WBEZ | Toni Preckwinkle http://www.wbez.org/tags/toni-preckwinkle Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Cook County morgue gets new cooler, hires workers http://www.wbez.org/news/cook-county-morgue-gets-new-cooler-hires-workers-109699 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/morgue.PNG" alt="" /><p><p>The Cook County Medical Examiner&#39;s office says conditions are improving at the morgue thanks to more employees and a new $1.4 million cooler.</p><p>Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Medical Examiner Dr. Stephen Cina offered media a look at the cooler on Thursday.</p><p>The event was meant to show how much the office has improved 18 months after a string of embarrassing news stories about bodies bing stacked haphazardly and the remains of stillborn babies tossed into boxes.</p><p>Officials noted that improvements included the hiring of nearly two dozen employees in addition to the cooler.</p><p>Cina was hired in 2012 to replace the former medical examiner, who retired when Preckwinkle announced that she would overhaul the office.</p><p>Cina was chief administrator at the University of Miami&#39;s Tissue Bank.</p></p> Thu, 13 Feb 2014 15:33:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/cook-county-morgue-gets-new-cooler-hires-workers-109699 Cook County Commissioners unanimously approve 2014 budget http://www.wbez.org/news/cook-county-commissioners-unanimously-approve-2014-budget-109117 <p><p>As Republican Cook County Commissioner Peter Silvestri put it, the 2014 budget is one the board and county residents can be proud of.</p><p>&ldquo;No taxes, no fees, no layoffs, no problem,&rdquo; Silvestri said, during the final vote on the budget Friday.</p><p>All 17 Cook County commissioners voted to approve the $3.2 billion dollar spending plan for the next fiscal year. The budget came out balanced in the end, even though the county originally faced a $152 million dollar shortfall.</p><p>Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said filling that hole is mostly thanks to the Affordable Care Act. The county is set to receive millions of dollars in federal reimbursements for expanding the county&rsquo;s Medicaid system, known as CountyCare. Dr. Ramanathan Raju, head of the Cook County Health and Hospitals system, said it has already surpassed their goal of 115,000 applications for the program. As of the budget vote, Raju said the county had initiated around 122,000 applications.</p><p>Democratic Commissioner Larry Suffredin said the assistance through the Affordable Care Act will help the county focus their attention elsewhere.</p><p>&ldquo;As we look at the sea change here from healthcare to public safety, we have a number of issues we need to work on,&rdquo; Suffredin said. &ldquo;We have, unfortunately, the largest single-site jail in the United States. We need to reduce the number of people who are in there.&rdquo;</p><p>Now that the 2014 budget is set, both Preckwinkle and Suffredin say the board&rsquo;s next task is to tackle the county&rsquo;s pension fund.</p><p>Lauren Chooljian is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/laurenchooljian">@laurenchooljian</a>.</p></p> Sat, 09 Nov 2013 08:54:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/cook-county-commissioners-unanimously-approve-2014-budget-109117 Will an iconic hospital emerge from life support? http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/will-iconic-hospital-emerge-life-support-109086 <p><p>Like many residents of Tri-Taylor, Dorota Gosztyła hopes her Chicago neighborhood will finally figure out what to do with two city blocks of brick and terra cotta rising up from Harrison Street.</p><p>&ldquo;I find the building to be beautiful, and I think it&rsquo;s a shame that it&rsquo;s just standing here vacant,&rdquo; says Gosztyła, 35. She often glimpses the old Cook County Hospital building while driving on the Eisenhower Expressway (I-290). The hospital&rsquo;s fluted columns soar three stories, lining a facade festooned with classical symbols: cupids, lions, warriors&rsquo; shields.</p><p>&ldquo;When you get a closer look it&rsquo;s a little different. It&rsquo;s definitely run-down. &lsquo;Neglected&rsquo; I would say is the perfect word to describe it,&rdquo; Gosztyła says. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s pretty sad.&rdquo;</p><p>It bothered her enough that she sent Curious City a succinct question about the building that could play a future in her neighborhood:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>What will become of the old (and now vacant) Cook County Hospital?