John on the Issues

FIGHTING FOR TAXPAYERS

It seems that every time local residents turn around, they’re facing a new tax. From increases in property taxes, sales taxes, water taxes, shopping bag taxes, and now a sweetened beverage tax, residents keep getting squeezed. Not only do all of these taxes place an unreasonable burden on taxpayers but when taxpayers don’t know when another tax is on the way, it is impossible for them to responsibly budget for things like housing, groceries and child care. John has a history of fighting for taxpayers – and he’s not done yet.

– NO TO THE SALES TAX/NO TO THE SUGAR TAX

John believes that government needs to tighten its own belt before asking residents to do the same. That’s why John was a sponsor of legislation to roll back the County sales tax and voted against President Preckwinkle’s legislation to later increase the sales tax again. John was also the first Commissioner to come out against the recently-enacted sugary drink tax and helped lead the fight against it. He has also sponsored legislation to repeal this regressive, confusing and unfair tax.

– PROPERTY TAX/SALES TAX FREEZES TO 2020

In a historic move, the Cook County Board of Commissioners approved the Cook County Taxation Predictability and Long-Term Fiscal Forecasting Amendment, a proposal John drafted that will freeze the County’s property and sales tax rates until January 1, 2020. After that date, should the Board increase either the sales or property tax, a freeze of both taxes will be triggered prohibiting the County from raising either of those taxes again for the following three years.

The ordinance further requires that prior to any future efforts to increase either the sales or property tax rates, the Cook County Bureau of Finance must provide the Board with a fiscal forecast that analyzes revenues, expenditures and planned debt issuance for three years should the tax change occur.

HELPING TAXPAYERS FIGHT FOR THEIR RIGHTS

Hosting property tax workshops around his district, John frequently works with the offices of the Board of Review and the Assessor to help homeowners get their questions answered and to file property tax appeals on the spot and without a lawyer. Through these events, John has been able to assist countless residents in making sure that they aren’t paying more in taxes than they should.

REFORMING COOK COUNTY

Since first being elected, John has established himself as an independent leader at the forefront of government reform and efficiency. His recent efforts are not just saving millions of taxpayer dollars, they’re changing the very shape of county government.

– RECORDER/CLERK CONSOLIDATION

In the 1st of its kind reform in Cook County in 45 years, John drafted and passed legislation allowing voters the ability to eliminate the office of the Recorder of Deeds and merge its functions into the office of the County Clerk, a move that would increase efficiency and is predicted to save the County approximately $2 million dollars annually.

John’s initiative had the support of the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times, Crain’s, the Southtown Star, The Civic Federation, The Better Government Association and Congressman Mike Quigley (D-5).

At the November, 2016 General Election voters overwhelmingly approved the ballot referendum and the two offices will be merged by 2020.

– CITY/COUNTY COLLABORATION

John was selected to serve on a City/County joint-collaboration committee whose ultimate goal was to find ways to more efficiently deliver the best services to our residents for the best price. The Committee analyzed the duplicative spending at both levels of government and issued a report that has paved the way for a first-of its-kind collaboration between the City and County. As a result of these collaborations, the two governments have secured almost $70 million dollars of savings to date.

PROTECTING WORKERS AND THEIR FAMILIES

 John knows that working men, women and families need not only a livable wage but also working conditions that allow them to take care of themselves and their families. So John has worked on and sponsored laws to let them do just that.

– PAID SICK LEAVE

Low-wage workers are the most likely to not receive paid sick days, and they are the least able to afford lost wages or job loss if they need to take a day off for their health or to care for sick loved ones. Paid sick days make sense – they help keep families financially secure, workplaces healthy, and are good for businesses and the economy as a whole.

John sponsored a law requiring employers to give workers paid sick time, bringing the suburbs in line with existing Chicago’s law. Prior to passage, more than 900,000 people in Cook County were without paid sick leave, including 420,000 in suburban Cook County.

The new law allows employees to earn one hour of paid sick time for every 40 hours worked. Employees can accrue a maximum of 40 hours of paid sick leave per year, or about five work days, unless their employer sets a higher limit.

– RAISING THE MINIMUM WAGE

Years of research and evidence show that increasing the minimum wage is vital to the economic security of millions of Americans. In an effort to help lift people out of poverty by raising the wages of the lowest-paid workers, the Board voted to gradually raise the minimum wage to $13 by July 2020.

– PARENTAL LEAVE REFORM

John sponsored legislation to modernize the County’s antiquated parental leave policy. The new law allows new mothers and fathers to claim disability in order to receive paid parental leave. Under the new law, workers will be allocated an amount of time to focus on the needs of their families. This change in law will make for healthier families and happier employees.

– SWEAT-SHOP FREE PROCUREMENT

In an effort to crack down on unfair, and often inhumane, labor practices wherever they may occur, John drafted and passed an amendment to the County’s procurement code to prevent any county contract to acquire goods from sweat-shop labor.

GOVERNMENT TRANSPARENCY

For far too long, government has operated in a black box, making it difficult if not impossible for the public to get access to information about how their government runs and how their tax dollars are being spent. John has been able to use his position as Chairman of the Technology + Innovation Committee to pull back the curtain on county government and let the sunshine in.

