Republican incumbent Timothy O. Schneider is the Sun-Times’ endorsed candidate in the 15th district Cook County board race.
A Cook County commissioner since 2006, Schneider faces a challenge in November from Democrat Kevin Morrison in an election to represent the county’s 15th district, which includes Schaumburg, Hoffman Estates and Elk Grove Village.
The Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board sent the nominees for the Cook County Board of Commissioners a list of questions to find out their views on a range of important issues facing Cook County. Schneider submitted the following answers to our questionnaire:
Cook County has cut its spending and probably will pass a budget that includes no new revenues. Given the county government’s resources and responsibilities, what else would you do to cut or to generate sustainable revenues? How much would money would that save or generate? Are you willing to vote for new taxes or fees? Please be specific.
Schneider: I am not willing to vote for new taxes, and will consider fee increases on a case-by-case basis. We need to make Cook County a lean and more efficient government. The payroll can be reduced within Cook County government through attrition, without anyone having to lose their job. When an employee retires or leaves county government, we should find ways for staff to absorb the duties. Every position that is empty does not need to be filled. Work rules need to be changed in collective bargaining agreements to allow for employees to be able to move within their department to avoid hiring additional staff.
We need to hold the separately elected officials accountable for operating within their budget. This year the county board held mid-year budget hearings, this gives Commissioner’s a better understanding of how the elected officials are managing their budgets.
Further consolidation of duplicative departments among the separately elected offices. There is not a need for the separately elected offices to have their own HR and Technology departments, when the County already has them under the Office of the President.
We have yet to see savings at the jail or the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center (JTDC), even though there has been a reduction in population at both facilities. The savings we would realize could be used to fill budget holes and offer alternatives to incarceration. Additionally, following restorative justice practices would result in a savings and benefit our communities.
The Cook County Health and Hospital System needs to do a better job to collect all revenue that is due. Staff needs to make sure to bill for all services in order to be reimbursed. We have recently seen that billing and coding mistakes cost the Cook County Health System $165 million. The health system needs to improve services; tens of millions of dollars could be saved if we are able to retain County Care patients in our system, rather than using the services of our partner hospitals and clinics.
The Cook County Health and Hospitals System lost out on some $165 million in revenue over three years because of lax clerical procedures and errors, according to report last spring by the county inspector general. What would you do to end this kind of waste?
Schneider: This is a huge loss for the health system. The health system needs to make sure they are collecting every dollar that is owed to them. The culture of not coding correctly and not collecting funds should be long behind us. Employees need to be held to high performance standards, which need to be enforced. If employees repeatedly make costly errors, a protocol that is enforceable should be implemented for termination. Current staff that is not meeting performance requirements should be replaced. Staff, including doctors and nurses needs to be retrained on an annual basis or whenever changes to the system are implemented. These costly problems arise from all areas in the health system. There needs to be a better quality control system in place to ensure that proper procedures are followed and to only hire employees that can meet the highest performance standards.
Who is Timothy O. Schneider?
He’s running for:
- Cook County Board of Commissioners, 15th District
His political/Civic background:
- 2006-Present Cook County Commissioner
- Trustee, Hanover Township 1984-1996
- Highway Commissioner 1996-2006
- Chairman, IL GOP 2014-Present
- Owner, Golf Club of Illinois
- BS, University of Illinois
Campaign website: timschneider.us
Recent news: Timothy O. Schneider
What should the County Board’s role be in assisting economically depressed areas in the south suburbs? Should the county sheriff take over policing responsibilities in more suburbs that are struggling to maintain police protection?
Schneider: Cook County needs to become more business friendly in order for the south suburbs to compete with Indiana. Commissioner’s need to listen to the concerns of the south suburban mayors. The board needs to stop adding mandates to the tax incentive program.
Cook County has a moral obligation to support public safety in all of Cook County. The sheriff should take over police responsibilities in areas that are struggling to maintain police protection, however municipalities should look to the County for police protection only as a last resort. This should be done through an IGA agreement, which both parties come up with an agreement that is fair for both sides, and the County is reimbursed in a realistic manner.
