Ald. Michael Scott (24th) could well be the one to decide who would replace Commissioner Robert Steele (2nd) on the Cook County Board of Commissioners.
Steele passed away on June 19 while recovering from phenomena. According to Cook County ordinances, it will be up to the aldermen whose wards are part of the 2nd District to choose a successor. While Scott isn’t the only alderman in the district, he said that he’ll likely have a lot of influence on the vote.
A meeting of the district selection committee has been scheduled for July 13. Interested applicants, who must be registered voters living within the district, are encouraged to submit their application by July 12.
A section of the county ordinances state when a county board seat becomes vacant, it is up to a district committee to choose a person to fill the seat. The committee is made of ward and township committeemen that belong to the commissioner’s party.
Since all aldermen in the wards that fall within the 2nd District double as their local Democratic Party ward committeemen, they will be the ones to choose Steele’s replacement.
But it isn’t as simple as each alderman casting one vote. According to the Code of Ordinances, each alderman’s vote would be equivalent to the number of votes cast for Steele in that particular ward during the 2014 election – the most recent county board election.
According to the Chicago Board of Elections, Steele got 8,953 votes in the 24th Ward – the highest number he got in any ward. During a June 29 community meeting in North Lawndale, Scott said that this technicality may give him leverage.
“Usually, [the alderman] who has the most precincts, the most votes, get deference in the picking process,” he said. “That doesn’t always happen, though.”
As it stands, all other West Side aldermen within this newspaper’s coverage area will also be able to vote. Ald. Walter Burnett (27th) would have 4,566 votes, Ald. Jason Ervin (28th) would have 3,843 votes and Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29th) would have a relatively paltry 413 votes. Together, they would hold about 31.25 percent of the vote.
A number of South Side aldermen will have their say as well. Collectively, they would hold about 50.43 percent of the overall votes.
If Scott’s choice doesn’t get preference, the West Side aldermen are at a disadvantage in terms of collective vote totals. But if all African-American aldermen vote as a single block, they would have an overwhelming majority since, collectively, they would hold 77.19 percent of all votes.
During the June 29 meeting, Scott said that he wasn’t willing to even consider who to pick until at least after July 4th.
“I don’t like talking about it, because he hasn’t been laid to rest, so it makes it uneasy to talk about replacing him before he’s dead and buried,” he said. Steele was buried on July 1, two days after the meeting.
But that is not to say that Scott wasn’t willing to share a few thoughts about what he would look for in Steele’s replacement.
“In this business, you have to put in an individual that can be reelected in 2018,” he said. “If they can’t raise money, they can’t get reelected. I want to make sure they can raise money and stand on their own and that I don’t have to spend all of my money to get them reelected.”
Between Steele and his mother, former Cook County Board President Bobbie Steele, the Steele family has represented the district for the past 25 years. Scott said that the family will be consulted.
“I would talk to the Steeles about who I’m thinking about and collaborate with them,” he said.
On July 7, Scott sent out a press release announcing that the district committee has officially been formed and that he has been appointed as its chairman. It went on to state that any interested candidates, who must be registered voters who live within the 2nd District, can send their application by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Applicants must send in their resume, a copy of their voter registration and voter history. They are welcome to send letters of recommendation. The deadline for applications is July 12. The committee will meet on July 13 at The Lofts on Arthington, an affordable housing development located at 3301 W. Arthington St., from 9 a.m. until 12 p.m.
“Prospective appointees that submitted their information prior to the meeting will be given the opportunity to address the District Committee first, followed by any qualifying resident seeking to present themselves for consideration,” according to a recent press statement released by the Cook County Democratic Party.
In a statement, Scott said that all applications would get a fair chance.
“I am looking forward to an open and fair process,” he stated “The committee will be respectful of Commissioner Steele’s legacy while charting a new direction for the 2nd District of Cook County.”