Monday, May 10, 2004

Tonight's [May 10] "Public Affairs," show in the City of Chicago, 8:30 pm on Cable Ch. 21, features State Rep. Julie Hamos.

State Rep. Julie Hamos (18th Dist., D- Evanston) debates and discusses education and education funding; Illinois state legislation that "pushes" suburbs to adopt Affordable Housing Plans and the Illinois business climate with “Public Affairs,” show host and legal recruiter Jeff Berkowitz. The show airs tonight, in its regular Monday night time slot at 8:30 pm, on Cable Ch.21 through-out the City of Chicago. A partial transcript of the show is included, below:

Big questions, big governmental programs and big taxes? Education--Who benefits and who pays? Is there such a thing as a free lunch? Should there be "Affordable Housing," for those with "moderate incomes," in each suburb, including the most affluent suburbs? Is it an appropriate role for the State to push local villages to adopt Affordable Housing Plans? Usurping local control and individual property rights-- or bulding better communities? Is the Illinois General Assembly passing anti-business legislation? Is such legislation hurting the State's economy and employment prospects? We discuss, you decide.

Jeff Berkowitz: Tell the people in Winnetka, Glencoe, Wilmette [and in Kenilworth]--it [the state's affordable housing law] doesn't apply to Evanston because they already have 10% affordable housing but it applies to half your district [and perhaps such suburbs as Hoffman Estates, Bannockburn, Lincolnshire and Northbrook]--...what your affordable housing plan does for them.

State Rep. Julie Hamos: And again, it wasn't mine.

Berkowitz: But you supported it, you voted yes.

Hamos: I absolutely supported it. ...Absolutely, I voted yes- I was a co-sponsor [of the affordable housing legislation].

Berkowitz: So, what does it do...

Hamos: This is called the Affordable Housing and Appeal Act.
So, the first focus is trying to get communities with less than 10% affordable housing to create a local housing plan.

Berkowitz: They don't have one[an affordable housing plan] in Winnetka and they are thinking about one in Wilmette.

Hamos: ...when we are talking about affordable housing for this bill, we are talking about people who are making $57,000 [annually] for a family of four.

Berkowitz: So, you are going to put a family of four in Winnetka and say, "Here is your affordable housing." In Wilmette, In Glencoe and Kenilworth?

Hamos: No, I am not going to. What this bill provides is that communities should create their own affordable housing...

Berkowitz: You can't do that...

Hamos: I said the people's income is $56,000.

Berkowitz: How is somebody with an income of $56,000 [going to afford housing in those affluent areas?]. It is going to have to be "give-away housing." You can't construct something like that.

Hamos: Actually, this is not true.

Berkowitz: Somebody who has an income of $56,000 could buy

Hamos: I will bring to you...developers who can tell you that if they have an opportunity to build a multi-unit apartment building or a condo building, they can create within that 10% of the units that are for this income group...

Berkowitz: Who has to approve the plan?

Hamos: The local community; the local village; the local city

Berkowitz: Okay, if the [local governmental unit] says, "we have a plan," then it is Okay-- they are not affected by this legislation because nobody looks at the Plan- they say we trust you guys? It doesn't work that way. Come on, I read the legislation. Who decides whether the plan is sufficient to pass [muster] under this legislation?

Hamos: ...the second half of this bill says, which is an Appeal Act...which is modelled after a very successful program in Massachusetts...and again I think of this more as workforce housing because this really is people at [an annual income of] $57,000. These are teachers, firefighters and policemen-- these are not very low income people. These are moderate income families who are the work force in these communities and that is the way it has been used in Massachusetts- and it is a small portion of multi-unit buildings that we are talking about. Now, if they [the local governmental units] don't create the [affordable housing] plan, all this law says is that 5 years from now, a developer who has an idea where they would like to build in that community has an opportunity to go to the State Appeals Board if they feel that there are obstacles put in their way. So, they [the developers who faced "obstacles"] can appeal it to the State Appeals Board--

Berkowitz: So, this is the gun put at their head [of the local community].

Hamos: It is an incentive to create the local housing plan.

Berkowitz: So, let's just say Wilmette, Winnetka or Kenilworth [or Glencoe or some other affluent suburb or city without 10% affordable housing] doesn't come up with an [Affordable Housing] Plan; [then] a developer says, "Look, they don't have an affordable housing plan, or one that is appropriate," they go to this Board-- the Board says,"Here is a [development]project-Winnetka, you have to take this; Wilmette, you have to take it--because you folks don't have an [affordable housing] plan." Right? So now, Winnetka, Wilmette [and other affluent suburbs], under this legislation-- not Evanston because they already have 10% affordable housing--

Hamos: Right.

