Sean Morrison: Candidate Profile
Name: Sean Morrison
City: Palos Park
Office sought: Cook County Commissioner, 17th District
Family: Married to Lora, 2 Daughters
Occupation: Founder/Owner/CEO -- Morrison Security, Inc.
Education: Brother Rice High School; Moraine Valley Community College
Civic involvement: Operation Restoring Innocence -- Co-Founder, (pro-bono rescue and recovery of exploited and missing children from gangs and traffickers and reuniting them with their family and loved ones. To date, over 150 children have been rescued. Also avoidance strategy, education and awareness training for families); Advocate Christ Medical Center Governance Council, Past Member; EVZIO Opioid Overdose Prevention Grant Recipient & Program Administrator; Illinois Security Chiefs Association, Past Member; Illinois State Central GOP Committeeman; Cook County Republican Party Chairman
Elected offices held: Cook County Commissioner -- 17th District; Palos Township Republican Committeeman
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.
More needs to be done to trim costs, not either/or. Trimming spending is a matter of true implementation of zero-based budgeting, fiscal discipline and prioritization with the recognition that government does not exist simply to fill all needs or wants for all people.
I know there are many areas we can both consolidate functions and trim spending. For example, I co-sponsored the resolution which led to the consolidation of the Recorder of Deeds Office with the Clerk's Office which will save nearly $2 million annually. And I supported the decision to close and consolidate several satellite courthouses which will save millions annually on both facilities and staffing costs. With an $82 million budget shortfall projected for 2019, I will continue to encourage the president and the budget office to present to the commissioners a budget that cuts $82 million for year 2019. I'm committed to cutting $82 million to balance the budget rather than raising taxes. I'm opposed to any new taxes and I will advocate for budget reforms that are applied and shared across the board in the 2019 budget.
The county should also pursue privatization where appropriate. An egregious example is the billing fiasco at the Cook County Health & Hospital System (CCHHS) where hospital staff failed to properly process and file billable invoices due to lax clerical procedures and employee errors. The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) estimate is $174.8 million in lost revenue for 2016 and the first two quarters of 2017. I questioned the CCHHS senior leadership regarding the very topic of revenue and Medicaid coding several months prior to this investigation and was told there were no issues. In some instances, privatization should be aggressive and this is the perfect example because employees, after four years of training, could not or would not follow the basic procedures needed to bill insurance companies or government agencies for reimbursement. Employees that are paid a few million dollars collectively lost the equivalent of 50 times their pay and benefits. That is the prime example of people whose jobs should be privatized. They can apply to the private company that is contracted to perform their former jobs with the understanding that if they are not qualified or perform inadequately, they will be and should be fired. It doesn't take four years to teach or learn how to perform a simple administrative procedure properly.
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.
Sometimes TIF's are utilized responsibly and as intended and sometimes not, both in the city of Chicago and the suburbs. TIF's are governed by state law not county ordinance, so county officials have no authority to regulate their use, whether proper or improper.
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?
Most of the services provided by the county to residents, whether in unincorporated areas or within municipalities, are not intended or designed to make a profit. Whether it is the health care system the criminal justice system or the basic administrative services, it is all subsidized by the collective contribution of all county taxpayers. The Civic Federation wrote a report latched onto by some city-based county officials who wanted a justification for all unincorporated areas of Cook County to be absorbed into municipalities to make service delivery uniform and more convenient. However, the majority of these areas are not adjacent to the city of Chicago and the suburban municipalities who would be forced to annex these areas would be collectively required to absorb tens (or hundreds) of millions of dollars to finance the upgrading of infrastructure to serve these areas. This seems to me to be an unfunded mandate on the suburbs. In addition, the Civic Federation is proposing double taxation on unincorporated suburban residents, including a duplicate real estate transfer tax, a duplicate water/sewer tax, and a duplicate police protection tax. It seems to me that this is a plan to financially punish suburban residents until they agree to capitulate annexing into suburban municipalities because of the minor financial benefit it provides a Chicago-centric Cook County government that already redistributes tax revenue from the suburbs to subsidize city residents.
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 do to address the problems and create a more equitable system of assessment?
The evidence of disparity in assessing the value of residential and commercial properties in Cook County is apparent, but the single solution to the problem has yet to make itself known. Before switching the whole system, I would like to see the new assessor attempt to implement three new assessment valuation models on a trial basis to determine which models produces assessments with the most consistent and equitable accuracy. Before consolidating the various tax services provided by the assessor, treasurer and county clerk, I would like to see a report on the evolution of the tax services to make sure they were not separated for a specific reason in the past so that we are not recreating a problem that was solved by the original separation of services. It could be that various services were separated into different offices as a result of past corruption in the tax buying and tax auction system. While modern technology may have eliminated the opportunity for some forms of public corruption, with every technological advancement comes the opportunity for a technological glitch that can be exploited by the ethically challenged.
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?
Most of my efforts are an attempt to gain fair representation for suburban residents in both the provision of county services and the reduction of inequitable taxation in favor of the city of Chicago at the expense of the suburbs. My efforts to repeal the Sweetened Beverage Tax (Soda Tax) promoted and passed by President Preckwinkle was the best example of this effort. In addition to the regressiveness of the tax on working families and the presumption that government should dictate what citizens may consume, the tax hurt suburban businesses, especially those close to the county borders.
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?
Misbehavior by individual employees is generally not the best gauge of whether administrators are providing adequate leadership or oversight. Widespread and repeated misbehavior is an indication that administrative leaders needs to be replaced, but that is not the case with the Forest Preserve District at this time. The true test of leadership is how they respond to incompetent, negligent or criminal actions by individual employees, and it is my understanding that the administrators reacted to each of these incidents by disciplining the employees and reviewing any policies or procedures that need to be changed.
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 plan and like all county government efforts, we need to be able to prioritize the maintenance and improvements needed to keep the Forest Preserve system at its best. I believe one a few ways we can better utilize the funding provided through the line item forest preserve district tax is to shift the duty of policing the forest preserve areas to the County Sheriff. I also want to work growing the corps of volunteers that will help the clearing of more acreage of invasive species. We should place a greater emphasis on recruiting more Cook County high school students in need of fulfilling their community service hours for graduation and encourage them to help in the Forest Preserve system. Additionally, we should request the Chief Judge's office and municipal administrative hearing officers to recommend assigning those able-bodied persons sentenced with mandatory community service hours to perform their community service hours within the Forest Preserve system as part of their sentence.