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The JTDC provides temporary detention for youth between the ages of 10 to 16 awaiting trial in Cook County Juvenile Court. Sponsored and introduced by Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer, and co-sponsored by Board President Toni Preckwinkle, the ordinance was created with a desire to involve a diverse cross-section of professionals in the future of the JTDC and connect them to the lives of the young people there.
In 2007, the ACLU and a collection of youth advocates sued the County over the operations of the JTDC alleging violations that compromised the health and safety of the young people resident there. Since then, it has been under a Federal Court consent decree and Judge Holderman of the Federal District Court has appointed and overseen a court appointed Temporary Administrator to run the JTDC.
Control of the JTDC is now poised to be transferred to the Chief Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County who will then take over the daily operations of the JTDC.
As the Temporary Administrator exits and the oversight of the Federal Court recedes, the need to have committed citizens with no other goal than the protection and support of the young people at the JTDC is more important than ever. The ordinance passed by the County Board in 2012 established the advisory board as a resource and advocate for the individuals and the institution.
"As long as there is one child in the JTDC, our oversight must be creative, comprehensive and vigilant," said Commissioner Gainer. "An advisory board gives us the opportunity to connect the JTDC to our business, non-profit, and civic communities in a way that has never been done. Young people at the JTDC stay as short as a few days or as long as several years. Rather than thinking of this as lost time, young people have the ability to re-engage with school, connect with a mentor or otherwise change their path," continued Commissioner Gainer.
The purpose of the advisory board is to provide public recommendations to the Executive Director of the JTDC, the Chief Judge, the President and Commissioners of the Cook County Board regarding the educational, physical, social, and psychological needs of the population; establish advisory performance metrics to measure the achievement of the JTDC's mission and to provide public recommendation to meet the needs of the population at the JTDC. The Board is composed of five (5) members selected by the Board President, five (5) members selected by the Cook County Board and one (1) Cook County Commissioner selected by the County Board as an ex-officio member.
In difficult budget times, we need to make sure that we close tax loopholes and re-examine deals that have outlived their usefulness. I introduced an amendment to the amusement tax ordinance that was passed by the Cook County Board of Commissioners on February 1, 2012 to address these loopholes. The amendment would require the County Board to approve exemptions or waivers to the County's amusement tax where the loss to the County would be $150,000 or more in tax revenue.
Such tax exemptions have been granted to the popular Chicago music festival Lollapalooza. Lollapalooza is a success story and a great example of how public tools like temporary tax abatements can be catalyst for cultural entrepreneurship, but the taxpayers no longer need to subsidize a profitable event.
The Cook County Vacant Building Ordinance will require owners or mortgagees to register the property, pay a one-time $250 registration fee and report each year about the status of the property. In addition, owners and mortgagees will be required to comply with maintenance, enclosure, and security standards set out in the ordinance for the buildings as long as they are vacant. Fines will be assessed in cases of non-compliance. Municipalities that opt-in will also be able to use Cook County Administrative Hearings for vacant building violations, avoiding costly and lengthy cases in the County's Courts. Finally, Cook County will be working with municipalities to create a master registry of vacant buildings throughout the County.
We have received enormous support from cities and towns throughout Cook County, housing policy experts, realtors and the banks in drafting this ordinance. Vacant buildings pose risks to the safety of neighbors and the stability of communities and the County and local communities pay through increased costs for public safety and city services and a compromised tax base. Using taxpayer dollars to address these buildings is not efficient or sustainable; this is the first step towards getting our local housing market out of its downward spiral.
If you are a suburban community official who is interested in the ordinance, please email or call my office to set up a meeting.
Have Questions? Feel free to call me at the office at (312) 603-4210 or email me at Info@BridgetGainer.com
One of the most important opportunities for diversion at the County is for non-violent incarcerated women, especially the mothers of minor children. The children of incarcerated parents are often the forgotten victims when a woman cannot post bond and ends up in Cook County Jail. Of the nearly 1,000 women in our County jail, the majority are mothers and were living with their children at the time of arrest. It's vital to insure these children get the support they need, especially at school.
Below is a presentation that I have developed that addresses how some of these changes can be implemented. We need to improve the pre-trial interview process, front load treatment and services before the detainee goes to jail while also devising an appropriate exchange of custodial parent information between the County Jail and Chicago Public Schools. For those mothers who do end up in jail, keeping them connected with their children through video messages, Skype, and regular communication between the school and the incarcerated parent improves their post-jail outcomes. At the end of the day, we need to remember the children who are separated from their parents and how we can keep parent and child connected.