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Interview: Camden Mayor Dana Redd on Her City’s Revival

Camden Mayor Dana Redd in her office. The city is showing signs of recovery, at long last.

Camden Mayor Dana Redd in her office. The city is showing signs of recovery, at long last.

Everything’s coming up Camden.

Known mainly for its violence and poverty, the city across the river from Philadelphia may be witnessing a recovery. Violence is down, the bond rating is up, and a grocery store has even opened. The 76ers are even making it their second home, locating their practice facilities here in exchange for a major tax break. The city is a long way from being placid and perfect, but it’s climbed beyond the depths it had sunk to just a few years ago, when the state had to take it over entirely.


Mayor Dana Redd talked to Philly Mag recently about the work that has gone into reviving her city.   “Ultimately and over time, I expect to see our unemployment rate come down, I expect to see more citizens working, and to attract a middle-class base back to Camden,” she said.

Some excerpts:

You’ve been mayor a few years now. When you took office, the city — I think from a lot of people’s perspective — might have seemed irrevocably broken, certainly from a poverty and public safety standpoint. Why on earth did you want the job in the first place?

Well it’s interesting that you raise that question. Before I took office in 2010, Camden was literally described as a car with no engine. But I have to say that Camden has always been my passion and my life’s work. As a life-long resident here in the city, and even in the days of my youth, my father was involved politically and sort of instructed our family not to leave the city because the city was going to come back.

From outside of the city now, it appears right now we have hit a moment where Camden maybe is breaking its losing streak a little bit. We’ve stories stories in the last couple of months about how the murder rate is dropping, how the bond rating is up, how you’ve secured funds to demolish hundreds of abandoned homes. It looks like maybe the city’s finally figured out how to climb back up after decades of being down- how is it looking from the inside?

You know it’s been a lot of hard work I would say in the first four years. When I look back over the first term it really was eight years of work done in four. And one of the critical challenges I had upon assuming office was transitioning the city local government back to local control after having been taken over by the state, and getting my hands around the finances and budget and making sure we knew our financial position.

And so over the last four years, because of the financial restructuring that we’ve endeavored, we’ve been able to get an unqualified audit opinion for three years in a row —  and that is something that has not been celebrated in Camden. (Editor’s Note: “To give an unqualified opinion Bowman Company must have found that accounting rules were followed properly and the city’s financial reports are accurate,” the Inquirer explained in reporting the achievement.) And then we went before Standard Poor’s and received an investment-grade bond rating — again something that had not been achieved in the last 15 years. And so now, we have an $8 million bond that we’re going to utilize to do demolition for over 616 properties in the city of Camden, and we want to do that within a 12-month time frame.

Let’s talk a little bit about crime, because that’s been one notable area. Of course Camden’s been tagged kind of as this “murder capital” for a long time. It’s been about a year-and-a-half since you fired the police force that was here. The county was brought in to run things. You have more officers on the street, albeit at a lower pay. You’ve got shootings are down, violent crime is down, murders are down, you just went 40 whole days without a murder in fact.

Yes.

Is one of the lessons here that we should be busting unions? Or is it more complex than that?

So I think it’s much more complex than that. The regional police force was not a new idea or had been visited before, we just happened to implement it due to our fiscal challenges in the first term.  But what I can say is that the process was very transparent; I think it was fair to the existing men and women of the former Camden police department that, you know, those who applied pretty much were taken over to the new force. So out of 160 that applied, 150, if I’m not mistaken, were hired under the new paradigm and actually helped to transition and to do the field training operations for the new members that would join them.

I think we have to be innovative in how we address the problems that are facing urban centers, because we’re all struggling and have been struggling with public safety — but it has to be comprehensive in terms of how we approach our public safety challenges. So it’s not just policing, it is also the prevention and intervention strategies to work with children, youth and families, and there’s also putting in place the right constructs for our re-entry (from prison) population that are coming home to places like Camden, Trenton and Newark- making sure that we’re providing valuable resources for them to enter into the workforce.

One of the things that has happened with the police is not just that there is more of them and it’s not just that they’ve been kind of shuffled around manpower-wise. They’re also using new techniques. There is, as I understand it, a surveillance center that just has microphones out all over the city listening for gunshots. And that’s been effective, but the Atlantic Magazine labeled Camden a “surveillance city.” Are there any concerns about crossing the line civil liberties-wise? Or is the city still just maybe too far gone for that to even register as a concern?

