Thank you for visiting my website. It is an honor and privilege to serve as the Cook County Board Commissioner and Forest Preserve District Board Commissioner for the 13th District which includes the following Cities and Villages: 49th & 50th Wards of the City of Chicago, the City of Evanston and the Villages of Glencoe, Glenview, Kenilworth, Lincolnwood, Morton Grove, Niles, Northfield, Skokie, Wilmette and Winnetka.
Although our Cook County government has a low profile, it is a vast operation with many important responsibilities and an annual budget of $4.8 billion. It is responsible for operating our court system, jail, maintaining over 69,000 acres of forest preserves, and acting as a healthcare safety net through the operation of three hospitals and sixteen clinics.
The purpose of this site is to provide information on Cook County government and the Forest Preserve District of Cook County as well as links to other government resources. I regularly post news stories and information on County and Forest Preserve issues which may be of interest to you. Additionally, my legislative library contains up-to-date information on County and Forest Preserve legislation.
I encourage you to contact me with any questions or ideas you have regarding Cook County or the Forest Preserve District. I hope you find this site useful. Thank you for taking the time to visit.
The next meeting of the Cook County Board is Wednesday, March 14, 2018 at 118 N Clark Street, Chicago Illinois on the 5th Floor.
The next meeting of the Forest Preserve District of Cook County is March 13, 2018.
Both Forest Preserve District and County Board meetings are streamed live. Click here to watch the meetings or watch archived meetings.
Extended Deadline for Senior and Senior Freeze Exemption Applications
Added time will help seniors receive benefits of legislation conceived by Assessor Berrios which expands money-saving exemptions for seniors
Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios announced today that his office has extended the deadline for the Senior Citizen Exemption and Senior Freeze Exemption renewal applications and new applications for Tax Year 2017. The extended application deadline is March 2, 2018. Any application postmarked by Friday, March 2nd will be on time. The original deadline was February 7th.
A "Yes" Vote for Cook County Forest Preserve 2018 Budget and a Renewed Call for a Referendum to Save Our Forest Preserves
On December 12, 2017, I voted for a 2018 Forest Preserve District Budget to protect the work that has been done to protect our land. This budget is far from perfect and contains serious reductions to the flat maintenance budgets passed over the last four years. This crisis budgeting can't continue if we are to manage our land assets correctly. The 2018 Budget must be the last time we ignore the actual needs of the Forest Preserves.
Our Forest Preserves are only surviving because of the thousands of hours that our volunteers give to protect our vast and diverse land holdings. We all owe these dedicated volunteer workers a thank you for their service.
For the last two years, I have stated that the budgets were the best we can do; but we must figure out how to improve. These budgets reveal the constitutional and statutory structural weakness of the "Non-Home Rule" Cook County Forest Preserve District. Unlike Cook County which is a "Home Rule" government, the Forest Preserves can only raise operating funds through property taxes that are capped; fees from earned services i.e. campground rentals, golf fees; and fines from those abusing our public lands through unlawful acts. These sources of income are all limited and are not adequate to properly fund essential activities. For the last three years flat budgets let us survive while ignoring our duty to provide better resources for our residents.
The 2018 Budget continues to provide:
1.limited support and encouragement for our volunteers;
2.limited resources for our staff;
3.limited restoration opportunities for our land;
4.limited strategies to acquire additional land;
5.improvements in recreational opportunities; and
6.expansion of intern opportunities.
This Budget is the third to have input from the Conservation Council whose role is to help us create a clear vision for the future. The Council has called for the last three years to expanded land restoration and land acquisition. Neither is properly funded in this budget.
The Budget reduces our support of the Chicago Botanic Garden and the Brookfield Zoo by a $1 million. The current level of funding is too low to assist either in performing their missions. These two jewels anchor our outreach and educational programming. Neither the Garden nor the Zoo can continue their level of excellence without increased funding - not reduced funding. The need to develop plans to help the Garden and the Zoo expand their positive programming and to provide further opportunities to improve our land need a bolder vision of funding for the Forest Preserves.
As with last three years, this budget does not address the pension funding issue. We must develop a plan to solve this funding problem that all levels of government are struggling to resolve.
For the last two years I have warned that you can only keep a minimal maintenance budget for so long before you threaten all the good you do. I had hoped that the 2018 budget would contain bold plans to show how to get beyond minimal maintenance. Unfortunately, that planning did not occur and now we must look for bold steps or we will fail in future years.
I renew my call to trust our voters and ask them to approve a referendum to increase tax funding to do three things:
1.Approve funds to expand restoration services on our land;
2.Acquire additional land while some still exists; and
3.Increase our subsidies to the Brookfield Zoo and the Chicago Botanic Garden.
A referendum is the only way the Cook County Forest Preserve District can obtain the funds it needs to fulfill its mission. The earliest a referendum could be held is now 2020. We need to trust that our voters will give us wise guidance, so that future generations can enjoy the beauty of our land.
Finally, this budget shows that the attention of the Commissioners is much more focused on the County government and not on the Forest Preserve government. This is the time to consider separating the two governments and giving the Forest Preserves a separate governing board.
Cook County Commissioner, 13th District
My “YES” vote on the 2018 Cook County Budget
November 21, 2017
This is the 15th Cook County budget I have worked to amend to meet the needs of Cook County residents for efficient services. I voted against the 2015 and 2016 budgets because they did not have the proper planning and coordination to protect our citizens.
Today I voted “YES” on the 2018 Cook County budget, not because it has the thoughtful planning and coordination I wanted, but because it is the best and only alternative to protect Cook County from a meltdown of key services.
This budget has 323 actual employees losing their jobs. These are employees who are being let go through no fault of their own. These are people who every day gave our citizens their best. The original proposed budget included over 600 job loses; but with good faith negotiations and a better understanding of job responsibilities we were able to save many services.
A year ago I hailed a budget that was “streamlining our workforce” with thoughtful decisions that reduced unnecessary jobs. Today we have damaged our workforce with cuts to essential services.
This budget allows our Cook County Health and Hospital System to meet changing patient needs through better planning by the Independent Board and better use of public health resources including Access to Care and the Children’s Advocacy Center.
