Community celebrates opening of new Cook County commissioner’s office


Madison Bratley/Daily Senior Staffer

Cook County Commissioner Josina Morita cut the ribbon in front of her new office Sunday afternoon. Afterward, residents and local politicians who attended the opening ceremony celebrated inside with food and music.

William Tong, Assistant City Editor

Residents and local leaders celebrated the opening of Cook County’s new 13th District commissioner’s office Sunday afternoon. 

Located next to the corner of Sherman Avenue and Main Street, the office will be first-term Cook County Commissioner Josina Morita’s main outreach center to people in the county’s 13th District, which stretches from Chicago’s Rogers Park neighborhood to Evanston. Morita was elected in November.

At the new location, office staff can help residents with tax appeals and navigating Cook County courts, Morita said. Residents will also be able to pick up free tickets to the Brookfield Zoo and Chicago Botanic Garden. Small business owners can access grant and tax relief programs as well. 

The opening ceremony kicked off with children lion dancers from the Chinese Mutual Aid Association, a Chicago community organization. Morita, who is Chinese and Japanese American and the first Asian American Cook County commissioner, invited them to perform as a way to celebrate Asian culture, she said.

“It’s really important for me to bring my culture and my story to the office and introduce the district to the Asian American community,” Morita said. 

A yellow and red lion dancer in front of a building
Morita invited about 10 youth lion dancers from the Chinese Mutual Aid Association to perform at the Cook County 13th District commissioner’s office’s opening ceremony. She included the dancers and Lunar New Year-themed food and decorations to reflect her Asian American heritage. (Madison Bratley/Daily Senior Staffer)

Several local politicians, including Ald. Krissie Harris (2nd), Ald. Jonathan Nieuwsma (4th), Ald. Juan Geracaris (9th) and Lincolnwood, Illinois Trustee Jean Ikezoe-Halevi attended the opening ceremony. The new office sits in Evanston’s 4th Ward, which Nieuwsma said will foster effective collaboration between him and Morita. 

“We’ve got a meeting on the calendar,” Nieuwsma said. “I know that affordable housing is going to be on the agenda.”

Nieuwsma also hopes to talk about revitalizing downtown Evanston with county investment, he added. 

Harris said the new office represents possibilities for collaboration between City Council and the Cook County Board of Commissioners. 

“I believe in what people call ‘warm hand-offs’ — when my residents come to me and they need something, helping make sure they can get here the services they need,” Harris said.

She also said it is important the office sits at “the heart of the community” for residents’ easy access, because elected officials often expect constituents to proactively look for public services without conducting enough outreach.

The Sherman Avenue location replaces former Commissioner Larry Suffredin’s Green Bay Road office. Morita said this southward shift reflects changes in Cook County’s district boundaries based on 2020 census results. The district’s northern boundary used to be in Glencoe, Illinois but shifted to Evanston’s northmost border after Suffredin’s last term.

“Having an office on Central and Green Bay didn’t make sense anymore,” Morita said. “Our office is going to be … more accessible to those in the city. And also off the CTA and Metra.” 

In addition to outreach initiatives at the office, Morita said she hopes to implement other policies to improve inclusion across Cook County. 

Specifically, she said the county needs to collect more precise data on different ethnic groups within the Asian American community. She also said the county should create a category for residents of Middle Eastern and North African descent instead of counting them as white. 

Dennis Mondero, executive director at the Chinese Mutual Aid Association, said he is excited about Morita’s ability to incorporate diversity into her public service. 

“As an Asian American leader, that’s also going to have a special place in her heart,” Mondero said. “To make sure her office is a place that’s inclusive to everyone in Cook County, whether it’s immigrants or people born and raised here for multiple generations.”

Additionally, Morita said she will prioritize environmental justice policy based on issues she saw while serving on the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago Board. 

An overarching challenge Morita said she aims to address as commissioner is making her constituents more familiar with government services, functions and responsibilities.

“It’s important for us to go to them,” Morita said. “To reach out to them and let them know … ‘You have a place in government and a voice in government.’” 

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