With a hastily released statement and a suspension of the rules, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Commissioner Peter Silvestri’s attempt to strip Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court Dorothy Brown of her position went down in flames. Community activists, Black businessmen, and seniors descended on the May 11, 2016 Cook County Board meeting to let the Cook County Board of Commissioners exactly how they felt about Silvestri’s resolution.
The meeting attendees were vociferous in their opposition to any attempts to disenfranchise Black voters in Cook County. The resolution, sponsored by Elmwood Park Republican Commissioner Peter Silvestri,was billed as a cost cutting measure, not meant directly to target Clerk Brown. Commissioners who asked to remain off the record acknowledged that Silvestri was acting at the behest of County Board President Preckwinkle, who has made no secret of her disdain of Clerk Brown, even going as far as having her removed from the Democratic Party slate of endorsed candidates. Observers in the audience labeled the attack petty, as some even began whispering, “Toni Pettywinkle.”
The tension continued to mount prior to the vote and it was apparent that many of the Commissioner were nervous about taking such a the vote. Shortly afterwards, Reverend Leslie Sanders, community outreach specialists delivered a hastily worded statement placing responsibility for the resolution in the hands of the Chief Judge Timothy Evans and Commissioner Silvestri. The statement read as such:
The proposal that the Chief Judge appoint the Clerk of the Circuit Court was initiated by Commissioner Silvestri, and not by my office. I was not informed in advance of Commissioner Silvestri’s intention to introduce this resolution. I am neither endorsing nor promoting it, and I met with and informed Circuit Court Clerk Brown of my position. The resolution will go to a Board committee for discussion and, in any case, this is not a change the County Board could implement on its own, but rather would need approval from the state Legislature.
Community leaders refused to accept the statement and demanded that “Pettywinkle” as they referred to her, oppose the resolution. After the statement was distributed, the crowd became even more unsettled and became raucous, as Dorothy Brown sat quietly watching the who thing unfold.
When Preckwinkle took the podium she gave the floor to Cook County Commissioner John Daley, who immediately moved to suspended the rules, at which point (click to watch video) Silvestri announced that he was holding the resolution in committee, at which point the crowd erupted with applause. Cook County Board Commissioners, who often operate in anonymity were put on notice that they would be receiving the same scrutiny as the Chicago City Council, as shouts of “What’s in it for the Black People?” rang out from the audience.
Coincidentally, on the same day, the Cook County Board also passed a $375 million dollar bond deal to finance the redevelopment of the old Cook County Hospital. Considering the County is using the same Black contractors who have been accused of leaving the Black community out the last time the County Hospital was rebuilt, that scrutiny is warranted and will be intense. Just listening to the audience, it does not appear that Target Group and Rite-Way Construction will be enough to satisfactorily answer the question, “What’s in it for the Black People?”
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