Cook County Commissioner candidates running in contested races in the November General Election submitted the following responses to the Cook County Farm Bureau® questionnaire. 

The responses enumerated below do not represent the policies, thoughts, or positions of the organization. 

No endorsements have been made by the Cook County Farm Bureau® Political Action Committee.

Peter Silvestri, Commissioner (Republican) Cook County Board, District 9

Website address: petersilvestri.com

Facebook: Peter Silvestri

What do you consider to be the major issue(s) facing Cook County?  Continuing financial challenges caused by pension funding problems and less than anticipated revenues from the hospital system.

What will your number one priority be, if you are elected?  To develop business friendly policies and ordinances to encourage a broader tax base. To protect the taxpayers' interests in spending and tax policies.

Do you believe that the Forest Preserve District should be acquiring additional land? Please explain your answer.  Yes. The district must continue to purchase land and "recapture" land in the urban.

If elected, what will you do to support local farmers, including urban farmers and community gardeners in your district?  Farms and gardens enhance the quality of life in our county. Tax policies need to reflect the unique nature of this type of land use. I will support tax friendly initiatives and land use policies which reflect this belief.

What avenues do you see to reduce government spending and waste?  Compliance with Shakman decree in hiring. Continued reduction in mid management staff. Enhanced business friendly initiatives to broaden the overall tax base. More cooperation with other health and hospital institutions. Greater intergovernmental cooperation with local and state police agencies.

Please, briefly describe your background and qualifications for the office you are seeking.  I have been in local government since I was 20 years olf, serving as a member of the Board of Education in my community, trustee and mayor for 25 years and a county commissioner for 20 years. I have a law degree and worked for the Illinois Department of Labor. My educational background, my experience in labor issues and government experience establishes my qualifications.

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Challenger, Frank McPartlin (Democrat) did not respond.

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Timothy O. Schneider, Commissioner (Republican) Cook County Board, District 15                                                        

Website address: timschneider.us

Twitter: @fighting15th                                                          

Facebook: Timothy O. Schneider       

What do you consider to be the major issue(s) facing Cook County?  There are many issues facing Cook County.  One of many issues is the overcrowding at our jail.  Too often the jail operates at near capacity.  We need to find ways to reduce the incredible costs of housing inmates at our jail, by providing alternatives to incarceration for non-violent offenders, and expanding electronic monitoring.

The pension system is facing a funding gap that needs an immediate fix.  We need to come up with a permanent solution rather than a band aid solution that Cook County often does.  The Cook County pension system is currently only 58% funded.  We must find ways to insure benefits to our employees without the costs being born on the backs of our hard working taxpayers.

I still believe we can further streamline Cook County government.  We have made many strides since I have been in office.  I have and I will continue to look for ways to eliminate wasteful spending and explore ways to make Cook County run more efficiently. 

What will your number one priority be, if you are elected?  Streamlining Cook County government, and serving as a watchdog of taxpayer dollars, continues to be my top priority.  As I stated above, many efforts have been made which I am very proud to have championed those efforts.  When I first took office Cook County had 25,575 employees, today Cook County has 21,914 employees.  I will continue to advocate that Cook County government needs to do more with less.  After Cook County repealed the Stroger Sales tax, the County had to cut nearly $400 million dollars. The County Board balanced the budget without increasing taxes on Cook County families.  This is proof that we can and are able fully operate with less.

Do you believe that the Forest Preserve District should be acquiring additional land?  Please explain your answer.  I support the mission of the Forest Preserve District to acquire, restore and manage lands for the purpose of protecting and preserving public open space.  Cook County created the first Forest Preserve in the nation, today there is 69,000 plus acres of land. I am dedicated to keeping our holdings in pristine condition.  The Forest Preserves belong to the community.  It provides space that is open to all and provides a wide variety of rare plant and animal wildlife.  In addition to open land and tranquil beauty,  the Forest Preserve offers recreational opportunities without disrupting its land.  We must be sure to acquire land in a responsible fashion.  Before acquiring land we must study various different factors and determine if acquiring the land is a benefit to both the public and the Cook County Forest Preserve District.

If elected, what will you do to support local farmers, including urban farmers and community gardeners in your district?  I will continue to support businesses in the 15th District, including local farmers, urban farmers and community gardeners. 