LOOKATCOOK.COM, BECAUSE IT’S YOUR MONEY

 John believes that taxpayers should be able to easily see where their tax dollars are going, so he worked with technology experts to create LookatCook.com, a website that allows users to break down the County’s budget into easy to understand sections, with clear graphics showing appropriations and expenditures dating as far back as 1993, and information about the different functions of your county government. The site has received wide acclaim as one of the most effective budget websites existing in the entire country.

 “Look at Cook shines a light on what’s working in the system and what’s not.”

– O’Reilly Radar

– OPEN GOVERNMENT

To give the public access to county data, John passed sweeping legislation making Cook County one of the largest municipalities in the country to open up its data to the public. The legislation requires County officials to make its data openly available. As a result, people now have access to information about how Cook County operates, and developers can create user-friendly applications to allow you to better understand and interact with your government.

RESTORING JUSTICE INTO CRIMINAL JUSTICE

When our criminal justice system fails, it isn’t just justice that pays the price, taxpayers wind up spending hundreds of millions of dollars as a result. It is nationally recognized that the old ways of handling how we treat various offenses simply cost us dollars but don’t make sense.

– Bail Bond Reform

Cook County has one of the largest single-site correctional facilities in the country and is one of the biggest expenses in our county budget, costing taxpayers millions each and every year. Nationally, 60% of inmates in local jails are individuals awaiting trial but in Cook County, pre-trial detainees account for a staggering 90% of the people housed in the jail. And of that number, 70% are being held pursuant to non-violent charges. It costs us $150/day to jail detainees awaiting trial, yet too often we keep low-risk individuals behind bars while dangerous criminals continue to walk our streets.

Over the years, John has worked on revamping our bond court system in an effort to make it more efficient and fair. John’s efforts are about being smart on crime – because true criminal justice reform is not only morally just, it has the potential to save county taxpayers millions of dollars by eliminating the backlog in court cases and unnecessary jail expenses.

John also worked and succeeded in his fight to eliminate predatory practices in bail bond processing fees by capping the amount of bail bond money retained by the Clerk of the Circuit Court Dorothy Brown’s office. The legislation was sponsored for John by his former colleagues in Springfield and was approved by the Illinois General Assembly with bi-partisan support and signed by the Governor in 2015.

AUTOMATED CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM

New technology is all around us and as we look for ways to close a significant county budget deficit, we need to look to how we can make county government smarter, better, and more efficient. There is simply no excuse for the fact that in today’s modern world, much of the critical information in our court system continues to exist on carbon paper and hand-written orders.

John has been overseeing an unprecedented collaboration between the Office of the Chief Judge, Clerk of the Circuit Court, Sheriff, States Attorney and Public Defender to spearhead the effort to modernize our antiquated paper-based criminal justice system. This automation will not only create major improvements in communication, but will ensure real time accuracy and improved accessibility to criminal history information. As Chairman of the Technology Committee, continues to hold quarterly meetings to ensure that progress and implementation is fully realized.

– COMMONSENSE MARIJUANA POLICIES

During his tenure in the Legislature, John was one of the original sponsors of the bill to create Illinois’ recently-enacted medical cannabis program. John was also one of the first public officials to openly call for efforts to decriminalize cannabis and he has continued to advocate for better and smarter uses of law enforcement resources, allowing them to better focus on other issues that impact our community. John led the call for the City of Chicago to enact an ordinance allowing Chicago police officers to issue tickets for possession of small amounts of marijuana rather than arresting offenders. John continues his efforts to work with colleagues at both the state and local levels toward a policy of regulated legalization of marijuana.

– VIOLENCE PREVENTION, INTERVENTION AND REDUCTION

In order to deal with the violence that has gripped our city and county as well as its devastating consequences. John created the Cook County Violence Prevention, Intervention and Reduction Advisory Committee. Using savings identified in the budget, the Committee acts as an advocacy and resource group to promote and help fund various violence prevention programs throughout the county.

ANIMAL WELFARE

John has a decades-long history of working to crack down on inhumane treatment of animals by individuals, breeders, unscrupulous pet stores and mega-farm corporate interests. Not surprisingly, he has continued those efforts as County Commissioner.

– FIGHTING PUPPY MILLS

Animals raised in puppy mills are subjected to inhumane conditions and often have health issues that result in heartbreak and expensive medical bills for their owners. To address this issue, John drafted and passed an ordinance making Cook County the largest jurisdiction in the country to ban the retail sale of puppy mill dogs, cats & rabbits.

– ANIMAL ABUSER REGISTRY

John sponsored an ordinance creating the Cook County Animal Abuser Registry, a first for Illinois, to help prevent convicted animal abusers from obtaining more victims from animal stores, shelters and pet sellers. Under the oversight of the Sheriff’s office, the registry prevents convicted animal abusers from buying or adopting a companion animal for 15 years after being convicted of an animal abuse crime, and life following a subsequent conviction, a program which will be administered by the Sheriff.