Archive for the ‘Cook’ Category


There is no end to the further damage Kim Foxx may inflict on Cook County in her final years.

Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx on Tuesday unilaterally announced that County prosecutors will no longer object to waiving court-ordered fines and fees “when motioned by defense attorneys on behalf of defendants with little-or-no income.”

In plain English and practice, that means just ask and you need not pay fines and fees.

That action alone may or may not be a big deal. We don’t know how much cost will thereby be shifted to county taxpayers. Foxx didn’t say and surely does not care.

The broader lesson is more important: Kim Foxx earlier announced that she won’t seek reelection, giving her two years to do what she wants with no concern about consequences.

And she is dangerous.  For example, she made a point of listing among her accomplishments, in her new press release about fees, that she increased “the non-violent shoplifting felony threshold to $1,000.” That made it open season on retailers to steal up to that threshold. Have no doubt about the mindset of progressives like her. In California, as reported by Newsweek, lawmakers are hoping to push through controversial legislation that would ban retail staff from stopping thieves stealing from their stores.

She has expressed no regret for her attempt to let Jussie Smollett off free, bringing international ridicule on Cook County. In his faked hate crime in Chicago, Smollett happily tried to throw under the bus both the supposed perpetrators, who had been his friends, as well as the entire criminal justice system.

Read more here.

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Mayor Brandon Johnson

The city’s new mayor attributes shootings to the ‘trauma’ of disinvestment. | PHOTO: CHARLES REX ARBOGAST/ASSOCIATED PRESS

It was Memorial Day weekend as usual in Chicago, as its citizens celebrated by shooting at least 41 people, and killing 11. The country shrugged because, well, this is Chicago, and if the new mayor doesn’t care, why should anyone else?

The shootings occurred all over the city, including blocks from Mayor Brandon Johnson’s home in the Austin neighborhood. No fewer than five people were shot in the affluent Lake View neighborhood on the North Side. The local ABC affiliate ran an account of the shootings that reads like an old-fashioned crime blotter:

  • “About 2:15 a.m. in Lake View, William Hair, 35, was found on a sidewalk with a gunshot wound to the chest in the 500 block of West Surf Street. He died at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center.”
  • “Later in the day, a man was shot to death in the 1100-block of North Ridgeway Avenue in the Humboldt Park neighborhood on the West Side. The shooting happened about 11:15 a.m., according to police.”
  • “Less than an hour later, a woman was killed and three men wounded in a drive-by shooting in Auburn Gresham.”

And so on.

Read more of the Wall Street Journal opinion piece here.

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Arlington Demo

Workers gather in a parking lot outside of the former Arlington Park to begin demolition on May 30, 2023, in Arlington Heights. (Stacey Wescott/Chicago Tribune)

Workers began demolition Tuesday on the inside of the former Arlington International Racecourse, another nail in the coffin of the storied horse track, and a step toward a potential new stadium for the Chicago Bears.

A backhoe, other heavy construction equipment and workers were seen outside the grand edifice, which won architectural honors and held up to 32,000 fans for nationally known races before being closed by Churchill Downs Inc. in 2021.

Team officials emphasized that they still can’t proceed with their plans for a $5 billion enclosed stadium, housing and entertainment complex until they nail down what the property taxes would be, and get public financing for supporting infrastructure.

The demolition, estimated to cost $3.8 million, would be expected to lower the value of the property for the next tax year, which should lower taxes on the site — a subject of contention between the team and school districts that get most of the tax revenue.

Prior to the demolition, the Cook County assessor’s office recently increased the property’s valuation to $197 million, about equal to the sale price the team paid to buy the 326-acre site earlier this year. That would raise taxes on the site to about $16 million, from less than $3 million when it operated as a racetrack.

Read more here.

Related: “Bears get OK to begin teardowns inside Arlington racetrack structures in preparation for new stadium

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Brandon Johnson

The new mayor’s allies lay out their agenda: ‘First We Get the Money.’

Well, that didn’t take long. Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson was inaugurated last week, and two days later his allies released a report with their agenda for the next four years. Title: “First We Get the Money.”

They mean your money. The report offers a flavor of the trend in Chicago politics and why the once-great city is struggling.

The report says a mere $12 billion in new spending will “make Chicago truly safe” by “addressing issues that underlie crime and poverty.” To get the cash, the mayor should collect $6.8 billion by “making the wealthy and corporations pay what they owe” and then cut spending on the Chicago Police Department.

