Butler Family Endorses Joshua Gray for 3rd District Seat


With the announcement that Jerry “Iceman” Butler was retiring, and early voting starting this week, many were anxiously awaiting Butler’s endorsement in the seven person fight over his seat. It came as a shock when Butler declared he would not be endorsing anyone for the March 20th primary. Well, he might not be endorsing a candidate just yet, but his family is. Mattie Butler, an advocate for the Woodlawn community and Executive Director of Woodlawn East Community and Neighbors (WECAN), proudly announces her family’s endorsement of Joshua Gray for Cook County Commissioner of the 3rd district.

I am proud to endorse Joshua. He is what our communities need now, a progressive thinker with progressive ideas and a progressive approach to tackle many of the issues that plague our families, our friends, our children, not only here in our community, but district wide. I firmly believe if our community works together as one, many great things can happen.

Mattie, sister and background singer of outgoing 3rd District Commissioner Jerry “Iceman” Butler, has been a staple in the Woodlawn community for decades, always advocating for the betterment of the neighborhood. In the wake of a series of fires, she started the WECAN organization to address issues of inequality, housing, and basic social necessities that her community was lacking. She feels it is her responsibility and her duty to help her community anywhere she can. Mattie continues to work tirelessly to influence local, state, and national policy. She believes Joshua is the best person for the job, and the best advocate for the 3rd District. Mattie states that, “These are the issues that people face all over the district, not just in the 5th ward, but knowing Joshua like I do, he will be the people’s champion in the County system.

While receiving the endorsement Joshua was quoted saying: 

 “I am humbled and honored to receive the endorsement of one of the greatest advocates of our community. Mattie and the Butler family have done so much for the South Side and its people that I cannot begin to express the gratitude that I feel at this moment. I will work as tirelessly, as they have, and I will always put the people first.

Joshua has proven to be a man of service and a champion of people. He has worked diligently—both alone and in partnership with other community leaders and elected officials— to address issues that negatively affect Chicago communities, including gun violence.

As Commissioner, Joshua will work with community, political, and business leaders to transition our punitive juvenile justice system to one that is solely focused on rehabilitation. His policies will breathe life back into areas that were once vibrant and bustling business districts.

How to Register to Vote for the March 2018 Election

First, are you eligible to vote? To vote in the March 2018 primary election, the following
requirements must be met.
Qualifications to Register to Vote
To register to vote, you must:
 - be a U.S. citizen, and
 - be born on or before November 6, 2000, and
 - live in your precinct at least 30 days before the election, and
 - not claim the right to vote elsewhere; and
 - not be in prison/jail serving time for a conviction.

While some states have restrictive rules that completely prohibit felons and incarcerated
individuals from voting, Illinois is less restrictive. Individuals incarcerated for a felony
conviction are ineligible to vote. Voting rights are automatically restored upon release from
prison, and people on parole or probation can vote. Ex-offenders should re-register to vote.

Registering to vote in Cook County depends on where you live. Those who live in suburban
cook county can find voter registration information on Cook County Clerk David Orr’s website
at www.cookcountyclerk.com. City of Chicago residents can find voter information on the
Chicago Board of Elections website at www.chicagoelections.com.

No Photo ID is required to register to vote or vote on election day. If registering to vote in
person, you must display two pieces of identification. Neither needs to be a photo ID, but one
must include your current address. Acceptable forms of ID include:

  • Illinois driver license
  • Illinois state ID
  • Employee or student ID
    Credit card
  • Social security card
  • Birth certificate
  • Utility bill in applicant's name
  • Mail postmarked to the applicant
  • Valid U.S. passport
  • Lease or rental contract

Voters in suburban Cook County can complete a mail-in voter application form and return it to
the Cook County Clerk's office. Voter registration applications are available in English, Spanish,
Hindi, Chinese, Korean and Polish. Only a social security number is required. Mail the
completed, signed application to:

David Orr, Cook County Clerk
69 W. Washington St., Room 500
Chicago, IL 60602

In the city of Chicago, you can register to vote online using your IL ID or Driver’s License if you
do so by March 4. You can also register by mail if doing so by Feb 20th. Finally, you can
register to vote and vote on Election Day at your local precinct in Chicago. Check the City of
Chicago’s site for links to registration, tips on updating and canceling registration, and how to
report a voter’s death.

How to get rid of raccoons?

