Bridget Gainer, Cook County Commissioner – Tenth District
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ChicagoPride.com: "More than 1 million people celebrate at Chicago Pride Parade"

Marriage equality took center stage at the 45th Annual Chicago Pride Parade 
June 29, 2014 
By: GoPride.com Staff 

Chicago, IL - More than one million people turned out for the 45th annual Chicago Pride Parade as spectators crowded the streets from Uptown to Boystown to celebrate gay pride from the streets, rooftops and balconies on Sunday. 

 "Over 1 million people attended today's parade," Chicago Police said in a statement released to ChicagoPride.com. "Despite the large crowd, there were only a handful of issues including eight arrests, one of which was for criminal damage to a police vehicle." 

Kristen Linscott posted several photos to Twitter and a video to Telly showing crowds sitting and standing on a squad car with a broken windshield. The video was recorded above Halsted and Aldine Ave in Boystown. 

"This is why we hate pride," Linscott can be heard saying in the video. "People destroy everything." 

A second unattended squad car near Halsted and Buckingham was also reportedly damaged. The festive four-mile parade, which lasted over three hours, stepped off at noon in Uptown and traveled through Lakeview, Boystown and Lincoln Park. Sunday was the first pride parade since Illinois marriage equality law was enacted statewide on June 1. 

Marriage equality coupled with the beautiful weather brought out record crowds again this year. One million people attended in 2013. 

"This is an important day in the history, not only in the state of Illinois, but the entire gay and lesbian movement," Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel told reporters before the parade. "That obviously we no longer as the state of Illinois have straight marriage and gay marriage, we have marriage." 

Marriage was a big part of this year's parade with four couples tying the knot on a float sponsored by Sears. 

Gov. Pat Quinn, who signed the marriage equality bill into law last November, participated in the parade as did several other politicians, including Reps. Mike Quigley and Jan Schakowsky, and Sen. Dick Durbin. State Rep. Greg Harris, who sponsored the marriage equality legislation, marched with state Reps. Kelly Cassidy and Lou Lang, state Sen. Heather Steans, Ald. Deb Mell, Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Commissioner Bridget Gainer and Ald. James Cappleman. 

Bruce Rauner, a gubernatorial challenger for Quinn, did not attend due to what a spokesman called a scheduling conflict.

"This parade we celebrate the diversity of our community and we also recognize the heroes and leaders who make our progress possible," Equality Illinois CEO Bernard Cherkasov told ChicagoPride.com before the parade. "It's important to know that our job is not yet done, and on Election Day we have to re-elect all those who made marriage equality possible." 

The annual parade is organized by Richard Pfeiffer of PRIDEChicago. Chicago, Los Angeles and New York were the first marches in 1970, following the 1969 Stonewall Riots. 

"It's amazing to see how the parade has grown from a sidewalk march of 150 people in 1970 to the large event that it is now, with more than 200 entries and hundreds of thousands of spectators," Pfeiffer said. "Needless to say, the world has changed dramatically for LGBTs since the first parade 45 years ago, but there is still a long way to go." 

A portion of the parade will be broadcast on ABC 7 on Sunday, June 29, 2014 from 11:30 PM to 12:30 AM.

Copyright 2014 Know Gay Chicago, Love Chicago Everyday, Love LGBT Chicago Everyday

Cook County Pension Reform Legislation Expected to be Introduced in Springfield Today

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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Cook County Launches Juvenile Temporary Detention Center Advisory Board

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: 
(312) 603-4210 
Info@BridgetGainer.com 

Cook County Launches Juvenile Temporary Detention Center Advisory Board
"Incredibly Impressive Nominees complete the Board"

CHICAGO, IL - Today, the Cook County Board nominated the remaining five members to serve on the first-ever Advisory Board of the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center (JTDC).

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.

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New York Times Editorial: "Nigeria's Stolen Girls"

May 6, 2014
By: The NYT Editorial Board

Three weeks after their horrifying abduction in Nigeria, 276 of the more than 300 girls who were taken from a school by armed militants are still missing, possibly sold into slavery or married off. Nigerian security forces apparently do not know where the girls are and the country's president, Goodluck Jonathan, has been shockingly slow and inept at addressing this monstrous crime. 

