July 24, 2014
Matching individuals with vacant homes, working capital for rehabs and affordable mortgage
Chicago, IL - The PrivateBank and the Cook County Land Bank (CCLBA) announced today the creation of a new partnership to help eligible participants realize the dream of homeownership by investing in rehabbing vacant homes in Cook County.
The PrivateBank will provide up to $10 million in financing to support the purchase and rehab of homes owned by the CCLBA. Buyers will be selected by local housing nonprofits that will identify and prepare home buyers. The PrivateBank and the CCLBA will work with a pre-qualified pool of contractors to ensure the homes are move-in ready.
"Creating stability in our communities is an important part of The PrivateBank's mission," said Larry D. Richman, President and Chief Executive Officer, The PrivateBank. "Partnering with the CCLBA to improve access to quality, affordable housing is a critical step in strengthening our neighborhoods."
"This innovative new program directly addresses the difficulty that many prospective homeowners face when trying to find financing for homes in distressed communities that require extensive rehab because they are vacant and abandoned. By removing challenges faced by communities when tackling neighborhood abandonment and vacancy we can help revitalize our neighborhoods" Toni Preckwinkle, Cook County Board President.
"This partnership is a great example of public and private sectors coming together to make a difference at the neighborhood level. This program will not only fuel economic growth and neighborhood revitalization by connecting future homeowners with vacant homes and affordable mortgages but will get more homes back on the tax rolls," said Bridget Gainer, Cook County Commissioner and Chairman of the Cook County Land Bank.
"Reinvesting in neighborhoods that were devastated by the foreclosure crisis not only helps get individual families back on track but serves to shore up the community at large," said Lisa Madigan, Illinois Attorney General. "This funding will go a long way toward moving these hardest hit communities forward on the path to recovery."
The PrivateBank/CCLBA partnership will require all homeowners complete housing counseling prior to closing. The CCLBA will continue to partner with the National Community Stabilization Trust, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, banks, and other public and private entities to acquire homes for the program.
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May 27, 2014
Cook County and Forest Preserve District Board President Toni Preckwinkle today announced details of new legislation designed to bring the highly stressed pension funds for Cook County and Forest Preserve District employees to 100% funding status within 30 years.
The legislation is expected to be introduced into the Illinois General Assembly on Tuesday, May 27, 2014. President Preckwinkle is urging lawmakers to pass the bill before the spring legislative session ends on May 31, 2014.
The County Employees' and Officers' Annuity and Benefit Fund of Cook County had a funded status of 56.6% as of 2013. An independent analysis of the Fund projected that it would reach insolvency and an inability to pay full benefits in 20-25 years. Similarly, the Forest Preserve District Employees' and Officers' Annuity and Benefit Fund of Cook County had a 59.5% funded status as of 2013.
"Cook County and the Forest Preserve District regularly contributed the full amount permitted by state law to the retirement funds; however, benefit enhancements added to the pension code since 1985 coupled with recessions in 2001 and 2008 have left these funds highly stressed," Preckwinkle said. "Put simply, without action by the Illinois General Assembly, the retirement security for anyone who will depend on these funds in the future is at risk."
"This bill is the result of more than two years of collaboration with all of our stakeholders, including our partners in the unions and employee groups that participate in the County's retirement funds. Our goal was to create an equitable and permanent fix to the broken pension system, one that protects the retirement security of the County's employees as well as the interests of Cook County taxpayers," President Preckwinkle said.
If the proposed reforms are implemented, independent actuarial projections show the funds attaining 100% funding status by 2043. Without reform measures, which include both increased funding from the County as well as increased contributions from employees and benefit changes, the funds are projected to reach -100% by 2052.
The reforms include automatic adjustment measures designed to keep the funds well-funded while also ensuring that benefits will automatically adjust to protect County taxpayers if market conditions or other forces negatively impact them in future years
"If we do nothing, the Cook County pension funds will run out of money in 2038, stranding tens of thousands of workers and retirees," said State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago 13th), the measure's Senate sponsor. "This negotiated plan not only includes the balanced approach and commitment to shared sacrifice that should always carry the day when we make decisions affecting individuals' life savings, but also the unique proposition that as the funds' fiscal health improves, benefit reductions should be restored. I commend President Preckwinkle for her hard work on this challenging issue."
