ACORN News June 6, 2003

colist at colist at
Sun Jun 8 08:54:19 CDT 2003

[ed:  this is one of the regular ACORN updates.]

From: "David Swanson" <acornnews at>

June 6, 2003

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1. Illinois Increases Minimum Wage 2. Arkansas Raises Taxes to 
Pay for Medicaid 3. New Jersey Promotes Millionaire Tax 4. 
National Tax Cut Disaster Has Silver Linings 5. ACORN Fights 
Proposed Changes to EITC 6. Paterson Wins Vote on Local Hiring 
Ordinance 7. ACORN Releases Report on No Child Left Behind 8. 
Pittsburgh Releases Report on Schools 9. Minnesota Fights 
Predatory Lending 10. Mass. Anti-Predatory Lending Bill 
Progresses 11. ACORN Builds Pressure to Reform Wells Fargo's 
Predatory Lending 12. Boston Fights School Budget Cuts 13. 
Baltimore Gets the Lead Out 14. Philly Demands Library Hours 15. 
Los Angeles Proposes Inclusionary Zoning 16. Hempstead 
Marches for School Buses 17. ACORN Opens in Hartford, 
Columbus, and Indianapolis TAKE ACTION: Restore Child Tax 

1. ILLINOIS INCREASES MINIMUM WAGE -- Nearly a half million 
workers learned they would get a raise last week when the Illinois 
legislature voted to increase the state minimum wage from $5.15 to 
$5.50 on Jan. 1, 2004, and to $6.50 on Jan. 1, 2005.  In January, 
the Coalition to Reward Work began promoting a minimum wage 
bill.  The Coalition was put together by Illinois ACORN, working 
with SEIU Local 880 and the Illinois AFL-CIO. Following months of 
demonstrations, calls, faxes, rallies, negotiations, and lobby visits, 
on May 28, with three days left in the legislative session, the votes 
were lined up in the House Labor Committee and on the floors of 
the House and Senate, and the Governor's pen was at the ready. 
But the Speaker of the House was refusing to call the bill up for a 
vote. ACORN staged rallies at the capitol in support of the increase 
every day of the last five days of the legislative session.  

On May 29, the Labor Committee chair announced that the bill 
would not be called for a vote.  For what happened next, here is the 
Springfield Journal Register's account from May 30th: "That's when 
members of the Chicago community activist group ACORN rose 
from their seats and began verbalizing their disgust with the 
process.  'How do normal working-class people like ourselves get 
heard?  We know how the suits get heard, but how do we get 
heard?' said ACORN member Toni Foulkes.  Three members from 
the group were allowed to formally address the committee.  
Several members of the committee commended the group on its 
actions and promised to do what they could to help.  When their 
time was done, the group began protesting and shouting slogans 
such as, 'We can't survive on five-one-five.'  After the protest went 
on several minutes, Illinois Secretary of State police were poised 
outside the committee room, ready to confront the group.  Just 
then, AFL-CIO President Margaret Blackshere interrupted the 
protest and announced that an agreement had been made and that 
the bill will be called in the committee today."  The bill passed less 
than two hours before the legislative session ended on May 31.  
For more information, link to or contact 
Madeline Talbott at ilacorn at or 312-939-7488.  

PHOTO: ACORN members Toni Foulkes and Christin Howard 
testify in the Labor Committee.  

PHOTO: Senator Kimberly Lightford talks to ACORN members 
following passage of the bill, which she sponsored.  

Arkansas ACORN's "Raise Taxes; Fund Medicaid" campaign has 
won an increase in taxes on tobacco and a 3 percent surcharge on 
income taxes to help cover the cost of Medicaid. The campaign 
included three rallies in April.  During a special legislative session 
in May, ACORN, SEIU Local 100, Arkansas Advocates for Children 
and Families, and other allies planned and carried out a "health 
care a van," which made stops at small towns and held press 
conferences. The last stop was in Pine Bluff where ACORN 
organized a rally on the steps of the courthouse.  The next day, the 
coalition held a press conference at the State Capitol and 
presented to legislators a banner signed by people at rallies during 
the health-care-a-van.  The legislature then voted for the tax 
increases.  ACORN will be pushing for further progressive changes 
to the tax system in September.  For more information contact Neil 
Sealy at aracorn at or 501-376-7151.  