In the future County Care has the potential to permanently stabilize the system through more earned fees. But remember, Cook County will always be responsible by law for the $110 million in free care required at the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center and the jail along with required services the Department of Public Health provides to suburban Cook County.
Last year’s budget protected the resources necessary to give our county lawyers in the State’s Attorney Office, the Public Defender Office and the Public Guardian office the tools that they needed. This year, after much negotiation, all three offices have the number of lawyers they need but they have fewer resources to do their jobs.
Unfortunately, many of the resources provided to the Circuit Court of Cook County have been eliminated. Reductions in probation services, social services and the elimination of the Mortgage Foreclosure program will make it harder to help people stay out of criminal trouble or financial trouble. In addition, the reductions at the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center will cause operational problems. These reductions may create legal liability.
The judiciary as a separate branch of government must have its independence protected in future budgets.
The problems of the judiciary are compounded by the deep cuts to the Sheriff’s Office which will make protecting the courts and the citizens who use them harder. These cuts will create potential legal liability in the way court services, the Sheriff’s Police and the Department of Corrections are operated. The Sheriff’s Office is essential to all citizen’s safety and it requires more not less resources.
This budget protects the $350 million extra pension payment the county established 2 years ago. Our pensions are among the most stable in Illinois, but they will continue to need extra payments to stay strong.
I have complained about the lack of planning and coordination by the board when considering the budgets and the real needs of the county. This budget lacks proper planning and coordination because of the way in which the board repealed the “Sweetened Beverage Tax.” The isolated repeal outside of the budget process made this budget much harder than if we were negotiating repeal and the budget at the same time.
Also, when the board repealed the “Sweetened Beverage Tax” it unintentionally voided a binding resolution and ordinance from last year that prohibits the raising of any taxes by the county until after 2020. This prohibition covered property taxes, sales taxes, and any home rule excise taxes. The loss of this protection to the taxpayers will make any future budget more difficult.
Annually Commissioner Suffredin returns dollars to the general fund. Amounts returned to the general fund in previous years are:
2015 - $37,184
2014 - $15,187
2013 - $19,817
Have questions about your current property tax bill? Click here for a link to the FAQ page of the Cook County Assessor.
Click here to read Cook County at a Glance, a report from President Preckwinkle.
STATEMENT OF COOK COUNTY COMMISSIONER LARRY SUFFREDIN, 13TH DISTRICT ON REPEAL OF SWEETENED BEVERAGE TAX
I voted to keep the Sweetened Beverage Tax because it was a tax on a small number of people rather than a general sales or property tax on all. This tax had a twofold purpose, first it provided enough revenue to balance our 2017 budget without gimmicks; and secondly, it helped us fight the increase in heart disease, diabetes, obesity and osteoporosis and the high cost of treatment.
In addition, and unfortunately the repeal of the Sweetened Beverage Tax also repeals the law that prohibited the raising of any taxes by the County until after 2020. This tax limitation covered property taxes, sales taxes and home rule excise taxes. The repeal of the tax limitation means all taxes are in play.
The most important role of a County Commissioner is to pass a yearly budget that meets the needs of the residents and fairly balances services and costs. The functions of County government are often unknown to our own citizens because only a small number of citizens are directly involved in public safety or public health services. Over two-third of the County budget goes to both public safety and public health.
Public safety, through the Chief Judge, Sheriff, Medical Examiner, State's Attorney, Public Defender, and Circuit Court Clerk provide our frontline of defense to lawlessness and violence in our communities.
Public health, through the Cook County Health and Hospital System provide our frontline of care to the 1.1 million residents of Cook County on Medicaid and others who are without any form of medical coverage.
The budget process involves weeks of hearings and discussion on what is the best mix of taxes, fees and grants to fund a balanced service budget. This process has safe guards to protect against excesses. I have always been very active in the budget process offering more tax savings and service modification amendments than most Commissioners. The agreement to prohibit further taxation until 2020 came out of the budget process.
The key to the 2017 budget was a new Sweetened Beverage Tax, which like other excise taxes on liquor and tobacco was reasonable. The budget this tax would support did the following:
Streamlined our work force which in the last 5 years has been reduced by 6300 full time jobs;
Stabilized our Cook County Health and Hospital System staffing to meet changing patient needs; and
Increased the utilization of County Care dollars to reduce the dependency on County taxpayer support from $400 million to $111 million.
After the 2017 budget process was finished the following occurred:
First, when proposed the Sweetened Beverage Tax covered all purchases. The Obama Administration told the County that SNAP recipients could be taxed. Unfortunately, the Trump Administration changed that;
Second, the implementation rules were more complex than many retailers could handle with their point of sale systems;
Third, rules confusion lead to a lawsuit in which the retailers sued and initially won and then lost and now they appeal; and
Fourth, after the imposition of the tax on August 2nd, both opponents and supporters of the tax started a barrage of TV, radio and print ads and mail. Unfortunately, the messaging created many misunderstandings about the tax.
Finally, the will of the Board changed on this tax. It was repealed. I voted to keep the tax because it was a reasonable tax with prohibition on further tax increases; and it is bad policy to change taxes outside the budget process.
I want to acknowledge and thank the many citizens who expressed their thoughts on this tax.
Unsung Heroine Honoree 2017
Peggy A. Montes Unsung Heroine Awards: In observance of Women’s History Month, the Cook County Commission on Women's Issues hosts an annual award ceremony recognizing 18 women from across Cook County for their vital contributions to their communities, families, and professions. CONGRATULATIONS TO Josefina Alvarez who was named as the 2017 Unsung Heroine Award from the 13th District. To read more about her and the award click here
THE COOK COUNTY ASSESOR'S OFFICE HAS MAILED Senior and Senior Freeze Exemption applications
Illinois law requires seniors to reapply annually For additional details click here
The next board meeting of the Cook County Forest Preserve District will be in January 9,2018. Click here to watch the live streaming meeting.