As a commissioner, how strongly would you support efforts to ensure that voting within the county is secure?
Schneider: Securing our elections is of the highest importance. In order for elections to be fair the county needs to ensure the voting public that their cast ballot will be free from any type of hacking. I have always been supportive of the Clerk whenever he comes before the board in the need of upgrading election equipment and software. The federal government needs to come up with bi-partisan solutions, which would provide resources for the County to use towards securing elections.
What should the County Board do to help reduce gun violence?
Schneider: The County Board needs to work with all the stakeholders to reduce the gun violence. Currently, all the various officials point the finger at one another, which only creates more divisiveness, rather that solving the gun violence problem. There need to be enough police, community programs and parenting resources. Most everyone can agree that jobs will help reduce gun violence. There are many good jobs in my district that go unfilled. Transportation initiatives need to be explored so young people can commute from the gun plagued neighborhoods to areas with good jobs. The major transportation entities should be at the table including, PACE, METRA and CTA to tackle this epidemic. I am working with my democratic colleagues to explore what grant programs are available to help provide transportation options for young people and adults to get to jobs in other suburban communities.
What ordinances would you propose and make a priority?
Schneider: Ordinances that would promote growth in Cook County, and encourage businesses to move to Cook County and also encourage the existing businesses to want to remain in Cook County. I would offer ordinances to level the playing field between neighboring counties. I would offer tax incentives (6B) for small commercial businesses.
Should Cook County create a Consensus Revenue Forecasting Commission to give the board independent analyses?
Schneider: Yes, Commissioners would be able to use this as a guide when contemplating revenues proposals. An independent commission would remove any bias to ensure the board is receiving accurate information.
Does it make sense for the sheriff’s department to take over the Cook County forest preserve police? Does it make sense for Stroger Hospital to have its own police force? Please explain.
Schneider: I am in favor of looking into opportunities to merge the Forest Preserve police force with the County Sheriff’s Department. Sheriff Dart has often said this could be done, but I would like to see a study done of potential savings and then have stakeholders live up to those savings. In many ways, the Forest Preserve force is redundant of what the Sheriff’s office is already doing throughout the County.
We need to ensure safety at Stroger Hospital at all costs. The County should study if there would be a savings and if the Sheriff would be willing to take over police services at Stroger Hospital. If the Sheriff is not willing to take over at Stroger, I believe the force should be retained.
Within the forest preserve system, native plants areas in unmanaged land are deteriorating at a rate of about 3 percent per year because of weeds and invasive species. What should be done, if anything, to protect the forest preserve’s ecosystems?
Schneider: We should be protecting the forest preserve’s ecosystem. I support the Next Century Conservation Plan which includes an aggressive plan to restore the forest preserve land, along with land acquisition. I support the prescribed burn program, it should be continued and expanded. Volunteers are a vital part of maintaining the forest preserve. The Forest Preserve District has an excellent volunteer program that should be maintained. Volunteers are vital to the Forest Preserve they must be promoted and thanked at every opportunity. I would offer a referendum on the ballot asking voters if they would offer support and greater resources for land acquisition and restoration.
Are county commissioners, who are mostly Democrats, independent enough of their party and the president?
Schneider: No, it is important for there to be balance on the County Board. Checks and balances are vital to any legislative body. What good is a legislative body if they are nothing more than a rubber stamp? A balanced board would provide for mindful discussions to gain input on all sides of a particular issue before the board.
What can the county do to create synergies with the City of Chicago? Or is this unnecessary?
Schneider: The County currently partners with the City of Chicago for procurement contracts when appropriate. It would be worth exploring other opportunities to partner with the city if it would provide a savings to the taxpayer.
Ahead of the historic 2018 elections, the Sun-Times is teaming up weekly with the Better Government Association, in print and online, to fact-check the truthfulness of the candidates. You can find all of the PolitiFact Illinois stories we’ve reported together here.