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ELECTIONS 4th Dist. Cook County Commissioner candidate Marcel Bright on budget, listening
by Carrie Maxwell, Windy City Times

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Marcel Bright ( D ) is running in the primary against incumbent Stanley Moore and challengers Gaylon Alcaraz and Maria M. Barlow. Bright is a FEMA spokesperson and previously worked as a reporter for a variety of publications, Stroger Hospital's Director of Public Affairs and as Chief of Staff for the 3rd Ward Alderman. There is no Republican candidate for this office.

Windy City Times: Why did you decide to run?

Marcel Bright: I was urged by people throughout this district who are simply tired of being represented by a corrupt commissioner, Stanley Moore, who was fined by the state ethics commission and fired from an $86 thousand/year job for campaigning instead of working. People really want a change from, what many call, the plantation politics on the south side and are aware of my experience in government. I agree with them and these things are what motivated me to run.

We need to start electing people who are a little closer to us in terms of knowing what it is like to work hard and struggle. People who have been in the forefront of organizing or a coach or volunteer parent at their kids school like I have done.

WCT: How will that experience as a journalist, police officer, county health system employee and working for FEMA help you as a commissioner?

MB: I have had such close contact with people during times when they were at their most vulnerable. Having empathy for what they were going through is vital. There are very few people I cannot connect to in some way because of my experiences over the years. I know the challenges they have faced on so many levels and this is absent in many elected officials. This will enable me to be one of the best commissioners this county has ever seen.

WCT: What would you do differently than the incumbent?

MB: I would not take orders from the leaders of the Cook County Democratic party. I would keep my constituents informed about what I am doing and how the county board is operating. I will make sure my constituents know why I am voting on a measure before the vote is taken and listen to them if they object to something I support. This is what you are supposed to do and that has not happened with Stanley Moore.

WCT: Would you have voted for the soda tax?

MB: No, because it was unfair and regressive. We were lied to by President Preckwinkle and Stanley Moore stood right next to her. They told us it was as much about health benefits as it was about revenue. Then when it was being repealed, we were told the truth, which was it was all about the money to cover up the mismanagement of public funds.

WCT: What do you see are the most important issues facing the county and how would you address them if elected? How would you address raising revenue to balance the budget that are not a regressive tax on everyone in the county?

MB: The county needs to trim the fat and eliminate positions that are unnecessary to the running of our county government. Part of the problem is we have too many lawyers and business owners in local public office who make their living as a lawyer or business owner in addition to what they make as an elected official. Many of these people find a way to make more money while they are in public office and that is wrong.

There has to be some kind of tax increase. One thing we have to look at is the gasoline tax. It has been 18 years since that tax has been increased and I believe it would be more equitable in how it affects people. With the lower gas prices and people hopefully buying more fuel efficient vehicles this might be our best answer since businesses also have to buy fuel, not just individuals.

We cannot look at property taxes right now because of what is going on with the assessor's office. Making things more efficient would also cut costs.

WCT: You mentioned the county assessor. Do you think if the incumbent is replaced then property taxes could be looked at?

MB: Not right away because we have to investigate and eliminate the corruption first. The county's portion of the property taxes have not been increased for at least 15 years. If that office is cleaned up and reformed we can look at property taxes, especially how businesses are accessed, and that includes multi-national companies with offices in the county.

WCT: How would you approach the issue of transparency in how the county government is run?

MB: There needs to be more open meetings. For some contract negotiations, the public should be included to some degree. They need to simplify the county's online employee salary list because it is really hard to navigate. I cannot find who works at the forest preserve and how much they make. The county makes it more difficult because of patronage. The whistleblower ordinance needs to have more protections so people feel safe coming forward.

WCT: What, if any, interactions have you had with the LGBTQ community?

MB: I have always been an advocate for equal rights for everyone. I know how abrasive and abusive society can be to members of the LGBTQ community. As a police officer, I saw this firsthand.

WCT: What do you see are the most important issues or obstacles facing the LGBTQ community and how would you address them?

MB: Attention needs to be paid to the interactions between healthcare providers and those they encounter in the LGBTQ community to make sure they use the proper terminology and pronouns.

When someone from the LGBTQ community is incarcerated they should be placed in the proper facility.

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 health systems will be facing some additional budget challenges because of the dismantling of the ACA. We have to examine if the hospital is meeting its responsibility in an efficient and cost effective manner. There needs to be a comprehensive and independent review and audit of the entire county health system so people get the best care. For example, there too much management that could be eliminated.

There have been some modest improvements in how people are bonded but there needs to be more reform of the county criminal justice system. Mental health services need to be available to everyone who needs them, including those who are locked up. Maybe then, many of the people who are locked up would not be there in the first place.

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