Bridget Gainer, Cook County Commissioner – Tenth District
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New York Times: "Feliz Dia de San Patricio"

March 16, 2015
By: William McGurn

This St. Patrick's Day, the Irish prime minister will once again present the American president with a Waterford bowl filled with shamrocks in a tradition that dates to Harry Truman.

In the East Room reception, the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of hod carriers and bricklayers will partake of corned beef sandwiches prepared by the White House chef. Amid tales of St. Patrick ridding Ireland of snakes and gentle jabs at the British, it will fundamentally be a celebration of upward mobility and the rise of the Irish in America.

St. Patrick will get his due. So will those hardworking ancestors. But for all the speechifying, what will likely go unheralded is the singular achievement of the Irish in their adopted homeland: the Catholic school system that stretches across the nation and ranges from kindergarten through college.

There's the pity. Because just as they did in the days of the great Irish migrations, Catholic schools in our own time hold out perhaps the best hope for the assimilation and upward advancement of a new wave of immigrants: Latinos.

"What the Irish were to our country in the 19th century, Latinos are for our nation in the 21st century," says the Rev. Timothy Scully, CSC, cofounder of Notre Dame's Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE).

"Former Mayor Ed Koch once famously remarked that 'When masses of immigrants reached our shores in the 19th century, they were greeted by two women: Lady Liberty and Mother Church,' " says Father Scully. "What Mayor Koch was referring to, of course, were the parish schools. What the Catholic schools did for the Irish then, Catholic schools must and will do for Latinos today."

Most of the political debate about Latinos and education has been consumed by the Dream Act. Aimed at helping those brought here illegally as children, part of its focus is on encouraging law-abiding Latinos who make it through high school and college.

The reality, however, is that Latinos have a larger problem, whatever their legal status. Begin with this: Only 16% of the Latino high-school students in America are college ready, according to Notre Dame's Task Force on the Participation of Latino Children and Families in Catholic Schools. Barely half graduate from high school in four years.

So what kind of dream is it to design programs geared to college when most Latino kids are written off before they can even start?

Then again, we've been here before. Back when hundreds of thousands of unskilled Irish were pouring in, their relationship to America's public schools was a tremendous source of conflict. Catholics didn't like the Protestant Bible used in public schools or the Protestant reading of world history that was taught.

By contrast, some Protestants feared the Catholic schools would be an obstacle to assimilation, incubating anti-American colonies in the heart of the republic.

From today's vantage we can see how misplaced these fears were. These schools lifted millions of Irish, Italians, Poles, Germans and other European immigrants into mainstream society. In these schools, children not only learned the skills that would propel them into the middle class, they were instilled with an appreciation for American virtues, American institutions and American exceptionalism.

The rise of a Catholic school system, in short, was an American achievement--the more stunning because it was pulled off by a poor, immigrant people.

Notre Dame was itself built by these Irish and became an icon for Irish and immigrant success. Today, through ACE's Catholic Advantage program, the university is trying to ensure Latinos have the same opportunities.

Unlike the Irish, Latinos don't come here with the advantage of English. Unlike the immigrant Irish of yesteryear, they haven't embraced the Catholic schools: Overall Latinos count for only 3% of the Catholic-school enrollment in the U.S.

But if the challenges are daunting the benefits are clear: Latinos who attend Catholic schools are 42% more likely to graduate from high school. They are 2½ times more likely to graduate from college. And the Catholic nature of the schools means there is some natural overlap with the Latin American cultures from whence these new arrivals have come.

Put it this way: Is it really all that hard to believe that a Latino schoolgirl might be more comfortable mastering English and embracing American culture if she is learning in a school where she sees, say, a print of Our Lady of Guadalupe--patroness of all the Americas--hanging on the wall?

"On St. Patrick's Day we celebrate the mutual blessings that America was for the Irish and the Irish were for America," says Father Scully.

"We believe one day the same will be said of Latinos now arriving on our shores. At least if the Catholic schools have anything to do with it."

Copyright 2015 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

46th Ward 100th Day of School Supply Drive

Now that we're at the 100th day of this year's school calendar, Friends of the 46th Ward Schools is hosting another school supply drive. This drive aims to restock a few of the supplies that start to dwindle midway through the school year. 

We are seeking the following donations:
  • copy paper 
  • facial tissue
  • paper towels
  • glue sticks
  • loose-leaf paper
  • dry erase markers
  • spiral notebooks
  • hand sanitizer
  • disinfecting wipes 
Click here for more details. The proceeds from this supply drive go to all of the 46th Ward public schools. 

