This is from Sunday's edition of the Joliet Herald News, an excerpt:
Illinois governors have come from all walks of life during the state's nearly 200-year history.
Some were soldiers. Some were farmers. Others were abolitionists. One was a doctor, another a pharmacist. Most were lawyers. A few were crooks.
And now that Ron Gidwitz has thrown his hat into the ring for the 2006 gubernatorial election, a new background could be added to that list: slum lord.
Gidwitz is the former president of cosmetics giant Helene Curtis and one-time head of the Illinois Board of Education. But in Joliet, he's better known as part-owner of Evergreen Terrace, the crime-plagued apartment complex that's been a festering sore on the city's near West Side for nearly three decades.
Joliet has tried for years to render this dinosaur of 1970s low-income housing extinct through ordinances, permits and the courts, but to no avail. The city council even once offered Gidwitz and Evergreen's anonymous owners a $2.5 million buy-out for the property. The owners' group didn't bother to respond.
And who can blame them? Under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Mark to Market program, the owners stand to squeeze more federal subsidies than ever out of this rotten apple.
This morning I listened to WBBM Radio "At Issue," Gidwitz was the guest. (The show is repeated tonight (Sunday) at 9:30pm, and is available via web cast here.
Eric Krol, political editor of the Northwest Daily Herald brought up Evergreen Terrace, and the core of Gidwitz' response to Krol's question was that the City of Joliet wants to "put 250 families out on the street, these people need affordable housing."
Which brings me back to this AP arcticle by Maura Kelly Lannan , who was also on "At Issue" with Krol:
"We don't make any money from this project. We happen to be providing, we believe, a service to the community. And it's clear that if we don't continue to supply this, these 250 or so families aren't going to have places to live in Joliet," Gidwitz said.
(Joliet Deputy City Manager James) Shapard disagreed.
"That's utter nonsense and Gidwitz knows it. We have demonstrated to HUD that there is plenty of available Section 8 rental housing in Joliet and the surrounding area," he said.
The city has offered to buy the complex but has not received a response, Shapard said.