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Proviso Probe

Friday, August 28, 2009

candidate forum, Black Dems running for Prez of Cook County Board

On Thursday, August 27, WVON hosted a forum for the four Black Democrats running for President of the Cook County Board at Malcolm X College (near West Side). Terry O'Brien, the non-Black Democratic candidate, was invited, but had a conflict. The crowd filled the seats and had people standing in the balcony. WVON's Cliff Kelley moderated.

Campaign message:

Dorothy Brown
Brown introduced herself and included the line, “We need new ideas, not new taxes.” She positioned herself as having relevant financial and management experience based on her education (JD, MBA and CPA) and her running the office of the Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court (2,100 employees). Brown repeatedly mentioned that she has saved $187 million as clerk. Brown described the county as facing a crisis, financial and management.

Danny K. Davis
Davis started by saying he believed the county and state were in need and could be in crisis. He said he wants honest and open government. He acknowledged that people want to pay lower taxes. He explained the two “essential” functions of Cook County government as being health care and criminal justice. Davis offered himself as qualified to run the health care system because he ran a health care clinic before he was an elected official and because he was a leader in the National Association of Community Health Centers. On criminal justice, Davis expressed the goal of reducing crime and recidivism and to generally give hope. Davis emphasized the role the seventeen members of the county board play and said that he would be most able to bring the board together.

Toni Preckwinkle
Preckwinkle said government has two obligations: 1) to deliver quality service, and 2) to deliver services efficiently and effectively. Preckwinkle touted her experience as alderman improving the quality of life in the Fourth Ward as proof she has the energy and vision to be President of the Cook County Board. Preckwinkle said she'd do three things as President: 1) eliminate the 1% sales tax increase over four years which would make Cook County more competitive which would increase jobs; 2) continue the independent governing board for the Cook County health care system; and 3) reduce the jail population through increased substance abuse treatment.

Todd Stroger
Stroger emphasized having three balanced budgets multiple times during the presentation. He drew contrasts with city and state budgets that have large deficits. He complained the Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times unfairly attacked him. Stroger said he was on the side of the people and the people were on his side. During the evening he injected positive information about Cook County government. Stroger's supporters were quite vocal, gave him standing ovations and frequently broke into chants of, “Four more years!”
In his concluding remarks Stroger said, “We let the major papers tear our leaders down.” He then told of shaking the hand of a Black boy at the Bud Billiken Day parade. Stroger said the boy could see, “This Black man is doing something powerful!... This is about Black people and how we are perceived.”


Dorothy Brown came across as passionate and energized. There was something not quite right about the modulation for me. Maybe it was too much, too much of the time. Her supporters were about as numerous and loud as Stroger's.

Davis appeared to be the elder statesman. The moderator, Kelley, helped by being most deferential to Davis. He could connect with the audience without theatrics. Davis was often smiling knowingly as other candidates spoke in a way that made Davis seem like he was watching little leaguers learn the game of politics.

While having her ideas organized and giving details was her strength, the style of her presentation was her weakness. Toward the end Preckwinkle's forehead was furrowed. It might have been the light pointing too directly at her face. But it was easy to get the impression she was scowling because she was frustrated. Was she frustrated with Kelly, who treated the male candidates better? Was she frustrated with the audience that seemed to be more interested in style than substance? Was she frustrated that her campaign didn't muster more people for the audience? Maybe it was just the light.

Stroger has gotten more effective on the campaign trail than he was four years ago. Four years ago he appeared amiable, if a bit hapless. At the Malcolm X forum he was indignant at be treated disrespectfully by the major media outlets. Stroger used emotion and used details to make his case. Stroger failed to state a vision for the future, but when he said he was on the side of the people he said it with conviction.

Points about county government:

Cook County government spends about $3 billion per year, of which about $882 million go to the hospital, according to Preckwinkle.
Between 2005-07 Cook County forfeited $139 million of Medicaid payments for failing to apply in accordance with federal procedure according to Preckwinkle.
Dorothy Brown was the only candidate that drew attention to the patient intake system. Patients are expected to arrive at 5 AM; the hospital stops allowing patients to get in line at 7 AM. As Brown noted, this kinda sucks if you're sick and there is inclement weather.
Preckwinkle noted Cook County is “in trouble with the federal government for overcrowding” at the jail.

Criticisms of Stroger:

In response to complaining about media coverage, Preckwinkle noted that part of the president's job is to manage relations with the media.

Brown chided Stroger about the forums organized by Cook County government to advise homeowners about mortgage and foreclosure issues. Stroger said the program was an example of Cook County government serving its citizens. Brown countered that the county spent money on something that a foundation (she mentioned the name) would have done for free.
At this point, Kelley made it the clearest that some candidates were more equal than others. Kelley modified the format to allow Stroger to respond. Stroger denied spending money. Brown said he did. Stroger said it was federal money to deal with mortgage issues. Brown countered that the money could have been spent helping people if the forums would have been done for free.
I liked how Brown handled Kelley modifying the rules to help Stroger. Brown simply said her piece and kept talking when Kelly tried to give Stroger the last word. Brown didn't complain Kelly was putting his thumb on the scale, she just took control of the situation.

Other coverage:

Progress Illinois (Adam Doster)

I didn't see coverage in the Trib, Defender or Sun-Times.

[UPDATE: I asked the National Association of Community Health Centers about Davis' experience. This is the email response I received:
Rep. Davis was instrumental in helping to start the National Association of Community Health Centers and served as President before getting elected to Congress. He is also a former employee, board member and patient of two health centers and a long time friend of the Community Health Center Movement. Health centers were started as part of President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty and today they serve 20 million people, nearly 40 percent of whom are uninsured. Congressman Davis has championed for their support and expansion as a Member of Congress, which is why he is a repeat winner of NACHC’s Health Center Champion Award.

[end UPDATE]

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  • Hope to post more later.

    By Blogger Carl Nyberg, at 3:43 PM, August 28, 2009  

  • Very good! What Stroger has going for him is the Southside Machine. Cliff Kelley is a Stroger supporter. His bias shows every week when Stroger appears on his show and is not asked a single tough question.

    By Blogger James Manning, at 4:23 PM, August 28, 2009  

  • Toni Preckwinkle was the only candidate I'm impressed with. She was very clear and precise. Also shows great leadership even under pressure. And stuck to the facts as it relates to Cook County Government.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:58 PM, August 28, 2009  

  • I was there and Brown was lying, Danny was cool, Preckwinkle was cluseless and Stroger made his points
    The major newspapers did not cover this event, which proves Strogers and all black officials point..Are we not worthy of the covarge for our leaders. Mr. Manning what "tough" questions are you referring too?, because they are thrown at the President everyday.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:01 AM, August 29, 2009  

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