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Grassley Urges Key Senators on Housing Oversight, Citing Scandals Across the Country PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Grassley Press   
Thursday, 18 October 2012 08:04

WASHINGTON – Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa today urged key fellow senators to help ensure the appropriate spending of tax dollars after housing authority scandals across the country have revealed wasted funding and abuse of the public trust in a vacuum of oversight.

“For more than two years, I’ve urged Secretary Shaun Donovan and the Department of Housing and Urban Development to perform more oversight of the billions of federal dollars that go to local housing authorities,” Grassley said.  “The agency has taken a few positive steps, but progress has been too slow.  The agency seems to get involved in oversight of local housing authorities only after the fact, when the abuse has occurred and local media have documented the problems.   For the public benefit, we need to reverse the timeframe.  HUD and local housing authorities need to prevent malfeasance on the front end, not chase it after the fact when it’s too late.  I hope the senators responsible for HUD funding and programs will step in and help me reverse the lax oversight that harms the people who need safe, affordable housing and the taxpayers alike.”

Grassley said a positive step he helped to extract from HUD, amid several high salary scandals, was the agency’s implementation of a new requirement that the public housing authorities provide HUD with documentation of salaries and other compensation.  Unfortunately, the effect of the positive step was limited because HUD made only aggregate information public, and Grassley is pushing for full disclosure of housing authority salaries and perks.  Grassley also has worked with local media in areas including Philadelphia, Chelsea, Mass., and Harris County, Texas, to spotlight bad actors and questionable activities to help bring about tangible changes in how those housing authorities are run.

“Even with the positive steps, much more work is necessary,” Grassley said.  “The country has thousands of local housing authorities spending billions of federal dollars.  Those who are tempted to abuse the system have too much leeway due to a lack of oversight.  This has to change, sooner rather than later.  The senators who control the purse strings and housing policy are in a key position to exact change.”

Grassley appealed for help to Sen. Patty Murray, chairman, and Sen. Susan Collins, ranking member, of the Committee on Appropriations’ Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development, and Related Agencies, as well as Sen. Robert Menendez, chairman, and Sen. Jim DeMint, ranking member, Subcommittee on Housing, Transportation, and Community Development of the Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs.  Grassley included an article from the Boston Globe that reported on numerous problems plaguing public housing authorities in Massachusetts and said the same problems have been found at housing authorities “large and small across the country.”  He also listed his concerns about HUD conference spending, housing authority take-home vehicle abuses, and the need for greater transparency of public housing authority executive director compensation packages.

In one example of housing authority-owned vehicle abuse, the executive director of the Albuquerque, New Mexico, housing authority was documented taking her housing authority vehicle to get her nails done on Friday afternoons.  She was fired after a local television station reported on her outings, according to media reports.

The text of Grassley’s letters to the senators with key committee jurisdiction over federal housing are available here and here.

The text of Grassley’s letter to HUD on take-home vehicle abuse is available here.

An Albuquerque television station’s account of the nail salon scandal is available here.  The Washington Post’s coverage is available here.


Scott County Board of Supervisors' Tentative Agenda PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Chris Berge   
Thursday, 18 October 2012 08:01

Americans Can Take Lessons in Surviving the Economy from 1800s Immigrant PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Thursday, 18 October 2012 07:52
A Century Ago, Self-Reliance Wasn’t an Option –
It Was a Requirement, Translator Says

While the current recession continues to hit millions hard, a researcher says the example of our ancestors should inspire us.

“We have become so accustomed to the fruits of our forefathers’ labor that many of us have forgotten just how tough they had it,” says Sigrid Wilshinsky, translator of “My Life in America Before, During and After the Civil War” ( She translated numerous letters from German immigrant Louis Hensel, who wrote about life in the United States throughout the mid-1800s to his German granddaughter, Emma, whom he had never met.

“Reading Hensel’s letters is like peeking through a rip in the curtain of history and seeing through the eyes of one who had experienced so much,” Wilshinsky says.

That includes meeting Abraham Lincoln in the White House while pretending to be a translator to various Native American tribes; life in New York City in the mid 1800s; training the Union Calvary as a master horseman; the adventures of a traveling opera company, and various intimate details of an America that was still untamed yet quickly ascending as a world powerhouse.

Today’s economic troubles are serious and we don’t know exactly where they are heading, Wilshinsky says, “but imagine losing a well-to-do business in France, thanks to a revolution, another in Long Island 10 years later, and yet another in Williamsburg (in Brooklyn) because of illness.”

Wilshinsky provides tips for surviving today’s economic woes via inspiration from Hensel’s example:

• A jump-starter: Hensel writes that many immigrants who landed in New York took a few weeks to settle in, sightsee, and get accustomed to city life in America before seeking work. Not him; he writes that after acquiring comfortable lodgings – procured by a friend -- he immediately walked the streets to find work, which he found at the end of his second day in the United States.

• Capitalize on all your talents: Before fleeing Paris, Hensel had a thriving engraving company. He was able to use this skill to immediately land a job. Hensel continually honed his knowledge in order to work in a variety of capacities, Wilshinsky says. He learned equine veterinary medicine in his spare time, made nightly runs to the fruit and vegetable market in New York for produce sales, joined local theater groups and was hired by the German Opera Company, with whom he traveled the United States during the winters.

