Our view: Reform makes advances in Cook Co. gov’t
SouthtownStar editorial February 11, 2013 10:22PM
Updated: March 13, 2013 6:24AM
Something happened last week that we could not have imagined when George Dunne and Stroger the Elder and the Younger were running the Cook County Forest Preserve District during most of the past half century.
A U.S. magistrate declared the district largely free of political patronage, releasing it from a 2009 federal consent decree. That order was the latest in a series that aimed to prevent the illegal patronage hiring that has existed for decades in the district.
He found that the district had achieved “substantial compliance” with the decree’s requirements and dismissed a court-appointed administrator who oversaw hiring, firing and promotions and helped create new policies for those areas.
The judge’s decision is good news for taxpayers because the forest preserve district has spent many millions of dollars ($4.7 million since 2009) in the protracted legal fight to reduce, if not eliminate, hiring and firing based on political connections rather than merit. We hope that money is now better used for maintaining the preserves and improving programs.
The ruling also is another accomplishment for Toni Preckwinkle, the county board president for the past two years, who ran for the post as a reformer and continues to impress with her commitment toward that goal. Preckwinkle welcomed the removal of the decree — noting various actions that her administration has taken to combat patronage, including adopting an employee evaluation system, setting specific job descriptions and implementing an online-only job application process.
She acknowledged that the forest preserve district was a “dumping ground” for political patronage for many years, which was unfair to qualified applicants “who never had the chance to interview” for jobs and to “hardworking employees who were denied promotions.”
The challenge for Preckwinkle is to make sure there’s no slippage back to the old days now that the court-appointed manager is gone. We hope her dedication to that is equal to her effort to be free of the decree.