WBEZ | Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle http://www.wbez.org/tags/cook-county-board-president-toni-preckwinkle Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Cook County facing $152M budget hole next year http://www.wbez.org/news/cook-county-facing-152m-budget-hole-next-year-107887 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/20130625_PRECKWINKLE_006_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Cook County is staring down an estimated deficit of &ldquo;just $152 million&rdquo; for the next fiscal year, a budget hole that Board President Toni Preckwinkle says is the smallest in years, though she is not ruling out some tax hikes or layoffs to close the gap.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re trying to close a $152 million gap, in an environment in which we&rsquo;ve already picked the low-hanging fruit,&rdquo; Preckwinkle said Thursday, as her office released preliminary numbers for the fiscal year beginning in December 2014. &ldquo;So we&rsquo;re gonna have tough choices ahead of us.&rdquo;</p><p>The Chicago Democrat, who <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/board-president-preckwinkle-seek-second-term-107642" target="_blank">announced earlier this month</a> that she&rsquo;s running for a second term in office, vowed that she wouldn&rsquo;t raise property or sales taxes to close the gap, but declined to give specifics on what kind of tax or fee hikes might be looming.</p><p>&ldquo;Well, we&rsquo;re trying to put everything on the table,&rdquo; Preckwinkle said.</p><p>The 2014 budget will get a $74 million boost thanks to a provision in Obamacare to expand Medicaid, the government health insurance program for the poor.</p><p>But that shot in the arm is more than offset by $166 million in rising costs and a projected $60 million drop in revenue next year, thanks in part to Preckwinkle&#39;s rollback of her predecessor&rsquo;s penny-on-the-dollar sales tax increase, and <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/preckwinkle-defends-disputed-use-tax-107844" target="_blank">recent changes</a> to her controversial &ldquo;use tax&rdquo; on some items purchased outside of Cook County.</p><p>Additionally, the county&rsquo;s juvenile detention center is being saddled $12 million more in annual costs, thanks to a recent state law that allows 17-year-olds to be tried as minors, rather than as adults, Preckwinkle said.</p><p>Though Preckwinkle is trying to make public safety a hallmark of her re-election campaign, there are already signs of possible budget tension between her and Cook County&rsquo;s Sheriff and State&rsquo;s Attorney.</p><p>Sheriff Tom Dart, who has clashed with Preckwinkle&rsquo;s administration over budget issues in the past, is asking for more than $490 million in his budget for next year. That&rsquo;s about $13 million more than the president is recommending, according to budget documents released Thursday.</p><p>The president&rsquo;s office also revealed Thursday that the county must come up with $18 million to end the current fiscal year in the black. Preckwinkle said her office will eliminate 20 percent of the vacant positions in her office, and urged other elected officials to do the same.</p><p>That request didn&rsquo;t sit well with Cook County State&rsquo;s Attorney Anita Alvarez, whose office said they need all the bodies they can get.</p><p>&ldquo;We have approximately 20 Assistant State&#39;s Attorney positions that are technically vacant at the moment, but we have extended job offers to law students for all of those positions already and will be filling those sorely-needed attorney positions over the summer and into the fall,&rdquo; said Alvarez spokeswoman Sally Daly.</p><p>Three other Cook County officials in charge of smaller officers - Treasurer Maria Pappas, Recorder of Deeds Karen Yarbrough and Clerk David Orr - said they&rsquo;d be willing to make the cuts. Others either declined to comment or did not respond to interview requests.<br /><br />Preckwinkle faced a nearly half billion dollar deficit when she first took office, but has whittled that down over last two the years through myriad tax and fee hikes, as well as other belt-tightening measures. She helped balance <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/taxes-guns-gambling-and-cigarettes-coming-cook-county-103780" target="_blank">this year&rsquo;s budget</a> with higher so-called &ldquo;sin&rdquo; taxes on tobacco, guns and gambling.</p><p>Still, the president&rsquo;s budget sailed through the County Board last year, with the single no vote coming from then-Cook County Commissioner William Beavers, who was kicked out of office after being <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/jury-convicts-william-beavers-tax-evasion-106207" target="_blank">convicted of tax evasion</a> this spring.