Democratic candidate for Cook County Board (3rd 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.
As Commissioner, I would balance the budget by securing revenue already owed to the County by the state of Illinois; said amount totaled $145 million last fall. I would also seek federal funding for programs such as the Community Development Block Grant and Home Investment Partnerships. In the 2017 budget, these programs were funded in the total amount of $117.2 million. Only after securing money already owed to the county would I consider other revenue producing measures, such as taxation. When considering taxes, I would favor a progressive tax or the least regressive tax possible.
If faced in budget debates with cutting the county's payroll or raising taxes, which one will you choose, and why? Please be decisive.
I would cut the County's payroll to eliminate waste, duplicity and non-essential services before raising taxes as a revenue source.
Do you favor or oppose privatization of county services and downsizing of the county's workforce?
I oppose privatization of County services. However, I do believe that we should consider the concept of managed competition, a structured, transparent process that allows a fair comparison of public sector employees with independent contractors in their ability to deliver services to residents. Bringing together all parties, including labor and management, will enable them to work together in the best interest of the residents of Cook County.
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?
When discussing the stabilization of finances, we must first ensure that we are cutting all waste in County government. We cannot ask for more revenue from taxpayers if we have not looked thoroughly at all departments to ensure that we are eliminating waste, abuse and duplicative work. By doing that first, we are saving taxpayer dollars and continuing the effort to create a responsible County government for its residents. Revenue also needs to be a part of the discussion of stabilization, but only after exhausting all options first. Residents can no longer tolerate tax elasticity.
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?
Though the County Board does not have a specifically defined role in speeding up the flow of court cases, I believe that it must promote reforms that alleviate the overcrowding of our jail system. As of today, too many poor, non-violent defendants who cannot pay bail stay locked up for weeks or months, costing taxpayers roughly $142 a day per inmate. I would support a fast-track litigation model for defendants charged with nonviolent offenses. I also support bail reform and the County's electronic monitoring program.
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 believe that the decision to contract with other municipalities depends upon the particular circumstance. While it is the responsibility of the County government to provide specific services, there may certainly be occasions where it may be more efficient or cost-effective to contract with another municipality or public body to take over certain services. For example, a municipality on the periphery of the County might be uniquely equipped to maintain and service roads exclusively within its jurisdiction.
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?
During this time of limited resources, we must be vigilant about ensuring that residents throughout the county are paying their fair share for services provided by the County. The County is not recouping all of the costs it has incurred by providing services in unincorporated areas, which, in turn, places an additional burden on other residents. The average resident of Cook County can no longer afford to pay more in taxes. As such, we should also seek to find responsible fiscal options to address the cost of services the County provides for these areas, but incorporating a community engagement process for feedback.
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?
Our current system is broken, disproportionately impacting communities of color in the Third District and across the County. As such, the system needs to be overhauled from top to bottom. We must push for the immediate implementation of the new computer models that the Assessor has indicated would be more fair and accurate for taxpayers. I would favor the implementation of efficiencies in integrating the offices actually handling tax administration. However, I would be opposed to combining the Assessor's Office and the Board of Review, as this would eliminate an opportunity for taxpayers to appeal their taxes twice during a tax year. Additionally, we should limit the amount of contributions that property tax attorneys can make to the office of Assessor, similar to the campaign limits on donations to the Treasurer made by donors from the financial services industry.
For incumbents: During your current term, on what proposed ordinances have you been the primary sponsor? For challengers: What proposed ordinances would you introduce?
I would propose an ordinance requiring that the County invest 10% of its financial assets into minority-owned financial institutions.