</em></p><p>The building, 1835 W. Harrison St., is hard to miss. When it opened in 1914, it had space for 650 patients. Subsequent expansions made it the world&rsquo;s largest medical facility from the 1920s until the 1950s. Among the superlatives it racked up during that time: It was home to the world&rsquo;s first blood bank; Chicago&rsquo;s first HIV/AIDS clinic in 1983;<a href="http://www.wbez.org/content/why-trauma-centers-abandoned-south-side" target="_blank"> the site of the country&#39;s first dedicated trauma center</a>; and in 1973 Dr. Boone Chunprapah became the first doctor to successfully reconnect four severed fingers to a patient&rsquo;s hand.</p><p>While its architectural significance has never been in doubt, the aging structure isn&rsquo;t a sure bet for rehabilitation. New construction now surrounds the site, and it wouldn&rsquo;t be the first time Chicago has demolished a historic building in the name of progress. Gosztyła&rsquo;s question got us talking with people who know the building&rsquo;s history and its potential for redevelopment. The bottom line is that preservationists and county officials seem to agree on this: The building can and should be saved. What remains unclear, however, is just how to do that.</p><p><strong>A landmark on life support</strong></p><p>Before it made medical history, Cook County Hospital was an architectural achievement.</p><p>&ldquo;It is a terra cotta marvel. The building is enormous, at the same time as being very elegant,&rdquo; says Bonnie McDonald, president of <a href="http://www.landmarks.org/" target="_blank">Landmarks Illinois.</a> &ldquo;The mix of brick and terra cotta create a really lovely façade.&rdquo;</p><p>Architect Paul Gerhardt, who designed the building in association with Richard E. Schmidt and Hugh Garden, was known nationally for his hospital designs. Gerhardt also designed Christ&rsquo;s Hospital in Topeka, Kan., as well as Chicago&rsquo;s<a href="http://www.wbez.org/tags/michael-reese-hospital" target="_blank"> Michael Reese Hospital</a>. Cook County Hospital is one of the city&rsquo;s best and largest-scale examples of Beaux Arts architecture.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RS7395_AP03063004261-scr_0.jpg" style="margin: 5px; float: right; height: 184px; width: 275px;" title="The old Cook County hospital's facade earned the beaux-arts structure landmark status. (AP Photo/Brian Kersey)" />Landmarks Illinois&rsquo;<a href="http://landmarks.org/images/COOK_COUNTY%20HOSPITAL.pdf" target="_blank"> reuse plan</a> for the building makes note of its mansard roof, made with green glazed terra cotta, and other ornamental details. But it also calls attention to the steel frame; the widely spaced columns preserve an open floorplan conducive to reuse. The preservation group&rsquo;s analysis called for turning the building into 320 residential units for medical staff, a 95,000 square foot health and wellness center, ground-floor commercial space, and 150 parking spaces.</p><p>&ldquo;Think about a historic building as a space to accommodate whatever need there is in the neighborhood, because they are highly mutable,&rdquo; McDonald said. &ldquo;You&rsquo;re able to oftentimes take a modern use and put it into a historic building.&rdquo;</p><p>Their recommendation changed slightly when the county demolished the building&rsquo;s three southern wings in 2008 (they were not original to the building,<a href="http://achicagosojourn.blogspot.com/2008/01/cook-county-hospital.html" target="_blank"> but still considered a loss</a> by preservationists). Like<a href="http://www.cookcountygov.com/taxonomy/Capital_Planning/CookCountyHospital_ReuseStudy_1109.pdf" target="_blank"> another study commissioned by the county</a>, they recommended repurposing the building primarily as office space. While the studies concluded modern medical equipment would be too heavy for the building&rsquo;s aging floors, they didn&rsquo;t rule out reuse as a hotel, dormitory, rental housing, senior housing, or educational space.</p><p>&ldquo;Our first and primary goal is to preserve the building,&rdquo; says John Cooke, the County&rsquo;s director of capital planning and policy. But that wasn&rsquo;t always the case. Under Cook County Board President John Stroger&rsquo;s administration, the building&rsquo;s future seemed in doubt. The building closed in 2002, and Stroger called for its demolition while a new hospital bearing his name went up next door. Preservationists and several board members fought the demolition idea, and in 2006 the building landed on the National Register of Historic Places. Four years later the board voted to preserve the old Cook County Hospital building.</p><p><strong>Diagnosis inconclusive</strong></p><p>Until the building is actually occupied again, its future remains uncertain. Cook County officials are waiting for U.S. Equities Realty to recommend future uses and repairs for a slew of county-owned buildings, including the old hospital. Cooke says once the company&rsquo;s report is in, the county will issue a request for proposals to solicit interest from architects and developers &mdash; likely in the spring of 2014.