Feel free to drop off your donation at the Alderman James Cappleman's 46th Ward Office during our office hours from 9:00 AM to 7:00 PM on Monday or 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM on Tuesday through Friday. If you would like to volunteer by sorting supplies and delivering, please email or call 773-878-4646.

Community members have been instrumental in providing school supplies for students that really need them. Please continue to help during our 100 day push to make sure all children in our schools have the tools they need to learn.

Windy City Times: "Equality Illinois holds Valentine's Day gala"

February 15, 2015
By: Matt Simonette

About 1,200 supporters of Equality Illinois--among them more than 40 elected officials and political candidates - crowded into the International Ballroom of the Chicago Hilton and Towers for the organization's 2015 Gala Feb. 14.

Three of the five candidates vying for the post of Chicago mayor--incumbent Rahm Emanuel, Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia and 2nd Ward Ald. Robert "Bob" Fioretti--were among those officials working the room to meet constituents in the moments prior to dinner. Emanuel's voice had given out, and he nursed hot tea as he approached guests throughout the gathering.

Among those other officials and candidates in attendance were Illinois Comptroller Leslie Munger; U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky; City Clerk candidate Marc Loveless [Loveless is currently not on the ballot, but said he is mounting a write-in campaign]; Chicago Commission on Human Relations Commissioner Mona Noriega; former state Rep. Ellis Levin; Maya Karmely, Consul for Public Affairs, Consulate General of Israel to the Midwest; 19th District Police Commander Elias Voulgaris; 43rd Ward aldermanic candidate Jen Kramer; Chicago Public Library Commissioner Brian Bannon; 46th Ward aldermanic candidate Amy Crawford; 5th Ward aldermanic candidate Jocelyn Hare; 15th Ward aldermanic candidate Raymond Lopez; former state Rep. Tom Cross; Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez; Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown; Consul General to Germany Herbert Quelle; Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer; state Sen. Don Harmon; state Rep. Kelly Cassidy; state Rep. Ann Williams; state Rep. Scott Drury; state Rep. Greg Harris; Ald. Leslie Hairston; Ald. Deb Mell; Ald. Michele Smith; Ald. Tom Tunney; Ald. James Cappleman; Ald. Joe Moore; Springfield Alderman and Illinois Tourism Director Cory Jobe; East Aurora School Board candidate Alex Arroyo; U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley; U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly; City Clerk Susana Mendoza; and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.

Former Gov. Pat Quinn was also in attendance and, along with Emanuel, was greeted with a standing ovation from the audience.

Equality Illinois co-founder Arthur Johnston pointed out that, with the Illinois gay marriage law having taken effect in June 2014, this was "the first Valentine's Day that our love is treated as equal under the law." He further paid tribute to three political allies of the LGBT community who have passed in recent months: former Mayor Jane Byrne, state Rep. Rosemary Mulligan and Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka.

He discussed how, under Byrne's watch, police raids on gay bars ceased and official city recognition of the Pride Parade began. He also spoke of how Mulligan, who was seriously ill, drove to Springfield to cast a deciding vote on civil unions in Illinois. Lastly, he shared a story about Topinka's shock when an embarrassed friend didn't want to be seen at a gay event, a moment that fortified Topinka's public advocacy for LGBT issues.

"Please remember these remarkable women, who stood with us, and for us, when it was much, much harder to do so," Johnston said.

Equality Illinois CEO Bernard Cherkasov noted that "the idea that all love is equal is neither revolutionary nor new, but it sure took us a long time to get to this point. In Illinois, we began this century with no protections for LGBT individuals, not even from hate crimes, so nine years ago it was perfectly legal to fire someone from a job, just because of a perception that a person was lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. We began this decade with no anti-bullying laws and no relationship recognition of any kind, not even the right to visit a sick partner in the hospital.

"Now, look what we have accomplished. Today, Illinois is one of the growing number of states that have hate-crimes protections, trans-inclusive non-discrimination laws, anti-bullying protection, and, as of last June--thank you, Gov. Quinn--full marriage equality."

Cherkasov further discussed Equality Illinois' work on youth safety in the months since the community's marriage victories.

"Equal marriage laws are great, but they don't help young people who are struggling with coming out from being bullied and having no one to turn to," he said. "Our coalition worked and passed a stronger anti-bullying law, because no one should be scared to go to school. We built a network of over a thousand clergy members in every part of Illinois, and helping them create safe spaces for struggling young people. This year, we're going to pass Rep. Kelly Cassidy's bill that bans and protects minors from conversion therapies. Young people need to know that they are born perfect and we will love them unconditionally for who they are."

