Toni Preckwinkle is currently the Cook County Board presidenta position she has held since 2010. She is the first Black woman to be elected to that office.
Prior to that, Preckwinkle was the 4th Ward alderman on Chicago's city council for 19 years. She moved to Chicago from St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1965 to attend college and has lived in the city ever since.
Windy City Times: With so many candidates running for mayor, what makes you more qualified to hold this office than the rest of people in the race?
Toni Preckwinkle: I have a background in community building, strengthening local public schools and working with residents and police around public safety issues for over 25 years as an elected official. As county board president, we have stabilized county government, which is now a model now for other counties across the country.
I am the most progressive candidate in the race. I ran for alderman twice against the machine, then successfully a third time. I was a founder of the progressive caucus and sponsored several affordable housing and living wage ordinances. I was one of five alderman who opposed the parking meter deal and opposed then-Mayor Daley for a majority of my votes.
WCT: What similarities and differences do you see between your current Cook County board president role and [being] mayor of Chicago?
TP: Both are administrative challenges, but the mayor's priorities are much broader than the County Board's where 90 percent of the money goes to public health and safety.
WCT: How would you characterize your relationship with Ed Burke and his family? What about the $10,000 he gave to your 2018 campaign? Hiring his son for a county job despite him being under investigation by the sheriff's office?
TP: During my time in city council, Ed Burke was never a friend or an ally. His finance committee chair position put us on opposite sides of all divided votes. When I became County Board President, I worked closely with Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke on criminal justice reform.
A contribution that Ed allegedly extorted from a third party ended up in our coffers via an online donation. We returned the money, which was more than was allowed, when we could not get the contributor to respond.
My office was unaware Burke's son was under investigation and had we know his resume would never have been passed along to Homeland Security which vetted and hired him.
WCT: I see that you back an elected school board. Which groups of people should be on that board? Tell me what your ideal Chicago Public School system would look like.
TP: The board should be led by an educator and made up of people from across the city, meaning district elections not an at-large election. The city must invest in more teachers, psychologists, social workers, nurses and paraprofessionals for neighborhood schools to give the same opportunities for success as kids who attend magnet, selective enrollment and charter schools.
WCT: What is your vision for the LGBT community?
TP: It begins with justice and inclusion for the transgender community. There must be equity for LGBT Chicagoans. We are lucky to have a strong LGBT community and many long-standing organizations who serve their community to help achieve our goals.
WCT: Would you advocate for mandatory LGBT-inclusive education within CPS starting in middle school regardless of what happens on the state level?
TP: Yes; we do not need to wait for the state.
WCT: Are any of your campaign staffers/volunteers openly LGBT?
TP: Yes, we are proud to have members of the LGBT community as part of our senior staff, surrogates and volunteers.
WCT: What is your position regarding funding for HIV/AIDS treatment and education?
TP: I will support and fully fund the Getting to Zero campaign, which the Cook County Health and Hospital System is a part of.
WCT: How will you address the city's continued infrastructure problems? Blighted and underserved areas?
TP: Cities and regions are most successful when they have the least inequality. We need to figure out which communities are the most challenged and direct resources to them.
WCT: What is the ideal minimum wage for the city of Chicago?
TP: I have long been a proponent for the fight for $15, which takes a family of four to just above the poverty line.
WCT: How would you address the budget shortfalls that do not include additional regressive taxation and fees?
TP: I will review the city's budget to determine what can be eliminated or rearranged to reduce spending. The recent move of workman's comp from the finance committee into the executive branch will help, along with TIF reform.
WCT: What are your recommendations for better relationships between the police and citizens they serve, especially people of color and the transgender community?
TP: We must improve relations between police and the transgender community. A priority is investigating unsolved murders of transgender women of color and preventing similar incidents.
There must be transgender representation in the city's civilian office of police accountability board.
The police department needs to invest in and have more training in general and especially around interactions with people of color and the transgender community. There are not enough resources for professional development, particularly for our crisis intervention training and de-escalating strategies.
I proposed an office of criminal justice in the mayor's office to focus on bringing public safety stakeholders together to ensure we are treating everyone in the city fairly, especially the LGBT community and people of color.
WCT: What kind of relationship do you plan on having with the city council, Gov. Pritzker and state legislators?
TP: I am really encouraged to have J.B. Pritzker as our new governor, who will be a great ally in our efforts to transform the city.
See toniforchicago.com/ .