Urban farming can enhance economic growth, increase food quality and lessen damage to the environment.  Urban and local farming provide families with access to fresh fruits and vegetables.  These businesses in the community keep dollars in the County as well as improve the overall health of a community.  Cook County needs to be supportive of these local based businesses.  Local businesses are a vital component for economic growth, when these businesses succeed the entire region benefits.  The County has to be viewed as an attractive region for the business community and that includes local farmers and community gardeners.  I have worked with local businesses to make sure that they receive incentives they are eligible for.  I recognize that the agricultural community is an important component of the Cook County economy and I am supportive of them, as I am any other business in my district.

What avenues do you see to reduce government spending and waste?  Cook County government has made a great effort to reduce spending and waste when the Stroger Sales Tax was repealed.  Cook County must remain committed to doing more with less.  The County should adopt the principal of operating the way a private business operates.  We need to eliminate duplicate jobs in the County.  Consolidating offices should continue to be explored.  Many offices in the County have similar functions.  I sponsored a resolution to create an Office of Tax Administration.  This would have consolidated the Assessor, Clerk, Treasurer and Recorder of Deeds offices.  These offices all under one agency would reduce the duplicate functions of these offices.   Automation throughout the County can also cut waste.   We must be conscious of how automation is implemented.  Automation should be implemented so that it cuts out bureaucracy and saves money- not creating more of it.  County departments need to be automated so that they are able to work together. We have spent far too much money over the last decade on automation with far too little benefit.

We have opportunities to provide greater support and lower costs at the County Jail.  By creating alternatives to incarceration ($143/day), we can lower costs to taxpayers, provide social services to offenders, and lower recidivism.

With the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, we must watch carefully for federal dollars made available for our indigent population. As fully one-third of the overall County budget, the hospital system must be carefully watched to look for opportunities to run more effectively. While the Independent Board oversees the system, it is the County Board that must approve the budget. We must be their checks and balances, to insure proper delivery of health care services and relative costs.

Please, briefly describe your background and qualifications for the office you are seeking.  Prior to being elected to the Cook County Board I served as Hanover Township Trustee and also as Highway Commissioner.  My experience at the Township level prepared me for my position as Cook County Commissioner.

As a small business owner, I am keenly aware of how taxpayers are struggling with less in these times. Government needs to work as hard as the private sector to insure accountability and trust. I believe that lower taxes provide the opportunity for economic growth in the County, and thereby broadening the tax base to provide greater resources to the County.

In the years I have served on the County Board, I have gained great insights on individual departments and the staff working within the County. With this knowledge, I can navigate the County looking for more accountability and cost savings.  In my years as an elected official, I have always been mindful that the residents and taxpayers are my bosses. As elected officials, we must always treat residents with respect, watch their dollars, and be of service whenever asked.

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Michael Urban (Democrat), Cook County Board, District 15

Website address: electmichaelurban2014.com

Facebook: electmichaelurban2014

What do you consider to be the major issue(s) facing Cook County?  The 9.25% sales tax, currently is the second highest tax rate in the United States.  The county sales tax increase to 10.25% when purchasing goods in Chicago’s Loop area, currently the highest tax rate in the United States.  The sales tax needs to be further reduce and there needs to be the same sales tax throughout the county.  People are going to surrounding counties such as DuPage (7.25%), Will (7.25%-8.75%), Lake (7%-8%), and McHenry (7%) to purchase their goods so any reduction in the Cook County sales tax will help in assuring that people purchase more of their goods in Cook County.

Cook County Health and Hospital System: Past malpractice lawsuits costing taxpayers millions of dollars.  Offering lower pay and benefits to recruits compared to other health and hospital systems.  Continue CountyCare program and help find new ways to increase revenue to help attract and pay for the best doctors.