Cherkasov also discussed Equality Illinois phone banks to defend its political allies in the 2014 elections. "We might not win every battle--and we didn't--but in the end, every single state representative, and all but one state senator, who had voted for marriage equality, Republican and Democrat, won re-election." Gov. Quinn, however, lost.

Emanuel, still hoarse, briefly said some remarks to introduce Michael J. Sacks, CEO of the investment firm, GCM Grosvenor, then turned his prepared remarks over to his wife, Amy Rule. Sacks was recipient of the 2015 Business Leadership Award.

"I feel like Maria Von Trapp, stepping in to save the captain," joked Rule, before Sacks took to the stage and described his advocacy history, much of which, he said, came about at Emanuel's behest. Sacks in 2013 organized an effort to convey support from Illinois business leaders for marriage equality to the General Assembly.

Sacks recalled meeting a gay couple hosting a fundraising event for President Bill Clinton in the 1990s, and being impressed that one of their fathers was in attendance and showing so much support for their son.

"I thought to myself that night, that was the kind of father I wanted to be," Sacks said. "... I wanted to hang out with people who were willing to be in that room and were proud to be in that room."

TransLife Center of Chicago House was presented with a 2015 Freedom award. Roderick Hawkins of Chicago Urban League, last year's recipients, presented the award to Rev. Stan Sloan, CEO of Chicago House.

TransLife Center, Hawkins noted, came about "in response to the great need for culturally competent, expert social services specifically for transgender individuals. The Center provides comprehensive programming and support with health issues, housing, legal aid and employment assistance for transgender individuals impacted by poverty, homelessness and health issues. The TransLife Center provides critical life-changing services."

Hawkins added, "It is only appropriate that we honor TransLife Center at this gala titled 'Love is Love.' Love is defined in many ways, including service to the community, and embracing the disenfranchised."

Performer Lea DeLaria was 2015's other Freedom Award recipient. She kicked off her remarks in a raspy voice to poke fun at the mayor.

"How...great is Rahm?" she then exclaimed. "Amy, it's a really bad idea to promise a room full of gay men The Sound of Music then renege on it."

DeLaria later reflected on her upcoming marriage and the progress of the LGBT community later: "I surprised everyone including myself by asking Chelsea Fairless to marry me. She is the love of my life, and it's an honor for me, and a privilege that we have fought very hard for, to finally be able to stand next to the woman I love, while someone sings 'The Greatest Love of All'. ... In my wildest dreams, if someone had told me, when I was 28 years old, that, before I died, I would be able to get legally married in the United States, I would have told them to take another hit of acid."

DeLaria told Windy City Times that the LGBT community needs to expend less energy infighting, so that it can better combat its foes in the religious right and elsewhere.

"Our progress is often us taking five steps forward, then seven steps back," she said. "The more we have coming to us, the harder they push back. We need to work harder at finding our similarities, more than worrying about our differences."

CBS Chicago: "Cook County Forest Preserves Celebrate District's Centennial"

February 11, 2015

One of the treasures of Cook County, the Cook County Forest Preserve District, celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. On Wednesday, county commissioners paid tribute to the district's founders.

Commissioners gave a lengthy standing ovation to the descendants of Dwight Perkins and Jens Jensen, the original founders of the Cook County Forest Preserves, who were on hand to mark the 100th anniversary of the district's first board meeting in 1915.

Commissioner Peter Silvestri (R-9th) grew up near a preserve in Elmwood Park.

"People from other places don't realize the great assets that we have in having this ring of forest preserves in an urbanized area," he said.

The initial 500 acres of preserves has morphed into nearly 70,000 acres, and growing, which Commissioner Bridget Gainer (D-10th) called a "release valve" for city residents.

"There's a lot of hassles to city living. Sometimes the proximity to each other doesn't always lead to the best outcomes, and so having this release valve is an incredible thing," she said.

Commissioner Joan Murphy (D-6th) grew up in Boston, and said she has an outsider's appreciation for the forest preserve.

"When I came to Chicago, I was thinking of this big city, you know, like New York, where I'd been several times, and then I discovered the forest preserve; this beautiful emerald necklace that surrounds the city of Chicago," she said.

Commissioner Gregg Goslin (R-14th) said it would have been hard to imagine a century ago that the city would creep so close to the preserves.

"A hundred years ago, or 89 years ago, they bought that property out in Palatine, that was way out in the sticks from the center of the city, so it was a great vision," he said.

Forest preserve land now takes up 10 percent of Cook County's footprint.

Chicago Tribune: "Time to follow #LikeAGirl movement with real action" by Heidi Stevens

February 3, 2015
By: Heidi Stevens

The #LikeAGirl movement is a good start.

