Cook County residents might have a chance to change the structure of their government.
County commissioners will vote, at this morning’s board meeting, on whether or not to add a referendum to this year’s general election ballot that would ask voters to decide whether or not the offices of the Clerk and the Recorder of Deeds should be consolidated.
The commissioner behind the measure, John Fritchey D-Chicago, tried this before, in 2012, but fell short by one vote. He says that the administrative duties of what he called “ministerial positions” can be easily consolidated and would save residents money.
“The situation that we have is that the office of the Cook County Clerk and the Office of the Cook County Recorder are primarily ministerial jobs,” Fritchey said. “A lot of the functions of each office can be easily aligned.”
With the backdrop of a nonexistent state budget and after a hike in property taxes in the County, a measure he voted against, Fritchey said this is a good step to prove to residents that the government is in the business of compromise.
“Cook County residents can only handle so much,” he said. “We can’t keep looking to them to make up these shortfalls.”
Fritchey cites a 2010 estimate by the Civic Foundation ([BOTTOM OF PAGE 154] that says the consolidation would save the County $800,000 a year. He says two out of the 10 biggest counties in the nation have two separate offices for these positions.
A spokesperson for Recorder of Deeds Karen Yarbrough told the Tribune Yarbrough is against the measure, stating they “don't believe that the cost savings that are claimed will materialize” and that there aren’t any redundancies between the two positions.
While both positions are in nature administrative, the responsibilities differ. The County Clerk maintains birth, marriage, civil union and death certificates, issues property tax rates and runs suburban elections. The Recorder records and maintains property records, veteran resource programs and maintains a Property Fraud Unit, according the Cook County website. Fritchey acknowledges the differences but believes these duties can be “easily aligned.”
But while Fritchey remains “cautiously optimistic” he says the measure depends on one commissioner whom he would not name.
“I will say right now that this matter either passes or falls short by one vote,” Fritchey said.
If commissioners vote to include the referendum on the November ballot, and voters approve the measure, the County would have four years to find ways to implement the measure, with a Recorder serving office in the meantime. If re-elected, Yarbrough would carry out her last four year term.