On November 19, 2019, I voted against a maintenance 2020 Cook County Forest Preserve District Budget that failed to protect the work that has been done to protect our land. This budget is a third caretaker’s budget in a row that does not address the actual needs to protect our land resources and strengthen the commitment to the future. In the past 3 years I have called for a referendum to give our voters a voice to increase real estate 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.
Our Forest Preserves land survives because of the thousands of hours that our volunteers give to protect our vast and diverse holdings. We all owe these dedicated volunteer workers a thank you for their service. These volunteers have called for us to put a referendum on the March 2020 ballot to increase property taxes to cover necessary expenses. After much discussion it became clear that there was not enough support on the Board to place such a referendum on the ballot. Our failure to act places the future of the Forest Preserve District in great jeopardy.
As a Non-Home Rule unit of local government, the Forest Preserve District can only raise funds through property taxes, fees or any other authorization the Illinois General Assembly may grant. Tax cap limits on non-home rule units of governments have crippled the Forest Preserve District’s ability to keep up with inflation. In addition, unfunded mandates from the State have put a pension burden on the District as well as limited our ability to properly protect the land.
A referendum would have given the voters the right to decide what level of taxation would have been appropriate. The referendum campaign would have highlighted the stormwater protection our lands provide all, the carbon reduction our trees and other vegetation provide to improve our air quality and the recreational and educational opportunities the land offers. Unfortunately, the positive discussion this campaign would have raised will never happen. The will of the voters will never be known.
For the last three years I have stated that the budgets were the best we can do; but we must do better. Now the simple need for more financial resources to protect and acquire land will be in the hands of the General Assembly which must grant us relief from tax caps.
This Budget is the fifth 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 five years to expanded land restoration and land acquisition. This budget fails to meet that vision.
The Budget maintains too low a level of support for the Chicago Botanic Garden and the Brookfield Zoo. This funding level does not allow them to adequately serve the public. Millions of people visit and learn about conservation and the environment from these two jewels that anchor our outreach and educational programming. Neither the Garden nor the Zoo can continue their level of excellence without increased funding. This budget will force us to take radical actions through increased fees to preserve the Garden and the Zoo. This action will limit our outreach to the poorer members of our community.
While a referendum was the best way for the Cook County Forest Preserve District to obtain the funds, we now need a miracle to allow future generations to 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.
My No vote is my plea to find a miracle.
A “Yes” Vote For the 2020 Cook County Budget
On November 21, 2019, I voted “yes” on the 2020 Cook County budget as a reasonable approach to protecting key services. There were no issues or controversies surrounding this budget.
For the second year, there are no tax increases included in this budget. This budget was crafted to maximize services and protect taxpayers from unfair taxation. It is also the result of serious budgeting decisions that have been made over the last three years that focused on cost savings.
The 2020 budget provides essential services with appropriate revenues including one-time revenues from a City of Chicago TIF surplus, and increased earned income from the Cook County Health and Hospital System and the CountyCare Insurance program for Medicaid recipients.
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 continued funding of both Access to Care and the Children’s Advocacy Center.
The Cook County Chief Circuit Judge and Cook County State’s Attorney’s Offices are given additional staff to expand our pre-trial services and help reduce our overall costs of maintaining the criminal justice system. Both the Cook County Board of Review and Cook County Assessor are given additional staff positions that should increase the efficiency of the assessment process and give the public confidence in the fairness of their assessments. Many of these new jobs will generate revenue for future budgets.
This budget includes the $350 million extra pension payment the County established three years ago. Our pensions are among the most stable in Illinois, but they will continue to need this extra payment to stay strong. This payment protects our taxpayers from the pension shock other local governments are facing.
The County’s financial future is dependent on better planning and continued anticipation of changes needed to deliver more efficient services. To continue this type of budget for the future, the County Board will have to aggressively review the implementation of the budget and challenge County staff to perform more efficiently.
Detention of Juveniles under 13
The Illinois Appellate Court yesterday ruled that a Cook County Ordinance I sponsored, which prohibited the incarceration of juveniles under 13 at the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center, exceeded our Home Rule powers and was unenforceable.
I am disappointed in the ruling and hope that the Cook County Public Defender will petition for leave to appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court.
The ordinance was intended to protect juveniles from the harm that incarceration at an early age does to a child’s future.
Click here to read the opinion.
Temperatures are dropping. Cook County has opened emergency warming centers. For details on countywide locations click here
In Skokie the location is at Niles Township offices 5255 Lincoln Ave.
Skokie, IL 9:00 a.m.- 5:00 p.m. M-F
In Glenview there are three places the Glenview Public Library 1930 Glenview Road 9am to 9pm daily
Glenview Park Center 2400 Chestnut Ave Park Center Front Desk Hours:
M-F 9 am - 7:30 pm Sat & Sun 9 am - 3 pm
Glenview Municipal Center 2500 East Lake Ave.
Skokie Public Library 5215 Oakton Street Skokie, IL
Monday - Friday, 9:00 AM - 9:00 PM Saturday, 9:00 AM - 6:00 PM Sunday, 12:00 Noon - 6:00 PM
Skokie Park District Devonshire Cultural Center 4400 Greenwood Ave.
Monday - Friday, 8:30 AM - 9:00 PM Saturday, 8:30 AM - 5:00 PM Sunday, 9:00 AM - 9:00 PM
Skokie Park District Oakton Community Center 4701 Oakton Street
Monday - Friday, 8:30 AM - 8:00 PM Saturday, 8:30 AM - 6:00 PM Sunday, 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Skokie Park District Weber Leisure Center 9300 Weber Park Place
Monday - Friday, 5:00 AM - 10:00 PM Saturday & Sunday, 7:00 AM - 8:00 PM
*In extreme weather conditions the Circuit Court of Cook County may designate Skokie Courthouse as a 24 hour emergency warming or cooling center
Evanston: for details of where to go in Evanston click here
Warming Centers 9 am – 5 pm Monday through Friday
Warming Centers are not open on weekday holidays unless specifically indicated. Hours and days may be extended under extreme conditions. Also, other City facilities might be designated for warming purposes during off hours, That is why it is important to call 3-1-1 for information concerning Warming Center locations, especially during off hours and on weekday holidays)North Area 845 W. Wilson Ave.Chicago, IL 60640As a back up:Police Stations:24 District - 6464 N. ClarkChicago Public Library Northtown Library 6800 N. Western Avenue
Residents should always follow these tips during cold weather to keep themselves and their families safe:
- Never use your oven for heat.
- Never bring charcoal or gas grills indoors (they are a carbon monoxide hazard).
- Make sure all portable heaters are unplugged when not in use.
- Use electric space heaters with extreme caution – avoid placing them near curtains or other flammable materials and turn them off before going to bed.
- Keep heat at adequate levels or leave faucets open with a slight drip to prevent pipes from freezing.
- Keep moving. Your body generates its own heat when you engage in physical activities.
Nov. 15 is Opening Day for Forest Preserves of Cook County Picnic and Special Event Permit Sales, 2020 Camping Reservations
Permits, reservations available online and in person for details click here