Well you know, I wouldn’t label Camden as a “surveillance city.” But what I would say is that we’re utilizing technology as a force multiplier. To really put it in context, back in 2001 there was discussion of the “Eye in the Sky” camera policing program being implemented in Camden, and over time it just never got off the ground. I raised the question, “Why are we still waiting for the cameras to be installed?” And it was simply an additional funding source that we needed to tap into, of, $750,000. We were able to make that happen through the state and thereby procure the technology.

So not only do we have the cameras that the citizens have advocated for, we’ve been able to procure the shot-spotter technology that helps the police department to calibrate where shots have been fired, thereby allowing for a quicker response time. (We have) the automatic license plate readers, and again that was secured with a grant through the office of the AG here in the state of New Jersey. So you know, to the extent that it helps our police efforts here and our crime fighting efforts, it is welcomed, I can tell you, by our residents, and we’re looking to scale up more as funding becomes available.

The bond rating has increased and that’s a result of the city getting its act together from what was a mess a few years ago. From everything I’ve read has described it just as, there wasn’t much organization to the finances and there weren’t even necessarily all of the records that you should have in place. Describe a little bit about what the process was in getting that turned around.

Well I think it was, first step was securing a competent finance director that understood municipal budgeting, municipal finance, as well as the generally accepted accounting principles and applying that not only to our Division Department of Finance but also the professional development that was required with the staff.  Much credit goes to our finance director, Glynn Jones, who is very much a fiscal conservative. And then you know, building upon his professional experience and expertise, was the technical assistance that we’ve received from the State Department of Community Affairs. So there’s an open line of communication, again, between the city and the state on how to implement best practices and how to be fiscally prudent and responsible.

As you’ve discussed, because you’ve got that bond rating increased, now you are in line to have the money to do the demolition.

Yes.

There are some estimates that say you have as few as 3,000 and as many as 9,000 properties that could probably be in line for demolition if you’re doing everything. How do you target these, so that you’re getting the most bang for your buck, getting just these 600 off the streets?

So I think that the number of 9,000 properties needing to be taken down is way, way too high. So, from our estimate, we’re more like under 1,000 that need to be demolished as hazardous structures — and there’s a definition that our code and enforcement official will apply to whether or not a property is deemed hazardous, unsafe, and an imminent threat to the public safety — those properties get taken down. Then you have another pool of properties that, they’re abandoned because of foreclosure. And then there’s another pool of properties that are abandoned but could be rehabilitated for home ownership or for rental. So I think you have three segments to work with, so we’re going after the segment that definitely is a public safety hazard, to take those properties down, to create or to address blight, but also create opportunities for large-scale development to happen.

If you’re getting rid of blight at this level, if you’re doing demolition on this level, do you risk inadvertently sending the message that we’re still kind of in wind-down phase, rather than in growing phase, to the outside?

No, I think, you know one, the blight will stop the bleeding, you know, when you have homeowners that are in neighborhoods and they’re just sick of looking at properties that are falling down and nothing being done. And one of the reasons why we couldn’t do anything with it is because we weren’t in the financial position to address it, but now we are. Second, we have talked about making those areas vibrant until we can get a developer that’s interested in that area.

The New York Times even pointed out in its article about crime that the participation in the city’s Little League program is at new highs this year, with participants even coming over from Philadelphia to play. I read the Christian Science Monitorabout the growth of your community gardens. You’ve got a grocery store opening in town…

Two. Soon to be two.

What’s the next big step Camden needs to take to keep this going then?

You know, how do we sustain the success of what has begun in Camden beyond the life of the leader? And making sure that the new structure and systems that are operating now become so intrinsic and fundamental in the overall operations of local municipal government. So while we’re laying the foundation, we would like to see the next person come in and build on that successor, not unpack what we’ve done.

There have been stories written about how Camden’s maybe been the beneficiary of very targeted, focused laws to help the city specifically — laws that incentivise teachers to retire, businesses to locate here, supermarkets even to build here. Understanding that there’s always a give-and-take between states and municipalities, is that a permanent condition of helping Camden improve? Or is there a pathway to the city attaining a normal level of independence in the future?

I think in time there is a pathway to the city attaining normal independence. I think we’re more sooner there than not.The law that you first referenced is the Municipal Rehabilitation and Economic Recovery Act. And so within that act there were two periods that were defined: One was the rehabilitation period, and that was a time at which a COO oversaw the day-to-day functions of the operations, which the mayor would normally oversee. That bill also came with $175 million that was overseen by the ERB, the Economic Recovery Board. But in retrospect, when you look at everything that the bill was supposed to accomplish, we probably accomplished maybe 70 percent of the bill’s required intent.