</p><p><em>Alex Keefe covers politics for WBEZ. Follow him <a href="http://twitter.com/akeefe" target="_blank">@akeefe</a>. </em></p></p> Thu, 27 Jun 2013 15:29:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/cook-county-facing-152m-budget-hole-next-year-107887 Preckwinkle defends disputed use tax http://www.wbez.org/news/preckwinkle-defends-disputed-use-tax-107844 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/20130625_PRECKWINKLE_006.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle on Tuesday defended her controversial tax on big-ticket items purchased outside the county, which is now the target of a lawsuit by a powerful Chicago business group.</p><p>The so-called use tax applies to goods worth more than $3,500 that are used by Cook County residents and businesses, but were bought outside of the County. In a lawsuit filed late last week, the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce argues the use tax violates the Illinois Constitution and state law.</p><p>But on Tuesday, Preckwinkle argued the County Board recently lowered the use tax rate - to .75 percent from 1.25 percent - in order to allay legal concerns.</p><p>&ldquo;Frankly, we took action at the last board meeting to remove one of those grounds, and we think we have a strong case,&rdquo; Preckwinkle said of last week&rsquo;s vote. &ldquo;We&rsquo;ll see what the courts decide.&rdquo;</p><p>Preckwinkle&rsquo;s administration expects about $13.8 million in revenue this year from the new use tax, which took effect April 1. During budget negotiations, the county president sold the tax as a way to encourage Cook County residents and companies to buy from local businesses. It doesn&rsquo;t apply to titled property like automobiles.</p><p>But the move irked many businesses who make big purchases outside of Cook County to circumvent high sales taxes.</p><p>Preckwinkle said the tax will ultimately benefit Cook County&rsquo;s business climate.</p><p>&ldquo;The city has had a use tax forever,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;I mean, I was an alderman for 19 years. The city had a use tax.&rdquo;</p><p>Last week&rsquo;s rollback of the use tax rate means the county will lose out on about $5 million in revenue this year, according to county spokeswoman Kristen Mack.</p><p>For 2014, the county expected to bring in $25.6 million in revenue from the tax, but that&rsquo;s now been dropped to just $11.7 million.</p><p><em>Alex Keefe covers politics for WBEZ. Follow him <a href="http://twitter.com/akeefe" target="_blank">@akeefe</a>. </em></p></p> Tue, 25 Jun 2013 16:32:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/preckwinkle-defends-disputed-use-tax-107844 Forest Preserves, a hundred years from today http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-06/forest-preserves-hundred-years-today-107667 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/swanksalot/6628505003/lightbox/" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/6628505003_231cf19e0d_z.jpg" style="height: 436px; width: 610px;" title="Flickr/Seth Anderson" /></a></div><p>One hundred years after a small volunteer group set aside open spaces for the nation&rsquo;s first Forest Preserve, the <a href="http://www.wbez.org/tags/cook-county-forest-preserve-district" target="_blank">Forest Preserve District of Cook County</a> is redoubling its efforts to promote preservation and recreation across more than 100 square miles.</p><p>The District&rsquo;s centennial anniversary campaign officially began Wednesday with a minor name change (though still legally The Forest Preserve District of Cook County, the redesigned logo carries the admittedly less clunky Forest Preserves of Cook County) and a reiteration of <a href="http://www.nextcenturyconservationplan.org/" target="_blank">the Forest Preserves&rsquo; vision for conservation, habitat restoration and trails</a>.</p><p>New master plans in each of those areas &mdash; <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-01/forest-preserve-looks-revive-camping-cook-county-104972" target="_blank">as well as camping</a>, <a href="http://fpdcc.com/recreation-master-plan/" target="_blank">recreation</a> and <a href="http://fpdcc.com/downloads/FPDCC2012LandAcquisitionPlanFinal.pdf" target="_blank">land acquisition</a> &mdash; will keep the Preserves on track for the next century, its authors said. The urban sprawl foreseen by the organization&rsquo;s founders has come to pass, and <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-03/new-orland-grasslands-trail-stirs-environmental-concerns-106058" target="_blank">threatened to encroach</a> on lands that make up roughly 11 percent of Cook County, while <a href="http://www.wbez.org/tags/invasive-species" target="_blank">invasive species mount an existential risk</a> to biologically unique northeast Illinois. Governance, too, has faltered in the past. But <a href="http://www.suntimes.com/opinions/18051658-474/editorial-in-shakman-ruling-cook-county-forest-preserve-district-gives-patronage-the-pink-slip.html" target="_blank">the February dismissal of Shakman litigation</a>, which dealt with political patronage in hiring, was widely regarded as a vote of confidence in new management.