Richard Boykin: 2022 candidate for Cook County Board President

  • Richard R. Boykin

    Richard R. Boykin

 
Posted5/28/2022 1:00 AM

Bio

Party: Democrat

 

City: Oak Park

Age: 53

Occupation: Attorney

Previous offices held: Commissioner, First District, Cook County Board, 2014-18

Q&A

Q. Why are you running for this office, whether for reelection or election for the first time? Is there a particular issue that motivates you? If so, what?

A. I am running because there is a need for real change in Cook County. With my knowledge, skills and ability, and proven record of accomplishment, I am the best candidate to bring about real change.

As a Commissioner, I sponsored ordinances that benefited residents of Cook County by:

• Banning Cook County Law Enforcement from using chokeholds on suspects;

• Creating stiffer financial penalties for individuals caught carrying illegal handguns;

• Establishing a Cook County Commission on Youth;

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• Creating a Cook County Gun Violence Coordinator and Task Force;

• Eliminating the tax on Feminine Hygiene Products; and

Furthermore, I stood with the people by voting "no" to the 1% sales tax increase and "no" to the sweetened beverage (soda pop), tax increase, and led the repeal of the sweetened beverage tax.

We have a public safety crisis in Cook County. Gun violence, carjacking and retail thefts are harming too many of our communities. I will make Cook County safer.

Q. If you are an incumbent, describe your main contributions. Tell us of any important initiatives you've led. If you are a challenger, what would you bring to the job and what would your priority be?

A. My consensus-building approach to problem-solving and resolute focus on productive communication is based on integrity, hard work and absolute dedication to serving the people. Having spent decades developing relationships at all levels of government, I know how to build support among decision-makers in order to realize policy goals.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

My experience as a leader in Washington, D.C. and in my profession as an attorney will be helpful in managing the Cook County Board President's staff. I will ensure that they are productive, ethical, and effective.

In contrast, the incumbent has had almost three terms to make real change for people. The incumbent has failed to keep Cook County safe from crime and has imposed high, regressive taxes on those who can least afford to pay.

We have a public safety crisis in Cook County. The scourges of gun violence, carjacking and retail theft must be reversed. My top priority is to implement effective strategies to make our communities safer.

Q. Cook County was alone in the six-county Chicago area to require proof of vaccination against COVID-19 to enter restaurants, bars and other establishments earlier this year. Did you agree with that decision, and would you support reimposing that requirement should the region face another surge in infections?

A. I disagree with the decision. The county simply followed the city of Chicago in their proof of vaccination requirement. The decision was made without regard for local mayors and businesses. If infection rates surge again, I would include local mayors, public health officials and businesses in deciding whether to require a proof of vaccination requirement on business.

I will ensure that public health responses keep people safe from infection. I will ensure that we have Personal Protective Equipment on hand to help our citizens. The county was not prepared for the pandemic. In bars and restaurants, where customers and employees come in close contact, masking is not always practical. Other mitigation strategies, such as social distancing and showing proof of vaccination may allow establishments to create a safe environment. I will work with local mayors and businesses to implement a safety plan, based on an assessment of transmission risks and appropriate responses.

Q. Did the county do enough to support businesses negatively impacted by the pandemic? If yes, please name one specific program you supported that did that. If no, please name one specific action the county could have taken to help.

A. The County did not allocate sufficient funding, nor award federal funds equitably to local businesses. Cook County received $77 million in CARES Act funds in 2020 (Source: Cook County Community Recovery Initiative). The money was allocated for resident services, critical social services, job training, as well as for struggling small businesses and gig workers. The County needed to distribute limited funds equitably and as widely as possible because the need was so great. They fell short.

For struggling small enterprises, the County offered grants and forgivable loans and set different levels of maximum awards. Grants were awarded for up to $10,000. Forgivable loans were awarded for up to $20,000. Only 1,690 businesses received grants and 410 businesses received forgivable loans for a total of $24.5 million. More businesses could have received assistance if the County had settled on either a grants or a forgivable loan program and established a uniform maximum award limit.

Q. There's been a concerted effort within the county's criminal justice system to incarcerate fewer pretrial defendants in the county jail. Some, particularly in the suburbs, blame this for a rise in crime. Do you support these policies? If not, what would you suggest instead? *

A. We can reform criminal justice and maintain public safety. As a Commissioner, I supported efforts to lower the jail population and eliminate cash bail, except for individuals charged with violent offenses. The current President and Board voted to defund the Sheriff's Police and cut their budget 4%. These actions sent the wrong signal. We must provide enough resources to the Sheriff, Chief Judge and Probation Department to ensure that those on electronic monitoring are being watched.

As President, I will implement a 7-point public safety plan. I will:

• Partner with community-based organizations to nurture parenting skills in at-risk families

• Create a real jobs program and enhance mental health services in areas with high levels of violence, unemployment and poverty

• Strengthen the victim/witness protection program

• Deploy sheriff's deputies to high-crime areas

• Expand gun buyback programs

• Enforce curfew laws, and

• Stiffen penalties for illegal possession of firearms.

Q. In July 2020, the county board passed a resolution that called for, in part, the county to "redirect funds from policing and incarceration to public services not administered by law enforcement." Did or do you support this measure and the philosophy behind it? Why or why not?

A. I oppose the resolution. I support our men and women of law enforcement. Every day, they put their lives at risk to serve and protect the people of Cook County. It is wrong to shift resources from the Sheriff's Department to cover other social programs. We have a public safety crisis. The resolution exacerbated the problem.

My philosophy is to make Cook County safe for all communities by changing the norms and motivations that lead people to commit acts of violence. We can meet the challenge by pursuing four strategies: prevention, deterrence, technological and interdiction.

• Prevention strategies address root causes of violent behavior and provides positive life alternatives. • Deterrence strategies make clear that consequences for committing violence will be swift, certain, and proportional.

• Technological strategies invest in new technologies that promote public safety, and,

• Interdiction strategies remove as many dangerous firearms from circulation as possible.

Q. How would you manage the overall county budget, particularly as it relates to controlling the expenses of county offices that report to the county board but control their own budgets?

A. I will work with all agency heads under the Office of the President and all elected officials to craft budgets that are cost effective and efficient and serve the residents of Cook County. Please note that the President of the Cook County Board has legal executive authority over the budgets of all County agencies and departments, including the budgets of elected officials. (Source: Civic Federation, Cook County Modernization Report, October 25, 2010, p 145). Specifically for the county board members budget, I would have the Budget Department to perform a detail review of each commissioner's spending to ensure propriety and effectiveness.

Also, I would look at consolidation of duplicative services.

Q. Some elected officials have proposed a "gas-tax holiday" to ease the burden of rising gasoline prices on county residents. Would you support such a proposal for Cook County? Why or why not?

A. The County's portion of the gas tax is 6 cents per gallon. I would suspend the gas tax for up to 3 months if the effect on County revenue is minimal and does not substantially affect funding of operations.

During the current high price gas crisis, I have coordinated the gas giveaways for the Dr. Willie Wilson Foundation. The Foundation gave out $200,000 of free gas on March 17, 2022, and $1 million of free gas on March 24, 2022.

Q. What other issues, if any, are important to you as a candidate for this office?

A. As President, I pledge to:

• Support efforts to provide access to high quality health care for everyone, with a focus on underserved communities. I will work to strengthen the physical and mental health of people in distressed communities, eliminate food deserts, and prioritize physical fitness.

• Create an Ombudsman Office to cut regulatory red tape and make it easier for entrepreneurs to do business in Cook County.

• Root out corruption in every agency of county government.

• Work to institute a fair and transparent property tax system.

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