So coming into office in 2010, there was a shift in the period of rehabilitation to recovery. The recovery period is the period during which the mayor would retain full authority for the day-to-day operations. That’s the period that I’m now overseeing. And possibly at the end of that recovery period Camden may be ready for total independence. I think that would be contingent on us maintaining and stabilizing our finances and hopefully increasing our bond rating another grade level, the public safety aspect, seeing outcomes improve for education and workforce development, and so, you know, we’re going to track and monitor our progress.

Well that leaves me with a final question. What is Camden capable of being and becoming over the next 5-10 years? And how will you know when you’ve succeeded?

I know when I’ve succeeded — and when I say I, I mean “we”  — again when we see Camden really come out of the top five of the most dangerous cities in America. Our people are not proud of that title — in fact, we mentioned it yesterday and it got a lot of “boos,” so they want to get out of that top five.

I know we’ve succeeded when we see poverty start to be addressed and the only way to overcome poverty, particularly inter-generational poverty, is education. We’ve become successful when this place is thriving again as an economic engine in South Jersey. We anticipate with the joint board of governors of Rowan and Rutgers University having a health sciences building constructed, we anticipate seeing more Renaissance schools constructed in the city of Camden, seeing housing that’s geared towards a middle-income market rate.

For me, I think the bottom line is really seeing the hope restored — and people having that spirit of “can-do,” “we can do this,” to help us to rebuild the city.

Follow @JoelMMathis on Twitter.

Article source: http://www.phillymag.com/news/2014/10/19/interview-camden-cusp-revival/

Our Opinion: Rodney Davis has earned another term – The State Journal


Posted Oct. 19, 2014 @ 8:00 am


Article source: http://www.sj-r.com/article/20141019/OPINION/141019495/-1/json

Obama to encourage Marylanders to vote early — and for Anthony Brown for …

President Obama plans to stop by a rally at a Prince George’s County high school on Sunday afternoon to encourage Marylanders to cast their ballots early — and to vote for the Democratic candidate for governor, Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown.

Obama’s visit to Dr. Henry A. Wise Jr. High School in Upper Marlboro is part of a multi-state push to help Democratic gubernatorial candidates. Later Sunday, Obama will travel to Chicago to rally support for Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn. Between now and Election Day, Obama plans to campaign for candidates in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Maine.

In Maryland, where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans more than 2 to 1, Brown holds a nine-point lead over Republican Larry Hogan, according to a Washington Post-University of Maryland poll released earlier this month.

The Post survey found that Brown is struggling to shore up support among core Democratic groups that heavily favored Obama in 2012. For example, Brown garnered support from 77 percent of African American likely voters compared to Obama, who won support from 97 percent of black voters in 2012, according to the network exit poll.

Some Maryland Republicans have said that a visit from Obama, with his fading popularity, also could help rally Hogan’s base of supporters. The Republican Governors Association called Obama’s visit “a desperate bid to turn around [Brown’s] slide in the polls.” Hogan said the appearance is evidence that Brown’s campaign “is getting desperate and pulling out all the stops to try to stop our bipartisan grassroots upset.”

“But it’s not going to save him,” Hogan said in a statement. “A majority of Marylanders, regardless of their party affiliation, want a change in leadership.”

Hours before the president was expected to arrive, hundreds of people lined up outside the high school with their tickets. Traffic clogged the street leading to the school, which was lined with Brown campaign signs. Once the doors opened at 2 p.m., a few thousand people packed into the gym, filling the stands. At about 3:30 p.m. they stood for the Star Spangled Banner and then held hands for prayer.

Some of those in the stands said they were there to see Obama, not Brown.

“I just came to see Barack Obama,” said Delora Conyers of Upper Marlboro, who has seen every president since Jimmy Carter. “I’m here for the president.”

Conyers’ grandson attends Barack Obama Elementary School, next door to the high school where the rally is being held, and he brought home a flier about the event. It wasn’t until she picked up her tickets that Conyers learned that Brown also would be there. She and her daughter arrived at noon so they could snag good seats.

Conyers, who is in her 50s, said that she met Brown at her polling place when she voted in the primary, although she cast her ballot for Heather Mizeur. She says that she will vote for Brown in the general election, but she doesn’t know much about him.

“I hope he wins, that’s all,” she said. “He’s a Democrat. I’m a Democrat.”

Obama’s endorsement carries a lot of weight, said her daughter, Heather Conyers, 24.

“Since the president is behind him, I’ll be behind him,” she said as they waited for the event to begin.