</p><p>Toni Preckwinkle, whose <a href="http://www.suntimes.com/20159461-761/toni-preckwinkle-rips-emanuel-says-cps-closure-plan-weakens-our-public-schools.html" target="_blank">forthright criticism of controversial city programs</a> and <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-06-10/news/ct-met-cook-county-board-president-0611-20130611_1_preckwinkle-commissioner-john-fritchey-scott-kastrup" target="_blank">professionalization of county government</a> have earned her praise from within and outside the Forest Preserves, admitted she didn&rsquo;t realize her position included President of the District until after she had already begun her campaign for Cook County Board President. Her only encounters with the Forest Preserves before that, she said, were events that her predecessor Todd Stroger sometimes held in Sand Ridge at 159<sup>th</sup> and Torrance.</p><p>Emboldened by initial success in increasing visits to the Forest Preserves, Preckwinkle said Wednesday improving public access to those 69,000 acres remains a priority <a href="https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&amp;rct=j&amp;q=&amp;esrc=s&amp;source=web&amp;cd=1&amp;cad=rja&amp;ved=0CC8QFjAA&amp;url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wbez.org%2Fnews%2Fboard-president-preckwinkle-seek-second-term-107642&amp;ei=w-m4UcW7O8ONygGnqIGQDg&amp;usg=AFQjCNGKSsW9bVrA9X4PmgyBPYGiSJBtJA&amp;sig2=mIzMM_xu" target="_blank">as she gears up for reelection</a>. General Superintendent of the Forest Preserves Arnold Randall agreed.</p><p><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/dharma_for_one/7390767964/" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/eagle.jpg" style="height: 381px; width: 235px; float: right;" title="Bald eagles, like this one seen in a Lake County Forest Preserve, recently returned to northeastern Illinois. (JanetandPhil via Flickr)" /></a></p><p>&ldquo;We want people to be as fiercely protective of the Forest Preserves as they are about the lakefront,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>As a massive network of nature preserves abutting one of the nation&rsquo;s largest cities, the Forest Preserves <a href="http://www.humansandnature.org/how-is-nature-critical-to-a-21st-century-urban-ethic--question-8.php" target="_blank">navigate a complex relationship between ecology and the built environment</a>.</p><p>To help strike that balance between use and preservation, Randall and Preckwinkle said improving access to and knowledge of the Preserves through <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-02/today%E2%80%99s-mighty-acorns-tomorrow%E2%80%99s-environmentalists-105347" target="_blank">environmental education</a>, transportation and other means would remain a priority, especially for the many Chicagoans who live their whole lives in the city without any idea of the Preserves.</p><p>&ldquo;We want everyone to experience the wonders of nature,&rdquo; Randall said, &ldquo;right here in our county.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Chris Bentley writes about the environment. Follow him on Twitter at <a href="http://twitter.com/Cementley" target="_blank">@Cementley</a>.</em></p><p><a href="https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1lSYZlpZ2eTm7sz2A88czySQ7QydUDtH7zdDRFccbvO8/viewform" target="_blank">Contribute your ideas for the Forest Preserves&#39; Next Century Conservation Plan here</a>, and watch a video from the Forest Preserves:</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="343" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/WRHrEYlgOjk" width="610"></iframe></p></p> Wed, 12 Jun 2013 22:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-06/forest-preserves-hundred-years-today-107667 Who could beat Rahm Emanuel in 2015? http://www.wbez.org/blogs/achy-obejas/2013-05/who-could-beat-rahm-emanuel-2015-107415 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RS565_By%20Bill%20Healy%20-%204-16-11%20-%20Rahm%20Inauguration%200027-scr.JPG" style="height: 412px; width: 620px;" title="Rahm Emanuel (Bill Healy)" />It was just last week, right after the final announcement of the 50 CPS closings that protesters lined the sidewalks outside the meeting and chanted, &ldquo;Hey hey, ho ho, Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s got to go!&rdquo;</p><p>It may have looked like a turning point&mdash;citizens actually expressing their rage at the mayor&mdash;but a quick peek inside the proceedings would have revealed a different kind of evidence. Aldermen, especially African-American aldermen in whose wards Emanuel&rsquo;s closings will have a disproportionate and deleterious effect, meekly sought to save this or that school, bowing before the mayor&rsquo;s ferocious power.