Tag: Cook County Board of Commissioners

County Commissioners Push for Repealing Sugary Drink Tax

Friday, August 11, 2017 || By Bob Skolnik/Wednesday Journal || @maywoodnews || Photo: Getty Images 

Five Cook County Commissioners announced on Aug. 9 that they will support an ordinance to repeal the controversial Cook County penny-an-ounce tax on pre-sweetened beverages.

Commissioners Richard Boykin (D-1st), Sean Morrison (R-17th) and Tim Schneider (R-15th) appeared at a press conference Aug. 9 at the County Building to announce their move to repeal the tax.

Continue reading “County Commissioners Push for Repealing Sugary Drink Tax”

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Boykin Considering Run for Board President

Tuesday, August 8, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews

Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin (1st), whose district includes Bellwood, Broadview and Maywood, said in an interview last week that he’s considering a run to replace Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle — who is currently dealing with the fallout from an unpopular sweetened beverage tax, deep budget cuts and mass layoffs.

“President Preckwinkle has taken us as far as she can take us,” Boykin said. “She’s damaged the county in a real way. She’s done as much as she can do. … I expect that this whole beverage tax, the incompetent way it’s been rolled out and the unfairness of it will hurt her. It will damage her [politically].”

Continue reading “Boykin Considering Run for Board President”

County Judge Dismisses Sugary Drink Beverage Lawsuit

Monday, July 31, 2017 || By Thomas Vogel/Forest Park Review || @maywoodnews

A Cook County judge on July 28 dismissed a lawsuit brought by the Illinois Retail Merchants Association (IRMA) aimed at stopping a one-cent-per-ounce tax on sugary beverages.

The tax will go into effect on Aug. 2, according to a press release from Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.

The ruling, announced last Friday afternoon, comes about a month after the new tax, passed in November 2016, was to be implemented. Friday’s decision is the latest twist in a weeks-long legal battle.

Continue reading “County Judge Dismisses Sugary Drink Beverage Lawsuit”

Op-Ed: How to Balance Cook County’s Budget Without Dangerous Layoffs or Soda Tax

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Boykin_SeptemberWednesday, July 26, 2017 || By Richard Boykin || OPINION || @maywoodnews

Cook County government headed into Fiscal Year 2017 expecting to balance its budget in part with $68 million in revenue generated by the sweetened beverage tax that narrowly passed the Cook County Board last fall.

This $68 million can no longer be counted on, due to a lawsuit filed by the Illinois Retail Merchants Association. As part of the initial phase of that lawsuit, a judge has granted a temporary restraining order that prevents the county from imposing the sweetened beverage tax.

From the moment it was first proposed, the sweetened beverage tax was based on a dishonest premise. Board President Toni Preckwinkle tried to sell it to commissioners and residents as a public health initiative, aimed at reducing obesity.

In fact, the tax was never about health — it was always about revenue. Taxpayers saw through the public health charade from the beginning. Now the Cook County Circuit Court has also seen through the charade.

As a result, President Preckwinkle presently confronts a fiscal crisis that she herself manufactured.

Unfortunately, rather than deal with the crisis collaboratively, with an eye toward maintaining essential public safety services during a time when we face severe levels of gun violence in the county, President Preckwinkle has once again yoked herself and the county to a false premise.

The board president now insists that without the sweetened beverage tax, the county must make sweeping, disastrous cuts to essential public safety services. These across-the-board cuts impact services we can ill afford to lose amid rampant shootings in poor communities of color.

However, just as her assertion that the sweetened beverage tax was motivated by public health turned out to be a false justification designed to push through a revenue grab, President Preckwinkle’s current insistence on these painful cuts presents the judiciary with another false choice designed to intimidate.

Allow the tax, she is saying, or I will withhold services from the communities that need them the most. And absent those services, those communities will almost certainly see more pain, more violence, more senseless death.

These disingenuous strong-arm tactics got us into this mess. They will not get us out of it.

Instead, President Preckwinkle should reverse course and do the following:

1. Ask Chairman John Daley to convene an ongoing, emergency meeting of his County Board Finance Committee. Do not adjourn the meeting until key areas of waste in county government have been identified for immediate spending freezes and reductions. We know from previous budget hearings where the fat is. It’s long past time that we trim it. Immediate areas of opportunity include procurement, litigation and overtime.

2. Institute an immediate, countywide hiring freeze, exempting those positions that are court-ordered.

3. Immediately eliminate the 1,500 positions in the county budget that are vacant. I estimate this action itself would save $70 million.

4. After the above three actions are taken, President Preckwinkle should call a special meeting of the Board of Commissioners in August to consider enacting an emergency package of reductions that accomplish meaningful savings while continuing to provide vital services.

President Preckwinkle would have us believe that the above course of action is impossible. It is not.

