Cook County Board President (DEM)
Choose the candidates
Elected offices held and civic involvementFioretti
- 2nd Ward Alderman (two terms)
- 2nd Ward Democratic Committeeman (2 terms)
- Cook County Board President
- Democratic Committeeman of the 4th Ward
- Executive Vice-Chair of the Cook County Central Committee
- Member of the City Club of Chicago
1. How will you, as Cook County board president, work for transparent, accountable, efficient government?Fioretti
My top priority will be to reform a corrupt and discriminatory property tax system. That begins with making the way property taxes are assessed in Cook County transparent and accessible, through legislation if necessary. Second, we need to get the pervasive campaign contributions from property tax lawyers to those who decide their cases. I will hold year-long budget town-hall style hearings across the county, not just in the loop.Preckwinkle
Transparency and accountability are two of the primary guiding principles of my administration. When I took office in December 2010, our fiscal year had already started and we had neither a budget nor any meaningful process for developing a budget. To ensure this never happened again, I issued an executive order that by June 30 of every year we would publicly release a preliminary budget forecast which then set the stage for a collaborative and open budget process. Every year we post more information about our budget on the County’s website, as well as performance management reports for County departments so residents can see for themselves how well we are meeting our metric targets. We redesigned our website to become more service and constituent/information-oriented. We have greatly expanded the information available on our open data portal. Finally, the FOIA officer for Offices Under the President responds quickly and within the time limits set by statute to all FOIA requests (many of which come from the BGA).
2. Costs are increasing in Cook County, some of the factors driving these costs, like inflation, are out of the county’s control. Over the long-term, there also are limits to the amount of efficiencies that can be made without major changes to services or agency or benefit structures. Given all of that, what will you do each year to ensure that Cook County has a balanced budget?Fioretti
One thing I will not do is automatically reach into the pockets of working class and poor families to ask for more money. One of the two reasons given for reducing the inmate population at Cook County jail was that we could save $143 per day per inmate if we had fewer inmates. According to media reports, there are almost 5,000 fewer inmates on average than there were ten years ago, yet the budget for jail operations has gone up, not down. Another broken promise. We could do a much better job of collecting revenue in the hospital system from those who get services and are either employed or have health insurance. By some estimates there is $400 million outstanding. We must do a better job of collecting this money when possible. Finally, the county has done little when it comes to having a plan to help reduce the number of shootings in Cook County. Shootings annually cost Cook County taxpayers in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Virtually every aspect of a shooting is a county taxpayer expense-from the hospitalized victim to the prosecution of the offender (jailing, prosecutor, public defender, judge, court personnel, probation officer, etc) is a cost borne by the county taxpayers, yet the County Board President is nearly silent on the matter.Preckwinkle
We begin budget development for the following fiscal year within weeks of passing our current fiscal year operating budget. As explained in #1, we issue a preliminary forecast by June 30, which prepares us for the heavy lifting that follows during subsequent months. It is true that our traditional revenues are flatlining or declining while everyday operating expenses rise. With a continuing reluctance by commissioners to approve new revenue, this year we cut deeply into our workforce, eliminating more than 1,300 positions and vacancies. We also look for efficiencies within our operations. One example is that we are well along on our pledge to reduce our physical footprint by almost 1 million square feet. Another is that we continue to reduce the number of vehicles in our fleet and have shifted new purchases to fuel-efficient and hybrid cars.
3. By next year, Cook County's pension funds will have more people receiving benefits than active employees. What new policies will you put forth to address Cook County’s pension crisis?Fioretti
I would like to find a dedicated revenue source to begin stabilizing the pension system. One idea I have put forth is perhaps making any revenue from a future marijuana legalization law dedicated to the pension system.Preckwinkle
We attempted to get the General Assembly’s approval for our pension reform efforts several years ago but fell victim to the gridlock in Springfield. At the time our Pension Fund was accruing $1 million/day in additional liability. I made the difficult decision to ask commissioners to raise the sales tax as a way of cutting into that shortfall, and with these funds we are, through an intergovernmental agreement with the Pension Fund, contributing $353 million/year above and beyond the statutorily required contribution of $211 million, securing the solvency of the Fund.
4. What rules will you implement, or laws will you support, to improve the public's access to information from Cook County government?Fioretti
As I said in Question #1, the Cook County Assessor's office is the biggest impediment right now to allowing the public assess to information that affects their lives. The process used to intentionally discriminate against minority neighborhoods and lower-value residential properties simply has to be made public. If legislation is needed to do so, then I will propose it.Preckwinkle
As I mentioned in #1, I am committed to open and accountable government. My record on transparency through my years as both an alderman and as County Board President is second to none.
5. How will you propose the county increase transparency and improve fairness and accuracy in assessing property taxes?Fioretti
I have answered this in several of the other questions. The supposed "study" ordered by the current President should also be transparent. When insiders "study" other insiders and their methods without shining a light on their deliberations, little good can come of it.Preckwinkle
As a result of published reports that the current property tax system is regressive, I asked the Civic Consulting Alliance to work with the Assessor’s Office to do a deep dive into the system to determine whether the allegations raised in the reports are true. CCA has been extremely helpful to my administration, assisting us in such areas a budget, transportation policy and criminal justice reform, and I have a great deal of respect for the work they do. CCA identified a consultant with expertise in tax policy and statistical analysis, and for the past several months the Assessor’s office and consultant have been working collaboratively. I look forward to learning of the conclusions and recommendations that result from this collaboration. I have no personal expertise in this area but I want what I think all of us should want –- a system that is fair and equitable for all taxpayers.