Candidate Full Name: Toni Preckwinkle
Office: Cook County Board President
Email Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Web Site: www.tonipreckwinkle.org
Campaign Name: Preckwinkle for President
Campaign Office Mailing Address: 4659 S. Cottage Grove Suite 205, Chicago IL 60653
Phone: (773) 924-5042
Survey Questions (Character limit of 2,000 per response)
1. Please tell us about yourself, your background and why you believe you are qualified to hold this office.
After graduating from the University of Chicago over 40 years ago, I made a
life long commitment to public service. I taught history at local high schools
for a decade, ran one non-profit aimed at neighborhood improvement, another one
aimed at creating jobs, and took on the political machine which represented the
status quo. My first attempts to beat machine-backed politicians failed, but I
persevered against the odds until I won the 4th Ward Aldermanic seat 18 years
I have the experience to know when to compromise and when to hold my ground on critical issues. I was a founding member and leader of the Progressive Caucus in the City Council - a disparate coalition of reform-minded aldermen committed to accountability and fairness in Chicago public policy. My political independence has not blinded me to carefully examining public policy. If the Mayor proposed a good idea, I was willing to work with him and the administration. But I have never been deterred from standing up to the administration when I fundamentally disagreed. I opposed Mayor Daley's plan to privatize parking meters and I stood in a small minority when opposing the tax increases in the FY2008 budget. While I have always been honored to serve in a legislative capacity, I believe it's time to put my ideas, principles and political skills to work as an executive. I can't think of an office that is more desperately in need of new leadership than that of President of the Cook County Board.
2. As opposed to why you believe you are qualified for this office, why do you want to be elected/re-elected to this office?
I'm running for Cook County Board President because I believe government should uphold two basic principles: provide the best services and do so as effectively as possible. Right now, Cook County government is failing on both accounts.
I believe the greatest failure of the current administration is not mismanagement, it's not endemic corruption and it's not the hordes of patronage employees - though these are all serious shortcomings. It is, rather, the current administration's cynical disregard of the wishes, concerns and fears of the citizens.
That's why I'm running for Cook County Board President.
3. What specifically do you think differentiates you and your candidacy from others in this race?
As the Committeeman and Alderman representing the 4th Ward, I've prided
myself on independence, transparency and accountability - while always striving
to improve the quality of life for my constituents. I've rejected the old
patronage model of political organization, wherein precinct captains double as
city and county employees until and unless they fail to deliver votes for the
Machine. My organization has always been successful largely because it has
attracted those who genuinely care about and love our community as much as I do.
As Cook County Board President, I will lead by example, with commitment and
perseverance to ignite a critically needed change of culture in County
government and politics. I'm a reform candidate and I think I'm the only
candidate who can make that claim.
4. Please tell us your general views about the role of government and some of the most important things you would like to accomplish in office?
Fiscal Stability and Tax Relief:
As Cook County Board President, I will move to repeal the Stroger sales tax increase while also bringing down expenses by cutting wasteful spending and eliminating inefficient programs. The County provides too many critical services and opportunities for our community to be stalled by the waste, fraud and abuse of the current Cook County government.
Strengthening the Health Care System:
Making permanent the independent health board was the first step in reducing the political influence that has been detrimental to the efficiency and morale of those health care professionals who work so hard to provide quality care. The Health System Board of Directors was charged with a difficult task and has performed well. As President I will provide the oversight necessary to ensure the Health System remains true to its mission: to deliver quality health services regardless of ability to pay and to promote and protect the physical, mental and social well-being of the people of Cook County.
Reforming Cook County's Overcrowded Jail:
As Cook County Board President, I will expand programs that not only serve as
alternatives to incarceration for non-violent offenders, but also provide
treatment for addiction, educational classes and life skills training, in order
to reduce recidivism and make our county safer. The benefits of this approach
are: 1) easing the overcrowding of our jail; 2) facilitating re-entry and job
training; and 3) reducing repeat offenses. Specifically, I will expand the
State's Attorney's Drug Abuse Program (SADAP), which provides treatment and drug
education to first-time drug offenders. I will also look to expand the State's
Attorney's RAP Drug School and Cook County Drug Court, which serve as pre-trial
diversions of non-violent drug offenders from jail into drug treatment programs.
