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}o ([ribune
Monday, March 15, 1993

'I look

at government

more

as community

....

key is to make it work efficiently'-David The

Orr

Cook CountyClerk DavidOrr: A practical-minded politician,he seldomfindsit necessaryto take offthe gloves.

Tribune photo by Marl< Hl~

David Orr does well in politics by doing good for the taxpayers

easy for hacks to quietly build priavid Orr is a vision in brown, clad in an vate empires. The 1990 election The emphasis was on younger infinitesimally checked brown suit, comwas remarkable for producing (and presumably more liberal) bined with a brown- and-white-striped thr~e high-profile Cook County ofvoters; the registration drive travbutton-down shirt, a brown-on-brownficials: Board President Richard eled to rock concerts but not to patterned tie, brown socks and brown Phelan, the man who would be the Chicago Symphony Orchestra wingtips, all topped off by that familiar brown governor; gadfly Commissioner concerts in Orchestra Hall. The moustache, brown eyes and a mop of thick Maria Pappas-and reformer Orr, co.st per registration was just onebrown hair just beginning to show ~ few who hammered the Democratic third of the expense of the registhreads of gray; the only jarnng note IS the Party-slated candidate, former tration in 1988, he says. --blaek--f>las-t-ie-watchbano-;- - - -------state Rep+Cal Sutker, -in-tire prr= ---- --The Cook County clerk blends in rather mary. Contracting. The question of nicely with the brown paneling of his lar.ge.ofOrr promised to get more voters bidding out contracts proved a litId tie more problematic. "Every confi on th e fi h floor 0f t he County BUI mg, Ice ourt registered; to reform contracting tract that can be bid in this office an office where the expected photographs on procedures in the clerk's office; to is being bid," Orr says. But he has the wall-Orr with Harold Washington, Orr work on a countywide ethics ordiwith family-contrast with an old black-andnance; to end patronage in the defound that it's not easy. For example, he says that one software supwhite picture of a young David as a Cub partment; to improve the adminisplier is the sole source in Illinois Scout. tration of elections; to resume of its complicated product, which David Orr, 48, is not your stereotypical publishing the Journal of Proceedis designed specifically for the Cook County politician. It is impossible to mgs .of the Cook County Board (a vote-counting equipment that the imagine him wearing a pinky ring. He looks a publication that made I~ easier for county uses. The supplier is the lot like the history professor he once was at the press and the public to keep only one certified by the State Mundelein College-he still has a tendency to tabs on what went. on in that auBoard of Elections. slip into a tutorial mode-but he appears to g~st body, and which Kusper had Orr has also worked with the have a lot more practical understanding than discontinued In 19~2); to improve city to do some joint bidding. does the average academic. David Orr is a libservice In the clerk ~ office; .and to "This is the second biggest countv eral with sense. Improve the .administration of in the nation, after Los Angeles," sales of tax-delinquent properties. he points out. "This way, we can H ow well has he succeeded? He's a joiner who not only goes to meetings take advantage of our size." This of organizations such as the International AsTwo years into his four-year term h hid . , he has cut spending while taking approac, e says, resu te In sociation of Clerks, Recorders, Elections Offibeing able to buy the ballots for cials, and Treasurers, but, while others may be on new chores and registering rec1992's elections at 1988 prices. ord numbers of new votersplaying golf or gambling, he actually attends 365,000 between January and OcEthics and patronage. Orr was a the workshops and comes back with ideas. tober 1992, a number, he points key player in getting the city's When he was the independent-minded alderout, equaling one-fourth of the ethics ordinance passed in 1987. man from Rogers Park, even Mike Royko electorate of suburban Cook As far as the county clerk's own - coulOn'tlJfipugn Ifisho-rresty-'-'"althoughhe did - _County. And-he-actually returned --office is- concemed.,--Otr-and his scold Orr's mother for letting her son grow up money to the County Board, an team were able to pr, an ethics to be an alderman. Says Chicago ethics conact. that. must have caused jowls to code in place "the second or third sultant Harriet McCullough, who has worked quiver In political CIrcles across day we were here," Orr says, "to with Orr for years "He has an absolute comthe metropolitan area. protect the workers and discourage mitment to gove~ment"reform and having Voter registration. "I have a co.n~cts of interest." Political ~government serve people. Former Ald.. Anna strong belief in the importance of filiations ar~, now, he declares, a ~gford (16th) scornfu~~yreferr~d !O him as grass roots," says Orr in explanamoot ISSU~' Most, . if not all, of Mr. Goody Two-Shoes ; Orr didn t rmnd a tion of his championing of voter ~he office s pas~. hires got their bit. registration drives. "There were jobs through political connections, Wh h b . fl (aft th two critical things' first to go and those employees were ne where the people ~re at' So we sweating it out when Orr was deathenf He wasld,wveryh' y),hmayord edrthe 0 aro as mgton e con ucte e. '. . elected City Council meetings to determine a succesregistered them at Dominick's, ' , sor in a fair, even-handed manner. And when Jewel, McDonald's-places that . I told them, Your future here he ran for Cook County clerk, after 12 years as are easy to reach,. where we could ~I depen? "on the job you do In an alderman, he promised to clean up a nogel to them at ~~ch le~sc~st. this office, .he. says. Those who toriously swampy department, for 20 years the . The other critical thing ISto recould do their jobs-the rnajondomain of Stanley Kusper, who was an archemind people. to register, so we had tr-staye~ on. Orr was the first typal Cook County politician. ~ PR campaign. We used advertisClerk.to. Sign the Shakman decree, . mg. People are realizing, 'The fo~bl~dmg political hiring and Some county offices are notoriously uncountry has problems-it's time I finng In most positions. derwatched by the press, making It relatively got involved.' "

