By Chinta Strausberg, Chicago Crusader
Before a standing-room only of mostly African-American community activists, ministers and members of the Black Lives Matter movement, Cook County Commissioner Peter N. Silvestri (9th) withdrew his controversial resolution that had asked the Illinois General Assembly and the governor to change the Clerk of the Circuit Court from an elected position to an appointed one.
Among those lined up against the walls of the boardroom were members of the Cook County Bar Association; the NAACP; the Rainbow PUSH Coalition; the Cook County Democratic Women; Black Lives Matter; BYP100; supporters from Rep. Danny K. Davis (D-7th); activist Mark Carter and others. They were the same groups that came out strong against Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez over the Laquan McDonald tape that ultimately led to her defeat.
After suspending the rules to take up new items, Silvestri said, “Some time ago, my office engaged in a review of various county elected and appointed office(s)…,” but when the audience began booing Silvestri, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle called for order and to be respectful of the commissioners.
Silvestri went on to say, “The point was the intention…was to be more efficient and save money” and explained that the county is in a serious financial position. “The resolution that was written follows the only process that can be followed to change the law which is the Springfield option. We did purposely await [sic] the finishing of the primary season and purposely wrote into the language that would not be effective until the end of the upcoming term since the electoral process has already been spoken….
“However, I am very concerned about this divisive nature of this resolution especially taken out of context that it has in so many different ways in the last couple of days. It had nothing ever to do with the current Circuit Court Clerk…,” Silvestri said while getting booed again. Once again, Preckwinkle asked the protesters to respect the commissioners.
Silvestri said he has spoken to the Clerk of the Circuit Court Dorothy Brown and he believes she knows “this was not intended to affect her personally.” He then withdrew his ordinance resulting in an explosion of applause from the audience and chants of “Bravo!”
When Preckwinkle once again called on the protesters to respect the commissioners, Dionte Lawrence, who wore a black T-shirt saying, “Black Lives Matter,” yelled out, “No one respected Laquan McDonald when they shot him 16 times.” He then walked out of the board- room shouting, “Black Lives Matter…16 shots!” Others followed him out of the boardroom
Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin (13th) said Silvestri’s resolution was “well warranted” that would have allowed needed discussion.
“This is an important concept to do what we can to make this court efficient and to make the lives of the people who appear in that court every day better….” He said the audience should know that “the intention here was” to improve the quality of justice.” “Black Lives Matter,” screamed the crowd prompting Preckwinkle to call for order.
Cook County Commissioner Robert Steele (2nd) said, “We know that efficiency is not always a call for justice, and particularly in our community, it’s not always justice…. This is an important issue for us as a people to know that you (Silvestri) are doing justice in the right way right now….”
Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin (1st) also thanked Silvestri for withdrawing the resolution.
Saying he would have voted against it, Boykin stated, “We need an elected clerk. She’s elected. This is another example of this body actually putting politics ahead of the people. The most pressing gun issue of our lifetime…spending $50 million at the hospital, dealing with gun violence….spending billions in the city to deal with the issue of gun violence, and yet, we want to get waylaid and sidetracked by these kinds of resolutions that really seek to undermine the people’s will. We should always put the people first…” Boykin concluded while receiving a round of applause.
Also speaking was 2nd District Cook County Commissioner Deborah Sims who thanked Silvestri for withdrawing the resolution.
The audience filed out of the boardroom yelling, “Power to the people.”
At a press conference held outside of the boardroom, Brown, who was flanked by Rev. Janette Wilson, senior advisor to the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr., and other supporters, said, “It was clear that this resolution was really meant to dilute the Voting Rights Act. It’s another effort to dilute the Voting Rights Act as it relates to local governments putting things in place that takes the vote from the people.”
Expressing relief that Silvestri withdrew the resolution, Brown said, “They should realize that in this day and time, we have the Laquan McDonald situation going on…you need a Circuit Court Clerk that will protect those criminal records. You do not need a few people appointing a Circuit Court Clerk. Those records are too vital,” Brown told reporters.
“We are the court of first impressions. It is not like the Appellate Court…or the Supreme Court,” she said. “We keep the original records… It’s important that this office remains elected by the people.”
Asked if there were any racial implications, Wilson said, “Yes. When you move the power from the people to an office such as the Clerk of the Court, we now have files where there is an attempt to destroy records in these police abuse…police shooting cases.
“You have to have a clerk who is responsible and accountable not to an individual politician, but you have to have a clerk accountable to the people that elected her not to someone who selected and appointed her,” Wilson said.
Asked if it were a racist resolution, Wilson said that “Brown was the first African American elected to be the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County in our history. This County has been riddled with racism…not just the county, but the city which is the most segregated city still in America.”
Exiting the fifth floor of the County Building with a bevy of supporters by her side, Brown told reporters, “You cannot put a price on justice. That is one you can’t do cost saving on.”