</p><p>Is there any chance, really, that Emanuel will go? He doesn&rsquo;t have the charm of a Harold Washington, or the common touch of a Richard Daley, but he has a war chest of about <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/17/rahm-emanuel-campaign-mon_n_3102217.html" target="_blank">half a million</a> right now, and a unparalleled track record for fundraising for himself and others. He also has the weight of incumbency: the devil we know over the one we don&rsquo;t, and the ability to get tons of free air time just because.</p><p>There may be legitimate gripes against him&mdash;the school closings, of course, and the new proposed meter deal, and the lack of transparency, the utter lack of much-promised reform, the proposed DePaul stadium (!), the neutering of the city inspector, and the cronyism&mdash;but, er, a lot of folks think that&rsquo;s par for Chicago. Some actually revel in this kind of political behavior because, at the end of the day, Chicago is not Detroit.</p><p>So for &ldquo;Hey hey, ho ho, Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s got to go&rdquo; to echo with any possibility, the issues in and of themselves are only important to a certain extent.</p><p>Besides his own decision to move on&mdash;which isn&rsquo;t going to happen in 2015&mdash;the only thing that could eject Emanuel from City Hall is simply a stronger candidate.</p><p>And is there anyone at there who could do better than the last cache of characters, the Machine-fueled Gery Chico, the well-intentioned but ineffective Miguel del Valle, the embarrassing Carol Mosley Braun?</p><p>It&rsquo;s important to remember that Emanuel won with <a href="http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/02/24/948968/-Map-of-Chicago-mayoral-election-results-by-precinct#" target="_blank">55 percent of the vote</a>, that he actually did even better in the black wards with 59 percent, and that he swept the lakefront.</p><p>Who could make a dent in that kind of overwhelming support? I propose there are two, both well-known politicians, who could give Emanuel a fight.</p><p>The first, and the weaker of the two, is Rep. Luis Gutierrez. Gutierrez thought about running last time, and almost jumped in, but if he&rsquo;d won&mdash;unlikely then&mdash;he&rsquo;d have missed being a part of immigration reform in Congress, his signature issue for the last 20 years.</p><p>Like Emanuel, Gutierrez has long-standing ties to the African-American community. He was Harold Washington&rsquo;s original tie-breaker in the City Council and has a long record of supporting progressive issues, especially in housing and employment. Like Emanuel, Gutierrez supports the rights of the LGBTQ community and has a long record, back to a time when giving that support as fully and passionately as he did actually had consequences. And like Emanuel, he is a dynamic and tireless campaigner.</p><p>Gutierrez would likely dent but not overwhelm Emanuel&rsquo;s lakefront support, give him a run for his money in the African-American community, and win Latino support&mdash;the fastest growing population in the city&mdash;by wide margins.</p><p>There are drawbacks to Gutierrez, like his ability to raise the necessary funds. There&rsquo;s also a question as to how many of those mealy-mouthed black aldermen might stick with Emanuel strictly out of fear.</p><p>But Gutierrez could be a formidable challenger.</p><p>My second proposed candidate, though, could win. And that&rsquo;s Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinckle. Preckwinckle won her current post with two thirds of the vote and majorities across the city&rsquo;s ethnic and racial majorities. It&rsquo;s hard to imagine she wouldn&rsquo;t beat Emanuel in the black wards, that her progressive positions on housing, wages, and guns&mdash;and her disagreement with with Emanuel on school closings (no surprise from a former teacher)&mdash;wouldn&rsquo;t find support among Latinos. Perhaps more importantly, Preckwinckle is popular on the lakefront&mdash;maybe not enough to beat Emanuel along the coast, but certainly enough to considerably diminish his support.</p><p>In either case, both Gutierrez and Preckwinckle couldn&rsquo;t run. Whomever takes on Emanuel needs a cleared field, and they need to start making their moves now.</p><p>What do you think of either Gutierrez or Preckwinckle to run against the mayor? Or do you have another candidate?</p><p><em>Follow Achy Obejas&nbsp;<a href="http://twitter.com/achylandia" target="_blank">@achylandia</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 29 May 2013 11:33:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/achy-obejas/2013-05/who-could-beat-rahm-emanuel-2015-107415 Year 25: Toni Preckwinkle http://www.wbez.org/series/year-25/year-25-toni-preckwinkle-106274 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/tonipreckwinkle20s.jpg" style="float: right; width: 240px; height: 300px;" title="20-something Toni Preckwinkle" /></p><p>Many of you know Toni Preckwinkle as a longtime Chicago politician. Currently, she&#39;s Cook County Board President, a seat she&#39;s held since 2010.