As current demand for these services far exceeds their capacity, their expansion
will unclog the County's courts and free up resources to allow State's
Attorney's office to focus on the prosecution of violent criminals.
5. It's currently projected that Cook County will likely face a budget shortfall in 2011. What approach would you support to raise revenue and cut expenses?
Removing the sales tax increase will force Cook County government to implement responsible spending practices, an action that the County has ignored for too long. Cook County has yet to develop and implement any long-term process to guide its operations. Due to a lack of such plans, the public is ill-served and the County continues to stumble from one fiscal crisis to the next. As Cook County Board President, I will develop and implement a formal long-term financial planning process that allows for input from the Cook County Board of Commissioners as well as members of the public. Instituting long-term financial planning will enable us to more effectively manage our resources, prioritize our spending and identify problems before they become crises.
The reforms I've spelled out in my Compact for Change (http://tonipreckwinkle.org/page/compact-for-change) would produce hundreds of millions in savings for the County. A good bit of these savings will be ticketed for tax relief, and the remainder will be reinvested into improved services aimed primarily at fighting violent crime, creating new jobs, and providing better health care to our residents.
One priority is the implementation of drug courts which have proven to be an extremely cost effective alternative to incarceration. Chicago Metropolis 2020 reported that "imprisoning those convicted of non-violent drug offenses costs Illinois taxpayers an estimated $240 million a year." The same report found that for every $1 spent on drug treatment, $7 is saved on crime, prison and health related costs.
6. Critics say per capita spending has ballooned in Cook County, with limited accountability and transparency as to how the money is spent. Do you agree with this assessment, and if so, what do you think should be done about it?
As Board President, I will establish an independent anti-corruption
committee, run by former prosecutors, to fight corruption in Cook County. They
will be given the task of reviewing all contracts - past and present - in order
to weed out abuse and fraud, potentially saving the County tens of millions of
dollars. We will work closely with the State's Attorney's office and on the
Federal level to root out corruption once and for all.
Cook County government and its hiring process lack both transparency and
accountability. I will eliminate the political influence in the hiring process
that has obstructed the efficiency of County government and strained the morale
of County employees. I will implement an independent agency-by-agency "desk"
audit to determine the productivity, cost and benefit of each employee.
As President, I will make public all Shakman-exempt positions. Additionally,
I will ensure online postings of all proposals, in every stage in the process,
for all of Cook County's business endeavors. Every citizen has the right to know
about the County's business activities. We must end the practice of having
vacant positions. The present system allows for abuse whereby money is
transferred to other parts of the budget without full transparency. If a
position is budgeted, then that position must be filled. If not, the position
should be eliminated.
7. Please state your thoughts on what should be done to attract businesses and jobs to Cook County, as well as to retain businesses and jobs that are already here.
A key criteria of advancing economic development in Cook County is to eliminate the sales tax increase championed by the current Cook County Board President.
However, Cook County should be a leader in supporting economic growth and attracting new businesses and jobs to the region. It can be a regional force in systematically addressing economic disparities.
I will support critical job training that focuses on new and growing sections of the economy. Specifically, I will explore and identify employment and job training opportunities to prepare workers for emerging 21st century jobs related to sustainability, natural resource conservation and environmental-related technology. I pledge to work with the existing network of job training groups and community organizations to better understand green job creation potential, green job training programs and worker retraining.
As Cook County Board President, the reorganizing and restructuring of POET will be a key priority. POET should be reorganized and re-engineered to provide county-wide leadership on Workforce and Economic Development issues. As the key economic development agency within the County's purview, it's critical that all of the County's residents have access to professional, effective workforce training and economic development resources.
The County's economic development and workforce development strategies should be aligned and fully integrated. One of the significant failings of the County's current workforce program is the lack of strategic connection with
For too long Cook County government has not engaged in critical economic
development and planning groups. If elected Cook County Board President, I will
ensure that Cook County government is a partner in these efforts.
Candidate Endorsements (Limit of 10)
Alderman Rey Colon
Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky
Alderman Latasha Thomas