What will your number on priority be, if you are elected?  Cook County Jail is currently operating at full capacity.  The cost of housing per inmate is $143.  Most inmates that are in jail, are there for simple drug possession/personal use and can’t bail out of jail on a $2,000 bond, which is $200 (10% of $2,000).  Other inmates are in jail for mental health issues and should be treated for the mental health illness by either the State of Illinois or Cook County.  Since they can’t bail out of jail, the cost of housing them far exceeds the amount of their original bail.  All inmates that are currently in jail continuously wait longer for trial (average of 53 days) than the actual sentence imposed on them for their crime.  Also, every month there are new civil rights violations filed against Cook County for overcrowding at the jail.  Cook County is the only county in the United States to have a single-site jail.  There needs to be a second jail to handle the increasing population and stop contracting with other counties to house our extra county inmates, which is costing more taxpayer money.  At the same time, currently there is no oversight of how long judges can take to process one case and more people are continuously sent to jail than put on electronic monitoring.  Cook County judges have electronic monitoring/home confinement technology at their disposal but simply don’t use it in the majority of the cases.

Do you believe that the Forest Preserve District should be acquiring additional land?  Please explain your answer.  No.  The Forest Preserve District has already purchased additional land in the past and these additional lands have sat vacant for many years with barely any development done on these lands.  In 2010, the District purchased Rolling Knolls Golf Course, located in Elgin for $5.75 million.  The original plan was to keep the golf course as it is and continue to run it as a golf course just like the other 10 golf courses and 4 golf driving ranges that the District operates already.  In 2011, the District’s planning and development department has stated that “there has been increasing competition in the area and it’s just not financially sustainable” to be a golf course.  After spending $2 million on developing a plan for the property, the land still sits vacant and has become over grown.  First, we need to fix up these additional lands and turn these lands into things such as youth campgrounds, fishing and picnic groves.

If elected, what will you do to support local farmers, including urban farms and community gardeners in your district?  Urban farmers and community gardeners are very important to the residents of Cook County.  Over the years, there has been an increased interest and demand for locally grown vegetables.  Farmers’ markets and community gardens have provided an opportunity for local residents to gain access to these produces.  These produces and products are often at a lower cost to the consumer and may not always be available at their local grocery store.  Also, there are areas in the county called food deserts, where there is little to no access to grocery stores.  Bringing markets and gardens to these food deserts areas are very important so people can have access to nutrient produce and products that can help them live healthy.

What avenues do you see to reduce government spending and waste?  The Juvenile Detention Center (JDTC) is costing taxpayers millions of dollars due to the Shakman Decree being placed on the JDTC for past county political hiring practices and a federally appointed court monitor being assigned to oversee the JDTC with no control over spending by the county.

Detailed reporting of special purpose fund transactions will allow the county and the public to view and ensure that the funds are used properly.

All vendor service contracts needs to be approved by the county board.  The procurement officer has the authority to approve, amend and execute contracts that are less than $150,000.  Also, there needs to be more board meetings so contracted services don’t expire before the next meeting.

Please, briefly describe your background and qualifications for the office you are seeking.  For the last 30 years, I have lived in Cook County.  Since 2009, I have attended Cook County Board meetings on a regular basis.  I have seen how things are handled and processed.  I have noticed a disconnection between Cook County and the taxpayers of Cook County.  Three years ago and before, there was 22 meetings per year (no meetings in August).  Last year, the number of meetings per year was reduced to 18.  This year, the number of meetings per year was reduced again to 11.  When there was 18 and 22 meetings per year, meetings last 3 or less hours.  Now, with 11 meetings per year, meetings last 5 hours.  At the same time, the Cook County Board of Commissioners haven’t reduced their own salary for less meetings per year.  Also, there has been vendor contracted services that have expired before the next board meeting and have forced services and with issuing an official request for proposal to see if the vendor is truly the best company to use and provides the lowest cost to the county.  When I am elected Cook County Board Commissioner 15th District, I will not accept less than 24 meetings per year with 2 meetings per month.

Once of the founding members of the Elk Grove Youth Commission (non-paid volunteer) from 1997-2002

Eagle Scout-Boy Scout of America Troop 95 (2002)

UPS-United Parcel Service (June 2008-Sept. 2014): Left UPS to run full-time campaign for Cook County Board of Commissioner 15th District.