Many consider raccoons and coyotes to be dangerous, dirty, and pesky nuisances that invade their home and property, threatening their lawns and buildings. By Illinois law, a property owner or tenant needs a Nuisance Animal Removal Permit to trap and remove most species of wildlife. Property damage by wildlife or a threat to human health or safety by wildlife must be demonstrated before a permit will be issued. Furbearers require a permit. Furbearers include raccoons, opossums, skunks, beavers, muskrats, coyotes, red foxes, gray foxes, mink, river otters, badgers, weasels, and bobcats.

You can request a permit from an Illinois Department of Natural Resources District Wildlife Biologist. Please note that the biologist will provide guidance on appropriate trapping and disposal methods, but will not trap the animal for you.  Animals that are trapped by a property owner or tenant must be released onto the property from which they were captured, relocated to another property, or humanely euthanized. If an animal is relocated, prior written permission must be obtained from the landowner of the property where the animal will be released. Animals may not be released in state, county, or municipal parks, nature preserves, or natural areas.

The County or the City of Chicago does not provide a free animal control or wildlife control services. If you would like assistance trapping an animal, you cannot call a local pest control service like Orkin or Terminix. You have to call a certified wild life control specialist. By state law, the service you hire must euthanize all skunks, and raccoons must be released on the same property where they were trapped or euthanized. Dead wildlife may be disposed of by a garbage service or buried. Be sure to wear disposable gloves while handling the carcass, and wash your hands thoroughly with warm, soapy water when finished.

What does a Cook County Commissioner Do?

The Cook County Board functions a lot like your local alderman in Chicago’s City Council.  The Cook County Board of Commissioners is a legislative body made up of 17 commissioners who are elected by district. The districts are well defined and include approximately 300,000 residents. Many of the districts overlap with the City of Chicago and suburban areas. Some districts include unincorporated Cook County.  Each Commissioner serves a 4 year term that is renewable without term limits. The Board of Commissioners has a president elected by the entire county.  The current Board President is Toni Preckwinkle.

The County Board meetings are bi-monthly and smaller committee meetings happen more frequently. Each Commissioner serves on one of the eighteen standing committees and thirteen sub committees of the County Board. Additionally, they also serve as Commissioners of the Forest Preserve District, exercising jurisdiction over the forest preserve areas of the County, including Brookfield Zoo, Dan Ryan Woods, and the Chicago Botanic Gardens.

Each fiscal year, the Board adopts an Annual Appropriation Bill, or budget, in which the board appropriates funds for the operations of the County. Some of those operations include the cook county circuit court, public health services, forest preserve, public safety, and maintenance of county highways. After the appropriations are decided, the County Board limited power to decide how the money is spent by the agency. The County Board does not set policy of guidelines for funds or programs. However, the oversight of each county office's budgeted dollars is done through its Finance Committee where all county proposed contracts and expenditures over $10,000 are discussed and considered for the Board's approval. The County Board has the authority to levy or impose taxes to generate more revenue to allocate to county agencies and the Cook County Pension Fund. 

Why Don't Churches Pay Property Taxes?

 Places of worship in the United States received an official federal income tax exemption in 1894. Houses of worship include Churches, Temples, Mosques, Synagogues, and other buildings for worship. All 50 US states and the District of Columbia exempt churches from paying property tax. That means that every place of worship you see in Cook County is likely not paying any property tax.  In communities where churches dominate every corner and constitute most of the owned land in area, this means less revenue for nearby schools. Services such as police, parks, streets, schools, community colleges, public hospitals, elections, courts, jails, mosquito abatement, and sewage treatment also depend on this funding. As of 2016, places of worship in the United States were estimated to own $400-$600 billion in untaxed property. Cook County alone loses $527 million in annual property tax revenue due to nearly 8,000 places of worship being tax-exempt.

The issue of whether places of worship should pay taxes is being debated on several stages. Supporters of tax exemption say that churches deserve it because they provide crucial social services, and rely on the American history of 200 years of church tax exemptions.  In 2015, Pope Francis was quoted as telling churches that “If you don’t help the poor and needy, then pay taxes like a business.”  Many dissenters agree with Pope Francis.  Opponents argue that the government cannot afford what amounts to a subsidy worth billions of dollars every year, especially in counties like Cook, where individuals are heavily taxed.

In Illinois, churches that do not file annual paperwork with the Illinois Department of Revenue to keep their properties exempt from property taxes rare at risk of having “outstanding” taxes sold at a county tax sale.  At the tax sale, investors can purchase the delinquent taxes and churches have to redeem the taxes or risk having their building taken by the investor. The county has promoted several initiatives to help pastors and other stakeholders learn about and keep their exemption, thus keeping their building with the congregation.

What are your thoughts? Should places of worship pay property taxes in Cook County?