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Emanuel, Preckwinkle tout $20 million saved in city-county partnership

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle Mayor Rahm Emanuel City-County Collaboratisummit earlier this year.  | John H. White~Chicago Sun-Times.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Mayor Rahm Emanuel at a City-County Collaboration summit earlier this year. | John H. White~Chicago Sun-Times.

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Updated: February 7, 2012 8:28PM



Chicago and Cook County will save $20.5 million this year by joining forces on everything from elections, some purchasing and revenue collection to custodial services and workforce development, but the next round of cuts will be tougher, officials said Tuesday.

“It is easy to migrate back to your respective silos and not cooperate, not collaborate and not coordinate. [But], the goal is not to spike the ball on the 30-yard line and say, ‘We’ve got $20 million.’ We have much more work to get done, much more culture to break down,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said.

“The next set of $20 million is gonna be harder. And we have to be all the smarter, all the more effective, all the more disciplined in achieving these savings. ... So, work well done. Job not done yet. We have more to go.”

Eight months ago, Emanuel and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle embraced a report they commissioned identifying the potential for $140 million in annual savings.

On Tuesday, they got together again and took a bow for getting nearly 15 percent of the way there.

They either have or will deliver $20.5 million in savings this year with such common sense ideas as negotiating together with AT&T to leverage their purchasing power to get a better price; joining forces on cigarette stamp ticketing and tax audits and by putting “holds” on business licenses to companies that owe the city or county money.

Two years ago, a mayoral commission co-chaired by one of Emanuel’s transition team quarterbacks recommended that the city transfer control over city elections to County Clerk David Orr. The group also recommended that the county assume responsibility for overflow patients at city health clinics.

The June report also recommended the election merger to save $10 million a year. But, the consolidation can only be accomplished if the Illinois General Assembly authorizes it. That’s something Emanuel has said he is committed to seeking, but may take time, which is why he’s counting on only $4.3 million in election savings by the end of this year.

The savings will come from: combining some city and county polling places; merging information technology, procurement and other back-office administrative functions and by collaborating on election judge training and temporary staffing.

The city has also agreed to follow the county’s lead by discontinuing the practice of paying for hotel rooms so election judges can spend the night before elections.

The health care consolidation has the biggest potential for savings, but it’s even more complicated.

That’s why the city and county have agreed to collaborate immediately on pharmacy services, mammography and a pilot neighborhood health clinic while continuing to study a much broader consolidation of city and county health clinics.

Does that mean a city-county merger of health care services is dead?

“Well, we run a series of clinics. We run hospitals. We have our flagship hospital, Stroger Hospital, and we have a County Department of Health. We’re gonna continue to operate all three parts of our health care system,” Preckwinkle said.

Emanuel noted that his first budget calls for consolidating 12 mental health clinics into six and having seven primary care health clinics partner with federally-qualified health centers by mid-year.

“We’re gonna continue to look in the area of health care for other places to find savings. And when we can do it together more efficiently and more effectively and with greater savings, we’ll do it,” the mayor said.



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