Former Utah lawmaker has no further comment on Preckwinkle's remark about self-employment
In 2013, Dan Liljenquist, a former Republican Utah state senator, referred to a brief encounter with then Chicago Alderman Toni Preckwinkle, now chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party, as "one of the more sobering experiences of my life."
Now he'd rather not talk about it. "I'd prefer not to comment on this story," Liljenquist, who represented Utah's 23rd Senate District from January 2009 to December 2011, said in an email to the Chicago City Wire on Monday. "My interactions with Ms. Preckwinkle were very brief and were covered accurately by the Chicago Sun Times nearly 19 years ago. I don’t have anything to add."
In that brief exchange, Preckwinkle reportedly told Liljenquist that she was opposed to self-employment because it gave people false hope that they could support themselves.
Preckwinkle, 71, made history in April when she became the first woman and first African-American to chair the Cook County Democratic Party. She also is president of the Cook County Board. Previously, Preckwinkle was a five-term Chicago alderman, representing Chicago's 4th Ward beginning in 1991.
Liljenquist, now a pension reform and health care consultant on the board of Ballotpedia publisher the Lucy Burns Institute and the Utah Debate Commission, mentioned his "very brief" encounter with Preckwinkle during a forum in 2013 moderated by AM 560 radio talk show host and former Republican candidate for Illinois governor Dan Proft. Proft also is a principal of Local Government Information Services, which owns this publication.
"One of the more sobering experiences of my life was my first summer of law school," Liljenquist said during the forum. "I was working with the Institute of Justice's Clinic of Entrepreneurship down in the University of Chicago. We were trying to help inner city of Chicago entrepreneurs launch their business. We had some great, great people with great ideas. And I went and met with the alderwoman of South Chicago who is now, I think, in a much more powerful position. I won't mention who she is but I sat down with her and told her we were offering free legal advice to help people start up businesses. And she looked at me and she said, 'I'm opposed to self-employment. You give these people false hopes that they could ever earn a living on their own.'"
The forum's audience responded with sounds of shock.
"I was stunned," Liljenquist continued. "I couldn't believe it."
Later in the forum, Proft prodded Liljenquist to name the "alderwoman" with whom he'd met and Liljenquist confirmed it was Preckwinkle.
Since the encounter, Preckwinkle seems to have moderated her reported beligerence against the self-employed. In November 2016, Preckwinkle received the Women's Business Development Center's Government Support Award. The previous spring, Preckwinkle publicly advocated getting more women into banking roles to help fight biases women often face when they start their own business.
Her support for small business owners apparently has limits. This past March, Preckwinkle was re-elected to her third term as Cook County Board president despite her support of a sweetened beverage tax the previous year, a tax critics said hit small businesses especially hard.
During the 2013 forum, Liljenquist also looked optimistically toward Illinois' future by referring to Michigan's economic troubles and its "lost decade" when "they were in a depression and they were losing jobs," but that state was turning things around. "Eventually, Illinois will get there," he said.
"So I'm optimistic for Illinois," he said. "I'm a little nervous for the next coming years but, ultimately, I think that good people, when they wake up to an issue and a crisis and start to measure their own lives and what they really think, will start to realize that the principles that we've kind of relied on as a civilization for 5,000 years will come back. The law of the harvest works, you reap what you sow. You can't consume something you don't end up producing and things reset themselves. We always have to make sure that the right people at the right time here in this state are ready to lead when that realization occurs. I'm not sure it has occurred yet but it will."