[Image via davidorr]
Longtime Cook County (Chicago), IL Clerk David Orr announced yesterday that he will not seek re-election when his current term ends in 2018. Here is his statement:
Today I feel compelled to borrow one of my favorite lines from my favorite mayor, Harold Washington and modify it just a bit to fit the occasion:
“I’ve always wanted to be a County Clerk who helped, really helped.”
Well, after very serious personal reflection, I have decided not to run for re-election in 2018 for County Clerk.
Trust me, this was not an easy decision to make – nor was it a political one. Rather, today’s decision is a deeply personal choice that I have tussled with for some time because I care so much about the office, politics and the people in the office. I am very tempted to run again, but realistically, since the next election is not until November 2018, I cannot make the commitment that I would serve another four-year term that would not end until December 2022. This is not a political decision. I am confident that, if I ran, I would be re-elected.
By December 2018 I will have spent 39 years in elected office and an additional 11 years as a college professor. By my count, that’s a half century as a public servant and it has been an honor to serve you.
While I will not seek re-election as Cook County Clerk – I am not backing away from my life-long commitment toward a more progressive government. Cook County residents deserve a transparent and accountable government and you should settle for nothing less. Since 1990, we have strived to make the Clerk’s office the most efficient, open and welcoming office in the County.
First, I couldn’t be more proud of the amazing amount of legislation we have passed during my time as Clerk to expand the ability to register and the right to vote. Over the past 27 years – with your help – we have brought Early Voting, Teen Judges, Mail Voting, Election Day Registration and now Automatic Voter Registration to our voters, to name a few. AVR will ensure that all voters have access to the ballot in a more secure and less bureaucratic manner.
Yet, I must acknowledge, that equally strong forces wish to limit access to the ballot. So, all of us who remain dedicated to open, accessible elections, carry a burden of truth and transparency, that is as high – if not higher – than ever.
Modern election administrators hold the promise of America, because we, more than any other, check our partisan allegiances at the door. We may be the last trusted source. A trusted institution. Our burden is heavy and our resolve must be stronger.
Second, we have streamlined our Vitals Records department, making it one of the most efficient and effective departments nationwide – which now offers free birth certificates to the formerly incarcerated, domestic violence survivors and homeless.
Finally, our Real Estate and Tax Services department has worked to shed light on the property tax system. Our annual tax rate, TIF reports and TIF viewer provide the public critical information about our property tax system. I will continue to work to ensure that the public knows how their property is being assessed and where their property tax dollars are going.
In the years to come, I will continue to speak out about the state of our democracy. 60 years ago, 73% of Americans trusted government to do what’s right most of the time. Today, Pew reports that number is 19%. Government’s priority must be how well it serves the needs of ordinary people, and not just the powerful and wealthy. I ensure you that I will not stop talking about these issues.
We must restore trust in government. Here in Cook County I believe there is a great deal the Democratic Party could and should do to win back the support of the disillusioned electorate- primarily to govern in transparent and efficient ways.
I would like to thank the good work of my staff, both past and present. We have accomplished so much and I thank them for striving to achieve our mission of good and transparent government. I would also like to thank my colleagues who have served with me in elected office.
Above all I would like to thank the residents of Cook County whose steadfast support has allowed me to earn a paycheck to do work I believe in and who have trusted me all these years to run an open and efficient office.
Orr’s announcement likely signals the end of a long career in Chicago government, including service as Clerk, Alderman and – for one chaotic week in 1987 – acting Mayor. It also sets up, Chicago being Chicago, what should be a spirited campaign to replace him. While it’s hard to begrudge him his retirement, it’s still a huge loss for the field; Orr was continually looking for ways to improve elections in his community and often did so – no mean feat given the city’s size and complexity. The election community will miss him. The good news is that Orr isn’t leaving right away – which means there could very well be more bursts of activity and innovation before the formal end of his term in 2018.
Congratulations to David for his long and distinguished career, and I can’t wait to see what happens in the next eighteen months – or after that! Stay tuned …