WBEZ | Cook County Board http://www.wbez.org/tags/cook-county-board Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Stroger defends new job at City Hall http://www.wbez.org/news/stroger-defends-new-job-city-hall-110208 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/stroger - AP Spencer Green.png" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-52a850f2-1bbe-560b-3c5c-8662a564b034">He&rsquo;s tried selling life insurance, peddling overseas medical procedures and working for a trucking company.</p><p dir="ltr">But now, former Cook County Board President Todd Stroger - a self-described political &ldquo;lightning rod&rdquo; - is defending his latest gig: working as a consultant to an influential aldermen at Chicago&rsquo;s City Hall.</p><p dir="ltr">Despite the controversies that have surrounded him since leaving office in 2011, Stroger told WBEZ on Tuesday that he believes he&rsquo;s more than qualified to work as a consultant for his one-time political ally, 21st Ward Alderman Howard Brookins.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Are you kidding? I think I deserve a better job than this,&rdquo; Stroger said when asked whether he was qualified for the $25,000 consulting contract work, pointing to his long career in city, county and state government.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t think anybody ever asked Mayor Daley what makes him qualified to do the five things he&rsquo;s doing now,&rdquo; Stroger said, referring to longtime Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, who has held down several paying jobs since leaving office in 2011. &ldquo;[Look] at my resume, which most people don&rsquo;t. I think most people, especially the newspapers, look at my last name. And then they say, &lsquo;Oh, well he&rsquo;s a Stroger, so he shouldn&rsquo;t be qualified for anything.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Brookins has taken <a href="http://www.suntimes.com/opinions/27544890-474/stroger-hiring-is-a-bad-look.html#.U3vI_PldVyU">heat</a> for Stroger&rsquo;s hiring, as first reported last week by the <a href="http://www.suntimes.com/news/marin/27489383-452/ald-brookins-hires-new-worker-todd-stroger.html#.U3utmPldVyU">Chicago Sun-Times</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">The alderman is facing his own controversy, after his former chief of staff was charged in February with taking a $7,500 bribe.</p><p dir="ltr">Meanwhile, Stroger&rsquo;s own time in office was marred by scandals and bad press, and his name has popped up again more recently after two of his top aides were found guilty of corruption charges. Stroger&rsquo;s boyhood friend, Eugene Mullins, was sentenced in March to more than four years in prison for his role in a <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/feds-former-todd-stroger-aide-solicited-34k-kickbacks-101434">kickback scheme</a>. And in April, Stroger&rsquo;s former Deputy Chief of Staff, Carla Oglesby, was sentenced to more than six years in prison for steering sham county contracts to companies she controlled.</p><p dir="ltr">Stroger, who has not been accused of breaking the law, said he didn&rsquo;t know anything about his former top aides&rsquo; illegal activities.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;If people going to jail is how every executive is being measured, than I think every executive in the county and in the city is gonna be in trouble,&rdquo; he said Tuesday.</p><p dir="ltr">Despite the scandals, Stroger - who has also been a state lawmaker and an alderman - said Brookins reached out to him about coming back to the the public sector.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I like government,&rdquo; Stroger said. &ldquo;So that is really what I know, and I know it very well.... So I&rsquo;ve always been looking for something to give back and use those skills to really help the community.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">While he&rsquo;s still working out the details, Stroger said he&rsquo;ll be working for Brookins on issues relating to public health and crime prevention. He said he hopes to stop violence in Brookins&rsquo; South Side Auburn Gresham ward by connecting with police commanders, church leaders and block clubs there.</p><p dir="ltr">Brookins&rsquo; office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday afternoon.</p><p dir="ltr">Stroger said it&rsquo;s been tough since he left Cook County. He made headlines when he <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/stroger-defends-seeking-jobless-benefits-84756">filed for unemployment benefits</a> after losing the 2010 Democratic primary to current Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. Since then, Stroger said he dabbled in medical tourism; worked to find clients for a trucking company; and is currently selling life insurance.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;It&rsquo;s been very hard finding work,&rdquo; Stroger said. &nbsp;&ldquo;And I can literally tell you that the word has gone out that - &lsquo;Don&rsquo;t hire Todd Stroger.