* This story just gets weirder and weirder. Yesterday, the Sun-Times told us about how a late 1980s law designed to avoid white flight from Chicago is actually occasionally rewarding white flight with big payouts to sellers. Today, they look at the guy who’s running the obscure agency…
While overseeing the largest of three government-run home-equity assurance programs in Chicago, Kenneth Pannaralla got two interest-free home-improvement loans through his agency worth a total of $15,000, despite a ban on such benefits under state law.
The Southwest Home Equity Assurance Program used property taxes it collects to pay the interest on the loans Pannaralla got from Marquette Bank, under a home-improvement loan program the agency created 11 years ago, records show.
In addition, Pannaralla and his daughter, Jennifer Pannaralla, currently have another zero-interest home-improvement loan through the agency, this one for $10,000.
That, too, appears to be in violation of the Illinois Home Equity Assurance Act, which says: “No commissioner or family member of a commissioner, or employee or family member of an employee, may receive any financial benefit, either directly or indirectly” from the program.
The little-known agency Pannaralla oversees is one of the three created under a law Illinois legislators passed in 1988 to curb white flight in Chicago’s bungalow belt. The law guarantees that homeowners who signed up by paying for an appraisal wouldn’t lose money if they sold their homes even if property values declined, as long as they waited five years to sell and as long as property values went down for reasons other than a national housing slump, as has happened.
* This guy really knows how to make money off the public’s dime. And he’s a Madigan guy running a program that Madigan came up with…
Kenneth E. Pannaralla — once a top precinct captain for Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan — has made a good living in government.
Pannaralla, 63, gets a pension from the city of Chicago in addition to the three paychecks from his three current government jobs, including one as the executive director of the Southwest Home Equity Assurance Program, a government agency created under a law Madigan co-sponsored.
Madigan, who is also chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party, also gave Pannaralla’s daughter, Jennifer Pannaralla, a one-year legislative scholarship in 2003 to the University of Illinois at Chicago. And Pannaralla’s son, Kenneth, is paid $24,000 a year as an aide to Madigan.
Pannaralla makes a total of $213,418 a year
Great work if you can get it.
* Ironically enough, black flight has become a big issue in Chicago these days…
Former magnets for black migrants, including Illinois, Michigan, New York and California, all have had black population declines. Atlanta has even overtaken Chicago as the city with the second-largest black population behind New York City. The black population in Atlanta has grown in the past decade by 473,493. In Dallas it grew by 233,890, and in Houston by 214,928 over the same period. Today, 57 percent of the country’s black population lives in the South, a 50-year high, according to the most recent census data.
Today’s migrants are chasing the same things their forebears sought decades earlier, according to those who have studied the return migration. Others are retiring or returning to familial homesteads, reclaiming land their relatives never let loose.
“There are places like Harlem that no longer have majority black populations because many of the black folks who have lived there for the last 50 or so years have decided to cash in, and they are going to live somewhere more affordable, places that don’t come with the urban baggage that maybe we didn’t ever want but put up with because this was our best chance at a solid economic future,” said Khalil Muhammad, director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, part of the New York Public Library and renowned for its collections of historic artifacts. “Those people are going to places that look just the way they want them to look. They are not going to be shackled by a political nationalism or the segregation of the past.”
Meanwhile, Chicago has lost about 181,000 African Americans over the past decade, a drop of 17 percent. Many have fled to the Chicago suburbs. But to a greater extent, who is leaving and where they’re going is difficult to determine, according to demographers. But Brookings Institute reports that these new migrants tend to be financially stable and more educated. Many are students, professionals or retirees.
Obviously, it’s way past time to end that state-sponsored white flight prevention program. It appears to be gamed too much anyway.