In just one year on the job, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle has made county government practically unrecognizable.
If there was one thing we thought we could count on, it was Cook County as an eternal black hole of patronage and inefficiency, sucking up our tax dollars.
But if that’s an immutable law of the local political universe, somebody forgot to tell Preckwinkle.
The stern Hyde Park liberal has just pushed through her second balanced budget. She’s made good on a promise to roll back a job-killing sales tax increase. She’s reworking the entire bureaucracy to make it a better value for taxpayers. She’s set a goal — what a novelty around here — of getting property tax bills out on time. She’s pushing to divert nonviolent drug offenders from the County Jail, where they only become more hardened criminals, to drug-treatment programs.
Everyone hasn’t been happy. Preckwinkle has had public tussles with Sheriff Tom Dart, State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, Chief Circuit Court Judge Tim Evans and Treasurer Maria Pappas. She’s tangled with the unions and opponents of her plan to remake Oak Forest Hospital. She’s been called humorless and autocratic.
And she’s had to back off of some ideas.
A plan to charge residents of unincorporated areas extra for police services didn’t fly. She ultimately realized her plan to charge jurors and witnesses for parking at county courthouses sent the wrong message to people about doing their civic duty. And in the fickle world of politics, it won’t be long before folks start asking Preckwinkle what she’s done for them lately.
In the meantime, let the record show: Toni Preckwinkle is off to an excellent start.