Chicago, IL – It’s been a busy five months for Commissioner Sean Morrison since taking office on July 22. The Cook County Board of Commissioners closed out the 2015 calendar year with the passage of three important reform-minded initiatives at their recent December 16 board meeting.
Commissioner Morrison brought with him to the board an extensive business background and made fiscal responsibility and innovative reform key pillars of his agenda. He also made it a top priority to meet with every Cook County department, agency and county elected official to learn the fiscal scope and operational structure of every area of county government.
“Having worked closely with the administration over the last several months, I’m very pleased to see these three initiatives passed and look forward to their implementation as it will move Cook County government in the right direction of reform, efficiency and consolidation,” remarked Commissioner Morrison.
The board approved the $2.3 million purchase of an Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) to facilitate communications between the different software applications used by each of the County’s justice agencies: Chief Judge, Clerk of the Circuit Court, Public Defender, Sheriff, State’s Attorney and the Cook County Bureau of Technology, which operates under the Office of County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. The Bureau of Technology was given approval by the Board for the implementation of ESB software and hardware, as well as development and managed services for data exchanges among County criminal justice agencies.
As Vice Chair of the Technology & Innovation Committee, Commissioner Morrison sees consolidation and modernization of IT services as critical to raising efficiencies and cutting long-term costs for county government. And, he sees the ESB as a significant step which will improve communications and data exchanges between multiple county agencies while providing significant cost savings.
A new ordinance approved by the county board will require businesses that store hazardous chemicals such as acids, solvents and other highly toxic chemicals to report the type of substance in the facility, the location of the chemicals and how the chemicals are stored. This information will provide a measure of safety for nearby residents and first responders. The information collected will be kept by the Cook County Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management and will be available to first responders.
Upon its approval, Commissioner Morrison said, “This ordinance is a very important public safety issue for our communities and our first responders who many times walk into an unknown location which presents a very dangerous and life-threatening situation as we saw recently with the tragic loss of Chicago Firefighter Daniel Capuano.”
The third item approved at the December board meeting involves the county reducing and streamlining its vehicle fleet operations and creating a more efficient system of vehicle purchase, use and maintenance that will save taxpayers money. President Preckwinkle’s administration will now partner with the Cook County Sheriff’s Office on vehicle maintenance with a more efficient system to save money and promote use of ‘green’ vehicles. The Sheriff’s Office will now maintain and service all county passenger vehicles.
The three reform initiatives passed in December come on the heels of the November 18 passage of the FY2016 Cook County Budget which included four new taxes which was in addition to the 1% Sales Tax increase passed in mid-July just prior to Commissioner Morrison’s appointment to the board.
After several weeks of budget hearings and negotiations, the FY2016 Budget was passed but with significant opposition. “It was my goal to see the county budget passed without any new taxes but unfortunately that was not the case. That’s why I could not support it. Those targeted businesses will now face an additional financial burden which in my view is not beneficial to the long term health of our county’s economy,” Morrison concluded.
According to Morrison, raising taxes can no longer be the primary remedy to addressing fiscal matters because creating new tax revenue streams inevitably leads to new spending. He believes the path to fiscal stability needs to be built squarely around strong fiscal reform policies across all areas of Cook County government along with fostering a positive economic environment where businesses can thrive.
As 2016 arrives, Commissioner Morrison is looking forward to working with his county board colleagues, President Preckwinkle and her administration to continue to create new and innovative reforms and establish more quantifiable measures to move Cook County government in the right fiscal direction.