Preckwinkle also noted that under the legislation, any reforms which may affect employees' decisions regarding retirement will be phased in over time beginning January 1, 2015.
"I believe in this legislation. That's why I went to Springfield personally last week to explain it to lawmakers and why I'm coming back again this week to ask for their support," said Preckwinkle.
"I commend President Preckwinkle for working towards a solution to the pension crisis since she first took office. Reform is needed now to ensure the long-term financial stability of Cook County," said Cook County Finance Committee Chairman John Daley (11th).
"Today, we saw the culmination of hard-work, open dialogue and compromise. The Cook County pension reform bill before the legislature today ensures retirement security for the workers that serve the people of Cook County, that taxpayers are protected and our businesses are competitive," said Commissioner Bridget Gainer (10th), Chair of the Cook County Pension Committee.
"I applaud President Preckwinkle and her team for their efforts to collaborate with the unions who represent Cook County employees in drafting this reform legislation. We are pleased to have the support of so many of our labor organizations and are grateful to them for their partnership in this process," said Cook County Commissioner Joan Patricia Murphy (6th), Chair of the Cook County Labor Committee.
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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.
An estimated 16,000 girls and women in the Chicago area are involved in the sex trade, according to a 2002 study. The only way we can put an end to prostitution is by penalizing its purchase. (Chris Sweda, Chicago Tribune)
During its annual meeting this week in Chicago, Amnesty International is set to decide whether it should endorse a policy to legalize the purchase of sex. It is a sad, ironic twist for an advocacy organization renowned for preserving human rights around the world.
Supporters of the policy change allege that decriminalizing paying for sex is a solution to the harms associated with prostitution. They say decriminalization would protect the health and safety of prostitutes and ultimately would curtail the domestic and international sex trade.
But decriminalization does not change the ugly realities of prostitution. Prostitution is not a chosen profession -- no young girl dreams of becoming a prostitute when she grows up. And the concept that most prostitutes are liberated women who choose this line of work to earn a good wage is a perpetuated myth. Those who are being paid for sex, many of whom are underage girls and boys, are commonly held against their will, subjected to violence and almost always have no other way to survive. These circumstances raise the question of choice.
Research on the supply side of the sex trade has proved this reality: Virtually every person bought for sex -- boy, girl, teenager or adult --would not choose prostitution if they saw another way to survive. According to the results of several studies, the majority of women in prostitution were victims of child sexual abuse, and most prostituting adults were first sold for sex as children. Most end up addicted to drugs or alcohol.
Poverty pushes many girls and women into prostitution, but prostitution does not provide an escape route. Pimps pocket most of the profits.
Decriminalization simply does not solve the problems of prostitution. It does not protect or improve the lives of those being prostituted. It legitimizes the abuse of women and children, trapping them in a cycle of desperation, violence and poverty.
In fact, the only people Amnesty International's proposed policy would protect are those who are the root cause of prostitution and trafficking: the johns and pimps who buy and sell people for sex.
Amnesty International says it works to "protect people wherever justice, truth, dignity and freedom are denied." In our view, someone who is purchased for sex is a living, breathing example of the denial of justice, truth, dignity and freedom. Relabeling prostitution as "sex work" does not make it any less exploitative.
We must abandon the naive belief that decriminalizing the purchase of sex is a remedy for the ills of the sex trade. We urge Amnesty International, instead, to adopt a policy that states that people who are bought and sold for sex are victims of a crime.
The International Labor Organization estimates at least 12.3 million adults and children worldwide are in forced labor or commercial sexual servitude. A 2002 study estimated 16,000 girls and women in the Chicago area are involved in the sex trade. The only way we can put an end to prostitution is by penalizing its purchase. Buying people is a crime. Amnesty International, do not lend it your good name.
Lisa Madigan is the Illinois attorney general. Bridget Gainer, D-Chicago, is a Cook County Commissioner. Kaethe Morris Hoffer is executive director of the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation.
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