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Preckwinkle visits Palatine residents to reassure them county works for them
Under Stroger administration, Palatine threatened to secede because of a tax increase

Monday, April 11, 2011
Chicago Tribune
by Carolyn Rusin

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle on Monday night told Palatine officials and residents that the tax dollars they send to the county are used for services in their town and other northwest suburbs.

Preckwinkle's statements had particular resonance to Palatine residents, who in 2009 joined their neighbors in Barrington and Hanover townships and backed nonbinding ballot initiatives to leave Cook County.

The village invited Preckwinkle to address the Palatine Village Council and residents at a meeting Monday night to hear where taxpayer dollars go and her plans for the county.

"Two-thirds of it goes to health care and criminal justice," Preckwinkle told a standing-room crowd at Village Hall.

There are about 11,000 patient visits a year to Cook County health care clinics in the "northwest part of the county," Preckwinkle said.

Of those patients, 60 percent to 70 percent are without health insurance, she said. "Your residents who are in need without health insurance go to our health clinics."

County tax dollars also go to maintain forest preserves used by suburbanites, Preckwinkle said.

"Eleven percent of land (in the county) is forest preserves outside the city," Preckwinkle said, adding that the land is referred to as the "Emerald Ring" around the city.  "I can tell you those who live in the city contribute to the forest preserves."

Since Preckwinkle was sworn into office in December, her administration has tackled a number of initiatives she had identified to transform county government, including the final rollback of predecessor Todd Stroger's unpopular sales tax increase that caused Palatine to revive its discussion of secession from the county.

Earlier this year, at Preckwinkle's urging, the County Board voted to repeal what's left of what was originally a 1-percentage-point sales tax increase. It will drop by a quarter-cent in January 2012 and go down by another quarter-cent in January 2013.

At Monday's meeting in Palatine, Preckwinkle stressed that the County Board will be fiscally responsible.

The secession cry grew louder in 2008 after Stroger pushed for the sales tax increase, and much of the noise came from Palatine.

But the cry waned after Stroger lost his re-election bid. And one of the main proponents of secession in Palatine — Councilman Jack Wagner — lost his own re-election bid last week, though he remains on the council until his successor, Kollin Kozlowski, is sworn in next month.

Wagner asked Preckwinkle if "both sides should at least explore" Palatine and other suburbs breaking away from the county. But Wagner added: "I'm not saying we should."

He got a blunt answer from Preckwinkle.

"I think it is a bad idea," she said. "Let's try good governance.  If four years from now you think I and my team have failed, we can talk."

Tribune reporter Erika Slife contributed.

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