|President of the Cook County Board of Commissioners|
|Assumed office |
December 6, 2010
|Preceded by||Todd Stroger|
|Member of the Chicago City Council|
from the 4th Ward
|Preceded by||Timothy C. Evans|
|Succeeded by||Shirley Newsome|
March 17, 1947
St. Paul, Minnesota, U.S.
(m. 1969; div. 2013)
|Education||University of Chicago (BA, MA)|
Toni Preckwinkle (née Reed; March 17, 1947) is an American politician and the current Cook County Board President in Cook County, Illinois, United States. The first woman elected to this position, she was a five-term alderman in the Chicago City Council, representing Chicago's 4th ward. She was elected on November 2, 2010, as President of the Cook County Board, the Executive Branch of Cook County government. Preckwinkle first sought political office in 1983; she was defeated twice before being elected in 1991 as alderman, and was re-elected four times.
Preckwinkle had been an occasional critic of former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley. In her first four terms in office as alderman, she emerged as the council's prominent defender of affordable housing. Among other issues, she is known for championing the controversial sweetened beverage tax, sponsorship of living wage ordinances, concerns about the costs and benefits of the city's Olympic bid, and her strong stance against police brutality and excessive force.
In 2018, under Preckwinkle's leadership, Cook County requested an easement to build a road at taxpayer expense (~$750K-$1M) to pave public green space and the 10th hole of the Canal Shores Golf Course for the benefit of State Senator John Cullerton and a private developer. The easement was approved by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District in spite of unanimous opposition by local residents and the Wilmette Park District.
Early life, family, and career
Preckwinkle was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, and attended local schools there. She moved to Chicago to study at the University of Chicago in the Hyde Park community area, where she earned her bachelor's and master's degrees.
From 1969 to 2013, she was married to Zeus Preckwinkle, then a seventh- and eighth-grade teacher at Ancona Montessori School. They have two children. Her former husband is Caucasian, which at times was used by her political opponents as a campaign issue.
In 1985 and 1986 Preckwinkle served as President of the Disabled Adult Residential Enterprises (DARE). She has been active in community organizations, serving as a member of the Board of Directors of the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence, and Political Action Director of the Near South Chapter of the Independent Voters of Illinois (IVI-IPO). During and after her 1987 aldermanic election campaign, she worked as a planner for the Chicago Department of Economic Development.
Unsuccessful campaigns for alderman
Chicago's fourth ward is on the South Side of Chicago, adjacent to the Lake Michigan lakefront. It includes all of the Kenwood and Oakland community areas, and portions of Hyde Park, Washington Park, Grand Boulevard, Douglas and the South Loop community areas. The northern part of the ward (North of 45th Street) is predominantly poor and African American, while the more racially diverse southern half is predominantly middle and upper middle-class.
In her first two aldermanic campaigns for the 4th ward, in 1983 and 1987, Preckwinkle lost to the incumbent, Timothy C. Evans, who had been in office since 1973. Evans was Chicago Mayor Harold Washington's City Council floor leader and lieutenant. In 1983, Preckwinkle gained enough support to force a runoff election. (Chicago Aldermen are elected without regard to political party affiliation, but must earn a majority of votes or the top two candidates have a runoff election. ) In the runoff, Preckwinkle carried traditionally "independent" precincts in Hyde-Park, but Evans carried the precincts in the north of the Ward.
In the 1987 elections, Evans defeated Preckwinkle by a 77% to 21% margin. In 1987, although both the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times endorsed Evans, they praised Preckwinkle for qualities including her intelligence and independence, and expressed hopes she would continue in politics. Preckwinkle was endorsed by then state Rep. Carol Moseley Braun and also by the Independent Voters of Illinois-Independent Precinct Organization. Mayor Harold Washington endorsed Evans.
