Zerlina Smith-Members: 2022 candidate for Cook County Board President

Posted5/28/2022 1:00 AM


Party: Democrat


City: Chicago

Age: 44

Occupation: Self employed

Previous offices held: None


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. The catalyst that inspired me to running for Cook County Board President was the 18 day strike of SEIU Local 73 versus the Cook County Administration. I was an union representative for SEIU Local 73, until I was forced to resigned due to my political aspirations. The 18 day strike, which is one of the longest strikes in Illinois history, revealed to me the lack of compassion that the administration have. The current administration has been treating their employees like second class citizens. Also, unions has been silent partners of the deplorable and abusive culture that's been curated by the current administration.

When I am elected as Cook County Board President, I want Cook County employees to have a sense of ownership of our government because they are the ones that make government work not elected officials. In my first 100 days in office, I will conduct a listening tour throughout all Cook County departments and offices.

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?

by signing up you agree to our terms of service

A. I will bring servanthood leadership to the office of Board President. My predecessors, included Toni Preckwinkle, were political bosses in the office. Bosses instill fears but true leadership empowers people. I just want to empower the employees of Cook County through serving them.

Labor is my priority. I want to help Cook County employees with their children's tuition and with their mental, physical and financial health. And the reason why I will focus on Cook County employees is because they make up majority of Cook County government. Healthy employees constitutes healthy organizations/governments.

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 don't concur with the decision of the current administration. The COVID mandate crippled our local economy and destroyed small businesses especially restaurants. The COVID mandate is unfriendly to small businesses. Small businesses are the largest of Cook County outside of government. We need our small businesses in order to thrive as a county. For this administration to support this mandate, it shows a lack of compassion for our families throughout Cook County.


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. I don't believe the county didn't enough to save our small businesses. I believe the county could have done more for small businesses. Cook County government had a COVID small business grant program that offered $10,000 for qualified small businesses. Ten thousand dollars of grant money is not enough for small businesses. The average small business revenue is $70,000 per year. I believe Cook County government could have provided more money. I would gave small businesses at least $50,000. Cook County government received over $1 billions of federal dollars related to COVID-19.

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. I don't agreed with the current policy of depopulating the jail. I don't violent offenders should be on electronic monitoring. They bond amount should be at minimum $100,000 in order to be released on bail. When elected, I will encourage the public to influence our judges to revoke the Electronic Monitoring status for alleged murderers and sex offenders.

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 am against defunding the police. We can't afford to defund the police due high crime in our county. I believe we need to invest in services such as mental health problems and education to our at risk youth. By investing in our youth in their adolescent stage of their lives, we can possibly reduce incarceration.

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. My budgetary policy will be based on a social bond theory. The president and the Board will paid for outcomes and not for unsuccessful programs and services. The social bond theory is based accountable and effectiveness. The president and the board will require of each department and office is a goal or goals for each initiatives and services provided. If the departments and offices don't met their goals for the fiscal years, they will lose funding for a peculiar initiative or/and service.

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. Personally, I don't believe the Cook County government should not tax gasoline at all. The city and state taxes enough on gasoline.

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

A. The most important issue for me is labor issues. The reason why labor is most important to me is governmental employees make up majority of the government. They keep our government alive and functional. Governmental employees has the direct contact with the residents/citizens of Cook County not the politicians. If the politicians treat the employees right, the employees will treat the citizens/residents right.

Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.