Republican incumbent Gregg Goslin faces Democrat Scott Britton in the race to represent the 14th district of northern Cook County, including Palatine and Northbrook.
The Chicago Sun-Times sent the candidates running for the Cook County Board of Commissioners a list of questions to find out their views on a range of important issues facing the county.
Goslin submitted the following answers to our questionnaire. In addition, and watch the video above to find out why Goslin’s running for re-election.
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.
Goslin: Put short, Cook County doesn’t have a revenue problem but a spending problem. Under the current administration, the county budget has grown from $3.055 billion in 2011 to the current $5.2 billion, in a time of zero inflation. A 70% increase in the county budget is astonishing – most of our citizens have not had a 70% wage increase in the last 7 years. I have opposed and voted against a number of unfair and burdensome budgets. There is no appetite by the board or our taxpayers for an increase in taxes of any type – witness the rise and fall of the soda tax, which I opposed, and voted to repeal.
Personnel costs are the core of the county budget, and no meaningful progress can be made without addressing this issue. Across the board cuts in personnel will not solve this issue. A fine-tuning must be conducted department by department, office by office to right-size staffing. As an example, in my office I conduct business with a staff of three, this despite the fact that I represent a suburban district that requires more services than my Chicago based colleagues due to its size and 90 miles of country roadways and 5,257 acres of forest preserve property – we even drill down to the county vehicle stickers and building and zoning issues. Our district office is in the Northfield Township office and this partnership in good government best serves our residents and is economical as well. Through these cost savings measures, I have returned $446,847.00 to the county treasury in unused office budget expenses during my service.
Huge cost centers involve public safety and healthcare, which are complicated but are at the heart of the mission and must be operated in an efficient, effective and economical manner. Over 100 years ago the county made the decision to provide healthcare for the neediest among us. In light of the Affordable Care Act, the county hospital system should continue to expand the County Care insurance plan and look for ways to partner with other hospital systems, as outlined in its strategic plan. Keep in mind that the county is under no legal obligation to operate a hospital and clinic system, as opined by the Cook County State’s Attorney.
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?
Goslin: It is the goal of the Cook County Health and Hospitals System (CCHHS) and the Cook County Board to eliminate waste and bad debt in the health system. While a laudable goal, it is nearly impossible for any health care system to eliminate it entirely. Bad debt has plagued the CCHHS in the past, but following a set of reforms put in place by the CCHHS board and administration, real strides have been made to address this issue and I believe will continue to improve.
The healthcare reimbursement system is incredibly complex and therefore I have concerns that the report you reference, the Inspector General’s report of April 13, 2018, is not a fair picture of the annual bad debt or write off.
As pointed out in a response to the report from Dr. Jay Shannon, CEO of CCHHS, the report did not make the very important distinction between charges and net realizable cash. Hospital charges are generally significantly more than would actually be collected. Additionally, almost 20% of the charges are non-covered services. These alone greatly inflate the bad debt number.
Like any hospital, CCHHS is working hard to improve denial management. Under the direction of Dr. Shannon and the CCHHS governing board, they continue to decrease write-offs and have hired additional staff to assist in registration, coding and billing to improve reimbursements. Denials decreased 40% in 2017 from 2016. I expect additional decreases in 2018.
While the Cook County Board no longer has direct oversight of the CCHHS since we approved the formation of the CCHHS Board of Directors, we continue to monitor the health system. Since 2011, the tax allocation to the Health fund has decreased by 63% and for the first time CCHHS will be contributing to health system employees’ pensions as opposed to the Cook County General Fund. I believe the Cook County Health and Hospitals System is on the right track but there are still improvements to be made. Decreasing bad debt and improving billing practices is of the utmost importance. I will continue to demand and support measures to improve CCHHS practices in this regard.
Who is Gregg Goslin?
