In a broad show of support heading into the vote on the 2012 budget today Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Public Defender A.C. Cunningham, First Assistant State’s Attorney Shauna Boliker and a bipartisan coalition of County Commissioners gathered to highlight the restoration of funding to the Office of the Public Defender and the State’s Attorney’s Office.
“After multiple conversations with the State’s Attorney the Public Defender’s office and my colleagues on the County Board, it became clear that this funding was essential to the administration of public safety in Cook County,” President Preckwinkle said. “This agreement is a testament to the collaboration that took place throughout the budget process, and that commitment will continue after the final vote is taken today.”
The roughly $4.5 million in funding will restore 15 attorneys, 14 Victims Witness Staff, 5 Investigators and 8 members of the legal support staff in the State’s Attorney’s Office and 10 attorneys, 27 investigators and 1 administrative assistant to the Office of the Public Defender. This amendment is offset with additional revenue from estates with unknown heirs, which is remitted to the County according to state law.
“The cuts that the State’s Attorney’s office was facing in the initial budget proposal would have been devastating for victims of violent crime in Cook County,” said State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez. “I am pleased that President Preckwinkle and many of our county commissioners recognized these potential impacts and moved to restore some of our funding in the interest of public safety.”
“Cook County led the nation in making certain our justice system was in fact just to all Cook County residents regardless of their economic status,” Public Defender Cunningham said. “This sends a strong message to the taxpayers of Cook County that the President and the County Commissioners understand the vital role our Office plays in serving the indigent of Cook County.”
Finance Chairman John Daley applauded the President’s office for working closely with the separately elected officials.
“President Preckwinkle has shown that true fiscal leadership means listening to the concerns of Cook County residents and responding in a way that’s both fair and financially responsible,” Daley said. “The State’s Attorney’s Office and the Office of the Public Defender are integral parts of County government and I’m glad to see that there funding was restored appropriately.”
Joining President Preckwinkle to support the amendment were Commissioners Jerry Butler (D-3rd), Finance Chairman John Daley (D-11th), Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (D-7th), Elizabeth Gorman (R-17th), Gregg Goslin (R-14th), Joan Patricia Murphy (D-6th), Edwin Reyes (D-8th), Peter Silvestri (R-9th), Deborah Sims (D-5th), and Jeffrey Tobolski (D-16th).
Also on hand was Dawn Valenti, Executive Director for United for a Cause and a number of mothers who have worked first hand with the Victims Witness Unit after losing loved ones.