On Feb. 14, Eddie Johnson III 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:
My name is Eddie Johnson. I’m currently an educator for Chicago Public Schools. My top priority is to stream public safety, prioritize the delivery of county services and support a comprehensive property tax reform. My plans to do that is to work with residents, other parts of government and No. 1, do not raise any sales tax.
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. Johnson 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QUESTION: The County Board enacted and then repealed a tax on sweetened beverages, then made further cuts to the budget.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.
Yes, the county can now claim an appropriate balance of revenue and services. Future revenue should now come from creating and generating revenue through comprehensive property tax reform.
- Economic development can create new revenue throughout depressed county districts creating new property taxes dollars.
- Leasing Forest Preserve land can create revenue for county government.
Eddie Johnson III
Political/civic Background: Chicago Public Schools – Local School Council (Bass Elementary School) Community Representative 2002-2006; Chicago Police Department 7th District C.A.P.S. Faith-Based Executive Council Chairman 2017-Present; 6300-6400 South Aberdeen Block Club President
Occupation: Educator – CPS Chicago Public Schools
Education: Englewood High School, Northeastern IL. University and Northern Baptist Seminary
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?
QUESTION: What county functions or services would you support privatizing, if any, to reduce costs?
ANSWER: I don’t support privatizing any county functions or services.
QUESTION: The state of Illinois is behind on paying money it owes to Cook County. What’s to be done about that?
ANSWER: The State of Illinois should pay all monies owed to Cook County or Cook County State’s Attorney office should follow legal proceedings under Article IX of the State of Illinois Constitution. County board Commissioner should have working relationship with state legislators within their district to ensure all monies are paid from State of Illinois.
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 support tax-increment financing districts and believe they can be a valuable development tool in revitalizing communities’ that are underserved. One critical issue with TIF funds in many cases are community which funds are allocated to improve have little or no community resident’s involvement. The County Board should be required to give approval to the creation of TIF districts in Cook County. TIF district funds should only be used in that particular district or Aldermanic Ward that it was design for. TIF district funds in many cases are underutilized due to its inappropriate usage. In the case of underutilization of any TIF funds community residents should’ve have input on how underutilized funds should be spent or used throughout their Aldermanic Ward or TIF district. In the process of making sufficiently and transparent use of TIF funds as Commissioner I will proposal an ordinance creating a community council to oversee the spending and monitoring of TIF funds throughout Chicago TIF districts and Cook County. The definition of “blighted” area should be revised to clearly identify a particular area or specific area where TIF funds are allocated for.
QUESTION: Recently, there have been calls to freeze local property taxes. What’s your view on the matter?
ANSWER: I support freezing local property taxes for 5 years and a comprehensive property tax reform plan for Cook County property taxes. 3 key factors to implement when freezing local property taxes.
- Freeze the property tax levy of every local government in Illinois for five years, including home rule and non-home rule local governments.
- Base the annual increase in local government levies not on inflation, but on Illinoisans’ ability to pay higher taxes. After the five-year freeze, property tax levies will grow based on the annual change in Illinois’ statewide median household income, with a maximum of 2 percent and a minimum of zero.
- Require a referendum when governments wish to raise other local taxes or fees. To pass, the referendum must be approved by two-thirds of local voters.
These solutions have also been offered by the Illinois Policy Institute’s 2018 Budgets Solutions.
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 don’t support efforts to merge unincorporated pockets of the county into adjoining municipalities.
QUESTION: What is your plan to encourage economic development in the county?
ANSWER: My plan to encourage economic development in the county is to support equitable geographic distribution of affordable housing throughout the 2nd District of Cook County. Encouraging residents to purchase homes in depressed communities will stimulate the county budget by generating and increase revenue through new property taxes dollars.
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 District’s Next Century Conversation Plan can be funded by leasing Forest Preserve land and prioritizing spending throughout the Forest Preserve Department.
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: No response
QUESTION: Should the Forest Preserve District have its own board, independent of the County Board? Please explain.
ANSWER: Yes, the Forest Preserve District should have its own Board independently of the County Board. County Board Commissioner don’t have the knowledge or expertise to provide the operational needs required to operate the Forest Preserve District.
QUESTION: Is Cook County treated fairly by the state? If not, how so?
ANSWER: Cook County government is treated unfairly by the State of Illinois, the state refusing to pay money owed to the County. The State of Illinois don’t properly fund education in Cook County district 299; State of Illinois refuse to make fair contributions to local municipalities pension systems, health care and mental health care services is a unfair treatment that puts an overwhelming strain on county and local budgets. The State of Illinois raised the individual income taxes without allocate any additional dollars to Cook County and other local governments.
QUESTION: Do you support another effort in the Legislature to reform the county’s pension system?
ANSWER: Yes, I support efforts in the Legislature to reform county’s pension system.
QUESTION: Please name any relatives who hold a county job. What’s your general view on elected officials hiring relatives?
ANSWER: I don’t have any relatives who hold a county jobs. Elected officials shouldn’t hire their relatives.