Preckwinkle names health board members, announces bank program
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, backed by bankers and her staff, announces a small business financing initiative she is working on with area banks. The $200 million partnership with lenders is designed to help small, minority and women-owned businesses. (Heather Charles, Chicago Tribune / June 13, 2012)
At the Health and Hospitals System board, Preckwinkle chose not to re-appoint Warren Batts, who has been chairman of the board since it was created in 2008 to remove politics from the financially troubled system.
She also chose not to re-appoint Dr. David Ansell, chief medical officer at Rush University Medical Center. Meanwhile, onetime health system chief Ruth Rothstein did not seek re-appointment, and Sister Sheila Lyne, CEO of Mercy Hospital and Medical Center, is resigning her post a year early.
Batts and Preckwinkle differed last year over whom to appoint as CEO for the health system that accounts for nearly one third of the county’s $3 billion in yearly spending.
Batts and his board allies won out when Dr. Ramanathan Raju, who was an executive at New York City’s public health system, replaced interim CEO Terry Mason, a previous city of Chicago health commissionerbacked by Preckwinkle.
Preckwinkle “feels the best path forward is through continued new ideas and diverse opinions, and she wants to make sure the board reflects that,” spokeswoman Liane Jackson said, while also praising the service of Batts and Ansel. Batts was unavailable for comment.
To replace the three board members whose terms are ending, Preckwinkle chose Carmen Velasquez, executive director of the Alivio Medical Center and a Latino activist; Rev. Calvin Morris, executive director of the Community Renewal Society, a 130-year-old social and economic justice organization; and Dorene Wiese, president of the American Indian Association of Illinois.
To replace Lyne, she’s appointing Edward Michael, executive vice president of diagnostics at Abbott Laboratories. All of the appointments require approval of the 17-member County Board.
Preckwinkle on Wednesday also took steps to boost the county’s effort to give 24 percent of contracts to minority-owned firms and 10 percent to women-owned firms, something that often didn’t happen under her predecessors.
That, she said, could ensure $200 million went to small, minority and women-owned businesses during the next three to five years.
Standing alongside representatives from nine banks, she said the banks had agreed to work closely with the firms to make sure they had sufficient funding to take on the county contracts.
Banks signed on, in part, because Preckwinkle has taken steps to signficantly speed up county payments to the contractors, she said.
“This initiative will elminate many of the barrriers that prevented small businesses in Cook County from having a seat at the table, and that means more opportunity, more jobs and a stronger local economy,” Preckwinkle said.