Toni Preckwinkle, President of the Cook County Board of Commissioners, is our sole guest this week. We try to unpack the Cook County budget process in a half-hour conversation that goes a little beyond the daily headlines (will jurors have to pay for parking?)
Preckwinkle took seriously her campaign pledge to roll back the one-percentage-point increase in sales tax imposed by Todd Stroger’s administration, and that move alone, she says, will save every taxpayer a few pennies with almost every purchase. But she has to find the money somewhere to fund a 2.94 billion budget that now has a 315 million dollar shortfall.
That involves increases in a wide range of fees and the probable elimination of almost 500 positions, but underlying this budget is a commitment to making the judicial, courts and law enforcement systems more equitable. As she tells us, she sat in bond court for an hour the day before and barely saw anyone not of color. Our marijuana arrests are disproportionate, she says, and the number of indigents who crowd the jails because they have a substance abuse problem or just don’t have any money – that’s a huge part of the overcrowded and overly expensive system. She wants to use the budget system to begin reforming what she sees as unfair systems.
“Jail is the intersection of poverty and racism in this country”, she tells us.