Cook County Commissioner Tony Peraica defied Board President Todd Stroger's claim that his critics have no solutions to the county's budget woes by offering seven of his own -- 140 characters at a time.
On Wednesday Peraica, one of Stroger's most outspoken opponents, posted on his Twitter feed measures he said would cut hundreds of millions of dollars from the county budget.
"Since Todd Stroger does not know how to run the county govenment [sic] without raising taxes, and needs input from his critics, here it goes:," Peraica wrote.
Slashing jobs, diverting non-violent drug offenders from the county jail and patients with non-life-threatening conditions from county hospitals, overhauling the pension system and merging certain county offices were among Peraica's recommendations.
"I could go on with a lot of smaller adjustments that would similarly streamline operations and reduce cost of county gov...but, point made," Peraica tweeted, adding that he had sent the same recommendations to the commissioners, to Stroger and to Joseph Fratto, the county's chief financial officer.
Stroger spokesman James Ramos said he had not seen the list and that if Peraica wants to propose substantive change he should do so before the board.
"Putting it on Twitter or Facebook is just not going to work," Ramos told the Huffington Post. "He has to bring it to the board if he's serious about it."
On Tuesday Stroger defended his veto of a 1 percent sales tax rollback and accused his opponents of "slashing the system for political gain" and refusing to provide alternate sources of funding.
"Did anybody come with some kind of plan on how they're gonna fill that hole?" Stroger said at a press conference at Provident Hospital. "No, they didn't come with anything. All they said was 'oh, this is too much money.' No, that's just politics."
Peraica told the Huffington Post that he took his proposals to Twitter because of Stroger's comments. It didn't hurt that several journalists are among his 1,700 followers.
"Todd Stroger says none of the commissioners ever submit ideas," Peraica said. "That's nonsense. I submitted these as budget amendments during the budget process. I've submitted them as independent agenda items. But I can never get nine votes for the amendments, and the budget items get buried in committee."
A staffer in the office of Commissioner John Daley, chair of the finance committee, confirmed receiving a memo with cost-saving proposals from Peraica's office weeks ago.
A spokesman for Joseph Fratto said Fratto had not seen a new memo from Peraica but that the two have spoken before about these issues.
Ramos said county hospitals already try to redirect non-life-threatening cases from the emergency room.
"I can tell you right now the hospitals are doing the best they can to divert patients," Ramos said.
Stroger has laid off more than 2,000 employees in the last two-and-a-half years, Ramos said, though he acknowledged that the board president would not be calling for any job cuts this budget year.
Peraica's Budget Cut Tweets:
1. Reduce county payroll from present 25,000 to 22,000 over two years. Savings=@$150M...county's natural annual attrition is @1300/year
2. Divert non-violent drug self-abusers from the county jail (@cost of $100/day/detainee) to EM @ local treament centers @cost of $25/day
Diversion of detainees to EM (electornic monitoring), day reporting, etc., along with direct police station adj'ts save @$100M/year
3. Change county pension system for non-vested and new employees from a defined benefit to a defined contribution one. Savings= @$50M
4. Change the benefits contribution and co-pay rates for county employees to something more than token amounts charged now...Savings=@$50M
5. Divert non-life-threatening patients from county hospital emergency rooms ($1000/patient) to local medical clinics ($50/patient) = $100M
6. Combine county treasurer, assessor and recorder of deeds office functions under one umbrella. Savings @ $20M
7. Combine county clerk, secretary to the board and clerk of the circuit court under one umbrella. Savings @ $40M