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


February 2021

Save the date.
 
LWVCC Annual Meeting 
Tuesday, May 18
10-12 noon via Zoom
 
Speaker - Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle

Consolidated Elections Update

Many of the changes voters enjoyed during the November 3 Presidential Election will NOT be available during the April 2021 Consolidated Elections in suburban Cook County. That’s because the state Legislature during its January 2021 lame-duck session did not vote to renew the law enacted to help ensure a safe and secure election during the pandemic.

The LWVIL is working with its coalition partners to see which process and procedural changes in SB 1863 can be carried forward into new legislation to be introduced in the spring 2021 Legislative Session.

Candidate Forums

Local Leagues are holding many Candidate Forums for the upcoming Consolidated Municipal Elections. Problems in obtaining contact information for candidates running for office in these elections has been an issue for those organizing the forums. The Cook County League intends to work with the election authorities to explore how this information can be obtained more easily in the future.

Municipal Elections Schedule

Key dates for the 2021 Consolidated Municipal Elections in Suburban Cook County
for the February 23 Primary Election and the April 6 General Election are located here.

Register to vote. You can register online or in-person, or you can download a registration form and register through the mail. For a Suburban Cook County registration form, click here.

The City of Chicago does not have any municipal elections in 2021.

Find out How Much Your Local Governments
Have Raised Their Property Tax Levies
 
Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas’ office has compiled historical information on property taxes in Cook County that may be of interest to League members, particularly as the suburban members get ready for the candidate forums for the April elections.

The Treasurer’s “20-Year Property Tax History” is a study showing how much property taxes have increased in Cook County from 2000 to 2019 overall, as well as looking at individual taxing districts (schools, villages, townships, park districts, etc.) from 2006 to 2019, and compares it to the cost-of-living.

Total property taxes in suburban Cook County increased 87%, from $4.59 billion in 2000 to $8.59 billion in 2019. Taxes in the City of Chicago increased 115%, from $3.25 billion to $6.99 billion. During that time period, the cost of living increased 36%.

The report illustrates the impact of local government tax levies. The tables contain information on residential and commercial properties, individual Chicago wards, suburbs, and taxing districts such as libraries and parks. In another section, there are comparisons of home rule and non-home rule suburbs and a historical listing of bond issues.

If you look at the details on the 2nd installment of your property tax bill each year, you know that the majority of your property taxes are paid to the schools and other local taxing bodies. For example, here are the increases from 2006 to 2019 for the 3 county-wide government bodies that the Cook County League follows:

           Cook County Government: $721.7 M to $781.5 M (8% increase)
           Forest Preserve District of Cook County: $82.3 M to $98.5 M (20% increase)
           Metropolitan Water Reclamation District: $401.7 M to $638.2 M (59% increase)

It’s good to know where your tax dollars are being spent. If you want a better understanding of how the Cook County property tax system works, check out the

--Kathi Graffam

Criminal Justice Reform Update

Members of LWVCC’s Criminal Justice Interest Group met in January to discuss HB3657, Illinois’ new Criminal Justice reform bill which was passed by the General Assembly on January 13.

Several League members have also attended presentations about key elements of the bill which were hosted by numerous organizations and state legislators. The Governor has 60 days from the date the state Legislature passed the bill to sign it into law. A vocal supporter of the measure, he is expected to sign it soon.

The new law will eliminate cash bail for detainees who must remain in jail because they cannot afford bond. Bail reform was the interest group’s first recommendation in a report issued in December 2015. Court judges statewide will use a Public Safety Document in order to assess flight risk and risk to the community. The changes will not be fully implemented until January 2023 to allow judges time to prepare for this major change in our criminal justice system.

Worth Reading
WBEZ-FM shared a story in its regular newsletter about some of the changes of the massive criminal justice bill in a story, “6 Key Reforms In The Massive Criminal Justice Bill Illinois Lawmakers Passed.” Check it out here
Inspector General’s Office Works To
Detect, Deter and Prevent Wrongdoing
 
The Office of the Independent Inspector General (OIIG) was formed to detect, deter and prevent corruption, fraud, waste, mismanagement, unlawful political discrimination and misconduct in the operation of Cook County government.