A "Yes" Vote for Cook County Forest Preserve 2017 Budget and a Call for a Referendum
I voted for a 2017 Cook County Forest Preserve District Budget on December 13, 2016 that is essentially the same as the last three years. Last year I warned that the 2016 Budget was:
"... the best we can do now, but it is a budget that reveals the structural weakness of the "Non-Home Rule" Cook County Forest Preserve District. Unlike Cook County which is a "Home Rule" government, the Forest Preserves can only raise operating funds through property taxes that are capped; fees from earned services i.e. camp ground rentals, golf fees; and fines from those abusing our public lands through unlawful acts. These sources of income are all limited and are not adequate to properly fund essential activities. This is the last year that a flat budget makes sense. Our duty as the largest preservation land owner in the State requires better resources."
The 2017 Budget continues to provide: 1. limited support and encouragement for our volunteers, 2. limited resources for our staff, 3. limited restoration opportunities for our land, 4. limited strategies to acquire additional land, 5. improvements in recreational opportunities, and 6. expansion of intern opportunities.
This Budget is the second to have input from the Conservation Council whose role is to help us create a clear vision for the future. Led by Chair Wendy Paulson, this Council has called for expanded restoration and land acquisition that are not funded in this budget.
The Budget continues our support of the Chicago Botanic Garden and the Brookfield Zoo, but at levels that are way too low to assist either in performing their missions. These two jewels anchor our outreach and educational programming. Neither the Garden nor the Zoo can continue their level of excellence without increased funding. The need to develop plans to help the Garden and the Zoo expand their positive programming and to provide further opportunities to improve our land will require dynamic new ideas.
As with last year, this budget does not address the major governmental issue facing our state - pension payments. As with all Illinois governments, we must - as an employer - have a funding plan.
Last year I warned that you can only keep a minimal maintenance budget for so long before you threaten all the good you do. I had hoped that this year there would be significant planning to make the 2017 budget a model for the future. That planning did not occur and now we must look for bold steps or we will fail.
It is time to trust our voters and ask them to approve a referendum to do three things:
1. Approve funds to expand restoration services on our land;
2. Acquire additional land while some still exists; and
3. Increase our subsidies to the Brookfield Zoo and the Chicago Botanic Garden.
A referendum is the only way Cook County Forest Preserve District can obtain the funds it needs to fulfill its mission. The earliest a referendum could be held is 2018. Now is the time to plan. We need to trust that our voters will give us wise guidance, so that future generations can enjoy the beauty of our land.
Why I voted “Yes” on the 2017 Cook County Budget:
This is the 14th Cook County budget that I have worked to amend in order to meet the needs of Cook County residents for efficient services. I have voted in favor of the first 11 budgets that met those needs. I have voted against the last 2 that did not meet those needs.
I voted “Yes” on the 2017 Cook County budget. This budget meets the needs of Cook County residents by:
a.Streamlining our work force. In the last 5 years Cook County has reduced the number of full time jobs by over 6000 positions. This budget reduces the number of full time jobs by another 300 positions;
b.Stabilizing our Cook County Health and Hospital System staffing to meet changing patient needs through better planning by the Independent Board and better use of Public Health resources including Access to Care;
c.Increasing the utilization of Cook County Care dollars to reduce the dependency of the Cook County Health and Hospital System on taxpayer support. In the last 5 years taxpayer support has been reduced from $400 million to $111 million this year.
d.Providing adequate resources to run the Circuit Court of Cook County, the largest court system in the nation, through pretrial services, probation services, court interpreters, mortgage foreclosure remedies, and educational programs;
e.Giving our County Lawyers in the State’s Attorney Office, the Public Defender’s Office and the Public Guardian’s Office the full range of modern resources to properly do their job;
f.Continuing to provide for the County’s pension obligations;
g.Updating technology for use by our property tax agencies need to fairly and properly do their work;
h.Working to reduce the population of our jail by nearly 2000 people per week while still protecting our community from the worst criminals;
i.Providing better services for the children at a newly revised Juvenile Temporary Detention Center and Juvenile Court; and
j.Providing for the consolidation of the Recorder of Deeds Office and the County Clerk’s Office. This effort will cause $1 million in taxpayer savings.
Over the last two years I have complained about the lack of planning and coordination between the budgets and the real needs of the County. This budget does that planning and coordination.
This budget does contain the new “Sweetened Beverage Tax”, which is not a tax on all citizens but on the limited number of citizens who drink these beverages. This tax has a twofold purpose, first it will help us fight heart disease, diabetes and osteoporosis; and second it provides enough revenue to balance the budget without gimmicks.
Finally, this budget comes with the passage of both a binding resolution and ordinance that prohibits the raising of any taxes by the County until after 2020. This action covers property taxes, sales taxes, any home rule excise taxes and will lead to a further streamlining of County Government.
WHY I VOTED YES ON A "SWEETENED BEVERAGE TAX"
Cook County government is the only functioning large government in Illinois. To keep that distinction takes careful planning. Cook County residents are looking to their government to streamline its services and continue to run the largest court system and public safety operation in Illinois. In addition, our health care services need new efficiencies to meet the growing needs of residents.
It has been a struggle to provide essential services in Illinois when the State owes Cook County millions of dollars and our largest city, Chicago, has many economic challenges.
Cook County has cut nearly 6,000 payroll positions and streamlined its government over the last 5 years. During this time, I have pushed hard for budget reform and have voted against the last 2 budgets because they did not adequately meet our citizens' needs. The budget we vote on next week contains new reforms including further reduction in payroll positions.
In 2015, I voted against a 1% sales tax increase. That tax increase was the first time in Cook County history where a tax was imposed outside of the budget process. This was significant because in the budget process there is a planning function that allows for the binding application of the taxes to specific purposes. This budget process helps insure that the tax is not excessive and that there is no creation of slush funds for future spending.
On November 10th, the County Board considered a "Sweetened Beverage Tax" which will stabilize our proposed budget, protect public safety, improve our health care services, and provides for our pension obligations. All the funds from this tax will be properly applied under the proposed budget and there is no slush fund created. I voted yes on this tax.
