ACORN News February 18, 2004

colist at comm-org.utoledo.edu colist at comm-org.utoledo.edu
Fri Feb 20 15:39:42 CST 2004


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

From:           	"Camellia Phillips" <acornnews at acorn.org>


ACORN News: February 18, 2004In This Issue:


            Take Action: Sign Petition Asking H&R Block to Reform
            its Practices 

            1. Contra Costa Fights Wal-Mart 

            2. Philadelphia Reaches Agreement with Major
            Check-Casher 

            3. Pennsylvania Calls for Moratorium on Foreclosures 

            4. 6,000 Rally in Maryland State Capitol for Better
            Schools 

            5. Florida Minimum Wage Campaign Heats Up 

            6. ACORN Keeps Up Pressure on H&R Block 

            7. New Mexico Successfully Defends Anti-Predatory
            Lending Bill 

            8. ACORN Study Finds Racial Discrimination in Long
            Island Real Estate Market 

            9. Paterson Organizes for More Section 8 Housing 

            10. Lehigh Valley ACORN Opens 








            ACORN News February 18, 2004



            Take Action: Sign Petition Asking H&R Block to Reform
            its Practices


            H&R Block is the country's largest pusher of "Refund
            Anticipation Loans" or RALs, which charge low-income
            tax payers triple digit interest rates to briefly
            loan them the money they are owed in tax refunds.
            Each year, low-income taxpayers lose billions of
            dollars to RALs and other predatory tax preparation
            services. Join hundreds of others in calling on H&R
            Block to join ACORN in ending abusive RALs -- sign
            our petition at:
            http://action.dontbeablockhead.com/petition/.



            Contra Costa Fights Wal-Mart






                  ACORN and allies urge Contra Costa voters to
                  vote yes on Measure L to stop companies like
                  Wal-Mart from controlling local development
                  decisions. 

            On March 2, Contra Costa voters will vote on Measure
            L to decide whether corporations like Wal-Mart, the
            world's largest retailer, will be allowed to not only
            operate in, but usurp the democratic process of their
            community. ACORN's fight against Wal-Mart began in
            2003 when ACORN members worked as part of a broad
            coalition of community, labor, faith, senior and
            environmental groups to pass an anti-big box
            ordinance in the Board of Supervisors in Contra Costa
            County that limits large-scale retail commercial
            development in the unincorporated areas of the
            county. This ordinance directly targets
            "supercenters" - mammoth stores that take up over
            five football fields and put tens of thousands of
            extra cars on local streets. Within a week of the
            ordinance's passage, Wal-Mart began pouring hundreds
            of thousands of dollars into a campaign to challenge
            the ordinance through a referendum. Since then, ACORN
            has been working with the United Food and Commercial
            Workers Local 1179, the Contra Costa Central Labor
            Council, and other groups in the campaign's coalition
            Neighborhood Alliance for Local Control, to organize
            grassroots opposition to the Wal-Mart-backed
            referendum. As part of our massive fieldwork, ACORN
            has already knocked on nearly 50,000 doors of
            registered voters, organized dozens of house and
            community meetings, and coordinated field work by
            hundreds of volunteers. In its October 6, 2003 cover
            story on Wal-Mart, Business Week wrote that: "The
            most hotly contested battleground at the moment is
            Contra Costa County." The heart of the debate in
            Contra Costa is, essentially, whether community
            planning decisions should be made locally, or by a
            CEO in Bentonville, Arkansas. For more information,
            link to http://www.na4lc.org/ or contact Doug Bloch
            at polcal at acorn.org or 510-434-3120. 



            Philadelphia Reaches Agreement with Major
            Check-Casher






                  From left, Senator Anthony Hardy Williams,
                  State Rep. Curtis Thomas, Banking Commissioner
                  William Shenck, ACORN leader George Butts,
                  Currency One President Michael Carlone, and
                  Currency One Vice President Walter Olszleski
                  announce the agreement between Currency One,
                  ACORN and Community Legal Services. 

            On February 5, ACORN and Pennsylvania Secretary of
            Banking Bill Schenck announced that Currency One,
            Philadelphia's largest check-cashing chain, had
            reached an agreement with ACORN and Community Legal
            Services (CLS) to improve its business practices. In
            the agreement, Currency One agreed to ten critical
            reforms, including charging no more than 2.5% for
            cashing tax refunds and other government checks,
            stopping sales of high-interest payday loans from its
            offices, posting check-cashing rates prominently in
            all branches, and meeting regularly with ACORN, CLS
            and the Department of Banking. The agreement comes
            after a year-long campaign against the company by
            ACORN. In March 2003, ACORN released a report
            detailing Currency One's abusive practices: "License
            to Steal: How Philadelphia's Largest Check-Cashing
            Chain Is Using its State-Issued License to Siphon
            Millions of Dollars from Low-Income Households."
            Since then, ACORN members have held repeated protests
            at local Currency One branches, distributed fliers in
            surrounding communities, pressured elected officials
            and state regulators to investigate the company, and
            played a leading role in the negotiations with
            Currency One representatives. For more information,
            contact Ali Kronley at paacorn at acorn.org or
            215-765-0042.



