Editorial: Endorsements for Cook County Board: Deer, Alsberry, McHale, Kukadia, Podgorski, Garcia, Gorman, Calandriello – Chicago Tribune


Cook County government was once a lesson in how not to govern. For years, the regime of then-County Board President Todd Stroger inflicted tax-and-spend excess on Cook County taxpayers. But fed-up taxpayers got rid of Stroger in 2010, and since then county governance has been relatively well-oiled under Toni Preckwinkle. Budgets come in balanced and the county continues to make headway toward fully funding its pension fund by 2046 — certainly a better trajectory than Springfield’s dismal pension crisis outlook.

Not everything’s rosy. At a time when so many Cook County residents struggle to make ends meet, commissioners recently voted to give themselves a pay raise, starting with the next term. That’s not just bad optics, it’s bad governance. It’s one factor voters should weigh when they vote in the primary Tuesday. All 17 board seats are at play, though only seven of those seats involve contested races.

Cook County Commissioner Dennis Deer speaks to the media as he holds his “1” card for the first in line to drop off nomination petitions at the Cook County Administration Building on March 7, 2022. (Jose M. Osorio / Chicago Tribune)

This district includes parts of the West and South sides. We like Democratic incumbent Dennis Deer’s viewpoint that gun violence in Cook County cannot be solved simply by putting more cops on the streets. Violence prevention programs and street outreach must also be part of the mix, along with expanding access to mental health services. “Crime and violence is a multi-factoral problem which requires a multi-tiered solution,” he told us. His opponent, Andre Smith, is a finance manager who wants to see the county exercise more care with how it spends taxpayer money. We’re more impressed with Deer, who has done well in his first term. He is endorsed.

Hazel Crest Mayor Vernard Alsberry is seen Oct. 13, 2021, in Homewood. (Ted Slowik / Daily Southtown)

Four Democrats are vying to replace Commissioner Deborah Sims, who is retiring amid a complaint alleging retaliation against one of her workers who had reported sexual harassment in her office. This district includes parts of the South Side and south suburbs, many of which have suffered from decades of disinvestment and an eroding tax base.

Monica Gordon, director of governmental affairs for Chicago State University, lives in Chicago Heights and says the county must make Southland revitalization a top priority, and should ramp up workforce development and job training in those suburbs. We also like the energy Jaylin McClinton, a 29-year-old South Side lawyer, brings to the race. If elected, he says he would reach out to residents through community town halls, a small business leadership council and a mayoral council to help south suburbs with municipal issues.

But the candidate we think can do the most for Southland communities is Hazel Crest Mayor Vernard Alsberry. As a past president and current board member of the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association, Alsberry is keenly aware of what needs to be fixed in the south suburbs, and is best positioned to advocate for meaningful, lasting solutions. Also in the race is Kierra Williams, a law student from Chicago.

Our endorsement goes to Alsberry.

In 2018, we balked at endorsing Democratic incumbent Luis Arroyo Jr. for this Northwest Side district after he vowed to consolidate county offices and streamline services across the board, only to later cast the deciding vote to raise the county sales tax. This cycle, Arroyo has four challengers.

As general counsel for Chicago’s Office of Inspector General, Rory McHale knows all about the importance of scrutinizing government for waste, mismanagement and corruption. (He’s on leave from the IG’s office while running.) He told us “in good years and poor years,” the county must continue to keep ramping up payments to the pension fund to keep it on track for eventual 100% funding. He also says he would use the office as a bully pulpit “to demand and lobby for real ethics reforms in campaign finance, procurement and hiring.” Edwin Reyes, who served on the County Board from 2009 to 2014, says he can help counter residents’ lack of confidence in government by taking a “robust approach to community engagement.” Also in the race are Natalie Toro, a Chicago Public Schools teacher, and Anthony Joel Quezada, who works in the office of progressive 35th Ward Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa.

McHale is endorsed.