The "Sweetened Beverage Tax" was being proposed to meet real needs in our 2017 budget; it is a non-excessive tax on a very limited portion of our residents. It comes with a legally enforceable ordinance and resolution providing for NO NEW TAXES through 2020. The NO NEW TAXES language was found in proposals that I authored.
The health benefits of a new "Sweetened Beverage Tax" are twofold. First, we will attack the public health crisis caused by obesity and diabetes by changing residents' reliance on these beverages. Second, as the largest public health system in Illinois, we will generate funds to cover the high cost of treating patients with diabetes and heart illnesses caused by these beverages.
For the last 2 years, I have voted against the Cook County budget because there was no long-range planning and the budgets put off the need of adequate revenue. Today, the "Sweetened Beverage Tax" answers the revenue stabilization need and allows me to have confidence that the current budget will properly meet our residents' needs through 2020.
Pharmaceutical Disposal Ordinance Passes
The Cook County Board unanimously passed my Pharmaceutical Disposal Ordinance on October 26, 2016. This is a first in the nation ordinance to collect unused prescription drugs and over-the-counter drugs. This ordinance will help protect the public safety and public health of our citizens. It will also help protect our water by keeping unused drugs out of the water supply.
Today over 10% of all drugs are leftover after treatment with no constructive way to dispose of them safely. While the DEA, individual drug store chains and our Sheriff’s office have attempted to create collection events there has been no unified program. This ordinance creates a Countywide collection program directed by the Sheriff’s office. The sheriff’s office will work with patients, pharmacies, drug manufacturers, law enforcement officials, municipal officials, environmentalist and public health leaders to create a program that is accessible to all.
Thanks to the leadership of Sheriff Tom Dart and his staff this ordinance will expand the network of collection sites that he started 4 years ago. The program will insure that every part of the County and every citizen has a convenient disposal site.
I want to thank the many citizens who testified at our various hearings on this proposal. I am especially thankful to those who shared stories of how unused drugs had impacted their lives through fatal overdoses, thefts and serious illness caused by confusing old drugs for new ones.
I am grateful to MWRD Commissioner Debra Shore and her staff for continuing to point out the environmental dangers of improper drug disposal.
Click here to read a copy of the ordinance.
Minimum Wage Ordinance
The Cook County Board passed my Cook County Minimum Wage Ordinance on October 26, 2016. The vote was 12 to 3. This ordinance corrects an inequality that was created when the City of Chicago created an ordinance to increase the minimum wage for workers in the City gradually until reaching $13 an hour on July 1, 2019. That created a two tier pay scale with City workers currently making $10.50 an hour and Suburban workers making $8.25 an hour for the same job.
The County ordinance starts at $10 an hour on July 1, 2017 and increases a dollar an hour every July 1st there after until it reaches $13 an hour in 2020. This schedule of minimum wage increases was done to make the changes reasonable from a record keeping perspective.
This ordinance will cover over 200,000 suburban workers who currently make $8.25 an hour. The passage of this hopefully will cause the Congress and the General Assembly to pass a broader minimum wage law.
I am thankful to the many constituents, church committees, the People’s Lobby and One Northside for their guidance and support.
Click here to read a copy of the ordinance. Click here to see photos from the signing ceremony.
To read a report from the Chicago Federation of Labor that contains suggestions for the upcoming budget click here. This report was submitted on Tuesday October 11, 2016
To read the strategic plan of the Cook County Health and Hospital System click here
To read the CCHHS monthly report for August 2016 click here
To read the HIV/AIDS Surveillance Report from 2013 click here
To read the Cook County Department of Public Health Quarterly Report click here
To read the 2014 Sexually Transmitted Infections Annual Surveillance Report click here
Meet the new Cook County Health and Hospitals System Board Members:
Mary B. Richardson-Lowry, Mary Driscoll, Sidney Thomas, Virginia Bishop, MD, MPH, Layla P. Suleiman Gonzalez, Ph.D., J.D To read their biographies click here
The Chicago History Museum held its 57th annual celebration of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 2016 in Lincoln Park. Every year they invite a speaker to deliver a 4th of July oration. This year Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin was the speaker. Click here to read his remarks.
Tribute to Abner J. Mikva
Walking into the Mikva Challenge office this morning, I had a flashback to when I was ten years old in 1976 and walked into Ab Mikva’s campaign office in Evanston. Back then, as now, there were young people everywhere coming in to work, a place where young people are valued. Today I saw teens heading to their posts on the Mikva Challenge Mayoral Youth Commission, Chicago Housing Authority Youth Council, Teen Health Council, Juvenile Justice Council, and other Mikva Challenge youth councils and summer fellowships (part of a 208-strong youth cohort we hired this summer for public sector internships). The staff was buzzing around, the phone was ringing, journalists were waiting in the lobby, and there was a wonderful energy of controlled chaos. It felt like going back home, it felt like community -- that unique Mikva kind of community that is unapologetically working to improve the world and participating passionately in our civic life.
During Ab Mikva’s long public service career, he built community, he nurtured young people, he fought for equality and justice, and he valued the role of the regular citizen who participates in our democracy. As Senator Richard Durbin said today, Ab Mikva was our “North Star” and a role model for him and countless other public servants. Ab’s honesty and integrity were unassailable, and he inspired thousands of “Mikva disciples” to get involved in public service and activism. Through Mikva Challenge, he now has an even bigger army of tens of thousands of followers jumping into public service, eager to improve their country and world.
What a legacy, what a model of a life well lived. He is a guide for all of us on how to participate meaningfully in civic life. Please read the touching obituary that Ab’s dear friend and former staff member Sandy Horwitt wrote here. You may also share your memories of Ab with us here as well, on our Facebook page, or Twitter.
What many might not know about Abner Mikva is that he was an even better husband and father than he was a public servant. Executive Director Michelle Morales and the entire staff at Mikva Challenge extend our deepest condolences to his wife, Zoe, and their children – Judge Mary Mikva (Steve Cohen), Laurie Mikva (James Pfander), Rabbi Rachel Mikva (Mark Rosenberg), and their seven grandchildren –Rebecca, Jordan, Sarah, Samantha, Benjamin, Jacob, and Keren. Information about a public memorial for Ab will be available on the Mikva Challenge website (www.mikvachallenge.org) later this month.