            Pennsylvania Calls for Moratorium on Foreclosures


            On February 5, the Philadelphia City Council passed
            an ACORN-backed resolution calling for a moratorium
            on foreclosures in the city. This comes on the heels
            of a related agreement between ACORN and the
            Philadelphia County Sheriff on stopping the sales of
            foreclosed homes. On February 3, Philadelphia ACORN
            members and the Philadelphia Unemployment Project
            (PUP) disrupted the largest Sheriff's sale in the
            history of Philadelphia County, where a record 1,000
            foreclosed homes were up for sale - a large portion
            of which had been lost by their owners due to
            predatory lending. In response, Philadelphia County
            Sheriff John Green agreed to work with ACORN and PUP
            to legally obtain a moratorium on upcoming Sheriff
            sales in the county. As part of a statewide
            initiative to curb Pennsylvania's rising foreclosure
            rates, ACORN members in Harrisburg, Allentown, and
            Pittsburgh are also working to win foreclosure
            moratoriums. At ACORN and our allies' urging, the
            State Banking Department has also commissioned a
            study to investigate the causes of these foreclosures
            - although it is estimated that as many of 60% of
            foreclosures in the state may be caused by predatory
            lending. For more information, contact Ali Kronley at
            paacorn at acorn.org or 215-765-0042.



            6,000 Rally in Maryland State Capitol for Better
            Schools


            On February 9, over 6,000 people from throughout
            Maryland, including hundreds of ACORN members from
            Baltimore City and Prince George's County, rallied in
            the state capitol of Annapolis to demand that the
            state provide the funding needed to ensure a quality
            education for all children. Like many Maryland school
            districts, Baltimore City schools are facing the
            largest funding crisis in recent history, leading to
            threats of layoffs for hundreds of critical school
            personnel. At the rally, Baltimore ACORN leader Wendy
            Foy addressed the crowd, sharing her experiences as
            the parent of a student in Baltimore City's public
            schools. ACORN members joined groups from around the
            state at the event, including the American Home Day
            Care Association, AFSCME, the Baltimore Teacher's
            Union, the Maryland State Teachers Association, the
            ACLU, and others, in calling on state legislators to
            fully fund the Bridge to Excellence legislation, also
            known as the Thornton Commission program, which
            requires the state to guarantee adequate and equal
            education to all children regardless of income or
            race. For more information, contact Mitch Klein at
            mdacorn at acorn.org or 410-735-3360.



            Florida Minimum Wage Campaign Heats Up


            Florida ACORN and Floridians for All's ballot
            initiative campaign to raise the state minimum wage
            by $1, to $6.15 per hour with indexing, has
            officially gathered the more than 50,000 petition
            signatures needed to trigger Supreme Court review of
            the proposed language for the ballot measure - a
            critical milestone in our campaign. In addition, over
            20,000 voters have been registered through ACORN's
            voter registration and participation work in
            connection with the minimum wage initiative. The
            campaign has also garnered endorsements and support
            from Congressman Robert Wexler of Palm Beach County,
            Senator Joseph Lieberman, the Florida AFL-CIO, the
            Florida Education Association, the Florida Council of
            Churches, the SEIU State Council, and many others.
            Looking ahead, ACORN is now gathering signatures and
            registering voters in 7 Florida cities, including
            Jacksonville, Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, St. Petersburg,
            Tampa, Orlando and the state capitol of Tallahassee.
            For more information, link to
            www.floridiansforall.org or contact Brian Kettenring
            at flacornho at acorn.org or 727-692-7215.



            ACORN Keeps Up Pressure on H&R Block






                  Philadelphia ACORN members distribute flyers
                  outside of a local H&R Block to warn people
                  about RALs. 

            Following January's national days of action, ACORN
            offices around the country are keeping up the
            pressure on H&R Block around high cost tax Refund
            Anticipation Loans (RALs). ACORN members in dozens of
            cities have been passing out flyers in their
            neighborhoods and near H&R Block offices warning
            consumers about RALs, making sure they know that they
            can get refunds quickly from the IRS without paying
            extra, and directing them to free tax preparation
            services. ACORN is also organizing to encourage
            passage of anti-RAL legislation in cities, counties
            and states including Tucson, Los Angeles, St. Louis,
            Miami-Dade County, Prince George's County,
            Connecticut, California, New Jersey, Arizona, and
            Pennsylvania. For more information, contact Lisa
            Donner at acorncampaign at acorn.org or 718-246-7900.



