Kevin B. Morrison: 2022 candidate for Cook County Board
Office sought: Cook County Board
City: Mount Prospect
Occupation: Full-Time Cook County Commissioner
Previous offices held: none
Q: What is the county board's role in addressing rising crime rates and what specific policies, programs or initiatives might you support toward reducing violence in Cook County?
A: County Sheriff's resources, we partner with local law enforcement in order to keep our communities safe. As a board, we must ensure that the Sheriff has the resources necessary to best serve our communities, and that is why I am currently advocating for the acquisition of more helicopters. Cook County currently shares two helicopters with the city of Chicago, while LA County for example has over a dozen.
Addressing gun violence in Cook County is one of my top priorities. I hear everyday from parents who are afraid to send their children to school. No one should have that fear, nor should they fear going to the local grocery store, mall or movie theater. Cook County has a ban on assault weapons, and that is why I sponsored a resolution calling on the state and federal government to enact their own bans and drastically update their background check programs.
Q: Where do you see the greatest need for transportation enhancements in Cook County and how would you address that on the county board?
A: As we move towards a more sustainable and greener future, access to reliable public transportation options is more important now than ever before. We need to focus on addressing the problems associated with the first and last mile, where riders cannot get transportation for their full commutes. For example PACE has a pilot program geared to have scheduled additional transport rides available to people for their last mile at key stops.
We also need to support more transit-oriented development. I aim to make sure that the networks we have are working for people now, such as when we recently restored PACE service to Harper College. Another very ambitious plan we are looking at that would have the potential to transform transportation to the northwestern suburbs is getting the blue line extended from O'Hare to Schaumburg. It's time to figure out what our transportation needs are and be ambitious about them, because these investments in our communities pay off.
Q: Should the county board enact a fuel or sales tax holiday to assist residents struggling with rising costs of gas, groceries and other needs? Why or why not?
A: Many people in our district still rely on fossil fuel powered vehicles for their livelihoods. Without making any reduction in our commitment towards promoting greener transportation infrastructure and low-emissions vehicles, I do believe that gas tax holidays could be a form of targeted relief that can help working families without promoting further inflation. That said, gas tax revenues are crucial to county resources and any considered pauses would have to be implemented in a fiscally responsible manner. While it is not a county level initiative, I support the Illinois Family Relief Plan, which includes a pause on grocery taxes and a tax holiday for back to school clothes and supplies. We are looking at other measures to give targeted relief to families and individuals in Cook County. Right now I'm working on eliminating the Cook County wheel tax to do exactly that.
Q: What is one county service that is not adequately provided or could be improved in your district, and how would you address that?
A: A major area of need that I have identified and pushed for is more resources in the mental health space at the county level. I fought to create a Cook County Department of Mental and Behavioral Health, and now we need to make sure that it succeeds in its mission of filling existing gaps in the mental and behavioral health spaces countywide. It should not take months to get connected with a therapist or psychologist, whether it's for long term therapy or on an emergency basis. We've made progress towards making sure that everyone can access resources and that they are linked with affordable programs, but it is clear that there is a lot more work to do to ensure that available resources meet the demand in the mental and behavioral health space. It goes without saying that we must all do our part to end the stigma around seeking mental and behavioral health services. It is a strength and never a weakness to seek care.
Q: Do you see the Cook County government serving the city of Chicago too much and not paying enough attention to the needs in the suburbs?
A: Cook County is fully committed to serving the needs of all county residents. Many of the important services the county provides are solely for suburban residents. For example, the Cook County Forest Preserve District is almost wholly in the suburbs, the Cook County Clerk is only responsible for suburban elections, and our public health department is only responsible for the majority of suburbs that do not have their own individual public health departments.
I've worked hard to expand services to small businesses in the northwest suburbs. I've led efforts to grow our Bureau of Economic Development (BED), allocating increased resources to the department. This led to the creation of The Source, a one stop shop for businesses which can be found at cookcountysmallbiz.org. Currently I am investigating a way to create more access to monetary resources for businesses to grow, as well as supporting aspiring entrepreneurs on their path to create jobs and grow our local economy.
Q: What's your view of the Chicago Bears' possible move to Arlington Heights? Do you think that would put a strain on Cook County government, such as with sheriff's patrols, other services, or infrastructure needs? Or do you think it would help other Cook County businesses and tax revenue?
A: I think it could be a big win for the area and should yield a significant boost in revenue for area businesses, both established and new. If it's a net gain for our district, then it's worth it to invest the resources we need to make it work for everyone in the community. What I constantly hear from residents though is that they aren't opposed to the move, but they shouldn't have to pay for it. Infrastructure would need to be improved so that there is no strain on the roads or on mass transit, and I believe our residents would want to see the Bears Organization assist in that investment. With this potential move we could see a major economic boom for the Northwest suburbs, with the creation of new businesses, new job opportunities, and increased revenue for existing businesses. If this move were to take place, I stand ready to assist in making sure that the benefits realized remain in our communities.
Q: Do you support efforts to further restrict guns sales or access to guns otherwise in light of the Highland Park mass shooting, and/or in light of continuing gun violence overall?
A: I support policies to ensure that our families do not have to fear sending their children to school, going to the grocery store, or even participating in a community parade. When I'm out talking to people in the community, there is a clear consensus that more needs to be done to protect our families from these terrifying incidents that take lives and destroy families. Cook County already has a ban on assault weapons, but it is imperative that we see both the State of Illinois and the Federal Government implement bans of their own, which is why I sponsored a resolution calling on them to do exactly that. It's far past time to patch up any and all holes in our background check system. I support a responsible citizen's ability to own a gun for their protection, but it is clear from the conversations I've had in our community that this does not include military grade assault weapons.
Q: How could Cook County benefit from recently passed federal spending measures, such as on infrastructure, health care and climate change?
A: There are so many benefits based on these historic policies. The American Rescue Plan Act alone has allowed Cook County to invest significant resources in five key areas. Cook County's comprehensive plan will invest 100 million dollars for Vital Communities, which includes small business support, housing, social services, and workforce support. Safe and Thriving Communities, we are investing 60 million dollars in violence prevention, policing alternatives, and emergency response. Healthy Communities, we are investing 60 million dollars to support healthcare, mental health, public health, and food security and nutrition. Smart Communities we are investing 55 million dollars in transportation, water infrastructure, and digital equity. Finally, Sustainable Communities, we are investing 45 million dollars in hazard mitigation and pollution prevention, as well as environmental justice. I'm excited to see the positive transformation these investments will realize for Cook County.