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/akeefe">Alex Keefe</a> is political reporter at WBEZ. You can follow him on <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZpolitics">Twitter</a> and <a href="https://plus.google.com/102759794640397640028">Google+</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 20 May 2014 17:26:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/stroger-defends-new-job-city-hall-110208 Cook County facing $152M budget hole next year http://www.wbez.org/news/cook-county-facing-152m-budget-hole-next-year-107887 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/20130625_PRECKWINKLE_006_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Cook County is staring down an estimated deficit of &ldquo;just $152 million&rdquo; for the next fiscal year, a budget hole that Board President Toni Preckwinkle says is the smallest in years, though she is not ruling out some tax hikes or layoffs to close the gap.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re trying to close a $152 million gap, in an environment in which we&rsquo;ve already picked the low-hanging fruit,&rdquo; Preckwinkle said Thursday, as her office released preliminary numbers for the fiscal year beginning in December 2014. &ldquo;So we&rsquo;re gonna have tough choices ahead of us.&rdquo;</p><p>The Chicago Democrat, who <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/board-president-preckwinkle-seek-second-term-107642" target="_blank">announced earlier this month</a> that she&rsquo;s running for a second term in office, vowed that she wouldn&rsquo;t raise property or sales taxes to close the gap, but declined to give specifics on what kind of tax or fee hikes might be looming.</p><p>&ldquo;Well, we&rsquo;re trying to put everything on the table,&rdquo; Preckwinkle said.</p><p>The 2014 budget will get a $74 million boost thanks to a provision in Obamacare to expand Medicaid, the government health insurance program for the poor.</p><p>But that shot in the arm is more than offset by $166 million in rising costs and a projected $60 million drop in revenue next year, thanks in part to Preckwinkle&#39;s rollback of her predecessor&rsquo;s penny-on-the-dollar sales tax increase, and <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/preckwinkle-defends-disputed-use-tax-107844" target="_blank">recent changes</a> to her controversial &ldquo;use tax&rdquo; on some items purchased outside of Cook County.</p><p>Additionally, the county&rsquo;s juvenile detention center is being saddled $12 million more in annual costs, thanks to a recent state law that allows 17-year-olds to be tried as minors, rather than as adults, Preckwinkle said.</p><p>Though Preckwinkle is trying to make public safety a hallmark of her re-election campaign, there are already signs of possible budget tension between her and Cook County&rsquo;s Sheriff and State&rsquo;s Attorney.</p><p>Sheriff Tom Dart, who has clashed with Preckwinkle&rsquo;s administration over budget issues in the past, is asking for more than $490 million in his budget for next year. That&rsquo;s about $13 million more than the president is recommending, according to budget documents released Thursday.</p><p>The president&rsquo;s office also revealed Thursday that the county must come up with $18 million to end the current fiscal year in the black. Preckwinkle said her office will eliminate 20 percent of the vacant positions in her office, and urged other elected officials to do the same.</p><p>That request didn&rsquo;t sit well with Cook County State&rsquo;s Attorney Anita Alvarez, whose office said they need all the bodies they can get.</p><p>&ldquo;We have approximately 20 Assistant State&#39;s Attorney positions that are technically vacant at the moment, but we have extended job offers to law students for all of those positions already and will be filling those sorely-needed attorney positions over the summer and into the fall,&rdquo; said Alvarez spokeswoman Sally Daly.</p><p>Three other Cook County officials in charge of smaller officers - Treasurer Maria Pappas, Recorder of Deeds Karen Yarbrough and Clerk David Orr - said they&rsquo;d be willing to make the cuts. Others either declined to comment or did not respond to interview requests.<br /><br />Preckwinkle faced a nearly half billion dollar deficit when she first took office, but has whittled that down over last two the years through myriad tax and fee hikes, as well as other belt-tightening measures. She helped balance <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/taxes-guns-gambling-and-cigarettes-coming-cook-county-103780" target="_blank">this year&rsquo;s budget</a> with higher so-called &ldquo;sin&rdquo; taxes on tobacco, guns and gambling.</p><p>Still, the president&rsquo;s budget sailed through the County Board last year, with the single no vote coming from then-Cook County Commissioner William Beavers, who was kicked out of office after being <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/jury-convicts-william-beavers-tax-evasion-106207" target="_blank">convicted of tax evasion</a> this spring.</p><p><em>Alex Keefe covers politics for WBEZ. Follow him <a href="http://twitter.com/akeefe" target="_blank">@akeefe</a>. </em></p></p> Thu, 27 Jun 2013 15:29:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/cook-county-facing-152m-budget-hole-next-year-107887 Cook County’s disregard of ICE detainers catches on http://www.wbez.org/news/cook-county%E2%80%99s-disregard-ice-detainers-catches-100818 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/SecureCommunitiesRallyNYCscale.jpg" style="margin: 4px 0px 0px 0px; float: left; height: 375px; width: 250px; " title="Diana Mejia of Madison, N.J., prays during a 2011 rally in New York City to condemn Secure Communities, a U.S. Immigration Customs Enforcement program that relies on jail compliance with agency requests known as detainers. (AP file/Mary Altaffer)" />A Cook County policy of disregarding immigration detainers is catching on. Lawmakers in other parts of the country, most recently the District of Columbia on Tuesday, have approved bills modeled after the policy.