Civic News & Info
Governor Quinn Announces Plan to Revitalize Vacant, Foreclosed Homes in Six Communities PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Civic News & Info
Written by Andrew Mason   
Monday, 06 February 2012 09:10

‘Building Blocks’ Pilot Program Will Rehabilitate Vacant Properties,
Increasing Affordable Housing and Stabilizing Neighborhoods

BERWYN – February 3, 2012. Governor Pat Quinn was joined today by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and six Cook County mayors to announce a new initiative to return vacant, foreclosed properties to productive use. An initiative laid out in the Governor’s State of the State address earlier this week, the Illinois Building Blocks Pilot Program will rehabilitate vacant properties and increase affordable housing in the communities of Berwyn, Chicago Heights, Maywood, Park Forest, Riverdale and South Holland.

In the pilot phase of the program announced today, a $55 million joint commitment from the state of Illinois and Cook County will help the six communities stabilize neighborhoods, protect property values, preserve the existing local tax base and increase affordable housing stock. The localities selected for the pilot have been among those hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis.

“The Illinois Building Blocks Pilot Program is a strategic effort to help stabilize communities struggling with the foreclosure crisis,” Governor Quinn said. “By turning vacant properties into affordable housing, we’re assisting existing homeowners, strengthening hard-hit neighborhoods and boosting affordable homeownership options for working families.”

Abandoned properties burden communities by creating blight, attracting crime and reducing the local tax rolls. On average, homes located the same block as a foreclosed property can drop $8,000 to $10,000 in value.

Returning properties to productive use benefits communities by creating jobs and increasing local revenue from property taxes and real estate taxes. Communities also benefit from increased consumer spending by contractors, as well as residents furnishing their new homes. The increase in affordable housing stock helps families starting out or starting again, and promotes economic growth.

“I am excited to partner with Governor Quinn and the state of Illinois in this joint effort to stem the tide of the foreclosure crisis in our underserved communities, and revitalize Cook County’s neighborhoods,” Cook County President Preckwinkle said. “We must continue to focus on a regional economic development strategy that more effectively leverages our resources to spur economic growth, and the Building Blocks program is a step in the right direction.”

The Illinois Building Blocks Program, administered by the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA), has three components:

  • Financing to rehabilitate vacant properties to prepare them for productive use and for sale;
  • Assistance to homeowners to purchase homes in pilot communities; and
  • Support for existing homeowners in the communities to prevent additional foreclosures.

The rehabilitation component includes $40 million from the Illinois Jobs Now! capital program and  $10 million from Cook County to facilitate the acquisition and rehabilitation of vacant properties within the targeted areas. As the rehabbed homes are sold, funds are replenished into the revolving fund to purchase and rehabilitate additional properties. The pilot program could rehabilitate at least 500 properties in the six communities.

The second component provides $5 million in assistance for homeowners to purchase vacant properties, including those rehabilitated in the pilot project. Grants of $10,000 for down payment and closing cost assistance are available for up to 500 homebuyers purchasing vacant properties. The program also includes affordable first position mortgages for qualified buyers in order to make the cost of purchasing vacant homes in the communities as affordable as possible. The pilot also permits a lower FICO score threshold, so that a greater number of potential homebuyers can qualify for loans.

The Illinois Building Blocks Program will also help current homeowners in the six communities by providing tools to prevent foreclosure. The efforts will build on the Illinois Foreclosure Prevention Network (KeepYourHomeIllinois.org), launched in the Governor’s State of the State address. Programs in the six communities will include free one-on-one foreclosure counseling, loan modifications, and access to financial assistance to homeowners who have trouble paying their mortgage payments due to unemployment or under-employment

The Illinois Building Blocks Pilot Program builds upon existing efforts already under way in many of these communities, particularly federally-funded Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) development.  Under Governor Quinn, Illinois has committed $58 million in NSP funding and is already restoring nearly 450 foreclosed or vacant housing units in Illinois, creating an estimated 580 jobs.

“With the highest inventory of foreclosed homes in the nation, the Chicago region requires a focused foreclosure response like the Illinois Building Blocks Pilot Program,” said Mary Kenney, IHDA Executive Director. “This program represents a multifaceted approach and is an important part of Governor Quinn’s overall housing strategy to address the economic, public safety and quality of life issues caused by abandoned and foreclosed properties.”

