Healthcare should be a right for all, not a privilege for the wealthy. That is why I support a national health care system. It is unacceptable that the 7th District has some of the highest numbers of uninsured residents in all of Cook County. I will fight to maintain Medicaid funding and the County’s commitment to improving access for all and I am committed to a single-payer, Medicare-for-All system that covers all residents, regardless of immigration status.
All over the country, vulnerable populations are afraid to use health and social services because of President Trump’s ugly rhetoric and policies. As your Cook County Commissioner I will ensure that Cook County health services are welcoming to immigrants, the LGBTQ community, recently incarcerated individuals, the disabled community, veterans, the homeless and all those that seek services. I will work with the County health system and non-for-profit and private health care providers to establish policies and procedures that ensure that no one is turned away. In addition, I will ensure that interpretation services are high quality and multi-language.
I will also fight to expand preventative services that save lives like regular mammograms, cancer screening, diabetes prevention and birth control. We cannot continue to have residents rely on costly emergency room services. Health professionals agree that expanding preventative services will save lives AND save the County millions in the long run.
Mental Health Services
I am committed to expanding access to mental health services. Young people today are experiencing high levels of anxiety and stress due to the divisive and toxic political discourse. When the city closed its mental health centers it left many without a place to go. We need to provide services to young people impacted by gun violence, school closings and to those being pushed out of their neighborhoods due to skyrocketing property taxes and rent prices. Immigrants and DACA-eligible youth have experienced a rollercoaster of emotions wondering if they or their families will be deported at any time. I will work to establish a program in the 7th district where residents can seek mental health treatment in a holistic and culturally sensitive manner.
Substance Abuse Programs
Heroin abuse and opioid-related deaths have increased 70% in Cook County. I will make sure that the Chicago-Cook Heroin Task Force recommendations are fully implemented in our communities. In addition, I will work with the Cook County Department of Health to study Opioid-related deaths in the 7th District and create a program to distribute Naloxone, the medication that can reverse opioid overdose and save someone’s life.
Strengthening the Cook County Health System
Cook County has taken the lead for over 100 years to provide healthcare to all residents. I am committed to making our district stronger and healthier by fighting to preserve the County Health System. Republicans on the Cook County Board have argued that we must cut funding and services at the County, especially the health system – BUT I FUNDAMENTALLY DISAGREE. I will work to provide full funding for critical services and programs at the County hospitals and clinics.
Justice System For All
As a lifelong resident of the South Side I understand the urgent need to address gun violence, youth unemployment and the fact that way too many of our youth end up behind bars because of lack of guidance, lack of opportunities and an over-reliance on the criminal system to solve all of our problems.
It is clear that certain areas in the 7th District are experiencing to much violence. Over the last 3 years I have worked to implement the first-ever violence prevention grants to be awarded by the County. I was also involved in implementing a job training program to address youth violence in the summer months. As your Commissioner I will streamline and expand violence prevention programs so that they will target communities in the southwest side that have been the hardest hit by violence. I will work with the Cook County Justice Advisory Council to study and track where violence is increasing and work with them to create specific strategies to provide increased resources to those communities.
I will establish a Cook County task force that will bring together youth practitioners and nonprofits to share resources and best practices for how to address violence in our communities.
I support the legalization of recreational Marijuana at the County and State level not just for the economic benefits, but to reject the failed drug war in our neighborhoods. Taxing recreational use of Marijuana (with a different level of taxation on Medical Marijuana) can raise needed revenues for the County. With that funding, I will commit to expanding programs to repair the communities destroyed by these outdated laws.
Too many Cook County residents have been personally affected by gang violence and crimes of poverty. That is why I support expanding job opportunities for our youth and using restorative justice programs to address youth violence. The first Restorative Justice Community Court opened last year in North Lawndale. Using restorative justice practices defendants are required to take accountability for their actions and work out an agreement with the person harmed and the community. This approach helps reintegrate offenders back into the community by connecting them with services including mental health counseling, substance abuse treatment, education opportunities and job training. As your Commissioner I would support the creation of a Restorative Justice Community Court in the 7th District.
Addressing Racial Disparities
Illinois leads the nation in overcrowded prisons. In Cook County, Black and Latino individuals makeup 86% of the jail population but less than 50% of the overall population. This is outrageous.Nationwide, Black and Latinos defendants comprise well over half of all prisoners, even though Black and Latino defendants make up approximately one quarter of the total US population. We must stop the mass incarceration of our communities immediately, it's destroying our communities and it's an unnecessary expense for our government. We have to tackle endemic violence, but not solely by putting more people in jail. I commit to finding alternatives to incarceration by promoting restorative justice and promoting economic development in our communities.
Ensuring Equal Protection
There are currently around 3,000 people who remain incarcerated because of their inability to pay bond. I will maintain and expand the Cash Bail reforms Commissioner Garcia passed at the County which has reduced jail population 40+% (from about 10,000 per day to about 5,500 per day). I will fight to make sure that we use some of the savings from the lowered jail population to expand mental health services, counseling and violence prevention programs in schools and neighborhoods.
Protecting Immigrant Communities
The federal government has shown that it is willing to detain and deport DACA-recipients, grandmothers, parents of U.S. Citizens - on their way to work, in courthouses, even in their homes. The County has a vital role to play in protecting the rights of immigrants. In 2011, Commissioner Garcia passed the “ICE Detainer” ordinance that prohibits county collaboration with ICE. Cook County’s policy was subsequently adopted by hundreds of municipalities and is now the law in all of Illinois. I will work to create an Immigrant Protection office that will monitor ICE activities in Cook County courthouses and ensure that all residents rights are protected.
