On Feb. 20, Maria M. Barlow appeared before the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board. We asked her why she’s running for Cook County commissioner in the 4th District in the March 2018 primary. Check out her response in the video below.
The Chicago Sun-Times sent the candidates seeking nominations 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. Barlow submitted the following answers to our questionnaire:
QUESTION: The County Board enacted and then repealed a tax on sweetened beverages, then made further cuts to the budget. Can county government now claim an appropriate balance of revenue and services, or will more revenue or more cost-cutting be necessary? Please be specific as to where new revenue might come from, or where further cuts could be made.
ANSWER: The county cannot claim a balance of the budget as a result of the beverage tax repeal and cuts to the budget. The county will need more revenue and cut wasteful spending. The best way to raise revenue is to increase the tax base.
Maria M. Barlow
Occupation: Attorney at law
Education: B.A. and Juris Doctor
Campaign website: www.maria4commissioner.com
QUESTION: If the Affordable Care Act is eliminated or curtailed, what would you propose doing to keep the county’s Health and Hospitals System on sound financial footing?
ANSWER: If the affordable care act is eliminated or curtailed the county would have to seek cost cutting alternatives and avenues for revenue such as expanding the tax base.
QUESTION: What county functions or services would you support privatizing, if any, to reduce costs?
ANSWER: Privatization of government services is not a viable option. Privatizing of services will lead to increased spending in the long run.
QUESTION: The state of Illinois is behind on paying money it owes to Cook County. What’s to be done about that?
ANSWER: Debt owed by the state to Cook County is an obligation by the state. The Cook County Board must pursue all means to ensure that the money is recouped.
QUESTION: What is your position on tax-increment financing districts? Are they a valuable development tool? Are they underutilized? Is the process sufficiently transparent? Should there be more community input? Should the definition of a “blighted” area be revised?
ANSWER: TIFs have the potential to be a valuable development tool for blighted communities. However, what constitutes “blighted” could be revised. TIF money should be dedicated to TIF purposes and not moved and the process should be more transparent. There should be more community input as far as allocation and spending of TIF money. The problem isn’t if they are underutilized the problem is the definition of blighted.
QUESTION: Recently, there have been calls to freeze local property taxes. What’s your view on the matter?
ANSWER: Illinois is one the states with the highest property taxes in the U.S. and Cook County is one of the counties with the highest property taxes in Illinois. Property tax freeze and reform is a measure that will be beneficial to the people of Illinois and Cook County.
QUESTION: Do you support or oppose efforts to merge unincorporated pockets of the county into adjoining municipalities? If so, how would you make that happen?
ANSWER: Adjoining municipalities should annex unincorporated pockets of Cook County. This will be a cost saving option for the county. However the issue of unincorporated areas of Cook County as far as services should be a matter of federal, state and local government.
QUESTION: What is your plan to encourage economic development in the county?
ANSWER: Illinois and Cook County should be more business friendly. This would help expand the tax base and bring back more businesses.
QUESTION: An additional $40 million per year is needed to fund the Forest Preserve District’s Next Century Conservation Plan. Where can the county find the money?
ANSWER: All avenues for funding should be explored including seeking federal and state funding.
QUESTION: Traditionally, the Forest Preserve District has not charged for parking in the preserves, but it is considering doing so at Swallow Cliff Woods. Do you support that?
ANSWER: Charging for parking is a revenue generating opportunity which would off-set the costs associated with maintaining the Swallow Cliff Woods. Offsetting costs would help to keep taxes down.
QUESTION: Should the Forest Preserve District have its own board, independent of the County Board? Please explain.
ANSWER: No. This would just increase costs.
QUESTION: Is Cook County treated fairly by the state? If not, how so?
ANSWER: All county and state government officials should strive to work together on issues that affect the people. Government should be focused on people’s needs and interests rather than partisan loyalty and disagreements.
QUESTION: Do you support another effort in the Legislature to reform the county’s pension system?
ANSWER: Pension obligation is a large part of the county and state debt. Illinois Legislature must continue to seek all avenues to reform Illinois pension.
QUESTION: Please name any relatives who hold a county job. What’s your general view on elected officials hiring relatives?
I do not have relatives employed by the county. Generally, all elected officials have the ethical obligation to be fair, transparent, and honest in all hiring practices.