In difficult budget times, we need to make sure that we close tax loopholes and re-examine deals that have outlived their usefulness. I introduced an amendment to the amusement tax ordinance that was passed by the Cook County Board of Commissioners on February 1, 2012 to address these loopholes. The amendment would require the County Board to approve exemptions or waivers to the County's amusement tax where the loss to the County would be $150,000 or more in tax revenue.
Such tax exemptions have been granted to the popular Chicago music festival Lollapalooza. Lollapalooza is a success story and a great example of how public tools like temporary tax abatements can be catalyst for cultural entrepreneurship, but the taxpayers no longer need to subsidize a profitable event.
The Cook County Vacant Building Ordinance will require owners or mortgagees to register the property, pay a one-time $250 registration fee and report each year about the status of the property. In addition, owners and mortgagees will be required to comply with maintenance, enclosure, and security standards set out in the ordinance for the buildings as long as they are vacant. Fines will be assessed in cases of non-compliance. Municipalities that opt-in will also be able to use Cook County Administrative Hearings for vacant building violations, avoiding costly and lengthy cases in the County's Courts. Finally, Cook County will be working with municipalities to create a master registry of vacant buildings throughout the County.
We have received enormous support from cities and towns throughout Cook County, housing policy experts, realtors and the banks in drafting this ordinance. Vacant buildings pose risks to the safety of neighbors and the stability of communities and the County and local communities pay through increased costs for public safety and city services and a compromised tax base. Using taxpayer dollars to address these buildings is not efficient or sustainable; this is the first step towards getting our local housing market out of its downward spiral.
If you are a suburban community official who is interested in the ordinance, please email or call my office to set up a meeting.
Have Questions? Feel free to call me at the office at (312) 603-4210 or email me at Info@BridgetGainer.com
One of the most important opportunities for diversion at the County is for non-violent incarcerated women, especially the mothers of minor children. The children of incarcerated parents are often the forgotten victims when a woman cannot post bond and ends up in Cook County Jail. Of the nearly 1,000 women in our County jail, the majority are mothers and were living with their children at the time of arrest. It's vital to insure these children get the support they need, especially at school.
Below is a presentation that I have developed that addresses how some of these changes can be implemented. We need to improve the pre-trial interview process, front load treatment and services before the detainee goes to jail while also devising an appropriate exchange of custodial parent information between the County Jail and Chicago Public Schools. For those mothers who do end up in jail, keeping them connected with their children through video messages, Skype, and regular communication between the school and the incarcerated parent improves their post-jail outcomes. At the end of the day, we need to remember the children who are separated from their parents and how we can keep parent and child connected.