Shawanga Paul, 62, of Upper Marlboro, said she is supporting Brown because she believes he’ll do what’s best for Prince George’s. The social worker has lived in the county for decades and is concerned that the county will be overlooked in education funding and in getting help in the foreclosure crisis that continues to hamper the housing industry in the Washington suburb.

“I want someone who is going to do what he needs to do for the people of Prince George’s,” she said.

Paul gives no credence to the polls that show a much tighter race than anyone anticipated. “I don’t believe the polls. I believe the facts,” she said. “I think [Brown] has the stamina, intelligence and experience to win the race.”

Marie Davenport, who lives half of the year abroad in Germany, said she came to Prince George’s specifically to volunteer for Brown’s campaign. She sees in him the same populist fervor she saw in then-candidate Barack Obama in 2008.

“I think Anthony Brown stands for all the people. They both stand for good,” said Davenport, a retired Defense Department employee who lives in Upper Marlboro. “We need to come together as a people because there is too much that divides us.”

Yvonne Henry, 66, of Bowie, initially had her doubts about Brown. Early in the race, the faithful Democratic voter wasn’t sure he had the experience to be governor. But after she heard him speak and interact with voters on the campaign trail, she said she recognized something familiar in the candidate.

“We are both children of Jamaican fathers,” said Henry, a retired World Bank employee. “We are brought up to stand for what we believe in and make strong commitments to other people’s success.”

While Hogan spoke about businesses, Brown was talking about the people, Henry said. “It’s the people of that make the state great,” she said. “We work with the businesses but the people have to be first. That’s the main difference between the candidates. You have to care about people”

Hogan planned to spend Sunday afternoon in Southern Maryland at the annual St. Mary’s County Oyster Festival. In the coming days, he will welcome several luminaries from his own party. Tom Ridge, the former Pennsylvania governor and U.S. secretary of homeland secretary, is scheduled to attend a reception with Hogan on Monday night in Gambrills. On Tuesday, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the chairman of the Republican Governors Association and a potential 2016 presidential candidate, plans to be in Maryland for a second time to help Hogan raise money, Hogan aides say.

If Brown is elected, he will be Maryland’s first African American governor and only the third in the country. Brown likes to joke on the campaign trail that this race is also “historic” because Marylanders have the chance to promote the first lieutenant governor to the state’s top job.

During his eight years as lieutenant governor, Brown has regularly visited predominantly black churches to talk with members and promote causes he has worked on, including recruiting more people to become foster parents and reducing domestic violence. Earlier this month, Brown attended services at Ebenezer A.M.E. Church in Fort Washington and, afterward, shook hands and repeatedly told the churchgoers: “I need you.”

Brown and Obama were classmates at Harvard Law School in the late 1980s and early 1990s. But ahead of the 2008 presidential election, Brown endorsed Hillary Rodham Clinton over Obama. Before the Democratic primary this spring, the campaign of Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler (D) released a radio ad that criticized Brown for having “worked to defeat Barack Obama when he first ran for president.”

The Clintons have been close allies of Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) and Brown, even as both O’Malley and Hillary Clinton consider running for president in 2016. Former President Bill Clinton has attended two fundraisers for Brown this year that collectively raised more than $2.2 million. And last week, the Brown campaign released a new ad that features footage of Clinton praising Brown at a fundraiser this spring before the primary.

“I think he’s the best-qualified person to be governor,” Clinton says in the 30-second spot. “He’s got the right experience. He’s got the right ability and determination.”

O’Malley and Brown both eventually gave Obama their support. When the two ran for reelection in 2010, Obama attended a rally at Bowie State University in Prince George’s and encouraged an audience of mostly young blacks to vote in all elections, not just presidential ones.

Hogan, who grew up in Prince George’s and whose father served a term as county executive, has said he is not ceding the African American vote that Obama’s appearance Sunday was designed in part to inspire.

During a forum hosted by Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity at Bowie State in September, Hogan told a predominantly black crowd that his message of cutting taxes and creating jobs should resonate everywhere, including African American neighborhoods. Brown did not attend.

“Don’t let anyone tell you that you have to vote for or against someone just because of their party affiliation or the color of their skin,” Hogan said at the event.

It was hard to find anyone lukewarm about Brown in Sunday’s raucous and supportive crowd.

Terrence Edwards volunteered for the democrat’s campaign, but he acknowledged the race is tighter than anyone expected. While making calls to voters, he’s had hangups and angry retorts.