Berkowitz: But, the rest of your [18th] District, under this legislation, they have given up this right, there is no more local control--

Hamos: Unless they create a local [affordable] housing plan. That's what the incentive is.

Berkowitz: So, they have given up- so, you don't mind that these people, half of your district, is now run by the State of Illinois, in terms of housing plans, permits, in terms of what somebody can do in their village. Do you think they might be up in arms? This is a radical plan.

Hamos: This does start out with a policy--

Berkowitz: It is a radical plan.

Hamos: That the workforce needs to live somewhere--

Berkowitz: They need to live in Winnetka?

Hamos: And that communities all over the state should be planning for workforce--

Berkowitz: Every poor person should be able to live in Winnetka?

Hamos: I don't call these poor people. These are the workforce of these communities. So, these are moderate income people.

Berkowitz: They can buy now. This is going to be is sort of a utopian plan...

Hamos: You know, it is modelled after a very successful program.

Berkowitz: In Massachusetts, one state, the most liberal state in the country.

Hamos: I saw mansions-- I saw a mansion that was worth four million dollars built across the street from these kinds of projects.
State Rep. Julie Hamos: …And, again, we [State Sen. Jeff Schoenberg(D- 9th Dist.) and I] are asking big questions. We are saying-- is it time to talk about universal health care? People are so unhappy with their health care programs. Is it time to talk about universal health care? And, we are also asking the question can we do anything at the state level- I am not sure we can- when we talk about universal health care. So, we are willing- my state senator Jeff Schoenberg and I are willing to raise the big issues of the day, but, really, there are no easy answers. You can’t just talk about them in hypotheticals

[Talking Health Care, Rep. Hamos and Sen. Schoenberg are sponsoring a town hall meeting on Health Care with Dr. Quentin Young, U of Illinois preventive medicine professor and Bill Moeller, CEO of United Health Care in Illinois, on Monday, May 10 at 7 to 8:30 pm, Levy Senior Center, 300 Dodge Avenue, Evanston.]

Jeff Berkowitz: Well, you are willing to raise the big issues. Are you both willing to raise the big taxes? To pay for those big issues and big programs?

Hamos: I think we would really need to see what impact it would have- truthfully, right now, our [public] schools are in trouble. We know this.

Berkowitz: They are in trouble? In your district? …

Hamos: In the City of Evanston…School District 65 which is a primary [K-8] school district…they just announced that they might have to lay off 10% of their teachers. That is a very big problem…

Berkowitz: How much do they spend per kid [per year] in that school district?

Hamos: I don’t know.

Berkowitz: I think you should.

Hamos: I think it is over $10, 000.

Berkowitz: Yes, I would think it would be. In Winnetka, I think it is, on the primary grade level, approaching $14,000 per year- maybe it is more than $14,000 per year.

Hamos: We are so proud of the schools here…So, we are not going to do anything at the state level that is going to diminish or take away from the schools that we have up here-- the quality of those schools…

Berkowitz: …Are you saying the quality of schools in Evanston is uniformly good? At $10,000 per kid it should be, but is it? Is everybody happy there?

Hamos: You know what, I am not on the school board. I am a state legislator, so I don’t have to evaluate the schools. I am really proud of the schools that we have in the 18th legislative district.

Berkowitz: Which includes all of Kenilworth, right?

Hamos: It includes Kenilworth, it includes Winnetka; it includes East Wilmette and Evanston and a little bit of Rogers Park.

Berkowitz: And, a little bit of Glencoe… why are they in trouble [in Evanston] if they are spending $10,000 per kid?

Hamos: We have school caps; we have increasing expenses—

Berkowitz: School caps? You mean tax caps…

Hamos: So, first of all we have them [schools] in a pinch on the amount they can raise. Second of all, the state of Illinois is not putting hardly any amount into it—5% is what we [Illinois State government] send to the City of Evanston—

Berkowitz: To Evanston, but not in general. To the City [of Chicago] you send about 30% [of the amount that is spent on education], right?

Hamos: In the 18th Legislative District, 5% of the school budgets are coming from the State, that is No. 2. No. 3, the Leave No Child Behind law is imposing all kinds of new requirements. No. 4, we are not paying for special education and transportation.

Berkowitz: Give me one requirement that the No Child Left Behind law is imposing on the City of Evanston that is raising its costs. Give me one [please].

Hamos: Remedial education is a very important component.

Berkowitz: They are saying you now have to have remedial education, and you didn’t before?

Hamos: In the Evanston school district, we have a lot of low-income children. In the Evanston schools, there are a lot of low-income children and to the extent that they are not passing the appropriate test scores, there is the requirement for remedial—

Berkowitz: Oh, schools aren’t performing so they [the Feds] are telling you that [the schools] have to perform?