• An indefatigable work ethic: For Hensel, not working was never an option. While writing his letters to Emma during his later years – he lived to be 91 – he discussed life as a music teacher to locals, which meant plenty of traveling. Always an active man, Hensel loathed physical inactivity, and work was a way of life for him.

• A helping spirit: Although Wilshinsky says Hensel may have “bragged a bit” about his deeds, he was nonetheless heroic in his aid to others during numerous incidents.

• An open heart/open mind: Hensel naturally gravitated toward well-educated people, and he learned from them. He valued honesty and integrity in his business dealings, which earned him trust, respect and a strong network of friends and colleagues.

About Sigrid Wilshinsky

Born in Berlin, Germany in 1943, Sigrid Wilshinsky’s family escaped into West Germany in 1952. She benefited from a world-class education in Berlin, where she focused on art, and immigrated to the United States in 1962. She has since traveled the world as a stewardess and eventually became a resident of the Pocono Mountains, where she has befriended the local wildlife. Like Louis Hensel, the German-born renaissance man of the 1800s whose letters she translated, Wilshinsky is a multitalented individual with many interests.

Loebsack Calls on Social Security Administration to Reform COLA PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Joe Hand   
Wednesday, 17 October 2012 09:42

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Dave Loebsack, in response to the announcement that the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for Social Security beneficiaries in 2013 will be 1.7 percent, called on the Social Security Administration (SSA) to reform the way this adjustment is calculated.

“I was raised in poverty by my grandmother, who relied on Social Security survivors benefits to care for my brothers and me, so I understand how difficult it is for seniors to get by on fixed incomes,” wrote Loebsack.  “Particularly in these difficult times, it is imperative that Social Security benefits keep up with inflation.  It is important to remember that the yearly COLA is not a benefits increase, but rather it is intended to ensure that monthly payments keep up with the rising costs of essential expenses.”

The COLA in 2012 was 3.6 percent, after two years of no COLA in 2010 or 2011.  Loebsack urged the SSA to work with Congress to reform the way the adjustment is determined to ensure that benefits keep up with the increase in seniors’ everyday expenses.

A copy of the letter sent by Loebsack can be found here.


Simon announces opening of new training facility PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Justin Stofferahn   
Tuesday, 16 October 2012 13:55

Will improve efforts to train workers for green jobs

CHAMPAIGN – October 16, 2012. Lt. Governor Sheila Simon announced the opening of a new facility at the University of Illinois that will help improve training for workers that weatherize homes through a state program that offers low-income residents an opportunity to improve their homes’ energy efficiency.

During a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the 6,700 square foot Indoor Climate Research and Training Center, Simon, who serves as Governor Quinn’s point person on education reform, said the center will help better prepare workers for green jobs in the Illinois Home Weatherization Assistance Program (IHWAP) through increased hands-on training.

“In order to compete for the jobs of the 21st Century our workers need the right training,” Simon said. “This new training facility will provide workers with the hands-on training needed for jobs in home weatherization, allowing them to ensure families maximize the potential to lower their energy bills and live more comfortably.”

The training facility will provide classroom space and hands-on application areas for trainees completing the Weatherization Training and Certification Program at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center located in Champaign. Graduates will provide weatherization services to low income families that qualify for assistance from IHWAP.

Trainees include weatherization subcontractors and staff from the 35 not-for-profit organizations across the state that the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity works with to administer the assistance program. The organizations identify applicants, evaluate homes, determine the scope of work and contract with weatherization contractors to complete work. Contractors use the training they receive to bid for both IHWAP and private-sector weatherization projects.

The assistance program provides free weatherization services including air sealing, attic and wall insulation, furnace repairs or replacements and window and door work to low-income families. Over the last three years the program has weatherized over 42,000 homes, with nearly 20,000 homes weatherized in the past year. Weatherization typically reduces household energy consumption by 12 to 25 percent and improves indoor environmental health and safety, according to DCEO.

“The Indoor Climate Research and Training Center will help put people to work making low-income homes more comfortable for residents,” said David Vaught, director of the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. “The program marks an important economic opportunity for the state and prepares workers for jobs in Illinois’ expanding green economy.”

Funding for the training center was provided by the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the Illinois Jobs Now! capital construction program. The facility will feature props, videos and other interactive materials that will enhance the hands-on training for weatherization assessors and workers, according to Manohar Kulkarni, the director of the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) at the University of Illinois.

The training currently is offered to ISTC-related subcontractors, but going forward the certificate program will be open to the public, Kulkarni said.

“The ISTC has been proud to partner with DCEO to provide the most up-to-date training for workers providing services for the IHWAP program,” said Kulkarni. “Over the last year we have trained about 300 individuals who took 900 training classes. Over the five years the same numbers are 600 and 2500, respectively. These are impressive indeed and the new facility will allow us to expand upon those efforts including research on indoor human health and comfort issues in buildings.”

The ISTC houses the weatherization training program and is among the five state scientific surveys at the Prairie Research Institute. The other surveys are the Illinois Natural History Survey, Illinois State Archaeological Survey, Illinois State Geological Survey and the Illinois State Water Survey.

Following the ribbon-cutting Simon chaired a meeting of the Illinois River Coordinating Council, which works closely with the ISTC to promote the environmental and economic health of the Illinois River and its tributaries. The council is composed of a diverse group of citizens, not-for-profit organizations, and state and federal agencies, and holds quarterly meetings across the state to gather local input on conservation issues.


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