Mr. Johnson has tried to distance himself from the report, but one gets the sense this is part of the choreography. The report’s creators, Action Center on Race & the Economy (Acre) and the People’s Unity Platform, helped Mr. Johnson win. Co-author Saqib Bhatti is on his transition team. Chicago Teachers Union President Stacy Davis Gates is on the Acre board.

The report suggests Mr. Johnson reinstate a “head tax” on business of $33 per employee. Chicago’s previous head tax of $4 per employee was ended in 2014 by the City Council under Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who called it a “job killer” and a deterrent to business hiring.

The mayor is also urged to raise the real-estate transfer tax on sales over $1 million by 1.9 percentage points from the current 0.75%. Progressives say most of the funds would come from “skyscrapers” and commercial properties. The Windy City has plenty of $1 million homeowners and it already has the second highest tax rates in the country on commercial properties worth $1 million, according to the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.

Landlords with luxury apartments that are vacant should pay a fee to “encourage” them to “charge more affordable rents.” The authors want to raise the tax on jet fuel to force airlines to pay for “profiting from creating pollution in our city.” Then add a financial transactions tax for a cut of every trade at the Chicago Board of Trade and the Chicago Board Options Exchange.

Read more of the Wall Street Journal Op/Ed piece here.

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Oakwood Farm Operation

The Daily Herald recently reported, “After 8-year fight, judge says Barrington Hills horse boarding law is constitutional.” We’ve learned before that article was published, another commercial horse boarding related suit was filed in Cook County on April 25th, and it can be found here.

Ordinance 16-22, referred to in the filing, can be found here. Audio recordings of the Trustee’s discussions prior to approving that ordinance can be heard here.

Related:After 8-year fight, judge says Barrington Hills horse boarding law is constitutional

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The intersection of Barrington and Palatine Roads is staged for lane closures to begin.

Scope: Resurface Barrington Road between Dundee Road (IL Route 68) and Algonquin Road (IL Route 62).

Status: Work is expected to begin ‘no later than May 15′ and be completed by the end of July. Motorists can expect delays and should allow extra time for trips through this area. Drivers are urged to pay close attention to flaggers and signs in work zones, obey the posted speed limits and be on the alert for workers and equipment.

For more information on IDOT projects, click here. Find traffic and road conditions at www.gettingaroundillinois.com. You also can follow IDOT on Facebook and Twitter.

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The city kept 126 beds but isn’t using them. The state has 1,125 more beds from the makeshift hospital but says the city hasn’t asked for them. And the city is missing out on $30 million from Springfield to support immigrants.

Covid 1

Construction workers put the finishing touches on a 500-bed temporary COVID-19 hospital at McCormick Place on April 3, 2020. It ended up going unused. | Chris Sweda / Chicago Tribune pool photo

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Gov. J.B. Pritzker stood together in April 2020 at the start of the coronavirus pandemic to showcase the rapid transformation of an empty convention hall at McCormick Place East into a medical facility with 500 beds — and 2,500 more to be installed later.

It turned out the makeshift COVID-19 hospital wasn’t needed because existing hospitals were able, after all, to meet the demand of treating coronavirus patients. So the beds were moved to warehouses, and the facility was dismantled as quickly as it was set up.

Now, with at least 8,500 refugees from Latin America having been transported to Chicago from Texas since last August in a political tug-of-war over national immigration policy, those beds are available for use in temporary shelters.

The city kept 126 full-size beds from the McCormick Place temporary hospital. City officials say it would be difficult to set them up quickly because the beds include a mattress, headboard, footboard, bed frame and no linens.

Covid 2

Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Gov. J.B. Pritzker and U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., tour the COVID-19 care facility in Hall C at McCormick Place on April 17, 2020. Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere / Sun-Times

Instead, the Lightfoot administration chose to send cots for immigrants to sleep on at temporary shelters because they’re “easy to deploy and set up during an emergency,” according to Mary May, a spokeswoman for the city’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications.

“At this time, it is simply not as practical to use the limited number of beds we have in storage.”

Read more here.

