Daily Herald Op-ed

The Cook County Government has never been more Diverse

By Cook County Commissioner Kevin Morrison

November was a historic month, locally and nationally. I became the first openly-LGBTQ commissioner to be re-elected. Anthony Quezada became the first openly gay Latino to represent the 8th district, and the youngest member ever. Maggie Trevor became the first openly lesbian member of the Board of Commissioners in the 9th District as well as bringing LGBTQ representation to a historic three seats.

Another historic first took place in the 13th district where Josina Morita became the first Asian American woman, as well as bringing a record number of six women to serve on the Board of Commissioners at one time.

Considering this as well as the make-up of the rest of the board, Cook County is the most demographically representative it has ever been in its 191-year history.

As we see increasing polarization on political and racial lines, our local government stands as an example of how effective a governing body can be when we listen to all of our shared voices.

LGBTQ+ representation matters, because we have an ability to empathize with other historically marginalized communities. For this reason, I pushed for a commission on addressing bias, equity, and cultural competency in Cook County, which lead to the hiring of our first Equity Director.

Concerning the LGBTQ+ community, I brought forward legislation that expanded gender identity options on County forms so that those who identify as transgender and non-binary would finally be represented. My voice on the board, along with my inclusion of LGBTQ+ organizations on the ground, led to this being possible. Before I joined the board, local LGBTQ+ leaders told me that they had never stepped foot in the Cook County board room.

Under President Preckwinkle’s leadership, the County has made its decisions through an equity lens, which informs our policy roadmap aiming to support and bring prosperity to all. I am proud of our work to correct historic wrongs, and bring infrastructure and economic development support to everyone.
This approach has had a measurable impact and our goal is to continue this work moving forward.

All of this goes to show that an effective government is one that can address the needs of all its people. It is often said that if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu. Having diverse representation is crucial to ensuring the voices of all communities are heard and their needs met.

I strongly believe that we owe it to our constituents to expand our understanding of each other’s differences in order to foster mutual respect for all of our neighbors. The best kind of leadership is one that enables those with different ideas and backgrounds the ability to work together.

Unfortunately, many find the work of curing systemic racism and discrimination unacceptable and wish to return to a more racially and ethnically segregated society. But what I speak about is at the core of our uniquely American tradition, and its benefits uplift all communities, even those who feel like they are losing out.

Despite our flawed history, the United States has a legacy as a melting pot of cultures and a beacon of new opportunities for immigrants across the world.
While some would reject this legacy, by way of deceit from those who would rather divide us and wrongfully place blame on the immigrant, the person of color, the queer; in truth, our nation’s diversity is our greatest strength. We are far stronger when we all stand united. The culture wars seek to weaken us and distract us from the wealthy interests that impede our opportunities for making a living wage and having dignity in our livelihood. We must speak truth and work to find solutions that uplift all instead of tearing any one of us down.

And so, it is the honor of my life to not only continue to serve the great people of the 15th District, but also to serve alongside history-makers who will no doubt lift up all of our communities and carry us into the future. I invite you to stay tuned as this diverse Board of Commissioners gets to work.