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EDITORIAL BOARD QUESTIONNAIRES

Bushra Amiwala

Democratic candidate for Cook County Board (13th District district)

Bushra Amiwala

Bushra Amiwala

Democratic candidate for Cook County Board (13th District district)

Education
Sophomore at DePaul University, majoring in Marketing and Finance with a double minor in Community Service Studies and Public Policy Studies.
Occupation
Technomic Inc
Home
Skokie
Past Political/Civic Experience
Mark Kirk for Senate campaign- to build empathy with the republican party during the peak of Islamophobia Northside Power: Legislative Canvassing A Just Harvest: Phone Banking

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 a long term solution, I believe .5 percent of the County Budget should be invested in various corporations based on their price to earning ratio from the previous year.

This measures an investors confidence in the company, and this contributed capital should be purchased as preferred stock. As a result, the owner of this stock gets money first if a corporation liquidates its assets, but also, the said owner of the stock would have no say in voting for the Board of Directors, which would minimize any conflict of interest.

Worst case scenario, this common stock and various bonds are sold at par value, the legal minimum, meaning there will be no loss in this investment. Going off of the .5 percent of the County's 5.2 billion dollar budget, means we will be investing about 26 million dollars annually.

Based on economic trends, the average return on stock annually is 7%. This means, we will be able to increase the County budget by at least/on average 1.82 million dollars. If this model is replicated for the next decade, assuming the county revenue is completely static (which will not be the case), that is the creation of at least 20 million dollars in revenue, and not a single dollar came from taxpayer money - but in fact is a strategic way to draw more income from the extremely wealthy.

With this model, we will be generating more revenue as the year goes on, and will have to amend the budget and will be able to include various County services which may not have been in the initial budget plan, based on how the investments go. Cook County needs to take a proactive approach when addressing potential budget deficits, as opposed to having a reactive response. We must prevent this from becoming an "issue," as opposed to trying to solve it after the manner.

As a means to plan ahead, I think we should currely look at where we are allocating the majority of our funds to, and if it is necessary. The first place where we should put less money into is the county prisons. A lot of the people behind bars are literally innocent, because they have yet to be convicted of a crime, and around a third of the County's budget is dedicated towards keeping innocent people behind bars.

In regard to tackling the County's budget in a proactive manner, means we must have a realistic view of what the County can accomplish with the current budget, and this must be monitored as the year goes on. Simply voting on and passing an annual budget is not sufficient, but it must be amended and drafted as the year goes on - if necessary. A lot of the time, initially there is rapid growth financially, which leads to rising costs, but this later leads to stagnation, or even a decline in revenue.

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 don't think the County should be spending money they do not have. With that being said, I would choose raising taxes, however I would introduce a progressive taxation model, as opposed to a straight line tax hike. I would not be in favor of a regressive, flat tax, because of the way they disproportionately affect marginalized communities. With this progressive taxation model, there should be a correlation between the income one makes and the property taxes they pay. For example, you could have a billionaire living in a small apartment, who does not pay nearly as much in property taxes, as opposed to a family of six who live in a nice neighborhood, because they want adequate schooling for their children. This scenario is extremely relevant to myself, because this is the kind of family I grew up in. My parents were working four jobs combined, yet their annual income together was literally less than $30,000. Our property taxes went from $6,000 to when we first moved to Skokie, to almost double, around $11,000, after about 8 years of living there. This is where progressive taxation comes into play. There has to be a correlation between income and property taxes. The current method encourages dramatic disparities between neighborhoods, schooling and promotes gentrification and the further divide between "rich" and "poor" neighborhoods.

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

I oppose the privatization of county services and downsizing the county's workforce.

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?

Decriminalize marijuana and tax it. If we removed people who are in prison as a result of drug addiction, mental health conditions, or alcoholism, our prison would be relatively empty. Recognizing that we need to stop criminalizing poverty, and those who cannot afford to pay a cash bond, is the first step, however there is much to be done. There is currently a mental health crisis behind bars.

Solitary confinement is not a solution or anything remotely close to what it one who is mentally ill needs. In fact, this will only become worse along with the other extreme circumstances prisons impose.

