A relatively quick and quiet Cook County Board of Commissioners meeting saw passage of a county “tampon tax” exemption, and a new proposal to combat stark youth unemployment numbers presented to commissioners earlier this week. It was also the first day on the job for Brian Hamer, Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s new Chief of Staff.

Passed:

  • An ordinance exempting feminine hygiene products from the county’s portion of the sales tax. The county’s 1.75% share in the sales tax will join the city’s recently-passed exemption (at 1.25%), but will not take effect until January 2017. The delay is meant to give state legislators time to vote on a similar measure that’s already been introduced to the General Assembly.

  • Three appointments to various county boards:

    • Thomas Szromba to the Board of Ethics – Szromba is a former principal senior counsel at Boeing Company and at the Chicago branch of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). During his confirmation, Szromba told commissioners he has more than 20 years of experience with criminal, civil, government, and private sector investigations on fraud and employee wrongdoing. Commissioner Larry Suffredin told Szromba he hopes he’ll use his “vigor as a prosecutor” to hold elected officials accountable.

    • Amber Smock to the Commission on Human Rights – Smock is the current Director of Advocacy at Access Living, a non-profit organization that advocates for the disabled. She said her experience as a deaf woman has “transformed the advocacy work she’s done,” and the commission has “untapped potential” to serve residents with disability issues, specifically citing Laquan McDonald, who engaged with local disability services.

    • Lisa Stephens to the Justice Advisory Council – Stephens is currently the Chief Operating Officer of the Institute for Nonviolence Chicago, an organization that aims to reduce gun violence in Chicago, and previously worked for more than 7 years in the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office and for nearly six years as general counsel for the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority. Commissioner John Daley told Stephens her “own personal knowledge will help tremendously” on the council.

  • Tax breaks for two Cook County companies: one for a pallet company planning to move from South Holland to a vacant property in Chicago Heights, and another for a movie theater planned for Country Club Hills. Both are Class 8 property tax breaks, which are specially authorized by commissioners when a property has been abandoned for less than two years. Commercial real estate is normally assessed at 25% of its market value, but properties that qualify for a Class 8 are assessed at 10% of the market value for 10 years, 15% for the 11th year and 20% in the 12th year when construction is complete.  

Deferred:

  • The creation of a Cook County Crane Operator’s License and a Board of Crane Operator Examiners: The ordinance would make it illegal to operate a crane without a license in the County, and is likely intended to beat the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)’s national deadline mandating all crane operators be certified by Nov. 10, 2017. The ordinance establishes a new, three member Board of Crane Operator Examiners made up of the Building and Zoning Commissioner, Timothy Bleuher, and two other experienced crane operators. A substitute was submitted that needs approval from the Cook County Building Commission.

  • A pharmaceutical disposal ordinance aimed at protecting the County’s waterways from “improperly disposed of prescription drugs passing through [the County’s] wastewater and treatment centers.” The ordinance would establish a stewardship plan for the collection, paid for by pharmaceutical companies, to cover the transportation and disposal of covered pharmaceutical drugs. The sponsor, Commissioner Suffredin, “is working with a variety of interested groups, including pharmaceutical companies, on an amendment” ahead of next month’s meeting.

Introduced:

  • Youth Employment Fund: After a marathon hearing on stark youth unemployment statistics in Chicago and Cook County on Tuesday, Workforce Development Chair Bridget Gainer, alongside Comms. Richard Boykin and Larry Suffredin, introduced an ordinance calling for the establishment of a special “youth employment” fund. The fund would be financed by businesses who have received property tax breaks (from Class 6b all the way to Class 9) from the county. Details on the calculation here

  • An amendment from Comm. Suffredin mandating “All electronic communication by officials, board or commission appointees and employees regarding official government business shall be by and through official government email accounts.” No personal use of email, texts, or social media would be permitted for official government communication, but “Separately elected officials and their staffs may use separate email accounts associated with their own offices or personal email accounts if they notify the Secretary to the Board.” Suffredin explained, “We’re trying to just comply with recent cases and matters relating to freedom of information.”

  • A resolution supporting a bill in the Illinois Assembly that would make it illegal for any firearm dealer to operate without a dealer license from the state Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, and requires all dealers and their employees to have a Firearm Owner’s Identification (FOID) card and a background check.

  • In keeping with his crusade to address lead poisoning concerns following the crisis in Flint, Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin introduced a resolutionurging the City of Chicago to eliminate its $0.05 tax on bottled water. The preamble to the resolution states: “recent analysis indicates that while the lead pipes that supply water to most of the City of Chicago and Cook County generally pose only a slight health risk, recent construction projects which disturb the water lines around the County have caused the risk to increase; and, WHEREAS, many informed residents of the City of Chicago and Cook County, in the light of the aforementioned risks, choose to drink bottled water rather than tap water.”

  • The Board also moved forward on a $1 per month lease agreement with the City of Chicago for the Cook County Health and Hospital System’s planned Community Triage Center. The triage center is planned for a roughly 10,000 square foot space at the Chicago Department of Public Health’s Roseland Clinic (200 E. 115th Street). The lease agreement has also been submitted to the City Council for approval. Dr. Jay Shannon, CEO of CCHHS, testified the triage centers are intended to “reduce costs in correctional health and reduce the human misery index” for arrestees with mental health issues. Shannon says this will reduce costs for patients who would otherwise be sent to emergency rooms or the Cook County Jail. If this pilot program is successful, CCHHS plans to open as many as five additional centers.