Daniel Foster: 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: Daniel Foster
DOB: 12 March 1987
Residence: Skokie, Illinois
Family: Jordan Jeske (husband)
Occupation: Candidate, formerly Software Developer
Political Experience: I am not a wealthy businessman or an experienced politician: I am new to activism and to politics. Up until recently, I was just an ordinary person - but I have a genuine excitement for the future that many of my family, friends, and neighbors don’t share. I have long held unique views on local and federal politics, and after the 2016 elections I was encouraged to run by those who know me so I might share those views in a forum where they could make a difference. After researching our local government, I chose to run for the Cook County Board of Commissioners because this office will give me a chance to make an impact on the issues I care most deeply about. These issues include reimagining our criminal justice system, improving our environment (e.g. via the forest preserve), and improving the public health response to gun violence and untreated mental illness.
What is your vision for this office?
I am the only candidate in this race pledging to work full time for the people of District 13. Both of my opponents believe that representing the over 300,000 people of our district is a part time job, but I do not. I believe that the Cook County Board of Commissioners must act as a unifying force for all the units of local government here in Cook County. We have to work full time not just to legislate on the county level, but also to coordinate between all of our local governments to deliver better services at a lower cost. I am promising to dedicate myself exclusively to the people of my district and to the people of Cook County, and will work tirelessly to build a happier, healthier, more productive place to live, work, and visit.
What is the most pressing issue facing constituents, and how can you help address it?
I believe one of the most urgent and immediate goals of our county government needs to be preparing for an urbanizing world. People are moving away from rural towns and agricultural areas into large metropolitan cities. Wealthy urban centers, like Chicago, can stand to benefit greatly from this global trend. At the moment, Cook County’s population is declining, but that makes us a global outlier. I believe that it is essential our local government act to reverse this trend before we are irreparably damaged by it.
As a result, I think it is necessary for our county to immediately invest in redesigning our infrastructure while improving and expanding our government’s services to support an increased urban population. At the same time, we need to target these changes so that we stop Cook County’s population decline. To do this, we need significant changes to our tax code, as well as changes to the quantity and quality of services our government provides.
One of my key tax proposals is to change the way that we assess property value so that property assessments are based only on land size, location, and usage – rather than the value of the structure that sits on the property. This change will immediately eliminate the tax penalty on home improvements, and will remove the tax incentive for letting properties decay. Other cities have used similar tax assessment schemes to successfully combat urban decay and to promote urban development. For Cook County, this system will also end decades of abuse in the property assessment system – making assessments simple, fair, and transparent. Similar lots with similar usage in similar locations will assess for similar values, which reduces the time and money property owners must spend to contest their property assessments.
In addition, I am proposing that the County Board replace the county’s portion of the sales tax with a new tax on a new class of easily assessed property: investment property. Other cities, such as New York and Los Angeles, have implemented taxes on investment property without detrimental effect. Here in Cook County the effect will be enormously positive. For one thing, this change will make our tax code far more progressive, helping the very people that are now fleeing Cook County the most. This change will also make Cook County friendlier for businesses, which will see an immediate increase in consumer activity as a result of the dramatically reduced sales tax.
I would design this newly implemented tax to capture slightly more revenue than the current sales tax captures right now. My intention is to use this revenue on a $2.4 billion / 10 year program to replace public and private landscapes with natural flora, reducing our county’s net carbon emissions by 40% and putting us on track to meet our Paris Climate Agreement goals. This program will save the average homeowner nearly $300 in annual home maintenance costs, and will save certain homeowners thousands annually in reduced damage from basement flooding. This program will also save the MWRD and local municipalities approximately $60 million annually after completion due to reduced infrastructure strain from rainwater runoff. In other cities, these programs have been shown to additionally save homeowners hundreds of dollars in utility costs, but since Cook County will be among the first in our climate to institute a natural flora program exact numbers are difficult to calculate.
Additionally, I propose shifting approximately 2% of Cook County’s overall budget from the justice system into economic development, bringing our total investment in economic development to approximately 5% of the County’s overall budget. In the long run, I think this percentage needs to be even higher if we are to truly prepare for the infrastructure strain mass urbanization will create. In the short run, however, I propose using about half of these shifted funds (1% of the County’s overall budget) on venture-capital style investments in cultural and academic research and development. These small scale investments will encourage development across Cook County, and will invest in the place that attracts businesses the most: our workforce.
When my older brother was born with Down Syndrome in 1982 he didn’t have the Americans with Disabilities Act to protect him. Even after the ADA was passed, my parents had to fight for him to be included with his peers in classrooms, summer camps, and park district activities. My husband Jordan and I have continued that fight to make sure my brother continues to receive opportunities as an adult. Growing up around that fight, participating in that fight now, has given me a sense of how important integration is. And in my opinion, mass incarceration is the most blatant, destructive, and institutionalized form of segregation facing my generation today.
I’m running for the Cook County Board of Commissioners because I care deeply about ending the era of mass incarceration. That is far from my only issue, and if you visit commissionerfoster.com you’ll find detailed proposals about taxes, climate change, and of course justice.
I am the only person in this race that will work as your representative, full time. The world is urbanizing, and as one of the world’s wealthiest urban centers Cook County should be burgeoning. Our current struggle with population decline makes us a global outlier, and it will take someone that is dedicated, full time, to coordinating between all the units of government - talking to experts, other officials, and constituents, then writing and passing legislation. My opponents are not willing to make a full time commitment to the people of our district. I am, and that alone sets me apart from them.
My name is Daniel Foster. I’ve lived in our district for twenty-four years and in our county for twenty-eight years. I grew up here, went to public school here, and earned my BS in mathematics and computer science from UIC. My career includes work in actuarial science, software development, and the not for profit sector. I care about our county and our district, it’s my home.
Join me and together we can create a different Cook County.
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