He’s running for: Cook County Board of Commissioners, 14th District His political/civic background: Commissioner, Cook County Board, 14th District, • Represent the State of Illinois on the Board of Directors, National Association of Counties • Member, Illinois House of Representatives, 89th General Assembly • Supervisor, Northfield Township, 3 terms • Township Collector, Northfield Township • Township Trustee, Northfield Township • Republican Committeeman, Northfield Township, 1994-2006, National Leadership: • Board of Directors, representing the State of Illinois with the National Association of Counties, 2002 – Present • Large Urban County Caucus, member, 2000 – present • Team Member, Stepping Up initiative, 2016 • Chair, Program and Services Committee, 2013 – 2016 • Chair, Green Government Initiative, 2010 – 2012 • Immigration Task Force, 2012 • Vice-Chair, Program and Services Committee, 2011 – 2013 • Program and Services Workshop Review Subcommittee, 2012 – 2013 • Vice Chair, Green Government Initiative, 2010 • Telecommunications and Technology Steering Committee Vice-Chair 2009 – 2010 • Large Urban County Caucus, Chair 2005 – 2007 • Task Force on NACo Governance and Structure 2007 – 2008 • National Association of Counties’ Hospital Task Force Chairman 2007 -2009 • Health System Reform Working Group, 2008 – 2009 • Sustainability Leadership Team, 2005 • Health Steering Committee member, 2004 – 2006 • Home Land Security Local Government Funding working group, 2001 – 2003 • The Medicaid Reform Task Force, 2000 – 2002 • Local Community: Member, Independence Day Celebration Commission • Member, Glenview Optimist Club • Past Chairman, Glenview Chamber of Commerce 2003 & 2012 • Former Officer, Northwest Municipal Conference • Board Member, Thomas Place Senior Housing • Member, Glenview Naval Air Station Reuse Task Force His occupation: President of Glenview-based Cabot Properties, Ltd. Recently sold my healthcare business I developed and operated for 32 years. His education: Licensed real estate broker and a certified secondary education teacher in the State of Illinois. B.S.ed in Political Science and Secondary Education from Southern Illinois University, completed postgraduate study in Real Estate. Campaign website: Goslin2018.com
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?
Goslin: The Board of Commissioners role is to look for ways to bring business to Cook County – bringing employment and revenue. Specifically, utilizing the judicious use of property tax incentives for businesses taking over vacant and underutilized properties in Cook County, and especially the south suburbs. The Cook County Department of Economic Development, along with other partners, initiated the South Suburban Economic Growth Initiative to help develop a comprehensive set of initiatives to restore the economic activity of the South Suburbs. In July of 2017 I voted for the South Suburban Tax Reactivation Pilot Program targeting Bremen, Bloom, Rich, Calumet and Thornton Townships to help encourage Class 8 property tax incentives in these areas, which was approved.
We need to continue to encourage economic growth in all of Cook County and repeal short-sighted initiatives that stunt growth. For example I support minimum wage and sick leave legislation on a state level. Doing it piecemeal – county by county is detrimental to a district like ours, where one side of the road is Cook County and across the street another county with different rules, different competitive realities. On a county level, these laws create a patchwork that negatively impacts our local economy, particularly for us as a border district with Lake County (McHenry and Kane Counties are within earshot as well). The 14th District is only 28 miles from the Wisconsin border and the competition for job creating and revenue generating enterprises is ferocious. That only damages the ability of local employers to hire our residents and contribute back into the community. This is NOT the way to encourage economic growth.
The Cook County Sheriff has taken over policing duties in several south suburbs plagued by financial troubles and unable to pay or retain sufficient police force. Therefore, it was necessary for the Sheriff’s office to take over policing in the short term to ensure the safety of residents and the entire region. Without economic growth and incentives, these areas will continue to suffer from economic depression which is why it is essential for Cook County to remove roadblocks to established and potential businesses and encourage economic growth.
As a commissioner, how strongly would you support efforts to ensure that voting within the county is secure?
Goslin: Preserving the integrity and security of America’s elections must be a top priority for all election officials. In fact, the Cook County Clerk reports that he has been warned by national security administrators to expect more evolving and sophisticated cyber security threats. To combat this, he has utilized funds allocated to his office by the Cook County Board of Commissioners to increase digital security professional personnel and defensive technology. I continue to believe this funding and focus should be a priority for the FY19 budget.
This needs to been addressed on a national level as well. As a member of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Counties (NACo), I voted to actively advocate efforts urging Congress to combat cyber security threats. The Secure Elections Act calls for increased resources to local election officials to retain the public’s confidence in the credibility of our election process.
What should the County Board do to help reduce gun violence?
Goslin: It’s heartbreaking to address this question in a brief candidate questionnaire. So much is obvious: Cook County should partner with law enforcement/community resources on a regional basis. It’s unbearable and unacceptable that each Monday we hold our breath to see what the weekend toll has brought. There is a clear need to build more trust with police while also recognizing that gangs and drug activity diminish hope and opportunity for our young people. It’s important to note this is not a district specific crisis but one that touches the entire county – either by personal family tragedy or the safety concerns of future students, tourists or employers who pull back resources because of these senseless tragedies. The County’s role in affecting meaningful change in taking back our community from gangs and violence is its unique ability to promote job creation and economic incentive in the local community. Hope for the future is exactly what these programs offer and can be powerful when combined with a regional partnership with key stakeholders.
What ordinances would you propose and make a priority?
