The Observer
News from the League of Women Voters of Cook County

August 2020
Asked and Answered

League Members Hear from Election Authority at LWVCC Town Hall

Some 60 members of the 12 suburban Leagues participated in a League of Women Voters of Cook County two hour informative and engaging Town Hall with representatives of the Cook County Clerk’s office on August 4. 
After opening remarks by Cook County Clerk Karen Yarborough (above), League members asked numerous questions about the November 3 General Election. Also on hand to respond were Deputy Clerk for Elections Ed Michalowski, the attorney for Cook County Clerk John Nally, and John Mirkovic, Deputy Clerk of Policy & Communications. Nancy Marcus, chair of the LWVCC Voter Service Committee, moderated the discussion.
Some of the questions and subsequent responses have been categorized and placed in a special report on the League website.Topics include vote-by-mail, election day voting, newly-registered voters, election judges, election security and much more. 
Cook County registered voters are encouraged to apply online for a Vote-by-Mail ballot. In Chicago, registered voters can apply at the Chicago Board of Elections site.

Annual “Food for Thought Luncheon” Recipe for Success
Even without a Meal
Combine three dynamic, new female Cook County Board commissioners as speakers with the League of Women Voters of Cook County’s (LWVCC) annual “Food for Thought” program, stir in an eagerly-waiting audience and a pinch of sobriety and humor, and you have the makings of a hugely successful event – even without the salad and sandwiches.
Broadcast live via Zoom mid-morning on July 31, the much-anticipated event was moderated by League board member Pris Mims. A crowd of 60-plus Leaguers and guests heard Cook County Board Commissioners Donna Miller, Bridget Degnen, and Alma Anaya (above) share their county board knowledge and experiences as well as their hopes for the final two years of their four-year terms.

To view a video of the presentation, click here.

Fast facts:
Cook County Board of Commissioners
  • Cook County has 5.2 million people, the second largest county in the U.S.
  • It is governed by a 17-member Board, elected by district every 4 years, plus 11 other “executive” officials, most of whom are elected county-wide for 4-year terms. They include President, Assessor, Clerk of the Court, County Clerk, Recorder, Sheriff, State’s Attorney, Treasurer, and 3 members of the Board of Review elected by district. The Chief Judge is an elected judge who in turn is elected by the other judges as its Chief.
  • The 2020 budget is $6.18 billion: 45% is for healthcare; 21% is for public safety; and the remaining 33% covers other government functions (e.g., economic development, elections, and property assessments/recording) plus costs such as annuity and benefits, and debt payments.
  • Fees for services (including health care) provide 48% of the County’s revenues; sales taxes provide 14%; and property taxes provide 13%. The base property tax levy of $720.4 million has not risen since 1996.
  • Cook County government has about 22,000 employees.
One Way to Get Involved:
Join LWVCC’s Observer Corps 
The Cook County League Observer Corps promotes transparency and accountability in government, and believes it plays a vital role in helping improve countywide governments as well as educating voters on decisions that impact their lives. Participants observe the Cook County Board and committees, the Cook County Forest Preserve Board, the Cook County Health Board (CCH), and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District Board (MWRD). 
LWVCC observers

  • Attend governmental meetings and monitor issues being discussed as well as the process of the discussion; 

  • Write reports after each meeting which are posted at and shared on Facebook and Twitter.
For more information or to volunteer as an Observer, contact Diane Edmundson at or Carolyn Cosentino at
Featured Observer
Carolyn Cosentino
A member of Homewood-Flossmoor League since 2016, Carolyn Cosentino joined the LWVCC board a year ago when she retired after 37 years as a high school social studies teacher.

Initially, she served on the LWVCC board as a Local League Representative from LWVHF and became an elected board member in 2020.

In addition to being the observer coordinator for Forest Preserve and Cook County boards, she observed 10 meetings during the past year. Her Observer reports can be found here.
Carolyn’s Tips on Observing

  • Be familiar with League guidelines about observing. They will help you structure the reports.

  • Determine what seems to be important at the meeting and what people need to know about operational issues from budgeting and purchasing decisions to programs, technology developments and improved services.

  • Know that government websites can be especially helpful. The Legistar on each site provides easy access to meeting dates, times and locations as well as meeting agendas and live viewing of the meetings which are also recorded and accessible later. Due to COVID-19, all meetings are currently conducted virtually.

  • Accept that there may be a learning curve. Be prepared to ask lots of questions.
Criminal Justice Update
The Cook County League’s Criminal Justice interest group has been extremely active, according to the group's co-chairs and LWVCC co-vice presidents Jan Goldberg and Karin Hribar (at right).

