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*** UPDATED x2 *** Adventures in scrolling down

Monday, Jul 30, 2012

* A recent Sun-Times story dealt with the plight of homeowners who live near a planned tollway ramp

Many, in fact, believe they are being ripped off by the tollway, which as a state agency wields the power to acquire land for the “common good” through eminent domain or condemnation. […]

“We’re being low-balled,” said Lane, who lives on the south end of the block, a cul-de-sac that is a stone’s throw from the northbound lanes of I-294. “My neighbors are all getting offers less than what their homes were worth. I hope (tollway officials) don’t get away with it. What they’re offering is nothing. The tollway is making out, the village is making out, the contractors are making out and the homeowners are losing.”

The Bells were told their home, which cost them $225,000 seven years ago, is worth $155,000. The Humeses’ dwelling, for which they paid $257,000, is worth $175,000, an assessor told them. Lane and his wife are waiting for their offer after meeting with tollway representatives on July 12.

* But if you read further into the story, you see this…

The Toll Highway Act that governs the scenario includes some protection for homeowners, and by law, the tollway will pay up to $25,000 whenever the cost of a replacement dwelling for a displaced resident is more than what the tollway paid to take the resident’s home. It also typically will pay off the balances on mortgages that are under water, tollway spokeswoman Wendy Abrams said. Relocation benefits are available as well.

So, if they get their mortgages paid off plus another $25K, that would seem to be a pretty decent deal. But not everybody thinks so…

“They are low-balling us pretty badly,” John Bell said. “The market values have plummeted and many of us are under water in our mortgages. What they’re offering does not provide us just compensation in trying to locate the house of our choice.”

Bell said that since the tollway had talked about the interchange for decades, the homes probably should not have been built there in the first place.

* But, of course, the Illinois Republican Party blamed the Madigan family. From a press release…

“It is sadly ironic that our Attorney General, who consistently ignores political corruption and rampant gang violence in the City of Chicago under the guise of being the ‘people’s attorney’ is now sticking it to the little guy,” said Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady. “Lisa Madigan should immediately suspend any further eviction actions until it is conclusively established that the citizens of Posen are being fairly and respectfully treated by the State of Illinois. I suspect the folks facing eviction would be treated substantially better if this tollway ran through her father’s State Representative District.”

* And then there’s this story about Treasurer Dan Rutherford. Here’s the AP’s lede

The state of Illinois is paying a Chicago consulting firm nearly $2 million to rebrand its program for returning unclaimed property to residents under a contract awarded by State Treasurer Dan Rutherford’s office.

* But this is from the Daily Herald

Rutherford’s office says the money used to pay for the new marketing program comes from the pot of unclaimed property owed to Illinoisans, not the state’s general checkbook used to pay bills.

And…

The new I-Cash was introduced this month to replace Cash Dash, which last year returned $101 million in previously unclaimed cash to owners or heirs — up 23 percent from the year before. […]

Earlier this month, Rutherford’s office announced the unclaimed property program recently added 780,000 names from records prior to 1992. […]

This year, claims are even higher than at the same point in 2011. […]

In three weeks, [Rutherford] said, visits to the state’s unclaimed property website, icash.illinois.gov, have gone up by nearly 200 percent.

So, it appears to be working.

*** UPDATE 1 *** From comments

Unclaimed property is paid for out of the state pension fund by appropriation of the Illinois General Assembly. Any surplus funds generated by unclaimed property go back into the state pension fund to be distributed to the five systems to help bring down the unfunded liability. He’s taking this $2 million right from the much discussed and very struggling pension funds to pay for the Dan Rutherford promotional tour. How anyone thought this was a good idea right during the middle of the controversial and contentious pension debate is beyond me.

*** UPDATE 2 *** From the treasurer’s office…

About the I-Cash story, here are a few keys points to consider:

    Illinois’ Unclaimed Property Division is funded by unclaimed cash and assets transferred to the State Treasurer’s Office; any excess in what is collected is then transferred to the pension system.

    The office’s marketing budget has been consistent for the last several years.

    The contract being discussed here buys statewide radio, billboard and website ads over three years – but note that none of these promotions feature Treasurer Rutherford’s face, name, or voice.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

27 Comments
  1. - langhorne - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 11:20 am:

    spending $2 mil to “re-brand” a fairly straightforward state program is outrageous. rutherford gets a ton of free publicity for the program. if they need SOME assistance w marketing, fine. maybe $100k or something in that range. $500k max.

    just bec the money paying for it comes from unclaimed property does not make it free. just bec the funding is not tax money does not mean it is a good idea. the treasurer is supposed to protect and grow state assets in his care. not overhype a program to help his name recognition.

    how many times is rutherford’s name shown as all those hits come in?