Matt Podgorski, a candidate for Cook County commissioner, is shown while campaigning on June 15, 2022, in Norwood Park. (Brian Cassella / Chicago Tribune)

Longtime GOP Commissioner Peter Silvestri is retiring, leaving open the seat in this district serving the northwest and west suburbs. In the Democratic primary, Sam Kukadia is a Chicago civil engineer who regards himself as a middle-of-the-road Democrat. He believes street outreach programs can be part of the solution to gun violence, but he also says “more cops on the streets lead to safer communities.” He says the biggest concern in the district is ever-rising property taxes. He would like to see county commissioners find ways to give property taxpayers some sorely needed relief. Maggie Trevor from Rolling Meadows has run twice for the Illinois House and lost — in 2018 and 2020. She says her main task would be to improve the county’s health care system. Also in the race is Heather Anne Boyle, who works in the records section at the Des Plaines Police Department. Kukadia is endorsed.

On the Republican side, Matthew Podgorski is a logistics director from Chicago who sensibly opposes new tax increases and shows a willingness to work with Democrats to solve the county’s biggest challenges. Also in the race are two staunchly conservative Republicans: Frank Coconate, a security contractor from Chicago, and Mark Hosty, a River Forest real estate broker and former Forest Park village commissioner. Podgorski is endorsed.

Kevin Ake of Elk Grove Village and Chuck Cerniglia of Hoffman Estates are running in the GOP primary for this northwest suburban district. The Tribune makes no endorsement in this race. The winner faces Democratic incumbent Kevin Morrison, who is unopposed in his primary.

We don’t like the way Democratic incumbent Frank Aguilar of Cicero got the job as commissioner for this west and southwest suburban district. After federal investigators working on the red-light camera scandal raided McCook Mayor Jeffrey Tobolski’s home and McCook Village Hall, Tobolski stepped down from his Cook County Board post. Then, Cook County and Chicago Democratic officials met quietly at a private club in Berwyn and picked as Tobolski’s replacement Aguilar, who once worked with convicted former Cicero Mayor Betty Loren-Maltese. The process was anything but transparent. One more thing. When Aguilar served in the Illinois House, he did so as a Republican.

Letty Garcia, 38, is a registered nurse from Berwyn who wants to use her expertise in medicine to help improve the preventive care side of Cook County’s health care system. It’s time for a change in this district. Garcia is endorsed.

Elizabeth Doody Gorman, who served on the Cook County Board from 2002 to 2014 and later worked as executive director of the Illinois Tollway, is seen Sept. 11, 2013. (Nancy Stone / Chicago Tribune)

Republican incumbent Sean Morrison of Palos Park faces a formidable challenge from former Cook County Commissioner Elizabeth Doody Gorman. Morrison has represented this west and southwest suburban district since 2015. He developed a reputation as a strong opponent against Democratic tax-and-spend politics. He also was a leading voice in the move to ramp up the county’s yearly pension contributions beyond the legally required amount.

We have endorsed Morrison before, but in the past we also have backed Gorman. Her resume is impressive. She served on the County Board from 2002 to 2014. Later, she worked as executive director of the Illinois Tollway, and in 2021 was appointed to the Regional Transportation Authority’s governing board. When she served as county commissioner, she was one of the board’s strongest voices against tax hikes, and was instrumental in securing the repeal of then-Board President Stroger’s 133% sales tax increase in 2009. She believes in zero-based budgeting and wants county departments to justify what they want to spend. Two strong candidates, but Gorman is the better choice. She is endorsed.

The Democratic primary in this district pits southwest suburban Orland Park trustee Dan Calandriello against Lou Gale, a village trustee for west suburban LaGrange. Calandriello describes himself as a moderate Democrat who “will never vote with my party 100% of the time” and who embraces government that lives within its means. Gale is also well-qualified, but we think Calandriello is the better choice. He is endorsed.

Editor’s note: Today’s list completes the Tribune’s slate of endorsements for the current primaries in Illinois. On Monday, we’ll offer a printed list of all our previously published endorsements that readers can take with them to the polls.

Join the discussion on Twitter @chitribopinions and on Facebook.

Submit a letter, of no more than 400 words, to the editor here or email letters@chicagotribune.com.

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June 24, 2022 at 07:12AM

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