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/8681326865_54c377cf65_n.jpg" style="height: 206px; width: 275px; margin: 5px; float: left;" title="The remaining portions of the old Cook County hospital lie in the Illinois Medical District, on Chicago's West Side. (Flickr/Josh Koonce)" />The two-block long building could be subdivided into three 185-foot sections for phased development, making it less risky from a financial standpoint. And while the county isn&rsquo;t going to sell the site, Cooke says, it&rsquo;s investigating lease arrangements to encourage private development. That could mean a ground lease, whereby the county sets out what uses and spaces it wants; and a developer pays for improvements to the building, provides said space, and pays an annual fee to the county.</p><p>A<a href="http://www.cookcountygov.com/taxonomy/Capital_Planning/CookCountyHospital_ReuseStudy_1109.pdf" target="_blank"> Jones Lang LaSalle reuse study</a> puts the cost of reusing the building between $103.9 million and $120 million depending on its use. That could be reduced by as much as $50 million through the use of <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/untangling-tifs-108611" target="_blank">Tax Increment Financing (TIF) funds</a> from the Central West district, the study says. Historical preservation tax credits could also offset 20 percent of the total project cost. By contrast, demolition could cost as much as $13.6 million, in addition to the cost of new construction.</p><p>Is that enough to entice developers? Cooke said the County will find out in 2014. But preservationists are eager to see the mothballed building get another chance at reuse.</p><p>&ldquo;The public cares about what is happening to this important resource,&rdquo; McDonald says. &ldquo;So the sooner that we do something, the more we&rsquo;re going to help the community.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>How daunting can it be?</strong></p><p>Now the question is how (not whether) to resuscitate the building.</p><p>Though its presence can be imposing to passersby (including our question-asker, Dorota Gosztyła), the old hospital building isn&rsquo;t too intimidating to architects who specialize in adaptive reuse.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/10144070306_d557b76099_b_0.jpg" style="margin: 5px; float: right; height: 199px; width: 275px;" title="Dorota Gosztyła asked Curious City to look into the future of the old Cook County hospital building. The now-vacant beaux-arts landmark will see its 100th anniversary in 2014. (WBEZ/Chris Bentley)" />Joe Antunovich, president of Antunovich Associates, has tackled many such projects. His firm&rsquo;s own office, 224 W. Huron St., occupies the top two floors of a brick building more than 90 years old. In Pittsburgh, the company transformed the dilapidated Armstrong Cork Factory along the Allegheny River into 385 apartments.</p><p>&ldquo;There used to be trees growing out of the windows there. Now, after an adaptive reuse, bringing that beautiful building back, we have 385 apartments there, and now they&rsquo;re the most sought-after apartments in downtown Pittsburgh&rdquo; Antunovich says. &ldquo;So don&rsquo;t tell me that these buildings can&rsquo;t be brought back.&rdquo;</p><p>As for Cook County&rsquo;s old hospital building, he says office space is a strong possibility.</p><p>&ldquo;The old nurses&rsquo; quarters, this old decrepit building, houses the current administration for the state-of-the-art Cook County Hospital system. So if you just swapped that out and cleaned up the old building,&rdquo; Antunovich says, &ldquo;you could have a marvelous front door of the entire Cook County administration.&rdquo;</p><p>Antunovich and others hope any development will celebrate the hospital&rsquo;s history. Gosztyła, our Curious City questioner, suggests a museum dedicated to that purpose. McDonald, of Landmarks Illinois, suggested that a mobile app could spout historical facts to interested visitors.</p><p>One candidate for inclusion is a reference to the old Cook County hospital&rsquo;s role as &ldquo;Chicago&rsquo;s Ellis Island.&rdquo; A quote from Louis Pasteur is inscribed on a hospital wall, evidence of its reputation for welcoming immigrants: &ldquo;One doesn&rsquo;t ask of one who suffers: What is your country and what is your religion? One merely says, You suffer. That is enough for me. You belong to me and I shall help you.&rdquo;</p><p>By spring of next year, Gosztyła and others who wonder about the future of the building could have their answer. It might bring new meaning to those words, &ldquo;I shall help you.