Justin Cochran: 2021 candidate for Des Plaines City Clerk
Two candidates for one four-year term
Hometown: Des Plaines
Age on Election Day: 34
Occupation: Chief of staff
Employer: State Rep. Martin J. Moylan
Civic involvement: Worked for the Illinois State Archive Regional Depository for Cook County, and as a staffer for the Illinois House of Representatives, provided service to residents all over the 55th district. My job is to connect people with their government, and I have gained a lot of experience helping residents find the best solutions to their issues at both the state and the local level. I believe that if I am elected as clerk this experience will be invaluable, not only for connecting residents with the city government, but providing my own experience and guidance when working with other elected officials.
Q. Why are you running for this office, whether for reelection or election the first time? Is there a particular issue that motivates you?
A. I have spent my entire professional life so far as a civil servant. I worked for the State Archive at the Illinois Regional Depository for Cook County when I was in grad school, and now as chief of staff for State Rep. Moylan. In this position, I have provided constituent service to residents all over the 55th district. My job is to connect people with their government, and I have gained a lot of experience helping residents find the best solutions to their issues at both the state and the local level. I believe that if I am elected as clerk this experience will be invaluable, not only for connecting residents with the city government, but providing my own experience and guidance when working with other elected officials.
Q. Some communities have contracted out for certain services, such as snowplowing, to save money. What innovative methods would you propose to reduce your office's budget? Explain your answer.
A. Many communities do contract our certain services, but this does not always in fact lead to better service or significant savings for the taxpayers. We have to strike a balance between finding out which services make sense to contract out and which services are best handled by the professional staff at the city level. This means looking closely at what other communities are doing, what works and what doesn't, and most importantly bringing people with institutional knowledge to the table to seek the best guidance. The clerk's office is served primarily by a professional staff, and must interface closely with other offices that serve as election authorities, primarily the Cook County Clerk. I believe that with my experience working in elections and interfacing with government agencies that I can find unique ways in which to implement effective policies within the office while saving on costs.
Q. The state's revised Freedom of Information Act guidelines renewed focus on open government. Name one specific step you would take if elected to increase government transparency in your office.
A. The clerk's office has largely taken a background role in the city in the past, but something I would like to do is offer more direct communication from the clerk's office to the residents. When I was collecting petitions, in fact, one of the most common questions I was asked by residents was "What does the clerk's office even do?" While the agendas that the clerk's office puts together and the actions the office takes on certain issues are available online, many people do not actively search for these kinds of things. What I would like to do is be upfront and accessible, providing video updates on agendas, and generally letting the public know what is going on and what we are doing at any given time. This would make the clerk's office more accessible in general, while also promoting an interest in local government, which I believe is tremendously important.
Q. What steps would you take as village clerk to improve and increase the flow of information to residents?
A. Local government should be the most human and accessible form of government for people. It should not, under any circumstances, be a faceless bureaucracy. My intention is to be a clerk that regularly updates residents on the agendas for the council and the actions taken by the council through video and newsletter updates. While people can read the agendas themselves, many times the language is arcane. I think that having someone be able to explain exactly what is going on there through regular updates is important, and will get more people interested in what is going on at the city. Some officials think that the residents do not really care or do not want to be bothered with local happenings, but I have found exactly the opposite in my interactions with residents. In fact, I find more and more that people want to know more, but don't know how to go about finding out. I hope to be able to change that, and make it as easy as possible.