Peter Silvestri: Candidate Profile
Cook County board District 9 (Republican)
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Note: Answers provided have not been edited for grammar, misspellings or typos. In some instances, candidate claims that could not be immediately verified have been omitted.
City: Elmwood Park
Family: Son Christian, age 20
Occupation: Cook County Commissioner, Attorney
Education: Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, DePaul University Juris Doctorate, DePaul University College of Law
Civic involvement: President, Italian American Political Coalition Member, CMAP, Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning Member, Executive Committee, West Central Municipal Conference Member, Chicagoland Metro Mayors Caucus Italian American Political Action Committee Justinian Society of Lawyers Trinity High School Advisory Committee Mont Clare Elmwood Park Lions Club Mont Clare Elmwood Park Kiwanis St. Vincent Ferrar Religious Education Advisory Board Former Member, Board of Directors, Norwood Park Senior Home Former Member, Elmwood Park Zoning Board of Appeals
Elected offices held: Cook County Commissioner, 9th District President, Village of Elmwood Park Trustee, Village of Elmwood Park Associate Director of Labor, State of Illinois Member, Board of Education, Community Unit School District 401
Why are you running for this office, whether for re-election or election for the first time? Is there a particular issue that motivates you? If so, what?
I am running for this office because I feel that I am uniquely qualified to help carry out the positive initiatives the County Board has undertaken in the last four years, in particular. I fully grasp the complexities of the county, its various departments, and the roles of the other elected officials. As a result of my experience, I have established relationships and earned the trust of employees and officials alike. The issue that motivates me most is controlling the county's taxing and spending policies and ensuring that the pension issues are dealt with in a fair and equitable manner.
If you are an incumbent, describe your main contributions. Tell us of any important initiatives you've led. If you are a challenger, what would you bring to the board and what would your priority be?
I am known as one of the hardest-working commissioners, being the chair of two busy committees: Building and Zoning and Litigation. Some of the initiatives I've sponsored or co-sponsored include: strengthening the Ethics Ordinance; increasing the power of the Inspector General; repealing the sales tax increase; creating the Independent Health and Hospital Board and extending its term; reducing the amount required for approval of competitive bids as well as additional safeguards to help prevent abuses; and creating a new class incentive to help redevelop blighted business areas. I am extremely active in 9th District events and responsive to my constituents.
Describe your position regarding efforts the county has taken to control spending. How have these measures affected the suburbs, and, in particular, do you support proposals President Preckwinkle has made to eliminate unincorporated areas so they would not be under county control?
Controlling spending has always been one of my priorities, and I have both initiated and supported these efforts. I support working with local townships and neighboring municipalities to reduce the cost of providing services to these areas with assistance to redevelop infrastructure and encourage annexation. Budget reductions have increased fees to municipalities with respect to the SWAP program and increased vehicle sticker fees to unincorporated residents. While these increases have been offset by freezing the real estate tax rate and eliminating the increased sales tax, I remain diligent in protecting suburban taxpayers from unreasonable fees to fund county programs.
How do you rate the county government on transparency and the public's access to records? If you consider it adequate, please explain why. If you think improvements are needed, please describe them and why they are important.
Transparency at the county is vastly improved. Jobs are posted online, and the Ethics Ordinance was strengthened to prevent outside influences in obtaining employment. The bidding/contracting process is online as are meeting announcements, agendas, and meetings themselves, which are televised. The county budget is online, and the spending of individual offices is either online or easily accessible. That said, the county should create a true civil service commission to enforce hiring practices consistent with the Shakman decree. This might help put public concern about fairness to rest. It is my understanding that the Inspector General adequately handles records requests.
What, if anything, should be done to improve automation and customer service in Cook County offices? What steps should be taken to make that happen?
Much has been done to improve automation, especially in areas such as tax information and appeals, the treasurer's records, and the clerk's records. Navigating the county's tax system remains a problem because of the overlap of services and the complexities of the tax system. I support creating an office of Taxpayer Advocate to facilitate taxpayer requests for information--at least until the tax system itself can be streamlined. I participate in frequent taxpayer outreach events and encourage anyone uncomfortable with computers to come to our office for personal assistance. Constituents need to talk to real people--so fewer catch-all numbers.
What other issues, if any, are important to you as a candidate for this office?
As chairman of the Litigation Committee I am very aware of the crises at the jail. I support expanding the Sheriff's boot camp program and electronic monitoring, increasing staff at the State's Attorney's Office to expedite bringing inmates to trial, reducing penalties for pot smoking, and providing health care options to inmates who are mentally ill rather than criminal. The state has been negligent in funding health care for the mentally ill so the county and the state need to work together to solve this very serious problem.
Please name one current leader who most inspires you.
What's the biggest lesson you learned at home growing up?
Work to excel individually,in terms of education, ethics and compassion towards others.
If life gave you one do-over, what would you spend it on?
Getting more involved in athletics and organizations which promote sports activities.
What was your favorite subject in school and how did it help you in later life?
History.In government, politics and law, an understanding of how things got to be the way they are has helped on correcting them.
If you could give your children only one piece of advice, what would it be?
Respect yourself and others.