We salute you, Ab. You walked the walk, and you showed us how we could, too. May you rest in peace.
-Brian Brady, National Director, Mikva Challenge
To read more about Mikva click here
Cook County 2016 Budget Over $500 Million in New Taxes and Little Reform –Why I Voted NO
On November 18, 2015 the Cook County Board of Commissioners passed the Fiscal Year2016 Budget. For the second year, and only the second time as a Commissioner, I voted “NO” on the budget. I did this because the budget showed a lack of reform, planning and coordination that now subjects our taxpayers to over $500 million in new taxes and the highest sales tax and hotel tax in the nation. I voted “No” on these taxes.
As I reported to you earlier this year, the sales tax increase was done outside of our adopted budget process. Because we did not follow our normal budget process, there was no plan to ensure that the funds would be properly spent and no justification for the need to layer on additional taxes unto already overtaxed Cook County Residents. When this budget was introduced, there was a request for $30 million more in taxes and fees in addition to the already approved $474 million a year sales tax increase.
During the last week, as the Amusement Tax increase of $21 million failed to get enough support for passage, a new $31 million Hotel Tax was proposed. There was no planning or coordination to determine what this Hotel Tax would mean to the region’s economy and what effect it would have on jobs. The Hotel Tax was combined with $4.9 million in new court filing fees to present a “reasonable and modest” tax increase. These taxes and fees will have great detrimental effect on our citizens and the regional economy and are not “reasonable and modest”.
A year ago, I pointed out our need to plan for criminal justice issues to reduce the gun threat and reduce overall violence in our county. During the last year the Chief Judge, State’s Attorney, Public Defender and Sheriff have been required to report on their efforts to reduce crime through pretrial service programs and drug diversion programs. Their efforts have been working but the response to success has been to restrict programs that work in this budget. The Chief Judge’s budget and that of the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center(JTDC) were restricted and the State’s Attorney’s very successful Drug Diversion was eliminated. The County Board restored successful programs in those budgets by adopting amendments that I sponsored. In addition, I was able to restore the Chief Judge’s successful Mortgage Mediation Program which has helped thousands of people keep their homes during the foreclosure crisis.
A year ago I was blocked when I tried to get additional funding for our pension system. I stated that we would need $160 million in additional payments this year. This budget makes a $270 million payment to the pension fund which helps avoid an immediate crisis but efforts to ensure future additional payment were defeated. The pension issue must have a long term solution.
I was unable to restore full funding to the Restorative Justice Program, Access to Care Health Plan, and the Bridge Behavioral Health Aftercare for children being discharged from the JTDC. These programs improve the quality of life in our County and I will continue to fight for them.
This budget also puts the Cook County Health and Hospital System in jeopardy because it cuts $42 million from the County’s subsidy to the System. While the System is working better than ever and we are serving more insured patients this is not the time to lessen our support. If the System is to stand on its own in the future, we must support it adequately now.
Finally, this budget delays for 6 months a 2% pay raise for all non-union County workers. All union workers will get the 2% raise immediately. This is not right. All County workers should be treated the same. For all these reasons I voted “NO” on the Budget.
Unsung Heroine Award Winners
The following amazing women were honored as Unsung Heroines from the 13th Cook County Board District by Commissioner Larry Suffredin.
Unsung Heroine honorees were selected based on their contributions to their communities, families and professional endeavors that are vital, but seldom recognized. The recognition is overseen by the Cook County Commission on Women’s Issues.
2016: Gloria Iverson
2015: Lydia Vivas
2014: Tricia Edwards
2013: Virginia Beckett
2012: Corrie Wallace
2011: Aline Lauture
2010: Sue Carlson
2009: Mary Adair
2006: Rogers Park Young Women’s Action Team
2005: Jean Cleland
2004: Muriel Chalem
2003: Lali Watt
A "Yes" Vote for the 2016 Budget of the Cook County Forest Preserve
and a Warning for 2017
Today I voted for the 2016 budget of the Forest Preserve District of Cook County that is essentially the same as last year. This budget is the best we can do now, but it is a budget that revels the structural weakness of the "Non-Home Rule" Cook County Forest Preserve District. Unlike Cook County which is a "Home Rule" government, the Forest Preserves can only raise operating funds through property taxes that are capped; fees from earned services i.e. camp ground rentals, golf fees; and fines from those abusing our public lands through unlawful acts. These sources of income are all limited and are not adequate to properly fund essential activities. This is the last year that a flat budget makes sense. Our duty as the largest preservation land owner in the State requires better resources.
This budget received positive comments through two public hearings with the strongest support coming from various citizens who use the Forests for recreation, restoration and educational activities. These citizens are the secret funding source of our Forest Preserves because they provide thousands of volunteers to augment our small staff. Our Master Stewards work with our staff to ensure essential land protection projects happen. Unfortunately, we are only able to perform these projects on a very small percentage of our nearly 70,000 acres.
This Budget provides:
1.Limited support and encouragement for our volunteers;
2.Limited resources for our staff;
3.Limited restoration opportunities for our land;
4.Limited strategies to acquire additional land;
5.Improvements in recreational opportunities; and
6.Expansion of intern opportunities.
This Centennial year of the Forest Preserve District has seen a dramatic increase in attendance at our Forest Preserves and a better public awareness of our mission to protect the land for future generations. This Budget is the first to have input from the Conservation Council appointed and approved last year. Lead by Chair Wendy Paulson, this Council is giving us the vision necessary to see what we need to do to protect and enhance the land. The Council's volunteer members have called for further actions that are not funded in this budget.
The Budget continues our support of the Chicago Botanic Garden and the Brookfield Zoo, but at levels that have not increased in 20 years. These two jewels anchor our outreach and educational programming. Neither the Garden nor the Zoo can continue their level of excellence without increased funding. The need to develop plans to help the Garden and the Zoo expand their positive programming and to provide further opportunities to improve our land will require dynamic new ideas before next year's budget.
Finally, this budget does not address the major governmental issue facing our state - pension payments. While the Forest Preserve pension fund is smaller than most other governments and is better managed, it still needs a strategy for future viability.
