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Cook County Board candidates discuss budgets, leadership.

Byline: Daily Herald report

Two candidates are competing in the Democratic primary to run for Cook County Board President. Bob Fioretti, 64, of Chicago, a civil rights attorney and former 2nd ward alderman, is challenging two-term incumbent Toni Preckwinkle, 70, of Chicago.

There is no Republican opponent at this point.

Here are the candidates' answers to some of the items on the Daily Herald questionnaire. Complete surveys for all candidates who responded are at dailyherald.com.

Q: How would you manage the overall county budget, particularly as it relates to controlling the expenses of county offices that report to the county board but control their own budgets?

Bob Fioretti: The president and county board can cut any county office's budget, except the chief judge's, pending the outcome of a wasteful lawsuit. They did so after the failed soda tax was repealed. How an individual elected official chooses to spend the budget allotted to them is up to them, as it should be.

Toni Preckwinkle: We have passed eight budgets that have closed over $2 billion in deficits, reduced our workforce by 15 percent, and reduced our indebtedness by 11 percent. It's clear there is very little willingness for additional taxes. The stark reality is that without revenue, there will be cuts. However, of the county's $3 billion operating budget, only 8 percent is under my direct control. Therefore, in order to make effective, strategic cuts moving forward, it will require collaboration. As president I've implemented the first countywide performance management initiative in the county's history. It has been critical in building our budgets, streamlining our services and holding ourselves accountable. It has also resulted in tens of millions of dollars in either increased revenue or decreased costs to taxpayers. However, there is more that can be done -- specifically a desk audit to bring more transparency and accountability to line items and employee positions across the county.

One of the initiatives of which I'm most proud is the reduction of the pretrial jail population by over 40 percent. This, in turn, has allowed us to begin reducing the size of the jail campus, one of the largest expenses within the criminal justice system at roughly $330 million per year. In recent years, while both the population and campus has been consistently declining, the staff within the jail has actually been increasing. I would look to work with the sheriff to develop a concrete plan and timeline to streamline staffing in line with our broader reform efforts.

Q: Describe your leadership style and explain how that will help the entire county board work most effectively and efficiently.

Fioretti: I believe in long-term planning and building consensus and coalitions from the ground up. That's why my budget process would be a yearlong process and include the opinions of residents in every part of the county, including some where the residents have told me they have never seen a county board president.

Preckwinkle: My three guiding principles remain: planning, persistence and gratitude. When it comes to the first two, I've always believed that if you have a vision and are willing to work really hard, you can accomplish just about anything. What it ultimately comes down to is the same belief, which drove me to run in the first place: I believe in what we do at the county and I am willing to work harder than anyone else to get it done. On the latter point, gratitude, I've always believed that in life, there is very little that can be accomplished without collaboration and cooperation. Remember all the people in your life who helped push you, helped shape your thinking, or are just in your corner. I may be an elected official now, but I spent over 30 years working for other organizations and individuals (including candidates). I know how many people it takes to make a vision a reality.
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Title Annotation:Neighbor
Publication:Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Date:Feb 27, 2018
Words:647
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