The Cook County Board of Commissioners convenes at 9:45 this morning to consider items in the Technology, Workforce, Finance, Zoning, Rules, and Roads Committees, before the full Board of Commissioners meets at 11:00 a.m.
Cook County’s Finance Committee will vote on whether to approve a $1.2 million settlement to Brian Otero, who alleges he was sent back to Cook County Jail after he was found not guilty of robbery charges. Otero was told to put back on his uniform and sent from cell to cell during his processing. In a suit against the county, Otero said when others found out he’d be going home, he was beaten, suffering torn ligaments in his hands and bruises on his face. He was released nine hours after being found not guilty.
According to CBS Chicago, there are 60,000 others found not guilty or had charges dismissed or dropped, but still had to wait up to 30 hours for their release.
A settlement on a similar issue in Los Angeles more than a decade ago cost taxpayers there $27 million, NBC Chicago reports. Otero’s attorney, Mike Cherry (of Myron M. Cherry & Associates), told WBEZ in 2013 he hoped this case would be expensive enough to force Cook County to update the County Court System’s reliance on carbon copies of files that can slow down processing for acquittals.
The committee will also vote on approval of a $120,000 settlement for Billie Jean Ammons, a former Deputy Cook County Sheriff, who alleged after she was diagnosed with a permanent spinal injury and put on leave, she was made ineligible for a promotion to sergeant. Ammons alleged she was retaliated against by colleagues after she filed suit.
There’s also a $175,000 settlement to Justin Washington and James X. Bormes (of the Law Offices of James X. Bormes) over a Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) violation up for consideration. Washington, a dietician at Stroger Hospital, alleged the county failed to pay him and others “who engaged in military service the difference between the pay they would have earned while employed by Cook County and the pay they received while on active military duty,” and accrual of time off. There’s also a $200,000 settlement to the family of Rex Johnson. Johnson’s family sued Sheriff Tom Dart after Johnson’s death. They claimed the jail had records of the medication he needed from his previous stints, but didn’t administer them.
Workforce, Housing & Community Development Committee
The Workforce, Housing & Community Development Committee will call up an item Board President Toni Preckwinkle first introduced in January to initiate and administer a County Down Payment Assistance Program with the County’s Department of Planning and Development and Bureau of Finance. The program is supposed to help qualifying home buyers get fixed-rate 30-year mortgage loans and assistance with down payments and closing costs. More info here.
Loans will be sold to and serviced by Austin, Texas-based 360 Mortgage Group, a home loan lending company. Borrower income may not exceed 115% of the County median income for FHA, VA, USDA loans and up to 140% of the County median income for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loans, regardless of family size. Grantees would have to participate in a homeowner education program. The county is also making USDA and Fannie and Freddie Mac grant funds available for closing costs and down payments of up to 3% of the final purchase price or the final mortgage loan amount.
The County will act as the required government sponsor for the program, and will assist in marketing and working with local housing counseling agencies and local lenders to implement the program. It would only be available for purchased or refinanced homes in the County, and must be an owner’s primary residence. The program will focus on suburban Cook County, since Chicago recently passed its own Homebuyer Assistance Program.
Pressers, Odds and Ends
Supporters of All Kids Illinois, a program dedicated to uninsured low-income children in Illinois, is set to expire July 1, 2016. Members of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, Healthy Communities Cook County (HC3), and a group of commissioners will introduce a resolution supporting HB 5736 in Springfield to extend the All Kids program to October 1, 2019.
Community activists with IIRON and National People’s Action will also hold a demonstration this morning calling for the passage of the Cook County Responsible Business Act. Comm. Robert Steele introduced the ordinance in October, but held it in committee over concerns from the State’s Attorney’s office that the language could not withstand a court challenge. Co-sponsors included Commissioners Jesus ‘Chuy’ Garcia, Joan Patricia Murphy, Luis Arroyo, Larry Suffredin, and Jerry “Iceman” Butler.
When it was introduced, the ordinance outlined a hike in wage rates, which would climb every year: wages would start from a base of $10.00 in December 2015, climbing to $11.25 in December 2016, $12.50 in 2017, $13.75 in 2018, and will be tied to the “Cook County Living Wage hourly rate” every year after. Employers would be required to tally the average wage for each full- and part-time employee. If more than 750 employees are paid less than the minimum wage rate set for that year, they’d face a $750 penalty per employee, per dollar below the required amount. Religious organizations and governments are exempt. IIRON and National People’s Action have staged similar events before, targeted at Finance Chair John Daley and Wal-Mart.
Full Board Meeting
In addition to the items outlined above, the Board of Commissioners is expected to vote on:
A resolution calling for the City of Chicago to rescind the $0.05 bottled water tax, in light of the water contamination crisis in Flint, Michigan. The resolution, which says “many Chicago and Cook County residents with low and moderate household incomes rely upon bottled water as their cleanest source of drinking water,” is sponsored by Comm. Richard Boykin.
