Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Updated October 5, 2004 at 3:15 pm

A tough and heated, but intelligent, exchange, between two strong, articulate 18th District candidates on the North Shore. State Rep. Julie Hamos [D- Evanston] and her opponent, State Rep. Candidate Julianne Curtis [R- Wilmette], spar verbally and show host and legal recruiter Jeff Berkowitz referees.

Topics include various state legislative and public policy issues, including the Affordable Housing, Planning and Appeals Act, real estate tax assessment caps, state taxes on business and jobs, education, job growth, guns, gays, abortion and God, the minimum wage in Illinois and how to promote an environment conducive to job growth in Illinois.
The Affordable Housing, Planning and Appeals Act- An appropriate correction of a “market failure,” or an “inappropriate usurpation,” of local zoning power by the state of Illinois? Hamos and Curtis debate and discuss, you decide.
Jeff Berkowitz: Let’s go over to …a topic that has been in the news a bit and that’s the Affordable Housing, Planning and Appeals Act which, well, let me ask Julie Hamos to summarize that, what does it do— give us a 30 second overview of what that Affordable Housing Act does.

State Rep. Julie Hamos [D]: The new law says that municipalities with less than 10% affordable housing as defined in law should create a plan, a housing plan that will increase their moderately pricing housing for people in certain middle income categories, so I think of this very much as a law to increase housing opportunities for middle income seniors, young families, the work force. That’s really what it is. So, we are talking about $57,000 for a family of four, that’s the income category that this law is aimed at.

Berkowitz: Aimed at creating new housing, apartment and housing opportunities-

Hamos: over time

Berkowitz: for people who have a family income of $57,000?

Hamos: Right, correct.

Berkowitz: And, it affects something like 90 different villages and suburbs across the state?

Hamos: We thought it affected over 100—

Berkowitz: Right.

Hamos: But, it turns out it only affects 49.

Berkowitz: 49 [villages and suburbs], is that it?

Hamos: That’s right.

Berkowitz: But, it would affect about one half of your District, the 18th, right?

Hamos: It does affect some communities up here, yes.

Berkowitz: It would affect Kenilworth; It would affect Glencoe; [It would affect] Winnetka; [It would affect Wilmette], so virtually the whole [18th]] district with the exception of Evanston and Rogers Park [is being affected].

Hamos: It turns out it does. Yes.

Berkowitz: Okay, and Julianne Curtis, what do you think of this [Affordable Housing] Act? Is this a good idea?

State Rep. Candidate Julianne Curtis [R]: I think we could discuss the merits of affordable housing. Most of this program—I, myself, have lived in mixed income housing in Europe. I think that what is interesting about this law is that it was put on the House floor, House Bill 625-- As a chief co-sponsor, Miss Hamos, here, House Bill, she did chiefly co-sponsor it with Representative Currie and there was no—

Berkowitz: That is Barbara Flynn Currie, the [Democratic State House] Majority Leader.

Curtis: Yes, and there was no discussion of this in local city forums, in the press- there was no debate about this law or about the details of the law—the income limits, the requirements of the law until this passed—

Berkowitz: Okay, we only have a certain amount [of time]. That’s procedure. Do you object to the legislation? Would you have voted against it and why?

Curtis: I would have voted against it for two reasons. I don’t think the state should be mandating Section 8 Public Housing in a community without local consent. I think the way that the State Housing Appeals Board has been described—it has the right to overrule local property rights. The other thing that I object to and I think that what slowly I am hearing from the public is that the details and the facts of this law are not clearly articulated right now. This does have to do with Section 8 Public Housing according to the housing income limits described annually according to the Housing Act of 1937.

Berkowitz: In a nutshell-

Hamos: I have no idea what that means.