President Trump continues to harass Chicago and Cook County and attack our sanctuary policies. In February 2018, ICE release guidance allowing federal ICE agents to arrest people at courthouses. I will tirelessly advocate to increase protection for immigrants, with no loopholes or carve outs to allow ICE to terrorize our neighbors and separate families. I will ensure continued support for the County policy to not detain people based solely on immigration status.
Responsible Budget for All
Our County budget is in crisis and will continue to be in crisis until we establish sufficient funding to maintain the health care, public safety and economic development services we need. We have to make sure that the County delivers effective services, losing critical services is unacceptable. We will not solve the budget crisis without some new responsible revenue from the County like video gaming or future taxes on recreational marijuana. The long term solution must also include more revenue from the State. I will ensure the rich pay their fair share of taxes so the burden doesn’t fall on consumers and regular people. I will work with state legislators to pass a well designed financial transaction tax, the Robin Hood Tax. It's a win-win for the economy. Higher revenues would result in more funds for social insurance programs and much-needed public investments.
I believe it's time to stand up against millionaires and billionaires who avoid paying their fair share by reforming the property tax system. Multiple studies have shown the the current system is regressive and residents in Black and Latino neighborhoods pay more than their fair share while wealthy residents find ways to work the system. I will make sure that residents don’t need to hire a lawyer just to understand their property tax bill. I will establish an outreach office in the 7th District that will provide resources and expertise to residents about their property taxes. The County Board controls the budget of the County Assessor and I will use that authority to ensure a fair and transparent property tax assessment process.
Protection for Immigrants
I want our community to be a place where all our neighbors are respected and can find meaningful work that pays a livable wage. When I serve on the Cook County Board, I will work to ensure businesses treat workers with the respect and dignity they deserve by strengthening and enforcing existing worker protection laws.
In addition to bringing good jobs to the district, I will continue the Fight for $15 and expand the County minimum wage law –passed by Commissioner Chuy Garcia - to at least $15 per hour and indexed to inflation and with no opt-out. I will make sure that the current County ordinance requiring paid sick days for all workers in the County is enforced and work to insure that communities and companies cannot opt-out. It's a simple decision, no worker should have to decide between work and their health.
Economic development doesn’t just mean providing tax incentives for huge corporations. Real economic development means investing in small businesses. The 7th district is full of talented entrepreneurs, worker co-ops, mom and pop stores and social innovators. As your Commissioner I will build on the Cook County Social Innovation Commission - created by Commissioner Garcia to create a local innovation hub that invests in local talent and provides tax incentives for social innovation in the arts, technology and local entrepreneurship. We can continue to build our own coffee shops, worker co-ops and technology firms IF we invest in our youth and our community.
As our district grows and changes, I will stand up to make sure our community has access to affordable housing. This is important in order to protect longtime residents and keep our neighborhoods affordable. I will work tolift the ban and establish rent control standards that preserve quality of life for our community members.
As we improve County operations and bring new funding on line, I will expand the County’s programs to manage and develop affordable housing as well as expand heating assistance and foreclosure assistance. The foreclosure epidemic has slowed but has not completely ended. The 7th District was particularly hard hit with the foreclosure crisis. I was proud that the County created a solution that helped thousands of families stay in their homes. The Cook County Foreclosure Mediation program was established in 2010 with the hope that families could stay in their homes and that the County would also benefit by keeping residents in Cook County and continuing to collect property taxes. The Board of Commissioners voted to end the program this year. As your Commissioner I will work to re-establish vital programs and make sure we find the resources to continue to support families and keep them in their homes.
Transportation spending is the largest expenditure to support development in the County with $50M in projects every year. I will work to direct more of those projects to communities in the 7th District. People in our neighborhoods deserve good access to jobs, shopping and healthcare. We deserve the same level of investment in the CTA/Pace trains and buses that serve other communities. Specifically, I will push for County funding to spur investments in upgrading the Orange and Pink Line stations and promote development around them. I will make sure that transit-oriented developments will include community input and provide resources for local businesses, not exclusively large corporations.
Why This Election Matters
For too many years, local government has been run for the interests of people with money and not for people working hard every day to support their families. Last year’s County budget crisis made it clear that County government is in danger. Our healthcare system is under threat. Our efforts to reform our judicial system are in danger of being turned back. Our efforts to bring development to all neighborhoods, not just downtown, are at risk. That is what is at stake.
Unlike my opponent, I'm not running for office because of my political name, or family connections. I never had anything handed to me. I worked from a young age to help support my family, I stayed focused on my education and accomplishing my goals and I have always been committed to improving my community. I made my own name at school, at my church, with community organizations and at my jobs and am connected to the issues that matter most to my neighbors. I came to work in County government because I cared about the future of our community. Simply put, I care about the issues affecting working families in 7th District and want to build on the legacy left by Commissioner Garcia.
The Republicans on the Board and some Democrats like those that support my opponent, have been saying we cannot afford a budget that provides BOTH basic health care and a fair judicial system. I believe that is a false choice. We must provide both and I will work to make sure we continue our century old commitment to health care and insure we have a fair judicial system.
This election is about real issues affecting working families. It’s about fighting for the issues that matter most to our community. It’s about electing a Commissioner who is part of our community, who understands our challenges and is ready to fight for solutions.
In this election, let’s send people who will fight for working families. Let's fight for a future where our families and our neighborhoods are the priority.