Abdelnasser Rashid: Candidate Profile
Name: Abdelnasser Rashid
Office sought: Cook County Commissioner of District 17
Family: I am a son of immigrants. My wife, Fidaa, is an attorney and former Worth Library Board trustee. We have two daughters: Alia, 3, and Zulfa, 1.
Occupation: For three years, I worked for Cook County Clerk David Orr, including two years as his Deputy Chief of Staff
Education: B.A. from Harvard University in Social Studies and a minor in Computer Science.
Civic involvement: I worked at the Cook County Clerk's Office for the past three years, spending the last two years as Clerk David Orr's Deputy Chief of Staff. Policy director at the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights; Field Director for Jesus Chuy Garcia's mayoral campaign; Deputy State Director in Illinois for Bernie Sanders' Presidential campaign; and Deputy Campaign Manager for Fritz Kaegi's successful campaign to become Cook County Assessor.
Elected offices held: None
Questions & Answers
1. After the repeal of the sweetened beverage tax last year, the county made extensive cuts to bring expenditures more in line with revenues. Does more need to be done to either trim costs or grow revenues? If so, please give specific examples.
There are critical services that the county must provide in a cost-effective manner. We must take a thoughtful approach to the budget to avoid unintentional consequences that end up costing taxpayers more.
If cutting staff harms the delivery of critical services, then we have to pursue alternative solutions. Eliminating too many vacancies makes it more difficult to reorganize some county departments, such as the Health and Hospital System, or to achieve consolidations in areas like human resources or procurement. As we have seen, when budget cuts impact essential services, the county may face litigation that reverses some of the realized savings. We have already seen some of the cost reductions reversed as a result of a lawsuit. However, the county plays a critical role in driving the regional and state economies and should play a larger role in reducing the overlap, divisions, and duplication in regional strategies, programs, and development. We must improve the efficiency of county programs by applying technology to better deliver services and consolidating redundant services. The county also needs stable and predictable revenue sources that do not increase the burden on already struggling homeowners and working families.
2. Tax Increment Financing districts have been used extensively in the suburbs to provide economic incentives for redevelopment and new business, but school districts and other local governments often see TIFs as depriving them of needed revenue. Do you believe TIF districts are being used appropriately and what, if anything, would you change in how or when they're utilized.
I support the targeted use of Tax Increment Financing districts to fund development that would not otherwise occur. When used for specific projects, such districts increase potential revenues and lower the tax burden on all citizens and businesses. However, sometimes Tax Increment Financing districts are created to fund unspecified projects. I am generally opposed to such generic districts.
3. The county has at times encouraged suburban communities to annex unincorporated areas, lessening the need for services in often small and remote areas of the county. Should the county continue this policy, and if so, incentivize municipalities to annex?
We should plan to bring unincorporated areas into municipalities, which will lead to better service for residents and allow Cook County to focus on its essential services. We should pursue partnerships with municipalities to reduce the cost to the county until annexation is achieved. I would support agreements with municipalities to provide service in unincorporated areas. In areas like policing, zoning and road maintenance, there are certainly benefits to partnering with municipalities until unincorporated areas are annexed.
But transportation needs and many public safety needs do not stop at the boundary of local municipalities. We will need to maintain the county's role in regionwide planning and implementation. The county should be a leader in regional planning of critical projects that support long-term economic development and transportation goals. I support partnerships between the county and municipalities on regional projects, such as transportation projects that impact commuters and businesses that rely on travel across the county.
4. Numerous reports last year detailed inequities in the manner in which properties are being assessed, often to the detriment of lower-income families. What can the county board to address the problems and create a more equitable system of assessment?
My top priority as commissioner will be to create a more fair property tax system. My commitment to property tax fairness drove me to help elect Fritz Kaegi, by serving as his deputy campaign manager. I look forward to working with the new assessor to ensure Cook County's property tax assessment process is transparent, fair and ethical. As an executive office, the assessor will be able to adjust the valuation models directly.
However, there are serious challenges with data collection and accuracy; in some cases commercial property valuation was copied from one assessment cycle to the next, and in many cases the same valuation was used for three consecutive cycles. There is no good reason for this. Getting accurate data is instrumental to an accurate valuation. I will partner with the new assessor to ensure he has the tools to do his job, including advocating for changes to the property tax system in Springfield.
5. As commissioner serving one the few suburb-only county board districts, how will you work (or if an incumbent, how have you worked) to ensure your constituents' interests get fairly represented?
I am fully committed to ensuring the county pursues policies and programs that encourage growth and services in the 17th District. First, I will fight to make sure that 17th District residents receive property tax relief by working to ensure that our assessment system is fair. I will also fight for the well-being of workers in suburban Cook County by advocating for municipalities to support the will of their constituents and opt-in to the county's minimum wage and paid sick leave ordinances. A working mother should not have to fear losing her job or having wages garnished because she or her child got sick. Another major priority is investing in and promoting development in the district.
I do recognize the importance of working across municipal boundaries. Issues like pollution, transportation, and health care are regional issues that require regional solutions. The well-being of each county municipality relies on the successful development of the entire region.
6. The Forest Preserve District made negative headlines in three instances in recent months, with a temporary employee being arrested in connection with a fatal crash, the deaths of three elk at Busse Woods, and an officer's inaction when a woman was harassed by another patron because of her Puerto Rico flag shirt. What do these incidents say about leadership in the district and what changes, if any, are needed?
The recent incidents are troubling and could represent concerning issues in the forest preserve public safety efforts. I would support a consolidation of the sheriff's department and forest preserve police if the level of protection and safety were stronger as a result, and if it ensures equal or greater environmental and wildlife protections in the forest preserves. However, in this scenario, I would want to be certain that officers policing the forest preserves continue to receive specialized training on environmental matters. We need to carefully evaluate any consolidation so that public safety is enhanced without negatively impacting environmental protections.
7. Do you support the Forest Preserve District's Next Century Plan and, if so, how does the county find the funding for it? If not, what measures can be taken to improve the conditions of forest preserve facilities within the county's means?
I support the goals of the Forest Preserve District's Next Century Plan. I believe our forest preserves should be protected and restored to preserve native habitats. The forest preserves are assets to my district that foster public health, engagement with nature and protect us against climate-related dangers. I would be careful to assure that implementation of the plan does not place a tax burden on working and middle-class families.