  2. - Tommydanger - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 11:25 am:

    >>So, if they get their mortgages paid off plus another $25K, that would seem to be a pretty decent deal. But not everybody thinks so…


  3. - Tommydanger - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 11:27 am:

    If the homeowner had a small or no mortgage, then he ends up getting screwed because the loss in equity he has had over the last 5 years becomes certain. Most times it is the homeowner’s choice to sell and lose the equity in his home. With eminent domain, he has no choice and the state ends up forcing him to lose the equity in this home.


  4. - wordslinger - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 12:12 pm:

    Dude, if you’re under water in this market and can get your mortgage paid off plus $25K, take it and run.


  5. - wordslinger - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 12:14 pm:

    Also, I’d like a piece of that $2 million rebranding. So much work to be done there, giving money away.

    I’ll throw in some pro bono on how to write a coherent press release for the Illinois GOP, too.


  6. - Newsclown - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 12:21 pm:

    Rutherford is clearly running for governor. And trying to use any state-sponsored “earned media” avails to do it. He’s legal, but very close to the edge of the ethics law Blago signed that said elected constitutionals can’t use their offices in their campaigns in this way. Of course, Blago was a ridiculous violator of this kind of law himself. But Why would Rutherford then start emulating that?

    And, you’re telling us, just changing the name of the program got the higher participation? You know it was the additional media buys, not the name.


  7. - langhorne - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 12:29 pm:

    dan’s name is on every screen page, in the upper right corner, slightly smaller than the “i-cash) logo in the upper left.


  8. - Just Observing - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 12:45 pm:

    As best as I understand… the extra $25,000 is not a sure thing.

    From above: “the tollway will pay up to $25,000 whenever the cost of a replacement dwelling for a displaced resident is more than what the tollway paid to take the resident’s home.”

    So, say a homeowner gets $200,000 for their home and buys a new home for $200,000, apparently they do not get the $200,000. And if one home is going for $200,000 and another home is going for $210,000, the Tollway Authority can maybe claim that a replacement dwelling was available for $200,000 so they won’t pay the extra $10,000.

    Plus… moving is damn expensive… movers, setting up of utilities, legal fees, transfer taxes, recording fees, lender fees, title fees, decorating/fixing up, etc.


  9. - The Captain - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 12:53 pm:

    Rutherord is being very disingenuous. Unclaimed property is paid for out of the state pension fund by appropriation of the Illinois General Assembly. Any surplus funds generated by unclaimed property go back into the state pension fund to be distributed to the five systems to help bring down the unfunded liability. He’s taking this $2 million right from the much discussed and very struggling pension funds to pay for the Dan Rutherford promotional tour. How anyone thought this was a good idea right during the middle of the controversial and contentious pension debate is beyond me. But he should get raked over the coals for this.


  10. - Huh? - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 1:00 pm:

    If a homeowner feels that the tollway appraisal is too low, they have the right to get an independent appraisal.

    Once in court, they can challenge how the tollway appraisal was compiled.


  11. - OneMan - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 1:10 pm:

    Seems to me getting more unclaimed property back to people seems like a good idea, even if it comes from the pension system….

    Because it’s unclaimed property, that is sort of like complaining about the cost to run an add for a lost dog. It isn’t your dog, nor it is the state’s property.

    It may be the pension systems benefit from the unclaimed property program, but at the end of the day it isn’t the states property and perhaps a bigger example of what is wrong with pension funding in this state when we fund it from people’s stuff that they can in fact claim.


  12. - Wensicia - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 1:10 pm:

    I’d like to hear Rutherford respond to The Captain’s point.


  13. - Bigtwich - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 1:12 pm:

    The Illinois “Displaced Person Relocation Act”, (310 ILCS 40/) , was passed by the 86 General Assembly, 1989-90. It applied the federal “Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policies Act of 1970″ to Illinois.

    This stuff is not new. Things have been litigated over the years.

    Since I have read “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” I have a good idea of how it will turn out.


  14. - Frank - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 1:27 pm:

    I hope IDOT decides to build an expressway through my living room. I would love to have someone pay off my mortgage right now.


