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Bushra Amiwala: Candidate for Cook County Commissioner, 13th District

WTTW’s 2018 Voters’ Guide to the Cook County Primary is an online resource designed to inform voters about the candidates running for office in the March 20 election.

Candidates were given two minutes to tell voters where they stand on the issues, why they feel they are best qualified and what they intend to do if elected or re-elected. The messages were recorded at the WTTW studios at no cost to the candidates. The Voters’ Guide is an online version of Candidate Free Time, pioneered by WTTW in the 1992 race for U.S. Senate. This year’s Candidate Free Time is produced with and underwritten in part by the League of Women Voters of Cook County.

About this office: Cook County Commissioner

Seventeen elected Commissioners constitute the Cook County Board, the governing policy board and legislative body of Cook County. The Board sets policy and laws for the county regarding public health and public safety and oversees safety and maintenance of county highways. The Board approves the annual budget and oversees financial integrity of the County.

About this candidate:

Name: Bushra Amiwala
DOB: 12/30/1997
Residence: Skokie, IL
Family: Immigrated from Pakistan 20 years ago, live in Skokie IL
Occupation: Student at DePaul University
Political Experience: Head Intern on the Mark Kirk for Senate Campaign, Field Organizer with Northside Power, Organizer with Northside Democracy for America

Candidate Q&A

What is your vision for this office?

I want to modernize Cook County – in a very practical manner. Starting off by making sure our board meetings are live broadcasted, where people can interact/engage from the comfort of their own homes. This will increase awareness and visibility of the County Board as a whole. After talking to many voters in the County thus far, many of them are not fully aware of what a County Commissioner does, especially in immigrant communities, therefore, I will host a biweekly meeting with a topic of discussion, along with ways the County can address said issue. This will then be brought up in the biweekly board meeting held. I hope to host these in different areas in the 13th district of Cook County, as opposed to just Evanston, Wilmette and some of the wealthier parts of the district. By virtualizing a lot of the meetings, this will increase accessibility for a lot of the families who want to keep up with local politics, but have other obligations. I also will post a monthly survey on my website and on my various social media platforms, to encourage constituents to share their concerns. Most of the time, a lot of people do not share their concerns with their County Commissioners, because they are not aware of what issues can even be brought up. I want to engage and interact with members in the district in ways an elected official has never before by utilizing various technological advancements in present day. Already, my campaign has gotten the attention from many people who are normally not involved in politics. 70% of the people working on my campaign are working on their first campaign. I am sure, once elected, the way I engage with my constituents will mirror this.

What is the most pressing issue facing constituents, and how can you help address it?

People want to freeze local property taxes because of the unconventional method houses are assessed on currently. I would introduce a progressive taxation model, as opposed to a straight-line tax hike. I would not be in favor of a regressive, flat tax, because of the way they disproportionately affect marginalized communities. With this progressive taxation model, there should be a correlation between the income one makes and the property taxes they pay. For example, you could have a billionaire living in a small apartment, who does not pay nearly as much in property taxes, as opposed to a family of six who live in a nice neighborhood, because they want adequate schooling for their children. This scenario is extremely relevant to myself, because this is the kind of situation I grew up in. My parents were working four jobs combined, yet their annual income together was literally less than $30,000. Our property taxes went from $6,000 from when we first moved to Skokie, to almost double, around $11,000, after about 8 years of living there. This is where progressive taxation comes into play. There has to be a correlation between income and property taxes. The current method encourages dramatic disparities between neighborhoods, schooling and promotes gentrification and the further divide between “rich” and “poor” neighborhoods. Those who cannot afford to pay, and those who have seen their taxes almost double over the past 5 years are the ones calling for a property tax freeze.

Candidate Statement

My name is Bushra Amiwala and I am a candidate to represent the 13th district on the Cook County Board of Commissioners. My run for office stems from my passion of making a difference in society and I realized every organization I worked with, and cause I cared about, had a political component to ensure long term change is enacted.

I have worked with all walks of life both racially and socioeconomically. My time serving at a local community kitchen, made it so I was able to answer the question that fathomed our County Board Members for the past decade: why aren’t people of color signing up for County Care? A service that 40 percent of our county budget falls under. And after talking to many people of color, who qualify for this service, I can tell you. It is because they do not know about it. And those who do, have no idea how to sign up, because guess what, none of our town hall meetings are held in the areas they live in.

When County Commissioners try to figure out why families in immigrant and low income neighborhoods have to pay so much on their property taxes, I understand. My family’s property taxes almost doubled in eight years of living in our home in Skokie, and when my mom went to seek a solution, she was told to "just appeal it." And I recall her coming home and saying "well what does that even mean."

I seek to serve as a voice for all communities and it is clear through the perspective I hold and the policy ideas I have already come up with that this truly sets me apart. My campaign has taken the county by storm, as I have 80 signed up volunteers, out organized the democratic machine by landing the top spot on the ballot, out fundraised all the other candidates by three times the amount, and by garnering impressive name recognition after being featured on the cover of TIME magazine, the Chicago Tribune, Glamour Magazine and the New York Times Upfront to name a few. We are running a campaign on purity politics and positive messaging and don’t need to bring any of the other candidates down, as that is a sign of insecurity and weak leadership.

My support comes from everyday individuals like yourselves, teachers, community members, small business owners, and residents in the 13th district of Cook County. Thank you.

See more candidates for Cook County commissioner, 13th County Board District.

Return to our 2018 Voters’ Guide to the Cook County Primary