Berkowitz: Let’s give Julie Hamos—

Hamos: I mean, I think that this is a deliberate misrepresentation and a deception and is really fearmongering. This has nothing to do with Section 8 Public Housing. This has to do with housing that is 80% of area median income, $57,000 for a family of four. Section 8 is, I don’t know—

Curtis: Well, Section 8--

Hamos: Miss Curtis, I think, was in Europe for the past 15 years, she doesn’t realize this but Section 8 is a totally different law and it is for very, very low income people. This has nothing to do with that.

Curtis: Well, right now—

Berkowitz: Let’s give her a chance. Tell us how Section 8—

Curtis: Because in the law- the way it is described and if you get into the letter of the law, it says that the median income, the income limits are defined by 50% of the median income to 80% of the median income, as described by HUD Section 8, Housing Act of 1937. So, if you go to over Section 8, Housing Act of 1937 and you look at the income limits, it says—applicable for Section 8 Public Housing. You can see on the HUD website and it is very clear that it [Section 8 Public Housing] is for somebody earning half the median income according to HUD.

Berkowitz: So, in a nutshell because we are going to change topics quickly, what do you think is the greatest problem with this Act?

Curtis: I think that the greatest problem is that this [Affordable Housing, Planning and Appeals Act] was foisted on our communities without local consent and it will override local zoning in favor of giving incentives, tax breaks, and various fee waivers to public housing developers and does not involve the local community and right now the local community is having to make plans in reaction to a state mandate which I think people also object to.

Hamos: I think there is a really good thing going on right now which is that finally these communities and 49 communities around the state are having conversations about their own residents, their own workforce-- how to provide for moderately priced housing for their people. And, that’s a good thing. Because, I think we have found-- we have had many hearings on this issue around the state and also here locally and what we have found is that there really are severe housing shortages for middle income people, so this is about that category. This has nothing to do with public housing; there is a deliberate deception here going on and I am sorry to say that it is raising a lot of fears that don’t need to be raised.

Berkowitz: But, let me just say, too, so people will know—our audience, includes a number of suburbs outside your District, some--many of which might be affected [by this Affordable Housing Act]. Do you know [for example] is Arlington Heights affected?

Hamos: I don’t know.

Berkowitz: Mt. Prospect? Lincolnshire? Bannockburn? So, a variety of fairly affluent districts that may not have what the law says is required for affordable housing, then this law would kick in if they did not adopt an [Affordable Housing] plan.

Hamos: And, 1200 other municipalities already provide moderately priced housing for their constituents and that’s why they are not impacted.

Berkowitz: We have to go on. We have to get on to some other topics. A related topic, very quickly, real estate assessments caps. That passed in the state legislature…
State Rep. Julie Hamos (D- Evanston) and Challenger Julianne Curtis (R- Wilmette) discuss and debate the issues of the 18th District on “Public Affairs,” with show host and legal recruiter Jeff Berkowitz. The program was recorded on September 21, 2004 and is being cablecast tonight and this week in the suburbs [See blog entry immediately below for the suburban airing schedule]. It will also be cablecast throughout the City of Chicago this coming Monday, October 11, 2004 at 8:30 pm on Cable Ch. 21 [CANTV].
Additional partial transcripts of this program will be placed on this blog in the future.
Next week’s suburban edition of “Public Affairs,” features Michele Bromberg [D- Skokie], who is taking on 8 year incumbent Elizabeth (Beth) Coulson [R- Glenview, 17th Dist.]. The 17th District was re-districted in 2002 by the Democrats to be a strong Democratic district.

However, the Dems forgot to tell the residents in the 17th that. Notwithstanding that re-districting, Republican/Independent Beth Coulson won a tough re-election fight two years ago over a strong Democratic challenger [Pat Hughes] by 684 votes. This year’s contest in the 17th is likely to be, again, one of the closest state house races in the State of Illinois. Coulson is perhaps the top Tier 1 target of Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan, and Speaker Mike is injecting significant resources into that fight. Coulson, on the other hand, is known to be a formidable candidate and campaigner, and nobody, least of all Speaker Mike, expects Beth Coulson to go quietly into the night.