Bridget Gainer, Cook County Commissioner – Tenth District
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Cook County Board honors Jackie Robinson West

On Wednesday, September 10 - I had the honor & privilege to meet the best baseball players in Chicago: Jackie Robinson West! The national little league champions visited the Cook County Board of Commissioners meeting where we congratulated them for their impressive championship season & thanked them for inspiring the people of Cook County.


Crain's: "One solution to flooded basements? Foreclosed Homes"

August 25, 2014
By: Danielle Braff

Flash flooding has become commonplace in the Chicago area, and that means wet basements. Now, entire cities and communities are finding new and creative ways to plug the floods.

One key? Foreclosed homes.

Instead of flipping the homes for a profit, some organizations are using them as sponges. "We have a really active and valuable real estate market, but we have a huge issue with flooding," says Bridget Gainer, Cook County commissioner and chair of the Cook County Land Bank. "We want to stop being reactive, and we also want to take the challenge of vacant land and turn it into an opportunity." It's a particular issue in older communities; newer subdivisions have anti-flood plans in place.

Despite Deep Tunnel, the $4 billion project to collect storm runoff, flooding has become a major problem in Illinois. That's due to the type and frequency of the storms here, says Kevin Hebert, rain garden consultant, stormwater storage specialist and owner of Kevin's Rain Gardens in Barrington. Until a few years ago, 90 percent of storms in Illinois produced less than 1 inch of rain, but there has been an increase in the occurrence of 2- to 3-inch rainstorms in the past couple of years, Mr. Hebert says, citing data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration which he compiled.

"We could handle those storms if it was spreading out over two or three hours, but it's happening over one hour," he says.

Many municipalities have 40- to 50-year-old systems to handle the rainwater. They continue to add subdivisions and the pipes can't handle the additional hardscape, Mr. Hebert says.

So within the next three months, some foreclosed properties in Chicago will be razed to convert the land into "rain gardens," or deep holes filled with native plants that allow stormwater to soak into the ground as opposed to letting the water rush into the streets. The goal is that the rain gardens ease the flooding that's been ravaging Illinois.

If Cleveland's experience is a guide, the foreclosure experiment should help the problem significantly. Officials there found in a 2011 study that 75 million gallons of water are running off the city's vacant land, Ms. Gainer says. Cleveland officials also are considering using vacant land to handle runoff.

There are 45,000 to 55,000 vacant parcels in Cook County concentrated in Chicago's South and West sides that account for about 10 percent of county property, she says. Some of the foreclosed properties targeted for the project are simply pieces of open land, and others are buildings in poor condition.

They're all in areas of Illinois that flood frequently, says Brent Denzin, attorney at the South Suburban Land Bank and Development Authority in East Hazel Crest. "We're not talking about properties with a major resale value," he says. "You look at the value of that parcel (and figure out) whether it's more valuable to be rebuilt as a home and sold, or whether it will save the county money over time because they're strategically addressing a stormwater problem."

Milwaukee has been looking for innovative flooding solutions and turned to foreclosed homes as well. But officials believe the key is leaving the basements of the homes intact so that they can collect water.

"The city had been demolishing most houses, and it occurred to me that we could demolish the house but keep the basement and use it for flood management," says Erick Shambarger, Milwaukee's deputy director of environmental sustainability. "The idea is that you'd leave the lot vacant and put in community gardens."

Properties with foreclosed homes aren't the only unused land being claimed for stormwater. Chicago officials are looking to use yards at public schools as fancy sponges. They broke ground in mid-July to make four schoolyard surfaces super-permeable using everything from rain gardens to permeable pavement. The project will cost $1.5 million per school, with primary funding coming from Chicago Public Schools, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago and the city's Department of Water Management. Each is contributing about $500,000, says Jaime Zaplatosch, education director at Openlands, a Chicago conservation organization.

CPS, with 730 acres of impermeable surfaces, is the best candidate for a project like this, she says. "Just one schoolyard in one community around the schoolyard should be able to significantly alleviate basement flooding," she says. Her group expects to convert six Chicago schoolyards a year for the next six years.

Elmhurst officials are looking into lowering sports fields so they can be used as temporary stormwater retention areas. They'd essentially replace the regular soil with fast-draining sand and soil so the fields would be usable for their original purposes within a day or two after the storm.
"You have to store it somewhere. There's no magic way," says Chris Burke, a Rosemont-based civil engineer specializing in water resources. "The idea is, where do you put the water when you have a community that's already developed?"
While cities and states are experimenting on a multimillion-dollar level, homeowners can pursue their own solution: digging rain gardens.

Harriet Festing's Highland Park basement flooded five times. She solved the problem by channeling the water away from the foundation and into a rain garden on her property.

Harriet Festing's Highland Park basement makes up a third of her living space. After it flooded five times, she'd had enough. "We shifted the level of the ground so it falls away from" the foundation, Ms. Festing says. The project, which cost $4,000, ended the flooding by channeling the water into a rain garden. Ms. Festing dug the garden herself, but many homeowners hire landscapers to do it.

If 70 percent of residents added a rain garden or rain barrel to their property, they could make a significant impact on flooding, says Julia Bunn, owner and designer of the Spirited Gardener, a landscape design and installation firm in Chicago's Andersonville neighborhood.

Ms. Bunn's rain gardens start at $1,990 for 100 square feet and go up to $2,400, depending on plants and features such as retention walls.

If a homeowner diverts one or two downspouts toward a rain garden, it can reduce the amount of runoff by 5 to 20 percent, says Bob Kirschner, curator of aquatic plant and urban lake studies at the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe.

"Five to 20 percent might not sound like a lot, but usually it's that last 5 to 10 percent of the stormwater that makes the difference," Mr. Kirschner says. "If a whole neighborhood does it, you significantly reduce the amount of stormwater runoff that (causes flooding) in the first place."

Copyright 2014 Crain's Communications, Inc

Tenth District Constituent Tracy Poyser's PhotoArt featured at Cook County Treasurer's Office

Tracy Poyser of Chicago's Edgewater community is this year's featured solo artist of the Cook County Treasurer's Office. The public August 7, 2014.   

2014 Art Display & Featured Artist Gallery Locations: 
  • June 10 to August 7, 2014: 118 N. Clark #212, Cook County Treasurer's Office
  • June 10 to August 7, 2014: 5533 N Broadway, 48th Ward Office Art Wall

For more information, visit her official website.

The PrivateBank & Cook County Land Bank Announce $10 Million in Financing for Neighborhood Stabilization


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. 

For more information, please contact: 

  • The PrivateBank: 312-564-3941 (office), 312-213-8571 (mobile), 
  • Commissioner Bridget Gainer/Cook County Land Bank Bridget Gainer: 312-603-4210, 
  • Cook County Board President's Office: Karen Vaughan 312-603-2823, "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: 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 "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 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.


Cook County Launches Juvenile Temporary Detention Center Advisory Board


(312) 603-4210 

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.


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.

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