Related: “McCormick Place hospital’s cost to taxpayers?” “Now-closed McCormick Place COVID-19 hospital cost taxpayers $15M to staff, run

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LMP To Nowhere

Kane County officials are hoping their counterparts in Cook and McHenry counties will contribute toward the cost of the Longmeadow Parkway project and help avert charging tolls at the bridge over the Fox River. Daily Herald File Photo

Funding issues have dogged the Longmeadow Parkway traffic project in northeast Kane County virtually since its inception with a $4 million federal grant in 2005. As the $135 million roadway lumbers toward a late 2024 completion, one lingering, important question remains — how to pay off $35 million in bonds Kane County used to help with the construction and support ongoing maintenance.

The ultimate fallback has long been assumed to be to make the Longmeadow Parkway Bridge, the final leg of the project, a toll bridge, the only such local toll bridge in the state. Almost no one likes that option, though, and Kane County officials have said it might be averted altogether if McHenry and Cook counties, portions of which are served by the 5.6-mile roadway, will pitch in $1 million each in recognition of the fact that their constituents will benefit substantially from the traffic-relief valve running from Huntley and Boyer roads eastward to Route 62 in Algonquin.

McHenry County Board Chair Mike Buehler acknowledged the benefits in an interview with Shaw Local Media last week. While coming well short of agreeing to Kane County’s request, Buehler did note that some estimates have found motorists from McHenry County would pay $1 million a year if the bridge ends up charging a toll.

“If we’re looking at a scenario where a toll would be eliminated, I think that would be a pretty compelling argument,” Buehler said.

The argument may not be quite as persuasive in Cook County, where just a small sliver near Barrington Hills would be most affected, but then again $1 million out of Cook’s multibillion-dollar budget is substantially less noticeable than it would be compared to the much smaller revenue picture in McHenry.

And, in both counties as well as Kane, the new road is expected to result in hundreds of millions of dollars in new business activity. This, of course, in addition to the parkway’s primary purpose of alleviating long years of bad traffic headaches in the region.

Read more here.

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Macy’s at Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg is among commercial properties in Cook County’s north and northwest suburbs that have seen their property values fall in Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi’s latest reassessments. Kaegi assessed the Macy’s at about $4.1 million last year, down from $7.1 million in 2019. | Mark Welsh / Daily Herald

North and northwest suburban retailers, office owners and apartment landlords were apoplectic in 2019 when Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi raised property assessments on commercial properties as one of his first acts after taking office.

Though the effect was blunted through thousands of appeals to the Cook County Board of Review, many homeowners felt relief as their commercial neighbors caught the worst of the following year’s tax hikes.

Four years later, taxpayers can expect the opposite impact.

Residential valuations in five north and northwest suburban townships are 15% higher for the 2022 tax year than in 2019, the last time north Cook County was reassessed, according to new data from the Board of Review. At the same time, combined commercial and industrial valuations edged downward by 1%.

Assessments aren’t a direct stand-in for property tax bills, and there can be a wide variation in results for individual properties. But the numbers from Schaumburg, Hanover, Barrington, New Trier and Norwood Park townships — the first newly reassessed townships whose appeal results have been finalized by the Board of Review — make clear that homeowners are in for higher taxes while many commercial landlords are set to take less of a hit.

Because of the county’s delayed tax cycle, the impact of the new assessments from the 2022 tax year will show up on this year’s property tax bills. Second-installment bills due later this year will reflect the new assessments.

More here.

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Marking a significant step in the Chicago Bears’ proposal to move to Arlington Heights, the team Wednesday filed paperwork to begin demolition of Arlington International Racecourse.

The team said the first phase would begin with gutting the interior of the grandstand, and that any exterior demolition would come later.

Team officials emphasized that this does not mean they’re going ahead with the $5 billion plan to build a new enclosed stadium with housing, bars and restaurants on the site. The team has asked to first determine what taxes it would be paying and has said it needs a public subsidy to help pay to build infrastructure like roads and utilities, before it could go forward.

The Bears bought the 326-acre former horse track this year for $197 million.

The demolition announcement comes a day after Crain’s Chicago Business reported that the Cook County assessor raised the assessed value of the property to roughly equal the purchase price.

If approved by taxing authorities, the increase would likely raise the annual property tax to about $16 million, though it was only about $3 million when the near-century-old track was operating, before Churchill Downs Inc. closed it in 2021.

While the demolition is underway, the Bears will be making their case to the county’s Board of Review that the former Arlington Park’s assessed land value is too high. But fearing a whopping property tax bill, the Bears are asking the Board of Review to knock that assessment down to $37.2 million, which the team argues was the land’s appraised value. A hearing is tentatively scheduled for early June.

Read more here.

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