Cook Co. board pres. candidates to debate on ABC7

January 7, 2010 4:59:52 PM PST
ABC7 is hosting the first of six debates before the February 2nd primary. The Democratic candidates for Cook County board president will face off on Thursday night.On live TV and Internet, more people will see and hear the four candidates together than during any other half hour during the campaign. Mostly they agree on what makes good government. But they disagree on whether or how to rollback what's left of the 2008 increase in the county sales tax.

"We should strategically roll back the sales tax, but as we strategically roll it back we need to make sure that we're replacing it with additional revenue," said Dorothy Brown, (D) Cook Co. board president candidate.

Attorney, MBA and certified public accountant Dorothy Brown was elected to her first of three terms as circuit clerk in 2000. She manages an annual budget of over $100,000 million and a workforce over 2300 employees.

Terrence O'Brien was first in the race to hit the airwaves with a TV ad. The 53-year-old has been a board member at the metropolitan water reclamation district for over two decades and its president for the past 13 years. He wants to repeal the remaining half-penny of the sale tax increase.

"This sales tax is chasing commercial and industrial entities, which is a strong tax base for any community, right out of the county," said O'Brien.

Fourth Ward Chicago Alderman Toni Preckwinkle is a former teacher with a University of Chicago master's degree. She serves on the council rules, ethics, energy and finance committees. If elected, she promises to rollback the remaining half-penny increase gradually.

"I say incrementally because you have to take down expenses at the same time you're reducing revenue," said Preckwinkle. "It's very hard on working families that we have the highest sales taxes in the country."

Incumbent county board president Todd Stroger is trying to hold on to the job his late father, John, held for three terms before suffering a stroke ten days before the 2006 democratic primary. Thanks to the sales tax, county government has weathered the current economic storm better than its state and city counterparts. And on the corruption front, Stroger's government has been free of any federal indictments. He fought unsuccessfully to keep the entire sales tax increase in place and supports the remaining half-cent to avoid major cuts in the public healthcare system.

"We're talking about a universal health care system here," said Stroger. "That sales tax represents nearly a million visits through the hospital system."