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Judge Evans not on board with Preckwinkle’s plan

Thursday, July 07, 2011
Daily Herald
by Jake Griffin

Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans is the lone holdout of county board President Toni Preckwinkle’s planned management overhaul of government operations.

Evans argued that his office isn’t under the purview of the county board and he has already launched his own reforms.

Preckwinkle said Evans’ reluctance will only slightly hinder the efforts of her office to have performance measures in place for every aspect of the county’s operations, but noted that she’d prefer to have everyone “work together.” The plan, she said, is to track everything from hospital wait times to inmate costs per day to employee overtime so county departments eventually can set goals for those operations.

While not a part of Preckwinkle’s “STAR: Set Targets, Achieve Results” performance management program, Evans recently announced his own performance measurement initiative that he said in a June 30 news release would “set new goals to better serve the public’s needs.” Evans stated in the release that the court system is “independent” of the county government and that is why he chose to create separate performance measurements with the help of the National Center for State Courts. Evans said that program is specific to judicial operations while Preckwinkle’s program is not.

On Wednesday, Evans promised that his office would continue to “collaborate with all the other county agencies.”

Preckwinkle and several members of her senior staff met with the Daily Herald editorial board Wednesday to outline a program requiring all county departments to have performance measures in place for budgeting purposes. The county’s total annual budget is more than $3.1 billion, county officials said.

Among the bevy of goals set in the performance measures submitted by the various county department heads is to reduce jail populations, reduce wait times in county hospitals and have property tax bills sent out on time. The county will provide quarterly updates on the progress of achieving performance goals, Preckwinkle said.

Preckwinkle said it costs $142 a day to house an inmate in the county jail. At nearly $52,000 a year, Preckwinkle noted that’s the equivalent of a year’s “tuition to a very fine university.”

Previously, county hospitals didn’t track wait times for emergency room patients. Several other departmental goals don’t have baseline metrics to compare anything to. That’s why Preckwinkle said the first year will mainly be putting the performance measurements in place and working to improve the results. By December, Preckwinkle’s plan is to conduct initial performance reviews and address weaker areas.

In the following two years, Preckwinkle’s plan is to identify and take corrective actions. All the while, the budgeting office will use the data and results of the program to guide them when allocating resources, officials said.



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