“A lot of people are not happy with the way things are going in Maryland,” the 43-year-old Prince George’s resident said. “They feel choosing Anthony Brown is like going along with the way things are going.”

Edwards said the discontent overwhelmingly revolves around taxes.

Early voting in Maryland starts Thursday and ends Oct. 30.

Arelis Hernandez and John Wagner contributed to this report.

Article source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/md-politics/obama-to-encourage-marylanders-to-vote-early--and-for-anthony-brown-for-governor/2014/10/19/9808b8e8-5799-11e4-8264-deed989ae9a2_story.html

Hensville plan has financial rival

State aid sought for historic Spitzer Building




The Hensville plan includes renovating two buildings by the stadium to create another entrance, a bigger Swamp Shop, restaurants, banquet facilities, and rooftop dining.

Enlarge

Plans by the Mud Hens to revitalize old buildings in the Warehouse District into an entertainment district faced a single financial hurdle that seemed possible to overcome until an out-of-town owner of two vacant downtown buildings made his own play for the same money.

Hensville — the planned $21 million project on South St. Clair Street — needs nearly $4 million from the Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credit program to get rolling in early 2015, said Joe Napoli, president and general manager of the Mud Hens and Walleye.

“If we don’t get those tax credits, Hensville does not move forward,” Mr. Napoli said.

The Mud Hens organization appeared to be the only applicant from Toledo for the current round of tax credits, which will be decided by the end of the year.

ProMedica, which wants to use the tax-credit program to renovate the former Toledo Edison Steam Plant into its corporate headquarters, plans to submit an application to meet the next deadline in early 2015, said Robin Whitney, vice president of property acquisition and development for the hospital system.

Mr. Napoli said he was confident the Ohio Development Services Agency would select a single project from Toledo for the 13th round of the program.

“ProMedica was being an outstanding community partner and said they would make their application after the new year so we submitted the application and we got feedback last week there was a second application,” Mr. Napoli said.

“The challenge we have as a community is when we are vying for state and federal funds that are limited, we need to be coordinated in our efforts .. and we were all in sync and suddenly this happens.”

Koray Ergur, a San Francisco developer who heads Ergur Property Equity Group, also met the Sept. 15 deadline with an application for the same tax-credit program desired by the Mud Hens to renovate the historic 10-story Spitzer Building in downtown Toledo.

Neither Mr. Ergur nor his attorney, David Squillante, of Toledo, could be reached for comment Friday.

Nathaniel Kaelin, a program manager at the state agency, said Mr. Ergur is asking for $5 million through the program to convert offices on nine floors of the Spitzer into 170 apartments and to refurbish the first-floor arcade into retail space.

The Spitzer Building — thought to be the city’s first steel-framed structure — was constructed between 1892 and 1896 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Mr. Ergur, who also owns the vacant Nicholas Building across the street, has a troubled history in Toledo that includes a brief stay in the Lucas County jail last year after he failed to appear in Toledo Municipal Court on fire-code violations for the Spitzer Building.

He acquired the landmark structure — for many years considered the hub of Toledo’s legal community — from the Spitzer family in 2009.

The Spitzer Building Co., which held a note on both buildings, took foreclosure action against Mr. Ergur in Lucas County Common Pleas Court in January, 2012, after he defaulted on the loan.

The building was placed in receivership and he subsequently was served with papers by the county for failing to pay back taxes.

On three occasions, last-minute payments were made to stop Mr. Ergur’s buildings from going on the auction block.

After many tenants moved out and maintenance costs escalated, the court-appointed receiver closed the building last December and the city and Lucas County spent about $15,000 to mothball the building.

A court-ordered sheriff’s sale scheduled in March was canceled following Mr. Ergur’s payment to satisfy a bulk of the foreclosure judgment. The check for $922,632 stopped the sale and he later provided additional money to cover receivership costs and interest on the debt.

However, according to court records, Mr. Ergur’s legal problems are not over.

Gary D. Catron, of Fresno, Calif., is seeking an $864,762 judgment against Mr. Ergur and his companies in the 2009 foreclosure action. He claims the money owed to him was for a loan Mr. Ergur used in the purchase of the Nicholas Building.

The Mud Hens project, which draws inspiration from Chicago’s Wrigleyville neighborhood, includes renovating two buildings adjacent to the stadium to create an additional entrance, an expanded Swamp Shop, restaurants, banquet facilities, rooftop dining, and rooftop decks.

Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins said he sent state officials a letter supporting the tax credits for Hensville because he thinks it’s critical to revitalizing the area.

