Viewpoint: Cohn serving her real masters

Not all that long ago, Winnebago County Board Chairman Kris Cohn declared that the Perryville Road extension was dead and that she would not authorize another nickel to be spent on it.

Recently we saw the county board vote to set aside $1.5 million of our money to buy right-of-way to extend the road beyond Ill. Rt. 173, despite the public’s wishes to the contrary.

Since then, we saw the board’s public works committee vote to budget even more dollars to extend the road all the way to the Wisconsin state line. That plan will be before the entire board in the very near future.

The politicking behind the scenes in advance of these moves has been revelatory.

Some report that Sue McDonald, who has been a right-hand operative for Kris Cohn, contacted at least one Democrat before that vote.

Cohn herself contacted board members John Sweeney and Bob Kinnison and suggested they were no longer board members because they had moved—she said, out of their districts.

As you read this, it is expected that announcement will have been made about a dozen property owners north of Rt. 173 being willing to sell their property to the county. It’s thought those landowners, or a majority of them, are donors to Cohn’s campaign.

Presumably, that will relieve developer Sunil Puri of the need to fulfill his offer to donate land in that area to advance the road. Puri hopes to build a subdivision or two there.

Against this backdrop of covert chicanery, anger is mounting and an effort is organizing to upset this drive to foist an unwanted thoroughfare on an already tax-weary public.

The latest polls reportedly show Cohn doing very poorly right here in Winnebago County in her bid for the secretary of state office. The figures echo her standing statewide in her effort to win the office now held by Ill. Secretary of State Jesse White.

It is obvious to most that despite her public service rhetoric, she really serves the special interests who stand to benefit from this project.

Cohn’s campaign has been gasping by the roadside for lack of ready cash. So, she and her staff have cooked up another gimmick in hopes of breathing life into her flagging performance.

She has a new wrinkle on her website; an online game show titled “Name That Scandal—Jesse White Edition.” Voters can log on until Nov. 1 and answer 10 questions designed to show White in a bad light. Players become eligible to win a $10,000 scholarship.

Cohn is trying her best to link Jesse White to the scandals that plagued the office while it was under the helm of George Ryan. “We’re going to cut the scandals out of that office, and we’re going to reduce the lines and make a major emphasis on efficiency and professionalism,” Cohn said.

Questions in the game show gimmick touch on problems with temporary license plates to an $800,000 campaign finance fine in a mistaken identity case.

White’s campaign scoffed at the whole thing. “When people are short of resources,” said White spokesman David Druker, “they do their best to rely on cheap publicity.”

Cohn’s gimmicks—the first was offering a bar of soap to “clean up” White’s office—have been the delight of the Chicago press corps, which has roundly razzed her about them. She has taken a drubbing from some major Chicago media outlets for her positions, or lack of them, on state issues.

We think she picked the wrong name for this game show thing. It would have been more accurate if she had called it The Weakest Link.

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