Bridget Gainer

County Commissioner

Cook County, IL

Pro-Growth Progressive Idea: Led the creation of the largest geographic land bank in the country to revitalize communities by redeveloping vacant land.

Bridget Gainer brings a unique perspective to civic and business life with a foot in both the public and private sectors. Bridget is the VP of Global Public Affairs for Aon and a Commissioner on the Cook County Board, bringing over 20 years of experience in non-profit, government and corporate sectors. Bridget began her career as a community organizer in New York City; she continued that work in Chicago where she founded a community center at Senn High School. Bridget then went to work for the City of Chicago in a variety of roles focused on public private partnerships.

Elected to the Cook County Board in 2010, Bridget called for the creation of a Pension Committee and was appointed its first Chairman. As Chair, Bridget brought transparency to the County’s Fund and launched an open-data pension website to facilitate a real conversation for fair and sustainable pension reform. In 2013, Bridget completed three years of organizing and outreach with the creation of the Cook County Land Bank, the region’s most comprehensive policy to reduce the amount and impact of vacant land and abandoned buildings that she chairs.

Pro-Growth Progressive Ideas Shared

Problem

Vacant housing hinders economic development, weakens the tax base and imposes significant costs on already-struggling municipalities and their taxpayers. These properties have a devastating effect on neighbors, local businesses and governments at all levels: increases in vacant housing bring increases in crime, reduction of property values and decline of the quality of life, even in previously stable communities.

Solution

The Cook County Land Bank, the largest geographic land bank in the country, was created in January 2013 as a public/private partnership to revitalize communities by redeveloping vacant land and finding new uses for abandoned buildings. The Land Bank’s goals are to reverse the cycle of neighborhood decline and promote economic development and neighborhood stabilization.

Recently, and on a national stage, the Cook County Land Bank partnered with the Federal Housing Finance Agency to launch the Neighborhood Stabilization Initiative (NSI), a pilot program that will allow Fannie Mae, as one of the largest holders of foreclosed property in the county, the ability to help the CCLBA aggressively pursue its geographic strategy by focusing on 13 Chicago and Cook County neighborhoods.

 

How to steal this idea:

The passage of the Cook County Land Bank Ordinance was the culmination of over three years of research and outreach to communities around Cook County and the country that had implemented innovative responses to foreclosure. The Land bank benefited from the expert guidance of over 100 stakeholders and has formed partnerships with Cook County, Metropolitan Planning Council, City of Chicago, South Suburban Land Bank Authority, Suburban Governments throughout Cook County, Local and National Banks, Realtors, For-profit and non-profit developers and affordable housing agencies.  

While the CCLBA continues to receive funding from third parties, including our largest influx of funds - $4.5 million from Illinois Attorney General Madigan’s share of the 2012 National Foreclosure Settlement - the CCLBA has made unprecedented milestones in its goal of becoming a completely self-sustaining organization.

Learn more about the Cook County Land Bank Authority here.

Across the country, land banks have become an effective tool to address these challenges, reversing the cycle of decline and decay, facilitating the transfer of vacant property, and promoting economic development and neighborhood stabilization.

- Center for Community Progress
- Congressman Dan Kildee
- Detroit Land Bank
- Cuyahoga Land Bank
- Greater Syracuse Land Bank
- Genesee County Land Bank
-
Twin Cities Land Bank

 

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Problem

With rising tuition costs and high levels of unemployment amongst graduates, college is no longer a guaranteed pathway for everyone to secure a job. Technological advancements and the overwhelming number of unfilled high-skill jobs calls for a revision in how we train future employees to meet the needs of the the 21st century workforce. 

Solution

County Commissioner Bridget Gainer has proposed innovative ways to encourage the development of apprenticeship programs that more accurately meet the needs of the 21st century workforce. In Cook County, she has created the first earned credit for employers who create and run a Department of Labor registered apprenticeship program. Having local government collaborate with business leaders, Commissioner Gainer also hopes to help create a pathway for employers to build apprenticeships in non-traditional areas (services and tech industries) where there is projected growth over the next 50 years.