Willie Wilson kicks in $150,000 to loan fund for property taxes

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Willie Wilson speaks at Wednesday’s announcement of the creation of a relief fund to help people delinquent on their property taxes. At the press conference, held at the office of Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas, Wilson also said he is donating $150,000 to the fund. | Santiago Covarrubias/For the Sun-Times

Chicago businessman and former mayoral candidate Willie Wilson is putting $150,000 into a new loan fund that aims to help Cook County residents avoid having their property taxes sold.

The fund’s creation was announced at Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas’ office Wednesday. Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin, whose 1st District includes the West Side and western suburbs, and other faith leaders also pledged another $8,000 to the fund, which will be administered through Wilson’s foundation and the West Side Justice Center.

“My wife and I feel the pain of the community,” Wilson said. “This is a tragedy.”

Almost 50,000 homeowners in Cook County are delinquent on their property taxes, Boykin said.

Past-due property taxes can lead to that tax debt being sold — and, eventually, residents losing their homes. On April 3, the county will sell taxes that were not paid in 2016.

“I’ve been doing this for almost 30 years. And I would say that in my almost 30 years of being an elected official, this is without question the most moving issue that I have had to deal with,” Pappas said.

Loans distributed through the fund, while interest free, are due to be repaid by Aug. 1, though Wilson insisted he doesn’t care if he sees the money again.

Wilson said that his contribution to the fund was not a political statement — though moments later he said: “The people in office need to be voted out of office.”

Though media were not told he would attend, the Rev. Jesse Jackson also showed up to the press conference, adding that, while Wilson was generous with his money, it did not address the root of the issue.

“We must not confuse private generosity with bad public policy,” Jackson said.

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