Reporting Bob Roberts
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CHICAGO (CBS) — Nearly 150 angry homeowners and renters, many facing foreclosure, jammed a near West Side union hall to demand a moratorium on evictions.
They came away with sympathy — but few promises.
The tenants and homeowners chanted and spoke of banks finding any technicality they could to evict or foreclose. Gloria Harris said she paid a modified mortgage faithfully, and was still thrown out.
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“They gave me a modification and I paid that modification for 10 months,” Harris said. “(After) 10 months they came up with the excuse, ‘Oh, that wasn’t a modification. Here’s your money back.’ I was like ‘What? What’s this all about.’”
Organizers hoped to get some of the politicians attending to commit to a one-year moratorium on evictions and foreclosures, as well as tours of foreclosure-ravaged neighborhoods and a task force to study foreclosure and eviction issues.
Organizers said they invited a host of politicians, including the entire Cook County board. Only two politicians took part. Neither Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle nor Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart agreed to their demands in full, although Dart said the pace of foreclosures remains horrific.
He said he has taken the tours that the activists have proposed as part of his everyday job.
“It’s still horrific what is going on on the streets with the people being turned out of their homes — entire neighborhoods being wiped out,” he said. “I can tell you of neighborhoods where there is no one left on the block that we have not evicted.”
Preckwinkle said the issue is one that has troubled her since she was the alderman who represented much of Bronzeville, but appeared to indicate that she saw little she could do in her current job as County Board president, saying what county government does, for the most part, is oversee a health care and criminal justice system.
Dart said he’d be happy to take part in a task force to study what can be done, but said the higher up the rung the politicians are the more likely the chances are for success, suggesting that he would like to see Gov. Pat Quinn on any such panel.
“The sheriff’s office is really not the traditional one that leads these discussions,” he said. “We’ve been doing a lot because of what we see first hand but we really need to have the rest of the spectrum engaged. There’s no one or two political people we need — it’s across the spectrum.”
Dart said his office has begun offering those facing foreclosure and eviction counseling as well as information outlining their legal rights. He said efforts to bring criminal charges against bank employees who may have broken the law have been stymied.
“Many of them have lawyers who are very, very good,” and have advised them not to speak with sheriff’s investigators, Dart said.