Jersey ACORN members from Paterson, Jersey City, and Newark 
took part in a 3,000-person rally in Trenton with allies in the 
Fairness Alliance (including the New Jersey Education Association, 
New Jersey Policy Perspective, and New Jersey Citizens Action) to 
promote a "millionaire tax" to help avert planned budget cuts to 
housing and schools.  The proposal calls for a tax increase for the 
wealthiest in the state, about 2 percent of the population, while 
decreasing taxes for people who make the least money.  The 
Alliance is calling for a three-year hike in the top rate of the state 
income tax from 6.37 percent to 7.5 percent on family income over 
$400,000; 8.5 percent on income over $600,000; and 9.5 percent 
on income over $1 million, which would raise abut $972 million 
annually based on 2001 state revenue figures.  The plan also calls 
for reducing taxes for low-income New Jerseyans by exempting 
from the state income tax families making under $25,000 a year 
and individual filers making under $15,000. The exemption would 
eliminate state income tax for more than 230,000 households, 
almost 9 percent of all filers, at a cost of $41.7 million.  For more 
information, contact Julie Roberts at njacornpa at or 973-

PHOTO: A Newark ACORN member dressed as an ostrich to 
illustrate how law makers have had their heads in the sand.  

PHOTO: Paterson ACORN member Dudley Griffith.  

the past several months, ACORN members in Arizona, Arkansas, 
Ohio, Florida, Louisiana, and New Mexico worked tirelessly against 
the Bush tax cuts for millionaires, and in support of increased 
federal funding for Medicaid.  The House and Senate have passed, 
and the President signed, a bill that includes $330 billion in tax cuts 
(not counting "sunset" gimmicks) and $20 billion in state fiscal 
relief.  Due in large part to the efforts of ACORN and allies in the 
Fair Taxes for All coalition, the tax bill does not include everything 
that Bush wanted and does include $20 billion for the states, with 
$10 billion of that earmarked for Medicaid.  That $10 billion was the 
last item decided upon and would not have been included if not for 
grassroots organizing.  

Also late in the process, extension of the child tax credit to 6.5 
million low-income parents (changing the credit from $600 to 
$1,000) was cut out. Senator Blanche Lincoln (D., Ark.) has 
introduced a bill (S 1162) that would restore that extension at a cost 
of $3.5 billion over the next 10 years, but would pay for that by 
eliminating a series of corporate tax shelters and accounting 
practices similar to those used by the Enron Corporation.  For more 
information, link to or 
contact Rachel Burrows at rburrows at or 202-547-2500.  

has begun lobbying Congress Members on the issue of new 
requirements proposed by the IRS for tax filers claiming the Earned 
Income Tax Credit.  The IRS wants to put in place a long list of new 
requirements for many families who earn the EITC, requirements 
that will prove impossible for many honest tax payers, and 
requirements that could never be imposed on middle class or 
wealthy tax payers without causing an enormous political uproar.  
For example, the IRS proposes to require millions of low-income 
people to prove they are related to their children by submitting 
marriage certificates from marriages that occurred many years ago, 
or in other countries, or between two people other than the person 
filing the forms.  No hearings in Congress have been scheduled, 
and the IRS appears to be proceeding without even considering the 
normal regulatory process that provides for public comment.  
ACORN is demanding a comment period.  For more information, 
contact Greg Jefferson at gjefferson at or 202-547-2500.  

On May 27, Paterson, N.J., City Council unanimously passed on a 
first-reading an ordinance promoted by ACORN and labor allies 
including the Passaic County Building Trades and the North Jersey 
Regional Council of Carpenters.  The ordinance would require that 
any company doing $1 million or more of construction work for the 
city hire from local pre-apprentice training programs. It requires 
that at least 20 percent of the work on those projects be done by 
people hired from the training programs, and that 20 percent of 
those hired be women, minorities, or low-income people.  A June 
10 public hearing and council vote are scheduled.  For more 
information, link to 
or contact Julie Roberts at njacornpa at or 973-684-8880.  

On May 21, ACORN released a report examining how a key 
requirement of the No Child Left Behind Act (putting a highly 
qualified teacher in every class) has been abandoned.  The report 
analyzes data from 24 states and 73 school districts, and finds that 
the Bush Administration and the U.S. Department of Education are 
selectively following through on the promises made under NCLB.  
The most important of these promises was to make sure that every 
child has a highly qualified teacher.  NCLB also promised that 
teachers would be equitably distributed. The Administration has 
deliberately pushed states and school districts to comply with other 
provisions of NCLB while ignoring the two key requirements related 
to teachers.  For more information, link to or 
contact Liz Wolff at research at or 214-826-1443.  