Independent HVAC Technician-EPA license holder

William Rainey Harper College (2002-2005)- Business and HVAC, Environmental Technical Institute (2005)- HVA EPA License

Elk Grove High School (2002)

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Elizabeth “Liz” Doody Gorman, Commissioner (Republican) Cook County Board, District 17

District website address:  www.lizgorman.com

Campaign Website address:  www.lizfor17.com

Twitter:  @CookCounty17th

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/#!/commissionergorman

What do you consider to be the major issue(s) facing Cook County?  The annual cost of Cook County government, the long term fiscal health of Cook County and the financial burden placed upon taxpayers and businesses are the major issues facing Cook County.  The economic indicators for our local region and the state of Illinois are not good. Our residents and businesses have reached a saturation point with high taxes, fees and regulations.  We, as government officials, must break this negative trend if we’re going to:  1) Get our fiscal house in order for both the short term and long term;  2) restore confidence in our business community to locate, grow and create jobs here, and  3) to relieve the high taxation burden we’ve placed upon our constituents.  A fiscally responsible government with a robust economy needs to be the goals of Cook County.   The 2014 Cook County Budget was a step in the right direction as it did not include any new taxes or no fees.  We must strive very hard to continue in this direction.  

We must support pro-business ordinances and economic incentives for businesses, as opposed to impeding business growth through over-taxation and over-regulation. Unfortunately, excessive taxation and regulations have stifled business growth and development not only in Cook County but throughout the state of Illinois. The ‘tax and regulate first’ mentality has put our local economy at a competitive disadvantage.  Fundamentally, Cook County needs to develop a more business-friendly mindset.  Even though some steps have been taken recently, economic indicators show that it’s not where it needs to be to allow for more productive business growth, business development and job creation.

As Commissioner, I’ve worked very hard to promote tax and regulatory reform for businesses throughout my term in office.  As a sponsor, the County Board established the Cook County Retail Economic Development Incentive program which is the method by which Cook County will encourage establishment or maintenance of retail businesses and jobs in Cook County.  The purpose of this ordinance is to authorize Cook County to work with Illinois municipal corporations located in Cook County to provide needed economic stimulus to encourage establishment or maintenance of retail businesses and jobs in Cook County.  The three main objectives are:  1) Provide incentives to encourage the establishment or maintenance of retail businesses and jobs in Cook County; 2) Provide enhanced revenues for all the people of Cook County; and 3) Provide cooperation with all municipal corporations located in Cook County.

I’ve been a consistent supporter of the 6b Tax Incentive for our industrial and commercial businesses especially within the suburban 17th District where numerous industrial parks exist and 6b applications are regularly submitted.  The Class 6b classification is designed to encourage industrial development throughout Cook County by offering a real estate incentive for the development of new industrial facilities, the rehabilitation of existing industrial structures, and the industrial reutilization of abandoned buildings.  The goal of Class 6b is to attract new industry, stimulate expansion and retention of existing industry and increase employment opportunities. Under the incentive provided by Class 6b, qualifying industrial real estate would be eligible for a reduced assessment from the date that new construction or substantial rehabilitation is completed and initially assessed or, in the case of abandoned property from the date of substantial re-occupancy.

What will your number one priority be, if you are elected?  My re-election effort is centered on continuing the reform movement that is underway at Cook County.  At no other time in recent memory has Cook County made the kinds of positive strides in reform than over the last four years.  During my time in office, I have been able to build strong working relationships with municipalities and townships throughout the 17th District.  Working closely together, we’ve been able to accomplish many initiatives and complete a host of projects which is why I’ve earned near unanimous support throughout the 17th District. It’s my goal as Cook County Commissioner to remain vigilant in my effort to reform tax and fee measures wherever possible, to have Cook County continue to invest in innovative technology to reduce costs and improve efficiencies for county services and programs, and to stabilize the long-term fiscal health of the county.  Another cornerstone of my agenda is the Cook County Forest Preserve District.  We have made significant progress over the last several years and have produced outstanding results for the 17th District and Cook County, but there is more to accomplish.  I look forward to maintaining my strong working relationship with the Forest Preserve District administration to continue our progress in the areas of recreation, restoration and conservation. 

Do you believe that the Forest Preserve District should be acquiring additional land?  Please explain your answer.  Yes, I support the Forest Preserve District of Cook County acquiring additional land and I believe the authorization through state statute by the State of Illinois and Cook County’s own ordinance clearly highlight the significant reasons why I do support the district’s land acquisition program.