As I vote "yes" on this maintenance budget, I realize significant planning is necessary for the 2017 budget. If we don't show bold leadership on the 2017 budget, we will fail those who created this Forest Preserve District and those who have the vision to see how to actively protect our land.
GOOD INTENTIONS AND PURPOSE DO NOT IMPROVE BAD TAX POLICY
On July 15, 2015, the Cook County Board of Commissioners voted 9-7 (with one present vote) to re-enact the 1% sales tax that had been repealed in 2010. I voted "NO." The original 1 % sales tax started in 2008 and proved to be an economic disaster for Cook County, causing the loss of jobs and the closing of many retail businesses. It also caused Cook County residents to pay the highest sales tax in the nation.
For the first time in Cook County history a tax was imposed outside of the budget process. The reason this is significant is that in the budget process there is a planning function that allows for the binding application of the taxes to specific purposes. This budget process helps ensure that the tax is not excessive and that there is no creation of slush funds for future spending.
The new sales tax is both excessive and unnecessary to meet our current needs. The tax will generate $474 million annually, far in excess of what the County needs.
The repeal of the 2008 tax was hailed as an enlightened moment for Cook County and led to an economic resurgence of our retail sales economy. Today we not only threaten that retail economy, but we put our whole County economy on the brink of a serious downturn.
When I voted “NO” on the current year’s budget last November I warned that there was no planning for future public safety, healthcare and pension needs. Today’s return of the sales tax shows that the lack of planning has continued.
The purpose of the new sales tax increase is to stabilize our pensions, help with paying down our debt payments and increase spending on County infrastructure. All of these are laudable ideas, but passing the tax now outside of the budget process does not guarantee that proper allocation of the tax receipts will be made.
In fact, the Administration has stated that the primary goal of making large additional pension payments is prohibited by current Illinois law.
Not only is a sales tax regressive and bad for those with the smallest incomes, it is also an economic disaster for all. The only people who benefit from seeing Cook County’s sales tax raised to 10.25% are the collar counties, whose sales tax is at least 3% lower.
I will now start working to make the case to repeal this unjust tax again.
2015 COOK COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONER'S INFORMATION GUIDE
For information on the policies and procedures of the Cook County Board of Commissioners in 2015, please click here.
Moody's Investors Service Rating Update:
Downgraded to A2 from A1 the rating on Cook County general obligation debt. To read the full report click here
COOK COUNTY COMMISSIONER LARRY SUFFREDIN'S STATEMENT ON THE 2014-2018 TERM
On December 1st, I will begin my fourth term as a Cook County Commissioner and a Cook County Forest Preserve Commissioner. Along with the other 16 Commissioners, we will be the legislative authority of the largest County in Illinois. The new Board is a group of talented people with diverse and independent ideas to improve the County and I am excited about our potential.
However, in order for Cook County to move forward, it is crucial that we have an independent Board that cooperates with the President of the County Board and other elected County officials.
As a Board we must take responsibility to develop plans that respect the taxpayers of the County; deal with violence in our neighborhoods; strengthen health care; and treat fairly our Cook County employees’ pensions. To accomplish this I suggest the following:
- Stop blaming Todd Stroger for every Cook County problem. He has been gone for four years and the problems of criminal justice reform, healthcare delivery and proper funding of employees pensions are ours to solve.
- Keep our residents truthfully informed about all aspects of the County, especially the need for additional revenues in the coming months to stabilize pensions, healthcare and criminal justice. Cook County government is often described as “stealth government “because few really know what we do and how we spend Tax dollars. We must become better known and understood.
- Take responsibility for the operating budget of over $ 3 Billion by explaining the actual cost of:
- running the largest local government public hospital and clinic system in Illinois with over 1 million patient appointments and visits a year;
- funding the largest court system in the United States with more cases filed and disposed of each year than most states;
- running the largest single site jail in Illinois with nearly 10,000 daily pre-trial detainees;
- funding the government for 5.25 million people in the second largest county in the United States;
- running fair elections in suburban Cook County for over 2.5 million people;
- recording birth and death certificates and property records;
- assessing the value for tax purposes of over 1.8 million parcels of real estate;
- collecting real estate taxes to fund all municipalities and local governments in Cook County;
- Maintaining 1,474 miles of highway, 130 bridges and 332 traffic signals; and
- Paying our pension and salary obligations to over 22,000 employees and retirees.
- Making our responsibilities as Cook County Forest Preserve Commissioners a priority. We are celebrating 100 years of the Forest Preserve District’s protection of 69,000 plus acres of remarkable sites. We must set the priorities for the next 100 years that focus on conservation.
Finally, and most importantly, the fair and legal solution to our pension obligation needs to be our top priority. The anticipated retirement of hundreds of County workers upon passage of a pension plan will drastically effect how the County operates. Solving our pension obligations will help us properly fund all other operations of the County.
This new Cook County Board has the talent to solve all our problems and to make our citizens proud. I am looking forward to starting the new term.
Commissioner Larry Suffredin's Statement on the Passage of the 2015 Cook County Budget
On November 14, 2014, the Cook County Board passed the 2015 Budget. For the first time, I voted against the overall budget. I did this because the budget was not transparent enough and it hid serious structural flaws that postpone serious funding deficits until next year.
This budget contains no new taxes, fees or fines. It does signal that significant revenue increases will be necessary next year to meet our healthcare and pension needs. Postponing bad news does not eliminate it. There is no planning for next year built into this election year budget. Transparency requires that I warn people of the coming budget storm. The failure to 1) properly address our increasing jail population, 2) shore up CountyCare; and 3) stabilize our government in the face of pension changes will have a profound impact on the future of Cook County.
A year ago, I hailed a budget that showed promise to save money and provide quality service. It was a sea change for Cook County; making Public Safety the cornerstone of the budget rather than Healthcare.
Unfortunately, this change did not work. I had hoped that today I would be reporting to you that we had reduced crime and made progress on reducing recidivism. Instead, I report to you that much more work is needed.
