Illinois Public Media News
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed lawsuits Tuesday against companies she says are running fraudulent mortgage rescue schemes.
Some Chicago area companies and licensed attorneys allegedly charged consumers as much as $375,000 to help homeowners avoid foreclosure. But Madigan said the companies took the money and never helped the consumers.
She said the 2006 Mortgage Rescue Fraud Act prevents companies from charging upfront fees, but lawyers are able to accept advance payment.
"The new twist on this scam is that these predators are really using lawyers as a front so that they can conceivably get around the law and collect the upfront money," Madigan said.
The Attorney General's office has filed suit against four companies accused of using this scam. The filing asks the court to shut down the businesses and get restitution for at least 76 consumers.
Madigan said homeowners should not have to pay to get help with their mortgage, and that HUD certified counselors are available for free. Homeowners can contact the Attorney General's Homeowner Helpline at (866) 544-7151.
People who live in a city may take broadband Internet service for granted. But in many rural areas, broadband service is hard or even impossible to obtain.
The issue of broadband access was the spotlight of a recent congressional field hearing in Springfield.
As an employee for eGrain, which specializes in electronic documents for agribusiness, Drew Earles understands the importance of a good Internet connection. But he said that's not what he gets at his home in the central Illinois countryside, where he relies on a wireless transmitter mounted on the grain elevator in nearby Mechanicsburg.
"It'd be a little less than broadband," Earles said. "At times, it's comparable to dial-up, just depending on the traffic. If you catch it early in the morning, you can usually get some things done, and view some things."
Justin Green, who grows corn and soybeans near Arthur, has it a bit easier --- with a wireless connection to the DSL service at his parents' home. Green said people working in agriculture need reliable internet service as much as anyone else.
"A lot of our commodities markets and trading and access to information and communications with landowners and other businesses, a lot of that's done via email." Green said.
Earles and Green spoke at the booth they manned for the Illinois Agriculture Leadership Foundation, at the Illinois News Broadcasters Association convention in Springfield. But their comments could as easily have been made across town at the University of Illinois Springfield campus. There, Illinois Congressman Tim Johnson and other members of the House Subcommittee on Rural Development were hearing testimony on rural broadband service.
Among those testifying, Sue Campbell, the CEO for Community Memorial Hospital in Staunton. She worked with a local internet provider to obtain five megabytes of broadband service for her hospital, needed for everything from transmitting electronic medical records to supplementing their limited staff with doctors who consult from off site. But Campbell said her hospital will soon need a service upgrade.
"And it won't be too long before we're going to have to consider doubling our broadband width from five megs up to ten," Campbell said.
Rural American is well behind the country's urban areas when it comes to access to broadband Internet service. Les Fowler is with the McDonough Telephone Cooperative, which has managed to bring fiber-based broadband service to parts of western Illinois. But Fowler's co-op is not-for-profit. He told the subcommittee there's just not much money for the private sector to make in rural broadband.
"There's not going to be a huge opportunity for a lot of profit taking in those scenarios," Fowler said. "So I think it's going to take a jump start from the public sector to get this going."
In fact, Fowler said McDonough Telephone's broadband service wouldn't be possible without a Rural Utility Service loan funded by the federal Farm Bill, which is up for re-authorization. Fowler said the co-op is applying for its 2nd loan through the program, a process that has, so far, taken two years. Congressman Tim Johnson said bureaucratic problems have left much of the available money unspent.
"In some cases, only five percent of it has actually emerged from the application process to be used," Fowler said. "So upwards of 90 percent hasn't been. There's a limited amount of dollars to go around, and we need to make sure that rural America, small town America gets its share."
Johnson said efforts to reduce the federal deficit will mean less money for rural broadband service next year --- so he hopes his subcommittee can use the Farm Bill rule making process to make the loan program more efficient. The Urbana Republican said addressing the broadband shortage is just one way to reverse the population decline in rural America.
(AP Photo/Toby Talbot)
People living in a city may take broadband Internet service for granted. But in many rural areas, broadband service is hard or even impossible to obtain. The problem was a topic of a recent congressional field hearing in Springfield, Ill. Illinois Public Media's Jim Meadows reports.
(AP Photo/Toby Talbot)
Post Office Employees Rally at Congressional Offices
Postal service workers across the country held a "Save America's Postal Service" rally outside of Congressional district offices, urging lawmakers to support legislation that they say will help solve the post office's financial problems.
Urbana city leaders have come up with new money targeted for the Champaign County Convention and Visitors' Bureau, after the city's mayor vetoed those funds in July.
Laurel Prussing opted not to cast a vote Monday night, when the Urbana City Council initially backed funding the CVB at a much lower level. The other members unanimously backed the nearly $19-thousand in funding. The city formerly contributed $72-thousand annually. Prussing says the $18-thousand-800 in township funds could have gone for better uses, including social service agencies and what it owes for raises through the city's AFSCME union.
The mayor says she's 'appalled' at how the CVB threatened to kill funding for the Illinois Marathon in four years if Urbana didn't pledge money. Prussing says the bureau isn't in charge of the marathon, or an upcoming theater festival planned for next year at the U of I's Krannert Center.
