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Preckwinkle transition report sets high standard

Tuesday, December 07, 2010
Chicago Tribune
by Hal Dardick

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle today set the high standard of becoming “the best-run county government in the country” during just her second day in office.

That lofty goal is stated in her freshly released transition report, which goes on to say Preckwinkle will have “an unwavering commitment to open, honest and efficient government that provides higher quality services at lower costs.”

Preckwinkle’s plan, drawn up by a transition team led in part by former Gov. Jim Edgar, also notes that she can’t do the work on her own.

She must convince the 17-member County Board to back her and get 11 other countywide elected officials, along with the independent public health system board, to go along with her plans, it acknowledges.

“In short order, we need to work together — to identify and implement efficiencies, set long-term planning goals and cut waste — and present a balanced budget that lays the groundwork for the reduction of the sales tax,” Preckwinkle said in a written statement.

The report makes the 37 recommendations Preckwinkle hopes to get started on during her first 100 days in office. She touched on some of them Monday after she was sworn in to succeed one-term Board President Todd Stroger. Some of the recommendations include:

*Audit the duties and salaries of the 2,270 employees who work for the board president and alter them as needed. “Unnecessary activities will be eliminated,” the report states. It goes on to say she will freeze hiring and halt raises for non-essential positions.

*Reduce the number of managers.

*Delay much hiring until next year, when the costs of pension obligations will be lower.

*Limit overtime spending. Last year, the county spent more than $63 million in overtime just for employees whose salaries were boosted 10 percent or more by overtime pay.

*Consolidate job training; community development; capital planning; and development, building and zoning into a single new Bureau of Economic Development. It will “make it easier for businesses to thrive in Cook County,” the report states.

*Name a chief performance officer to increase employee productivity.

*Centralize many government functions, like entering contracts, running computer systems and handling payroll.

*Find ways to reduce the time people arrested for crimes spend in the county jail at a cost of $117 per day for each detainee.

*Put more alleged non-violent offenders awaiting their day in court on electronic home monitoring.

*Halt non-essential construction projects, equipment purchases and service contracts.

*Pool purchasing.

*Put information on line about bids, contractors and the companies and people who get them.

*Restructure debt, in part by pushing payment of principal owed further into the future.

*Recover from residents in unincorporated areas the cost of services subsidized by people who live in incorporated towns, villages and cities.

*Obtain more federal grant funding resisted by prior administrations because of the strict rules that came with spending that money.

*Repeal the rest of the penny-on-the-dollar sales tax increase imposed under her predecessor by 2013.



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