Toni Preckwinkle has just entered her 10th year as president of the Cook County Board. While she suffered a painful loss to Lori Lightfoot in the Chicago mayoral election in April, she has since shook that off and made clear her intention to run again for county board president in 2022.
Last month, Preckwinkle announced the launch of the Southland Development Authority, a plan designed to spur economic growth in the south suburbs. According to a statement announcing the launch of the SDA, the Cook County’s Bureau of Economic Development will invest $50 million in 2020 on affordable housing, critical social services, infrastructure, disaster recovery and job training as part of that plan.
A spokesman for Preckwinkle said the SDA will be a key focus of the administration, along with ensuring a full count in the 2020 census and creating transportation options that are more fair for the county’s underserved residents.
“The SDA represents a powerful and dynamic institution that will drive economic growth and attract new investment across more than 40 municipalities,” Preckwinkle said in a statement.
One part of her fair transport plan is to try to increase ridership on the Metra Electric and Rock Island lines by adding trains and reducing fares. Optimizing the service would most likely require cooperation between Metra, Pace and the CTA, but Lightfoot is reportedly concerned that more riders on Metra could mean fewer travelers on the CTA and thereby a loss of revenue.
It remains to be seen whether Preckwinkle and Lightfoot can reach a deal but they were said to have had conversations outlining “opportunities for collaboration” over the summer.
But as Preckwinkle looks to focus on her accomplishments and economic development plans she has also been attacked for her refusal to criticize longtime political ally Joseph Berrios. While no hint of scandal has touched Preckwinkle, the former Cook County assessor is now reportedly the focus of a federal corruption probe.
Questions have also been raised about an “administrative error” that gave one of her guards close to a 10% pay raise as well as what motivated the decision to transfer her security detail from a county department to the forest preserves police.
When asked about the federal investigations focused on several Democratic elected officials – including Ald. Ed Burke (14th Ward), former state Rep. Luis Arroyo and state Sen. Tom Cullerton – all of whom now face federal charges – Preckwinkle told the Chicago Sun-Times that it was “discouraging” that officials were being investigated for “bad acts.”
But Preckwinkle also took a swipe at the media, arguing that only a very small number of elected officials had been charged.
“It’s also discouraging that my great and good friends in the media provide no context for this,” said Preckwinkle.