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Preckwinkle Reflects On 1st 100 Days In Office

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Toni Preckwinkle chairs her first Cook County Board meeting

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle chairs her first Cook County board meeting on Dec. 14, 2010 (Credit: CBS)

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UPDATED 03/17/11 8:16 a.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) – It hardly seems like it, but Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle has been in office for 100 days, and on Wednesday, she issued a 100-day county report card.

As CBS 2’s Walter Jacobson reports, the report card touts her achievements, but says there are still plenty of hurdles ahead.

WBBM Newsradio 780’s John Cody reports Preckwinkle said the biggest challenge she has faced so far has been balancing Cook County’s $3 billion budget.

That was despite the board also signing off on Preckwinkle’s two-year plan to roll back the remaining half of a controversial penny-on-the-dollar sales tax hike that was blamed for a voter backlash that cost Preckwinkle’s predecessor, Todd Stroger, his job.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s John Cody Reports

Preckwinkle said the job has been hard, as she’d expected, but she said that doesn’t explain Stroger’s performance during his four years in office.

“The question is what are we going to do over the longer term, and in my view, we have to make county government more efficient. We have to figure out how to provide good services to people, with fewer resources,” Preckwinkle said.

Preckwinkle said she still needs to restructure Cook County employee pay scales so staffers pick up more of the cost of their pension and health care benefits. She said that, due to very effective union representation, county employee wages and benefits are larger than necessary and unaffordable.

She also says she has been so focused on the budget that she hasn’t had time to fill many of the key positions in her government.

She also said she’s proud of her accomplishments so far, but the former teacher declined to put a letter grade on her own performance during her first 100 days in office, saying it’s not up to her to grade herself.

But what do the experts say? Better Government Association executive director Andy Shaw weighed in.

“She has, overall, been a breath of fresh air in the fetid swamp that we call Cook County government,” Shaw said. “What she’s done that’s been remarkable is force the budget cutting across the board that she promised. She had some tough fights with Tom Dart and others over whether those budgets could be cut, and at the end of the day, they cut deals and they compromised, and budgets got cut. So in that sense, the ability to cut the budgets and to pass a phase-out of the sales tax has been a major accomplishment.”

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