&rdquo;</p><p><em><a href="http://cabentley.com/">Chris Bentley</a> is a reporter for WBEZ&rsquo;s Curious City. Follow him at<a href="http://twitter.com/cementley"> @cementley</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 05 Nov 2013 13:49:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/will-iconic-hospital-emerge-life-support-109086 Morning Shift: With Dominick’s leaving, what’s next for Chicago’s grocery stores? http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-11-05/morning-shift-dominick%E2%80%99s-leaving-what%E2%80%99s-next-chicago <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Flickr by Payton Chung.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>In light of news that Dominick&#39;s will be out of Chicago by the year&#39;s end, we look at the past, present and future of Chicago&#39;s supermarkets. We get a preview of Cook County&#39;s 2014 budget from President Toni Preckwinkle and discuss a controversial food safety regulation. (Photo: Flickr/Payton Chung)</p><div class="storify"><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="no" height="750" src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-with-dominick-s-leaving-what-s-next/embed?header=false" width="100%"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-with-dominick-s-leaving-what-s-next.js?header=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-with-dominick-s-leaving-what-s-next" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: With Dominick’s leaving, what’s next for Chicago’s grocery stores?" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Tue, 05 Nov 2013 08:36:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-11-05/morning-shift-dominick%E2%80%99s-leaving-what%E2%80%99s-next-chicago Preckwinkle goes after phone company that may have ripped off county http://www.wbez.org/news/preckwinkle-goes-after-phone-company-may-have-ripped-county-108826 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/400phone_0_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Securus Technologies has an exclusive contract to provide the phone service in Cook County Jail. Last year WBEZ reported the company was charging the mostly poor inmates at the jail as much as $15 for 15-minute phone calls.</p><p>Since then the county has renegotiated the contract, cutting the costs to inmates.&nbsp; In the process the county discovered Securus may have been withholding money. The company is supposed to pay 57 and a half percent of the phone revenues to the county. Lydia Murray works for Cook County Board President Preckwinkle and says Securus was levying extra charges on inmates and not giving the county its cut.</p><p>&ldquo;We haven&rsquo;t been getting these fees and we&rsquo;ll say that we&rsquo;re due them and they could be substantial,&rdquo; said Murray.</p><p>The county board is expected to vote on a $290,000 contract today to hire a Louisiana company named Praeses to audit the phone contract and to find places the county is owed money.</p><p>Securus didn&rsquo;t immediately return calls for comment.</p></p> Wed, 02 Oct 2013 12:53:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/preckwinkle-goes-after-phone-company-may-have-ripped-county-108826 Board president Preckwinkle to seek second term http://www.wbez.org/news/board-president-preckwinkle-seek-second-term-107642 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP101123183747.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A campaign official says Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle is going to tell supporters that she will run for a second four-year term.</p><p>Scott Kastrup is finance director of Preckwinkle for President. He says Preckwinkle will make the announcement at a fundraiser in downtown Chicago on Tuesday evening. He says Preckwinkle will formally launch her campaign during the summer but that she will tell supporters at Tuesday night&#39;s annual fundraiser.</p><p>Preckwinkle is a former Chicago alderman. She was elected to the board in 2010. She was widely expected to run for re-election.</p></p> Tue, 11 Jun 2013 14:33:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/board-president-preckwinkle-seek-second-term-107642 Preckwinkle, Dart sound alarms on jail overcrowding http://www.wbez.org/news/preckwinkle-dart-sound-alarms-jail-overcrowding-106196 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/RS265_AP03041702306-cook county jail Ted S. Warren-scr.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle Wednesday called on judges to release more people on electronic monitoring to help deal with overcrowding at Cook County Jail. According to Preckwinkle, as of Monday there were 10,008 people in the jail, which has a capacity of 10,150.