</p><p>Some Republicans are pressing President Barack Obama&rsquo;s administration to take reprisals against those jurisdictions. In a hearing Tuesday, the chairwoman of a U.S. House homeland security panel urged Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton to punish Cook County for its stand.</p><p>The detainers &mdash; ICE requests that local jails hold specified individuals up to two business days beyond what their criminal cases require &mdash; help put the inmates into deportation proceedings. Jail compliance with detainers is a key part of Secure Communities, a program that has helped the Obama administration shift immigration enforcement toward criminals.</p><p>Cook County officials say detainers also erode community trust in local police. Last September, the County Board approved an ordinance that halted detainer compliance by the county&rsquo;s massive jail. ICE abruptly lost convenient access to hundreds of immigration violators each year.</p><p>&ldquo;The Cook County legislation was very critical and a part of the development for the legislation in the District of Columbia,&rdquo; said Ron Hampton, a retired Metropolitan Police officer in the nation&rsquo;s capital who has pushed the D.C. bill.</p><p>Hampton pointed to a legal opinion that supporters of the Cook County measure obtained from State&rsquo;s Attorney Anita Alvarez&rsquo;s office last year. That opinion, citing a federal court ruling in Indiana, called detainer compliance voluntary and helped convince the Cook County Board to approve the ordinance. Hampton said the opinion added weight to what he called &ldquo;a model piece of legislation.&rdquo;</p><p>Since the Cook County ordinance passed, New York City, the state of Connecticut and the California county of Santa Clara have also curtailed their compliance with immigration detainers.</p><p>On July 5, the California Senate approved similar legislation that would affect the entire state. That bill is expected to pass the state Assembly. Gov. Jerry Brown has not indicated whether he would sign it into law.</p><p>At the U.S. House hearing, Rep. Candice Miller (R-Michigan) said Secure Communities had &ldquo;excellent buy-in&rdquo; from jurisdictions across the nation. Miller, chairwoman of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security, called Cook County &ldquo;the big holdout&rdquo; and asked Morton about it.</p><p>Morton repeated an administration claim that Cook County&rsquo;s disregard of ICE detainers compromised public safety. That claim was the subject of a <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/ice-detainers-public-safety-issue-99190">WBEZ investigation</a> completed in May. Inmates freed as a result of the ordinance, the investigation found, have not reoffended or jumped bail more than other former inmates have.</p><p>Morton also told the subcommittee about letters he had written to Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle to spell out his concerns. &ldquo;We have been working with the county to see if there isn&rsquo;t some solution,&rdquo; Morton said. &ldquo;I won&rsquo;t sugarcoat it. I don&rsquo;t think that that approach is going to work in full. We&rsquo;re going to need the help of others. We have been exploring our options under federal law with the Department of Justice.&rdquo;</p><p>Morton said he would also push for a cutoff of some federal funds for the county&rsquo;s jail.</p><p>That vow won praise from Miller. &ldquo;I can&rsquo;t tell you how delighted I am,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;If they&rsquo;re not going to assist us in removing not only criminal aliens but those that might go on to commit a terrorist attack or what-have-you, because they want to have their city become a sanctuary, the federal government cannot stand by idly and allow that to happen.&rdquo;</p><p>As other jurisdictions adopt the Cook County approach, some enforcement advocates are calling for a tougher federal response.</p><p>Ira Mehlman, spokesman of the Washington-based Federation for American Immigration Reform, points out that the Obama administration has sued states such as Arizona and Alabama for taking immigration enforcement into their own hands</p><p>&ldquo;Yet, when it comes to jurisdictions that have openly defied federal enforcement, then the Justice Department seems to have enormous patience and is extremely lenient,&rdquo; Mehlman said.</p></p> Wed, 11 Jul 2012 16:39:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/cook-county%E2%80%99s-disregard-ice-detainers-catches-100818 ICE offer on ‘detainer’ costs draws mixed reaction http://www.wbez.org/story/ice-offer-%E2%80%98detainer%E2%80%99-costs-draws-mixed-reaction-96861 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2012-February/2012-02-29/By Bill Healy - July 27 2011 - 001-CROPPED.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><img alt="Commissioner Jesús García (D-Chicago)" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2012-February/2012-02-29/By Bill Healy - July 27 2011 - 001-CROPPED.jpg" style="margin: 9px 18px 6px 1px; float: left; width: 321px; height: 205px;" title="Commissioner Jesús García (D-Chicago) says accepting the offer would have a chilling effect on local policing. (WBEZ/Bill Healy)">Cook County officials are voicing mixed reactions to an extraordinary U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement offer to cover the costs of holding some inmates beyond what their criminal cases require.