Establishment of the Cook County Commission on Social Innovation For Job Creation, Workforce Development, Entrepreneurship, Community Revitalization, and Industrial Development. The move is aimed at creating solutions to economic problems in “inner city” and “Southland Chicago.” The commission would be tasked with creating “novel solutions to social problems which are more effective, efficient, sustainable, or just compared to current solutions,” and “ideas that promote public, private, and philanthropic collaboration in order to create positive effects on areas with economic challenges.” It could have as many as 27 members, with Comm. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia as chair.
Creation of a County crane operator’s license. 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 County’s Building and Zoning Commissioner, Timothy Bleuher, and two other experienced crane operators, and has been deferred and amended multiple times.
The following will be referred to committee:
Old Cook County Hospital Redevelopment: The Civic Health Development Group (CHDG) was selected to redevelop the abandoned beaux arts Cook County Hospital building in the Illinois Medical District. CHDG plans to “invest approximately $600M” in the redevelopment of the space for residential, retail, office, and hotel use, President Preckwinkle’s office says, and will pay at least $2M in annual rent to the County over the term of the lease. Redevelopment would begin in 2017. The redevelopment proposal will be referred to the Finance Committee.
North Carolina/Mississippi Boycott: Comm. Luis Arroyo Jr. and Board President Toni Preckwinkle will propose two resolutions “banning any use of County monies in doing business with the Governments of the State of North Carolina and Mississippi and with any businesses headquartered in these States,” based on both states’ adoption of acts criticized as anti-LGBT because they restrict the definition of sex, “forcing all government-controlled facilities to maintain single-sex bathrooms matching an individual’s biological sex at birth only, regardless of the individual’s sexual identity,” a release from Arroyo says.
Paid Sick Leave: Commissioners Larry Suffredin, Luis Arroyo Jr., Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, and Richard Boykin are introducing a paid sick leave provision that would apply to public works construction, maintenance, and repair contracts. For every 30 hours worked, employees from county bidders “shall earn one hour of paid sick leave, up to 7 days per year,” which would be limited to employees of the prime contractor, but not subcontractors. Sick days could be used for physical or mental illness, injury, or medical condition; a doctor’s visit; care for a child, spouse, domestic partner; or to deal with domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. The County’s Department of Procurement would serve as enforcement arm, and the effective date would be June 1, 2016.
Stop Bullets With Jobs Fund: Pivoting from an earlier introduction, Comm. Bridget Gainer is proposing an “emergency” plan to create jobs for youth this summer. The three-pronged plan will challenge to all elective Cook County spending not required for life, safety or health to instead “create funds for summer jobs programs at partner organizations such as the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership, One Summer Chicago, Alternative Schools Network and Chicago Urban League,” give qualified Cook County bidders an incentive of up to 0.5% on county-funded projects if they hire local teens, and offer a job pool of County youth to local Chambers of Commerce and small businesses. The call is in response to a recent county hearing on the negative impact of youth unemployment.
New Hospital System Buildings: A proposal for a $108.5 million contract extension and budget for construction of CCHHS’ new outpatient Central Campus Health Center will be introduced to commissioners, according to a release from the System. A new building will adjoin Stroger Hospital. The developer, Clayco (which has already been approved by the Board and is in the first phase of the project) “will shift to… finalizing design and construction for the clinical and office spaces in the new facility,” a release says. Three county buildings–an administrative building on Polk, the Fantus Clinic, and the Hektoen Administration Building–will be decommissioned as a result, replaced with one “efficient” building and reducing the county’s real estate footprint by 680,000 square feet. The Hektoen site will be part of the old Cook County Hospital site redevelopment, detailed above.
A number of introductions from Commissioner Richard Boykin including a Gas Tax Special Use: A $0.04 per gallon gas tax, with revenues to be usedfor four separate and related Cook County initiatives “designed to strengthen and stabilize neighborhoods in Cook County with high levels of poverty and unemployment:
Cook County Jobs Council: a nine-member council tasked with crafting “a plan to expand employment opportunity for that area’s residents… to finance partnerships with private sector employers, and with an emphasis on incentivizing the hiring of unskilled labor in order to provide work opportunities for individuals without high school and / or college diplomas or trade certifications.” Boykin wants to spend $45 million on youth jobs programs.
Cook County Parenting to Prevent Violence Initiative: a $2 million “parent enrichment” grant program run by the Justice Advisory Council to “strategically [invest] County resources in programs that attack the root cause of violence in our communities.”
Cook County Office for People with Disabilities: a $1 million appropriation to establish a three member office that would be tasked with researching and making recommendations “to all departments and offices of the County in matters affecting concerns of people with disabilities” and to “promote the full integration and participation of people with disabilities into all areas of economic, political, and community life.”
Cook County Community Policing Initiative: The $2 million initiative would add 15 additional Sheriff’s Police Officers to work alongside Chicago Police to work in Cook County neighborhoods with high levels of violence “to more effectively and cooperatively combat gang violence.”
Cleanup language to several of the County’s taxes: President Preckwinkle’s office has proposed amendments to a slew of the county’s taxes, including on alcoholic beverages, gambling machines, gas, new car sales, parking lot and garage operations, amusements, and tobacco. The changes will “clarify, simplify and maximize enforcement efforts,” Preckwinkle spokesman Frank Shuftan says. “This happens from time to time and it is easiest to do all at once and avoid a piecemeal approach.