An Open Letter to the Voters of Cook County:
The Cook County Soda Tax is the latest monumental failure of leadership by the politically embattled Preckwinkle regime. 90% of citizens disapprove of it, merchants don’t know how to implement it, class action litigation has already been filed, and residents are beginning to simply purchase the same beverages in neighboring counties to avoid the exorbitant soda tax (on top of the staggering sales tax). Instead of discussing those self-evident failures, I write with a focus on Toni Preckwinkle’s failures as a leader and politician through the process.
Failure #1: Oops! My team and I failed to do any real work to research and read about soda taxes before rushing to propose the tax.No one in the Preckwinkle regime, including the president herself, was willing to do the hard work: to sit with the tax idea, to research the legality, to review the wording in other similar ordinances, to bang out a 50-page implementation guide to help merchants, to seek expert counsel, or hell- even just to Google “soda tax” and review the results on the first page that address constitutional issues related to soda taxes. Who let the President out of her office and into a board of commissioners meeting to propose an ordinance without quadruple checking the legality, practicality, logistics, and operations behind the proposed ordinance? Who advised that it was acceptable to count on revenue not collected when budgeting for the upcoming year? Every single person on her legal and administrative team should be laid off for incompetence and/or laziness. In the real world, that would be the result- failure to conduct even rudimentary due diligence, and the resulting cataclysmic failure, would lead to termination. Why aren’t heads rolling? Preckwinkle has cycled through dozens of people in the past two years- she’s pushed out tons of chiefs of staff, chiefs of human resources, general administrators, and members of those teams. Interesting that demonstrated, remarkable incompetence is never a reason to usher someone out the door if they’re a political appointee.
Failure #2: Now I’m mad, and am going to retaliate. Just kidding- I’ll withdraw the lawsuit because of the uprising. Within only days of eventual implementation, local area stores like 7-11 and Walgreens were confused, scrambling to implement the obtuse ordinance, and already facing dozens of class action lawsuits and threats. The people and the merchants spoke- by filing a lawsuit. The judge delayed the implementation of the tax while the legal system processed the challenge. The people lost (for now), and then Toni Preckwinkle threw another temper tantrum and reared her ugly Machiavellian fist once more. She borrowed a page from President Trump, and went directly after the citizens who challenged her regime’s tax in the court of law. She filed a complaint seeking $17 million in damages. This retaliation carried a clear message: don’t ever dare challenge Preckwinkle’s regime. The judge who heard the lawsuit was also alarmed, and condemned the dubious lawsuit for being both inappropriate and chilling, as well as out of line with current law permitting citizens to challenge their governments. The judge’s remarks, along with an unrelenting barrage of attacks from citizens and media, forced Preckwinkle to withdraw her ill-conceived lawsuit.
Again, who is advising her and why haven’t they been fired? It’s not even marginally possible that she would have won her lawsuit attacking people’s right to challenge their governments. Even non-lawyers know that. The taxpayers have to fund the salaries of the attorneys who drafted Toni Preckwinkle’s retaliatory, knee-jerk lawsuit that she then withdrew. The people’s hard-earned money needs to go to actual pursuits to improve life for the people of Cook County- not to fund frivolous retaliatory strike suits against citizens who dare rise up against the almighty regime.
Failure #3: Whoops- the federal government is in charge, not me. Forgot to research that too. Now, the federal government has confirmed that the soda tax will jeopardize $87 million in food stamp revenue. This would not be happening if the Preckwinkle regime actually did the work to issue clear implementation instructions that did not violate federal food stamp exemptions with a bubblegum and band-aid “workaround.” (see Failure #1- laziness and incompetence)
Failure #4: I’m not apologizing. But please vote for me this term- I’m running again! Preckwinkle needs to make this right. Apologizing is a good start- for abjectly failing to put the people first. For wasting a massive amount of the people’s money and time on passing an illegal and disruptive ordinance and a frivolous strike suit. For failure to make smart cuts, and stand up to unreasonable union demands. For refusing to put the people first when she refused to implement needed layoffs of antiquated and non-productive patronage positions to cushion the union vote for her third term. For disenfranchising the people who voted for her by forsaking her campaign promises. For choosing to tax instead of run a leaner, smarter, more productive government. For buckling to demands for perpetual raises by unions and never once imposing a wage freeze as would happen in the real world if a company couldn’t afford to offer a raise. For abjectly failing to control overtime costs. For not holding her team accountable to do their jobs. For attacking instead of protecting the people who pay her salary.
Let’s all watch closely to see where this money goes. My bet is right into unions’ pockets via raises and retroactive wage payments. No new services, or better government, will emerge from the soda tax. But happy unions will- and therefore voters for her third term. But that’s not enough if the true power of the people is seen on voting day. Show up and vote for anyone else- literally anyone.
Toni Preckwinkle is not entitled to our vote. She needs to earn it. And right now, she hasn’t. The people deserve so much better. No wonder our violence is increasing, our services to citizens are decreasing, people are fleeing our County, and taxes are steadily increasing. That progression won’t stop if we, as citizens, don’t act. We cannot let staggering incompetence continue to be a hallmark of Cook County government. Hold her accountable. Require her to put you first. Make her earn your vote.
-Don’tSueMeTP123 (writing under a pen name since I don’t have $17mill to pay the frivolous lawsuit I might attract by writing this opinion...)