</p><p>County Board Commissioner Jesús García (D-Chicago) said keeping people locked up after they’ve posted bond, served their sentence or had their charges dismissed would violate constitutional protections against unreasonable search and seizure. Accepting ICE’s offer, he added, would have “a significant chilling effect” on local policing.</p><p>“The county would be seen as an extension of ICE, operating within local government,” García said. “The immigrant community and all of the different groups that are affected by this would just shut down and cease to cooperate with law enforcement and with government in general.”</p><p>The reimbursement offer came in a Feb. 13 letter from ICE Director John Morton to County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. The letter also proposed that the county restore ICE’s ability to interview detainees inside the jail, provide ICE access to “any county records necessary” to identify deportable inmates, schedule inmate releases for business hours and provide 24 hours’ notice to ICE.</p><p>In September, an ordinance backed by Preckwinkle effectively ended the county’s compliance with ICE requests known as “detainers.” Those requests kept specified inmates in jail up to two business days longer than required by their criminal case’s judge. The ordinance barred the sheriff from honoring ICE detainers unless the feds agreed to pay for the extended confinement. County officials say that confinement costs about $142 a day per inmate.</p><p>Morton blasted the ordinance in a January letter, claiming it undermines public safety and hinders ICE’s ability to enforce immigration laws.</p><p>His offer to Cook County signals a possible change in ICE policy. The agency last year said it did not reimburse local jails for the cost of honoring its detainers.</p><p>Asked whether the offer could set a precedent for other jails, the agency sent a written statement that said Cook County reimbursements would be “unlikely” if ICE were “once again permitted to work inside” the jail and if the county provided the 24-hour notice. “ICE officers would immediately take custody of detainees on the same day of their scheduled release,” the statement said.</p><p>County Board Commissioner Peter Silvestri (R-Elmwood Park), who voted against the ordinance, said Morton’s offer focuses the debate on public safety and constitutional questions. “If the argument against complying with ICE detainers was that it’s a financial burden on the county, that argument has been resolved,” Silvestri said.</p><p>Preckwinkle’s office said Wednesday she was studying Morton’s proposals and couldn’t respond to them yet.</p><p>Preckwinkle has defended the ordinance and pointed out that citizens, not just suspected immigration violators, can cause trouble after getting out of jail. In January, she ordered a six-month study aimed at improving the bond system so inmates who threaten public safety remain in jail.</p><p>Another county official predicted that complying with the detainers again would give inmates reason to sue for false imprisonment. “When they get compensated by a jury, are the feds going to come across and pay that bill too?” asked Patrick Reardon, first assistant Cook County public defender.</p><p>The county paid $72,000 to settle two 2008 lawsuits over detainers involving five inmates, according to Patrick Driscoll Jr., a deputy Cook County state’s attorney.</p><p>García and Reardon said allowing ICE officials to interview jail inmates would violate a 2007 County Board resolution aimed at removing the county from immigration enforcement.</p><p>Morton’s proposals include creating a “joint working group,” consisting of county and ICE employees, to resolve detainer issues and schedule implementation of his plan. Morton pointed out his plan would require amending or repealing the September ordinance.</p><p>“Morton has [offered] the olive branch and said that he would like to have a working group established so that they can discuss any remaining issues beyond the cost,” Commissioner Tim Schneider (R-Bartlett) said. “We need to find out what these last issues are in order for ICE to be able to do its job and function effectively in Cook County.”</p><p>Silvestri and Schneider have each proposed an amendment to scale back the ordinance so it allows detainer compliance for inmates deemed most dangerous. The amendments were the subject of a heated County Board hearing Feb. 9.</p><p>At the hearing, Sheriff Tom Dart said the jail had released 346 inmates named on ICE detainers since the ordinance passed. He said 11 of those individuals ended up arrested again. The charges varied.</p><p>Dart also voiced support for Schneider’s proposal, which would require compliance with detainers for inmates who appeared on a federal terrorist list or who faced any of several serious felony charges.</p><p>Dart’s office Wednesday did not answer whether it supported Morton’s proposals but said it favors “anything that helps bring sanity to the current situation.”