Third campaign for alderman
In 1991 Preckwinkle and four others challenged Evans for the 4th ward alderman's position. In the first round of voting on February 26, 1991, she won nearly one-third popular vote in the ward by winning 20 of 58 precincts (all in the Hyde Park-Kenwood community). Evans and Preckwinkle again advanced to a runoff election, as they had in 1983. This time the majority of the eliminated candidates endorsed Preckwinkle. On April 2, 1991, Preckwinkle performed better in the northern part of the ward and was elected by a 109-vote margin, defeating the 17-year incumbent alderman Evans.
Preckwinkle has developed a reputation for progressiveness. On the City Council Preckwinkle was known as being independent of then-Mayor Richard M. Daley, with whom she dissented more often than did any other alderman. In addition, Preckwinkle was one of the few aldermen on the City Council occasionally critical of the policies of former Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley.
In 2004, she and Dorothy Tillman were the only aldermen to vote against the Mayor's city budget, and in 2005, Preckwinkle was the lone dissenter. Preckwinkle has supported the majority of legislation advanced by the mayor and his allies, including most of Daley’s annual budget proposals; his controversial use of tax increment financing, an economic development program in which tax revenues are funneled into accounts controlled almost exclusively by the mayor; and, ultimately, his quest to host the 2016 Summer Olympics.
Preckwinkle has championed set-asides for affordable housing as her signature issue. The municipal ordinances she sponsored in 1993 and 1999 for affordable housing increased city expenditures on low and moderate income housing by 50 percent. In 2007, she pushed for increases in the existing Affordable Requirements Ordinance. This mandates that housing developers using land bought at a discount from the city, must reserve at least 10 percent of their housing units as "affordable", or to contribute money to an affordable-housing fund that would be equivalent to increasing the percentage to 15 percent. Affordable housing is considered a key element in the debate about ending homelessness in Chicago.
Preckwinkle's depth of knowledge of public housing has been recognised in the national press, which cited her defense of the maligned Vince Lane when the federal government took over Chicago's public housing projects.
Preckwinkle was a co-sponsor of the living wage ordinances that passed the city council in 1998 and 2002. On July 26, 2006, Preckwinkle was one of 35 aldermen who voted to approve the 2006 Chicago Big Box Ordinance sponsored by Alderman Joe Moore (49th). For 7 weeks, until the law was overturned, Chicago was the largest United States city to require big-box retailers to pay a "living wage."
In October 2007 Preckwinkle opposed naming a landmark in the 4th ward for Saul Bellow, the 1976 Nobel literature laureate, reportedly because Bellow had made remarks that Preckwinkle considered racist. She also opposed the renaming of a stretch of street near the original Playboy Club as "Hugh Hefner Way."
In 2006, Preckwinkle decided to paint over two 36-year-old, neglected and severely damaged public murals in the 47th Street Metra underpass. The murals had been created by graffiti artists, working with permission from the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs, and had represented themes that included Latin-American, African, Mayan, Indian, and Native American spiritual practices. The walls were later covered with murals that were newly commissioned by the city: one is made up of a series of ceramic tiles and the other is a traditional painted mural, featuring the city and important historical South Side figures, including former Alderman Dorothy Tillman.
Preckwinkle has been outspoken in support of the city settling the Jon Burge police torture case, rather than continuing to spend money in the litigation process. She has also been proactive in the effort to pursue compensation for victims of police brutality in the related Burge cases, and sought hearings on the initial special prosecutor's report. She has been a critic of the decades-long delay in settling the case, and supported the settlement.
In 2007, Preckwinkle pursued disclosure of Chicago Police Department officers who were accused of using excessive force. The United States District Court had ruled that the records be unsealed and made available to the public. However, on July 13, 2007, the city filed an emergency motion to stay the judge's order. When the city argued in the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals against disclosure, it said that aldermen would have access to the information. But Preckwinkle's August 23, 2007, request for the data was denied.
The Chicago 2016 Olympic bid would have placed the main site of the $1.1 billion residential complex in the 4th Ward, to accommodate athletes in an Olympic Village. Chicago was not chosen. Preckwinkle expressed her reservations about the initial plan, and was involved in plan revisions.
