On Feb. 21, Mary Ann Kosiak appeared before the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board. We asked her why she’s running for Cook County commissioner in the 10th 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. Kosiak 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QUESTION: The County Board enacted and then repealed a tax on sweetened beverages, then made further cuts to the budget.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: New revenue can be obtained by a Cook County Ordinance protecting the 500,000 condo owners from excessive condo assessments. Other states and counties have already passed these protective measures. For example, residents can live 20 minutes from Manhattan and pay at $250 condo assessment. In Chicago the average assessment is one thousand dollars. If the statute reduces this to $250 in Cook County, people can triple their spending and the county would receive three times the sales tax.
In addition, Illinois is the only state in which condo owners can be evicted for rule violations or unpaid assessments. This is problematic for the county because lack of tax revenue and many times the owners are sent unnecessarily to nursing homes where Medicaid pays $6,000 a month. Often board members and friends of the board members fabricate rule violations to obtain the property for ten cents on a dollar.
Cut waste. According to Commissioner Boykin a company charges the county $8 for a small pack of water.
Fifteen hundred Cook County jobs are unfilled. I would not lay off existing employees but as the same time I would not fill those fifteen hundred positions, except for some new public defenders who may be able to release the innocent because it cost $143 a day to house one inmate.
In addition I would consolidate departments. In the past I recommended that the State of Illinois consolidate real estate banks and medical as well as legal professional regulations departments. They followed three fourths of my suggestion which saved the State of Illinois considerable money.
Mary Ann Kosiak
Political/civic background: Democrat
Class-Action Letter for Veterans and Firefighters
Occupation: Bike, Auto, Truck Attorney
Education: Juris Doctorate:
Campaign website: To Be Announced.
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?
- We would hire contractors based on transparent bids advertised in major newspapers.
- When attorneys receive personal injury settlements, we should make sure proper reimbursement is made to the County.
- I would negotiate drug prices with both U.S. corporations and Canada.
- I was able to observe elderly patients’ treatments for Alzheimer’s, dementia and Parkinson’s. Upon talking to numerous doctors, I discovered a male lawyer whose dementia was cured and was able to resume his law practice. If we can cure Alzheimer’s the county would save millions. I am currently looking for a group recommendation for the MacArthur Grant so I can obtain a prototype.
- Telemedicine for Cook County patients.
- Home health often times saves thousands of dollars.
QUESTION: What county functions or services would you support privatizing, if any, to reduce costs?
ANSWER: None, unless privatizing is considerably less expensive. Any attempt to privatize should be open to all with bids in major newspapers.
QUESTION: The state of Illinois is behind on paying money it owes to Cook County. What’s to be done about that?
ANSWER: Due to Governor Rauner’s bankruptcy considerations we should negotiate a settlement. As a Chicago accident attorney for over twenty-five years judges and clients have complimented me on my negotiation skills; therefore, I would be able to help Cook County attorneys bargain. If the state refuses to compromise, we will engage existing Cook County attorneys to file suit against the state.
As the current Cook County attorneys retire, I know the best attorneys to litigate this matter. Therefore, it would be unnecessary retain outside firms which would save the state considerable money.
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 am opposed to tax increment financing because our tenth district, (where I have resided over twenty-five years opposed to Bridgett Gainer’s 9 years) would be required to give our tax dollars to other districts. In many cases corporations have filed bankruptcy after receiving these funds with little benefit to the community. Congressman Quigley agrees with me on this. City council decides what district funds are used. If a tax increment financing district remains despite my efforts to fight them, blighted areas should be revised. In my district many business on Clark Lincoln Avenue and Broadway are closed resulting in vacant buildings. The process of tax increment financing needs to be more transparent.
QUESTION: Recently, there have been calls to freeze local property taxes. What’s your view on the matter?
ANSWER: We should definitely freeze local property taxes because in other states, for example, in California taxes are based on one percent of the sales price. In addition, I would change the Cook County property tax sale, so that all citizens can fairly bid. We need advertising of the sale in major newspapers. It is difficult for interested parties to find tax sale information.
There are over eleven thousand properties in Cook County with unpaid taxes. Not-for-profits, where CEO’s make over twenty million dollars a year should pay property taxes. Foreclosures are a major cause of unpaid property tax. Bridgett Gainer voted to end the Foreclosure Remediation Program. If we could have saved more families from foreclosure, they may have remained taxpayers for the next forty years. Instead of terminating the program, I would have stopped the intrusive and expensive in-home visits. The people are not benefited by counseling. It is not their fault that politicians are increasing property taxes.
I know one elderly couple who were tax payers for over forty years. They were approved for a reverse mortgage to end their foreclosure. However, since the program was terminated, they are now renting for $3,500 a month, instead of the county receiving that benefit. Therefore, I would have cut waste from the program by providing lawyers instead of expensive in-home visits and counseling. We could have run this program for 1.5 million instead of the three million, resulting in saving the program.
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 would support these efforts only if the citizens vote to merge in a referendum.
QUESTION: What is your plan to encourage economic development in the county?
- The county should have inclusive economic development, so that all residents can benefit of the improved economy. Cities that have increased economic development also have improved education in the information services and manufacturing. Amazon has stated they require this training. In addition, Amazon is requiring a business friendly environment. Cook County is not listed among the counties that have inclusive economic development. We have more residents leaving the county than anywhere in the nation.
- Demand that Chicago and Illinois small business programs initiate advertising education for businesses.
- Small businesses in Cook County should be able to advertise at a reduced rate on the same signs as government information.
- We can save millions if we advertise bids in the initial pages in major newspapers instead of burying them in the back.
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: Improve the property tax sale in order to continue to maintain 69,000 forest acres which is the largest in the country. In the next election we should have a referendum to determine if voters favor selling some forest preserve property. This should be well advertised in major newspapers.
I value trees and the environment, but we must be careful because in Lincoln Park I recently experienced a large tree that fell only several feet from Clark Street. Therefore, since citizen’s safety is of paramount importance, I would partner with the city by recommending removal of dangerous sick trees especially near Lake Shore Drive, where in a large windstorm they are dangerous. As a result we would plant new trees in the forest preserve instead of endangering the motorists on Lake Shore Drive. We could sell wood from the sick trees as long as it does not present a health hazard. I will advertise bids on the sale of the wood. Therefore, the county would receive substantially more money.
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, if they are unpaid positions. We will screen these applicants to make sure they have no connection to the County Commissioners.
QUESTION: Is Cook County treated fairly by the state? If not, how so?
ANSWER: No. Cook County Hospital receives less money from the state than other hospitals in more affluent neighborhoods.
QUESTION: Do you support another effort in the Legislature to reform the county’s pension system?
- I support reformation of the county’s pension system only if it lowers the property and sales tax.
- In any event, as a result of my employment background as a teacher, I do not support Bridget Gainer’s plan to increase the retirement age by five years. Although I am fortunate to have good health, some teachers at that age have medical concerns and need to retire earlier than the additional five years that Bridget Gainer suggests.
QUESTION: Please name any relatives who hold a county job. What’s your general view on elected officials hiring relatives?
ANSWER: None of my relatives hold county jobs. In corporations, nepotism is prohibited. I will not hire relatives.