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EDITORIAL BOARD QUESTIONNAIRES

Bridget Degnen

Democratic candidate for Cook County Board (12th District district)

Bridget Degnen

Bridget Degnen

Democratic candidate for Cook County Board (12th District district)

Education
In 1994, I graduated from The University of Dayton, with a degree in environmental engineering, and a minor in industrial engineering. From 2000 to 2003 I attended Loyola Law School while clerking at a law firm, bartending, working at the Loyola law library and on the Consumer Law Review Journal.
Occupation
Attorney - Self employed
Home
Chicago
Past Political/Civic Experience
This is my first campaign for public office. I grew up in Edgebrook, on the northwest side of Chicago. From 1994 through 1996, I served in the United States Peace Corps in Mali, West Africa in natural resource management. While living in a mud hut, with no running water or electricity, I learned how to speak Bambara, develop relationships with people in my village, and work on projects that were important to the community. After supporting projects that were important to the village, they embraced projects that were important to me. My Peace Corps experience directly relates to politics, in that relationships are key to accomplishing any successful efforts. From 2004 to 2006, I served as an Assistant Attorney General in the Environmental Law Bureau, under Lisa Madigan. In 2013, I served as the Deputy General Counsel of the Illinois Department of Public Health. From 2014 through 2017, I served as the Deputy Director of Medical Cannabis at the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. While directing the program, I wrote and passed 76 pages of administrative code rules, staffed the program, developed the regulatory structure for licensing, operation and enforcement, and regulated Illinois dispensary sales and operations.

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.

Given that the Cook County Board is facing a $200M budget shortfall, with cuts to essential services, layoffs and job posting closings, it's imperative that each of the Board's Commissioners develop credible revenue generation sources. If elected, my first priority will be to focus on revenue generation without placing an undue burden on citizens or services. For example, expediting documents and services across all Cook County offices will generate revenue, while providing convenience for a fee. Cook County should address services for areas that are currently unincorporated, and determine how best to ensure services are paid for equally by all living in Cook County. Additionally, certain taxes are not collected at 100%. I would advocate for collection rate of 100% for all taxes currently on the books.

If faced in budget debates with cutting the county's payroll or raising taxes, which one will you choose, and why? Please be decisive.

Cook County must have the revenue to cover essential services. Every year brings new technology and cultural evolution, yet we're still stuck with the same revenue problems and arguable solutions. Instead of working toward the minimum, Cook County should look to see how it can pivot to a future where it's projecting for improvements in jobs and technology rather than existing in a state of panic over revenue. I have articulated solid ideas on how to raise revenue, and believe all Cook County Commissioners should do the same. If elected, I would propose an initiative to the Cook County Board, that each year each commissioner provide sustainable revenue generation ideas. With 17 commissioners annually required to work on revenue, there would be meaningful progress, without arguments over cutting payroll or implementing taxes that overburden citizens.

Do you favor or oppose privatization of county services and downsizing of the county's workforce?

Privatization is argued to be tied to cost savings, but privatization can also be tied to declines in service quality, limited flexibility in adjusting the contract to privatize, and increased costs to consumers (i.e. the Chicago parking meter privatization). There needs to be balance between public and private sector responsibilities, but taking governmental responsibility and corresponding government jobs and transferring it to for-profit companies to reduce "Government" is not always the best answer. Keeping Cook County working efficiently with services for our families should not be an "either or" concept, it should be a fluid model on how to best achieve good government.

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?

Rather than look at the budget as an annual task, Cook County should adopt a multiyear financial plan, whereby it compels Cook County government to match expenses and revenues over several years. Projection of future revenue and expenses, would allow it to be proactive in detecting and tackling financial outlays including improvements to technology and labor.

The U.S. Department of Justice offers funding opportunities to support law enforcement and public safety activities in state and local jurisdictions; to assist victims of crime; to provide training and technical assistance; to conduct research; and to implement programs that improve the criminal, civil, and juvenile justice systems. In connection with direct revenue generation initiatives, Cook County could request grant funding from the U.S. Dept. of Justice. Additionally, Cook County might focus on rehabilitating offenders to become tax producers.

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?

The County must have a budget sufficient to pay for the court system and attorneys to litigate criminal cases. The discussion should center around an increase in revenue generation. With stable revenue, technology could be implemented at Cook County courts to accelerate a defendant's time to trial.

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.

Keeping Cook County working efficiently with services for our families should not be an "either or" concept, it should be a fluid model on how to best achieve good government. Privatization is often argued to be tied to cost savings, but privatization can also be tied to declines in service quality, limited flexibility in adjusting the contract to privatize, and increased costs to consumers (i.e. the Chicago parking meter privatization). There needs to be balance between public and private sector responsibilities, but taking governmental responsibility and corresponding government jobs and transferring it to for-profit companies to reduce "Government" is not always the best answer. An analysis would need to be done regarding the number of people performing the work, the economic development of transferring the jobs, health and safety, and whether the current jobs could be efficiently folded into the proposed department.

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?

Everyone using Cook County services, particularly those using services of the Cook County Sheriff's Office, should pay their fair share. Given the population of Cook County, there is a good argument to incorporate all areas in Cook 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?

Cook County's property assessment system should be transparent, fair and accurate regardless of the level of homeowner income. As owning a home is part of the American dream, each homeowner should be allowed to check the analysis for the assessed amount.

For incumbents: During your current term, on what proposed ordinances have you been the primary sponsor? For challengers: What proposed ordinances would you introduce?

As a challenger, I would propose an ordinance that each Cook County Commissioner would be responsible for generating revenue initiatives annually for the next four years.

Candidates for Cook County Board (12th District district)

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