How Chicago’s Poorest Residents Are Driven Into Debt

ProPublica Illinois / WBEZ

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Ohio pension calculation lawsuit … a “stark warning” on public records in Texas … and PG&E’s $1 billion loss.

Good morning, it’s Friday, July 27, 2018. Leading our state and local government news roundup is a data-driven investigation in Chicago, but scroll down for more stories from around the U.S., including Pascagoula, Mississippi; Northway, Alaska; and Houston, Texas.

DATA

  • Chicago, Illinois: During budget negotiations in 2012, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and then-City Clerk Susana Mendoza agreed to a plan to increase the price of the city’s costliest tickets for car owners—not having the required vehicle sticker—from $120 to $200. And that, according to an investigation by ProPublica and WBEZ, has had “a devastating cost for thousands of Chicago’s poorest residents, particularly those from African-American neighborhoods.” Late penalties, collection fees has added up. “Collectively, drivers now owe the city some $275 million for sticker tickets issued since 2012.” There are now thousands of mostly black drivers in Chicago who are filing for bankruptcy due to ticket debt. [ProPublica Illinois / WBEZ]
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: According to a county-by-county crash analysis from the Pennsylvania Insurance Department, of all of the car-deer crashes that happen in the state, most of them are in Allegheny County, which includes Pittsburgh and neighboring areas. [Tribune Review / TribLive]

BUDGET & FINANCE

  • Dayton, Ohio: Legal complaints filed by the Montgomery County Prosecutor’s Office and Clerk of Courts this week argue that the Ohio Public Retirement System hasn’t fully accounted for the income of 194 county employees for the purposes of calculating pension benefits. [Dayton Daily News]
  • Boston, Massachusetts: At long last, with Gov. Charlie Baker’s signature, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has a fiscal 2019 budget more or less finalized. [MassLive]
  • Baltimore, Maryland: “Maryland’s state budget inherently presents barriers to prosperity for people of color and has done so for years,” according to a recently released report from the Maryland Center on Economic Policy. [Maryland Matters]
  • Pascagoula, Mississippi: "You're going to hear a lot of bad things here tonight," City Attorney Ryan Frederic said Tuesday as he discussed the results from an independent audit of the city, which found a $14 million deficit and no money to pay its bills. [GulfLive]

CITY HALLS

  • Jacksonville, Florida: The city government has come to an agreement with the U.S. Justice Department to pay $49 million to settle an employment discrimination lawsuit. [Justice.gov]
  • Houston, Texas: According to a Houston Chronicle editorial, the decision of a Harris County grand jury to charge Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner’s former press secretary “is an extraordinarily uncommon occurrence” and “is a stark warning to government employees who flout laws mandating the release of public information.” [Houston Chronicle]
  • Walton Hills, Ohio: The mayor of this Cleveland-area village announced this week that he will resign after the clerk of the council filed a lawsuit accusing him of sexual harassment and retaliation. [Cleveland.com]

HOUSING

  • Vail, Arizona: The local school district in this small but fast-growing community near Tucson is the first in the nation to develop a tiny-house community for teachers, who struggle to afford rent. According to John Carruth, the school district’s associate superintendent, and leader of the tiny-home project: “I’m often asked, are you doing this because it’s an affordable housing issue, or are you doing this because it’s a teacher pay issue? And the answer is yes to both of those things.” [CityLab]
     
  • San Diego County, California: The Board of Supervisors on Wednesday approved three new housing projects totaling nearly 4,000 homes that required amendments to the county’s General Plan. “We have a housing crisis, period,” said Supervisor Ron Roberts. “This is going to help families in a very direct and indirect way.” [The San Diego Union-Tribune]
  • Asheville, North Carolina: This week, the Asheville City Council committed $1 million to a new community land trust the city and Buncombe County will use to support the development of affordable housing. [Asheville Citizen-Times]

WILDFIRES

  • San Francisco, California: Pacific Gas & Electric Co. reported a $1 billion loss on Thursday following comments from its president and CEO, Geisha Williams, on California Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal on wildfire liability: “The governor’s proposal as a standalone measure represents some progress on reforming strict liability, but it’s insufficient,” Williams said Thursday in a conference call with Wall Street analysts. “It’s just one element of a more comprehensive set of solutions that are needed.” [The Press Democrat]
     
  • Redding, California: Bad news from Northern California with the Carr Fire: “A devastating brush fire barreled into the city of Redding Thursday night, killing one person and destroying numerous structures as residents ran for their lives.” [Los Angeles Times]
  • Idyllwild, California: More than 1,000 firefighters are battling the Cranston Fire in the San Jacinto Mountains east of Los Angeles, a blaze that started on Wednesday and prompted evacuations and threatens thousands of homes. Law enforcement arrested a 32-year-old Temecula man in connection with the new blaze and several other wildfires in Riverside County. [KABC; The Press-Enterprise; Los Angeles Times; CalFire]
     
  • Northway, Alaska: There are wildfires in Alaska, too, including the Taixtsalda Hill Fire which burned to nearly 11,000 acres about 34 miles from this town near the U.S.-Canadian border. [Fairbanks Daily News-Miner]

Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Government Executive’s Route Fifty and is based in Seattle.

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