The Illinois Housing Development Authority (www.ihda.org) is an independent, self-supporting bonding authority that finances the creation and preservation of affordable housing throughout Illinois. Since 1967, IHDA has allocated more than $10.6 billion to finance more than 215,000 affordable housing units for the residents of Illinois.

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This Week in the Senate by Senator Shawn Hamerlinck PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Civic News & Info
Written by Shawn Hamerlinck   
Monday, 06 February 2012 09:08

February 3, 2012

On Wednesday the Senate Education Committee passed a bill to approve a 4% allowable growth for schools.  This would be an increase of $146.2 million, pushing total state expenditures on K-12 education to $2.66 billion.  There is no doubt K-12 education needs more resources however, politicians are confused on the definition of “resource.”  Where Iowa once set the national standard, student achievement scores have continually slipped over the past twenty years and now we are below the national average.  We continually hear the mantra that more money will solve the problem.  There are many more aspects than money at play.  Parts of the governor’s education reform package have merit.  The question is if we can get any part of it to move through the Senate.

On Wednesday the Senate Natural Resources Committee passed a bill requiring all deer stands to be tagged with the owners name, address and hunter’s license number.  Supporters argued it was done to curb poaching.  Logical thought would say, people who poach probably won’t put their name on the equipment they use to poach.

The Iowa House issued their budget targets for the 2013 fiscal year.  Total expenditures are projected to be roughly $100 million more than last year and $190 million less than the governor’s budget.  This budget suggests the Economic Emergency Fund ($350 million), Cash Reserve Levy ($600 million), and Taxpayer Relief Fund ($60 million) accounts will all be full.  Also, it projects an ending balance of $285 million.  The fiscal health of our state is very strong as many of our neighbors look at Iowa with envy.

On Tuesday Iowa Republican Party Chairman Matt Strawn stepped down.  Chairman Strawn was successful in pushing the Iowa GOP to campaign and issue successes it hasn’t seen in twenty years.  Though now may be the time for transition and new leadership, I wish the Republican Party the best of luck in trying to replace him.

I always welcome your opinions, thoughts and ideas. 

Thank you for letting me serve as your voice in the Capitol.

Thank you for letting me represent the 42nd District.
hamerlinck signaturesmall.jpg
Shawn Hamerlinck
State Senator

 
Weekly Video Address: 25th Anniversary of Update to the False Claims Act PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Civic News & Info
Written by Grassley Press   
Monday, 06 February 2012 09:00

During his weekly video address, Senator Chuck Grassley celebrates the 25th anniversary of a major update to the False Claims Act he authored to empower whistleblowers to file suit on behalf of the federal government against contractors who fraudulently claim taxpayer dollars. The law is the most successful tool of the federal government in rooting out fraud against the federal treasury, and has helped recover more than $30 billion in taxpayer funds that otherwise would be lost, and is said to have deterred billions more.

Click here for audio.

Here is the text of the address:

This week marked the 25th anniversary of a major update of the False Claims Act.

In 1986, with Representative Howard Berman of California, I authored legislation to empower private-sector whistleblowers to come forward with valuable information about fraud by government contractors.  At that time, the focus was on defense contract fraud.  Today, these qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act have become the government’s most effective tool against health care fraud, especially in Medicare.

In 25 years, the whistleblower provisions have recovered more than $30 billion for taxpayers that otherwise would have been lost to fraud.  Experts say the deterrent effect of the law to be billions more.

I’m committed – and new threats are constant – to safeguarding and strengthening this law with legislation whenever it’s needed and with oversight all the time.  The broad scope of government programs where whistleblowers have helped to recover taxpayer dollars with the False Claims Act is a testament to the 1986 law’s flexibility and value.

American workers also need new export markets for the goods and services they manufacture.  They need an energetic and enthusiastic effort to establish new international trade relationships for the United States.

The economy benefits from affordable energy, so domestic production has got to be a priority and a reality.  Even so, President Obama is denying the Keystone XL pipeline project.  This infrastructure project would create as many as 20,000 jobs.  The President’s position works against creating jobs and getting people back to work.

Since 2009, President Obama’s big spending stimulus and government intervention has failed in terms of job creation, economic growth and fiscal responsibility. We need a new direction.