</p></p> Thu, 01 Mar 2012 11:52:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/ice-offer-%E2%80%98detainer%E2%80%99-costs-draws-mixed-reaction-96861 Sheriff decries immigration detainer ordinance http://www.wbez.org/story/sheriff-decries-immigration-detainer-ordinance-96260 <p><p><img alt="The Cook County Board is mulling proposed changes to the measure. (WBEZ/File)" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2012-February/2012-02-09/CountyBoardscaled.JPG" style="margin: 6px 18px 5px 12px; float: right; width: 349px; height: 244px;" title="The Cook County Board is mulling proposed amendments to a measure that frees some jail inmates wanted by ICE. (WBEZ/File)">Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart says he wants changes to an ordinance that frees some jail inmates wanted by immigration authorities. But the law’s supporters say they still have the votes to keep it intact.</p><p>The ordinance, approved last September, prohibits the sheriff from complying with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainers. Those are requests that the county hold specified inmates up to two business days longer than their criminal cases require. The detainers gave ICE extra time to pick up the inmates for possible deportation.</p><p>The ordinance has come under fire as news outlets have focused on a convicted felon who completed his probation before going to jail on charges of killing a man in a Northwest Side hit-and-run incident last year. ICE named the inmate on a detainer. After the ordinance passed, he posted bond, walked free and went missing.</p><p>On Thursday, a County Board committee held a four-hour hearing on proposals to honor the detainers for inmates who are potentially dangerous. At the hearing, Dart said the jail had released 346 inmates named on ICE detainers since the ordinance passed. He said 11 of those ended up arrested again on a variety of charges.</p><p>Dart also voiced support for one of those proposals, an amendment introduced last month by Timothy Schneider (R-Bartlett) that would require compliance with the detainers for inmates who appeared on a federal terrorist list or who faced various felony charges. Dart said Schneider’s proposal would target inmates who “have shown that they’re a danger.” Dart criticized another proposal, an amendment filed by Peter Silvestri (R-Elmwood Park) and John Daley (D-Chicago), that would give the sheriff discretion to honor detainers.</p><p>Commissioner Larry Suffredin (D-Evanston), who chairs the committee, told WBEZ he opposes both amendments and said neither has enough support to pass. But Suffredin, who voted for the ordinance, said he is open to “cleaning it up to give the sheriff clearer discretion” on whether to honor detainers. Suffredin said any committee votes on amending the ordinance would be next month.</p><p>County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, interviewed by WBEZ during the hearing, pointed out that many citizens get out of jail and cause trouble, too.</p><p>“People who are accused of very serious crimes are given bail every day because a judge makes a determination that they’re not a flight risk and they’re not a danger to our community,” she said. “So if you have a concern about people who are accused of serious crimes being released back into our community, it’s got to be broader concern than the two or three percent of them who are undocumented.”</p><p>Preckwinkle talked up a study that’s looking for ways to improve the bond system. The county’s five-member Judicial Advisory Council is carrying out the study and planning to make recommendations within six months.</p><p>The ordinance, sponsored by Commissioner Jesús García (D-Chicago), prohibits the jail from honoring the detainers unless the federal government agrees in advance to pay for the extended confinement — something ICE says it doesn’t do. The law’s supporters say the detainers eroded community trust in local police and violated inmates’ due-process rights. A federal court ruling in Indiana last summer called compliance with the detainers “voluntary.”</p></p> Fri, 10 Feb 2012 11:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/sheriff-decries-immigration-detainer-ordinance-96260 Commissioners take aim at immigration ordinance http://www.wbez.org/story/commissioners-take-aim-county-immigration-law-95607 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2012-January/2012-01-18/Schneider.JPG" alt="" /><p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2012-January/2012-01-18/Schneider.JPG" style="margin: 9px 18px 5px 1px; float: left; width: 264px; height: 276px;" title="Timothy Schneider, R-Bartlett, authored one of the proposals. (WBEZ/Chip Mitchell)">A debate about a Cook County ordinance that frees some inmates wanted by immigration authorities could get hotter. At its meeting Wednesday, the County Board agreed to consider two proposed amendments that would scale back the ordinance. Commissioners with opposing views of the measure also vowed to press the county’s top law-enforcement officials to testify about it at an unscheduled hearing.</p><p>The ordinance effectively bars compliance with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainers, which are requests that the county’s jail hold specified inmates up to two business days after they post bond or complete their criminal cases.