Reducing the number of Cook County board meetings by six next year did not reduce the amount of debate between commissioners at Wednesday’s board meeting.
“There are almost 2,000 square miles of the county, and this gives people the chance to come and make their case whether or not we agree with them, This is what we’re here for.” said Bridget Gainer, Cook County Commissioner for the 10th district, who voted against reducing the meetings from 17.
County Board President Toni Preckwinkle sponsored the measure, which requires the board to meet once a month in 2014, as opposed to every three weeks.
“I served on the city council for 19 years, and we had monthly meetings and that seemed to be sufficient,” Preckwinkle said at a press conference following the meeting. “It doesn’t save any money, but it’s a more efficient use of commissioners’ time.”
Six commissioners voted against the change, and 10 approved it as the first measure brought up during the 43-item agenda at the County Board building, 118 N. Clark St.
In addition to the schedule change, the board also increased the number of disaster centers in Cook County, approved new transportation and highway construction, and approved a new employee evaluation system for the University of Illinois.
Yet, it was the schedule change which was hotly debated for about 20 minutes of the three-hour meeting.
Gainer said in light of all the struggles occurring in the state, such as pension reform and the overcrowding of Cook County Department of Corrections, the commissioners should not be reducing their workload.
First District Commissioner Earlean Collins said reducing the meetings would send the wrong message to constituents.
“Most of the public doesn’t even understand the number of hours that many of us put into our work,” Collins said. “The public will perceive (it’s a part-time job) and you’re just adding to the fact if you reduce the number of days.”
John Daley, 11th District commissioner, said he approved the reduction because it will allow commissioners to be more involved in his or her districts.
“Members on this board do have their district office and work out of their district office,” Daley said.
Preckwinkle was not worried about the reduction. She said that board meetings typically last three hours, and she will definitely be able to find a way to fill her time.
Story by: Alexis Castanos, Kenny Ristich, Maria Castellucci and Jasmine Smith