.0

niet fighter

By Bryan Miller

On Feb. 22, he issued a threepoint proposal "to help restore faith in Cook County government," calling for a tough lobbyist registration law (the present ordinance lacks teeth; only 78 lobbyists are registered, and they declared a total of less than $6,000 in expenditures last year-all but $444 of that by Common Cause and the Chicago Metro Ethics C~alition-for influencing a $2 billion budget), an ethics law, and political finance reform. Governmental response to date has been less than rip-snorting. Election judges. Orr calls changing the way election judges are selected "an uphill fight .. : very di~: ficult to pass In Springfield because judges have to be chosen from the two mainstream political p-arties. Independents and members of third parties, such as the Libertarian Party, are not permitted to serve as judges unless they declare themselves as either Republicans or Democrats. Part of the problem is the miserable pay afforded election judges. For a ,day that can run from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m., the state has authorized $80 for those who attend a special training meeting and $60 , for those who skip it. Because this, , was clearly not a priority for the state, Orr took some of the money saved elsewhere and raised pay for suburban Cook County elections, for which his office is responsible, to $100 and $80. There was even' enough, he notes with relish, to give city judges a pay raise too. The Journal of Proceedings. Under the heading "They said it couldn't be done," count Orr's revival of the Journal of Proceedings of the Cook County Board. Kusper stopped publishing it, in the early 1980s, during the heyday of longtime Board President George Dunne. Because it makes public the sometimes murky doings of the board, the swampmeisters would just as soon it not be published. Orr revived it-with an index-within his first two weeks in office. . Scavenger sales. "We have a full-court press" going in the administration of sales of tax-delinquent properties (Orr put a lawyer with real estate experience in charge) and counseling services ("most of the people that come in are folks that are distraught; they've received a notice that they're going to lose their homes").

Trtbune

photO

by Karen Engstr'CllT\

Under a portrait of Harold Washington in Dec. 1987, interim mayor David Orr cresldes over a memorialceremonv for the late mayor.

Etc. Orr has also transferred money into interest-bearing accounts, cut overtime, improved services-you can use your credit card to pay for documents; birth certificates are available in five minutes in five suburban locations; ombudsmen will help customers and direct them to the right locations; brochures in your choice of language explain various procedures; lines are shorter and the service is more courteous. New technology is on line. In a department that takes in between $250,000 and $500,000 a day in tax redemptions, Orr says, "they had been using cash registers equivalent to what you'd find in a Ma and Pa grocery store." Now they've got spiffy new registers that speed the process. There are new computers, and the tax records are being entered onto disks. "It was Charles Dickens back there," says Orr, with clerks making entries in ledgers and complex calculations by hand. "and that's

how mistakes are made. Some- else takes the "L," says he dislikes that to win a mayoral primary times people lose their homes as a political perks. "It bothers me against Daley, Orr must be lucky result of those mistakes." Such when people set themselves _up as and not have a black candidate problems, he promises, will be a better than others, particularly enter the race. He's also looking thing of the past once everything's their own constituents. It bugs me seriously at the presidency of the in place electronically, though he when elected officials are out of County Board. But he has another ~ concede~_he_h~ a long~~y to go. _~~ with_'p~oJ>J~ _~ ~~. cpnsidera!ioQ; his..iamily. _ _ _ In- the constant stream of news Orr has been quite visible, Orr, who was raised in a conreleases, Orr pushes new ideas of leading to inevitable speculation servative Republican family in the varying degrees of practicality. about what he's running for next. western suburbs, and his wife, Last week he proposed the du- He has been touted for everything Loretta, have three sons: Jeffrey, bious notions of faxing absentee from County Board president to 8, Michael, 4, and Arturo, 3. He ballots and ending the purge from mayor to secretary of state. Orr knows that too many jobs these voter rolls of those who don't refuses to say what interests him days call for hours that doom farnbother to vote in a four-year peri- most, though he does note that ily involvement. od. He also introduced state legis- "much of the speculation in the "I believe in government service; lation last week to move to the fall press is not generated by me. ... at the same time, I like my life. primary elections now held in It's still early to say. I'm certainly The balance is critical. 1 don't March and indicated that he was running for office again 'when my think we want to have a governconsidering the utility of holding term is over, in '94, but whether I ment only of single people; I don't elections on weekends, which is run for re-election as county clerk want a situation where only people done in other countries. And he or for something else, I honestly who can work 80 hours a week pushed a perennial Orr proposal, don't know right now." can serve." namely a "motor voter" law to let County sources say that Rich Orr says he has an agenda that vo~ers r~ster when they get their Daley's people, who fear Orr's includes things like governmental driver's licenses. 'strong base in the black communi- reform and savings, and that he's "There is a great amount. of ty, are most likely behind the really not much interested in titles: frustration and anger about gov- drum-pounding for ~ecretary. of "I'm honestly considering my ernment," says Orr with character- state: They would like nothing options, and I'm flattered by the istic understatement. "I look at more than to see him exiled to urging to run [for higher office]. government more as community: Springfield, or make an unsuc- As I look at the decision, given It's going to be here. The key is to cessful run. for office, then fade my interests and my agenda, it's make it work efficiently to work into obscurity.' gomg to come down to where ~ for the community." Orr, who Orr says his own supporters can make the most difference." _ "_u~ual!y~Eve~ his 5>":!lcar.-!o~wor! _~ h_ave_~rg~ ~_ to ~ f~! may<?~~ !l~an~ MjJJeris ~ CfljcagCL f~~~ from his Rogers Parknome, or Some POhtlcal 05Servers suggest Jaiice writer. .