Bridget Gainer, Cook County Commissioner – Tenth District
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Commissioner Bridget Gainer joins WTTW Chicago Tonight to discuss July 25 Cook County Sales Tax Vote

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle has proposed raising the county sales tax by a penny on the dollar to help cover a pension-fueled budget shortfall. Wednesday, the county board is scheduled to vote on the hike. President Preckwinkle joined WTTW's "Chicago Tonight" (channel 11) to discuss why she thinks the move is necessary and whether she has support from the board. We'll also hear from Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer, who opposes raising the sales tax. For more information, click here.

New York Times' The Upshot on why sales taxes are the least effective & most regressive taxes

NYT The Upshot: "The Inevitable, Indispensable Property Tax"
July 4, 2015
By: Josh Barro

If you're a homeowner, you probably don't like paying property taxes. But economists like property taxes for the same reason taxpayers hate them: They're hard to avoid.

A 2008 study by researchers at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development looked at a number of countries and found that taxes on real property caused the least drag on gross domestic product per dollar of revenue raised. Next came sales taxes, personal income taxes and corporate income taxes. In other words, property taxes were the best way to collect revenue without hurting the economy too much.

As the economist Greg Mankiw wrote in this space three years ago, "A good rule of thumb is that when you tax something, you get less of it." That idea helps explain why property taxes do relatively little economic damage.

The main way taxes harm the economy is by causing people to change their behavior. Raising the income tax can cause people to work less; a higher sales tax can make people spend less. But the only way to avoid a property tax increase is to sell your property, and even then, you have to find a buyer who's willing to take on the tax burden you're giving up.

Real property is an excellent tax base because it can't be moved and it lasts a long time. In the case of land, it usually lasts forever. We, as economic actors, cannot respond to a higher tax on land by reducing the amount of land that exists. We may change what buildings to construct and where, but once a building exists, it's not likely to move in response to tax changes.

In rare cases, property taxes can get so high that they encourage people to abandon their property (see Detroit). But in general, property taxes simply lead to an efficient transfer of wealth from property owners to the government. That's not necessarily lovely for property owners, but we need to finance government somehow, and it's best for the economy that the manner be an efficient one.

So from an economist's perspective, it's a bit of a problem that Americans have fought so strongly against property taxes for the last 40 years. Since the 1970s, most states have significantly restricted how high local property taxes can go. The main effect has been not to restrict the growth of government but to push government to rely on less economically efficient taxes.

Property taxes declined to 24 percent in 2007 from 31 percent of local government revenues in 1977. Even as property taxes were restricted, local government grew as a share of the economy, driven by a combination of higher sales and income taxes and greater aid from state governments.

Increased reliance on these taxes has brought problems, and not just because they cause people to change how much they work or where they spend:

•Sales tax, which falls disproportionately on the poor, is what economists call regressive. Property tax is often perceived as regressive, but because wealthy people own much more property than poor people do, it is more progressive than sales tax, though not as progressive as income tax.

•Sales tax receipts are suppressed by several trends. Online sales have cut into the sales tax base, and the economy has shifted over time away from goods toward services, which most states don't subject to sales tax. States have responded to this base erosion by raising sales tax rates over time, increasing the extent to which the sales tax damages the economy.

•The shift toward sales and income tax has led to an erosion of local control. Sales and income taxes are often levied across a large geographic area (lest people simply shop across municipal borders to get a better sales tax rate). The shift away from property tax has meant that local governments have had to depend on state governments to collect taxes and send them aid. This structure is fairer to poor cities and towns with weak property tax bases, but it also leaves local officials responsible for providing services without control over the revenue sources to fund them.

•Sales and income taxes are volatile. It's their biggest problem. State and local income tax receipts fell 12 percent from 2007 to 2009, igniting budget crises around the country. In past recessions, sales tax held up much better than income tax, but not this time: Sales tax receipts fell nearly as much, 9 percent, over the same period.

