Advocacy for those who deserve it

Opinion

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Carl Nyberg

Some people say Commissioner Tony Peraica is too angry, confrontational or stubborn. But he's not going to cut waste and corruption in Cook County government by playing nice and coloring inside the lines. The reformer who was trying to work within the Democratic Party system lost the primary to a candidate rendered barely conscious by a stroke.

Many who have recommended Peraica discuss the shortcomings of his Democratic opponent, Alderman Todd Stroger.

Like others I could tell you Stroger is clueless about the details of county government, but you've probably already read this. I could tell you the chain of events that resulted in Todd Stroger's nomination were cynically manipulated by the Stroger family and a small number of South Side Democratic political bosses, but you already know this.

Rather than repeat the obvious about Stroger, I'd like to share with you a case Peraica handled as an attorney that I personally witnessed, and I think you'll agree it was a noble act.

Maria Hernandez and her neighbors on the 700 block of North 16th in Melrose Park had an ongoing problem with police harassing teenage boys in the neighborhood. The Melrose Park Police Department would stop the boys and offer them three choices. The kids could take a beating, get dropped off in a rough neighborhood or the cops would write a "local ordinance" violation costing the family $100.

Mostly the boys offered to take beatings. The Melrose Park Police Department had a fondness for kneeing the boys in the groin while they were handcuffed.

I spoke at length with Hernandez while she was going through this ordeal and she watched as the Melrose Park Police Department beat her grandson with a police baton while he was handcuffed and facedown on the ground.

In another incident, a Melrose Park police officer forced his way into the home of Hernandez's neighbor and later claimed he had permission.

Finally, when the Melrose Park Police Department wrote about a dozen tickets at one time, the families decided they were going to stand up to the abuse. Because of the amount of money charged in the tickets, they didn't have much choice. And the tickets were clearly absurd. The minors were ticketed for loitering on the property where they lived, property owned by their families.

Hernandez sought help from the NAACP and the local media. The lawyer who took the case was Tony Peraica. He didn't charge for his services. Once the tickets were dismissed and the police stopped harassing the boys Peraica turned the case over to another attorney to pursue a civil suit against the Village of Melrose Park.

To my knowledge Peraica has never taken any credit for this case. He hasn't asked Hernandez to do a commercial for him about it.

Like all of us, Peraica has his faults. But Peraica seems to truly believe in protecting the little guy, especially from government that is corrupt, inept or lazy.

Cook County is intensely Democratic. The people who wield political power are Democrats. Under the domination of Democrats and go-along-get-along Republicans, Cook County government has become corrupt, inept and lazy.

But if you still have doubts about voting for Peraica consider this. Because Cook County is overwhelmingly Democratic Peraica will have to impress people like you to get re-elected. If Peraica doesn't do a great job he will be replaced by a Democrat in four years. If Stroger gets elected he only has to satisfy a few ward bosses on the South Side. Stroger will be almost impossible to defeat in either the Democratic primary or the general election. If he lives as long as his father we'll be stuck with Stroger for 30 to 40 years.

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