Is a soda tax hike revival on Toni Preckwinkle’s agenda?

Is a soda tax hike revival on Toni Preckwinkle’s agenda?

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Is a soda tax hike revival on Toni Preckwinkle’s agenda?

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle took office with a promising future as an elected official concerned about all of the taxpayers. Instead, she broke her key campaign promises, accused critics of being “too personal,” and is trying to punish critics of her political hypocrisy, including taxpayer rights advocates like Cook County Commissioner Sean Morrison. Preckwinkle is even rumored to be considering reintroducing her one cent per ounce soda tax, now that she has won re-nomination

By Ray Hanania

If Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle had not done an about-face on the issue of the sales tax hike, things might be different.

But it was Preckwinkle who denounced President Todd Stroger for introducing the controversial One Percent Sales Tax hike. She used her promise to repeal it as the foundation for her bid to challenge him in the 2010 Democratic Primary election. She won in the primary and then went on to win the General Election for Cook County Board President in November 2010.

A critic of the Stroger Sales Tax Hike, I thought wow, finally, a great county leader. Toni Preckwinkle might just be that honest leader Cook County needed, not only to crack down on wasteful spending and rein-in excessive taxation but to also treat suburbanites as equals. For years, Cook County has been controlled by Chicago and most of the hard-earned taxes paid by suburbanites have been used by Chicago politicians to shore up their failed services and fill gaps caused by wasteful spending and corruption.

Liz Gorman, Gov. Bruce Rauner, Sean Morrison

Sadly, it didn’t take long for Preckwinkle to break her promise, and in 2015, she reintroduced her own sales tax hike. It was a complete betrayal of the taxpayers, the most brazen, arrogant, and hypocritical act by a government official I have ever seen in 45 years of writing about Chicagoland politics. And I’ve seen some doozies.

The sales tax slammed suburban middle-class families the most. Chicago, with the help of Cook County, continually tries to make suburbanites pay for their failings at every level of government from schools to CTA transportation.

Politicians in Chicago and Cook County scheme to put the heaviest tax burden on the suburbs to shore up their own pensions, salary hikes, and endless perqs.

After breaking her campaign promise, Preckwinkle decided to pile it on the suburbs, introducing the notorious one-cent per ounce tax on sweetened drinks and soda pop, including on the unsweetened “Diet” drinks.

Poor planning kept the soda tax in the headlines after Preckwinkle was forced to cast a tie-breaking vote. That gave suburban Cook County Commissioner Sean Morrison, and a few allies the opportunity to rally opposition for a repeal.

A centrist Republican from the 17th District modeled after his highly successful and popular anti-tax predecessor Commissioner Elizabeth “Liz” Doody-Gorman, Morrison beat Preckwinkle convincing all but one commissioner who voted for the tax to repeal it.

Grocery store sign informing customers in suburban Cook County that the Toni Preckwinkle tax hike on sweetened drinks (Soda) has been delayed because of a court challenge. Photo courtesy of Ray Hanania

Grocery store sign informing customers in suburban Cook County that the Toni Preckwinkle tax hike on sweetened drinks (Soda) has been delayed because of a court challenge. Photo courtesy of Ray Hanania

In fact, had it not been for Morrison’s leadership, the soda tax would still be in place today further burdening the taxpayers, mostly those living int he abandoned suburban communities.

Despite the backlash against the soda tax, Preckwinkle relied on the Chicago Machine to shove her re-election down the throats of county voters, winning the March 2018 Democratic primary and defeating weak but noble challenger Bob Fioretti. Suburban voters were happy the soda tax had been repealed and they couldn’t sustain their anger to last through the election, much to Preckwinkle’s personal fortune.

But Preckwinkle couldn’t forget those who challenged her authoritarian rule. Angered by the slap in her political face over the soda tax defeat, Preckwinkle launched a vindictive campaign to punish all her foes, succeeding in unseating several commissioners in the last election including John Fritchey, a leading anti-tax champion.

(Ironically, Fritchey is the only Arab American to hold countywide office and his defeat went unnoticed by Arab American activists who have been compromised into silence by grants and political favors given to them by Preckwinkle and by other Cook County Offices. There is a racism in the Arab American community, sometimes, when it comes to Christian Arabs and to Arabs who are not Palestinian. Fritchey is a Vietnam Veteran and his mother is Moroccan.)

Besieged Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle

Besieged Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle

Now, Preckwinkle is pulling all the stops to unseat Morrison. Because once Morrison is out of the way, Preckwinkle will have an open pathway to reintroduce the soda tax and increase taxes even more, after the November elections.

If Preckwinkle can just get rid of Sean Morrison in November, she’ll have an open road to reintroduce the one-cent per ounce soda tax, and other punitive tax measures. Nothing can stop her.

But that ain’t gonna happen. Morrison is more popular today than ever. A centrist representing moderate Republicans and commonsense Democrats, Morrison is the last bastion standing in the way of another unjustified and massive tax hike to slam the suburbs.

I read recently that California was considering a proposition to divide itself into three states (imagine a U.S. Flag with 52 stars?)

That’s what we need in Cook County, a real separation between the suburbs and the Chicago cesspool of Preckwinkle and Rahm Emanuel’s tax-hike driven policies.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Chicago. But, Cook County is too big (5.3 million people) and it is too much under the control of politicians in Chicago and Cook County. We need to separate them and give the suburbs control over their own lives.

It’s wrong for Chicago and Cook County to take money from the pockets of suburban taxpayers give them little to nothing in return, using the taxes almost exclusively to pay for services in the Chicago portion of Cook County.

Suburbanites in Cook County pay more taxes that residents living in Chicago and yet, according to Morrison, the bulk of the money is used for Chicago.

Re-electing Sean Morrison will put Preckwinkle’s tax-hike plans in check. Preckwinkle can deny the rumors all she wants, the same way she vowed to repeal the Stroger Sales Tax.

If Preckwinkle takes Morrison out, you might as well sign a blank check now and hand it over. The Preckwinkle Tax Catastrophe is on its way, and Sean Morrison may be the only person left standing to prevent it from happening.

(Ray Hanania is an award-winning columnist, author and former Chicago City Hall reporter. Reach him at his personal website at www.Hanania.com or email him at rghanania@gmail.com.)

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Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania is an award winning political and humor columnist who analyzes American and Middle East politics, and life in general. He is an author of several books.

"I write about three topics, the Middle East, politics and life in general. I often take my life experiences and offer them in an entertaining way to readers, and I take on the toughest topics like the Israel-Palestine conflict and don't pull any punches about what I feel is fair. But, my priority is always about writing the good story."

Hanania covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. Hanania began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East food stores in 48 American States (2004-2007).

Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com, and at www.TheArabDailyNews.com, www.TheDailyHookah.com and at SuburbanChicagoland.com. He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper, YNetNews.com, Newsday Newspaper in New York, the Orlando Sentinel Newspapers, and the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.

Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media. In 2009, Hanania received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.

His writings have also been honored by two national Awards from ADC for his writing, and from the National Arab American Journalists Association.

The managing editor of Suburban Chicagoland Online News website www.SuburbanChicagoland.com, Hanania's columns also appear in the Southwest News Newspaper Group of 8 newspapers.

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Ray Hanania