Gorman leaves Cook County office at top of her public service

Gorman leaves Cook County office at top of her public service

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Gorman leaves Cook County office at top of her public service

Popular Cook County Commissioner Elizabeth “Liz” Doody Gorman shocked the public Wednesday when she resigned her county board seat to take a position with a major Fortune 100 Chicago corporation as director of Government Affairs. The District’s GOP Committeemen will meet to select a successor but the leading candidate is Gorman’s closest political ally, Palos Township Committeeman Sean Morrison. Gorman’s announcement came after announcing she would not criticize but could not support Preckwinkle’s 1 Percent Sales Tax increase, which passed 9 of 17 votes

By Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania, City Hall Reporter, (1976-1992)

Cook County Commissioner Elizabeth “Liz” Doody Gorman announced Wednesday she will resign her county board seat effective next week after declining to support a controversial one percent sales tax increase proposal introduced by County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.

The sales tax increase was adopted following six hours of debate and public testimony at a special meeting of the Cook County Board held Wednesday (July 15, 2015), with 9 votes in favor, 7 votes against and 1 vote (Gorman) present.

Gorman, who championed the fight against the sales tax increase proposed by former Board President Todd Stroger, told the board that there is a major difference between Stroger and Preckwinkle. But she could not support the sales tax hike proposal, she said.

On December 1, 2009 Commissioner Gorman successfully led the effort to roll-back Stroger’s proposed Cook County’s sales tax increase, and override Stroger’s veto. The move cut the county sales tax from 1.75 percent to 1.25 percent.

Gorman heaped praise on Preckwinkle arguing the Board President has done everything possible to avoid raising taxes, and has already helped to shore up the county’s finances since Preckwinkle’s election on Feb. 2, 2010, when she unseated Stroger.

“Madame President, you have proactively faced and tried to resolve the county’s pension crisis when predecessors neglected to. You were left no favors. Five years of substantive reform under your leadership has put Cook County on a strong path but the reality of the unfunded pension liabilities have put us in this position today… between a Rock and a Hard Place,” Gorman said, calling comparisons of Preckwinkle to Stroger as “irresponsible.”

“Having wrestled with as to what is the best vote for the District and Cook County government, it has been a very conflicting decision to make. This is a difficult vote no matter which side of this issue you are on – No commissioner should be criticized. With that said – I will vote Present.”

2015 Cook County Board members: Standing: Larry Suffredin, Greg Goslin, Jerry Butler, Robert Steele, President Toni Preckwinkle, John Daley, Jesus Garcia, Peter Silvestri, John Fritchey, Stanley Moore. Seated: Richard Boykin, Jeffrey Tobolski, Joan Patricia Murphy, Deborah Sims, Liz Gorman, Bridget Gainer, Tim Schneider, Luis Arroyo Jr

The tax vote and her decision to resign were unrelated, Gorman told the county board following the sales tax debate. But Southwest Suburbanites were in shock at learning that Gorman, one of the most popular elected officials in the region, had decided to step down at a time when her popularity has never been higher.

After the sales tax was approved

“On a personal note – I will be resigning this seat that I have been so fortunate to serve effective July 20. An opportunity in the private sector has been offered and I have accepted, as this will require my full attention,” Gorman said after explaining her “present” vote on the Preckwinkle Sales tax increase.

Liz Gorman, Bruce Rauner, Sean Morrison in March 2014

“I would like to thank you Madame President for bringing distinguished leadership to this board, and for your friendship. Cook County has benefitted greatly by your efforts over the last five years and will continue to do so far into the future. To my board colleagues, both past and present, I will miss each and every one of you. And the respect and camaraderie we shared, as well as the disagreements and debates. I have learned so much and respect your insights and opinions.”

Gorman will take a position with a Fortune 100, big ten accounting firm as Director of Government Affairs beginning on July 20. Republican Committeeman in the 17th Cook County District will have to meet to name a successor.

Palos Township Republican Committeeman Sean Morrison, one of Gorman’s closest political allies, is considered the frontrunner to succeed Gorman. Morrison worked closely with Gorman on building support against the Stroger sales tax increase, in introducing reforms to the Cook County Board, and laying the political groundwork to help position businessman Bruce Rauner to win the Republican Party nomination for governor and then to go on to defeat Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn.

Rauner’s biggest mistake was not bringing Gorman into his administration after his election, although Gorman has remained loyal to both Rauner and the Republican Party. She was also viewed as a political centrist and maintained close ties to key Democrats including County Commissioner John Daley, and others.

Gorman leaves office at a high point in a career and will be remembered as a champion of taxpayer rights. She fought hard to defend the rights of residents of suburban Cook County who were often marginalized by the dominance of Chicago municipal politics and needs.

First elected in November 2002, Gorman was re-elected in 2006, 2010, in 2014. In the March 18, 2014 Republican Primary, Gorman fought off a primary challenge and defeated her opponent by nearly 60% of the vote to advance to the General Election on November 7, 2014, where she was re-elected to her fourth term with an overwhelming victory margin.

When the new term began on December 1, 2014, Gorman was chosen as the Committee Chairperson of the Environmental Control Committee and Vice Chairperson of the Roads and Bridges Committee, Rules and Administration Committee and the Technology and Innovation Committee.

Gorman is also the Chairman of the Suburban Caucus of the County board and a member of 10 additional committees: Audit; Criminal Justice; Business and Economic Development; Finance; Health and Hospitals, Homeland Security; Legislation; North Suburban METRA Nominating Committee; Northwest Suburban METRA Nominating Committee; Southwest Suburban METRA Nominating Committee and Zoning and Building.

