Endorsement: Preckwinkle for the Democrats as Cook County Board president
Toni Preckwinkle has been Cook County Board president for nearly eight years, so as she faces a primary challenge for a third term, it is important to remember what that office and the operation of the board itself were like before she arrived on the scene. Disaster comes to mind. The agency was marked by favoritism, bloat, incompetence, waste, indifference to taxpayers and much more.
No one should be so naive as to think that those issues have been completely resolved since Preckwinkle took over. That's far from true. But what is undeniable is that the Cook County Board of today is nearly unrecognizable against that of the era that preceded it.
Budgets have been cut year after year. Tax bills, previously routinely months late, now routinely arrive on time. The workforce has been reduced by 15 percent, indebtedness cut by 11 percent, deficits reduced by $2 billion. Performance management standards have been implemented. Performance management standards. In Cook County.
Preckwinkle, of Chicago, has sometimes butted heads over spending plans with less-than-cooperative department heads who are separately elected and not under her direct control. She hasn't always won, but she always has won respect, and she has almost always won important concessions.
Yes, there have been troubling moves along the way, too. She reinstated the same one-percent Stroger sales tax hike that she previously had phased out -- claiming she had no choice after Gov. Bruce Rauner failed to support employee concessions she had negotiated. She launched an ill-advised, sometimes clumsy and ultimately futile drive to raise the sales tax on sugary beverages.
These are not insignificant concerns. But the net effect of Preckwinkle's imprint on county government has been a sense of professionalism, discipline and respect that few would have thought possible previously. Her opponent in the Democratic primary is Bob Fioretti, a civil rights attorney and two-term Chicago alderman. He's a well-meaning candidate, but hardly demonstrates the depth of knowledge or the capacity for steadfast, cooperative leadership that would be needed to improve on the incumbent's legacy. Toni Preckwinkle gets our endorsement.