Democratic incumbent John P. Daley is the Sun-Times’ endorsed candidate in the 11th district Cook County Board race.
Earlier this year, he appeared before the Sun-Times Editorial Board. Watch the video above to find out why he’s running for re-election to the Cook County Board. His opponent in the November election is Republican Steven S. Graves.
Here are Daley’s answers to our candidate questionnaire.
Cook County has cut its spending and probably will pass a budget that includes no new revenues. Given the county government’s resources and responsibilities, what else would you do to cut or to generate sustainable revenues? How much would money would that save or generate? Are you willing to vote for new taxes or fees? Please be specific.
Daley: This year the County anticipates a shortfall of $82 million dollars. In anticipation of that shortfall we have already held Mid-Year Budget Hearings which provided Commissioners a more detailed understanding of the budgetary challenges the County faces and allows more time for the Board to consider spending and cost savings options. I believe that it is integral for the Board to build on the savings accomplished last year and that we can find substantial savings by continuing to push for consolidation of human resources, information technology and procurement services across departments and elected offices.
Last year, taxpayers asked that the Sweetened Beverage Tax be repealed and that the Board live within its means. With state and local taxes on the rise I think it is essential that the County again keep costs down and avoid increasing taxes on residents. In the past I have supported increases that are critical to the long-term fiscal health of the County. These increases have been beneficial to the County’s financial stability and debt service, improved our sales tax bond ratings to AAA status and have allowed us to support programs like Invest in Cook which advances important transportation and infrastructure projects that will benefit existing businesses and attract new businesses in the 11th District.
I’m also proud to state that we are the only unit of government in Illinois making supplemental payments to our pension fund to ensure the economic security of those retired employees who served County residents during their careers. These payments, from the sales tax increase, will total over $950 million dollars by the end of 2018 and have been made in addition to the actuarial payments the County currently makes to the pension fund. I’m pleased to say that the Cook County property tax levy has not been increased by the Board in over 15 years and I will continue to advocate for keeping that levy at its current level.
The Cook County Health and Hospitals System lost out on some $165 million in revenue over three years because of lax clerical procedures and errors, according to report last spring by the county inspector general. What would you do to end this kind of waste?
Daley: As Chairman I have called numerous meetings of the Finance Committee this year to discuss the troubling revelations about the Hospital System’s billing and collection system and bad debt described in the Inspector General’s report. During these hearings and subsequent meetings with CCHHS officials, I have sought a plan that will address these problems going forward and increase the amount of revenue collected by the system. This includes increased training so that registration staff appropriately schedule and pre-certify patients, and also so that nurses and doctors properly pre-authorize services to insured patients.
I also think it is essential that the Hospital System standardize procedures involving accounts receivable and fill critical vacancies in medical billing, coding and collection positions so that we have the best opportunity to collect the funds due to the County. It is also important that organized labor groups that represent collectively bargained positions at the Hospital work with the County’s HR staff to negotiate standards for employees who work in the areas of registration, billing, collections and appeals so that we have staff that are performing at the highest level and bringing in maximum revenue to the County.
It is also imperative that the independent Board of Directors which oversees the Hospital System works to ensure that this issue is addressed.
Who is John P. Daley?
His political/civic background: Democratic/Cook County Commissioner His occupation: Cook County Commissioner, 11th District His education: BA Loyola University Recent news: John P. Daley
What should the County Board’s role be in assisting economically depressed areas in the south suburbs? Should the county sheriff take over policing responsibilities in more suburbs that are struggling to maintain police protection?
Daley: Since taking office President Preckwinkle has directed the County to focus on improving the social and economic development of Cook County’s South Suburbs and the Board has been very supportive of those efforts. I have met with the South Suburban mayors and visited some of the economically challenged areas of the South Suburbs this year to get a firsthand look at some of the challenges these areas face. In March, I voted to support the South Suburban Mayor’s efforts to prevent changes to the County’s property tax incentive program that the Mayor’s testified would be damaging to economic development in the Southland.
I believe the Board needs to continue to develop and support collaborative efforts like those we have established with the Chicago Metro Metal Consortium and the South Suburban Mayors and Managers. These efforts have helped the County identify and remedy problem areas and policies that restrict economic growth in the area. I also think it is critical that we continue to fund infrastructure improvements that help existing and underdeveloped businesses in the area grow and succeed. The Board also should look to expand efforts to increase workforce participation and training in the South Suburbs so that the local population benefits from any economic growth and expansion in the area.
Regarding the County Sheriff taking over policing responsibilities, I have always supported intergovernmental agreements if they provide cost savings to the County without service reductions. The Board has approved many agreements this year between the Sheriff and local municipalities consolidating public safety services and I have supported them all.
As a commissioner, how strongly would you support efforts to ensure that voting within the county is secure?
Daley: It is essential that our voting system is fair, safe and uncompromised and I will take whatever actions are necessary to ensure the security of our elections. The Board has worked closely with the elected officials who conduct and monitor our elections and the Clerk recently testified before the Finance Committee and discussed matters related to election equipment and security and notified the Board that our voting system is secure. I will continue to work to ensure that that we have safe and secure voting systems in place for our elections and that our relationships with the elected officials who oversee elections are cooperative and that any important issues regarding elections and election equipment are discussed at the Board level.
What should the County Board do to help reduce gun violence?