Launched last June and taken mainstream during Sunday's Super Bowl, the Always ad campaign aims to turn throwing/running/hitting "like a girl" into a compliment.

"I teared up a little bit watching it," Megan Bartlett told me Tuesday. "The fact that it was played during the Super Bowl really speaks to the work that a lot of women have been doing to help people understand how often the role of women in sports is dismissed, and what kind of impact that can have on girls and their ability to see themselves as strong athletes and women."

Bartlett is the chief program officer for Up2Us, a national nonprofit that advocates for more access to youth sports, particularly among girls and kids in underserved communities. This week, Bartlett's group is helping spread the word about National Girls and Women in Sports Day, which is Wednesday.

It's a 29-year-old event that honors the accomplishments of female athletes and works to make room for more of them. A handful of Olympic athletes -- figure skating gold medalist Sarah Hughes, track and field record holder Lillian Greene-Chamberlain, soccer gold medalist Angela Hucles -- will gather for a briefing on Capitol Hill on Wednesday morning to push for the expansion of athletic opportunities in schools.

Bartlett hopes that parents, schools and coaches will use the day to urge more girls onto the playing field.

"We know that physical activity and being active are really great for kids' bodies and brains and socialization," Bartlett says. "But when you look at sports, specifically, and the opportunity to practice being competitive in a positive way, they can be a really powerful tool.

"How do you compete in a way that doesn't overstimulate the stress response in your body, that isn't a win-at-all-costs mentality, that teaches, 'Together with my team I'm better at solving a problem,'" she says. "Sports has a unique power to teach those skills, particularly for young women."

Coach and Up2Us graphic design and brand manager Alex Bondy wrote a recent blog post about leading a team of 10- and 11-year-old girl volleyball players in New York City.

"I use the sport my players and I both love as a tool to build and instill the characteristics and traits that create great 11-year-old girls," she writes, revealing some of her tips for reaching her charges at such a pivotal -- and socially complicated -- age.

"Instead of individual goals, I set team goals," she writes. "Instead of having each girl get five serves over the net, I say, 'Let's get 50 serves over as a team.' This teaches players to set goals and to work together to achieve them."

And she keeps it fun.

"My players are at the age where most females begin to lose interest in sports because it just isn't fun anymore," Bondy writes. "Instead of starting practices with lectures or drills, I begin my practices with Taylor Swift blaring and an intense game of tag. I make every drill or activity into a game, and use music when I can to keep the environment fun and relaxed."

The #LikeAGirl campaign is not without its detractors, several of whom say parent company Procter & Gamble is hijacking girl power to manipulate our emotions and sell feminine products.

Maybe. But if the ads launch a conversation about giving girls equal access to sports -- and groups like Up2Us keep that conversation going -- then I'm a fan.

Copyright © 2015 Chicago Tribune

Chicago Tribune: "Cook County Land Bank may add 700-plus properties"

January 29, 2015
By: Mary Ellen Podmolik

More than 700 properties that have languished unused, some for almost two decades, may be grabbed by the Cook County Land Bank Authority to make them more attractive to developers.

The parcels -- which are scattered around the county and include land zoned for residential, commercial and industrial use as well as vacant homes -- are among 23,000 properties that have been offered for sale through the county's scavenger tax sale, with no takers for at least two years.

The land bank believes the parcels would be desirable, were it not for delinquent property taxes that can total as much as $500,000.

"These are properties that have been sitting on this list for 17, 18, 19, 20 years and nothing has happened," said Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer, chairman of the land bank.

Of the 712 parcels, more than 500 are vacant residential lots. Some of the land is near CSX rail lines and may be of interest to the railroad. Others could be used to expand green space, said Emy Brawley, director of land preservation for Openlands and a member of the land bank's board.

"Some of the parcels on the list are adjacent to existing community gardens or existing parks so that seems like a natural match," Brawley said. "There's a lot of data out there that supports the conclusion that having someone claim ownership of vacant land can have a stabilizing effect. We're not going to be able to put new retail establishments on every parcel."

Openlands also is interested in some of the land for an urban nursery that would grow trees to be planted around the city and provide jobs training, she said, adding that most of the tree stock now comes from suburban nurseries.

The properties would not actually pass through the land bank and have their titles cleared, until a suitable developer stepped forward to buy them, Gainer said.

To date, the land bank, created by the Cook County Board in early 2013, has acquired or earmarked for acquisition more than 60 homes or lots zoned for residential use. The first abandoned homes that have been sold to developers are scheduled to be rehabbed and put on the market for sale in spring.

