Race, poverty and politics: Rahm says 'no' to eminent domain; 13,000 Dreamers at Navy Pier; House expels Rep. Smith

While the city council met this week to discuss the use of eminent domain in the foreclosure crisis, Mayor Rahm Emanuel simultaneously proclaimed his opposition to the idea, according to Crain's Chicago Real Estate Daily.

"The idea of using eminent domain is not one I support ... because I don't think it's the right way to address the problem," Emanuel said. "I don't think it is the power of the city to deal with the housing issue. We have a national issue. I think we have to address the issue. I just don't think that is the right instrument."

The proposal would help homeowners refinance if they are "underwater," which is when a house's value has fallen lower than what is owed on the mortgage. Under the plan, the city would seize the mortgage through its power of eminent domain at a discounted price, and then reduce the principal owed on the homes and sell them to private investors.

Emanuel also publicly supported Vice President Joe Biden, throwing off criticisms by Republicans after Biden made a comment that conservatives equated to "playing the race card." Biden told a Virginia audience that included many African Americans that the GOP's financial plan would "put y'all back in chains."

In the presidential race, Obama's reelection campaign squared off with challenger Mitt Romney and newly named vice presidential choice Paul Ryan over reforms to Medicare. The president's ads on the issue cited the American Association of Retired Persons' support of the new health care reform law and criticizing Ryan's plan to reform the entitlement program.

In Sprinfield, lawmakers had two important meetings: one to consider pension reforms and the other, on whether to oust State Rep. Derrick Smith. The pension session, called by Gov. Pat Quinn, will attempt to address the state's massively underfunded pension system, but has been labeled unlikely to produce any results. The House decided to expel Rep. Smith, based on bribery charges brought earlier this year. It is the first time in a century that the body has ousted a member.

Eleven ex-bodyguards for the Daley administration are suing the city, claiming they were discriminated against when they were reassigned because black officers with less seniority were kept on as part of the mayor's security team. The officers claim the city violated rules against racial and politically motivated hiring.

“Chicago is notorious for political maneuvering and political hiring and political firing and so forth, " Ed Fox, attorney for the plaintiffs told WBEZ. “And this is a pretty blatant violation of the whole thing."

The Chicago Reader's Ben Joravsky detailed the fight between preservationists and officials at Northwestern University over the demolition of Prentice Women's Hospital, a building designed by architecht Bertrand Goldberg. Joravsky details the political battle surrounding the building and describes how Mayor Emanuel sits squarely in the middle:

"If he landmarks the building he'll piss off Northwestern, one of the wealthiest and most powerful institutions in the country. A number of university trustees and other graduates are also generous contributors to his campaign—not that it would have anything to do with the mayor's decision.

But if Emanuel gives Northwestern its demolition permit—and let's face it, the permit doesn't get issued without the mayor's approval—he will be forever regarded by preservationists and architects (and maybe even his beloved New York Times) as the pinhead who destroyed one of Chicago's great buildings.

What's an all-powerful mayor to do?"

More than 13,000 young immigrants gathered this week at Navy Pier to find out more about President Obama's promise of "deferred action," which would allow undocumented immigrants brought here as children who meet certain requirements to avoid deportation and get work permits. Check out our video with students from Chicago and Congressman Luis Guitierrez on the issue.

© Community Renewal Society 2012


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