Bridget Gainer, Cook County Commissioner – Tenth District
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Commissioner Bridget Gainer's Holiday Donation Drive for Women in the Cook County Jail

Happy Holidays,

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

Bridget Gainer
Cook County Commissioner - Tenth District

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Cook County Board of Commissioners begins 2014-2018 term

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

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

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

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

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

To learn more, click here.

Chicago Tribune: "Cook County holds Transportation Policy Open Houses"

November 30, 2014
By: John Hilkevitch

It's back to work and school after a holiday weekend, and there is plenty going on in the world of transportation. 


Cook County will host open houses starting Tuesday to gather public input on setting priorities to develop a long-range transportation plan for the county that emphasizes the role of expanding economic growth. The goal is to produce a Connecting Cook County plan that links transportation to jobs and economic development, supports more livable communities and addresses infrastructure needs for the next 25 years, officials said. A key part of the initiative will focus on eliminating "transit deserts" that lack fast, frequent bus and train service to job centers elsewhere in Cook and collar counties, officials said. About 1 out of every 10 people in Cook County -- roughly 438,500 residents -- live in transit deserts, according to a study that the Tribune reported on in August (2014). 

The analysis by the Center for Neighborhood Technology found that four of the Chicago area's five big employment areas are in suburbs that are not well-connected to high-quality transit. Those four job centers make up the northwest corridor past O'Hare International Airport, Lombard, Naperville and Oak Brook.Cook County officials are asking residents, business owners and community leaders to attend the open houses to review preliminary plans that were introduced over the past nine months and provide feedback and recommendations. 

The open houses will be from 4 PM to 7 PM as follows:
  • Tuesday, December 2: Franklin Park Police Department, 9451 W Belmont, Franklin Park IL
  • Wednesday, December 3: Northbrook Village Hall, 1225 Cedar Lane, Northbrook IL
  • Thursday, December 4: DePaul University's Chaddick Institute, 14 E. Jackson Blvd, 16th floor, Chicago IL 
  • Tuesday, December 9: Orland Park Civic Center, 14750 Ravinia Ave, Orland Park IL
  • For more information is at ConnectingCookCounty.org

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle & Commissioners Announces New Funding for Restorative Justice Programs


December 4, 2014
County Building, 118 N Clark St, Chicago IL
Board President Toni Preckwinkle with Cook County Commissioners Jerry Butler, Bridget Gainer, Jesus Garcia and Robert Steele.

Effort is praised by faith and community leaders from the Reclaim Campaign

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle together with Cook County Commissioners Jerry Butler, Bridget Gainer, Jesus Garcia and Robert Steele today announced a significant investment of $500,000 for community-based restorative justice programs. Faith and community leaders from the Reclaim Campaign, a coalition calling for reforms to the Cook County criminal justice system, hailed this major commitment to restorative justice.

Restorative justice is a community-based strategy that aims to restore relationships, repair harm, and create healing in situations of conflict. As Cook County continues to face devastating levels of violence, the Reclaim Campaign and President Preckwinkle are seeking innovative ways to address violence through faith and community institutions.

"Restorative justice seeks to find solutions to disputes that might otherwise contribute to family upheaval, school expulsions, and other detrimental consequences, particularly in communities that are already struggling with violence," Preckwinkle said. "This funding will allow for important new collaborations with local organizations which are using the restorative model to reduce violence in their communities."

Community leaders maintain that the investment will help stem violence and save tax dollars by reducing violence and supporting community and church-based programs.

"In our parish, we face some of the highest levels of violence in the city," said Father Larry Dowling, pastor of St. Agatha Catholic Church in the North Lawndale neighborhood on Chicago's West side. "But we have already seen in our community how when we bring people together in peace circles and provide support for young people in trouble, we can interrupt the cycle of violence, restore broken relationships, and rebuild our families and community."

The half a million dollar investment by the Cook County Board signals a commitment from President Preckwinkle and the Reclaim Campaign to continue to work for broader reforms of the criminal justice system to improve fairness and efficiency.

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.

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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.

THERE'S NO MAGIC WAY
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

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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

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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), ckroll@theprivatebank.com 
  • Commissioner Bridget Gainer/Cook County Land Bank Bridget Gainer: 312-603-4210, Bridget@BridgetGainer.com 
  • Cook County Board President's Office: Karen Vaughan 312-603-2823, Karen.Vaughan@cookcountyil.gov

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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