Editorial board questionnaires   

Portrait of Nicholas "Nick" Smith

Nicholas "Nick" Smith

Democrat candidate for Cook County Commissioner, 4th
The Tribune Editorial Board has endorsed Stanley S. Moore for Cook County Commissioner, 4th. Read why »

Nicholas "Nick" Smith

Democrat candidate for Cook County Commissioner, 4th

The Tribune Editorial Board has endorsed Stanley S. Moore for Cook County Commissioner, 4th. Read why »
Portrait of Nicholas "Nick" Smith

Education: I received a Bachelor's degree in Chemistry from Chicago State University in 2000.

Occupation: Faculty/Community Coordinator at the Institute for Youth and Community Engagement Chicago State University

Home: Chicago, Ill.

Age: 40

Previous Political Experience: None


Responses to our questionnaire

Q: Should people convicted of public corruption be allowed to hold elective county offices?

Ultimately, the voters of Cook County decide who will hold elective office.


Q: Should state law bar all countywide elected officials from hiring their relatives?

All hiring processes should be fair and impartial. Only qualified applicants should be hired to serve county residents.


Q: Should the County Board of Commissioners and Forest Preserve Board of Commissioners be separately elected entities to avoid conflicts of interest between development and conservation?

Another election could serve as an added expense and further burden on taxpayers. A separately elected Board would not necessarily facilitate said avoidance. The solution lies in what is most cost effective and in the best interest of the residents.


Q: 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 changes would you propose for defendants' pre-trial release and electronic monitoring?

There is a proposed plan to shift the responsibility of releasing pre-trial non-violent offenders to the Board President. According to the Board President's proposal, retired judges will be hired to determine eligibility. This will hopefully reduce the backlog of cases and allow sitting judges to move existing cases forward. By releasing non-violent offenders to electronic monitoring the costs to house an inmate should drastically decline. I support this plan and will vote favorably if elected.


Q: The relative financial stability of the county health system has reduced the need for taxpayer subsidies. How can the county now similarly stabilize the finances of the courts and jail?

An independent board manages the county heath system and its financial stability has been triggered by an influx of state and federally supported Medicaid patients. The county courts and jails would benefit if a similar commission would analyze processes and recommend a streamlined approach to handling cases and housing inmates. Such an approach would inevitably reduce costs and provide more stability.


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

Eliminating vacant positions, merging offices that perform similar duties, and offering early retirement incentives could significantly reduce the county's payroll therefore reducing costs to taxpayers. Cutting costs is the first and most reasonable approach to a balanced budget. Taxpayers cannot bear the burden of inefficiency and questionable spending.


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

The argument in favor of privatization relies on projected savings. While cost cutting is important we cannot afford to compromise our duty to serve county residents. Privatization should never take an aggressive approach because each contract must be examined thoroughly to assure efficiency, actual savings and the same level of service already in existence. Eliminating vacant positions, duplicate functions, and non-essential personnel can downsize the county workforce without the risks and unknowns that often accompany privatization.


Q: 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? If so, please be specific.

I believe local municipalities regarding highway maintenance would better serve residents. Relationships between local municipalities and residents already exist. With regards to the forest preserve police, the county sheriff's office could take over the responsibility of patrolling the forest preserve. However, sheriff's police would need additional training in matters of conservation. Both examples would trim county expense, however forest preserve police would face the possibility of reassignment and highway crews as well. Where would this personnel land? How much would the county save? These questions should be addressed before any action is taken.


Q: Do you favor or oppose merging the county clerk and county recorder offices? Do you favor or oppose creating an office of tax administration to combine property tax functions of the assessor, auditor, clerk, treasurer and recorder?

I support the merging of the clerk and recorder offices. Not only would this merge cut costs but it will also provide a more convenient experience for residents. An office of tax administration would serve the same purpose. It would provide a “one stop shop” for residents and save the county tremendous expenditures. This could prove to increase efficiency and accountability ultimately benefitting taxpayers and county government.


Q: For incumbents: During your current term, on what proposed ordinances have you been the primary sponsor?

No answer.


Q: For challengers: What proposed ordinances would you introduce?

Cook County Government is moving in the right direction. Many measures are already in place to better serve the residents of the county. For the past twenty years I have worked in community and civic engagement. Working directly with residents and communities at large is the best way to gauge public interest and quite often public policy. As a Board Commissioner, I would propose legislation to restore funding to mental health treatment and facilities. Our communities are depleted of the necessary resources to provide adequate care for those suffering from mental challenges. There is a segment of our community, by no fault of their own, that have fallen through the cracks of society and they are the mentally challenged. Among this group are returning soldiers who fought for our country, college students, children born into chemical dependency and the homeless. The county jail is no place to house or administer treatment for the mentally challenged. Cook County is in desperate need of treatment facilities and mental health professionals for indigent and low-income residents. Also as Board Commissioner I would propose legislation to further support the Cook County Land Bank Authority in addressing the vast problem of vacant homes, lots, retail and commercial facilities. From my experience, working with residents and community organizations as well as city agencies, the need for the acquisition and redevelopment of vacant property is vital to rebuilding our housing stock and providing much needed tax revenue. Residents fear declines in property values and an increase in criminal elements are a direct correlation to the vacant property epidemic.


Q: List all of your relatives, including relatives by marriage, who are on public payrolls in Illinois, and the jobs they hold.

None


Q: Tell us something we would be surprised to learn about you.

I am the proud owner of a ten year old rescued English Bulldog. I love animals.