As of mid-December, the land bank had more than $2 million in funding on hand.

Copyright 2015 Chicago Tribune

Tax Year 2014 Property Tax Exemption Applications now available

2014 Applications for the Homeowner, Senior Citizen and Senior Freeze Exemptions are now available by the Cook County Assessor's Office. All eligible exemptions you apply for will result in a deduction on your second-installment property tax bill - to be issued by July 2015 by the Cook County Treasurer's Office.
Friendly Reminders:
  1. The 2014 Long-Time Occupant Exemption application will be released in February 2015 by the Cook County Assessor's Office.
  2. All senior citizen homeowners must apply for their senior exemptions (senior citizen and senior freeze, if eligible) every year.
  3. Please include a photo copy of your Illinois-issued driver's license or Illinois-issued identification card with your completed exemption application when submitted to the Cook County Assessor's Office. 

Questions or need assistance? Contact Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer's Office:

Accepting Nominations for 2015 "Peggy A. Montes Unsung Heroine" Award

In recognition of Women's History Month, the Cook County Commission on Women's Issues will be sponsoring a breakfast on March 5, 2015 at which 20 women will be recognized as the County's "Unsung Heroines." 

The selection of these heroines is being made on a district basis so as to ensure that women from each area of the County will be recognized for their contributions to their communities. Each member of the Commission on Women's Issues will seek community input for the identification of nominees for this award by forming a selection committee charged with collecting nominations and selecting the awardee. 

Nominees must be a resident of the County Board district from which they are nominated. They should be women who, either in a professional or volunteer capacity, have made significant contributions to the well-being of their community for which they have not received widespread recognition. Elected officials are not eligible for consideration.

For more information and to apply:
If you have someone you would like to nominate and a resident of the Tenth District, please complete the nomination form and submit the form to Commissioner Bridget Gainer's Office via fax (312-603-3695) or email (

*The Tenth District includes the Lincoln Park, Lakeview, Uptown, Lincoln Square, Ravenswood, Edgewater, Sauganash, North Park, Edgebrook, Forest Glen and Jefferson Park neighborhoods. To verify if the nominee is a Tenth District resident, please click here and enter their home address.

DNAinfo Chicago: "'Go Albany Park' Program to Hit the Ground Running, Biking and Walking"

January 13, 2015
By: Patty Wetli

ALBANY PARK -- There's nothing like a bike-pedaled smoothie machine to get people out of their cars and taking advantage of other modes of transportation.

That's just the sort of creative alternative to driving that Albany Park residents can expect to see this summer with the launch of Go Albany Park, a program that aims to encourage residents to walk, bike and take transit more frequently. Go Albany Park is a collaboration between the Chicago Department of Transportation and the Active Transportation Alliance, and follows on the heels of Go Bronzeville in 2013 and Go Pilsen in 2014. Go Edgewater is also planned for summer 2015 and a fifth Chicago neighborhood will be chosen for 2016. The programs are all tied to a four-year federal grant obtained by CDOT. Active Trans, which manages the Go program for CDOT, will spend the next several months drumming up support for Go Albany Park among community groups, as well as soliciting input on potential events.

"We want to meet everyone," said Maggie Melin, Go project coordinator for Active Trans.

Part of the process is to determine the barriers to biking, walking and transit, she said.

A common obstacle to cycling, particularly among women, is "not wanting to ride close to cars," she said.

"We try to show people there are parts of Chicago where you can bike and feel comfortable," said Melin.

A group ride might be organized on a self-contained trail, for example, and then as cyclists gain confidence, they might be led onto quiet side streets, she said.

"It's kind of baby steps," Melin said.

Full-time ambassadors will be hired for Go Albany Park's four-month duration, June to September. In both Bronzeville and Pilsen, the ambassadors continued on a grassroots volunteer basis.

"People didn't want them to go away," said Melin.

In implementing the Go program, CDOT has selected geographically diverse neighborhoods that boast enough modes of transportation to make the project feasible, she said. The Brown Line, bus routes and forthcoming Divvy stations worked in Albany Park's favor, as did the neighborhood's strong sense of community, according to Melin. Activities vary from one neighborhood to another, though all are free. In Bronzeville, a bike tour highlighted the homes of famous residents, including Nat King Cole and Muddy Waters. In Pilsen, ambassadors organized a bike scavenger hunt; hooked up bikes to record players and smoothie machines, which were powered by pedaling; and led an evening ride that ended with a stargazing session hosted by a local amateur astronomer. Transit-oriented events are more challenging to organize, Melin conceded. Pilsen's ambassadors cracked that nut by taking a neighborhood knitting group for a ride on the Pink Line, with participants bringing along their needles and yarn.