</p><p dir="ltr">The jail population typically grows by a few thousand going into the summer, and Preckwinkle says allowing people accused of crimes to await trial from home could curb the problem.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;It&rsquo;s a waste of public resources to put more money into jail beds,&rdquo; said Preckwinkle, noting that 70 percent of the people awaiting trial in Cook County are charged with nonviolent offenses.</p><p dir="ltr">Speaking on WBEZ&rsquo;s Afternoon Shift Wednesday, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart echoed the sentiment, noting that electronic monitoring costs about a fifth of the $150 a day it costs to house someone at the jail.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;They&rsquo;re sitting in their house, they&rsquo;re feeding themselves, they&rsquo;re going back and forth to court dates by themselves, they&rsquo;re going to work, they&rsquo;re taking care of their families, all of the above, as opposed to sitting in jail where we&rsquo;re paying for everything,&rdquo; Dart said. &ldquo;My overtime budget is exploding right now.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Both Preckwinkle and Dart said they&rsquo;re not sure why the number of people on electronic monitoring has recently dropped, and Preckwinkle also called on the Sheriff himself to use his power to release people.</p><p dir="ltr">Dart said he&rsquo;s already doing everything he can, adding that bond hearing judges should be the ones taking action.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;The only people I was not putting out [on electronic monitoring] were people that didn&rsquo;t have a house to go to,&rdquo; Dart said. &ldquo;There&rsquo;s no one that has a more vested interest in making sure that the electronic monitoring is a robust system than me.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">But a statement by Circuit Court of Cook County Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans hit the ball straight back into Dart&rsquo;s court, pointing to a federal court order that gives Dart the power to release people.</p><p dir="ltr">&quot;According to Illinois law, the purpose of a bail hearing is for a judge to decide how best to ensure the return of the defendant to court and to protect public safety,&rdquo; Evans wrote. &ldquo;The purpose of a bail hearing is not to reduce the jail population.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Neither Dart nor Preckwinkle suggested what measures they will take if the jail population isn&rsquo;t somehow curbed by summer.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Historically the system just wouldn&rsquo;t handle it,&rdquo; Dart said. &ldquo;We&rsquo;d just start putting people on the floors, we&rsquo;d have three people in a two-person room, we&rsquo;d have the living units ... literally covered with mattresses all over the place.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Preckwinkle said overcrowding will be number one on the agenda at a meeting of public safety officials Friday.</p><p>Follow Lewis Wallace on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/LewisPants">@LewisPants</a>.</p></p> Wed, 20 Mar 2013 17:25:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/preckwinkle-dart-sound-alarms-jail-overcrowding-106196 Cook County land bank aimed at ending blight http://www.wbez.org/news/cook-county-land-bank-aimed-ending-blight-105048 <p><p>Cook County has a new tool to help return vacant and abandoned properties to the tax rolls.</p><p>The Cook County Board voted unanimously to create the Cook County Land Bank Authority. The agency will promote redevelopment of vacant, foreclosed and tax-delinquent properties.</p><p>In a press release, Board President Toni Preckwinkle says land banks have been effective tools to combat the foreclosure crisis in other communities. She says more than 80 local governments in 23 states have land banks.</p><p>Cook County&#39;s land bank will be overseen by a 13-member board. Members will have experience in banking, real estate and development.</p><p>The land back will be able to hold property on a tax-exempt basis to eliminate back taxes and clear title. It will use a mix of county money, grants and donations.</p></p> Mon, 21 Jan 2013 11:32:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/cook-county-land-bank-aimed-ending-blight-105048 New Cook County phone contract will save families money http://www.wbez.org/news/new-cook-county-phone-contract-will-save-families-money-104170 <p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F69932453?" