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Report for America is a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues and communities. This year's cohort has been placed with more than 160 local news organizations across 45 states and Puerto Rico, including two journalists right here at WNIJ. We are thrilled to announce the addition of JuanPablo Ramirez-Franco to our news team, and a new role for WNIJ reporter Yvonne Boose.Yvonne Boose covers artistic, cultural, and spiritual expressions in the COVID-19 era. This includes how members of community cultural groups are finding creative and innovative ways to enrich their personal lives through these expressions individually and within the context of their larger communities.Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco covers substandard housing and police-community relations. An audio producer and journalist based out of Chicago, he’s also been a bilingual facilitator at the StoryCorps office.He will continue Sarah Jesmer’s award-winning work at WNIJ covering issues of social justice and identity. Jesmer earned a top award from the Illinois Associated Press for reports including: Inside DeKalb County's Unincorporated Apartments; Wigs, Lipstick & Sparkles: The Thriving Drag Scene In Northern Illinois; and Kish College: Anonymous Letters And A Controversial Investigation.These reporting positions come at a time when local journalism is already reeling from years of newsroom cuts and unforeseen challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.Both positions are partially funded by a grant from Report for America. WNIJ must raise an additional $30,000 in local matching funds. Support these important voices in our community by donating to WNIJ’s portion here.Yvonne and Juanpablo’s stories on our community will be collected below.

DeKalb City Council Approves Hunter Properties Taxing Zone

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Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco
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Mayor Jerry Smith at the DeKalb City Council Meeting

In DeKalb, the City Council approved a controversial taxing zone to pay for added security at Hunter Properties.

The new Special Service Area in DeKalb would mean that Hunter Properties would pay additional property taxes to foot the bill for security improvements near the Annie Glidden North neighborhood. Some community members, like Sasha Cohen, think the new designation shifts financial burden from Hunter properties to its tenants. 

“A cost that will simply be passed on to the existing tenants, many of whom are low income, and even more of whom have been struggling with the inability to make rate rent payments as it is due to the ongoing public health crisis,” said Cohen.

The City expects to collect around $100,000 a year from Hunter Properties. During a meeting Monday night, some critics voiced concern that Hunter may just not pay the taxes, just as they have previously refused to pay fines related to code violations -- totaling over several hundred thousand dollars.

City Manager Bill Nicklas said that there are additional measures for collecting taxes that will make it more difficult for Hunter to avoid nonpayment. 

  • Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco is a 2020 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project which is a national service program that places talented journalists in local newsrooms.
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