Goslin: My philosophy regarding new legislation is simple: it should directly improve Cook County government’s economic efficiencies and be related to our mission of serving our citizens. I do not believe in mandating legislation on a local level that should be appropriately dictated on a state or federal level.
I have sponsored a variety of measures I believe make Cook County government operation better: requiring a Fiscal Impact Note for proposed legislation, Taxing District Debt Disclosure, Midyear Accountability Ordinance, approved numerous job creating economic development incentives, elimination of unmanned aerial usage on county property, the Cook County Small Business Commission, sheriff’s Operations Asset Forfeiture Fund and supported numerous 6b job creating tax incentive programs.
I represent the values of my constituents and work to ensure my district taxpayers receive a fair share return on the tax dollars they send to the county via infrastructure projects, FPD improvements, Community Development Block Grants(CDBG)and road improvements. $437,756,811.00 has been invested back into the District over my years as commissioner.
Should Cook County create a Consensus Revenue Forecasting Commission to give the board independent analyses?
Goslin: I have long supported creating a Congressional Budget-like office to better understand the fiscal impact of legislation, but have confidence in the county’s professional finance team, and recognize that this additional expense is a luxury we cannot take on at this time.
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.
Goslin: The Cook County FPD Police are uniquely qualified as both sworn officers to protect visitors to the preserves as well the preserves themselves. FPD police go through the police academy so they are trained officers to protect the public and they also undergo specialized training in conservation and ecology from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
For similar reasons I also believe that John Stroger Hospital is better served by having its own dedicated police force familiar with the expansive hospital campus rather than a continuously rotating cast of Sheriff’s police. The hospital environment is by definition a highly emotional setting – a full-range of emotion from joy to tragedy. Having specific security personnel who are familiar with these levels of intense reactions best addresses the needs of visitors, patients and staff.
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?
Goslin: Habitat restoration is a key tenant of the Cook County Forest Preserves mission. Along with the help and assistance of an army of volunteers, they have a long standing program to restore high quality habitat and eliminate invasive species.
While it would be wonderful to be able to restore all 69,000+ acres of FPD lands it is simply not feasible due to funding and manpower. Currently the FPD has a vegetation management plan in place for 10,500 acres but through the Next Century Conservation Plan, the goal is to be able to manage and restore up to 30,000 acres and acquire another 20,000 acres to add to FPD holdings.
In that vein, the Cook County Board of Forest Preserve Commissioners supported the Forest Preserve’s Sustainability Doctrine which lays out a set of rules to maintain the rich biological diversity and the ecosystem services of the flora and fauna in the Forest Preserve District, approved a measure to create the Next Century Conservation Plan, and created the Conservation and Policy Council to help guide this ambitious plan.
In my own district, Somme Woods and Deer Grove are shining examples of what restoration can accomplish. Restoration in Somme Woods began in the 1970’s and has gone from land shrouded by dense thickets of invasive buckthorn to shaded woodland, sun-dappled savanna to wide open prairie. Restored wetlands within Deer Grove have transformed the landscape where hundreds of rare birds and plants are now thriving.
I am committed to continuing restoration of Forest Preserve lands and working to meet the goals established in the Next Century Conservation Plan.
Are county commissioners, who are mostly Democrats, independent enough of their party and the president?
Goslin: Of the 13 Democratic county board members, most vote quite consistently with the president, who also serves as chairman of the powerful Cook County Democratic Party. Two of the more independent Democrats found themselves defeated in their primary by well-funded opponents; upon being sworn in, these incoming commissioners will be beholden to the President. In an unprecedented move, the President has inserted her political muscle and money into opposing three suburban republicans, who provide much needed checks and balances to the process. (See Mark Brown’s article in the Chicago Sun-Times) The president would have you believe that this board, who would rubber stamp her budgets, tax increase proposals, economic and social priorities would best represent the perspective of the suburbs. Many suburban residents already believe they are “donor communities” and that they do not receive a fair share for the tax dollars they send. A major part of my job is to continually advocate to ensure this is not the case. Would a total Democratic board of commissioners, fully beholden to the president’s support, be independent and vote to reflect our unique suburban perspective?
What can the county do to create synergies with the City of Chicago? Or is this unnecessary?
Goslin: Cook County currently does partner with the City of Chicago, Cook County Forest Preserves and other local governments in various purchasing cooperatives for everything from office supplies to vehicles. This helps the County, and other governments, leverage more buying power and therefore better pricing than the County could do alone.
Additionally, the County does share services with the Forest Preserve District. Examples include the County’s Human Resources and Secretary of the Board offices that provide support to the FPD for a negotiated price, less than it would cost the FPD to maintain these departments themselves.
We are always looking at ways to consolidate services and eliminate duplication where possible.
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.