Charise A. Williams
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.
Residents do not feel they are taxed fairly for the services provided and the regressive nature of a tax like the pop tax proved it. I opposed this measure because it unfairly aligned revenue generation with a policy preference and laid that on the doorsteps of primarily African American communities. Cook County needs fairness in its property tax system so that trust can be restored in Cook County Government and the current leadership has failed this test.
I believe we need a new Assessor and full transparency on whether commercial and wealthy households are paying their fair share. I would explore legalization and sales taxes on marijuana as a means of generating new revenue as many states have demonstrated the lack of harm such a policy produces. I would also focus on limiting waste within government specifically in the form of monitoring Count contracts. In regards to cuts to be made, I think our best course would be to work closely with Springfield to step in for the gap the Trump Administration left us in bending the cost curve on healthcare. I would explore Medicaid buy in and other areas to increase revenue in our healthcare system and lower costs.
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 there is a proper answer to "always raise taxes or always cut payroll." As a new candidate, I want to take a fine tooth comb to the entire budget.
Do you favor or oppose privatization of county services and downsizing of the county's workforce?
I think privatization is something we look to way too often as a one size fits all solution to problems that we fail to address. There are no doubt that some services and purchases that the County makes, the private sector could handle better, but we have seen nothing but cuts at County Government for years now and there are few areas for privatization left to explore. The ultimate goal is to make long term financial sense for the County and I believe that we have the resources within to achieve that goal.
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?
This is one of the most important areas the county can address going forward. We need to have a criminal justice system that is fair and promotes trust among our community.
I was pleased to see recent changes to bond posting policies for low level offenders. A couple factors come to mind. I think our jails should focus more on rehabilitation than incarceration and that will require cooperation from Springfield and our municipalities. We need to continue to maintain historically low numbers of people in jail as the cost per day is higher than having people out of jail on supervised release.
By focusing more on rehabilitation as opposed to incarceration, reduces recidivism, which in turn keeps more people from going back to jail. I think our courts need strong oversight as years of poor leadership have left them bloated and outdated when compared to federal courts. I will work to ensure the Clerks office is modernized with an effective electronic filing system, so that case are able to processed faster and more efficiently. I would seek insight from the legal community on how to properly implement new systems and improve our current systems. If elected, I plan to focus heavily on public safety and the courts.
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 has an extremely important role as we fund the public defenders, state's attorneys, jails and courts.
The County Board has the responsibility to ensure that our criminal justice system has the resources needed to effectively protect the residents. I will work with these offices and the courts to ensure they have the resources needed to be efficient and effective, one example being; reform in long wait times for trial by reducing the number of criminal defendants with pending cases.
I believe that there needs to be more reform within the bond court as often times, people remain in jail simple because they can't afford to post bail and have not been convicted of a crime. County Commissioners must emphasize sealing and expungement programs to help ex-offenders in Cook County find jobs.
Currently, Illinois has the highest unemployment rate for Blacks and with Cook County being the second largest County in the country, we have a responsibility to help change that narrative. There should be a more systematic and thoughtful approach to criminal justice in Cook County and new blood on the County Board that doesn't just go along and get along with leadership is sorely needed.
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 be in favor of such moves if the municipalities or public bodies are meeting the standards set by Cook County for its public services. I believe that coordinating resources within government can help increase efficiency and eliminate waste.
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?
No, and I would be in favor of merging unincorporated areas with neighboring municipalities.
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 leadership tasked with assessing and collecting our property taxes has failed in the eyes of the voters. I think it's imperative the property owners are not unfairly assessed and penalized because of where they live. I would advocate for a fair and current process of evaluating property taxes. I would also work to educate more residents on the appeals process and the tax deed sales. Often times, residents in low-income communities lose their homes through tax deed sales and don't realize it until it's to late. I favor the creation of a office of tax administration, however, I would exclude the assessor's office from that consolidation. In order to eliminate duplicative services and additional transaction cost between agencies, I would combine the tax functions of the auditor, clerk, treasurer and recorder which will help taxpayers save money. I believe that in order for the property assessment process to remain independent and unbiased as possible, it should be excluded from consolidation in order to make it more accessible to taxpayers.
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 to increase resources in the county's criminal justice budget to restorative justice, specifically sealing and expungement. Increased resources in restorative justice decrease recidivism rates, helps keeps communities in tact and creates long term savings in our budget. 2. I would propose an ordinance to increase accountability for active inclusion of women and minority vendors on all County contracts. While the County does have goals in place, often times those goals are not met or waived by the Board.