Boykin vs. Preckwinkle

Opinion: Editorials

Tuesday, August 8th, 2017 2:30 PM

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In a county government that has had little to recommend it to citizens over the decades — taxes too much, innovates not at all — we are enthusiastic about both Toni Preckwinkle, the county board president, and Richard Boykin, our 1st District commissioner.

Too bad they hate each other.

And may wind up running against each other for county board president in 2018.

Boykin confirmed to the Journal this week that he is actively considering a race against Preckwinkle though we kind of figured it out owing to his full-bore attack on Preckwinkle and the hefty sales tax she has worked to impose on sugary drinks in the county.

Boykin told us he is waiting for a third-party poll in the fall to tell him if he would be credible in a run against Preckwinkle. Perhaps the poll released this week by a beverage industry group showing that 87 percent of county residents oppose the tax is the only poll he needs.

If you support ramped up taxes on tobacco and liquor, and we do, then taxing soft drinks is not much a philosophical leap. If you run a public health system where resources are gobbled up treating obesity and diabetes, then taxing sugar drinks is logical.

We have always found Preckwinkle to be unusually candid and effective in confronting the confounding issues county government handles — mainly public health and criminal justice. She has been resolute in improving the physical and mental health care provided by Stroger Hospital in a time of colossal uncertainty in health care. She has been laser focused on the vast inequities of what passes for criminal justice in this county. She speaks plainly about the profound racism built into the courts and County Jail and the impact it has on our struggling communities of color. 

Boykin, now three years into his term as our commissioner, earns respect for his visibility and outspokenness on critical issues of gun violence and mis-investment in West Side neighborhoods. Lots of money for incarceration, little for job creation. Inevitably we compare Boykin’s activism to the total invisibility of his now pensioned-off predecessor, Earleen Collins.

We see in Boykin vitality. We know some see over-the-top grandstanding.

No doubt Boykin is ambitious politically. Within a year of earning county office he made noise for months about running for the U.S. Senate. He has been considered, rightly or not, to be the heir apparent to Cong. Danny Davis when he eventually succumbs. And now, potentially, the race for county prez.  

In a county government that has historically distinguished itself for self-dealing, Preckwinkle and Boykin are legitimate and rare change agents. In a city and county short on African American leadership they are, in contrasting styles, genuine leaders. But the antagonism they feel toward each other is longstanding and palpable if they are in the same room. 

We would not like to see them destroy each other in a political wrangle.

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