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by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times

This article shared 2587 times since Wed Mar 14, 2012
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Most March 20 primary contests are not getting much attention. However, that's not the case with the race for Cook County circuit court clerk.

In part, the attention is because of the high-profile names involved: incumbent Dorothy Brown and Ald. Rick Munoz. However, the acrimony between the two has also intensified things, with one of the key issues being the modernization ( or lack thereof, some would say ) of the office.

Windy City Times talked with Munoz about why he's running—and also talks about one of his own personal battles.

NOTE: View downloadable election guide charts at the following link. This election chart was updated online on Tuesday March 13 with corrections and updates. .

Rick Munoz: Hi. I'm wondering if you saw Carol Marin's article [ in the Feb. 21 issue of the Chicago Sun-Times about opponent Dorothy Brown ] ?

Windy City Times: Yes, I did.

Rick Munoz: Carol's awesome. In this one, she hit it right on the head about the pay-to-play allegations—that it seems pay-to-play when you have the candidate and her chief information officer receiving contributions from a vendor that stands to make millions of dollars.

WCT: You've been an alderman for quite a few years. What prompted you to run for this office?

Rick Munoz: I looked around, and the economy has had a devastating impact on our homeowners and our property taxes are way out of control. I figured out that if I were to run for this office and just help manage it more efficiently and more effectively, we could reduce the budget and save the taxpayers some money.

I saw the fighting that happened between [ Cook County Board President ] Toni Preckwinkle and [ Brown ] . I could partner with President Preckwinkle to help reduce the tax burden by making this office more efficient. The main issue is electronic filing, and the lack thereof.

WCT: Supposedly, that's something the Illinois Supreme Court hasn't decided on.

Rick Munoz: They've let DuPage County do electronic filing. They've let Will County do electronic filing. They themselves approved their own electronic-filing system a [ few ] weeks ago. Dorothy has been before the Supreme Court for more than two and a half years with her proposal, and they refuse to approve it for a couple of reasons. One: The vendor is her sixth-largest campaign contributor, and it just looks bad. Two: The vendor wants to charge $4.95 for every filing that's submitted to the office. If you do the math ( based on the numbers she puts out in her own campaign materials ) , that's $100 million sucked out of the economy that goes to this Alabama company.

She says that the company is "only" keeping a third, and two-thirds go to the county. Well, let's do the month: That company stills gets to keep $30 million. That's why the Supreme Court has refused to approve her program. In DuPage and Will counties, it's free to file; in the state Supreme Court, it's going to be free to file. Her program just smells to high heaven.

WCT: You have the endorsements of quite a few people.

Rick Munoz: Yes. I've gotten the endorsements of Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle; Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky; Congressman Luis Gutierrez; county commissioners [ Larry ] Suffredin, [ Edwin ] Reyes, [ Jesus ] Garcia and ... I'm blanking on the other one. Former Inspector General David Hoffman is endorsing my candidacy because he believes [ in ] my plan to reform that office.

Also, people will not have to pay me to keep their jobs so I'm going to prohibit employee contributions to the campaign, which she takes willingly. The Tribune and the Sun-Times have also reported that she compels people to contribute. Number two, I will prohibit campaign contributions from vendors seeking to do business with my office. Number three, I will end that scandal-plagued "Jeans Day" fund in her office. [ Newspapers reported that office employees complained about having to pay to wear jeans on Fridays. ]

WCT: I thought she discontinued that.

Rick Munoz: She discontinued it on a regular basis, but she still does it. She just had one in January on the fourth Friday. It's actually the fourth Friday of every month. It's now called the Jeans Day Charitable Fund.

WCT: Going back to the fourth commissioner who's backing you—that's John Fritchey, correct?

Rick Munoz: Yes, that's him. Thank you for reminding me.

WCT: One of the reasons I know that is because I talked with your opponent about an article that said she suddenly found $700,000 in office funds. She said that was something Fritchey brought up, and that he's working with you so that her budget time is used for politics.

Rick Munoz: Look, it's very clear. This economy has had a devastating effect on property-tax payers, and the commissioners are doing their job, going through everybody's budget. What the commissioners did was [ see ] that she was overspending on a couple of issues, especially her security/chaffeur detail. They sought to reduce that amount of cost by eliminating it. What she did was come back a week later and say, "Oh, my God. I found $700,000." Now, that's not a political attack; that's just being fiscally responsible.

WCT: Something else she mentioned is that you do not have a ward website to let people know what's happening.

Rick Munoz: She's making a mountain out of a molehill. I have a website. I used the City of Chicago's 22nd Ward portal to receive complaints. They just re-elected me with 64 percent of the vote. We send newsletters. We communicate very well with our constituents.

WCT: So, I'm curious: How do ward residents know what's going on?

Rick Munoz: We have community meetings. I have block-club meetings, church meetings and meetings with community groups. My office is a beehive of activity when it comes to keeping residents informed.

WCT: So you would say there's transparency in your office and you're pretty accessible?

Rick Munoz: Yes. I'm in my office every day, I meet with my constituents every Monday evening to listen to their concerts. I attend my CAPS meetings and block-club meetings.

I was re-elected with 64 percent of the vote. The last time [ Brown ] ran for office [ as Cook County board president ] , she got 14 percent of the vote. Prior to that, when she ran for mayor, she got less than 20 percent of the vote so it seems that voters are tired of her shenanigans.

She's used the clerk's office to run for other offices for the last several years, so it's clear she doesn't want to be clerk anymore. I'm simply seeking to relieve her of the office she has today. I want to serve the people of Cook County. I'm not looking to become mayor or Cook County board president.

WCT: So are you saying you never want to be mayor or board president?

Rick Munoz: No, I wouldn't say "never." I just want to save the taxpayers some money and bring electronic filing to that office.

WCT: Regarding LGBT-related issues, how do you feel about marriage equality being the next step after civil unions?

Rick Munoz: It's the next logical step; I don't know why we didn't go there the first time around. I'm a full supporter of marriage equity.

WCT: Talk about your history of supporting the LGBT community.

Rick Munoz: I've been a staunch supporter of LGBT rights and activities. Back when City Hall was trying to recruit the Gay Games, I was a huge supporter of that. I was at the Equality Illinois gala, and I believe in LGBT equity in practice so that, when I become clerk, my policies will be about treating the LGBT community equally and fairly.

WCT: On a more personal note, you revealed your battle with alcoholism a couple years ago. What compelled you to do that in public?

Rick Munoz: We all have our imperfections; we're all human. I figured, as a public official, it was going to be hanging over my head and a monkey on my back. So it wouldn't be a point of contention, I needed to get it out of the way. I just felt it was necessary for me to do it in order to maintain my sobriety. I have a great support network, including my family.

See .

This article shared 2587 times since Wed Mar 14, 2012
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