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Thomas Clatterbuck

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Lot rents are going up in two Jacksonville trailer parks. Renting is a businesses, and their costs go up every year just like everyone else’s. When rents rose by eight percent a year and a half ago, tenants saw it as normal economics. But on August 1st, rents at Prairie Knolls and Rolling Acres will be going up again. Not by eight percent, but by upwards of 80 percent. At Rolling Acres, the new lot rent will be $365 per month, up from $195. Legally, Time Out Communities, who now own the park, are allowed to raise the rents with proper notice.

The Town Hall

Last night, nearly 100 park residents and other members of the Jacksonville community gathered at Lincoln Avenue Baptist Church to discuss the situation and brainstorm about what could be done. Organizers Ron Hoffstadt and Danny Davison have made a counter offer of a ten percent increase with a two year lease, followed by another ten percent increase after that. They said that this would give residents time to plan for future increases or sell their homes and move out. Many residents also took the opportunity to share their experiences. In addition to the rent increases, they expressed frustration with a perceived general lack of maintenance in the parks.

But to actually stop the increase, they would need a lawyer and a judge. If the residents could get a hearing, the judge could issue an injunction to stop the increases. However, these individuals would need to work on a pro-bono basis, because the residents cannot afford legal representation.

There are few other options available to the residents. Increasing rates is perfectly legal. Even the Time Out Communities’ resistance to offering two year leases is only a minor legal issue. The $365 rate could be implemented via the lease with little trouble from a legal perspective.

State Representative C. D. Davidsmeyer (R-100) shared his frustration with the limited options the residents have. In comments very similar to the city council’s on Monday, he said the law is what it is; and the law allows the rates to be raised this way. Davidsmeyer did say that it was likely that reform efforts would enjoy bipartisan support in the General Assembly. But even then, he said they would not be back in session until after the November election.

Why not just move?

If the residents do not want to pay the increased rents, why don’t they just relocate? Ironically, having a “mobile home” usually makes relocation harder rather than easier. Trailers are not nearly a mobile as their name would suggest. Moving them is a very expensive undertaking. It costs around $5,000 just to connect a trailer to a truck that can move it, not counting any additional costs of the relocation. Homes often have two trailers, doubling these costs. These costs make moving a difficult proposition for those residents on fixed incomes who would struggle to pay the new rent. They can’t afford to stay and they can’t afford to leave.

But other challenges await those who can afford to relocate. Time Out Communities has purchased many of the trailer parks in Morgan and Sangamon Counties. The same dramatic rent increases are likely in all of the parks run by Time Out Communities. As one woman put it, there’s no where for them to go.

So what’s going to happen?

The residents have gathered support from many local leaders. Rep. Davidsmeyer, the City Council, a coalition of Pastors, as well as other local citizens have all spoken in sympathy of their plight. But unless the residents can get a pro bono lawyer and judge to take their case, the rent increases will probably be implemented August 1st. Hoffstadt and Davison said they will continue to organize and petition, but they are just running out of time.

Davison has been passing a petition to get a more reasonable increase put in place, and is continuing to gather signatures. The hope being that public pressure may cause Time Out Communities to reconsider their rates. That petition can be signed at the American Legion Post at 903 W. Superior in Jacksonville.

You can watch the full meeting in the player above.

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Senior strategist, statehouse reporter and political correspondent for Springfield Daily. Graduate of District 117 and UIS. Thomas covers stories in both Morgan and Sangamon Counties, as well as statewide politics.

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America’s newspapers are vanishing, with Illinois losing more than most

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When a newspaper closes or stops providing local content, it’s bad news for the local community, according to an updated report.

Since 2004, hundreds of local newspapers have closed up shop. The author of a report on this trend said areas without a local paper suffer in a variety of ways.

A study by the Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Media at the University of North Carolina says newspapers have shuttered at a high rate since 2004, many of which happened shortly after the recession in 2008.

“In total, the United States has lost almost 1,800 papers since 2004, including more than 60 dailies and 1,700 weeklies,” the report found. “Roughly half of the remaining 7,112 papers in the country – 1,283 dailies and 5,829 weeklies – are located in small and rural communities. The vast majority – around 5,500 – have circulations under 15,000.”

Illinois lost 157 weekly papers since 2004, most located in suburban Chicago as many merged with larger daily publications like the Chicago Tribune. This is among the highest number of closings in the country.

“Illinois has lost a tremendous number of newspapers,” said professor Penelope Muse-Abernathy, Knight Chair in Journalism and Digital Media Economics at the University of North Carolina and author of the study. “Newspapers have been the prime, if not sole, source of grassroots coverage of events that affect the quality of life for people in a community.”

The study was updated recently from an initial publication in 2016.

Behind a lack of revenue to support the local publications are decades of declining readership. According to the Pew Research Center, U.S. daily newspaper readership fell by 11 percent in 2017.

