Kevin B. Morrison: Candidate Profile
Name: Kevin B. Morrison
City: Elk Grove Village
Office sought: Cook County Commissioner, 15th District
Occupation: Full time candidate
Education: DePaul University Graduate in Political and Environmental Science
Civic involvement: Former Special Projects Coordinator to Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi. Regional Organizing Director during the 2016 election. I have worked in constituent services, candidate and issues based campaigns. Have volunteered for food banks, school board races, and as a precinct captain.
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.
As a county I believe we need to propose new innovative ways that create revenue, that are not more taxes on our middle class families. There will always be ways that we can reign in wasteful spending, and I will ensure that those measures are employed, but many of our vital resources have seen far too many cuts, and we must ensure as public servants that all vital services receive the funding necessary to run efficiently. I would like to see a new small business ordinance, enacted on both the county and local level. You should not have to be independently wealthy to open a small business. Had this been the case 50 years back, my family would never have been able to open our small business, nor would my family have entered the middle class. I would like to see greater protections on our small business community, and a new ordinance that gives exemptions to new small businesses, making it far more affordable for small business development. Every new small business opened under this ordinance would be a new stream of revenue to the county, and at the same time we would see the expansion of our middle class and local economic growth. Policies that create revenue instead of another regressive tax should be employed to deal with our revenue shortfalls.
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 believe this should be looked at on a case-by-case basis. TIF districts on the surface are a great idea. One that helps to spur economic development in blighted areas throughout Cook County. Helping uplift economically deprived areas is incredibly beneficial, however it is apparent that many areas in Cook County have abused such practices and many TIF districts have been employed to give tax breaks to already prosperous regions of the county. There are many areas throughout Cook County that do not necessarily need the revenue that these districts provide and rather could be
better put to use in more impoverished areas in Cook County. I believe the steps that Cook County Clerk David Orr has recommended would be a major step in the right direction, such as more equity in the distribution of TIF funds, reducing the number of TIF areas, especially in areas where the usage of the term "blighted" is a stretch, and auditing all TIF districts to examine how much money is actually being put forth towards public services. Such practices will shed more light on potential costs or benefits, and I believe more transparency in the process should be a public right.
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?
As I go door to door throughout the district, incorporating unincorporated parcels is not the top concern. If constituents in the 15th District begin to take interest in the incorporation of unincorporated parcels, than I would most definitely take action. At this time I think it is more important to answer our constituents calls to fix this broken property tax system, bring more affordable health care choices to the district, and public safety.
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?
From these reports we have come to realize that the system in which properties are being assessed in Cook County is broken. I will welcome the new assessor's arrival and I look forward to the opportunity to work with him to address these inequities and make the system more transparent and accountable. First thing I believe that should be pushed by the board is an oversight panel of the assessor's office. I believe that regular check ins with the assessor's office and more oversight on how they plan to put into effect industry standards for assessing properties would not only be welcome by constituents in the 15th district, but by all of Cook County. Residents need to know that we are doing all we can to address this problem and not continuing to sweep it under the rug as families are being pushed out of the county and small businesses are closing up shop due to this burdensome and broken system. I have spoken with the incoming assessor, and I know that he is as passionate as I am in fixing our broken property tax system. My opponent speaks endlessly about more and more property tax breaks on multibillion dollar corporations. These breaks only lead to heightened cost on our households and small businesses, and I think it is beyond time that the wealthiest amongst begin to pay their fair share. Our families and small businesses finally deserve a break.
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 plan on being a full-time commissioner and one that does not miss scheduled meetings, votes, and hearings. I think that representation means being present in your community, and that is why throughout my term I would continue to knock on constituent's doors, host town halls, have a responsive office, and regularly meet with community leaders to tackle the issues that our families are facing. A common concern is the feeling that the services provided to the city of Chicago, that all Cook County residents pay for, do not make it to the families in the suburbs. We have 300,000 residents in the 15th District, but we do not have a Cook County medical facility. I would see a Cook County medical facility opened in the Northwest suburbs, bringing high quality and more affordable health care to our families.
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?
These incidents show us that new leadership and accountability is needed in the county. Cook County Forest preserves provide incalculable benefits ranging from recreational, therapeutic, and economic benefits for our constituents and these benefits attract residents from all over Cook County. The officer in question was reprimanded as he should have been because there is no room in our county or community for inaction when faced with such bigotry, and no resident should ever be made to feel unsafe or unwelcome in our forest preserves. I do not believe this officer represents the vast
majority of the forest preserve police department, but it does raise the question of what kind of training these officers are receiving in times where we are witnessing such divisive rhetoric from the White House and an increase in hate crimes. This should be examined, and it would be my job to ensure that like situations do not repeat themselves. I would call for regular implicit bias training for all county employees that work with constituents. The deaths of three elk at Busse Woods, and the steady decline of the herd over the past year has definitely struck a chord. As someone who grew up in Elk Grove Village, sustaining a herd that has been present in our community since 1925 is of special importance to me, and all Elk Grove natives. On Aug. 8, Tim Schneider claimed that he had only recently learned about the deaths, however these deaths occurred in September of 2017. I believe our commissioners should be aware of what is occurring in our forest preserves, especially the ones that are located within their district. As commissioner, I would support initiatives to grow, sustain, and protect the herd of elk in Busse Woods. In relation to the fatal crash, I believe that greater oversight should be placed on county employees. Individuals who operate heavy machinery should have to check in, and if they are not fit to operate the machinery, or could be a harm to themselves or others, they should not be allowed to work that day. All three of these incidents show a case for better oversight, training, and the need for more resources for our forest preserve system.
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 do support the Next Century Conservation Plan for the Cook County Forest Preserves. It presents a blueprint of great importance that I believe must be implemented to protect, grow, and preserve a critical vital resource in our county. The benefits of protecting and expanding our existing forest preserves here in Cook County are immense. The forest preserves offer recreational, therapeutic, and economic benefits. They also help us fight the ever expanding urban sprawl and the threat of climate change. I have considered different methods of fundraising that would entice high dollar donors into participating and raising the funds necessary to complete the plan and in acquiring more property that do not require raising
taxes on our working class families. There are smart ways that we can bring in the revenue necessary to fulfill this plan, and what is most important is that our forest preserve system is protected.