"They called it 'the Loop and purl,''' said Melin. "People were very creative."

One aspect of the program that remains constant across communities is the distribution of free "Go Kits."

Like the residents of Pilsen and Bronzeville, people in Albany Park will have the opportunity to choose from among 20 to 25 transportation resources -- Divvy passes, CTA maps, etc. -- and receive a customized kit containing as many of the items as they request. Ambassadors assemble and deliver the kits, by bike or on foot, Melin noted. Based on its experience in Pilsen, Active Trans has already obtained a number of materials printed in Spanish. Given Albany Park's even greater diversity, Active Trans will work with community groups to identify other key languages.

"It's definitely a goal to reach people who aren't reached out to," Melin said.

Though Go Albany Park doesn't officially launch until June, a Facebook page will be up and running shortly, the hiring process for ambassadors will begin in April, and Melin will happily field suggestions for potential events via email at

Copyright 2009-2015,

Chicago Tribune: "Hopes high that Millennials will embrace Homeownership"

January 2, 2015
By: Mary Ellen Podmolik

Players and prognosticators in the nation's housing market are holding out hope that 2015 will bring reasonably low interest rates, slowly rising home prices and increased mortgage availability. 

That's all good, but what they really want to see are millennials, lots of them. 

Young adults have been noticeably absent from the closing table, and that's caused a fair amount of hand-wringing by economists, real estate agents and lenders, as well as homeowners who want to move out of their starter home but need to find a buyer first. 

Will millennials take the plunge and buy a home? There's a belief that starting in 2015, they will, and much of that optimism is tied to numbers, numbers like birthdays. 

In Illinois during 2010, for example, there were 910,273 men and women ages 25 to 29 and another 865,684 ages 30 to 34, according to census estimates. In each year since, the number of Illinois residents in their late 20s shrank while the number in their early 30s rose. 

In 2013, according to estimates, there were 887,925 Illinoisans ages 25 to 29 and 896,917 from 30 to 34. 

That aging of the millennial generation, roughly those born in the years from 1980 to 1999 and equal in size to the baby boom generation, means some of them are thinking of settling down, having children and possibly buying a home. "They're putting down some roots," said Swati Saxena, an agent at Baird & Warner. "They want to be more than the rent they are paying." 

If that proves true, it'd be a welcome change. First-time buyers accounted for 33 percent of the nation's housing market in 2014, the smallest share since 1987 and down from 38 percent in 2013, according to the National Association of Realtors. 

So the housing industry is counting on people like Chicagoan Sam Rosen, who will turn 30 in 2015. 

Rosen and his fiancee, Linsey Burritt, 31, share a large apartment in the city's Noble Square neighborhood and were intrigued with the idea of buying but also apprehensive. They'd met with mortgage lenders but liked the freedom that renting gave them and knew people caught up in the housing crisis. 

"It hit close to home," Rosen said. "I saw people struggle who I always considered smart, hardworking people who lost and got screwed." 

The couple will marry in 2015, and they see marriage and homeownership as commitments that go hand in hand. They are looking to trade monthly rent of $2,000 for a mortgage payment, possibly in the Humboldt Park or Portage Park neighborhoods. 

"(Homeownership) is the next big step," Rosen said. "I think the idea of building a home together makes us want to buy a home. "All of our friends are getting married. All of our friends are having babies. That's a big driver. The people around me are really starting to consider (homeownership)." 

The Chicago market may be among those destined to benefit from demographic and societal trends that show millennials are attracted to urban markets, according to Jonathan Smoke,'s chief economist. Also in the Chicago area's favor are home prices which, while recovering, have not appreciated as much as they have in other markets. 

"Chicago is one of the few cities that offer both (an urban location and affordability)," Smoke said. "You can have your cake and eat it too." 

As of October, home prices in the Chicago area were up 1.9 percent from a year earlier, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller home price index. That compared with a gain of 4.6 percent nationally. 

Meanwhile, the median rent in the Chicago area rose 7.4 percent in 2014, according to Zillow. 

That difference will nudge more young adults to homeownership, said Peter Moulton, president of agent services at Dream Town Realty. 

"There's still bargains to be had," he said. "There's a maturation in their perspective on money. When you own something, you're paying yourself. When you rent, you're paying someone else." 

Right now, Eric and Jaclyn Huffnus aren't paying anyone but they can't find a space much smaller than the one they've got now. The couple, both 26, sleep in a bedroom at the suburban home of Jaclyn's parents suburban home. The bedroom still has glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling. 

