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Preckwinkle's suburban visit praised

Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Daily Herald
by Deborah Donovan

Suburban leaders applauded Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle Wednesday after she told them she plans to do away with the sales-tax hike implemented by her predecessor within two years.

The pledge to return the county sales tax to the 0.75 percent it was before the 2008 increase was one of several reasons Preckwinkle received a warm welcome when she traveled to Arlington Heights to meet with local government officials.

It was a far cry from the hostile reception former board President Todd Stroger received when he visited Palatine in 2008, shortly after he helped implement a 1-percentage-point addition to the county’s sale tax.

Almost every local official expressed appreciation that Preckwinkle came to the suburbs, and she said she would try to improve outreach to the area.

State Sen. Matt Murphy, a Republican from Palatine, said he organized Wednesday’s meeting to forge a “new and stronger relationship with a new and stronger county board president.”

Local leaders were especially pleased to hear Preckwinkle’s plans for sales taxes. They said the increase has made Cook County businesses less competitive and puts their communities at a disadvantage when trying to attract or retain business.

“In my downtown business area, one side of the street is in Cook County with one sales tax and the other side is in Lake County with another,” Barrington Village President Karen Darch said. “It complicates things for them.”

Suburban leaders expressed many other concerns and Preckwinkle was urged by area police chiefs to keep the lockup at the Cook County Circuit Court in Rolling Meadows open 24 hours a day.

“When we’re laying off police officers and not hiring those lost to attrition, taking a fully trained policeman off the street to have him sit in a chair in the jail all night long in front of a prisoner behind bars, it’s a cost we can ill afford,” said Mike Alsup, chief of police at Harper College and president of the North Suburban Association of Chiefs of Police.

Alsup later said he understands the challenge that presents to Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart in light of Preckwinkle’s call for all county departments to trim 21 percent off their budgets.

Murphy said local law enforcement departments are willing to take turns providing someone to supervise the lockup overnight.

The sheriff’s department is willing to continue talks with the chiefs and might be able to work out an intergovernmental agreement, Dart spokesman Steve Patterson said. However, collective bargaining and liability issues must be considered.

The court lockup in Rolling Meadows accepts arrestees from suburban agencies from about 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays, Patterson said. Detainees who do not post bond are transferred to the county jail at 26th and California in Chicago.

The sheriff’s department already does not have enough court deputies to cover all the court rooms in the suburbs and at the Daley Center in Chicago, Patterson added. In fact, Dart has proposed doing away with the Saturday suburban bond courts.

Preckwinkle said after the meeting that it was the first she had heard of the chiefs’ request, but she would look into it.

Rolling Meadows Mayor Ken Nelson asked for help with economic development, and Preckwinkle said she was going to name a new official to consolidate county efforts in that area.

Governments represented at the Wednesday meeting included Arlington Heights, Barrington, Buffalo Grove, Elk Grove Township, Harper College, Hoffman Estates, Palatine, Palatine Township, Prospect Heights, Rolling Meadows, South Barrington, Wheeling and Wheeling Township.

County Board member Gregg Goslin, a Glenview Republican, and State Rep. Tom Morrison, a Republican from Palatine, also attended.

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