Cook County never needed a sweetened beverage tax to operate with both efficiency and compassion. Now that we do not have that tax for the foreseeable future, we have another opportunity to achieve meaningful reforms while protecting our most vulnerable citizens.

It is time for President Preckwinkle to abandon her bullying tactics and work with others to solve these long-standing problems.

Richard Boykin is the 1st District Cook County commissioner.

To submit your perspective, email thevillagefreepress@gmail.com. 

Area Lawmakers React to Illinois Budget Plan | Sugary Beverage Tax Put on Hold

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Thursday, July 6, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews

The Illinois House voted 71 to 42 on July 6 to override Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of a revenue bill “that will hike the personal income tax rate — while also voting to override two other budget bills,” the Chicago Sun-Times reported on Thursday.

For the first time in two years, Illinois has a full budget in place after after a two-year impasse, “the longest such impasse for any state in modern history,” according to a July 6 New York Times report.

“The decision to approve the budget, which includes an income tax increase expected to generate about $5 billion, came as Illinois was sinking deeper into fiscal misery,” the Times reports.

“The state is $15 billion behind in paying its bills; has delayed or stopped payments that have especially affected the elderly, poor and students; and has been warned that its credit rating could sink to junk status, the lowest for any state.”

In the run-up to, and after, the historic vote, local state lawmakers were vocal in their support of the measure.

After the State Senate voted to override Rauner’s veto earlier this week, state Sen. Kimberly Lightford (4th), (whose district includes Bellwood, Broadview and Maywood, along with other western suburbs and parts of Chicago), said that the plan “would give our neediest populations and decimated institutions a fighting chance.

“Families, our most vulnerable populations and businesses alike need consistency,” Lightford stated. “It is time for Governor Rauner to set aside his political antics once and for all and do what he was elected to do, enact a budget.”

State Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch (7th), whose district includes much of Proviso Township, praised the plan.

“The plan cuts state spending by nearly $3 billion, while protecting our seniors, supporting our most vulnerable citizens, revitalizing our violence prevention programs and funding our schools, colleges and universities,” he said.

In a July 6 Facebook post, uploaded as the House debated the governor’s vetoes, state Rep. Kathleen Willis (77th), (whose district includes all or parts of Bellwood, Maywood and Melrose Park), said that although the measure isn’t perfect, “we must do something. As one of my colleagues said last week the state hemoraging. This is a way to stop bleeding out. My view is that you must stop the bleeding before you can repair the damage.”

Sugary beverage tax blocked as budget cuts loom, says Preckwinkle

Soft_drink_shelf_2The cost of sugary beverages sold in Cook County were set to go up one penny per ounce this summer, but a Cook County Circuit Court judge blocked the inevitable from happening.

Now, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle is warning that if the judge keeps the tax from taking effect by August, the county would have to cut 10 percent of its budget.

Per the Chicago Tribune, “In a letter dated Monday sent to all county elected officials, bureau chiefs and department heads, Preckwinkle budget director Tanya Anthony said analysts would be providing them ‘a recommended course of action’ to meet spending cuts needed if Cook County Circuit Judge Daniel Kubasiak doesn’t lift a temporary restraining order that’s preventing the penny-per-ounce tax from being levied.

“Kubasiak stopped the tax, which was supposed to go into effect Saturday, after the Illinois Retail Merchants Association and several grocers sued the county to permanently block it on the grounds it is vague and unconstitutional.

“The county was counting on $67.5 million to be collected through Nov. 30 via the tax on pop and other drinks.”

Read the full Chicago Tribune article here. VFP

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Hillside Church to Host Funeral of Prominent Chicago Politician

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Services for Cook County Commissioner Robert Steele, who died on June 19, will take place at Freedom Baptist Church in Hillside. | Courtesy Cook County Board of Commissioners

Monday, June 26, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews

Funeral services for prominent Cook County Commissioner Robert B. Steele, who died on June 19 at the age of 55, will take place at Freedom Baptist Church, 4541 Harrison St. in Hillside on Saturday, July 1.

Steele, a lifelong resident of Chicago, became commissioner of the 2nd District, which covers Chicago’s Loop and a significant portion of the West Side, in 2006 — the year Steele’s mother, Bobbie Steele, served a stint as Cook County board president. When Bobbie retired that year, Robert was appointed to replace her and serve out her term, to which she had just been reelected. 

Before his tenure as a county commissioner, Steele had been a community outreach manager for the Chicago Park District and executive director of the Lawndale Business & Local Development Corporation.

During his time on the county board, Steele was president pro-tempore, heading up meetings when Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle was absent. He was also chairman of the Environmental Control Committee and the Contract Compliance Committee, and vice chairman of the Heath and Hospitals Committee.

In a statement released last week, Preckwinkle praised her longtime board ally, whose life, she said, “was marked by his long career in public service.” 

“He was a tireless advocate for organ donation after receiving a kidney transplant from his sister [in 2010] and could always be counted on to explain why organ donation is so important,” Preckwinkle said. 