Muse-Abernathy said local newspapers have three main benefits to the area they serve: Coverage and oversight of local government; encouragement of regional economic growth and development; and social cohesion.

Often, smaller newspapers will merge with a larger one nearby and then reduce coverage of the area to cut costs, something the report dubs “ghost papers.” Ghost papers offer little to no local content.

“What you have is a paper that was a standalone newspaper in 2004 that has been gradually merged with a parent, usually a large metro daily,” she said. “They first become zoned editions and then tend to morph into an online-only presence with greatly-diminished resources.”

Studies have shown cities without local investigative journalists are more likely to raise taxes and become more inefficient.

The “news deserts” can be found in urban, rural and suburban areas across the nation, but most have one common trait: Poverty.

The report found that locations that had no local newspaper presence had a poverty rate of 18 percent, higher than the 13 percent average nationwide. Residents were also typically older and less educated.

The reason, according to Stanford University economist James Hamilton, is that residents of low-income areas tend to be overlooked by advertisers because they’re less likely to buy subscriptions and have less access to digital media offerings.

Article by Cole Lauterbach with Illinois News Network. For more INN News visit ILnews.org

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Illinois Secretary of State warns about marijuana investment scams

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Pot is a growing business in Illinois and other states.

And that means marijuana investment scams are becoming a growing problem.

Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White issued a warning about investment scams last week. Canada became the second country to legalize recreational marijuana use. Sales there started last week. In the U.S., nine states and Washington D.C. allow for recreational use of marijuana while many other states allow for medical use. The drug remains illegal under federal law.

“Whenever something is in the news, people who are on the wrong side of the ledger, want to line their pockets,” White said. “They come up with the various schemes to take your hard earned money. And we want to do all that we can to keep these people out of your pocket, so to speak.”

White said people need to do their research before investing in anything, especially the new marketplace of marijuana.

“The company must be registered with the state of Illinois,” White said. “If you have any questions about it, you can go to the website AvoidTheScam.net.”

White said the North American Securities Administrators Association has information on scammers and other flagged-businesses.

If you have been scammed, White said the securities department inside the Secretary of State’s office needs to know.

Article by Benjamin Yount, Illinois News Network. For more INN News visit ILnews.org 

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Illinois manufacturers, farmers eager for new trilateral trade deal

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Illinois’ manufacturing and farming communities are excited about the new trilateral trade agreement President Donald Trump announced between the U.S, Mexico and Canada. But the state’s leading manufacturers’ group says Illinois must address its poor business climate and farmers say the U.S. must continue making deals with other countries in the face of a trade war with China.

After months of trade uncertainty, Trump said Canada is now on board with Mexico to forge a new trade deal with the United States. He decried the North American Free Trade Agreement signed by the U.S. in the 1990s as a horrible deal and campaigned to get rid of it. On Monday, he said he’s fulfilled that promise.

Called the United States, Mexico, Canada Agreement (USMCA), Trump said it will make North America a manufacturing powerhouse.

“That means more auto parts and more automobiles will be manufactured in the United States,” Trump said. “We will be manufacturing many more cars.”

Illinois Manufacturers’ Association’s Mark Denzler said that’s great news for the state’s automotive manufacturers that employ thousands of workers. It’s also good news for chemical, pharmaceutical and food manufacturers, he said.

But Denzler warned Illinois could miss the boat if it doesn’t address the state’s negative attributes.

“Workers’ compensation, higher taxes, we’re looking at a graduated income tax for example, higher minimum wage, all of these things add up and make it more difficult to do business in the state of Illinois,” Denzler said.

Illinois has the highest workers’ compensation costs in the Midwest, and seventh highest in the nation. The state’s property taxes are also among the highest in the country.

For farmers, Trump said the USMCA opens up the North American marketplace to make things more fair and reciprocal.

“The deal includes a substantial increase in our farmer’s opportunities to explore American wheat, poultry, eggs and diary, including milk, butter, cheese, yogurt and ice cream,” Trump said.

Trump had long blasted Canada for having a nearly 300 percent tariff on U.S. dairy products.

While Illinois dairy products may take a backseat to dairy products from states bordering Canada, Illinois Farm Bureau President Richard Guebert said the trade deal is still great news. He said trade negotiations must now continue elsewhere.

“Let’s work on the other countries as well, the [European Union], Japan and build those markets knowing that China is going to be a little ways down the road,” Guebert said.

In an effort to curb what he called unfair trade practices and intellectual property theft, Trump has imposed tariffs on all kinds of Chinese products. China has responded in kind with no end in sight.

The USMCA trade pact must still be ratified by all three countries before it replaces the NAFTA agreement.

Article by Greg Bishop, Illinois News Network. For more INN News visit ILnews.org 

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