Preckwinkle says she's set to dump the do-nothings

New County Board President announces the 'party's over'

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Toni Preckwinkle had barely declared victory in the race for Cook County Board President Tuesday night in front of a crowd of supporters when, at the urging of one fan, she announced the “party’s over.”

The veteran Chicago alderman wasn’t trying to shut down the festivities — or the band’s rendition of Kool & the Gang’s “Celebration.” Instead, she was referring to rooting out do-nothing county employees.

It’s part of a larger plan, she says, to cut the bloat in the $3 billion government — responsible for running the local courts and a health system for the poor and uninsured — that is a projected $300 million in the red.

“The county is facing a real crisis,” she said.

Once in office, she’s vowed to cut her $170,000 salary and the roughly 2,300 jobs under the president’s office by 10 percent.

In the month leading up to her swearing-in ceremony, Preckwinkle is trying to piece together her cabinet and say goodbye to the administration of outgoing county board president Todd Stroger.

She’s tapped Mayor Daley’s one-time chief of staff Lori Healey, who also served as president of Chicago’s 2016 Olympic bid, as well as Kurt Summers, chief of staff for Chicago’s 2016 bid, to work on her transition team.

Sources say Summers is expected to become Preckwinkle’s chief of staff, though she declined to talk about any hires — instead directing the conversation to her newly minted web site, where those interested in working for Cook County can apply for jobs in her administration.

It will be those members of the administration that will be aiding Preckwinkle as she heeds the siren call to eliminate an unpopular sales tax hike championed by Stroger, who lost his re-election bid over the matter.

Half of the penny-on-the dollar hike — which made Chicago’s overall sales tax the highest in the nation — was rolled back in the run-up to the February primary.

Preckwinkle said it wouldn’t be fiscally prudent to roll back the sales tax until “at least” 2012, but vowed it would be done before her four-year term is up.

“I promised I would.”