Pittsburgh ACORN has released a report produced by the National 
Center for Schools and Communities at Fordham University.  The 
report documents the extent to which schools in low-income 
Pittsburgh neighborhoods are receiving inferior academic programs 
and less qualified teachers.  ACORN is demanding a program to 
attract top teachers to low-income schools, an evaluation program 
for principals, and a teacher coach program that would have full-
time teacher coaches working to guide new teachers.  For more 
information, link to 
prrr.pdf or contact Maryellen Hayden at paacornpiho at or 

Minnesota ACORN filed a HUD Complaint against First State 
Mortgage, accusing the company of violating the federal Fair 
Housing Act by engaging in reverse redlining, or targeting 
minorities with deceptive, predatory loans.  The complaint detailed 
the cases of five African-American borrower's predatory loans and 
analyzed the geographic distribution of all First State's 2002 loans.  
In a related initiative, on June 2, Minnesota ACORN announced a 
campaign to stop foreclosure rescue scams.  Equistar Real Estate 
has offered to buy the homes of borrowers facing foreclosure and 
sell them back, but the company has rented houses back on terms 
so steep they have quickly led to evictions and families being left 
homeless.  ACORN is working with the state Attorney General's 
office to warn potential victims.  Meanwhile, a bill to restrict 
predatory lending that is being promoted by ACORN is being 
considered in a committee of the Minneapolis City Council.  For 
more information, contact Becky Gomer at mnacorn at or 

On May 21 the Massachusetts Joint House and Senate Banking 
Committee held a hearing on anti-predatory lending legislation 
promoted by ACORN (SB 24 and HB 1617). ACORN members 
filled the hearing room with people spilling out into the hallway.  
Over 30 predatory lending victims attended the hearing, with four 
members testifying about their personal stories and urging their 
lawmakers to move forward in setting protections.  On behalf of 
Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, the Director of the Boston 
Department of Neighborhood Development also testified in support 
of the legislation.  Additional supportive testimony came from the 
National Consumer Law Center, the Lawyers Committee for Civil 
Rights, the Center for Responsible Lending in North Carolina, and 
many elected officials.  ACORN has been generating numerous 
calls and postcards in support of the legislation to state Senators 
and Representatives.  For more information, contact Chris Leonard 
at maacornns at or 617-436-7100.  

PREDATORY LENDING - On May 28, ACORN's campaign to stop 
the Wells Fargo predatory stagecoach continued with protest 
actions in Los Angeles and Kansas City.  In Los Angeles, a crowd 
of ACORN members snuck into a Culver City branch of Wells 
Fargo and began singing and chanting.  ACORN members 
presented their agenda to the branch manager and successfully 
demanded that they fax ACORN's demand letter to the Wells 
Fargo president's office.  ACORN then picketed in front of the 
office, flyering pedestrians and cars.  For more information, link to or contact Lisa Donner 
at acorncampaign at or 718-246-7900.  

Boston ACORN parents, grandparents, students, and concerned 
community members, together with numerous other parent 
organizations that are a part of the Boston Parent Organizing 
Network, and with the Boston Teacher's Union, held a 200-person 
public forum to lobby for increased funding from the city and the 
state for public schools.  A number of elected officials attended and 
listened to parents' concerns about the impending schools budget 
crisis, its effect in the classrooms, and the need to increase the 
Boston Public Schools budget immediately.  Facing state cuts in 
local aid, the Boston School Committee has approved an $81 
million slash in operating costs.  The cuts are forcing the closure of 
five middle and elementary schools by the end of the month. The 
district expects to lay off up to 1,400 staff, including 650 teachers. 
Some notices have already been sent out.  For more information, 
link to or contact 
Lisa Clauson at maacorn at or 617-436-7100.  

13. BALTIMORE GETS THE LEAD OUT - In October 2000 
Baltimore ACORN began training members to test for lead hazards 
in houses.  Maryland's 1994 Reduction of Lead Risk in Housing 
Law does not require landlords of rental properties to test for lead 
in an apartment until after a child has already been poisoned.  
ACORN and the University of Maryland School of Medicine teamed 
up to randomly test houses in the city before a poisoning 
happened. ACORN tested 157 houses beginning in August 2001 
and discovered lead hazards in 83 of them.  In many cases, 
landlords have fixed the problems.  In others, they have evicted the 
tenants.  In response to these retaliatory evictions, ACORN is 
promoting a bill (HB 872) in the state House of Delegates that 
would prevent eviction procedures if a landlord does not have a 
lead-free certification for that tenant's living space. The bill was 
introduced in February and held over in the House Environmental 
Matters Committee.  For more information, link to or contact Mitch 
Klein at mdacorn at or 410-752-2228.  

