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Hollywood star power turns out for eminent domain hearing

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BY FRAN SPIELMAN
City Hall Reporter
fspielman@suntimes.com

Hollywood star power--in the form of Evanston-born actor John Cusack--showed up at Chicago's City Hall on Tuesday to support the concept using the city's sweeping condemnation power to help stem the foreclosure epidemic, but Mayor Rahm Emanuel shot down the idea.

During a joint hearing by the City Council's Finance and Housing and Real Estate Committees, Cusack stood quietly in the VIP box normally reserved for members of the mayor's cabinet during testimony that appears to be going nowhere.

In a whispering interview while still half-listening to the testimony, Cusack said he was there to support a friend who was among those scheduled to testify on the idea--and also because he believes something dramatic needs to be done.

He identified his friend as Kevin McCabe, co-founder of Community Partnerships. The group is reportedly working with Mortgage Resolution Partners on the eminent domain idea now under consideration in Chicago and elsewhere around the nation.

"It's an interesting idea to help keep people in their homes," Cusack said.

"If something isn't done about the foreclosure problem, there's an increased danger to our city. Property values will come down. People will continue to get thrown out of their homes. It may be imperfect," but it's an intriguing idea that worth considering, the actor said.

Emanuel strongly disagrees. He called the foreclosure epidemic a "national issue" that President Barack Obama is appropriately trying to address at the national level.

"The idea of using eminent domain is not one I support," the mayor said at an unrelated news conference called to showcase CTA improvements and ridership gains.

"I don't think it's the right way to address the problem. There are other places to do it. I don't think it's the power of the city to deal with the housing issue. We have a national issue. We have to address the issue. I just don't think that's the right instrument."

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