Hamos: Oh Jeff, you know what- I think that remedial education is a very nice thing. We ought to pay for it. There is going to be tutoring involved. There is mentoring involved. There is school—

Berkowitz: Who is we? Who is we [as in “We ought to pay for it”]? We are they [and they are us].

Hamos: We, the state of Illinois, which is putting 5% of the Evanston School Budget into the Evanston City [public] schools is not paying for the [federal] Leave No Child Behind Law requirements. This is a very important problem.
For these [Evanston?] schools. And, it is a problem for schools around the State.

Berkowitz: You make it sound like there are four entities involved: There are people and there is a state government, and there is a federal government and then there is a local government. But, those governments are basically [just] people. It is not like the people in Evanston or Winnetka or Wilmette or Glencoe or Kenilworth [or Bannockburn or Hoffman Estates or Palatine or Chicago] can say—we would rather not pay for this—can we go to the federal government? Because the federal government is going to ask them [the taxpayers from those local villages or cities] to pay for it. Or, they say- can we go to the state government? Well, what does that mean? The state is going to come back to those people in your district and raise their [state] taxes. So, when you say, “We ought to pay for it,”-- we are paying for it. It is a matter of in what form. So, you are saying we ought to pay for it in the form of a state tax, as opposed to a local property tax. You have to be precise on this show. ...When you say we ought to pay for it, you mean we ought to pay for it in [the form of] one tax as opposed to another [tax].

Hamos: Jeff, you want to talk about school funding reform. I am saying we don’t have a program yet for school funding reform, but I would be open to hearing about it because I do think the schools need some help and I am very sympathetic to the needs of schools and the children receiving quality education. That is all I am saying. I am not prepared to talk about the specifics.
Berkowitz: …But, my point is, if people [in an affluent village or city] want to do that [pass a referendum to override the tax cap limitations], they can do it and pay for it themselves. Evanston is not a low income city, on average. It has some low-income areas. It is not clear to me that Evanston should say, “Cairo, East St. Louis or some other low income area – why don’t you ship some money up to Evanston? That’s what you are saying when you say the “State” should do more. The state can’t do it. It is someone else in some other low-income area. What is your response to that?

Hamos: I don’t have one.

Berkowitz: You don’t? Okay.

Hamos: You know, I mean we are talking about school funding reform. I think it is time for us to look at that in a serious way. We haven’t in ten years. I think we should look at that. The school budgets are in trouble. We know there is a Leave No Child Behind law. We know that we are not paying for special education. We should be looking at all of that. We haven’t done that yet. At the appropriate time, I hope we will. I hope that the Governor will be ready to step up to the plate to do that. And, then I think we will consider whatever proposal is out there.
Julie Hamos, interviewed on “Public Affairs,” recorded on April 26, 2004 and airing throughout the City of Chicago tonight, Monday night, May 10 at 8:30 pm on Cable Ch. 21 [CANTV].
You may reach Jeff Berkowitz at

Schedule for Upcoming Suburban editions of "Public Affairs:"

This Week (May 10) suburban edition of "Public Affairs," features Ron Gitwitz, State Board of Education member, founder of Students First and leader in the Coalition for Jobs, Growth and Prosperity, discussing and debating with show host and legal recruiter Jeff Berkowitz the Governor's plan to transfer the state Board of Education into the Governor's office, how to improve teacher quality, school vouchers, No Child Left Behind, Students First, the business climate in Illinois, tort reform, mimimum wages, federal/state regulation of overtime and how to stimulate or retard job growth in Illinois.

Week of May 17 suburban edition of "Public Affairs," features Cook County Commissioner Forrest Claypool (D) debating and discussing with show host and legal recruiter Jeff Berkowitz (1) Bloat and Patronage Jobs in County Government, (2) County Board President John ["He’s no Harold Washington"] Stroger under siege and (3) Did Clout kill six County Employees in the County Building Fire?

The suburban edition of "Public Affairs," is broadcast every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 8:30 pm on Comcast Cable Channel 19 in Bannockburn, Deerfield, Ft. Sheridan, Glencoe, Highland Park, Highwood, Kenilworth, Lincolnshire, Riverwoods and Winnetka.

The suburban edition also is broadcast every Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. on Comcast Cable Channel 19 in Buffalo Grove, Elk Grove Village, Hoffman Estates, Lincolnwood, Morton Grove, Niles, Northfield, Palatine, Rolling Meadows and Wilmette and every Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. on Comcast Cable Channel 35 in Arlington Heights, Bartlett, Glenview, Golf, Des Plaines, Hanover Park, Mt. Prospect, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Prospect Heights, Schaumburg, Skokie, Streamwood and Wheeling.
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Jeff Berkowitz, Host and Producer of "Public Affairs." He can be reached at