The federal government deals with revenue volatility by borrowing money. But states and cities are supposed to balance their budget every year. Governments were caught off guard as the recession hit. Half of states missed their revenue projections by more than 10 percent in 2009, forcing large midyear budget cuts.

Property tax was the only major state and local government tax that held up well in the Great Recession. In most states, property tax collections are devised to grow in a stable, steady manner, with the tax rate falling when property values spike and rising when they fall.

Indeed, property tax has grown as a share of total state and local government receipts since 2007. In 2012 it was 27 percent, up from 24 percent in 2007, not because governments have re-evaluated their choice to de-emphasize property tax, but because sales and income taxes have been so extraordinarily weak in the recession and its aftermath that property tax has grown by comparison.

That growth serves as a reminder of the virtue of property tax: In good times or bad, it provides a stable, efficient source of revenue.

Copyright 2015 The New York Times Company

WTTW's Chicago Tonight: "Cook County Commissioner, CFO on Sales Tax Hike"

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle is pushing for a 1 percent sales tax increase, but she'll need at least nine Cook County Board members support to get it. Preckwinkle introduced the proposed sales tax during a Wednesday meeting. The Cook County Board will soon vote on whether or not to increase the sales tax. We talk with Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer and Cook County CFO Ivan Samstein about their thoughts on the proposed tax hike. Preckwinkle was on Chicago Tonight on Wednesday to campaign for her proposed sales tax increase

Chicago Tribune: "I won't vote for a sales tax hike" by Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer

July 1, 2015 
By: Bridget Gainer 

In the next few weeks the Cook County Board will be asked to vote to increase the county sales tax. I will vote no. The sales tax is regressive and a penalty to the poor. It punishes businesses on the edge of Cook County and pushes consumers to buy goods on the Internet. 

Don't get me wrong, the county has a serious budget and pension cost gap, predicted to be $479 million. The proposed 1 percentage point increase in the sales tax would raise some $474 million annually. Preckwinkle proposes a 10.25% sales tax for Cook County, which would return an extra $473 million in revenue to the county. 

But $130 million of the deficit goes away with pension reform. An additional $50 million in savings has already been identified by the budget staff. Yet another $50 million is in reach if we are finally willing to consolidate our redundant taxing bodies and duplicative services. 

So how would we meet our financial needs? Step by step, we can do this. One of those steps is the worst-kept secret in government. For decades, Cook County reformers have asked: Why does the county have so many separate taxing bodies? Why do we have a Cook County sheriff's police force and a Forest Preserves police department? Mosquito abatement districts? Two election agencies? Combining costly, redundant offices could save $50 million. 

That's $50 million we don't need to collect in sales tax from county taxpayers. 

As chair of the County Board's Pension Committee, let me be yet another elected official to implore Gov. Bruce Rauner to support the Cook County pension reform proposal. It is a model for how the state budget crisis can be solved because it is backed with union support and actuarial math. Our workforce and unions did not sit back and wait for taxpayers to solve our pension problem. We came together and everyone gave something to gain solvency. Passing pension reform now would reduce the amount the county would have to increase the sales tax by $130 million a year. That's $130 million that can stay in taxpayers' pockets. 

So I will oppose the sales tax increase. Not because I am opposed to new revenue, or because I think government is the problem. I believe government is vital to take on some of the hardest jobs we have. Just ask the correctional officers at Cook County Jail or the nurses at Stroger Hospital. But residents throughout the county are bracing as their state and local governments swim in red ink. 

Before we ask our taxpayers for more, let's make sure we've done everything we can to make county government work for all of us. 

Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer represents the Tenth District on the northside of Chicago. 

Copyright © 2015, Chicago Tribune

Commissioner Bridget Gainer at 2015 Chicago Pride Parade

"This year was special because Chicago joined the rest of the country in celebrating Marriage Equality for all - days after the Supreme Court ruling. Happy Pride!" - Bridget Gainer.


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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.
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