“I embrace the Mud Hens’ Hensville project,” the mayor said. “Their track record downtown speaks for itself and has been a total success.”

Mr. Ergur has not earned his support, Mayor Collins said.

“I am very careful with Mr. Ergur, who has made overtures of developing his two buildings that are extremely [important] for downtown Toledo because that corner is the only one with office buildings at all four corners,” he said. “He has not contacted me or anyone in my administration for defining his plans or anything.”

City records show Mr. Ergur asked Toledo’s inspections department last week for partial occupancy permits for the buildings, which would only be granted after inspections.

Contact Ignazio Messina at: imessina@theblade.com or 419-724-6171 or on Twitter @IgnazioMessina.

Article source: http://www.toledoblade.com/local/2014/10/18/Downtown-Hensville-plan-has-city-rival-for-tax-credits.html

Midland Project Housing Connect offers help to people with housing issues

MIDLAND TOWNSHIP, MI – Midland County Continuum of Care once again is holding Project Housing Connect, its one-stop shop for Midland County residents who are homeless or in need of help to keep their homes, on Wednesday, Nov. 5.

People are encouraged to bring personal care items and winter clothing, such as gloves, coats and hats, for people in need. Volunteers also are needed and can sign up at the United Way Volunteer website.

No registration is required for people seeking assistance, but a legal ID and proof of income is expected.

Other services offered are free flu shots for people with no insurance and counseling for assistance with issues relating to eviction and foreclosure matters.

The event is 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Midland First United Methodist Church, located at 315 W. Larkin.

Article source: http://www.mlive.com/news/saginaw/index.ssf/2014/10/project_housing_connect_helpin.html

Hospital and employees prepare for looming foreclosure fight

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Hutcheson Medical Center employees and dozens of North Georgia residents have formed Save Hutcheson, a community initiative designed to prevent the foreclosure of Hutcheson by the Erlanger Health System.

The group is encouraging members of the community to keep the hospital open by circulating petitions, going door-to-door, making phone calls, writing letters to the editor and emailing members of Erlanger’s board of directors.

Hutcheson has struggled to pay its debts in recent years as physicians and patients have shifted to other hospitals.

Erlanger previously moved to revive Hutcheson with a $20 million loan and new management.

But Hutcheson terminated its management contract with Erlanger, and still owes more than $20 million on its loan, and another $40 million to other lenders.

Talks with Erlanger officials fell apart in June, leading to foreclosure proceedings.

Hutcheson serves more than 87,000 patients in the North Georgia area, according to a news release, and provides 900 local jobs.

“Besides eliminating quality local healthcare and critical daily emergency care for North Georgia citizens, Hutcheson’s closing will terminate thousands of jobs and reap a devastating impact on our local economy,” said Bebe Heiskell, Walker County’s sole commissioner.

The three counties that own Hutcheson and secured the debt declined an Erlanger offer in June to waive a foreclosure requirement for debt recovery, Erlanger attorney Karen Bragman said in a 26-page court filing.

“Erlanger made plain it had no burning inclination to proceed with foreclosure,” Bragman said. “Unfortunately, neither the counties nor (Hutcheson hospital) have signaled an inclination to accept Erlanger’s offer.”

Save Hutcheson is encouraging its members to attend three public hearings in support of the hospital, the first of which will be held on Nov. 11 at the Catoosa County Civic Center Auditorium.

“We’ve treated thousands of emergency patients whose lives were literally slipping away. If they had been forced to drive to a Chattanooga area hospital, they would not have survived,” said Dr. Tim Ashburn, critical care pulmonologist at Hutcheson Medical Center. “If a local North Georgia resident needs urgent emergency care, Hutcheson is their quickest option and the best bet to save their life.”

Stay with the Times Free Press for more on this developing story.

Article source: http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2014/oct/14/hundreds-north-georgians-band-together-fight-hospi/

JPMorgan Chase in talks to build $6.5B HQ at Hudson Yards

From left: Jamie Dimon, Hudson Yards and 270 Park Avenue

From left: Jamie Dimon, Hudson Yards and 270 Park Avenue

JPMorgan Chase is in talks with state and city officials to reach an agreement that would enable the bank to build a $6.5 billion corporate campus, including two skyscrapers, at Hudson Yards.

Chase was reportedly looking for $1 billion in concessions from the city and the state, according to the New York Times. Chase would build its towers on the north side of 33rd Street, between 10th and 11th avenues on two sites that are owned by Related Companies, according to the newspaper. The towers would house 16,000 employees.

