On Feb. 14, Deborah Sims appeared before the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board. We asked her why she’s running for Cook County commissioner in the 5th District in the March 2018 primary:
I’m a commissioner of the 5th Cook County District and I’ve been there for 23 years. My top priorities are economic development, health care and water. I’ve already implemented some of them in bringing a new development into Harvey, which will be 500 jobs and hopefully in doing that we’ll bring some more anchor around Harvey to be able to employ more people.
Right now they have a water problem in the 5th District. They get their water from the city of Chicago and what we’re finding out is that the water bills are really very high and the reason is because there are holes in the pipes where the water comes from the city and to the towns and villages. So that’s going to be one of my priorities and also health care.
The Chicago Sun-Times sent the candidates running for Cook County commissioner in the 5th District a list of questions to find out their views on a range of important issues facing the Chicago area. Sims submitted the following responses 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QUESTION: The County Board enacted and then repealed a tax on sweetened beverages, then made further cuts to the budget.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: As of now, the County is under a TRO of the court, it is balanced at this time. Hard to determine if the budget will be balanced after the judge makes his final determination.
Running for: Democratic nomination for Cook County commissioner in the 5th District.
Political/civic background: Cook County Commissioner 5th District
Education: 2 Years College
Campaign website: reelectdeborahsims.org
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 would suggest reaching out to the lobbyist in Washington to see if there are any unique circumstances that Cook County would qualify for.
QUESTION: What county functions or services would you support privatizing, if any, to reduce costs?
ANSWER: I don’t believe we should privatize any services unless we do a complete analysis and it shows a total cost savings to the county.
QUESTION: The state of Illinois is behind on paying money it owes to Cook County. What’s to be done about that?
ANSWER: There isn’t anything we can do but send the Governor a resolution asking him to please send our payments on time, and we’ve done that.
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: I think it is beneficial when it is done for the benefit of the development, as well as entity of government. I believe they are a benefit. The process should be transparent with community awareness. Blighted could be more defined but, every area can have a different need.
QUESTION: Recently, there have been calls to freeze local property taxes. What’s your view on the matter?
ANSWER: We have not increased property taxes for the past 23 years. So in a sense, they have been frozen. There may be a movement to take the natural growth which Cook County is entitled to take but has not. It is in discussion.
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 have served on a committee to look at this issue and some municipalities are ok with it, other are not because of the cost for new infrastructure.
QUESTION: What is your plan to encourage economic development in the county?
ANSWER: Work with Planning and Economic Development Department and Workforce Development to create business and jobs. I am presently working with our planning department to bring a manufacturing company to the 5th district which will bring jobs and more business to the south region of Cook County.
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: The Forest Preserve can do this by raising fees and by implementing more activities that are fee based. Or lobby the Philanthropic community.
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: Yes, people are using the lots for all day parking not for Forest Preserve recreation. Visitors should be considerate of others, and not abuse.
QUESTION: Should the Forest Preserve District have its own board, independent of the County Board? Please explain.
ANSWER: No, this will only create another layer of government.
QUESTION: Is Cook County treated fairly by the state? If not, how so?
ANSWER: No, the State does not pay much needed revenue in a timely manner.
QUESTION: Do you support another effort in the Legislature to reform the county’s pension system?
ANSWER: I support the efforts if it is beneficial to County Government. The County has made necessary steps to pay its pension obligation on time.
QUESTION: Please name any relatives who hold a county job. What’s your general view on elected officials hiring relatives?
ANSWER: No, I believe anyone who qualifies for a job should get it.