Maria M. Barlow ( D ) is running in the primary against incumbent Stanley Moore and challengers Gaylon Alcaraz and Marcel Bright. Barlow is currently a family law attorney with her own practice, The Law Offices of Maria M. Barlow LLC. There is no Republican candidate for this office.
Windy City Times: Why did you decide to run?
Maria Barlow: I have always been interested in running for this office. The sugar tax was the straw that broke the camel's back. Our current representation is not very good because he is not a leader who is interested in making decisions that will help our district. We need better leadership and that is why I stepped up to the plate to run for commissioner.
WCT: How would you approach the job differently than what the incumbent has done in the past?
MB: I honestly do not know what he has done because I have not seen it. One of the things I would do is talk to people about what is going on in our district and their lives. This would include a bi-montly meeting with representatives in the community to discuss the issues.
WCT: You mentioned the sugar tax. Would you have voted for it in the first place?
MB: No. My district runs along the Indiana border. This tax would have bankrupted businesses because people would go across the border to shop for all of their groceries, not just soda and other sugary drinks, because Indiana does not even charge a grocery tax. People in my district already buy so many thing in Indiana including gas, cigarettes and liquor and this is also the case with people in districts bordering other Illinois counties with lower taxes. Cook County already lost a lot of money when the sugar tax was in place and it was only going to get worse.
WCT: What do you see are the most important issues facing the county and how would you address them if elected?
MB: We need economic development in this district because there are a lot of businesses closing up. People need to be able to find jobs and keeping businesses here and opening up new businesses would help that along. I want to promote economic growth and generate revenue without creating new taxes.
The county is in need of money, so we need an independent audit to figure out what is going on with the finances. Cutting things might not be an option but there has to be a way to make things better.
Increasing revenue so the county can have a sustainable tax base. They are taxing services at a higher rate while also taxing less people. These taxes are making people leave the county.
WCT: What do you see are the best ways to raise revenue so the budget is balanced that don't involve regressive taxation on everyone in the county?
MB: People and corporations that are not paying their fair share have to start doing so. Corporate tax cuts are not the solution for bringing new business in the county because they traditionally do not pay their workers a living wage and this will drive down consumer spending in the entire county.
WCT: What additional measures would you advocate for to provide more transparency in how the county government is run?
MB: The easiest thing to do is post upcoming votes on the county website. Also, commissioners need to get input from their constituents which Stanley Moore did not do before he sponsored and voted for the sugar tax when it first came up for a vote. The truth is the commissioners knew most residents were not happy with the sugar tax before they voted to enact it. If future votes are made public then people would be more involved and interested in what county government is doing. They should be. As a leader, you need to make the final decision but taking ideas from your constituents is good policy.
WCT: What, if any, interactions have you had with the LGBTQ community?
MB: I have friends in the community and we have talked about the issues that concern them. I have also attended both the Chicago and Miami Pride Parades and festivals that include booths for LGBTQ groups. I also support the LGBTQ Lavender Bar Association by attending their events.
WCT: What do you see are the most important issues or obstacles facing the LGBTQ community and how would you address them?
MB: I think equality is getting better but discrimination is still rampant, including hate crimes. This is disturbing to me because it is like attacking someone because of the color of their skin which is also something that is immutable.
We could budget out money under the public health and safety umbrella to do educational classes but the problem is how do you get people interested in and understand that this is what is going on.
WCT: Are there any changes you would make in how the county jail and health and hospital systems are run? If so, what are they?
MB: The juvenile justice system needs more reforms so kids can be put on the right track to become productive citizens.
Dealing with mental health will help with issues surrounding poverty and all types of violence. These people do not need to be in prison, they need mental health care.
I like what they are doing with bond reform, especially for those who cannot afford it and have been charged with a non-violent crime. We need to vet individuals who are incarcerated to determine if they even need to be there or can be released on house arrest.
We need local clinics, not just the two county hospitals, so the mentally ill especially can get services faster and closer to where they live.
Both need to be audited so they are run in a more cost-efficient way.
WCT: If elected, how will your previous work inform how you do your job?
MB: I am always thinking of the long term consequences of decisions I make or how it will affect people's future. I deal with sensitive matters in my law practice and this includes interacting with people who are at their most vulnerable so they can function after a divorce under a common goal, which is what is in the best interest of their family. This will help me as a commissioner because I will translate that to my role as an elected official because our common goal is to make the county livable for everyone.
For more information visit www.maria4commissioner.com/ .