After living in an apartment in Schaumburg for a few years, the couple moved into the house in June to save for a down payment, thinking they'd be there a few months. A job change has kept them there longer than planned. 

Several of their older friends also are living with their parents. If Jaclyn gets a permanent teaching position in 2015, the couple intends to buy a home in the northwest suburbs in 2015. Other plans also are in the works, like a dog and children. 

"We both grew up in houses," Eric Huffnus said. "My parents still live in the same house. As much as I want to buy, I want to make sure we're financially set beforehand." 

Crystal Ly Tran, a 30-year-old agent at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices KoenigRubloff Realty Group, certainly understands that mindset. Growing up, she was taught to save money and buy a home. Instead, she took those savings and started a small business. Some of her friends also took the entrepreneurial route and few have bought homes. 

She still desires to own a home, but like other millennials, she says money remains an issue. "We want everything perfect, done for us," she said of her generation. "Or we want a blank canvas and that costs money. We are becoming spoiled."

Copyright 2015, Chicago Tribune

Chicago Tribune: "Project aims to place more homeless youths in private housing"

December 28, 2014
By: Tony Briscoe

Antwan Jones still remembers the feeling of disbelief when he and his mother were evicted from their West Side apartment, forcing him into homelessness at 16 years old.

"I was shocked. It almost felt unreal in the way that I thought, you know, it would be over in a few days," said Jones, now 24.

"I had no idea it would last as many years as it did."

With his mother "struggling with her own issues" and coed housing hard to come by, Jones became separated from her and dropped out of John Marshall Metropolitan High School.

He sought refuge in youth shelters, where he became accustomed to crowded quarters and 4 a.m. wake-up calls. But a bed wasn't always guaranteed. Sometimes the shelter would be full after he finished working shifts as a security guard, compelling him to find alternatives -- occasionally a friend's couch, usually a CTA train.

"You're not just going through homelessness," Jones said. "There are other things as well. You put your safety at risk, your sexual health and put yourself through all these dangerous situations.

"The run-ins with different stresses just click, and when you go through that, you're no longer normal."

To try to ease the burden on city youth shelters, the Windy City Times -- a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender newspaper -- launched an online fundraising campaign last month to provide privately funded housing options. This approach, known as scattered-site housing, offers homeless or low-income people affordable, private housing options rather than congregated living at local shelters.

The publication is teaming up with two nonprofit youth housing agencies for the 750 Club Apartment Adoption Project, aimed at providing homeless young adults, ages 18 to 25, and emancipated minors, with private apartments for two years.

"If the model works, scattered-site housing can alleviate the strain on shelters," said Tracy Baim, Windy City Times publisher, who is overseeing the project.

Without stable housing, studies show young people are at greater risk for assault, drug abuse, gangs and truancy. But getting a uniform count of this population is challenging because different agencies use different methods.

A City of Chicago count conducted in January found 1,644 people younger than 18 living on the streets -- nearly one-third of the homeless population -- but there are fewer than 400 beds dedicated to this group. The city count includes a tally of all people with temporary housing situations, including those living on the streets, in shelters, on public transportation, in parks and in cars.

Estimates by the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless starkly contrast with the city's count.

The nonprofit, which releases annual data on youth homelessness based on Chicago Public Schools surveys and other factors, estimates there are 12,186 unaccompanied young people, ages 14-21, in 2014, a 33 percent increase compared with five years ago, at the height of the recession.

CPS classifies students who live with relatives or another family because of financial hardship, as well as those living in motels or shelters, as homeless.

The spike in youth homelessness has been hard to nail down, said Julie Dworkin, director of policy for the coalition.

"The reasons youth become homeless are different than why adults become homeless, which is largely economic," Dworkin said.

In a survey of 400 homeless Chicago youth this fall, 33 percent said they had been thrown out of their home by a parent or guardian, according to Teen Living Programs.

In many instances, parents can't afford to take care of them. Other times, minors are kicked out by parents for becoming pregnant or for their sexual preference. Some run away after they are abused.

The 750 Club will focus on the LGBT community, which makes up a large portion of affected youths, but not exclusively, Baim said.

The AIDS Foundation of Chicago's housing program will distribute the proceeds, and 750 Club partners La Casa Norte and Unity Parenting, which already provide scattered-site housing options, can apply for funds, Baim said.

"What's great about this is we're piggybacking a system that is already in place," Baim said. "They already do a great job, we just want to add more units."

Based on the average cost of a studio apartment, every $750 raised will pay for one youth to live in an apartment for one month, Baim said. She expects to have as many as five young people in apartments by early 2015.

