On Feb. 14, Paul J. Montes II appeared before the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board. We asked him why he’s running for the Cook County Board of Commissioners in the 2nd District:
Hi, my name is Paul Montes and I’m running for the 2nd Cook County District. My background is that of an attorney. I’ve been in private practice over 30 years. I’m also an entrepreneur. I’ve owned several businesses within the South Side of Chicago.
My top priorities are making sure that our county is a great place to live, to work, to shop and to raise a family. In that order, I want to make sure that we still have job opportunities. That there’s economic development within our community. Also want to make sure that we have great housing stock and our communities are safe. I also want to make sure that we have the ability to be able to have good health care and our prison systems which is our safety net and our justice system. I want to make sure that those systems are adequately provided for.
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. Montes 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QUESTION: The County Board enacted and then repealed a tax on sweetened beverages, then made further cuts to the budget.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: Government services are not free, but I believe people are willing to pay their fair share for services if they can see that their taxes are being used responsibly, effectively, and with transparency. I believe that the County should continuously re-examine departments and functions for costs savings. Since may budgets are for department who have elected official at the helm, I believe that the leadersip should be held accountable for their budgets allowing them to cut cost where they best can afford to without out sacrificing service to the citizens of Cook County. Additionally, revenue should not be garnered through regressive taxes like the sweetened beverage tax.
Paul J. Montes II
Political/civic background: Board Member: Bronzeville Children’s Museum, Windy City Habitat for Humanity, Children at the Crossroads Foundation, Young Adult Board of DuSable Museum, Provident Hospital Foundation, Community Services West High School, Haitian American Bar Association
Organizations/Associations -Frogs Club, Chicago Assembly, Crown Club, Cook County Bar Association, Chicago Bar Association, Chicago Realtors Association, National Bar Association
Occupation: Attorney / Entrepreneur
Education: Loyola University School of Law, Chicago, Illinois Juris Doctorate 1989 Coe College, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Cum Laude, Bachelor of Arts, Chemistry, 1986
Campaign website: PAULMONTES2018.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: I will work to ensure that proper funding is provided for the County’s health systems so that they can continue to provide health (physical and mental) and other basic human service at a high level, which all citizens of the County deserve.
QUESTION: What county functions or services would you support privatizing, if any, to reduce costs?
ANSWER: I am not in support of privatizing county functions or services. It most often results in quick cash for government but in the long term government most often losses on revenues without better, faster and cheaper services. Furthermore, it seems to lack accountability and transparency of contractors and reduces jobs and many times services to those who need them most.
QUESTION: The state of Illinois is behind on paying money it owes to Cook County. What’s to be done about that?
ANSWER: The County has to wait for distribution as all other entities and vendors. The County could look at the courts for relief as other have attempted.
QUESTION: What is your position on tax-increment financing districts?
ANSWER: I am in support of TIF districts in Cook County, excluding the Chicago.
Are they a valuable development tool?
Yes, if properly used.
Are they underutilized?
Yes, outside of Chicago.
Is the process sufficiently transparent? No.
Should there be more community input? Community input is always important.
Should the definition of a “blighted” area be revised? Yes
QUESTION: Recently, there have been calls to freeze local property taxes. What’s your view on the matter?
ANSWER: A freeze on local property taxes will most likely not produce a freeze on an individuals tax bill. I believe a freeze will only prolong the inevitable increase in taxes as the underlying costs of government still remain.
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: I support annexation. However, annexation must be approved by the adjoining municipalities, who often wish only to annex areas of commercial growth, if any.
QUESTION: What is your plan to encourage economic development in the county?
ANSWER: Promote business retention and growth, workforce development and affordable housing through partnerships with local municipalities and companies.
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: Not enough information to have an opinion.
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?
QUESTION: Should the Forest Preserve District have its own board, independent of the County Board? Please explain.
ANSWER: Yes. Since the Forest Preserve District is its own governmental entity a separate independent board should exist to increase transparency and to prevent conflicts.
QUESTION: Is Cook County treated fairly by the state? If not, how so?
ANSWER: No opinion
QUESTION: Do you support another effort in the Legislature to reform the county’s pension system?
ANSWER: Now that there are two structures to the pension systems in the County, I believe the issue has been adequately addressed and I do not currently support another effort to reform. Those who have qualified under the old plan should be granted the benefits they earned.
QUESTION: Please name any relatives who hold a county job. What’s your general view on elected officials hiring relatives?