  • Members have begun a review the Illinois Supreme Court's Commission Report on Pretrial Services.

  • They are also seeking data about the effectiveness of the Cook County Justice Advisory Council grants. Recipient community groups use the funds for programs that stem young adult violence.

  • Members continue to monitor the Circuit Court of Cook County and Cook County Sheriff’s office for an update about the effectiveness of Electronic Monitoring. The use of electronic monitoring increased substantially since the onset of COVID-19 when hundreds of prisoners, who were being held in Cook County Jail because they couldn't afford bail, were released.
The next meeting will be held on Sept. 29 at 9 a.m. via Zoom. If you'd like to attend, contact co-chair Jan Goldberg,
Anger to Action

Arlington Heights League on a Mission To Help Diversify Community,
Born out of a desire to diversify the community and League membership, the League of Women Voters of Arlington Heights, Mt. Prospect and Buffalo Grove have launched an “Anger to Action” program to provide members with actionable items “beyond marching, protesting and posting,” according to League president Heidi Graham.

The strategy is to generate conversations and educate its 141 members about personal biases against people of a different race or culture through a series of free webinars on racial injustice. Members also work with local governments to make changes in zoning and in other ways that will encourage more people of color to relocate to the community.

As part of its “Anger to Action” program, the league recently organized a 90-minute virtual training on implicit bias conducted by Dr. Destiny Peery, J.D./Ph.D., an independent research and diversity consultant. The August 6 program, which was funded by Wheeling Township Elementary District 21, was offered free to League members and the public. The training was recorded and is available for viewing on its website. (Pictured above are Heidi Graham (top left), Stacy Shein Stapleton, ASL Interpreter (top right), Patti Shore Kaden, ASL Interpreter (bottom left), and Dr. Peery.)

The event was translated into American Sign Language, and LWV-AH-MP-BG is exploring how to translate the program into Polish, Spanish, and Russian.

In the wake of rising racial tensions and Black Lives Matter protests, Graham acknowledged that the League, now celebrating its 100th anniversary, hasn’t always been welcoming to people of color. “It’s part of our history. We have to own that and try to do better,” she told the Daily Herald.

Conversations about race are often uncomfortable, said Graham, an assistant speech coach at Prospect High School in Mount Prospect. "We have to be willing to have uncomfortable conversations and to do so without shaming people." 

For more information, visit or email Heidi at
Census Deadline Moved Up to September 30

As a sister Leaguer, we know you’ve already filled out the U.S. Census form, true? Congratulations! You’re part of the 68.2% of Illinoisans who’ve done so. But what
about the other 30 percent? 

We must make sure all Illinoisans are counted! The census deadline has been moved up to September 30 – a change that generates concern of an undercount. The data collected helps determine the distribution of billions of dollars in federal funds each year – funds used for key local services, including hospitals, fire departments and emergency response teams. Census numbers also determine congressional representation and are used to draw state legislative, congressional, aldermanic, county district boundaries and more.

Here’s a link to the questionnaire: Share it with friends, family and colleagues, and urge them to complete the form. Illinois lives and livelihoods are counting on it.
LWVIL “Power the Vote”
100th Anniversary Benefit

Celebrate the League’s100th anniversary at the Illinois League’s virtual fundraiser themed “Power the Vote.” Slip into your suffragette whites and bring your lunch (virtual or otherwise) to support a worthy cause that benefits all League members.
Date: Thursday, September 24, noon to 1 p.m.
Location: Your computer                                
Minimum ticket price: $25 per person
2020-2021 Cook County League Board Members 

President: Cynthia Schilsky, LaGrange; Vice-presidents: Jan Goldberg, LaGrange Area and Karin Hribar Arlington Heights; Secretary: Betty Hayford, Evanston; Treasurer: Nancy Clark, Oak Park/River Forest;
BOARD MEMBERS: Carolyn Cosentino, Homewood/Flossmoor; Laura Davis, Palatine; Diane Edmundson, Park Ridge; Kathi Graffam, LaGrange Area; Nancy Marcus, Winnetka/Northfield/Kenilworth; Priscilla Mims, Chicago; Chris Ruys, Chicago; Mary Anne Benden, Arlington Heights; Michelle Niccolai, LaGrange Area; Ann Bolan, Oak Park-River Forest; Kim Inman, Palatine; Georgia Gebhardt, Wilmette; Dianne Schmidt, Glenview/Glencoe; Lois B. Taft, Evanston.

Editor: Chris Ruys
Webmaster: Peggy Kell
332 S. Michigan Ave., Suite 634
Chicago, IL 60604

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