ACORN News January 23, 2004

colist at colist at
Sun Jan 25 09:25:28 CST 2004

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

From:	"Camellia Phillips" <acornnews at>

ACORN News: January 23, 2004In This Issue:

            Voter Registration Update: Over 100,000 Registered 

            1. ACORN Rips H&R Block "Refund Anticipation Loans"

            2. ACORN Launches Free Tax Assistance Sites and EITC 

            3. Message to Bush: "Invest in Public Schools"

            4. St. Louis Religious and Community Leaders Demand Quality

            5. Minnesota Shuts Down Mortgage Foreclosure Scams; 
            Minneapolis Mayor with "Grinch of the Year Award"

            6. Denver Wins More Police Patrols

            7. Cincinnati Secures New Street Light

            8. Bronx Tenants Turn Water Back On

            9. Allegheny County Protests Port Authority Transit's
            Treatment of Disabled Riders 

            10. Houston ACORN New Year Celebration Draws Over 250

            11. Hawaii ACORN Opens

            ACORN News January 23, 2004

            VOTER REGISTRATION UPDATE: ACORN Registers Over 
100,000 Voters

            In January, ACORN and Project Vote broke the 100,000 mark in
            the number of voters we have registered since July 2003 -
            reaching 101,778 registrations this week! In the last two
            months alone, ACORN has registered over 25,000 voters. This 
            significant progress towards our goal of registering 900,000
            voters before the 2004 registration deadlines. 

            To register to vote online through ACORN's voter registration
            campaign, go to

            ACORN Rips H&R Block "Refund Anticipation Loans"

                  New Orleans ACORN members protested at H&R Block on 
                  13 as part of coordinated actions against the company by
                  ACORN members in 43 cities. Photo by Nijme Rinaldi Nun
                  courtesy of the Louisiana Weekly. 

            On January 13, ACORN members in 43 cities demonstrated at 
            Block offices around the country demanding an end to the
            company's aggressive sales of overpriced tax "Refund
            Anticipation Loans" or RALs. RALs are high-rate, short-term
            loans that provide people their tax refunds a few days or
            weeks faster than they would otherwise receive them but at
            exorbitant costs, including triple digit interest rates. In
            2001, tax filers paid about $1.8 billion in RAL and related
            tax preparation fees, with about $1.2 billion of that paid by
            low-income families receiving the Earned Income Tax Credit.
            Instead of going to low-income families, these dollars are
            diverted to produce windfall profits for firms like H&R Block.
            To pressure H&R Block to change their practices, ACORN 
            organized a coordinated day of action which was covered
            nationally by thirty-one newspapers, twenty-one television
            stations, plus dozens more wire services, radio stations,
            trade magazines and websites. 

                 In New York, ACORN members from Brooklyn, the Bronx, 
                 Manhattan stormed the Times Square office of H&R Block.
                 The manager agreed to speak with two ACORN leaders, and
                 to fax a letter prepared by ACORN to the company's
                 headquarters demanding that H&R Block address ACORN's
                 concerns.  In Philadelphia, ACORN members took over the
                 H&R Block Center City office using props including an
                 8-foot light-up Grinch.  In Florida, over 75 ACORN
                 members protested at H&R Block offices in Orlando, Miami
                 and Tampa. 

            Earlier, on December 18 and 19, ACORN members also held
            actions against H&R Block in Albuquerque, NM, Orlando, FL,
            Kansas City, MO, Pittsburgh, PA, Seattle, WA, and Little Rock,
            AR. For more information contact Lisa Donner at
            acorncampaign at or 718-246-7900.

            ACORN Launches Free Tax Assistance Sites and EITC 

            With the start of tax season, ACORN has launched free tax
            assistance "VITA" sites in New York City, Miami, New Orleans
            and San Antonio. The sites will provide thousands of low and
            moderate income families with hands-on help filing their
            taxes, including claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)
            and receiving their refunds quickly. To get the word out about
            our tax preparation services, ACORN is conducting massive
            neighborhood-based outreach in low and moderate income
            neighborhoods in these four pilot cities. ACORN is also
            working in dozens of cities around the country to educate
            families about their eligibility for the EITC. The EITC is the
            country's single most effective poverty reduction program. In
            1999, the extra income it provided lifted 4.7 million people,
            including 2.5 million children, above the Federal poverty
            line. However, each year billions of EITC dollars that
            families have earned are lost as a result of people failing to
            claim the credit and through high-cost Refund Anticipation
            Loans and tax preparation services. ACORN chapters are using
            diverse strategies to reach EITC-eligible families. In
            Houston, Tampa and San Antonio ACORN leaders held press 
            with their Congresspeople to announce our EITC outreach
            campaign, while in Seattle ACORN is working with the United
            Way, the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the IRS to coordinate 
            number of VITA sites. For more information, contact Lisa
            Donner at acorncampaign at or 718-246-7900.  