So far, Baim has raised about $9,000 -- enough to house one youth for a year.

The project's first fundraising event, featuring live music and a raffle, will be Jan. 15 at Mad River Bar & Grille in Lakeview.

Amy Dworsky, research fellow at the University of Chicago's Chapin Hall, said freedom is part of the reason scattered-site housing is appealing. But that can also be a drawback if young people sacrifice access to support services.

While scattered-site housing has long been an option for youth, Dworkin said 750 Club is the first privately funded initiative she has seen, other than churches adopting families in the suburbs.

With only 374 beds in Chicago dedicated to homeless young people, including shelters and scattered-site housing, their options are limited, Dworkin said.

"Many times, we saw youths going to adult shelters, where they really didn't feel safe," Dworkin said.

After eight years on the streets, Jones is a success story. In late November, he obtained a one-bedroom apartment in Austin through La Casa Norte's scattered-site housing program.

"Moving around, place to place, your thoughts crowded with people and things," he said. "It's hard to be a successful adult. It's helped a lot to not focus on housing."

In less than two weeks at his new home, he found a job as a health counselor at a West Side nonprofit, where he assists the homeless.

He contributes 30 percent of his paycheck to rent as a part of the program. With a portion of the rest, he said he plans to save to enroll in a local community college in January, where he wants to study social services to continue to help those in positions similar to his.

"I thought it's only right," Jones said.

Donations for 750 Club can be made at

Landlords interested in donating the use of an apartment at no or low-cost are asked to contact Windy City Times publisher Tracy Baim at

Copyright 2015, Chicago Tribune

Commissioner Bridget Gainer's Holiday Donation Drive for Women in the Cook County Jail

Happy Holidays,

As we celebrate the end of another year and get ready for the holidays with family and friends, it is also a time when our thoughts go to those for whom 2014 has brought hard times. 

As a Commissioner on the Cook County Board, I see the lives of detainees at the jail - what brought them to 26th Street, what happens to the rest of their lives while they await their court date and what they return to in the months or sometimes years later. I have spent the last five years advocating for the women in our jail system not only because most are non-violent offenders or most are mothers, but because there is so much to be done. 

As I continue to work on systemic policy changes for women in the criminal justice system, it is important to remember there are many ways to help right now. One of the needs for Women's Justice Programs at the jail are travel size toiletries like shampoo, soap and lotion. So if you are like me - come home from travel and find these bottles in drawers, suitcases and around the house - please consider donating them. 

We will collect at ward and community offices from Friday, December 12, 2014 to Friday, January 30, 2015. We will do one pickup on December 19, 2014 and another on January 30, 2015. If you have any questions or ideas of others that may be interested in donating, please don't hesitate to reach out to me at 312-603-4210 or email


Bridget Gainer
Cook County Commissioner - Tenth District

  Cook County Bridget Gainer - Holiday Donation Drive.jpg

Cook County Board of Commissioners begins 2014-2018 term

On Monday, December 1 - I joined Board President Toni Preckwinkle and fellow Cook County Commissioners to take the oath of office for our new term. I am honored and privileged to serve my second full-term on the County Board as Commissioner of the Tenth District. 

New York Times' Chicago Life Section: "Waste Not Want Not in Chicago"

The November issue of the New York Times' Chicago Life magazine features the contributions of Cook County's Demolition Debris Diversion Ordinance to the overall improvements in recycling efforts in Chicago and Cook County. 

"When it comes to recycling construction and demolition debris, the picture is more optimistic. When you drive down a street and see a building being torn down, have you ever wondered what happens to that stuff--of which there is a lot? According to Bryant Williams, "In 2013, there were 496,000 tons of demolition and construction debris. This includes wood, concrete, asphalt, rubber membrane from roofs, glass, aluminum siding, carpeting (which is tough to recycle), and bricks." 

Traditionally, forty percent of the material went to landfills. In 2012, though, the Cook County Board passed an ordinance requiring more recycling of construction and demolition materials in the county. According to Williams, "The ordinance was driven by President Toni Preckwinkle and was intended to face the issue that Cook County is running out of space for landfills." The ordinance sets the goal of diverting at least 70 percent of construction and demolition debris into reuse. A surprising amount of this stuff can be repurposed. Williams said, "People reuse lumber for furniture. Metals have high value. Bricks can be reused. Bricks made now have hollow cores, but the traditional Chicago bricks are solid, and there's a big market for them." Other goodies that can be reused include light fixtures and kitchen cabinets--if they're in good condition. Builders can also reuse floor joists and lumber for new projects. Williams said, "We're hitting about 88 percent of waste reuse now in suburban Cook County."

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