania at rghanania@gmail.com

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