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>For a long time inmates at the Cook County Jail and their mostly poor families have been hammered by the high cost of phone calls. That&#39;s partly because the county has been making a profit from the calls detainees make to people outside.</p><p>But county board President Toni Preckwinkle will sign a new contract Tuesday to significantly reduce the cost of those calls. The county will continue to make $300,000 a month off the deal.</p><p>Cecily Cortez works as a housekeeper at the Marriott Hotel on Michigan Avenue and has a son. &nbsp;Her fiancé was charged with residential burglary. The calls from him are expensive, but she said they&#39;re priceless and way better than letters.</p><p>&quot;You get to hear his voice, feel his emotions through his words and pretty much it&#39;s just more contact rather than something written,&rdquo; Cortez said.</p><p>The cost of phone calls is tough on Monica Ingram too.&nbsp; She&rsquo;s a nurse providing homecare for a quadriplegic person. She recently received a text from her cell phone company saying she needed to pay her bill before she could receive more collect calls from the jail. She&#39;d already spent $60 on the calls that week and broke down into tears as she said she&rsquo;s been forced to start ignoring her son&#39;s calls.</p><p>&ldquo;That bothers me and that bothers me, because he always says &#39;don&#39;t stress, I don&#39;t want you to stress over anything&#39; but I got to deny his calls sometimes,&quot; Ingram said. &quot;What can you do?&rdquo;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/280%20tp.jpg" style="float: left;" title=" Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. (WBEZ/Rob Wildeboer)" />The county has given an exclusive contract to Securus Technologies, a company that, according to its website, operates phone systems in 2,200 jails and prisons across the country. Securus charges inflated phone rates then pays back to Cook County 57.5 percent of the revenue.</p><p>When WBEZ <a href="http://www.wbez.org/preckwinkle-inmate-phone-calls-should-not-be-county-revenue-source-97940">first reported</a> on this last spring, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said she thought it was wrong for the county to view inmates as a revenue source, but the county continues to make $300,000 a month from the contract. And next year&#39;s budget counts on at least another $3 million. Preckwinkle&#39;s long-term plan is still to stop the practice.</p><p>&ldquo;So the president has made it abundantly clear that by 2014 all of the calls in Cook County will be revenue neutral, or I won&#39;t be here,&quot; said Cook County chief information officer Lydia Murray.&nbsp; &quot;We will not be talking.&nbsp; So she has made it abundantly clear that this year is a transition year and we&#39;re lowering the rates.&rdquo;</p><p>Since September, it&rsquo;s been Murray&#39;s job to oversee the contract. She negotiated the new deal with the phone company, which Preckwinkle is announcing Tuesday.</p><p>&ldquo;They are going to cut many of the calls in half and double the time that detainees can talk to their family and friends,&rdquo; Murray said.</p><p>For example, Securus charges a more than $3 connection fee for every call and calls are cut off after 15 minutes so the caller has to pay another connection fee.&nbsp; Now calls can last as long as 30 minutes.&nbsp; Including the per-minute rates, under the new deal a 30-minute call will cost $7. Last spring, that would have cost $30.</p><p>Under Preckwinkle the county was able to ring out millions of dollars in concessions from Securus.<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/_400phone.jpg" style="height: 200px; width: 300px; float: right;" title="Phones at a Cook County jail. (WBEZ/Rob Wildeboer)" /></p><p>The company did not immediately return calls for comment.</p><p>Cook County Board Commissioner Larry Suffredin said it seems the county wasn&#39;t paying much attention to how the contract affected the families of inmates.</p><p>&ldquo;I think that we were asleep at the switch,&rdquo; Suffredin said. &ldquo;The company sees this as a very valuable contract for them, and once we put some pressure on them they seemed very amenable to re-negotiating this contract.&rdquo;</p><p>The new deal extends the Securus contract by a year, which means it gets to keep exclusive access to 9,000 detainees who make 160,000 calls a month. Under the new plan, detainees and their families will have fewer calling plans to choose from, but a 15-minute call will be $4 instead of $10 or $15. The price could come down even more if the county gives up its $3.5 million in yearly profits by 2014.</p></p> Tue, 04 Dec 2012 02:23:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/new-cook-county-phone-contract-will-save-families-money-104170 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