Since the construction was planned almost entirely in her ward, she expressed concern that her constituents had not been offered a chance to voice their concerns with the plan. She was an early advocate of moving what would have been the Olympic Village from the McCormick Place truck yard to the Michael Reese Hospital site.
She also had concerns about how the proposed project would be financed. On March 14, 2007, Preckwinkle joined four other South Side aldermen in voting against a $500 million public-funded guarantee to back up Chicago's Olympics bid. But on September 9, 2009, Preckwinkle voted to authorize Mayor Richard Daley to sign the International Olympic Committee's host city contract, which included financial guarantees putting full responsibility for the Olympics and its proposed $4.8 billion operating budget on taxpayers.
Democratic Party Committeeman
Preckwinkle was the Democratic Committeeman for the 4th Ward until being elected Chairman by acclamation on April 18, 2018 after then chair Joseph Berrios lost in a primary challenge as Cook County Assessor, a position within the Cook County Democratic Party. Each of the 50 wards of the city and the 30 townships of Cook County elect a Democratic Committeeman to the Cook County Central Committee. These committeemen form the official governing body of the Cook County Democratic Party which, among other purposes, endeavors to attract, endorse, and support qualified Democratic candidates for office.
Preckwinkle succeeded Evans as 4th Ward Democratic committeeman in 1992, defeating former Evans administrative assistant Johnnie E. Hill by 6,227 to 2,327 votes in the March 17, 1992 primary election. Evans had filed nominating petitions to run for re-election as committeeman and run for judge of the Cook County Circuit Court, but withdrew his name from the ballot for committeeman in order to concentrate on the judgeship (to which he was elected). Preckwinkle was re-elected as 4th Ward Democratic committeeman on March 19, 1996, running unopposed on the ballot after her successful challenges to the nominating petitions of Charles S. Williams and her 1995 and 1999 aldermanic challenger Kwame Raoul. They were each a few dozen signatures short of the number required to earn a place on the ballot. Preckwinkle was re-elected, again running unopposed on the ballot, as 4th Ward Democratic committeeman in March 2000, March 2004, and February 2008.
On November 6, 2004, the 10 Democratic ward committeemen whose wards make up parts of the 13th Illinois legislative district, voted to appoint Kwame Raoul to the state senate seat vacated two days earlier by U.S. Senator-elect Barack Obama. 4th Ward Democratic committeeman Preckwinkle and 5th Ward Democratic committeeman Leslie Hairston had the largest says in the appointment, with 29% and 27%, respectively, of the weighted-vote based on the percentage of votes cast in each ward in the 13th legislative district for Obama in the November 5, 2002 general election.
Preckwinkle chairs the ward organization, the Fourth Ward Democratic Organization. It was among 16 Chicago Democratic ward organizations named in a complaint filed on August 31, 2005 with the Illinois State Board of Elections by the Cook County Republican Party. It charged that Democratic Party ward organizations are illegally housed in City-funded neighborhood ward offices. Taxpayers fund aldermanic service centers, which are open to the general public, but state law prohibits the use of public funds by any candidate for political or campaign purposes. The complaint against Preckwinkle's ward organization was one of nine that a Hearing Officer appointed by the Board recommended proceed to the next step of the hearing process, an Open Preliminary Hearing. On October 17, 2005, at a regularly scheduled meeting of the Board of Elections, the Board entered an executive session and voted, in a 4–4 tie, along strict party lines. It failed to adopt the recommendation of the Hearing Officer, and ordered the complaints dismissed.
The complaint against Preckwinkle's ward organization was among eight that the Cook County Republican Party appealed to the Supreme Court of Illinois. On January 23, 2009, the Illinois Supreme Court unanimously ordered the Illinois appellate court to conduct a judicial review of the Board's dismissals of the complaints.
Preckwinkle nominated Joseph Berrios for re-election as Chairman of the Democratic Party of Cook County at a meeting of the Cook County Democratic Central Committee on March 3, 2010. At the time Berrios was the incumbent chairman as well as a commissioner with the Cook County Board of Review and the Democratic candidate for Cook County Assessor. Berrios was re-elected.