"People come to the marathon, regardless of the CVB, and people come to the Krannert Center regardless of the CVB," she said. "So they take credit for other work that other people have done. It's kind of unfortunate. They can't give us good information on what they've actually brought to the city of Urbana."
While the city council will look for more accountability from the CVB, Alderwoman Heather Stevenson contends the agency does keep vistors in town for a while once they're here.
"People don't come to the U of I football games because of the CVB, but they do stay because of things that the CVB to make sure that people are able to enjoy their time one they're here," said Stevenson. "So those are numbers that can't be tracked."
The city council will take a final vote on the CVB funding next Monday.
PersonalCare is terminating its contract with Christie Clinic, effective January 1st.
In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, the clinic announced the health insurance contractor's plans.
The end of the contract will impact state workers and retirees, and those connected to other PersonalCare plans.
People in Champaign County who want to have uninterrupted access to Christie Clinic physicians are being urged to switch to Health Alliance HMO coverage or Health Link's Open Access Plans in the next enrollment period.
(With additional reporting from The Associated Press)
The Chicago White Sox will have a new manager. Pitching coach Don Cooper will step in to manage the team for the final two games of the season. The team announced that it had agreed to terms on a multiyear contracts with Cooper and first base coach Harold Baines. White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen was released from his contract on Monday to pursue other opportunities.
Guillen had one year left in his deal and was seeking an extension with a pay raise. He had met with owner Jerry Reinsdorf for about 30 minutes earlier in the day.
Guillen said the move shouldn't be blamed on anyone. He requested to be released from his contract with the team.
"Let me go and do what I want to do and the best for me and my family," Guillen said in the press conference Monday night.
Guillen also expressed disappointment at the way the Sox have been playing this season and gratitude for his fans.
"I know they're not going to forget me. They can't. Even if they want to, they can't. They walk through the ball park, my picture will be there. I hope they don't take it down," Guillen joked.
The outspoken Guillen led the Sox to win two American league central titles as well as the World Series in 2005.
The White Sox said in a release they retain the right to compensation should Guillen accept a managerial position with another major league team for the 2012 season. The Florida Marlins are expecting to snag Guillen as their new Manager as soon as Wednesday after Jack McKeon announced Monday night that he was retiring.
Contrary to earlier reports, bench coach Joey Cora will not manage the team for the season's two final games. In fact, Cora won't come to the park for those two games. Cora is a close friend and former teammate of Guillen's and could join Guillen if he takes the manager's job with the Florida Marlins.
Mike Gellinger will serve as bench coach for the final two games.
(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
At the 5th annual Hunger Symposium on Sept. 26, 2011 in Champaign, food insecurity took front stage.
Two million people in Illinois deal with food insecurity, and in eastern Illinois that number is about 80,000, according to a study released by the group, Feeding America. It's a problem that's being addressed through programs like the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. Local food pantries are also working hard to feed people who need food assistance. At the 5th annual Hunger Symposium on Sept. 26, 2011 in Champaign, food insecurity took front stage. The event was put on by the Eastern Illinois Food Bank and the Family Resiliency Center. Illinois Public Media's Jeff Bossert talks with Sean Powers, who attended the meeting.
Authorities in Champaign County are investigating a report of a female body discovered on Rising Road, just outside of Champaign early Tuesday morning.
Sheriff Dan Walsh says a motorist discovered the body at 7:45 a.m. just north of Bradley Avenue. The body was about 100 feet from the road.
The sheriff says the woman appeared to be 20-40 years in age, and between 5'2" and 5'5" in height. Walsh says it will likely be Wednesday before the county coroner's office can conduct an autopsy.
Rising Road between Bradley and Cardinal Road is closed as a result, and Walsh says he expects it to be closed through at least noon. Anyone with information is encouraged to call the Champaign County Sheriff's Department at 384-1213 or Crimestoppers at 373-TIPS.
Community leaders and activists have started putting together a list of qualities they want in a new Champaign police chief.
Many of the ideas have already been discussed, but some of the 35 who attended a forum put together by Champaign's Community and Police Partnership (CCAPP) Monday night say they're on the same page. Words like public trust, communication, and integrity were repeated throughout the 1-hour event. City leaders and activists spent most of last night's forum in those small groups answering two questions: What are the top 5 challenges facing Champaign's next police chief, and what four skills should that person possess?
Reverend Jerome Chambers, a former Champaign County NAACP president, says he wants someone who has the people skills to generate a dialogue with the community.
"Be as transparent with them as possible, yet - in leading, have the kind of skill set that says: 'I hear you, because you are important. And how we're going to approach this is not to be stereotypical," said Chambers.
Craig Williams says the next chief shouldn't shy away from changing the ranks within the department.
"If somebody's not doing their job, or if you get so many complaints on an officer, don't be afraid to remove that officer of discipline that officer," he said. "In any organization, discipline is very necessary."
City council member Will Kyles says it's important the city set the new chief up for success, recognizing that the person won't be a savior when he first or she first takes office.
Top challenges for the successor to retiring Chief R.T. Finney were also identified. They include dealing with the increase in youth violence (ages 14-25), further healing in the wake of the 2009 police shooting of teen Kiwane Carrington, and social networking.
The recommendations of the panels will be passed on to a search committee for new chief, as well as the city manager's office. Finney will step down on January 20th.
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