If we want to lower incarceration rates, we must address the mental health issues in our prisons, because those who are inflicted by this, are more likely to return to jail more frequently. This will lower incarceration rates, and also prevent the County from needing to allocating an obscene amount of funding to the prison and public safety sector in the first place.

Offenders should be offered treatment while in prison, which includes, but is not limited to mandatory therapy sessions, cathartic/stress relief simulations, and proper medications.

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?

This question takes the fifth and sixth amendments into account. It is crucial that a criminal defendant is innocent until proven guilty and should be treated as such.

As opposed to being put being bars, temporary house arrest with electronic monitoring is the more humane solution, that takes up less resources as well. With geolocation technology, an ankle bracelet can taze the person wearing it if they are a certain distance away from the designated location. Technological advances have made this a far more convenient, effective and humane alternative and it is time Cook County modernizes its system as well.

The Sixth Amendment gives defendants the right to a "speedy trial." However, since exact time limits are not specified, and judges are lead to decide on a case by case basis, there should be a County time limit as to how much time a judge has to decide how long the trail should take.

For example, a judge has two weeks to decide whether a defendant's trial will be delayed. This is the practical guideline that is currently not in place, and does not take away from the case by case distinction when it comes to trial lengths and times. This is the universal standard that can be imposed as a first step to accelerate criminal defendants' 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.

I am in favor of municipalities and other public bodies to take over certain services provided, however this shouldn't be appointed, but should also have an elected process of some sort to ensure there are public hearings and a mutual understanding/agreement for those who hold other county-run offices.

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?

Definitely not, it is clear that it costs the County a great deal to provide municipal services to its unincorporated areas, and my recommendation would be to encourage incorporation, based on school districts. If the residents in these areas incorporation into a nearby municipality, their property taxes may increase or decrease accordingly, but that is the only way to ensure they are paying their fair share in taxes.

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?

Simply telling residents in the County to appeal once or twice a year is the reflection of a poor property assessment system. As previously mentioned, we should introduce a progressive assessment system, which takes household income in consideration when assessing values. Yes I am in favor of combining functions which are performed by multiple offices, this will increase productivity, efficiency, will reduce human error and will save taxpayers' money. It logistically makes sense to have one facility designated to similar functions.

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

First: The minimum wage and paid sick leave ordinance/legislation needs to be solved once and for all. The majority of the members in my district were in favor of increasing the minimum wage, however this was a very poorly written piece of legislation.

By allowing municipal levels of government to opt out of this ordinance was the first mistake, but also, not separating small business from large corporation was the second. If about 90% of the municipal levels of government opted out of said legislation to increase the minimum wage, at the end of the day there was nothing done.

I would bring this ordinance back and include a dictionary definition of small business, and one of a larger corporation. I would attach numerical values to this to ensure there is no loophole as to whether one is a small business or not.

Since small businesses were the ones to band together to opt out of the increase in minimum wage, the logical solution would be to hear their concerns, and understand you cannot expect to fight for small business if you hold them to the same standard as large companies and corporations. Something that will not be an ordinance, but is something I will just do, as the County Commissioner will be to have a broken down version of where the money from the County budget is allocated to, because I do not expect my constituents to read a daunting, long document, and it should be my responsibility as your elected official to have this in everyday, colloquial language.

Next, I want to modernize our current system, by making sure our board meetings are live broadcasted, where people can interact/engage from the comfort of their own homes. This will increase awareness and visibility of the County Board as a whole. After talking to many voters in the County thus far, many of them are not fully aware of what a County Commissioner does (especially in immigrant communities), therefore, I will host a biweekly meeting with a topic of discussion, along with ways the County can address said issue. I hope to host these in different areas in the 13th district of Cook County, apart from just Evanston.

By virtualizing a lot of the meetings, this will increase accessibility for a lot of the families who have other obligations. I also will post a monthly survey on my website and on my various social media platforms, to encourage constituents to share their concerns. Most of the time, a lot of people do not share their concerns with their County Commissioners, because they are not aware of what issues can even be brought up.

Finally, the cash bond is ridiculous, it costs us more to hold an inmate in for two days than the cost of the bond itself. Poverty should not be criminalized. As mentioned previously, non violent drug offenses, are populating our prisons unnecessarily.

Candidates for Cook County Board (13th District district)

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