Cook County Board President
Preckwinkle announced in January 2009 that she would run for President of the Cook County Board. She launched her campaign website on June 18, 2009. On February 2, 2010 she won the Democratic Primary, defeating the incumbent Board President Todd Stroger, among others. Preckwinkle faced Roger Keats, the Republican nominee, in the November general election. On November 2, Preckwinkle became the first woman elected as Cook County President by capturing over two-thirds of the vote. After her Republican opponent received 26% of the vote, he left the state. Preckwinkle recommended that Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley appoint Will Burns to succeed her as Fourth Ward Alderman, but Burns preferred to run in an open primary. Mayor Daley appointed Shirley Newsome as a "caretaker" alderman on January 12, 2011. Burns handily won the special election for the seat a month later.
In August 2012, Dr. Nancy Jones, former head of the Cook County Morgue, referred to Preckwinklie as "evil" in criticizing her handling of the management and budgeting of the Morgue. Jones alleged that bodies had piled up and conditions were filthy.
Also in August 2012, Preckwinkle defended Chicago's action to decriminalize possession of small amounts of cannabis by allowing police to write tickets. She asserted that drug laws had unfairly resulted in more minorities being incarcerated for minor offenses. She later apologized for an inflammatory remark about President Ronald Reagan on this topic.
On March 22, 2016, Preckwinkle announced that she had selected Brian Hamer, who served as the state's revenue director under Gov. Rod Blagojevich and then Quinn, to replace Tasha Green Cruzat as her chief of staff.
Relationship with Barack Obama
Preckwinkle's views on Obama were prominently featured in a July 2008 New Yorker cover story on Barack Obama's political origins. The article begins by recounting a 1995 meeting between Preckwinkle and Obama in which he discussed a possible run for the Illinois Senate seat then held by Alice Palmer. According to the New Yorker, Preckwinkle "soon became an Obama loyalist, and she stuck with him in a State Senate campaign that strained or ruptured many friendships but was ultimately successful." In 1995, she successfully challenged the signatures of Obama's opponents in the Democratic Primary for the Illinois Senate, allowing Obama to run unopposed.
Preckwinkle supported Obama, endorsing him in his campaigns for Illinois Senate in 1995–6, U.S. House in 1999–2000, and U.S. Senate in 2003–4. She was among those who encouraged Obama to make his first run for the United States Congress in 2000, and she was an early supporter when he ran in 2004. When Obama was elected in 2004 as a United States Senator, Preckwinkle had a large say in his Illinois State Senate replacement. She became Obama's Alderman when he moved from Hyde Park to South Kenwood in June 2005.
According to the New Yorker article, Preckwinkle had since become "disenchanted" with Obama. The article’s author suggested that Preckwinkle's "grievances" against Obama were motivated by her perception that Obama was disloyal. Preckwinkle still served as an Obama delegate at the 2008 Democratic National Convention.
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5046 S. Greenwood Ave. This is the controversial Kenwood-neighborhood mansion that the Obamas bought in June 2005 for $1.65 million and where they have lived ever since. 5450 S. East View Park, Unit No. 1. From 1993 to 2005, the Obamas owned and lived in this first-floor unit in the East View Park condominium community near 54th Street and Hyde Park Boulevard.
Karlin, Mark (July 15, 2008). "Who is Obama's Alderwoman in Chicago? A BuzzFlash interview with Ald. Toni Preckwinkle". BuzzFlash.com. Archived from the original on December 8, 2008. Retrieved December 22, 2008.
Alderman Preckwinkle: Well, he's only recently been a constituent. For most of his political life, he lived in the 5th Ward, which is further south, in Hyde Park. As a result of his book sales and his election to the Senate, he moved to a mansion in South Kenwood, which is a community that is at the very south end of my ward.
- Lizza, Ryan (July 21, 2008). "Making It: How Chicago shaped Obama". New Yorker. CondéNet. Retrieved December 22, 2008.
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