Chase proposed — among other things — to cut the mortgage recording tax, transfer tax and sales taxes on construction materials. The bank also asked for job-training grants, a discount on power from the state and an underground passageway between the towers, for which the new no. 7 subway stop would have to be altered.

According to the newspaper, negotiations nearly fell through last week, but have regained momentum. An agreement, however, is far from certain.

“There’s no way that the city would entertain a demand for a billion dollars in additional incentives at Hudson Yards,” Alicia Glen, the deputy mayor for economic development told the newspaper. “We have always been willing to engage with them in a dialogue about how we could be helpful in making a move more feasible.”

Chase maintains that the deal would benefit New York, because the bank would have to buy development rights from the city and make annual payments to build the towers.

Chase’s corporate headquarters are currently divided between 270 Park Avenue and 383 Madison Avenue. [NYT] – Claire Moses

Article source: http://therealdeal.com/blog/2014/10/17/jpmorgan-chase-looking-to-build-hq-at-hudson-yards/

Education issues highlight 57th House District race – Tribune

Education funding is the top issue for candidates seeking to represent part of Westmoreland County in the state House.

Three-term Rep. Tim Krieger, R-Delmont, will square off against Democratic challenger Donna McClelland, a Greensburg attorney, on Nov. 4 for the district comprising Delmont, Greensburg, Hunker, New Stanton, Salem, South Greensburg, Southwest Greensburg, Youngwood and parts of Hempfield.

Krieger, 53, said reining in pension costs, particularly for school districts, is crucial to alleviate school budget pressures.

“When you take a look at local districts, there’s substantial state funding there,â€� Krieger said. “School district budgets are getting more tight and will continue to get more tight until we address the problem.â€�

Krieger said a good start would be to approve a pension reform proposal before the House, championed by Gov. Tom Corbett, that would set up a hybrid pension for public employees but would not alter benefits for current retirees.

The state’s unfunded pension liability tops $50 billion.

“I think that’s the first step. I think we need to stop the bleeding,â€� Krieger said.

Krieger said he would like to cut down on fraud among public assistance recipients. He said he’s proposed a bill that would require any applicant or recipient of state welfare benefits to take a mandatory drug test.

Recipients who spend money to feed a drug habit either don’t need public assistance or aren’t using it the way it’s intended, Krieger said.

McClelland, 58, said education funding is her No. 1 issue because she saw the impacts of funding cuts firsthand when her younger daughter was a student at Greensburg Salem High School. Cuts to the music department forced her and other parents to step in to help raise money for the school musical.

“I don’t like the direction the state’s going in,â€� McClelland said. “Rather than sit by and complain, I have a chance to do something about it.â€�

McClelland said she would like to see increased funding and access to mental health services and more oversight of the state Department of Environmental Protection.

“Too many people are spending time in jail, in need of (mental health) treatment, and they can’t get it because there’s no inpatient treatment facilities available to them (and) outpatient facilities are woefully understaffed,â€� McClelland said.

To boost money in state coffers, McClelland said she favors levying a “reasonable� tax on Marcellus shale natural gas extraction and on electronic cigarettes. She opposes privatizing services, such as the lottery and wine and spirits stores, which provide funding for the state.

Last month, the Tribune-Review reported that McClelland was facing foreclosure on her home after defaulting on her mortgage. McClelland said her foreclosure case should be closed soon because she has successfully refinanced her mortgage.

“People have been generally kind about it,â€� she said of the foreclosure threat. “They realize it doesn’t make you a bad person. It doesn’t make you irresponsible. … I’m hoping people won’t hold that against me once it’s time for them to vote.â€�

State House members serve two-year terms with a base salary of $84,000.

Kari Andren is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-2856 or kandren@tribweb.com.

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Article source: http://triblive.com/news/westmoreland/6848298-74/state-krieger-mcclelland

Erlanger Officials Say Walker, Catoosa Officials Could Stop Foreclosure: Say …

Speaking to an overflow crowd of Hutcheson Hospital employees, Erlanger Health System representatives on Thursday night said Walker and Catoosa County officials could stop the current Erlanger foreclosure effort.

Gregg Gentry, an Erlanger senior vice president, said the counties who are on the hook for $10 million each, could waive the foreclosure provision and deal with the debt themselves.

Those in the crowd included Walker County Sole Commissioner Bebe Heiskell, who recently raised taxes, and Walker County Attorney Don Oliver. They did not speak at the session.

Mr. Gentry also said the total debt to Erlanger from Hutcheson is now approaching $30 million. It includes an agreed $20 million in help that was provided to the financially-ailing hospital as well as $550,000 Erlanger furnished when Hutcheson was unable to meet an upcoming payroll.

