Today, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle delivered a speech to the City Club of Chicago, affirming her values as a leader and the role Cook County government plays to improve the lives of residents.
SPEECH EXCERPTS:-“Cook County has passed a balanced budget each of the seven years of my tenure. We closed $1.8 billion in budget gaps—let me repeat that, $1.8 billion—while responsibly shrinking our workforce by 10 percent.-“Cook County is a national leader in making the Affordable Care Act succeed. Of the 350,000 new Medicaid patients in Cook County, 140,000 of them get their coverage through Cook County’s managed care program, CountyCare. Additionally, our system provides 45 percent of all the charity care in the county, even though our hospitals are only a few of the 72 located here.-“In my view, this isn’t a vote to repeal or keep a revenue source we already approved. It’s about whether or not we want Cook County to be healthier, safer and more efficient or if we are willing to go backwards and let Cook County become sicker, less safe and less efficient.-“To any commissioner considering this action, I remind you, that a vote to repeal is a vote to fire frontline health care providers: doctors, nurses and other medical professionals who help serve our most vulnerable patients.-“A vote to repeal is a vote to halt plans for a new lifestyle center at Provident hospital, where I was yesterday. This center is designed to promote better health outcomes for our patients while also saving us money in the long-term, because treating acute and chronic illnesses is more expensive than preventing them.-“A vote to repeal is a vote to compromise our Constitutional duty to provide for the legal defense of those who cannot afford counsel by taking away money from the Public Defender’s office and forcing our already-overworked public defenders to absorb another 6,400 cases.-“And a vote to repeal is a vote to reduce our vital community investments, especially our workforce development training programs geared at young people on the south and west sides. Cook County programs like Career Launch, Opportunity Works and the Conservation Corps, together have helped us connect hundreds of Cook County young people between the ages of 16 and 24 to employment training and jobs.-“In my view, the choice is simple. I will choose to protect our safety net and essential services every time. My sincere hope is that our commissioners will do the same.-“Why is Big Soda OK with selling our vulnerable kids liquid sugar, which we know is bad for them? The answer, of course, is because it's their business. The only reason this tax is perceived to disproportionately affect poor communities is because Big Soda has spent decades preying on them. The soda industry doesn't care about the public health of these communities. It's just using them as pawns in a losing fight to maintain its revenue.”