</p><p>Before that, she served for almost 20 years&nbsp;as alderman of the 4th ward.</p><div><div>But where was she at 25? That&#39;s something you might not know.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>She was just a few years out of college (she got both her Bachelor&#39;s and Master&#39;s degrees from the University of Chicago) and was working as a history teacher in Englewood.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>At the time, she figured she would continue teaching for the rest of her career. Maybe she&#39;d become a principal, but she thought she&#39;d stay in education.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>But life took her in a different direction.&nbsp;</div><p>President Preckwinkle joined Rick Kogan and WBEZ Producer Lauren Chooljian on the Afternoon Shift recently to talk about how teaching, though not a life-long career, has informed who she is today.</p><hr /><p style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><span style="font-size: 18px;"><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/tags/year25">Year 25: Sharing stories from a milestone age</a>.</em></span></span></p><hr /><p>&nbsp;</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Fplaylists%2F3821524&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 25 Mar 2013 12:54:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/year-25/year-25-toni-preckwinkle-106274 Preckwinkle considers $800 gaming machine tax http://www.wbez.org/news/preckwinkle-considers-800-gaming-machine-tax-103138 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/AP00060312533.jpg" style="height: 483px; width: 620px; " title="In this photo taken in May 2003, a patron plays a slot machine at the Empress Casino in Joliet, Ill. (AP/Seth Perlman)" /></div></div></div><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="http://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F63534311&amp;show_artwork=true" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>With her 2013 budget address coming up this week, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle has given a few hints as to what her office won&#39;t do to fill the $115 million dollar shortfall.</p><p>&quot;Everything is on the table, with the exception of property and sales tax increases,&quot; Preckwinkle told reporters last week.</p><p>But as for any other details...</p><p>&quot;My budget staff insists that I&rsquo;m not to give any numbers because they&rsquo;re still fiddling with things,&quot; she said.</p><p>As for other items that are on the table, Preckwinkle spokesman Owen Kilmer said Monday that they&#39;re &quot;considering&quot; a tax on gaming machines. If passed, the tax would require an annual $800 dollar sticker on any machines that pay out &mdash; like slots or video gaming.</p><p>But according to Illinois State Representative Lou Lang (D-Skokie), the idea doesn&#39;t make economic sense. Lang has been a long-time proponent of gambling expansion across the state.&nbsp;</p><p>&quot;Video gaming was put in place to be one of the funding sources for the capital bill that we passed 3 years ago,&quot; he said. &quot;Anything that taxes additionally these devices is a hit on those local businesses...it means less people employed, it means less economic development and it means less money for the local municipalites that were supposed to get a local share.&quot;</p><p>Kilmer said the tax would raise about $1 million for the county, a large chunk of which would likely come from the Rivers Casino in Des Plaines. According to the latest <a href="http://www.igb.illinois.gov/revreports/1209StatReport.pdf">report</a>&nbsp;from the Illinois Gaming Board, Rivers has 1,044 electronic gaming devices, which could cost them more than $835,000 if the proposal becomes part of Preckwinkle&#39;s budget.</p><p>Rivers Casino spokesman Dennis Culloton declined to comment on the proposal.</p><p>&quot;This is the first we&#39;re hearing of this and we&#39;ll respond after we get a chance to review the proposal,&quot; Culloton said.&nbsp;</p><p>According to Kilmer, the county is also considering renting out the 34th and 35th floors of the George Dunne county office building and a tax on guns and ammunition that Preckwinkle floated last week.&nbsp;</p><p>The 2013 budget gap was originally estimated at almost $270 million dollars, but Kilmer says the county is expecting federal reimbursment funds from the Affordable Care Act. Under what&#39;s known as the&nbsp;<a href="http://hmprg.