  15. - John Parnell - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 1:30 pm:

    Well it looks like Rutherford screws up again. He should spend less time helping Romney’s campaign- oh, wait, that would give Dan more times to screw up. The taking of money out of the pensions funds to replace Cash Dash is a waste.


  16. - Observing - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 1:47 pm:

    Re Wensicia’s request for Rutherford’s response to the Captain’s remarks:

    Rutherford: I am not disigenuous!


  17. - Stooges - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 2:34 pm:

    People that are relocated for an IDOT or Tollway project get their moving expenses paid. They also get reimbursed for all utility hook-ups. With interest rates so low, most people will be coming out of this in better financial shape than when they started, the media just loves these types of stories because they can make the government appear heartless. People have been giving up their land and homes for over a hundered years for the public good. Nothing new here.


  18. - Phil Bradley - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 2:48 pm:

    Spending $2 million dollars on a contract for pr in the current condition of the state’s finances is being tone deaf to the real world. Can’t the treasuer hear the unpaid vendors, the laid off workers, those whose raises we’re denied, the retirees who were lied to? Rich it does appear the program was working—-last year, with the old “brand”


  19. - Kerfuffle - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 2:57 pm:

    A really really bad idea given where this “surplus” goes but then this isn’t the first bone-headed move made by this office under Rutherford.


  20. - walkinfool - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 3:24 pm:

    When I first heard of Rutherford’s move, I thought it had to be a joke. No one could be that callous and self-serving, right in the midst of the pension crisis. It’s obviously state-paid PR to help launch his campaign for governor.


  21. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 3:50 pm:

    Billboards?!?


  22. - Iwanttobegovrutherford - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 3:58 pm:

    “but note that none of these promotions feature Treasurer Rutherford’s face, name, or voice.”

    Funny…when you do a google search for i cash the header is Dan Rutherford, not ICASH.

    Dan Rutherford - Illinois State Treasurer
    icash.illinois.gov


  23. - The Captain - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 4:04 pm:

    Illinois’ Unclaimed Property Division is funded by unclaimed cash and assets transferred to the State Treasurer’s Office;

    This is spin. Here is the budget book. Scroll down to page 5-49. There you will see an appropriation by the GA from the “State Pensions Fund”. That is the appropriation from the GA that pays for the operation of the State Treasurer’s Office Unclaimed Property division. By law the only money that gets spent to pay for operations for unclaimed property comes from an appropriation directly out of the state pensions fund.

    It’s spin to say that the UP division “is funded by unclaimed cash and assets transferred to the State Treasurer’s Office”. It’s more accurate to say the UP division is funded by appropriation out of the State Pensions Fund.


  24. - Whose money is it? - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 4:06 pm:

    People shouldn’t act like the pension funds have some sort of birth right to this cash. I had a relative die in unfortunate circumstances, and as it turned out, there was an unclaimed life insurance policy that sat out there for years. A few years ago, my cousin heard about the cash dash and plugged in this relative’s name and lo and behold, the policy came up, and the relative’s kids were finally able to make a claim on the policy.

    Now, I ask you, was that state pension fund money?

    I’m not going to defend $2M in marketing, but I will absolutely defend the right of everyone out there to claim what is rightfully theirs, pension fund be damned.


  25. - sal-says - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 4:13 pm:

    Hate to use a Blago quote, but paraphrased: “WHAT is Rutherford thinking?”

    Spending money on exactly what; for what benefit; for what NEED; and for $2 million?

    Time to vote him out.


  26. - Steamer - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 4:37 pm:

    ‘errr…..shared sacrifice!


  27. - wordslinger - Monday, Jul 30, 12 @ 9:32 pm:

    Seriously, I’m in the business.

    Rebranding a program that gives away money to people from CashDash to I-Cash is not a wise investment. In this crazy, mixed-up world of communications and data-search, use your computer find them and give them the money.

    CashDash to I-Cash ain’t worth $2 million when you’re flush — when you’re broke and taking it out of pension funds, it’s lunacy.

    That’s like spending money to change Nike from “Just Do it” to “I Will Do It.”

    I thought Rutherford was awesome when he stood up for Illinois and smacked down the Fox News haters after Blago got arrested. But this and other publicly funded self-marketing out of his office is off the charts indefensible.

    Same as it was for Treasurer Giannoulis, AG Hartigan and others.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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