Cook states attorney candidates tout initiatives, management skills
For Cook County State's attorney in the 2012 General Election: Democrat Anita Alvarez, left, opposes Republican Lori Yokoyama
Democratic incumbent and career prosecutor Anita Alvarez wants a second term as Cook County state's attorney so she may continue efforts to improve public safety and serve victims of violent crime.
To that end, she cites her legislative work, including the Illinois Safe Children's Act, which protects victims of sex trafficking, and the Valadez Law, named for Chicago police officer Alejandro Valadez, who was killed in the line of duty in 2009. Alvarez' office wrote and promoted the law that allows prosecutors to charge with a non-probationable offense known street gang members arrested while possessing loaded weapons.
Republican challenger Lori Yokoyama says she wants to bring a "fresh pair of eyes" to the office whose 860 attorneys are responsible for prosecuting all felony and misdemeanor crimes in Cook County.
Additionally, employees of the office of the state's attorney assist domestic violence victims, help protect consumers, the elderly and people with special needs against exploitation, and investigate and prosecute financial and government crimes among other duties.
Yokohama, 57, a private attorney specializing in civil litigation, says her management experience cutting costs and reducing expenses as the owner of her firm, Yokoyama and Associates, would serve her well as state's attorney. Health insurance revisions and pension reform could save taxpayers money, wrote Yokoyama in her candidate questionnaire, in which she also proposed cutting costs by sharing resources with other agencies, including using courthouses and police stations to provide witness and victim support and utilizing the same support staff.
Alvarez, 52, lists among her accomplishments a new racketeer-influenced and corrupt organizations (RICO) measure targeting street gangs that Gov. Pat Quinn signed last spring. She says while her attorneys do a good job prosecuting "the soldiers" who deliver drugs and shoot people, the RICO law allows them to go after "the generals" and the entire criminal organization.
Alvarez also expresses pride in her office's Human Trafficking Initiative targeting individuals who force adults and youngsters into prostitution. Established in 2010, the unit is funded in part by federal grants, including $500,000 awarded to the office in September. The 2010 arrest of Troy Bonaparte in Elk Grove Village and his subsequent conviction and 18-year prison sentence marked Cook County's first human trafficking conviction.
While Yokoyama praises the incumbent's legislative initiatives, she questions whether they have been successful. She also criticizes Alvarez for failing to address political corruption the way former U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald did.
Alvarez responds that the efforts of the office's special prosecutions bureau have led to more than 100 indictments on charges of public corruption and police misconduct during her first term. "Operation Cookie Jar" targeting government employees suspected of stealing from park districts, municipalities and townships, has resulted in charges against 27 defendants, 14 of whom have pleaded guilty or been convicted of the charges, Alvarez said.
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