</p><p>One of the proposed amendments, introduced Wednesday by Timothy Schneider (R-Bartlett), seems to require compliance with the detainers for inmates listed on the federal Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment and for inmates charged with — though not necessarily convicted of — various felonies. Those felonies include certain drug offenses, crimes resulting in great bodily harm, and “forcible felonies,” which Illinois defines as involving the use or threat of physical force or violence against an individual.</p><p>“I know that my amendment will not pass,” Schneider told commissioners during their meeting. “But maybe with some input from some of the stakeholders, something will come out of this and we will pass a common-sense measure that creates greater justice for victims of crimes and also to improve public safety for the residents of Cook County.”</p><p>The other proposed amendment, filed by Peter Silvestri (R-Elmwood Park) and John Daley (D-Chicago), would give the sheriff leeway to honor the detainers.</p><p>“The sheriff should have greater discretion on holding people that pose a threat to society,” Silvestri said before the meeting. “The sheriff, as the chief law enforcement officer of the county, should develop a procedure for determining which individuals to keep and which to release.”</p><p>That idea is not going over well with the ordinance’s author, Jesús García (D-Chicago). “It would bring back a flawed program that has not succeeded in apprehending dangerous criminals, and has instead resulted in the detention and sometimes deportation of people with minor infractions, victims of crime, and even U.S. citizens,” a statement from García’s office said. “It would give the sheriff unbridled discretion to comply with ICE detainers.”</p><p>Commissioners voted Wednesday afternoon to send both proposals to the board’s Legislation and Intergovernmental Relations Committee, chaired by Larry Suffredin (D-Evanston), who supports the ordinance.</p><p>Sheriff Tom Dart’s office did not return a call about the proposals, but he has quietly urged commissioners to require compliance with ICE detainers for inmates who meet any of several criteria. Dart listed some of the criteria in a December letter to Silvestri: “[It] is my hope that you agree that those charged with a ‘forcible felony,’ those who have a history of convictions and those on a Homeland Security Terrorist Watch List should be held on an ICE detainer rather than released immediately.”</p><p>State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez’s office did not return a call about the proposals.</p><p>The ordinance, approved in a 10-5 vote last September, has received increasing public attention in recent weeks as news outlets have focused on a convicted felon who was charged and jailed in a fatal Logan Square hit-and-run incident last year and named on an ICE detainer. After the ordinance passed, officials say, the inmate posted bond, walked free and went missing.</p><p>A letter this month from ICE Director John Morton to County Board President Toni Preckwinkle cites that case. “This ordinance undermines public safety in Cook County and hinders ICE’s ability to enforce the nation’s immigration laws,” the letter says.</p><p>Last week Preckwinkle said the hit-and-run suspect’s release “outraged” her, but she has stuck behind the ordinance. Instead of reconsidering it, she proposed a study of the county’s bail bond system for all criminal cases — no matter whether the inmate’s name appears on an ICE detainer. On Wednesday, the board approved the proposal, under which the county’s Judicial Advisory Council will undertake the study. That five-member panel, chaired by Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke, would recommend ways to improve pretrial services so judges can make better-informed decisions on bond amounts, according to the proposal.</p><p>ICE took custody of 1,665 Cook County inmates in 2010 and 721 in 2011, according to Dart’s office. Morton’s letter says ICE has lodged detainers against another 268 county inmates since the ordinance’s approval but the sheriff’s office has disregarded them.</p><p>The ordinance prohibits the jail from honoring the detainers unless the federal government agrees in advance to pay for the extended confinement — something ICE says it doesn’t do. García and others who back the ordinance say the detainers violated inmates’ due-process rights and eroded community trust in local police. A federal court ruling in Indiana last summer called compliance with the detainers “voluntary.”</p><p>The ordinance has reverberated beyond Cook County. In October, California’s Santa Clara County adopted a similar measure.</p></p> Wed, 18 Jan 2012 13:38:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/commissioners-take-aim-county-immigration-law-95607 President Preckwinkle talks about the difficult decisions behind 2012 county budget proposals http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-10-26/president-preckwinkle-talks-about-difficult-decisions-behind-2012-county <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-October/2011-10-26/Eric Allix Rogers--speaking at the kickoff of Chicago Careers in Public and Social Service at the University of Chicago.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle revealed the 2012 county budget Tuesday. She said structural changes including layoffs would help close the $315 million shortfall.&nbsp; Preckwinkle projects to lay off about 1,000 people from across county government, including some positions within the healthcare system.&nbsp; About 500 vacancies will remain unfilled.