During her time on the Cook County Board, Gorman has opposed the “Hotel Occupancy Tax” and the “Food and Beverage Tax” in 2003, the 150% cigarette tax increase in 2004 and the additional 100% increase in 2006. She opposed the “Food and Beverage Tax” and the “Hotel Occupancy Tax” again in 2007, and she opposed the “Sanctuary County” resolution for illegal immigrants in 2007 and sponsored a repeal of the ordinance later that year and most recently she voted against Board President Todd Stroger’s 2008 budget and opposed the increase in the Cook County sales tax.

Here are Gorman’s prepared remarks that she presented to the Cook County Board this morning:

Gorman on Sales Tax:

This is a very difficult vote we’re considering today and I respect both sides of the sales tax debate. I know the President and her administration did not come to this sales tax proposal lightly.

Madame President, you have proactively faced and tried to resolve the county’s pension crisis when predecessors neglected to. You were left no favors.

Five years of substantive reform under your leadership has put Cook County on a strong path but the reality of the unfunded pension liabilities have put us in this position today… between a Rock and a Hard Place.

Much effort, energy and resolve was put forth to rescind the previous administration’s Sales Tax. I know that as well as anyone on this board; and the reasons for doing so still stand today.

The blanket comparison of this proposal to the Stroger Sales Tax and the maligning of the President and her administration that has been made by some people are nothing short of irresponsible.

It’s unfortunate that some people have chosen to overlook and completely ignore the accomplishments over the past five years of this President and this board.

We have made significant strides in the areas of reform, accountability, transparency, payroll and head count reduction, cutting bloat and wasteful spending, incorporating quantifiable measures, integrating new technology, streamlining county government from top to bottom. And contrary to a few reports in the media, we continue to do so each and every month.

Others have said, “Let’s wait for Springfield…” We’ve been waiting on Springfield for well over a year as our Pension Reform bill languishes down there. Waiting for pension reform in Springfield comes with a $30 million dollar a month “Wait & See” price tag. Can we afford that?

After having led the repeal of the previous sales tax; I am very aware of the loss of our border tax revenues and the impact tax increases can have on local businesses and residents. I’ve been steadfast in my opposition during my time in office.

So as we weigh this important decision on the long-term financial health and solvency of Cook County government, and regardless of today’s outcome, I’m confident this administration and this board will continue to move Cook County government forward in an efficient and effective manner.

Having wrestled with as to what is the best vote for the District and Cook County government, it has been a very conflicting decision to make. This is a difficult vote no matter which side of this issue you are on – No commissioner should be criticized. With that said – I will vote Present.

Gorman on Resignation:

On a personal note – I will be resigning this seat that I have been so fortunate to serve effective July 20. An opportunity in the private sector has been offered and I have accepted, as this will require my full attention.

I would like to thank you Madame President for bringing distinguished leadership to this board, and for your friendship. Cook County has benefitted greatly by your efforts over the last five years and will continue to do so far into the future.

To my board colleagues, both past and present, I will miss each and every one of you. And the respect and camaraderie we shared, as well as the disagreements and debates. I have learned so much and respect your insights and opinions.

It’s been an honor and privilege to serve alongside all of you in this distinguished body. My nearly 13 years on this board have been some of the most rewarding of my life.

Thank you and god bless you all.

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Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter and Columnist who began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He covered Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992 (Mayor Daley to Mayor Daley) and has expanded to writing for newspapers around the world focussed on Middle East and American politics.

Hanania loves to write about American Arabs in politics, and focuses on Arab life in America.

Currently, he writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com. He writes on American politics for the Des Plaines Valley News, Southwest News-Herald, The Regional News newspaper and the Reporter Newspapers. He also writes for the online websites TheArabDailyNews.com and NewsAmericaNetwork.com (Illinois News Network at IllinoisNewsNetwork.com).

Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Hanania began in journalism as an activist publishing Chicago’s first English-language American Arab Newspaper “The Middle Eastern Voice” from 1975 through 1977. In 1976, he was hired by the Chicago community newspaper The Southtown Economist (Daily Southtown) and in 1985 was hired by the Chicago Sun-Times and covered Chicago City Hall for both. In 1993, he launched the “The Villager” Newspapers which covered 12 Southwest Chicagoland suburban regions. In 2004, he published “The National Arab American Times” monthly newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East ethnic food stores in 48 American States.

Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. Hanania has also received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.

Hanania’s writings have been published in newspapers around the world. Formerly syndicated by Creators Syndicate, Hanania also has written news, features and Opinion Columns for Al Jazeera English, the Jerusalem Post, YNetNews.com, Arab News, Saudi Gazette, Newsday in New York, the Orlando Sentinel, the Houston Chronicle, The Daily Star, the News of the World, the Daily Yomimuri in Tokyo, Chicago Magazine, the Arlington Heights Daily Herald, and Aramco Magazine. His political columns are published in the Southwest News-Herald and Des Plaines Valley News, Regional News and Palos Reporter newspapers in Chicagoland. Hanania is the President/CEO of Urban Strategies Group media and public affairs consulting which has clients in Illinois, Florida, Michigan and Washington D.C.

Hanania is Palestinian Christian from prominent Bethlehem and Jerusalem families. His wife and son are Jewish and he performs standup comedy lampooning Arab-Jewish relations, advocating for peace based on non-violence, mutual recognition and Two-States.

His Facebook Page is Facebook.com/rghanania

Email him at: RGHanania@gmail.com