The OIIG conducts investigations and issues findings and recommendations to Cook County government officials in quarterly reports. Reports are available here: https://www.cookcountyil.gov/service/public-statements-quarterly-reports-proposed-legislation

As a fact-finding agency, the OIIG investigates potential criminal violations involving the conduct of Cook County employees acting in their official capacities and refers such matters for prosecution. It also serves as a liaison between the County and outside law enforcement authorities and prosecutorial agencies when cases are referred. Its jurisdiction includes employees, elected and appointed officials in the performance of their official duties, as well as contractors and subcontractors doing or seeking to do business with Cook County government.

LWVCC’s Budget & Structure Committee sometimes takes action based on the findings of the OIIG.
Excerpt from Recent Observer Report

At the Cook County Board meeting on January 29, 2021,
new Cook County Health System CEO Israel Rocha said their new Covid-19 website is up and running at vaccine.cookcountyil.gov. Cook County residents can sign up to receive the vaccine, but it was made clear that the holdup to the vaccination program is not the operational aspects but the availability of the vaccine supply. 

Residents who sign up will be notified and given a date only when the Department of Public Health can ensure the vaccine is available. The Chicago and Suburban Cook County Health Departments are working together. Chicago will give vaccinations to suburban Cook County residents working in the city, and CC Health will do likewise for city residents working in Suburban Cook County.

For additional information and more Observer reports, click here.

For more about observing or to volunteer, contact Diane Edmundson (coordinator/scheduler for MWRD and CCH) at dianedmundson@aol.com or Carolyn Cosentino (coordinator/scheduler for CCBC and the Forest Preserve board) at cose1814@comcast.net.    
LWVCC Advocacy Action
 
2021 Cook County Budget Process – January 19, 2021
A letter was sent to the Chair of the Cook County Finance Committee, the Cook
County Chief Financial Officer and the Cook County Budget Director with suggestions for improving the process and the budget books in the future. The letter also acknowledged them for practices adopted as a result of past suggestions from LWVCC.

To see other advocacy actions by the League, go to https://www.lwvcookcounty.org/lwvcc-action-and-testimony.html
Upcoming Events

Saturday, February 20 and 27, 2021, 9 a.m. – 12:45 p.m.

LWVIL Annual Issues Briefing
The League of Women Voters of Illinois will offer two consecutive Saturdays of educational programs on current issues, via Zoom. Tickets are $10 each Saturday, and registration is required. For a list of workshops and to register, visit https://app.mobilecause.com/e/vW1qrw?vid=gp0a0.

 
Thursday February 18, 2021, 7 to 9 p.m.

Affordable Housing 101 Workshop 
Presented by the League of Women Voters of Glenview/Glencoe, the workshop will educate the public about what affordable housing is, who needs it, the economic and equity benefits of affordable housing, and what changes could bring more affordable and diverse housing to Glenview. Conducted via Zoom. For more info, click here:
or send an email to lwvglens@gmail.com. 
2020-2021 Cook County League Board Members 

OFFICERS: President: Cynthia Schilsky, LaGrange Area; Vice-presidents: Jan Goldberg, LaGrange Area; 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; Peggy Kell, Oak Park/River Forest; Nancy Marcus, Winnetka/Northfield/Kenilworth; Priscilla Mims, Chicago; Chris Ruys, Chicago.

Local League Representatives (LLR): Mary Anne Benden, Arlington Heights; Ann Bolan, Oak-Park/River Forest; Georgia Gebhardt, Wilmette; Kim Inman, Palatine; Melanie King, Homewood/Flossmoor; Michele Niccolai, LaGrange Area; Dianne Schmidt, Glenview/Glencoe; Chris Slokwik, Palos/Orland.

League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan, political organization whose mission is to encourage informed and active participation in government; to increase understanding of major policy issues, and to influence public policy through education and advocacy. Membership in the League is open to anyone regardless of gender, race, or ethnic group.

LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS OF COOK COUNTY
332 S. Michigan Ave., Suite 634
Chicago, IL 60604

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