Alma E. Anaya
Democratic candidate for Cook County Board (7th District district)
Responses to our questions
In preparing future budgets, Cook County may face rising costs and static revenues. How should county government evolve? What specific finance strategy will you encourage for producing balanced budgets? Please be decisive.
The recently passed County budget was very tight but it is also highly dependent on the "required" actions" contained in the budget (one-time revenues, layoffs, furloughs, elimination of funded vacancies, consolidations, federal payments, increased fee revenue, etc.)
It will be necessary to carefully monitor the budget and the actions required in it. The absence of enough vacancies could lead to tighter enforcement of budgets and potential for hiring "slowdowns" which could affect many departments but especially the Chief Judge, Sheriff, and CCHHS. Thus the budget did not eliminate the structural deficit at the County and we are likely to see more difficult budgets in the future. I had worked with Commissioner Garcia to develop an alternative budget proposal that had some new revenue as any solutions will entail new revenues and new operational efficiencies.
The new revenues included indexing the Aggregate Property tax level to inflation, increasing the gasoline/diesel tax, increasing the video gaming tax, creating a few on property tax appeals and, when appropriate a fee on marijuana sales. I believe we have to start looking for operational efficiencies by combining administrative functions across departments and agencies. This last budget started to do that with some procurement and HR functions but we will need to look more closely at how we all work together.
If faced in budget debates with cutting the county's payroll or raising taxes, which one will you choose, and why? Please be decisive.
n the alternative budget proposal developed by Commissioner Garcia, I supported middle-level management layoffs to improve "span of control" and increase resources for staff that delivers services. While that will, over time, result in significant savings it will not solve all the County's needs and we will have to look at new revenues as discussed in the first questions.
Do you favor or oppose privatization of county services and downsizing of the county's workforce?
I generally oppose privatization of services as it rarely leads to the level of savings promised and it results in reducing the ability of government agencies to respond to emergencies. Downsizing the County workforce is inevitable over time as we make our processes and agencies more efficient through the use of technology. It is reasonable to hope that in the future County jobs will require more skills and be appropriately compensated.
The relative stability of the county health system has reduced the costs to taxpayers. How can the county now stabilize the finances of the public safety and court systems?
I have worked closely with Commissioner Garcia to reform the bail bond system which has resulted in a 40% decline in the jail population to below 6,000 detainees. In the last budget this led to proposals to close facilities and staff reductions. The challenge is to maintain those savings and apply some to counseling, post-bail services and expansion of the out-patient mental health services.
What is the role of the County Board in accelerating criminal defendants' time to trial and otherwise speeding up the flow of court cases? What if any changes do you propose for defendants' pre-trial release and electronic monitoring?
It is important to work with the Chief Judge and the Justice Advisory Council to continue to enhance pre-trial reforms. We also need to coordinate with Probation office to ensure that electronic monitoring is providing adequate realization of those reforms.
Do you favor or oppose contracting with municipalities or other public bodies to take over services now provided by the county's highway department, the forest preserve police, and other county-run offices? Please be specific.
I would support exploring ways to transfer certain responsibilities for unincorporated areas to adjoining municipalities and eventually move toward merger. For example, there are two areas where we can consider changes in the county services.
The Zoning and Permitting and Zoning Board of Appeals departments only work with unincorporated Cook County and have a fraction of the work load and responsibilities they had 30 years ago. We should explore ways to contract with local municipalities to add those functions to their already existing zoning departments.
The County could reimburse the municipalities for their costs which should still save the County resources. In addition, the Sheriff's department is responsible for unincorporated areas and much of the resources go into gang issues, drug problems and other county-wide issues.
Part of the Sheriff's enforcement responsibilities go into support for some municipalities such as Harvey and the City of Chicago. We need to find ways to have joint support for that resource so it does not fall solely onto the County. As far as County transportation services I know there is already close cooperation between municipalities and CCDOTH and little overlap in expertise and resources.
I would support finding ways to increase cooperation and coordination between the County, the City of Chicago and local municipalities on County and regional transportation planning and projects.
Do you believe unincorporated areas of Cook County are paying their share for services provided by the county? What if any changes do you propose?
There are two areas where we can consider changes in the county services. The Zoning and Permitting and Zoning Board of Appeals departments only work with unincorporated Cook County and have a fraction of the work load and responsibilities they had 30 years ago. We should explore ways to contract with local municipalities to add those functions to their already existing zoning departments. The County could reimburse the municipalities for their costs which should still save the County resources. In addition, the Sheriff's department is responsible for unincorporated areas and much of the resources go into gang issues, drug problems and other county-wide issues. Part of the Sheriff's enforcement responsibilities go into support for some municipalities such as Harvey and the City of Chicago. We need to find ways to have joint support for that resource so it does not fall solely onto the County.
What specific changes, if any, do you advocate for Cook County's property assessment system? Do you favor or oppose creation of an office of tax administration to combine functions now performed by several offices?
The property assessment system should be made more transparent and accountable to the taxpayers. The recent Tribune articles identify real problems in the assessment system which must be corrected to that propert tax payments equitably reflect the value of the property. I had supported the graduated fee proposed by Commissioner Garcia on property tax appeals to make sure we have a fair and equitable system. I would be interested in reviewing proposals for a combined office of tax administration if it would result in better assessments and more efficient operations but, as with many proposals, the devil is in the details.
For incumbents: During your current term, on what proposed ordinances have you been the primary sponsor? For challengers: What proposed ordinances would you introduce?
Does not apply