            Message to Bush: "Invest in Public Schools"

            On January 21, ACORN members in 25 cities around the 
            held press events and rallies to respond to President Bush's
            State of the Union Address - and to remind Bush of his
            commitment to our children's education. While the Bush
            Administration has publicly stated that the improvement of
            education in America is one of its top priorities, in the two
            years since the passage of No Child Left Behind the
            Administration and Congress have underfunded NCLB by over 
            billion dollars each year. Commenting on the Administration's
            policy priorities, ACORN President Maude Hurd said: "We need
            great public schools, not money for marriage counseling,
            missions to Mars, or more tax cuts for billionaires. President
            Bush continues to fail our children, our communities and our
            public schools." For more information contact Rachel Burrows
            at rburrows at or 202-547-2500.

            St. Louis Religious and Community Leaders Demand Quality

            On January 4, St. Louis ACORN leaders and local Pastors from
            denominations including C.M.E., A.M.E., A.M.E. Zion, United
            Methodist and Baptist churches came together to denounce
            President Bush's education policy. ACORN and faith-based
            community leaders gathered at the Washington Metropolitan
            A.M.E. Zion Church to discuss strategies to  improve the
            quality of education received by low-income children -
            including ensuring that every child is taught by a qualified
            teacher, that there are adequate public schools in low and
            moderate income neighborhoods, and increasing the
            participation of parents in decision-making in local schools.
            Responding to the Bush Administration's underfunding of No
            Child Left Behind, Missouri ACORN President Rev. Gilbert Cox
            said: "We are no longer willing to sit idly by and let this
            Administration forget our children." For more information,
            contact Ken McKoy at moacorn at or 314-531-7023. 

            Minnesota Shuts Down Mortgage Foreclosure Scams; Presents
            Minneapolis Mayor with "Grinch of the Year Award" 

                  Minnesota ACORN members present Minneapolis Mayor 
                  Rybak with a "Grinch of the Year Award" for breaking his
                  campaign promise to support anti-predatory lending

            On January 15, the Minnesota Department of Commerce served 
            mortgage foreclosure scam operations that ACORN has been
            protesting for months with orders to suspend their licenses
            and set license-revocation hearings. Hendrie Cutler Grant
            could potentially lose his real estate license and be
            prevented from originating any further mortgages, while Leon
            Meusweissen and Equistar Real Estate face the loss of real
            estate broker licenses. This is a major victory for Minnesota
            ACORN's ongoing foreclosure rescue scam campaign. In a 
            order, the United States District Court ruled that Minnesota
            ACORN member and grandmother Denise Brantley can 
            the home which she lost in 2003 to foreclosure rescue scam
            operations Equistar Real Estate and Grant Holdings, run by
            Hendrie Grant. On December 23, ACORN members also 
            Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak with a "Grinch of the Year 
            for failing to follow through on his campaign promise to fight
            predatory lending. Despite committing to support an ordinance
            against predatory lending in the city, Rybak has yet to take
            action to protect vulnerable homeowners and homebuyers. 
            members gathered at the mayor's house to sing ACORN-
            Christmas carols and present him the award. For more
            information, link to or contact Becky
            Gomer at mnacorn at or 651-642-9639.

            Denver Wins More Police Patrols

            Denver ACORN members won a commitment from the Police
            Commander of District 2 for more police patrols in the Park
            Hill neighborhood. On December 23, ACORN members, along 
            City Council President Elbra Wedgeworth, held a rally at the
            drug-infested Skyland Park to protest the lack of adequate
            police patrols in the Park Hill neighborhood. The park is
            located behind the neighborhood's recreation center, and
            parents have become afraid to let their children play in the
            park or utilize services at the center because of rampant
            drug-related activity. The Police Commander signed an
            agreement to increase police patrols in the area, which ACORN
            will hold him accountable to. For more information, contact
            Bret Ericson at coacorn at or 303-393-0773.