On Tuesday, the United Nations Children's Fund said Boko Haram, the ruthless Islamist group that claimed responsibility for the kidnappings, abducted more young girls from their homes in the same part of the country in the northeast over the weekend. The group, whose name roughly means "Western education is a sin," has waged war against Nigeria for five years. Its goal is to destabilize and ultimately overthrow the government. The group's leader, Abubakar Shekau, said in a video released on Monday, "I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market, by Allah." 

This is not the first time Boko Haram has attacked students, killing young men and kidnapping young women. The security situation in Northeast Nigeria has steadily deteriorated. In the first three months of this year, attacks by Boko Haram and reprisals by government security forces have killed at least 1,500 people, more than half of them civilians, according to Amnesty International. Until now, there has been little response to the violence, either in Nigeria or internationally. But the kidnapping of so many young girls, ages 12 to 15, has triggered outrage and ignited a rare antigovernment protest movement in Nigeria. 

On Sunday, after weeks of silence, Mr. Jonathan admitted that "this is a trying time for our country," and he said that Nigerians were justified in their anger against the government and appealed for international help. The reaction of Mr. Jonathan's wife, Patience, was stunningly callous; according to state news media, she told one of the protest leaders, "You are playing games. Don't use schoolchildren and women for demonstrations again." 

Boko Haram's claim that it follows Islamic teachings is nonsense. A pre-eminent Islamic theological institute, Al-Azhar in Egypt, denounced the abductions, saying it "completely contradicts the teachings of Islam and its tolerant principles." Although Boko Haram is believed to number no more than a few hundred men, Nigerian security forces have been unable to defeat them.

Mr. Jonathan, who leads a corrupt government that has little credibility, initially played down the group's threat and claimed security forces were in control. It wasn't until Sunday, more than two weeks after the kidnappings, that he called a meeting of government officials, including the leader of the girls' school, to discuss the incident. There is no doubt the intelligence and investigation help President Obama offered on Monday is needed 

The kidnappings occurred just as President Jonathan is about to hold the World Economic Forum on Africa, with 6,000 troops deployed for security. That show of force may keep the delegates safe, but Nigeria's deeply troubled government cannot protect its people, attract investment and lead the country to its full potential if it cannot contain a virulent insurgency.

Copyright 2014 The New York Times Company

Chicago Tribune: "Amnesty International should not endorse policy to legalize prostitution" by IL Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Commissioner Bridget Gainer & CAASE Executive Director Kaetha M Hoffer

April 4, 2014
By: Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer & Kaethe Morris Hoffer, Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (CAASE)

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.

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.

Copyright 2014 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC

Summer Opportunities with the Forest Preserves

Friends of the Forest Preserves is once again offering our paid summer high school program in the Forest Preserves of Cook County. 

Friends of the Forest Preserves was formed by concerned community members to support the Forest Preserve District of Cook County in achieving its mission: to restore, restock, protect and preserve its natural lands together with their flora and fauna for the education, pleasure, and recreation of the public. Friends is dedicated to protecting the 68,000 acres of forest preserves through advocacy, ecological restoration and promoting the preserves. It's been almost 100 years since citizens such as Jens Jensen and Dwight Perkins worked to establish the forest preserves.

Nominations for Cook County JTDC Advisory Board

The Criminal Justice Committee of the Cook County Board is currently seeking nominations for individuals interested in serving on an Advisory Board to the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center. 

The JTDC provides temporary secure housing for youth from the age of 10 through 16 years, who are awaiting adjudication of their cases by the Juvenile Division of the Cook County Courts. The Center also provides care for youth who have been transferred from Juvenile Court jurisdiction to Criminal Court. These youth would otherwise be incarcerated in the county jail. Currently under the auspices of the Federal Court, the JTDC will soon be transitioning to the oversight of the Chief Judge of the Cook County Court.

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 measures to track and measure the achievement of the JTDC's mission and to provide public recommendations as needed to meet the educational, physical, social and psychological needs of the population at the JTDC.  
 
Juvenile Temporary Detention Center Advisory Board
  • Term: Staggered initial terms ranging from 1 to 3 years
  • Confirmation: Cook County Board of Commissioners
  • Compensation: None
  • Qualifications: Must be a resident of Cook County

To nominate yourself or another individual, please email resumes to Nominations@JTDCAdvisoryBoard.com.

