Alvarez, Dart, Brown: Time to get on board
Friday, January 21, 2011
by SouthtownStar editorial staff
Cook County Board President Toni
Preckwinkle faces a tight deadline to trim a $487 million budget
deficit, and as promised, she’s asked each county department to cut
annual spending by 16 percent.
Thankfully, a majority have agreed. However, the
three elected officials who control the largest chunk — or about $1
billion of the county’s roughly $3 billion budget — thus far are
unwilling to make those needed cuts.
We urge Sheriff Tom Dart, State’s Attorney Anita
Alvarez and Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown to work with Preckwinkle
and her administration to cut the county budget and stabilize its
The controversy surrounding the much-reviled
penny-on-the-dollar sales tax hike championed by Preckwinkle’s
predecessor, Todd Stroger, forced Cook County residents to become all
too aware of the county’s abysmal finances in 2010.
Almost from the moment she won the Democratic
nod to run for board president in February 2010, Preckwinkle repeatedly
and publicly said she would seek “shared sacrifice” when it came to
right-sizing the county budget. In a Dec. 7 transition report posted
online, her team wrote:
“In the immediate future, county government must
address a large budget gap — 21 percent over the three quarters of FY
2011 remaining after the budget is passed. The county’s sales tax is
high, which hurts economic activity in the region. To address these
challenges and improve county services, county government must be
The crisis doesn’t get much clearer than that,
yet Dart, Alvarez and Brown for the moment decline to work with
Preckwinkle to curb the county’s finances.
Each office has a different sets of rules and
regulations and obligations, and perhaps Dart and Alvarez can make a
case to trim their budgets to a lesser extent.
Dart has said court orders imposed on the
sheriff’s department, such as the hiring of jail guards, could make cuts
more difficult to accomplish. Alvarez claims she’d be forced to shed
dozens of prosecutors, which could slow or clog criminal and civil cases
moving through the system. Brown, who keeps records for all judicial
matters brought into the circuit court, has not publicly said why she
can’t rein in spending.
But the bottom line is all three knew these cuts
were coming, and all three are stalling Preckwinkle’s plans to get Cook
County back on a healthy fiscal track.
Of course, we are not members of Dart’s or
Alvarez’s or Brown’s inner sanctum. We can’t say specifically where or
what should be cut. But to argue each office is run as efficiently as
possible would be ludicrous, and we urge each to take this matter
As residents of this county and taxpayer
watchdogs, we feel Preckwinkle is living up to her campaign promise to
cut the fat. On Tuesday, she reiterated firmly that the cuts will happen
no matter what.
The budget standoff could reveal whether these
elected officials will work with her or not. Their recent inaction seems
to indicate they will not.
We urge Dart, Alvarez and Brown to rethink and work with Preckwinkle to craft a responsible, balanced county budget.