Philadelphia ACORN members rallied in front of the Central Library 
to demand equitable hours at library branches across the city.  
ACORN released a study documenting the disparity in the amount 
of weekend and evening hours available by neighborhood income 
level and how the Governor's budget would result in cuts that would 
increase this disparity.  Members from Germantown, North, West, 
and Southwest Philadelphia led chants to highlight the need for 
equal evening and weekend hours in every library in every 
neighborhood. They explained that the evening and weekend hours 
are crucial for working adults and schoolchildren. ACORN 
members recommend that community groups be included in the 
decision making process affecting library policy in their community.  
For more information, contact Ali Kronley at paacorn at or 

PHOTO: ACORN members at Philadelphia Central Library.  

May 15, Los Angeles ACORN members and a coalition of labor 
and housing groups organized by ACORN called for the city to 
require developers to offer new housing to poor residents.  ACORN 
is proposing an inclusionary zoning ordinance requiring all 
developers to include a percentage of units for low-income 
residents in each development.  Councilman Ed Reyes' staff joined 
coalition members at the Medici apartments, a new luxury 
development at 7th Street and the Harbor Freeway.  The developer 
of the Medici apartments negotiated with the city and was not 
required to build 15 percent of the units for low-income families as 
required by current law.  ACORN is proposing an ordinance that 
would apply to all developers without exception and require a 
higher percentage of affordable units.  For more information, link to or contact Peter Kuhns 
at caacornlaro at or 213-747-4211.  

Hempstead, Long Island, students and parents marched to demand 
school buses.  Every day -- in rain, sleet, snow, or heat -- 
Hempstead school children walk 45 minutes to school, where they 
have to be by 7:30 a.m.  When there's a foot of snow, the 45 
minutes can become 90 minutes.  Parents cannot afford to hire 
cabs to take their kids to school or to keep their kids home, 
depriving them of an education that is supposed to be public.  In 
wealthier parts of Long Island, buses are provided, school report 
cards are higher, and drop-out rates are lower.  For more 
information, link to or 
contact Ann Sullivan at nyacornliro at or 516-481-6769.  

INDIANAPOLIS - Continuing its rapid nationwide expansion, 
ACORN has now opened chapters in Hartford, Conn., Columbus, 
Ohio, and Indianapolis, Ind.  For more information, contact Helene 
O'Brien at fielddirect at or 602-254-8356.  

Blanche Lincoln (D., Ark.) has introduced a bill (S 1162) that would 
restore an extension of the child tax credit to 6.5 million low-
income parents (changing the credit from $600 to $1,000).  This 
extension was cut out of the recently passed tax-cuts-for-
millionaires bill at the last moment.  Restoring the extension would 
cost $3.5 billion over the next 10 years, but Lincoln's bill would pay 
for that by eliminating a series of corporate tax shelters and 
accounting practices similar to those used by the Enron 
Corporation. Click to write your Senators:  

accepting applications for three-day academies in Newark, 
Chicago, and Prince George's County, Md. Training will include 
seminars on community organizing, fundraising, & leadership 
development, breakout groups focusing on campaign planning and 
implementation, readings from Alinsky, Chavez, and others, guest 
instructors from local labor, community, and activist organizations, 
and participation in community organizing campaigns and actions.  
Lodging is provided. Spaces are limited. Applicants should be 
seeking full-time jobs as activist, community, labor, or political 
organizers.  For more information and to apply, link to  

DONATE TO ACORN -- Membership dues and chapter-based 
fundraising programs pay for 75 percent of ACORN's budget. But 
ACORN also needs financial support from non-member allies, 
people who do not live in neighborhoods with ACORN chapters but 
who support the work ACORN is doing. For more information, link 
to or contact Steve Kest at 
natexdirect at or (718) 246-7900.  


ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform 
Now, is the nation's largest community organization of low- and 
moderate-income families, with over 150,000 member families 
organized into 700 neighborhood chapters in 51 cities across the 
country. Since 1970 ACORN has taken action and won victories on 
issues of concern to our members. Our priorities include: better 
housing for first time homebuyers and tenants, living wages for 
low-wage workers, more investment in our communities from banks 
and governments, and better public schools. We achieve these 
goals by building community organizations that have the power to 
win changes -- through direct action, negotiation, legislation, and 
voter participation.  

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David Swanson, communications coordinator
ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform 
739 8th Street SE
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acornnews at

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