In 1913, the Illinois General Assembly authorized the creation of County Forest Preserve Districts, and granted the Commissioners thereof, the specific power: “To acquire and hold lands containing natural forests, or lands connecting such forests for the purpose of protecting and preserving the flora, fauna and scenic beauties, and to restore, restock, protect and preserve the natural forests and said lands, together with their flora and fauna, as nearly as may be, in their natural state and condition, for the purpose of the education, pleasure and recreation of the public.”  The Forest Preserve District is the single largest land owner in Cook County and has acquired to date, a system of forested lands and lands connecting them, totaling 68,000 acres, in accordance with Illinois State Statute 70 ILCS 810 which currently allows for the maximum acquisition of a total of 75,000 acres.

Various factors will be considered in reviewing a proposed transfer, sale, easement, or use of land including (a) the interest of the District,; (b) the benefits to the public in relation to the burden imposed on the District; (c) the land management policies of the District; (d) the protection, preservation, restoration and restocking of the trees, forests, property, flora, fauna, wildlife, natural resources and scenic beauties of the District; (e) the safety and general welfare of the public and of the Applicant; and (f) such other factors as the District deems relevant to the particular case. The Board of Commissioners recognizes that each situation and request is unique. Any action taken by the Board of Commissioners or the General Superintendent under the ordinance is dependent upon the particular facts and circumstances of each case.

If elected, what will you do to support local farmers, including urban farmers and community gardeners in your district?  During my term in office, I have done my best to listen to and champion the interests of the Cook County farming community.  I was proud to sponsor the Cook County Farm Bureau’s resolution supporting the continued use of hay mowing as a management technique for unrestored, conducive Forest Preserve sites which was unanimously approved by the Cook County Board.  Again in April 2013, I strongly support the continuation of the hay mowing and row crop production programs on Cook County Forest Preserve District lands. I will continue to support local farmers, urban agriculture and community gardens and to see that they remain permissible under municipal and county ordinances.

The agriculture community is a vital part of Cook County and plays an indispensable role in our economy.  As Commissioner, I will continue to champion the important issues and initiatives on behalf of the agriculture community because I recognize the positive economic impact the community has on Cook County and beyond.

What avenues do you see to reduce government spending and waste?  Cook County government needs to remain committed to improving the efficiency and effectiveness of all operations, programs and services administered by the county.  Consolidation of programs and services must continue to be assessed annually.  Cook County must continue the implementation of innovative technology to replace low efficient and outdated services which will lower costs and improve efficiencies.

Please, briefly describe your background and qualifications for the office you are seeking.  My personal background includes an EMBA (2008) from the University of Notre Dame and a Bachelor of Arts Degree (1987) from St. Mary’s University, MN. As a licensed insurance agent, I have a unique perspective and understanding of the issues and concerns of the small business community.

My experience and depth of knowledge on the broad scope of issues facing Cook County is an asset. Also, my accomplishments as Commissioner fighting for and achieving tax reform and bringing many other reforms and efficiencies to Cook County government.   During my time in office, I have been able to build strong working relationships with municipalities and townships throughout the 17th District.  Working closely together, we’ve been able to accomplish many initiatives and complete a host of projects which is why I’ve earned near unanimous support throughout the 17th District.

Throughout my time in office, I’ve been a strong advocate for tax reform, budget and operational efficiencies, especially in the area of new technology.  I’ve also worked hard for greater transparency throughout Cook County government and for making the Cook County Forest Preserve District a national leader in the areas of recreation, restoration and conservation.  I have worked hard to fight tax reforms on multiple fronts.  I was the leading voice to repeal the entire 133% Stroger Tax Hike.  I successfully sponsored the tax rate cut to Cook County’s Motor Vehicle Transfer Tax.  I successfully fought numerous new tax proposals (Phone, Electric, Gasoline and more).  I sponsored an Ethics Law requiring greater disclosure and transparency for Cook County government and spearheaded the charge that resulted in the resolution that led to the abolishment of the corruption-riddled Cook County Regional Office of Education.  My 17th District office has assisted hundreds of constituents with Property Tax Appeals and numerous other service requests.  Infrastructure improvements were made a priority for the 17th District especially in the area of flood mitigation.  I’m proud to highlight these initiatives, services and programs which I have worked hard to provide and accomplish on behalf of Cook County and its residents.  These accomplishments were achieved by adhering to the needs of local elected officials, constituents and the business community and as a result has garnered me broad support throughout the 17th District.

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Challenger, Jim Hickey (Democrat) did not respond.