Daley: One way I believe the County can help reduce gun violence is through economic development. County led initiatives like those in the South Suburbs can lead to sustainable employment opportunities for young people. Bringing down the unemployment rate will lead to safer and more stable communities. I’m also an advocate for organizations like the Chicago Workforce Partnership, which is County supported, and assists job seekers in providing development skills and finding workforce placement. Helping young people find meaningful and secure employment is an essential component to ending violence and it is an area where I believe the Board can continue to provide support.
I’ve also supported the work of the County’s Justice Advisory Council. The Council works collaboratively with the county’s public safety stakeholders to address public safety issues and reduce recidivism by supporting violence prevention programs at the community level. Since 2010, the Justice Advisory Council has distributed over $10 million in community-based grants to local organizations with the support of the Board of Commissioners.
The Board also recently approved an advisory question on whether Illinois should strengthen penalties for the illegal trafficking of firearms and require all gun dealers to be state-certified. This will appear on the November ballot and will allow voters to voice their opinion on this important safety issue.
What ordinances would you propose and make a priority?
Daley: I believe the Board should address the consolidation of Human Resources and IT Functions across agencies and elected offices and I also think we should consider looking at job retention rather than only job creation when it comes to providing property tax incentives. The Board may also look to strengthen language regarding procurement and vendors who do business with the County and update our human resource policies to address assistance for victims of domestic violence. I think these issues may be addressed by ordinance. During the past term I’ve sponsored legislation to strengthen the County’s ethics ordinance. I also sponsored legislation to increase the minimum wage in the County to assist working class families, however, many of the municipalities in the County have home rule authority and they can and do opt out of legislation passed by the Board. I was also a supporter of an ordinance that will merge the County Clerk and the Recorder of Deeds Office with substantial savings to taxpayers
Should Cook County create a Consensus Revenue Forecasting Commission to give the board independent analyses?
Daley: I am always willing to consider options that allow Commissioners to access more information regarding budgetary issues, however, at this point, I do not believe the County needs to create a revenue forecasting commission. I have confidence in the forecasting that has been provided to us by the Chief Financial Officer’s office in the past years. The County Board has approved a balanced budget every year unlike the State of Illinois, which has a Commission on Government Forecasting. The County is the only level of government in the state making supplemental pension payments and the County’s sales tax bond ratings are AAA. Last year, Commissioners passed a budget with substantial savings to taxpayers. I believe the estimated costs of $600,000-700,000 per year for this commission are best spent elsewhere to benefit taxpayers
Does it make sense for the sheriff’s department to take over the Cook County forest preserve police? Does it make sense for Stroger Hospital to have its own police force? Please explain.
Daley: At this point I do not think it makes sense for the Sheriff to take over for the Forest Preserve police. The Forest Preserve police are unique in that they are public safety officers who are also entrusted with protecting the Preserves which spans the entire county. They also are funded in a budget separate from the County and are paid at rates that differ from those of the Sheriff’s police.
The Stroger Hospital Police force plays an important role in securing the County’s Health and Hospital System. Earlier this month the Hospital had an unusually high volume of trauma patients due to weekend shootings and the Hospital Police helped manage a dangerous situation with large numbers of families and friends trying to enter Stroger Hospital.
Within the forest preserve system, native plants areas in unmanaged land are deteriorating at a rate of about 3 percent per year because of weeds and invasive species. What should be done, if anything, to protect the forest preserve’s ecosystems?
Daley: We need to continue our recent efforts to clear invasive species from the Forest Preserves. Many residents do not even realize that the Cook County Forest Preserves encompass 70,000 acres and some of the lush looking plants are invasive species that hinder native growth. The Forest Preserve has done a great job of getting more people out into our Preserves and educating them on environmental issues. I believe this educated and growing visitor base will help us attract more volunteers who can work in collaboration with local groups like the Friends of the Forest Preserves and the Shedd Aquarium to help protect native plant and animal species.
Are county commissioners, who are mostly Democrats, independent enough of their party and the president?
Daley: I believe each Commissioner makes decisions based on the needs of his or her district and constituents. I always go out of my way to talk to residents and return their calls. I also work closely with the mayors and elected officials in all the municipalities I represent and the alderman in the city whose wards are in the 11th district. During the deliberations over the Sweetened Beverage Tax I spoke with over 1000 residents and many local business owners who reached out to my office. These discussions helped me reach a decision to repeal the tax that was representative of the views of my constituents.
I most enjoy working on projects with 11th District residents. I’m currently working with a Gold Star mother and interested members of the local community along with the Forest Preserve District and elected officials representing the area on a project that aims to restore a long-neglected Gold Star Mother’s monument in the Dan Ryan Woods.
President Preckwinkle always seeks to work cooperatively with the Board and she meets with Board members before introducing important legislation. She actively engages Commissioners during the budget process and looks for ways to accommodate Commissioners on issues of concern and issues pertaining to their individual districts.
What can the county do to create synergies with the City of Chicago? Or is this unnecessary?
Daley: Yes, the city and county can and do work together. We have collaborated on equipment sharing, contracting, joint purchasing, cigarette tax enforcement, grant applications and workforce development. Going forward, I think we should focus on working jointly to provide expanded mental health services to residents. I also believe that IT should be an area where we look for opportunities to collaborate as the city and county both continue to have growing software and technology needs and costs continue to rise substantially.
Ahead of the historic 2018 elections, the Sun-Times is teaming up weekly with the Better Government Association, in print and online, to fact-check the truthfulness of the candidates. You can find all of the PolitiFact Illinois stories we’ve reported together here.