Democratic candidate for Cook County Board (13th 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 new federal tax law with its change in local government tax deductibility should cause all Illinois governments to review all taxation and look for ways to change the tax mix and to insure fairness to our taxpayers. In addition to adjusting taxing strategies to meet the new reality the County must get back to basic services. Most services do not have the opportunity to generate fees to cover costs. Our basic services must maximize what fees are possible. Examples - Court Costs must be fairly assessed and collected. Health Care costs must be collected where allowed.
Our largest expenditures are in public safety and health care. Too many of our fees are applied to poor people with no resources to pay them. A total review of all Court and health fees must be done before the next budget. County Care must be expanded and run as an effective insurance company. After this review we should determine what reasonable revenues we have and match it to services provided. This next budget will be the most difficult in many years because of the revenue changes that will have to happen.
If faced in budget debates with cutting the county's payroll or raising taxes, which one will you choose, and why? Please be decisive.
There is no easy answer. As with the most recent budget both need to be looked at. This year 326 people lost their jobs. It is possible that pending litigation could order us to hire some of them back. The State of Illinois owes the County large amounts of money for essential services. If the State pays us, then the next budget becomes easier to deal with. The tax balance needs to be reviewed as I said in #1 but proper employment efficiency must also be looked at.
Do you favor or oppose privatization of county services and downsizing of the county's workforce?
I believe the only privatization should be short term specialized services. My experience with privatization is that it costs the County more.
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?
We need to review the mix of fees and services. Lowering the population of the jail through bail reform saved money at the Sheriff's Office but raised costs at the Chief Judge's Office by requiring more probation and pretrial service employees. A complete review of the Court costs and fees would help us answer this question. Pending litigation may also order us to increase spending on our Court system.
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?
I support the new bail and pre-trial service model being used in Cook County. Since the Court is a Constitutional co-equal branch of State Government I have no role in telling judges how to handle their calls. I have in the past called upon and supported the Illinois Supreme Court providing over site to the Courts and the Circuit Court Clerk.
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 supportive of any intergovernmental agreement that provides better services. I have supported a number of these agreements for police and highway services.The Forest Preserve as a separate government must be looked at in a different way. The current Forest Preserve Police Officers are better trained and have a sensitivity to environmental issues. Any agreement involving the Forest Preserve must improve the environment.
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?
I believe everyone should pay their fair share. We need to have the legislature give Cook County a deadline for having all unincorporated land annexed into a municipality. We also need to figure out a way to bring the infrastructure of unincorporated land to the standard of the annexing community. In the short term we should create special purpose districts to have property in unincorporated areas pay for the cost of its services.
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?
I have always been in favor of a centralized tax administrator. I was a co-sponsor of the first ordinance introduced to accomplish this. Changes to the assessment system will have to come from either the Courts or through Springfield legislation. The County Board does not have the power to change the assessment system. Using our budget power, we can insure transparency in the assessment process.
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 have sponsored the following ordinances (there are more but this is a sampling): Mandated Sexual Harassment Training and Reporting; Pharmaceutical Disposal; Minimum Wage; Assault Weapon Ban; Inspector General Office; Bed and Breakfast Classification; Increased Pension Payments; Mortgage Foreclosure Program; Rape Crisis, Access to Care and Children's Advocacy Center Funding; Street Lighting Standards; Complete Street Construction Standards; Municipal Inspector General; Board of Ethics Standards and Procedures; and Rules Changes