The November midterm elections are just one week away, and Toni Preckwinkle has her eye on both Nov. 6 and Feb. 26.
The powerful Cook County Board president is up for re-election next week, but she’s also emerged as one of the top contenders to take the Chicago mayor’s office in a few months.
Morning Shift guest host Kyra Kyles checks in with Preckwinkle about her mayoral run, Cook County politics and why she’s not supporting a judge who is up for retention on the Nov. 6 ballot.
On why she’s running for Chicago mayor
Preckwinkle: “I loved being an alderman, and I look forward to the opportunity to be a mayor and to work on some of the same issues that were challenges when I was an alderman. Trying to rebuild, as I said, challenged communities, working to improve our public schools, and now one of the real challenges the city faces, implementing the consent decree around police accountability. Those are the three critical issues that face our city.”
On violence as a public health crisis, not just a criminal justice issue
Preckwinkle: “Better policing can’t be the sole solution to the challenges that these communities face….I think it’s important to understand that violence is a public health crisis, and we can’t think of it solely in criminal justice terms. If someone is shot, the first thing we need to do is to help them heal physically, but we also have to address the trauma that may have brought them to the point in their lives where they have been shot. You have to understand, in many of these communities, people know someone, or they have a family member who has been shot or killed, and that trauma is embedded in the whole community and needs to be addressed.”
On the $6 billion Cook County budget
Preckwinkle: “We have a budget that’s balanced without any new taxes, fines or fees and no layoffs….We’re in a much better financial state than either the state or the city, which may be a low bar in the state of Illinois, but I think it’s important to acknowledge….90 percent of our budget solutions are structural in nature. They are not one-time fixes, and this budget is no different. Every year we go into the year with a budget gap which we are challenged to close, and we’ve closed more than $1.2 billion in budget gaps over the last eight years. Our workforce is down 13 percent from when I came in, although we’ve been able to deliver services better than ever in the past. And our indebtedness is down by 11 percent….I’m proud of where we are now. However, without the revenue that we anticipated, we’re going to have challenges in the years to come.”
On what makes her proud about her tenure as board president
Preckwinkle: “There are two things. First of all, 50 percent of our budget is healthcare, and I’m really proud of the fact that our healthcare system has moved toward sustainability, and that’s the result of hard work and trying to make it more effective and efficient. But it’s also the result of the Affordable Care Act….The second thing is...38 percent of our budget is our criminal justice system. When I came into office, I said, you know, we have a criminal justice system that’s at the intersection of race and poverty. Fifty percent of the people in Cook County are African American or Latinx, 50 percent, about 25 percent each. But 86 percent of the people in our jail are black and brown….We’ve dramatically reduced the jail population. It’s down 30 percent to under 6,000, and these are people who were accused of crimes, mostly drug possession, prostitution and shoplifting, the things people do to get money for their drugs, not paying their child support, not paying their traffic tickets, and any person who had any resources was not in jail, this was people accused, not convicted, of those kinds of crimes. It was basically poor black and brown people.”
On whether she supports a $95 million police academy on Chicago’s West Side
Kyra Kyles: “So, you want to look at it more carefully before deciding yes or no on this particular facility?”
Preckwinkle: “Exactly. In the same way that we came to the conclusion that spending $20 million on a parking facility wasn’t what we really needed on our West Side medical campus, I think we have to look at this facility as well. Although I will tell you that one of the things that came out in the Department of Justice consent decree report is that we have not in the city of Chicago invested sufficiently in the professionalization of our police force.”
GUEST: Toni Preckwinkle, Cook County Board president
LEARN MORE: Is Toni Preckwinkle Invincible Or Vulnerable In Chicago Mayor’s Race (Chicago Sun-Times 10/8/18)
Which Toni Preckwinkle Is Running For Chicago Mayor? (In These Times 9/20/18)