Friday, January 13, 2012

Praise for Preckwinkle? Why not!

It’s not everyday that I feel compelled to offer up some praise for a political official.
PRECKWINKLE: A pat on the back

Usually, whenever one of them does the proper thing, it is more by default. They get shamed into it, rather than any sense of benefitting the public good.

BECAUSE SELF-PRESERVATION IS usually the top priority of elected officials – which I understand. You can’t do anything positive if you’re not in office to begin with.

So it is with a sense of shock and surprise that I must admit to thinking a little more highly of Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle now than I did, say, 24 hours earlier.

What caught my attention was the fact that Preckwinkle felt compelled to hold a press conference on Thursday to address an issue that I would have bet any amount of money she would have kept quiet about.

The issue is the new county policy by which Cook County Jail officials do not feel compelled to place a call to the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement every time they get an inmate whose immigration status is questionable.

MANY COUNTIES DO just that. And the end result is a bureaucratic mess that we all ought to be ashamed of, but of which only Cook County seems to.

What happens in those other places is that those inmates often get a “hold” put on them, which means they can be kept in the county jail after they post bond. Or in some cases, even after they manage to resolve the charges that they were facing that caused them to be held in the county jail to begin with.

We can literally have people found “not guilty” of an offense who still get incarcerated because of the bureaucratic bloat that is our national immigration policy.

That caused Preckwinkle and the county board last year to say “no more.” Which is now being used against them by the conservative ideologues who are taking up the case of a Mexican citizen who was briefly held at the Cook County jail on charges that he was driving drunk and caused an auto crash that killed a man.

A JUDGE SET his bond at $250,000 for the charges, and his family managed to come up with the 10 percent required to get him out of jail while the charges are pending.

But what has some people all upset is the fact that the man has since disappeared, and there is evidence that he fled the country. He’s back in Mexico.

Which has the ideologues claiming that he’d still be incarcerated if “Immigration” had been allowed to put a hold on him like they do with people in other counties who face the possibility of deportation.

Preckwinkle on Thursday said there will be a study this year on how bail is set in the county courts, and that there might need to be an improvement in the amount of information that judges are given about cases when they set bond.

BUT SHE’S NOT giving in to the ideological rhetoric that claims the county screwed up by implementing its policy – which basically says it won’t cooperate with a flawed federal policy.

“This type of fear-mongering is distasteful, and has no place in the public policy arena,” Preckwinkle told reporter-types at her press conference, adding that the true problem here is that perhaps the bond should have been set higher – or maybe denied altogether.

Which, to me, sounds so incredibly logical. But with the ideologues screaming for her head, I would have thought for sure she’d keep quiet and hope the issue would eventually fade away.

Instead, she’s taking this issue head-on, and refusing to be intimidated by rancid rhetoric.

WHICH IS WHY I’ll give her a pat on the back for now, along with this bit of praise. It is nice to see a political person with a backbone, and I will think more highly of her for it.

At least until her next gaffe. Because invariably, every politician commits a real screw-up at some point in their electoral lives.


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