On top of that, President Obama seems determined to test and even exceed the powers of his office.  America has a system of checks and balances that’s generally worked for more than two centuries.  The President’s interest in putting the executive branch above the other branches of government is unconstitutional and counter-productive.  It’s something Americans rejected 235 years ago.

Today, finding common ground with the elected representatives of Congress would be more productive than trying to govern by edict from the Oval Office.

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Rock Island County Collections PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Civic News & Info
Written by Tammy R. Wilson   
Monday, 06 February 2012 08:22

February 1, 2012

Beginning in 2012 the Circuit Clerk’s Office is working to develop a program to assist individuals with delinquent accounts from being referred to collections.

We have kicked off a collection program for the Felony department modeled after our Traffic department that we successfully began in March of 2011. For our initial mailing we sent out 1500 notices on January 3rd 2012, as a result of the January 20th, 2012, court date we have generated over $60,000 for that one court call. We’ve had over 340 cases that either paid up to date or in full. Close to 300 people appeared in court and we have approximately 1000 cases to be sent to collections.

In the month of January we have generated over $100,000 in revenue beyond what we brought in the month of November 2011, as a result of the new collection process. We normally bring in approximately $700,000 thru our office monthly.

Since initiating our Collections program in 2011, we are bringing in an additional $50,000 a month prior to sending to collection agency. We began a Payment Hearing Officer program over 10 years ago; this program has been modeled after other counties in the state to assist individuals in setting up payment plans for fines and costs owed to the County. We make every attempt to work with individuals prior to their case being sent to a collection agency. The collection company we are working with is Harris and Harris in Illinois and their website is www.pay-harris-law-firm.com.

Lisa L. Bierman, Clerk of Court Rock Island County, Illinois can be reached at 309-558-3312 or www.rockislandcounty.org.

 
Area Leaders to Attend Forum Supporting Rock Island Arsenal PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Civic News & Info
Written by Jeff Giertz   
Friday, 03 February 2012 16:06

WHO: Congressman Bobby Schilling (IL-17)
Congressman Bruce Braley (IA-01)
Congressman Dave Loebsack (IA-02)
Area leaders, Governor’s offices, Senator’s offices.

WHAT: Congressmen Schilling, Braley, and Loebsack are calling for a bipartisan community task force meeting to mount an all-out effort to preserve and strengthen the Rock Island Arsenal and the Quad Cities’ defense manufacturing capabilities.

WHEN: Saturday February 4, 2012 from 8:00 – 9:30 am

WHERE: Black Hawk College – Quad Cities Campus, Building 2 Room 105, located at 6600 34th Avenue, Moline, Illinois 61265

WHY: Following Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s announcement last week regarding efforts by the Department of Defense in the Pentagon’s Fiscal Year 2013 budget to achieve cuts included in America’s new defense strategy, Congressmen Schilling, Loebsack, and Braley are urging the entire Quad Cities region to come together in support of the Rock Island Arsenal and the Quad Cities’ defense manufacturing capabilities.  The FY2013 budget is the first budget that will begin addressing the $487 billion cut to defense spending over the next decade.  This budget does not reflect potential triggered ‘sequestration’ cuts, which would add an additional $500 billion cut starting in January 2013. 

The Secretary’s announcement included mention of programs vital to the Quad Cities, including industrial base skills.  Per the DOD’s Defense Priorities and Choices, the planned budget states that it will “sustain, where possible, these segments of the industrial base.”  It takes into account the “key skills in the design and manufacture of military systems that cannot be duplicated elsewhere in the economy or regenerated quickly.

The Congressmen are part of the bi-state, bipartisan delegation that represents the Rock Island Arsenal, and have led the charge to grow workload and jobs at the Rock Island Arsenal.  The Arsenal is a major jobs engine in the Quad Cities and – with approximately 8,600 workers living on both sides of the Mississippi River – its largest employer.  Over 35 private-sector companies have leases at the Arsenal, which also houses approximately 50 Department of Defense organizations. Further, its business supports over 14,000 additional jobs in the surrounding area.  Schilling and Loebsack both serve on the House Armed Services Committee, and successfully inserted language into the FY2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to permanently lift the cap on the number of public-private partnerships that arsenals are able to enter into.  Removing that cap increases the Arsenal’s ability to increase its workload, grow their local economies, and strengthen our domestic manufacturing base.   The three Congressmen are now working to form a coalition of local leaders to promote the Arsenal’s value to our national defense strategy.

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