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updated: 10/23/2010 10:33 PM

Cook Co. board candidates detail spending cuts

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  • Jennifer Bishop Jenkins

      Jennifer Bishop Jenkins

  • Gregg Goslin

      Gregg Goslin

 

Both candidates seeking the Cook County Board's 14th District seat support an immediate repeal of the half percentage point that remains from the county's 2008 sales tax increase.

They don't see eye-to-eye on much else, and have very different ideas on how the county can cut costs and get on firmer financial footing.

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Three-term Commissioner Gregg Goslin, a Glenview Republican who works in real estate development, is seeking another four-year term. His challenger is Jennifer Bishop Jenkins, a Northfield Democrat who taught high school government, history and ethics for 25 years.

Goslin took a strong stance against the 2008 sales tax increase, saying the 14th District was especially vulnerable to an exodus of jobs, businesses and shoppers because it borders Lake, McHenry and Kane counties.

He unsuccessfully sponsored a bill to repeal the entire increase, and later co-sponsored the bill repealing half of the hike.

Goslin says Cook County doesn't have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem.

"For 12 years I've been an advocate of change," he said. "I've been recognized in being involved in every single reform, major or minor, whether it's privatizing the golf courses or creating an independent board for the hospital or even requiring monthly revenue reports."

He says restructuring the county pension plan to a two-tier system would be a priority. New hires would face older retirement ages, a decrease in annual benefits from 80 to 65 percent of final salary, and CPI adjustments replacing automatic 3 percent annual pension increases.

Goslin's also wants to reduce the $150 million dedicated to various information technology projects by consolidating IT functions into a single department.

Jenkins describes herself as an independent Democrat whose top priority would be to streamline county government, largely through department consolidation.

"He's (Goslin) had 12 years to get this done and he hasn't," Jenkins said. "It's really not about party; some of the most diligent and effective reformers have been Democrats. The real split on the board is between machines and independents."

Jenkins wants to merge separate agencies dealing with taxes into a single tax administration office, and also fold the Forest Preserve Police Department administration under the sheriff's office.

She sees many more streamlining opportunities, including implementing automated billing software in the health care billing department, which she said currently reports a 60 percent error rate.

Jenkins said she also wants to eliminate corrupt hiring practices, citing studies that show savings up to 13 percent if patronage jobs were cut significantly. She'd work to reduce the number of positions exempt to the Shakman Decree, which bans clout-based hiring.

She also supports freezing pay increases until "financial problems are solved and supports Board President candidate Toni Preckwinkle's plan to cut pay for county leadership by 10 percent. Employees with salaries exceeding $100,000 would also be subject to significant pay cuts, she said.

Both candidates support releasing nonviolent, low-risk jail detainees on electronic ankle-bracelet monitoring. The move could save as much as $41 million, Goslin said.

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