The 17th District may stretch more than 45 miles from the Northwest suburbs to the South suburbs, but the Republicans running in the primary for the Cook County Board seat said flooding problems and rebuilding the local economy are important to voters everywhere.
Longtime Commissioner Elizabeth "Liz" Doody Gorman is facing challenger Barbara Bellar in the March 18 primary. The 17th district includes most of Des Plaines and parts of Rosemont and Elk Grove Village, but goes as far south as Orland Park and Burr Ridge, home to the two candidates.
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"The most important issue up in that neck of the woods (Northwest suburbs) is flood mitigation," said Gorman, first elected in 2002.
Within the 17th are the towns in the Des Plaines River watershed that flooded so destructively last April, and are bracing for possibly more during this spring's thaw.
Gorman said that if re-elected she will continue working with the forest preserve district, Cook County Sheriff's department, the public health department and emergency management systems to coordinate help for the area.
"It's about resources," Gorman said. "One of the efforts I did last year was a robocall to direct (residents) to a website to get federal assistance."
Bellar also believes flooding is the top issue facing the area.
"I would like to see an engineering analysis of that area and see if there is some other innovation that can make it easier on those residents in the future," Bellar said.
Bellar, who is licensed both as a doctor and lawyer, said she wouldn't want the county spending additional money on the effort because her goal is to bring down spending.
"Let's look at what's been done and find the most efficient and cost-effective way to alleviate the flooding in the future," she said.
Bellar proposes organizing a volunteer task force with other area leaders to discuss the problem and find solutions.
On economic issues, Gorman touts her efforts to get the Stroger sales tax hike repealed, making border towns more attractive to business and competitive with the collar counties.
Gorman said she wants to see more 6b approvals, where necessary. The 6b is a property tax incentive from the county intended to attract new business to long-vacant sites.
"We want to keep businesses on our side of the county line, which can only help our consumers and start to build the robust economy that is desperately needed," Gorman said.
Bellar said the way to help the economy of the district is to reduce regulations and taxes.
"The (17th) district represents middle America," she said. "These are decent, hardworking people. The less government in their faces, the better off they are."
"Anything we can do to help the county have more of an economic recovery, including reducing sales tax and property tax (will help)," she added.
Bellar said attracting and keeping business in Cook county will also be a priority.
"We need to get rid of the useless fees, fines and restraints on people trying to start businesses," she said. "The regulations are choking businesses and they can only take so much."
Bellar said she plans to spend time in the Northwest suburbs and dedicate herself full-time to the commissioner job if elected.
Gorman has been working as a commissioner full-time.
The primary campaign has been contentious, with accusations ranging from political to personal.
Bellar has billed herself as a "real Republican" and accuses Gorman of supporting Democrats on the county board too often.
Gorman defends her willingness to work with the other side.
"We need to have a group of commissioners who support each other's districts and know how to work with each other," she said, noting that Republicans have only four members on the 17-member county board.
The winner of Tuesday's primary will face Orland Park Democrat Jim Hickey in November.