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UIC Urban Forum


2018 Keynote Speakers


Toni Preckwinkle

President, Cook County Board of Commissioners

Toni Preckwinkle is the 35th president of the Cook County Board of Commissioners, an office she has held since 2010. A dedicated and effective public servant, President Preckwinkle has worked tirelessly and collaboratively to reshape County government through increased fiscal responsibility, transparency and improved services.

As the top executive in Cook County, President Preckwinkle oversees one of the nation’s largest public health and hospitals systems and one of the nation’s largest criminal justice systems. President Preckwinkle is a lifelong advocate for equity and equality, and through her work as president, has fought to improve health care access, bring increased fairness to the criminal justice system and expand employment training opportunities for some of the County’s most disadvantaged youth.

Leveraging more than 30 years of political experience and leadership, President Preckwinkle has restored credibility to County government, solving for more than $2.1 billion in budget deficits, cutting $851 million in expenditures and passing balanced budgets each year of her tenure.

Through the President’s leadership, Cook County used the Affordable Care Act to create CountyCare, a managed care program for Medicaid-eligible residents which now has about 400,000 members.

President Preckwinkle is a nationally recognized leader in the drive to reduce unnecessary and costly incarceration of non-violent offenders in the criminal justice system. The pretrial population at the Cook County Jail has been reduced by more than 30 percent since she took office in 2010 and in 2017, the MacArthur Foundation awarded Cook County one of its highly competitive Safety and Justice grants in recognition of the County’s progress in criminal justice reform and to support its continued efforts.

At the same time President Preckwinkle has successfully fought for juvenile justice reform, reducing the number of children tried as adults and the population in the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center. She championed reform of expungement laws to ensure that juvenile records do not keep young people from productive adult lives. For her efforts, President Preckwinkle was honored in 2017 with the inaugural State Champion Award from the Shriver National Center on Poverty Law.

President Preckwinkle is also president of the Forest Preserves of Cook County the largest forest preserve districts in the country spanning 69,000 acres. Under her leadership, the Forest Preserves have been reborn as a public asset providing recreational, educational and ecological opportunities.

Before she was elected Cook County Board President, President Preckwinkle served 19 years as Alderman of the 4th Ward, building a reputation for progressive independence. She replaced failed public housing with viable mixed-income development that included the first housing built and marketed in North Kenwood and Oakland since World War II. She fought for a living wage, public education and against payday lending and gun violence. Prior to holding elected office, President Preckwinkle taught high school history for 10 years. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Chicago. She is the mother of two and the grandmother of three.


Richard Ravitch

Former New York State Lieutenant Governor - Closing Keynote

Richard Ravitch, a former New York State Lieutenant Governor, is a lawyer, businessman, author, and public official who has been engaged in the private and public sectors for more than 50 years.

He began his career in the construction business as a principal of the HRH Construction Corporation, where he was responsible, among other things, for supervising the development, financing and building of over 45,000 units of affordable housing in New York, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and other locations. In 1975, he was appointed by Governor Hugh Carey to serve as Chairman of the New York State Urban Development Corporation a financing and development agency with 30,000 dwelling units under construction, which had become insolvent and faced the first municipal bankruptcy since the 1930’s. Later in 1975 and during the following year Mr. Ravitch assisted New York City and State officials in resolving the City’s defaults.

In 1979, Mr. Ravitch was appointed Chairman and CEO of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, New York’s regional urban and suburban transportation system whose responsibilities include operation of the New York City subways and buses, the Long Island Rail Road, MetroNorth commuter lines, and the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority. Mr. Ravitch completely reorganized the MTA, developed a long-term capital plan and budget for a system- wide upgrading of operating equipment, roadbed and signal capabilities, and designed the financing plan for such improvements.

Following his MTA service, Mr. Ravitch led an effort to recapitalize The Bowery Savings Bank, once the nation’s largest mutual savings bank, involving its acquisition from FDIC by an investor group and his serving as Chairman and CEO. Subsequently, Mr. Ravitch was retained by the owners of the Major League Baseball clubs to serve as President of the Player Relations Committee to advise them on the creation of a revenue-sharing plan and proposal to the players.

In 1999, Congress created the Millennial Housing Commission to examine the federal government’s role in meeting the nation’s growing affordable housing challenges. Mr. Ravitch was appointed to serve as Co-Chair of the Commission which led a diverse group to rethink America’s affordable housing policy.

The author of So Much to Do: A Full Life of Business, Politics, and Confronting Fiscal Crises (Public Affairs, 2014), Mr. Ravitch recently served as an advisor in the Detroit bankruptcy and also co-chaired the State Budget Crisis Task Force with former Federal Reserve Board Chairman Paul A. Volcker. He is a director of the Volcker Alliance, a nonprofit founded in 2013 by Mr. Volcker to address the challenge of effective execution of public policy and help rebuild public trust in government.

A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Columbia College, Mr. Ravitch also received his LLB from Yale University School of Law.