I offered amendments and ideas to strengthen our commitment to expanding successful pretrial service programs and diversion programs run by the Chief Judge and supported by the best efforts of the State's Attorney, Public Defender and Sheriff. Those efforts failed.
Our Pretrial Services have saved the County millions of dollars and caused thousands of individuals to be put on supervised bail release. These efforts cause a reduction of the jail population where we warehouse too many mentally ill and drug dependent people. Furthermore, these efforts cause successful supervision of people on bail bonds who are able to get the mental health and drug treatment they need to straighten their life out.
Failure to properly fund Pretrial Services and diversion programs costs Cook County taxpayers. While I expect to pass a resolution to study this issue during the next year, any real savings will not happen until 2016.
A year ago, I reported our great success at the Cook County Health and Hospital System with the Affordable Care Act and the 1115 Waiver. The 1115 Waiver allowed us to create County Care, a program that allowed us to enroll new Medicaid qualified patients a year early, allowing us to increase revenue by almost $700 million in 2014. These patients were previously being treated at the expense of Cook County taxpayers.
Today, for the first time in the history of our Health System, more than 50% of our patients are covered by some form of insurance. But with these changes come new challenges, as federal eligibility rules and private insurance payment requirements strain our staff resources. I do not believe this budget puts enough resources into recovering every last dollar earned, and therefore we will face a potential deficit in 2016 driven by increasing costs and reduced payments. For example, many of our newly insurance covered patients have very high deductibles. Cook County will not get paid until theses deductibles are met. I have introduced a resolution which will let us develop strategies to help patients meet their deductibles so we can maximize our reimbursement.
While Pretrial Services and the Health System is a priority, the largest financial issue facing us is the need to increase pension payments and plan for changes caused by the anticipated large number of retirements in key jobs at the Health System and in the Sheriff's Office.
On the Pension payment front, even the best scenario projects that we would need an increase in payments of $160 million in 2015. What the final number will be is dependent on what the Illinois Supreme Court does in ruling on the constitutionality of the State pension bill and what changes the Illinois General Assembly passes. I tried to increase our pension payments this year but was met with strong resistance. I was able to get a reserve fund established that may or may not have enough money in it to make an extra payment this year.
Besides the Pension payment issue the other looming problem is that any changes in the pension law will cause significant increases in retirements. It is estimated that up to 1500 employees in the health system and 500 employees in the Sheriff's Office would retire the day any County pension bill passes the General Assembly. There is no plan in this budget to deal with these massive retirements. Any change at the Health System and Sheriff's office staffing puts the County at financial risk for not meeting minimum staffing requirements under Court orders and federal rules.
Finally, I voted "No" on this budget because I respect our County taxpayers and our County employees. I know how hard our taxpayers work and we must protect their pocketbooks, health and safety. Our workers are the best and they deserve a budget that supports their efforts and guarantees them a fair pension.
I voted "No" because someone has to point out the future has many land mines that that can destroy the many good things the County has done in the last four years. We must plan for our economic future and face our battles in pensions, public safety, and healthcare immediately. This budget does not do that.
Commissioner Larry Suffredin's Statement on the Passage of the 2015 Forest Preserve District of Cook County Budget
On November 19, 2014 the Cook County Forest Preserve District Board unanimously passed a $187.7 million budget. This budget only received positive comments through three public hearings with the strongest support coming from various citizens who use the Forests for recreation, restoration and educational activities.
In this Centennial year of the Forest Preserve District this Budget provides: 1. support and encouragement for our volunteers; 2. resources for our staff; 3. restoration opportunities for our land; 4. strategies to acquire additional land; 5.improvements in recreational opportunities; and 6.expansion of intern opportunities.
This Budget also supports the new activities of the Conservation Council appointed and approved at the November 18, 2014 Board meeting. Lead by Chair Wendy Paulson and including the following members: Robert Casteneda, Michael DeSantiago, Peter Ellis, Terry Guen, Sylvia Jenkins, Falona Joy, Linda Mastandrea, Laurel Ross and Mark Templeton. This Council will help us plan for the next 100 years.
The Budget also continues our support of the Chicago Botanic Garden and the Brookfield Zoo. These two jewels anchor our outreach and educational programming. As this year goes on, there is a need to develop plans to help the Garden and the Zoo expand their positive programming.
Dwight Perkins and the Citizens’ Advisory Group he formed over 100 years ago would be proud that this Budget is true to their vision of a Forest Preserve District.
UPDATE on the redevelopment of old Cook County Hospital
Five civic organizations presented their visions for the site at the Chicago Architecture Foundation on Tuesday October 7, 2014
To watch a video of the presentation click here.
There were several suggestions for the hospital: residential lofts, a hotel and a business incubator. These ideas will now be used to assist potential developers when they present their plans for the hospital site.
The county is expected to seek developer proposals this fall.
Meet the new Cook County Health and Hospitals System Board Members:
Ricardo EstradaTo read their biographies click here
Ada Mary Gugenheim
New Hiking-Biking Trail Links Botanic Garden And Forest Preserve
The one-mile link through the Chicago Botanic Garden and the Cook County Forest Preserve District's Turnbull Woods is now open. The $2 million project was funded jointly by the Botanic Garden,the Forest Preserve District and the Illinois Department of Transportation.
Why not bike to the garden? It uses no fuel and saves you from paying for parking.
For a details and a map click here.
The Chicago Botanic Garden Annual Report: Click HERE
In late June, The Chicago Botanic Garden published the Garden's 2013 Annual Report and launched their updated "Keep Growing" ten-year strategic plan website.
Discover what happened at your Garden last year, learn what the future holds, and enjoy a video that sums it all up.
Commissioner Suffredin's Statement on the Passage of the 2014 Forest Preserve District of Cook County Budget
100 years ago, Dwight H. Perkins, an Evanston resident, was a leader in starting the forest preserve movement. His efforts have given us the greatest jewel of open space found anywhere in the United States of America.
The Forest Preserve District of Cook County's budget of $179 million passed on December 2, 2013. The budget gives support to the Chicago Botanic Garden, the Brookfield Zoo and the work of restoration of our 69,000 acres.
