NICHOLAS “NICK” SMITH Democratic candidate for COUNTY BOARD, DISTRICT 4
Facebook: Nick Smith for County Commissioner, 4th District
What do you consider to be the major issue(s) facing Cook County? Cook County government is moving in the right direction. Many measures are already in place to better serve the residents of the County. For the past twenty years, I have worked in community and civic engagement. Working directly with residents and communities at large is the best way to gauge public interest and quite often public policy.
As a Board Commissioner, I would propose legislation to restore funding to mental health treatment and facilities. Our communities are depleted of the necessary resources to provide adequate care for those suffering from mental challenges. There is a segment of our community, by no fault of their own, have fallen through the cracks of society and they are the mentally challenged. Among this group are returning soldiers who fought for our country, college students, children born into chemical dependency and the homeless. The county jail is no place to house or administer treatment for the mentally challenged. Cook County is in desperate need of treatment facilities and mental health professionals for indigent and low-income residents.
Also as Board Commissioner, I would propose legislation to further support the Cook County Land Bank Authority in addressing the vast problem of vacant homes, lots, retail and commercial facilities. From my experience, working with residents and community organizations as well as city agencies, the need for the acquisition and redevelopment of vacant property is vital to rebuilding our housing stock and providing much needed tax revenue. Residents fear declines in property values and an increase in criminal elements are a direct correlation to the vacant property epidemic. Vacant lots can be transformed into community gardens and provide residents with urban farming opportunities. Community organizations and educational institutions can acquire vacant parcels for beautification and learning opportunities.
What will your number one priority be, if you are elected? There is not one Cook County public health care facility in the fourth District. The area the fourth District encompasses, is in dire need of a trauma center and mental health facilities. Many victims of gun violence must travel great distances to receive treatment and often die as a result. Cuts to mental health funding have caused facilities to close and existing facilities, already over capacity, to receive even more patients.
Our communities are depleted of the necessary resources to provide adequate care for those suffering from mental challenges. There is a segment of our community, by no fault of their own, that has fallen through the cracks of society and they are the mentally challenged. Among this group are returning soldiers who fought for our country, college students, children born into chemical dependency and the homeless. The County jail is no place to house or administer treatment for the mentally challenged. Cook County is in desperate need of treatment facilities and mental health professionals for indigent and low-income residents. I will make this a top priority.
What avenues do you see for increasing business growth and economic development in the County? Providing tax incentives and tax breaks can attract businesses and micro-manufacturing plants to the district ultimately creating jobs that are desperately needed. Vacant land and vacated commercial space can be acquired through the landbank authority and developed or redeveloped to serve local businesses and manufacturers. Specified job training programs, as well as on the job training, can be offered to local residents thereby increasing employment opportunities.
If elected, what will you do to support local farmers, including urban farmers and community gardeners in your district? Again, I believe the Cook County Land Bank Authority can be especially beneficial in converting vacant land to urban farms and community gardens. While working in the ninth Ward office, I worked with several community groups to start gardens and further support existing gardens. In the Pullman community there is the Cooperation Operation. This group has converted an abandoned industrial property into a thriving vegetable garden. During the late summer they partner with a group in the Roseland community to giveaway their harvest to those in need. This example can expand to neighboring communities across the district.
What avenues do you see to reduce government spending and waste? I support the merging of the Clerk and Recorder offices. Not only would this merge cut costs but it will also provide a more convenient experience for residents. An office of tax administration would serve the same purpose. It would provide a “one stop shop” for residents and save the County tremendous expenditures. This could prove to increase efficiency and accountability ultimately benefitting taxpayers and County government. Any county offices with similar functions can potentially consolidate saving taxpayers’ money and streamlining services.
Please, briefly describe your background and qualifications for the office you are seeking. Since 1994, I have volunteered my time and energy to serving others. Improving the quality of life for residents on the southside of Chicago has been my passion. From judging oratory contests to serving as keynote speaker to elementary/high school graduates. By serving as community representative on the Harlan High School Local School Council and President of the Roseland Heights Community Association my commitment to my community is proven.
I started my civic involvement with the sixth Ward. Then, John Steele was Alderman. There I met many people from the community, one in particular Barack Obama. He administered my deputy registrar training class and I’ve volunteered with him ever since. I continued my civic activities with Freddrenna Lyle volunteering in the sixth Ward. I assisted in the formation of the eighty-seventh and Cottage Grove TIF advisory council and spearheaded the SOAR community development corporation. I am a member of the Roseland Medical District Commission and also served on the Chicago Police Department fifth District Advisory Council.
I received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and took graduate courses in community and economic development. I also completed higher education administration graduate coursework and studied law at Northern Illinois University.
I am employed full time at Chicago State University as Faculty/Community Coordinator for the Institute for Youth and Community Engagement (IYCE). Recently, I served as legislative aide for the Committee on Transportation and the Public Way chaired by ninth Ward Alderman Anthony Beale. Prior to this I served as Investigator for the Committee on Budget and Government Operations chaired by thirty-forth Ward Alderman Carrie Austin. For five years I worked at Chicago State University as an undergraduate, graduate, and College of Pharmacy recruiter and counselor.
Incumbent, Stanley Moore and Democratic candidate, Robert McKay did not return a survey.
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