By Toni Preckwinkle
The headline on Chinta Strausberg’s May 11, 2016, Crusader story referencing an alleged “power grab” by me reflects neither the vast majority of the story’s content nor reality.
The story primarily concerned a resolution put forth by three County Commissioners to petition the Illinois General Assembly to make Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown’s position appointed, rather than elected, beginning in 2020, as well as efforts by Clerk Brown to secure for herself a pay raise.
Allow me to bring some light onto these two points:
The resolution was introduced without consulting me. I had no advance knowledge of it and did not promote it, endorse it or support it. I personally spoke with Clerk Brown prior to the meeting and told her that directly, then put out a statement to general media to make my position clear.
The County Board is a legislative body. Commissioners regularly introduce ordinances and resolutions, and passage depends on their ability to secure nine votes (a majority of the Board). Clearly, the sponsoring Commissioner, Peter Silvestri, recognized the divisive nature of the resolution and withdrew it prior to consideration on the floor.
It is also worth noting that the County Board, by itself, could not make this office an appointed one. That power rests solely with the Illinois General Assembly.
As for Clerk Brown’s request for a raise, I make no apologies for opposing pay hikes for elected officials in this difficult fiscal environment. Cook County, like most local units of governments, is struggling to make ends meet. With about two-thirds of our budget dedicated to public health and public safety, we must carefully focus any available resources where they will have the most beneficial impact on critical programs and services.
Pay for our elected officials is guided both by state statute and County ordinance and in this case, the Circuit Court Clerk makes the same as the Recorder, Treasurer and County Clerk, more than Board of Review members and more than County Commissioners. While I understand and sympathize that the salary for these positions has remained the same since 2000, increasing the pay for one of our elected officials sends exactly the wrong message when we are facing extremely difficult decisions as we craft our FY 17 budget. Add to that the fact the state currently owes us $83 million due to its budget impasse. In such an environment, I cannot in good conscience support Clerk Brown’s pay hike request.
The article also references my political differences with Clerk Brown. These are well known. Clerk Brown won her primary for renomination. That is how democracy works.