<br> <br> “I wish we could close the gap without laying people off, this is not possible,” Preckwinkle told <em>Eight Forty-Eight’s</em> Alison Cuddy.<br> <br> The Board President is hopeful the union will re-consider taking the seven unpaid holidays and shutdown days which would save about 450 jobs.<br> To help determine where to cut Preckwinkle said her office began a performance management initiative. “We put together people in functional areas like healthcare, public safety, economic development, finance and administration, and property and taxation. Those are basic things the county does.”<br> <br> The information collected from those officials helped identify who could be laid off with minimal damage to the county’s ability to provide services to residents.&nbsp;<br> <br> Another point of interest in Preckwinkle’s attempt to balance the budget is taxes. She said she’s committed to rolling back the sales tax, saying it will be reduced by a quarter of one percent at the end of 2011. An additional quarter will be shaved off at the end of 2012. There will also be an increase in title properties taxes such as cars, yachts and trailers.&nbsp; She said the $25 million raised from this tax will go into infrastructure improvements in suburban Cook County.<br> <br> Preckwinkle said it’s now up to the legislative executive branch to pass the budget, and she’s optimistic her proposed ideas will remain intact.<br> “By the end of November we will have a budget in place and I expect it will be substantially the budget we submitted”.</p></p> Wed, 26 Oct 2011 13:55:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-10-26/president-preckwinkle-talks-about-difficult-decisions-behind-2012-county Not enough layoffs mean Cook County is still short on budget goals http://www.wbez.org/story/not-enough-layoffs-mean-cook-county-still-short-budget-goals-92575 <p><p>Cook County board president Toni Preckwinkle reported Tuesday that the county's falling short of its goal to trim budget costs.</p><p>Almost 360 employees have been laid off this year, instead of the 500 that County Board President Toni Preckwinkle asked for in March. That's down from an original projected 1,350.</p><p>The number of requested layoffs was reduced in part because of a deal brokered with union workers, which saved over $30 million for the year. Workers were required to take 10&nbsp; furloughs and shutdown days.</p><p>"There's still two months left," said spokeswoman Jesse Neves. "I think layoffs are still going to be happening, cost-cutting measures are still going to be happening. You know, people are still implementing measures to hit their turnover number. I don't think that there's a specific projection that I want to hit, but we are still working towards increasing that number."</p><p>The county has saved $13 million this fiscal year from layoffs, $6 million less than projected. According to the president's office, this is partially due to the Cook County hospitals, which originally said they would lay off 593 employees, but has only let go of 188.</p><p>Reducing the hospital budget has been a goal throughout Preckwinkle's administration, and one that has been a source of contention among the board. <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/furlough-debate-threatens-stymie-budget-negotiations-cook-county-board-92336">Last week</a>, Commissioner William Beavers said he wouldn't be taking his furlough days, to protest money being taken away from hospitals such as Oak Forest, which has been <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/oak-forest-hospital-close-months-end-90683">converted into a clinic</a>. But Neves said Preckwinkle's office has continued to work with Cook County Health and Hospitals System to reduce their budget.</p><p>"The president's office has recognized that the health care system needs support," she said, admitting that the process hasn't moved as quickly as they would have liked.</p><p>Preckwinkle's office plans to deliver a budget to the Bureau of Finance some time in October.</p><p>Calls to the CCHHS were not returned.</p></p> Wed, 28 Sep 2011 17:53:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/not-enough-layoffs-mean-cook-county-still-short-budget-goals-92575 Local leaders flex political power during tough times http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-09-27/local-leaders-flex-political-power-during-tough-times-92505 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-September/2011-09-27/Cook County Board.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Furlough days caused a stir recently at the <a href="http://www.cookcountygov.com/" target="_blank">Cook County Board</a> as some commissioners balked at giving up a <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/furlough-debate-threatens-stymie-budget-negotiations-cook-county-board-92336" target="_blank">day of work</a>. The move did not impress Board President <a href="http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-09-19/president-preckwinkle-anticipates-tough-choices-cook-county-budget-92155" target="_blank">Toni Preckwinkle</a>. Meanwhile, aldermanic-adventures at City Hall raised some eyebrows: A few aldermen took <a href="http://www.chicagonewscoop.org/traveling-aldermen-coast-past-city-ethics-rules/" target="_blank">trips overseas recently</a> – though not on the taxpayers’ dime. Third parties served as underwriters for the trips, which city ethics guidelines deems appropriate under certain conditions. But by the book or not, were these moves appropriate during tight budget times? And what do they reveal about power at the city and county? <a href="http://www.ramsincanon.com/" target="_blank">Ramsin Canon</a>, political editor at <em><a href="http://www.gapersblock.com" target="_blank">Gaper’s Block,</a></em> joined <em>Eight Forty-Eight</em> to discuss these issues and more.