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/CCHHS-1115-Waiver-Summary.pdf">1115</a>&nbsp;waiver,&nbsp;the county early-enrolled uninsured patients that would have be eligible for Medicaid in 2014.</p><p>Preckwinkle&#39;s budget address is scheduled for Thursday.<br />&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 15 Oct 2012 12:54:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/preckwinkle-considers-800-gaming-machine-tax-103138 Illinois Dems make wish list for Obama if he wins http://www.wbez.org/series/boys-bus/illinois-dems-make-wish-list-obama-if-he-wins-102163 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/photo_28.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Illinois Democrats in Charlotte, N.C. are making a wish list for what they&rsquo;d like to see out of a second term in the White House for President Obama.</p><p>It&rsquo;s not that they are taking the presidential election for granted, but officials here are already bringing up many issues they want put in place if a like-minded Democrat keeps the White House.</p><p>&quot;If we really want to jumpstart us and get us out of this quagmire, it has to be based on a solid infrastructure bill,&quot; said U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley, who represents Chicago&#39;s North Side.</p><p>&quot;I think we need to invest more in our young people and one of those things we need to do is make it easier for kids to go to college or to trade school,&quot; said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.</p><p>&quot;One of the issues I&#39;m very concerned about and I think (Obama) is as well is the challenge of moving people out of poverty and into the middle class,&quot; said Chicago Alderman Will Burns.</p><p>Those three officials won&rsquo;t get a chance to advocate for their issues on center stage at the national convention this week, but others from Illinois will.</p><p>Gov. Pat Quinn, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Congressional candidate Tammy Duckworth all get their chance to take the microphone later Tuesday evening at the Democratic National Convention.<br /><!--[if !supportLineBreakNewLine]--><br /><!--[endif]--></p></p> Tue, 04 Sep 2012 14:21:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/boys-bus/illinois-dems-make-wish-list-obama-if-he-wins-102163 National agency calls for closure of Cook County Juvenille Temporary Detention Center http://www.wbez.org/story/national-agency-calls-closure-cook-county-juvenille-temporary-detention-center-97135 <p><p>A national criminal justice agency is calling for the closure of Cook County's long-troubled Juvenile Temporary Detention Center, and is suggesting the county needs to reform the way it deals with detaining juveniles.</p><p>The JTDC has a storied past, complete with citations over unsanitary conditions and overcrowding.&nbsp; In a recent report, the National Council on Crime and Deliquency said conditions have greatly improved at the center, but the current design has security flaws and isn't worth renovating. The study, commissioned by the Jane Addams Juvenile Court Foundation, also called for an investigation into the disproportionate number of minorities in Cook County's juvenile detention centers. According to their research, African-American youth are detained at 46 times the rate of their white peers.</p><p>Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said Friday that significant work and resources have gone into the JTDC, even admist budget cuts and tightening in other areas. Preckwinkle said she too has seen progress at the center, but isn't opposed to closing it.</p><p>"It's what I want to do eventually, it's just not tomorrow," she said. "There are 300 kids in it and we have no other place to put them."</p><p>Preckwinkle said this isn't the first time she's considered closing the JTDC; she told reporters Friday she once said she wanted to "blow it up."&nbsp; Both Preckwinkle and JTDC's transitional administrator, Earl Dunlap, agree the county would be better served by four to six smaller centers, rather than one large one.&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 09 Mar 2012 21:02:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/national-agency-calls-closure-cook-county-juvenille-temporary-detention-center-97135 Cook County Board kicks medical examiner issue to Finance Committee http://www.wbez.org/story/cook-county-board-kicks-medical-examiner-issue-finance-committee-96029 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2012-February/2012-02-01/County Board Meeting Feb 2.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>There are still questions over whether the Cook County chief medical examiner could get fired. After recent photos of bodies piling up in the Cook County Morgue, Dr. Nancy Jones came under attack. She runs the morgue and has given a variety of explanations for the problems.