It wasn't long ago when Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle was the darling of the Democratic Party. Some even saw her as a possible rival to Rahm Emanuel in the next mayoral election.
Then she came up with the despised (although not by me) soda tax, and suddenly she's the gunk left on the string after you floss your teeth.
But I love Toni Preckwinkle. Is she perfect? No. But she certainly hasn't gotten into the kind of doo-doo many of our elected officials have.
Here are seven reasons why I'm professing my love for her, along with a heart-shaped leaf I found on the North Branch Bike Trail, a metaphor for my feelings about Toni Preckwinkle.
1. As you'll soon see, most of my love for Toni Preckwinkle has to do with how the Cook County Forest Preserves have been handled under her watch.
Toni appears to have reverence for the Forest Preserves just as I do. Judging by the shabby condition of the grounds before Toni was elected, past Cook County Board presidents didn't seem to put it high on their agendas.
2. I love the way she's kept up the North Branch Bike Trail, a paved path which winds its way past towering trees and wildflower prairies for 16 miles from Chicago's northwest side to the Chicago Botanical Garden in Glencoe.
Nothing takes me away from my everyday trials and tribulations like a bicycle ride down this trail.
3. Under Toni's watch, the Forest Preserves have become more user-friendly. Right now there's a fun contest going on in which you can win cool prizes just by sticking your head through a "postcard" found along the bike path, snapping a photo and posting it on social media. Here's our entry.
Plus, there are tons of other things you can do in the Cook County Forest Preserves. You can go hiking, canoeing, fishing, birding, golfing, horseback riding, and now you (not me!) can even go zip-lining.
Under Toni, they've renovated existing campgrounds and built new facilities. You can learn more about all of this stuff on the Cook County Forest Preserves very informative website.
Perhaps, even more important, the bathrooms are clean--not dark, dirty, dank, scary hell holes as they often were before Toni became Cook County Board President.
4. It's what you don't see that I love about the Cook County Forest Preserves' signs such as the one below: Tony Preckwinkle's name is NOT there! I remember when new Cook County Board Presidents had their names plastered all over these signs as soon as they were elected.
It's hard to read, but the sign below has John Stroger Jr.'s name on it on the bottom right. It had George Dunne's name on it before that.
After Stroger Jr. died, the Board of Commissioners barred future Cook County Board presidents from putting their names on the signs, but Stroger's son Todd managed to get his name on other public works signs.
The practice of putting Board presidents names on Cook County Forest Preserves' signs has long irked me because:
A. The Forest Preserves belong to the people. Besides, there's no reason why taxpayers should pay for unnecessary paint jobs.
B. Cook County Board presidents should not use the Forest Preserves as their own personal, public relations/advertising tools.
Remember this sign on the Tollway? It has nothing to do with Toni Preckwinkle, but this is the kind of thing that went on in Illinois (and I imagine still does) that drove me nuts.
5. Though she is not my friend, I met Toni Preckwinkle decades ago, before she even ran for alderman. We met over corned beef. I used to slice it for her at Mr. G's Finer Foods, my family's former Hyde Park supermarket.
I love that she has never done me any favors, nor has she done so for anyone else I know. And I know people who have asked.
6. I love that after she was elected, and my town (Palatine) threatened to secede from Cook County, Preckwinkle showed up at a village council meeting. Even though some of the citizens came ready for a fight, most of them went away mighty impressed after Toni calmly and intelligently explained her positions.
7. I love Toni Preckwinkle's no-nonsense demeanor. Her thoughtful, pragmatic persona. I love her natural hairdo. Her pearls. And her neat, clean, non-fashionista approach to dressing. No Prada, Ralph Lauren, Tory Burch or Versace for Toni P. and that's fine by me.
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