</p><p><em>Music Button: Tommy Smith, "Karma", from the CD Karma, (Spartacus)</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 27 Sep 2011 15:20:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-09-27/local-leaders-flex-political-power-during-tough-times-92505 Furlough debate threatens to stymie budget negotiations for Cook County board http://www.wbez.org/story/furlough-debate-threatens-stymie-budget-negotiations-cook-county-board-92336 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-September/2011-09-22/beaversstroger_ap_mspencergreen.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Debate over furlough days threatens to stymie the upcoming budget negotiations for the Cook County Board. Between July 27 and September 7 of this year, five of the 17 Cook County Board commissioners - Earlean Collins, Robert Steele, William Beavers, Deborah Sims, and Joan Murphy - wrote letters to the Cook County comptroller, requesting to be reimbursed for the unpaid days off.</p><p>In his letter, Commissioner Beavers wrote, "As an elected official I am not required to take furlough days therefore I am requesting that the money deducted thus far be returned to me to correct this error." His colleague, Commissioner Murphy wrote, "I have been informed by the office of the State's Attorney that a commissioner's salary cannot be increased or decreased during a term in office."</p><p>On Wednesday, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/battle-lines-are-drawn-between-cook-county-board-commissioners-over-furlough-days-92284">Commissioner Beavers said</a> he was using his furlough days to protest President Toni Preckwinkle's lack of financial support for southern Cook County hospitals, a sentiment his colleague Earlean Collins echoed.&nbsp;</p><p>But on Thursday, Larry Suffredin called out Beavers, saying his claim about the hospitals is a "total falsehood," and that any reference to a constitutional right on behalf of commissioners to keep their salary steady was inaccurate.</p><p>"When we voted for this budget, the hospital was in there, and it was the closure of the hospital that was part of their budget, and he knew that," Suffredin said. "He makes things up, as he does all the time.&nbsp;This man you cannot believe on any matter."</p><p>Suffredin called the five commissioners acting against the furloughs an "organized Stroger team making one last stand, led by Commissioner Beavers," a reference to former Cook County Board President Todd Stroger, who lost a re-election bid in 2010.</p><p>"(Beavers) hasn't been able to lead anybody to victory in years," added Suffredin. "This is the Stroger people versus those who want to reform county government....These are the same five that are opposed to anything good we've tried to do for years."</p><p>Some of Suffredin's colleagues who have agreed to take the furlough days say they doubt the five protesting commissioners are part of an organized effort. Many do agree, however, on cutting the budgets of the commissioners who are asking for reimbursements.&nbsp;</p><p>"They'll get that much less than everyone else gets," said Comissioner Gregg Goslin.</p><p>"My intention is to cut these five commissioners' budget by the amount they didn't save in this year's," Suffredin added, explaining that in the budget for 2011, all commissioners received equal budgets, a change from previous years. "We also passed a resolution that said that if you did not meet the revenue projections required for your office, we would take that out of your next budget. So whatever they don't take in pay cuts this year, I intend to fight to cut their budgets for next year."</p><p>Many commissioners remain optimistic about the budget negotiations, during which the board will grapple with a anticipated shortfall of $315 million. According to the President's office, a commissioner's salary is $85,000 a year, and the ten total furlough and shutdown days cuts 4.8 percent of their budget.</p><p>The commissioners expect to receive Preckwinkle's proposed budget by mid-October.</p><p>Earlier this week, Preckwinkle suggested that&nbsp;she might call for the entire Cook County government to shutdown for ten days next fiscal year, instead of doing five furlough and five shutdown. The president called it a matter of greater equity.</p><p>But Commissioner Timothy Schneider argued that the name doesn't make a difference, while his colleague Daley pointed out that shutdown days are easier to handle because "It's very clear no one's here."</p><p>"My concern is, if they're saying no to these, to five furlough days, are they going to say no to (shutdown days)?" added Daley.</p><p>As for this debate slowing down budget negotiations, Suffredin said he wasn't worried about it working out.</p><p>"It's probably good to get it out of the way now before we get into the budget process," said Suffredin.</p><p>But Goslin said, "I'm sure there will be a lot more furlough days next year."</p></p> Thu, 22 Sep 2011 16:44:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/furlough-debate-threatens-stymie-budget-negotiations-cook-county-board-92336