Preckwinkle addresses county topics
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle talks with West Suburban Chamber of Commerce member Tom Miller during a visit to Countryside Monday. | Jon Langham~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 1, 2013 6:11AM
COUNTRYSIDE — Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle spoke her mind Monday to business and community leaders at a breakfast sponsored by the West Suburban Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Preckwinkle pointed with pride to rolling back the 1 percent sales tax hike of her predecessor as one of her first priorities in office, and other steps to make the county more business friendly.
But she cautioned against further sales tax relief.
“With the 1 percent rollback, we’ve saved taxpayers $440 million so far,” she said. “The bad news is that’s $440 million in revenue we no longer have.”
Preckwinkle said the county has passed three austerity budgets to address the funding gap yet still provide essential public safety, criminal justice and public health system needs.
When asked if unincorporated areas should be eliminated, Preckwinkle responded, “The 5.2 million residents of Cook County are subsidizing the 100,000 living in unincorporated areas. That never seemed fair to me.”
As an incentive, the county has established a $5 million fund to pay half the cost of upgrading water and sewer systems and roads when municipalities annex adjacent unincorporated areas.
Preckwinkle said a number of governmental units also should be consolidated within the county to cut inefficiency and duplication, particularly school districts with one or two buildings and a superintendent.
“It’s a problem that requires a tremendous amount of political capital, and I’m not willing to do that in my first term,” she said.
Preckwinkle said she intends to seek a second term in 2014 and concentrate her efforts on maintaining a balanced budget, a sustainable health-care system and reducing the number of nonviolent offenders in an overcrowded jail system, such as drug violators and crimes related to supporting that habit, prostitution and shoplifting.
An assault weapons ban should take place at the national level, but the county will do what it can, the president said. The board is considering legislation to more strictly control gun registration, preventing the reselling of guns to criminals and those who wouldn’t otherwise qualify.
“My father was a hunter, and we had rifles at home,” she said. “Nobody hunts with an automatic and semi-automatic weapon.”
Tom Miller, consultant with AMRT Consulting, LLC, said he found Preckwinkle’s remarks refreshing.
“I thought she was excellent. She gave specific answers to specific questions,” he said.