The Forest Preserve District of Cook County is home to the most committed volunteers who make our land better and preserve it for future generations. 100 years from now, I hope people will say our efforts saved this precious open space.
Regional Transportation Authority Audit: A Forensic Analysis of Mr. Clifford's Claims Against Metra
To read the Audit, please click HERE
COOK COUNTY MORTGAGE FORECLOSURE MEDIATION PROGRAM REPORT
The June 2013 progress report of the Mortgage Foreclosure Mediation Program prepared by the Honorable Timothy C. Evans, Chief Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County and the Honorable Moshe Jacobius, Presiding Judge of the Chancery Division can be accessed here
FEDERAL FUNDING AVAILABLE FOR ELIGBILE FLOOD-RELATED DAMAGE
The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced that as a result of the April 18, 2013 storm, President Obama has declared all of Cook County (and other Illinois counties), including Evanston, a federal disaster area. Aid has been made available to the State of Illinois and its residents and federal aid has been ordered to supplement state and local recovery efforts.
Individuals and business owners in Evanston affected by the late April flooding and storms are eligible to apply for grants for temporary housing and home repairs, and low-interest loans for uninsured property losses. To apply, you must register at www.disasterassistance.gov or by calling 1-800-621-3362. The number for the hearing and speech impaired is 1-800-462-7585. Both numbers will operate from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., seven days a week.
Applicants registering for aid should be prepared to provide basic information about themselves (name, permanent address, phone number), insurance coverage and any other information to help substantiate losses. For more details on the FEMA disaster declaration applicable to Cook County and northeast Illinois, please click here.
STATEMENT OF COOK COUNTY COMMISSIONER LARRY SUFFREDIN ON CONCEALED CARRY
Does Illinois need more guns in public settings to insure the public safety? The answer to this question is no. There are enough guns in the hands of trained law enforcement and security personnel to insure the safety of our citizens in public settings. What Illinois must do is show that its current restrictions are reasonable and do protect the public. Illinois needs to restate its existing law to meet the standards of recent Supreme Court cases. Illinois must not surrender its police powers to those who want unlimited access to firearms.
The debate today is caused by a reading of what Illinois must do under the Seventh Circuit's ruling in Moore, et al v. Lisa Madigan. The decision is still subject to possible Supreme Court Review. It does not require Illinois to do anything specific; but the Seventh Circuit stayed its mandate to allow the General Assembly 180 days "…to craft a new gun law that will impose reasonable limitations, consistent with the public safety, and the Second Amendment as interpreted in this opinion, on the carrying of guns in public." The majority opinion clearly outlines how Illinois could more clearly state the reasonableness of its current law and craft changes that would allow for very little change to our current law and would protect the public safety by limiting who and where guns could be allowed.
In addition, the Moore case was decided 2 to I with a strong dissent from Circuit Judge Ann Williams upholding existing Illinois law. Judge Williams stated: "In the absence of clearer indication that the Second Amendment codified a generally recognized right to carry arms in public for self-defense, I would leave this judgment in the hands of the State of Illinois." The Supreme Court is as likely to adopt this standard as that of the majority. Therefore, the General Assembly should stand its ground and defend the existing law and see what the Supreme Court decides.
Unfortunately, there is no political will to wait to see what the Supreme Court will decide. The discussion concerning "concealed carry" that the Illinois General Assembly is conducting demonstrates that expanding concealed carry beyond trained law enforcement and security personnel will only endanger more and not strengthen the overall public safety. A new Kaiser Health Tracking Poll "found one in five Americans knows someone who has been a victim of gun violence in the last three years." The explosion of violence especially in public places will not be contained by giving more people guns.
The General Assembly is reviewing bills and amendments that would allow "concealed carry" to those who have significant training, mental health background checks, insurance and an identifiable need for extra protection. Each of these conditions will put an unmanageable financial strain on a state government that is having difficulty providing basic services to its residents.
In addition, the bills and amendments also highlight places where an individual can't have a concealed carry weapon. These places include: places of worship, hospitals, public transit systems, sports stadiums, public museums, government buildings, courts, mental health facilities, entertainment venues and schools at all levels of education. How will the State enforce these limitations? Will the State provide gun check stations at every place of worship, hospital, transit stop, sports stadium, public museum, government building, court, mental health facility, entertainment venue and school?
Who will pay for these gun check stations?
Illinois has had concealed carry by law enforcement and trained security personnel for years. The debate today should not center on "all individuals" being able to have a concealed weapon but on restating the solid reasons for Illinois continuing to be the only sane state to limit concealed carry.
As a County Commissioner I have no ability to directly shape the concealed carry discussion since it is the General Assembly that must decide. As a County Commissioner I do see the effects of gun violence everyday in our Cook County Hospital System, at our Medical Examiner's Office and in our Court system. Gun violence costs Cook County taxpayers millions of dollars a year. At the County level I have sponsored into law the Blair Holt Assault Weapons Ban and the required reporting of Lost, Stolen or Transferred Firearms to prohibit straw purchases of guns.
An opinion piece by Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin.
Decoding Cook County Property Tax
2010-2011 TIF District Revenue Summary
read summary (Adobe acrobat .pdf)
Cook County Board President Appoints Dr. Stephen J. Cina Chief Medical Examiner
Please find announcement and C.V. below:
read announcement (Adobe acrobat .pdf)
Report of the Justice Advisory Council
read the report (Adobe acrobat .pdf)
Report on the Office of Tax Administrator
Commissioner Suffredin sponsored a resolution requesting close cooperation between offices that oversee property taxes in Cook County. This resolution has done much. Please see the following report for more details.
read report (Adobe acrobat .pdf)
Harms Road & Kenilworth Construction
In Summer 2012 the Cook County Highway Department begins construction on Harms Road from north of Golf Road to south of East Lake Avenue.
read flyer (Adobe acrobat .pdf)
Cook County Completes 2010 Census Redistricting
click here to view map (Adobe Acrobat .pdf)
click here to view Report of the Committee on 2010 Census Redistricting (Adobe Acrobat .pdf)
Unincorporated Cook County Task Force Recommendations
click here to read the Adobe Acrobat .pdf
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