</p><p>But in the process of all the attention, county Commissioner John Fritchey discovered an old county ordinance. It essentially gives the chief medical examiner a lifetime term in office.</p><p>On Wednesday, new language making it easier to fire this position was set to be voted on by the county board. But the moment it was introduced, Commissioner John Daley moved to delay the vote by sending it to his Finance Committee.</p><p>Fritchey said it's a mystery to him why that happened.</p><p>"It really doesn't make sense that this matter would go to the Finance Committee in any event. Intergovernmental, legislative? That would make sense - if it had to go to committee," Fritchey said.</p><p>He added that his proposal is not directed at firing Jones and that he only moved to change the language around the office because it's the first time it came to his attention. He said approving this new language would not solve the problems of the morgue.</p><p>Various aspects of the morgue's operations, including Fritchey's proposal, are likely to be reviewed in Finance Committee meetings.</p></p> Wed, 01 Feb 2012 20:19:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/cook-county-board-kicks-medical-examiner-issue-finance-committee-96029 Overhaul for Cook County medical examiner's office http://www.wbez.org/story/overhaul-cook-county-medical-examiners-office-95860 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2012-January/2012-01-27/Med examiner office_brandel.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2012-January/2012-01-27/Med examiner office_brandel.jpg" style="width: 630px; height: 471px;" title="The morgue’s coolers can hold 300 bodies, but November saw 363 bodies – some stacked two to a tray. (WBEZ/Jennifer Brandel)"></p><p>The Cook County Medical Examiner’s office will be getting an overhaul. Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle announced Thursday there will be changes in personnel, policy and protocol in the medical examiner’s office. That comes after recent stories in the news about the county morgue being over capacity.</p><p>Preckwinkle said her offices have been reviewing the Medical Examiner department before those news stories broke. But she said she was “disturbed and disappointed and discouraged” at some activities of the department.</p><p>Preckwinkle said her office is “conducting a top to bottom review of operations” and there’s also a recently launched external investigation by the Inspector General. The Inspector General’s probe was launched after media reports that the morgue’s coolers, which are designed to fit 300 bodies, were well over capacity and bodies were piling up. &nbsp;</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2012-January/2012-01-27/Preckwinkle cook county medical_brandel.jpg" style="width: 300px; height: 224px; float: left; margin: 5px;" title="Toni Preckwinkle calls her review of the medical examiner's office 'disturbing.' (WBEZ/Jennifer Brandel)">At Thursday’s news conference, Martha Martinez, a county deputy chief administrative officer, said in November the count was 363 bodies and some had to be double-stacked on one tray. Preckwinkle blamed the full coolers in part because the county saw a “record number of storage cases in November,” another way of saying more bodies than usual, and on recent cuts in state funding for indigent burials.</p><p>“It was a combination of our system being taxed to the maximum and our lack of resources to provide burials for people,” Preckwinkle said.</p><p>She also expressed dismay that staff in the medical examiner’s office went to the media with issues they had about the department, rather than going straight to her.</p><p>When asked why current chief medical examiner Dr. Nancy Jones was not at the news conference to answer questions as well, Preckwinkle said, “I’m the president of the county and it’s most appropriate for me to be answering questions about county operations.”</p><p>Jones, a hire from former Cook County Board President Todd Stroger, has recently come under fire from Preckwinkle for the management problems in the department. The board president would not say whether she would fire Dr. Jones, but did say, “People will lose their jobs.”</p><p>Preckwinkle also said, “I think the problems we have here are a reflection on the way in which operations have been conducted and not on resource cuts from the county side.”</p><p>Currently the chief medical examiner position does not have a term limit, which is something County Commissioner John Fritchey said he wants to amend in the county code. Preckwinkle hinted that among the changes made to the medical examiner’s office, a way to oust an ineffective manager would be one of them.</p><p>“It’s inappropriate for anybody in county government to have a term that’s equivalent to a federal judge, which is a life term,” Preckwinkle said.</p></p> Thu, 26 Jan 2012 19:52:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/overhaul-cook-county-medical-examiners-office-95860