Register To Vote

For City of Chicago residents:

For Cook County residents:

2013 Property Tax Exemption Applications now available

2013 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 summer 2014.

2014 Cook County Unsung Heroine Award

PEGGY A. MONTES UNSUNG HEROINE AWARD 
SPONSORED BY THE COOK COUNTY COMMISSION ON WOMEN'S ISSUES 

In recognition of Women's History Month, the Cook County Commission on Women's Issues will be sponsoring a breakfast on Thursday, March 27, 2014, 8:30 AM - 10:30 AM, Chicago Cultural Center's Preston Bradley Hall located at 78 East Washington, Chicago, Illinois at which 18 women will be recognized as the County's "Peggy A. Montes Unsung Heroines." 

A heroine will be selected from each of the seventeen Cook County districts and an at large heroine will be selected by the four at large commissioners who were appointed by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle to ensure that women from each area of the County will be recognized for their extraordinary contributions to their communities. 

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. 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 soliciting nominations from community members and organizations and selecting the awardee.

For more information:

Crain's Chicago: "Illinois 1, Chicago 0 on pension reform"

December 4, 2013
By: Paul Merrion

After finally tackling pension reform, Illinois legislators now need to figure out a way to put some points on the board for Chicago. 

Mayor Rahm Emanuel was unable to link legislation for the city to the state's pension reform vote yesterday, an accomplishment he has likened to spiking the ball on the 20-yard line. 

"The work is far from finished," Mr. Emanuel said in a statement after the vote in Springfield. "The pension crisis is not truly solved until relief is brought to Chicago and all of the other local governments across our state that are standing on the brink of a fiscal cliff because of our pension liabilities. Without providing the same relief to local governments, we know that taxpayers, employees, and the future of our state and local economies will remain at risk." 

If reducing retirement costs was a necessity for the state, it's even more imperative for Chicago, which faces an enormous increase in pension contributions in 2015 if nothing is done. 

"We're always very aware that Chicago will be next," said Stacy Davis Gates, political director of the Chicago Teachers Union, which remains "in stark opposition" to benefit cutbacks for teachers. "It's been done, so there's a template. The second time is always easier." 

But some tough political and financial questions await the city as it seeks a next step to reduce its retirement costs. 

Illinois lawmakers acted yesterday after House Speaker Michael Madigan warned that the state's pension contributions would rise to 23.5 percent of the state budget - in 2030. 

Under state law, which governs city pension funds, Chicago must increase pension contributions by $590 million, raising total contributions to $1.4 billion in 2015, almost 30 percent of the city's operating budget after mandatory interest payments. 

The pension fund for Chicago teachers alone has a $7.1 billion unfunded liability, separate from the city's $19.5 billion shortfall in funding for police, fire, laborers and municipal employee pensions. 

The state's pension reform deal may offer both a political and actuarial template for further action, but the intricate adjustments in benefits, contribution levels and other details aren't directly transferable to Chicago's plans. The same is true for Cook County's pension liabilities, which are significant but not as severe as the city's.

What No Reform Looks Like
Without reform, it would take roughly a 35 percent increase in property taxes to meet required pension contributions for all local governments in the Chicago area, according to Fitch Ratings, a Wall Street credit rating agency that recently downgraded the city's credit rating three notches. Alternatively, budgets would have to be cut by a similar amount or there could be some combination of both. 

Even after adjusting the state's reform plan for Chicago, it may not generate enough savings, given that the city's plans already have less generous cost-of-living adjustments than the state had. That means the city would have to seek a different formula of reforms that may or may not be as politically achievable as the state model. 

"You can design our own pension reform, but what if you can't pass it?" said Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer, who chairs the county's pension committee. "Do you want to take a bird in hand and know they'll approve it, or end up with nothing? It's a dilemma for Mayor Emanuel and President (Toni) Preckwinkle." 

Just one thing is clear: Reforms at the state and local level ultimately will have to get through the courts, given that the state constitution protects pension benefits from being reduced. 

"It doesn't matter who the mayor is, you can't skip over the constitutional challenge," said Michael Shields, president of the Fraternal Order of Police union in Chicago. "If there is reform or reneging, I can promise 100 percent that there will be litigation."

Copyright 2013 Crain Communications, Inc.
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