            New Mexico Successfully Defends Anti-Predatory
            Lending Bill


            On February 10, New Mexico ACORN helped organize the
            defeat of an industry-backed bill proposed in the
            state Senate that threatened the Home Loan Protection
            Act, the statewide anti-predatory lending law that
            ACORN helped pass last year. Currently, New Mexico
            has one of the two strongest anti-predatory lending
            laws in the nation. The bill proposed this month
            would have severely weakened New Mexico's existing
            law. When the proposed bill passed the Senate
            Corporations Committee, ACORN leaders quickly
            mobilized to encourage their Senators to defend the
            Home Loan Protection Act. Notably, ACORN members from
            the town of Mora were able to convince State Senator
            Carlos Cisneros, one of only three Democrats who
            voted against the Home Loan Protection Act last year,
            to defend it this year. The industry has been
            attempting to roll back the Act since its passage,
            and its preservation represents a major victory for
            both New Mexico and other states looking to defend
            their anti-predatory lending laws. On February 18,
            ACORN members will join other organizations that have
            been involved in the legislative campaign, such as
            AARP, United South Broadway, and Project Change, for
            a press conference with Lieutenant Governor Diane
            Denish, Rep. James Taylor, and state Senators Manny
            Aragon and Don Kidd to recognize them and others for
            the work they have done to fight predatory lending in
            New Mexico. For more information, contact Matthew
            Henderson at nmacorn at acorn.org or 505-242-7411.



            ACORN Study Finds Racial Discrimination in Long
            Island Real Estate Market


            On February 11, New York State Comptroller Alan
            Hevesi joined ACORN leaders in drawing attention to
            the findings of a new ACORN study: "Whites Only:
            Racial Discrimination in the Nassau County Real
            Estate Market and in the Public School System." The
            report reveals a long and disturbing pattern of
            racial discrimination in the Long Island real estate
            market, including a two-tiered housing market where
            real estate agencies treat whites noticeably better
            than African-Americans and Latinos. Involving 164
            visits to 16 real estate agents by white,
            African-American and Latino testers, the study found
            that: people of color were told of available
            apartments half as often as whites; twice as many
            whites received offers from agents to see apartments;
            and people of color were steered to less affluent
            areas nearly a third of the time, while white people
            were almost never steered to less affluent areas. In
            response, Comptroller Hevesi said that "ACORN's study
            exposed the often ugly and clearly discriminatory
            treatment given to people who were simply looking for
            a decent place to live and a good school for their
            children. This discrimination is illegal and must be
            stopped." For more information, view the study at
            http://www.acorn.org/index.php?id=1987 or contact Ann
            Sullivan at nyacornliro at acorn.org or 516-481-6769. 



            Paterson Organizes for More Section 8 Housing


            On February 10, over 150 community members and State
            Assemblywoman Nellie Pou participated in an
            ACORN-organized rally to support a measure to
            increase Section 8 housing in New Jersey. At the
            rally held in Paterson, ACORN leaders called on Pou
            and other State Assembly members to support state
            Senate Bill 357, which would allocate $50 million to
            create a state Section 8 program to supplement
            federal Section 8 funds. The demand for Section 8
            housing in Paterson is critical. This year, at least
            12,000 people are expected to apply for only 30-75
            Section 8 vouchers available. Over the last year, New
            Jersey ACORN members have held a series of protests
            around the state, including a 500 person rally in the
            state capitol of Trenton, to demonstrate the need for
            additional Section 8 and affordable housing programs.
            For more information, contact Julie Roberts at
            njacornpa at acorn.org or 973-684-8880. 



            Lehigh Valley ACORN Opens


            ACORN has opened our fourth office in Pennsylvania,
            Lehigh Valley ACORN in Allentown. ACORN is working to
            register and mobilize voters throughout the county.
            On January 13 and 31, Lehigh Valley ACORN members
            participated in ACORN's national days of action
            against H&R Block. For more information, contact
            Sundrop Carter at paacornlvho at acorn.org or
            610-433-3313.


                  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 

            http://acorn.org/?4 or contact Steve Kest at
            natexdirect at acorn.org 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.



            Check out ACORN's website at http://www.acorn.org. 

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            Camellia Phillips 

            ACORN - Association of Community Organizations for
            Reform Now 88 3rd Ave, Floor 3 Brooklyn, NY 11217 

            phone: 718-246-7900 x227
            fax: 718-246-7939
            acornnews at acorn.org 

            http://www.acorn.org






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