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Chief of Staff Toni Prekwinkle Uses Equity Funds to Uplift Black, Brown Communities

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Lanetta Haynes Turner gets choked when she talks about her family.

Turner, 45, Chief of Staff to Cook County Board Chairman Toni Prekwinkle, is thrilled to remember her childhood growing up in Illinois’ foster care system.

“My mother was the type to disappear quickly, so my grandmothers, aunts and uncles stepped in to protect us,” she said.

However, her grandmother is too old to take care of her and her three younger siblings aged 6, 4, 3 and 2. said Turner. “It was full of garbage bags. The four of us were loaded into the car. I remember everyone crying in the back seat.”

Ms. Turner said she was lucky to have all four of them in foster care. Unfortunately, her parents were “very abusive,” she said. That abuse continued until she was a senior in high school, she said. Her foster care will result in her being stripped of her license and Turner’s three younger siblings excluded from foster care. Turner lived with her family while she was a babysitter while graduating from high school.

“Since the age of six, I have always been in an environment where I was fully aware of my situation and stigma,” Turner said.

Since then, she wanted to fight for people in a similar situation and became a lawyer to do so. I thought I was going to work on cases of abuse and neglect. However, during her first few years of her legal career, she handled cases dealing with seized cars and family law in the City of Chicago. Then someone asked her to take the office of Executive Director of Cook County’s Court Appointed Special Advocate. She served her five years.

Turner, who has transitioned from a staff attorney to policy work and the public sector, said she hasn’t looked back. This is a multimillion-dollar plan to address institutional and structural barriers to racial equality — operations, policies, and practices — within and outside local government.

As a lawyer and foster care participant, Turner feels it is her calling to serve communities where self-investment is rampant. She is adamant about being an advocate for the highly disparate black and brown community.

“Where’s the health gap? Where’s the education gap? Where’s the public safety concern? Chicago is so much more than that. We know where it is,” Turner said. “Why not intentionally bring[resources]where they are needed? Give the basics and create a level playing field. That’s what we’re trying to create. Me For us, this (equity fund) is the future of government.”

Prekwinkle established the Cook County Equity Fund in 2020 as part of the county’s fiscal 2021 budget. It is the racial policy developed by Policy Roadmap: A Five-Year Strategic Plan for the Office of the President and To Love Our Country: A Way for the Federal Government to Promote Racial Equity. Guided by the Social Equity Toolkit. ‘ was released in April with an investment of $50 million. Funding behind the initiative will support programs and policies recommended by a task force of 20+ organizations charged with transforming systems of justice, public safety, health, housing, economic opportunity, community development and social services. doing.

Preckwinkle’s office released progress report It provides implementation procedures and timelines for key objectives and activities in the areas of health, economic development, criminal justice, environmental sustainability, public infrastructure, and good government.

“April 2022 was the culmination of the task force’s work since we launched virtual meetings in 2021,” said Turner. “We released it in his April, and then spent the rest of the year talking about how to implement it.”

That work involves building a more resilient housing and shelter system for those experiencing homelessness in rural Cook County. This includes creating incentive funds to encourage landlords to rent to residents who may have previously experienced eviction.

This includes the establishment of the Office of Behavioral Health and Wellness, and the design and implementation of the Promise Guaranteed Income Pilot, which launched in December. , to improve economic liquidity.

It also includes evaluating and cleaning up contaminated and abandoned assets in uninvested communities, and working with regional transportation agencies and transportation service boards to establish discounted transfers between different service agencies. .

It is also increasing the county’s investment in housing assistance to create the Cook County Reentry Services network for previously incarcerated people. The Cook County plan seeks to address resource gaps and help organizations build more robust ongoing care for reentry services.

“We will keep you updated each year … Through surplus (funds), grants and savings, we may need to reinvest in our communities to make them more equitable,” Turner said. rice field. “Some of the equity funds were deployed while we were building. It’s a way to start closing the gap.”

Turner said the equity fund is meant to be long-term. Just as it took years to build unfair systems and barriers, she said, it will take years to fix them. She said it speaks to the county’s intent to work with those seeking to

Of more than 20 equity fund initiatives, Turner’s top priorities are property tax reform, re-entry work, and equity to grassroots BIPOC-led organizations serving marginalized communities. Developing a subsidy strategy is central.

On January 24, 2023, Lanetta Haynes-Turner, Chief of Staff to Cook County Board Chair Toni Prekwinkle, will lead a meeting on ongoing work on the Cook County Stock Fund.

“We are trying to secure funding to support technical assistance coaching so that they become a stronger organization and the government can provide stronger services and programs to those who need it. will be,” she said.

Turner has worked in policy and government for 18 years. She likes to fix things, figure out what can be done, and put people’s feet on the fire. While it focuses its work on areas, Turner said there isn’t much overlap with the county’s equity plan. Yes, the issues are the same, but Turner said the city is focused on neighborhood-level jobs and counties are addressing equity issues from the system level, she said.

“Government is traditionally about research, not innovation. “Take three or four buses to work downtown and spend two hours? That’s ridiculous in a global city like Chicago or Cook County. No. We have to work with them to raise money from federal, state, etc. to solve these problems, and that’s fair.”

Turner likens her job to that of an air traffic controller. Her phone is always ringing and she’s constantly working to bring governments, businesses and philanthropic efforts together for public safety. Over the past decade, she’s been planning and bridging collaborations.

Turner joined the Cook County government and headed the Judicial Advisory Board that coordinates criminal justice reform within the county. Preckwinkle says Turner is a good manager and a thoughtful person. Prekwinkle applauds Turner’s leadership for creating the framework and map for sharing the American Relief Plan Act funds in an equitable manner.

“Your staff will make or break you, and it starts with your chief of staff,” Prekwinkle said. Special thanks to Lanetta for her vision and hard work.”

Turner said he leads his work with compassion. Because he understands what it’s like to not have many things because as a foster child he didn’t have what others took for granted. Turner still sees it as his responsibility to make sure his siblings are safe and get through the day assuming the system is in place. That is the responsibility she gives to everyone in Cook County.

“I do what I do not only for myself but also for my family,” Turner said. “Equity funds… not everyone reads it. I just want to make sure people understand why. It’s the result. Better schools, better communities, people saying less violence Not only do I feel safe, I know I have options, I can take the train, and I can get from point A to point B with a reliable, accurate and cost-effective commute. People, that’s what equity funds are about, trying to do better with these systems and connect those systems to better serve the people that matter, which is us.”

drockett@chicagotribune.com

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Written by Natalia Chi

Chicago Popular; Chicago breaking news, weather and live video. Covering local politics, health, traffic and sports for Chicago, the suburbs and northwest Indiana.

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