            Cincinnati Secures New Street Light

            Following a December 30 "Christmas Caroling" protest,
            Cincinnati ACORN members won a commitment from the Head 
            Traffic Engineering for two new streetlights in the Price Hill
            neighborhood. For Cincinnati ACORN's first action ever,
            members gathered on a poorly-lit Cincinnati avenue and sang
            Christmas carols describing the area's crime and demanding
            action from the city. ACORN members then presented the Head 
            Traffic Engineering with his "New Year's Resolutions" for
            2004, which included installing new streetlights in Price
            Hill. The block on which ACORN members demanded the street
            lights is in a high crime area, and because of the lack of
            lighting, residents felt unsafe walking down the street at
            night. For more information, contact Diedre Murch at
            ohacornciro at or 513-379-3367.

            Bronx Tenants Turn Water Back On

            ACORN worked with tenants in a 82-unit building in the Bronx
            to get the water in the building turned back on within a day
            despite being told that it could take as long as 4 or 5 days.
            On the night of January 13, ACORN members in the Bronx
            building met for a scheduled tenant meeting and began
            discussing how water had been shut off by the City Department
            of Environmental Protection because of a leak in another
            building - leaving residents without hot or running water in
            frigid temperatures. Tenants agreed to meet again the next
            morning at 9am in the lobby, and called local news station New
            York 1 to report on the problem. From 9am till 2pm tenants
            occupied the lobby at all times, talking to the press, making
            calls to the City, and discussing the problem with their City
            Councilwoman, Helen Foster. As a result of their organizing,
            on the morning of January 15, residents awoke to fully
            restored running water. For more information, contact Heather
            Appel at nyacornbrxro at or 718-292-0070.

            Allegheny County Protests Port Authority Transit's Treatment
            of Disabled Riders 

            On January 7, Allegheny County and Pennsylvania ACORN
            President Donald Stancile was arrested for blocking a Port
            Authority Transit bus that failed to lower a wheelchair ramp
            to allow him on board. When the bus' wheelchair ramp's
            electronic lever malfunctioned and the driver refused to lower
            the ramp manually, Stancile moved his wheelchair to block the
            bus and was quickly joined by other ACORN members to protest
            the Port Authority's treatment of disabled riders. Stancile,
            who rides the bus regularly, has encountered numerous 
            with the Port Authority Transit's compliance with the
            Americans with Disabilities Act. ACORN is demanding
            representation on the Port Authority Transit Board for low and
            moderate income and disabled riders, and policy changes
            regarding sending buses with broken wheelchair ramps and lifts
            to low and moderate income neighborhoods. For more 
            link to or contact Maryellen Hayden at
            paacornpiho at or 412-441-6551.

            Houston ACORN New Year Celebration Draws Over 250

                  Houston Mayor Bill White speaks at Houston ACORN's New
                  Year Celebration. 

            On January 17, Houston ACORN held its first ever New Year
            Celebration Fundraiser with 250 community members in
            attendance, including newly elected Houston Mayor Bill White,
            City Councilmembers Ronald Green and Adrian Garcia, City
            Controller Annise Parker, County Commissioner Sylvia Garcia,
            Congressman Chris Bell, and State Representative Rodney 
            In addition to speeches by ACORN leaders, elected officials,
            and other community leaders, the event helped raise thousands
            of dollars for new grassroots organizing projects in Houston. 
            For more information, contact Ginny Goldman at
            txacornhofd at or 713-868-7015.

            Hawaii ACORN Opens

            As of December 17, Hawaii ACORN has opened its doors in
            Honolulu. ACORN is currently building neighborhood chapters 
            the Honolulu neighborhoods of Waipahu, Pearl City, and Kalihi.
            For Hawaii ACORN's first action, ACORN members organized a
            protest against H&R Block as part of ACORN's national day of
            action against the company on January 13. For more
            information, contact Rose Lalau at hiacornho at or

                  DONATE TO ACORN

            Membership dues and chapter-based fundraising programs pay 
            75 percent of ACORN's budget. But ACORN also needs 
            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 
            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 
            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

            Check out ACORN's website at 

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            Camellia Phillips 

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

            phone: 718-246-7900 x227
            fax: 718-246-7939
            acornnews at 


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