He said when Erlanger took over at Hutcheson, the Fort Oglethorpe facility was losing $1.5 million a month. He said, at the end of two years of Erlanger management under Roger Forgey, it was making $200,000-$300,000 a month. He called that turnaround “almost unimaginable.”

Mr. Gentry told the crowd packed into a small room at the Colonnade on Battlefield Parkway, “Erlanger is not about putting Hutcheson out of business.”

He said if a foreclosure moves forward that it will force the hospital to be sold. He said it is uncertain who would wind up owning it.

Mr. Gentry said Erlanger left Hutcheson after the two years because Hutcheson officials decided they wanted to lease the facility. However, he said when efforts were made to obtain the lease, there was very little interest shown. He said there was a long period of negotiation for Erlanger to continue at Hutcheson, but the talks finally broke down.

A number of hospital employees accused Erlanger of draining patients away from Hutcheson during its management and of not providing the promised physicians. Mr. Gentry said when Erlanger took over the census, which once was 150-200, had dropped to 15-20. He said it continued to slide, but Erlanger eventually got it to 25-35.

He said there was discussion of Erlanger providing Hutcheson with 15 physicians, but he said that was not in the final agreement. He said it did furnish a new emergency room team, hospitalists, and certain specialists under call arrangements – some of which he said are still in place.

Greg Cantrell of Nashville, a consultant to Erlanger involved with the Hutcheson process, said the current health care climate is making it difficult for community hospitals to survive – especially on their own. He said, “They need a partner. They should be working their tail off to get a big brother.”

He said if Hutcheson was to be rebuilt “you wouldn’t start out with 500,000 square feet” and would not focus on various surgeries. He said, “If I am going in for an operation I am going to a place that does 10 a day, not one a month.”

He also stated that, in addition to the Erlanger debt, that Hutcheson has $60 million in liabilities. He said about half of that is owed to Regions Bank, and he said millions are due to Medicare for years of over payments that ended under the Erlanger management.

Mr. Cantrell said when prior Hutcheson management spent $8 million on a new front lobby “it was like putting lipstick on a pig.” He said no money was spent at the time on improving the patient care areas.

He said Hutcheson should consider selling its nursing home if it could get some $7 million for it. That is included in the Erlanger foreclosure effort. Mr. Cantrell said if Erlanger does get the nursing home, it would not make sense to close it.

Mr. Gentry denied a rumor that Erlanger is planning to build “Erlanger South” on property it owns on Battlefield Parkway. He said a hospital in North Georgia is not in Erlanger’s long-range plan.

Several speakers, many of whom wore “Save Hutcheson Hospital” T-shirts, said the two counties who guaranteed $10 million each, would cause a heavy burden on their taxpayers if they have to make good on that and the accumulated debt.

They also said many in the hospital have decades of service and are some of the most devoted hospital employees to be found.

Hutcheson Hospital has 900 employees. Erlanger said it employs 800 North Georgia residents at its facilities.

Article source: http://www.chattanoogan.com/2014/10/16/286545/Erlanger-Officials-Say-Walker-Catoosa.aspx

Foreclosure and for-sale homes may decrease surrounding values – WREX

Illinois remains the state with the highest percentage of foreclosed homes in the nation.

While those numbers are leveling off, their effect on surrounding property values will continue.

Experts say foreclosed homes can appear run-down if not kept up by the bank.

This can stop buyers from purchasing other homes in that area.

A foreclosed home’s lower selling point will also be included in the assessment value of near-by properties.

“What that sells for is going to be in consideration if you were going to decide to sell your home or for what they other homes are selling for currently,” Real Estate Broker Aubra Palermo said. “The appraisers have to look at what they other homes are selling for whether they are foreclosed or traditional homes.”

A way to keep your neighborhood from degrading is to first focus on your own yard and home.

Keeping your house updated will keep the value of your own home up, and it won’t deter buyers from purchasing homes on your street.

The longer these foreclosed homes remain the more surrounding values can decline.

For foreclosed properties, experts say if a property looks like it is struggling, call the number on the foreclosure notice usually taped to the door.

Banks, like traditional sellers, want the home to look occupied to keep vandals out.

“I’ve had neighbors who will even mow the front yard of the neighboring house to try and keep up the neighborhood so it doesn’t start a decline,” Palermo said.

Article source: http://www.wrex.com/story/26799304/2014/10/15/foreclosure-and-for-sale-homes-may-decrease-surrounding-values