In addition to his board duties, Steele sat on the boards of numerous local and national organizations, including Mt. Sinai Hospital, the Gift of Hope Organ and Tissue Donor Network and Frazier Preparatory Academy.

Steele also sat on the boards of the National Association of Counties Officials (NACo) and the National Association of Black County Officials (NABCO), for which he served as president from 2008 until 2010, according to Preckwinkle’s statement. 

Shortly after Steele’s death was made public, elected officials and community leaders from across Chicago and the western suburbs took to social media to offer their condolences. 

In June 19 Twitter posts, Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin (2nd), whose district encompasses large swaths of the West Side, described Steele as “a committed and dedicated public servant” while Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer (10th) said she “heartbroken” by the loss of a friend and a “tireless advocate for his community.” 

In a statement, Mayor Rahm Emanuel described Steele as a “committed Chicagoan who dedicated his life to public service and strengthening communities.”

Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. said in a statement that he had been “especially close to Steele and his entire family this year.” 

“Robert was co-chair of our first PUSH Tech Expo 2017 being held during this year’s annual PUSH convention,” Jackson said. “

City of Chicago Treasurer Kurt Summers said that he “had the incredible privilege of working with Commissioner Steele” when he was Preckwinkle’s chief of staff. 

“I will forever be touched by his spirit,” Summer said. “My prayers are with former President Bobbie Steele and the rest of Robert’s family and many friends during this incredibly difficult time.” 

During an interview on Saturday, Congressman Danny K. Davis (7th) said that Steele was a “true son of the community.” 

“He spent his whole life in North Lawndale,” Davis said. “That’s the only place he’s ever been other than going away to college, to Morgan State. He was bright, articulate, always energetic although he was a juvenile diabetic. He’d been engaged all of his life. I did five minutes on him on the floor of the House the other day and I mentioned that my family and I moved into North Lawndale the year Bob was born.”

In a statement released last week, Steele’s family said that they called the late commissioner “Man of Steele,” partly because of his work ethic. 

“He loved working in the trenches among community organizations, churches, schools, at-risk youth, and senior citizens,” the statement read. 

Davis said that, more than his official position, Steele was defined by his commitment to his community. 

“Bob was not just a man with a title,” Davis said. “The title meant nothing to him. He was Robert Steele before he ever had a title and he was doing the same things without that title that he did with it. We’re going to miss him.” 

A visitation will be held on Friday, June 30, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., at Lawndale Community Church’s Agape Chapel, 3827 W. Ogden Ave.

The wake and celebration of life services will take place at Freedom Baptist Church, 4541 Harrison St. in Hillside, on Saturday, July 1, 10 a.m. to 11:15 a.m., with the funeral immediately following the wake.

In lieu of flowers contributions can be made to the Greater Westside Community Coalition in memory of Cook County Commissioner Robert B. Steele, 3936 Roosevelt Road, Chicago, IL 60624. VFP

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Boykin Blasts Cook County Beverage Tax, Calls it a ‘Bad Deal’

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Tuesday, June 6, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews

During a town hall meeting he co-hosted in Broadview on Saturday. Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin (1st) blasted a tax hike that adds a penny per ounce to the retail sale of sweetened drinks in the county.

The measure was passed by the Cook County board last November, with Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle providing the tie-breaking vote. The tax goes into effect on July 1.

“I voted against that that beverage tax,” Boykin said during the June 3 meeting, which Boykin co-hosted with Broadview Mayor Katrina Thompson.

“I thought that it was a bad deal for the people of Broadview and everywhere else,” Boykin said. When you go to the grocery store and you get that 64 ounce of grape juice, we’re going to add 64 cents to it.”

According to a June 1 Chicago Tribune article, Preckwinkle said that while raising “revenue was never my first choice,” the measure nonetheless “provides important revenue, not only to avoid damaging cuts for public health and public safety systems, but also to expand our community-based interventions in both arenas.”

Preckwinkle added that the tax also stabilizes the county’s financial status for the “next three fiscal years, during which we will not have to approve any additional tax increases.” County officials expect the tax to bring in $224 million in additional revenue each year. 

During a March 24 meeting Boykin convened at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, most of the business owners, beverage industry representatives and local elected officials in attendance seemed to disprove of the beverage tax as well.

Deno Andrews, a recently elected Oak Park trustee who owns Felony Franks, the hot dog restaurant in Oak Park, said that he’s already overtaxed as it is. A sales tax increase, he said, will only add to his financial burden.

“My small restaurant is 1,799 square feet and I pay about $25,000 a year in property taxes,” he said. “That’s essentially $500 a week. What’s sad is I pay more for property taxes than I pay any single employee on a weekly basis. I can’t pay my staff what I would like to pay them because I have another staff member — the government. That makes it very difficult.” VFP

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