ACORN News March 17, 2004

colist at comm-org.utoledo.edu colist at comm-org.utoledo.edu
Fri Mar 19 12:52:11 CST 2004


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

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

ACORN News: March 17, 2004In This Issue


            1. ACORN Holds 12th Annual Legislative and Political
            Conference 

            2. Mass. Anti-Predatory Lending Bill Passes Committee
            

            3. ACORN Study Finds High-Cost Lending Still Plagues
            Minority and Low-income Borrowers 

            4. DC Wins $1 Mil. for Low-income Heating and Energy
            Assistance 

            5. St. Louis Passes Anti-RAL Resolution 

            6. Orlando Secures Police Accountability Measures on
            Racial Profiling 

            7. Cincinnati Candlelight Vigil Protests Racism 

            8. Contra Costa Comes Close to Beating Wal-Mart 

            9. Houston Takes On Major Real Estate Investor 

            10. Atlanta Public Housing Tenants Win New Stoves,
            Heaters 

            11. Louisville, Kentucky, ACORN Opens 

            REGISTER TO VOTE ONLINE!




            ACORN News March 17, 2004



            ACORN Holds 12th Annual Legislative and Political
            Conference






                  Congressman Elijah Cummings, with Baltimore
                  ACORN leader Jackie Johnson, addresses ACORN
                  members and others at a rally on the West front
                  lawn of the Capitol. 

            From March 6 to 10, close to 100 ACORN leaders from
            around the country participated in ACORN's 12th
            Annual Legislative and Political Conference in
            Washington DC, taking part in workshops, rallies,
            lobby visits, and meetings with allies and elected
            officials. 

            On Monday, March 8, over 200 ACORN members, including
            conference participants, met with the Assistant
            Secretary of Education Ray Simon. ACORN leaders
            presented our findings from studies conducted in many
            of our cities demonstrating the lack of highly
            qualified teachers in low-income school districts.
            ACORN leaders demanded that the Department of
            Education ask President Bush to fully fund No Child
            Left Behind, that the Dept. of Education develop a
            more concrete plan to make sure low-income and
            minority students are not disproportionately taught
            by lesser qualified teachers, and that Secretary of
            Education Rod Paige agree to meet with community
            members and parents to discuss our concerns. 







                  ACORN leader Fannie Brown and Bill Gates Sr.
                  rally at the Capitol to protest Bush's budget
                  and tax cuts. 

            At noon, conference participants joined 500 ACORN
            members from throughout the Northeast and Southeast
            for a rally where National Education Association
            (NEA) President Reg Weaver delivered a keynote
            address. ACORN members then rallied on the  West
            front lawn of the Capitol with other allies to
            protest Bush's disastrous budget priorities and tax
            policy. Congressman Elijah Cummings (Chair of the
            Congressional Black Caucus), Bishop Thomas Hoyt Jr.,
            the National President of the National Council of
            Churches, and Bill Gates Sr. spoke at the rally.  

            Over 600 ACORN members then protested in front of the
            Department of Education to again demand a meeting
            with Secretary of Education Rod Paige. ACORN members
            delivered a giant ruler with the inscription "Bush's
            Education Funding Doesn't Measure Up" and an
            invitation to Secretary Paige to attend public
            education forums around the country to discuss with
            ACORN parents, students and community members our
            nation's investment in public schools. 

            In the afternoon, hundreds of ACORN members headed to
            a Jackson-Hewitt office in nearby Prince George's
            County to protest the company's sales of high-cost
            tax Refund Anticipation Loans or RALs to low-income
            tax filers. ACORN members took over the
            Jackson-Hewitt office with flyers and chants
            including "Jackson-Hewitt, Just Don't Do It."
            Jackson-Hewitt is the nation's second largest seller
            of RALs. Last year, the company sold a high-cost bank
            product to 63% of their tax preparation customers,
            and made $48 million, almost 30% of their total
            revenue, from fees and lender payments on RALs and
            other bank loans.   







                  ACORN members protest at the Dept. of
                  Education, demanding full funding for NCLB.

            On Tuesday, March 9, representatives from Fannie Mae
            and Freddie Mac opened a forum on predatory lending
            where ACORN leaders presented the results of our new
            report, "Separate and Unequal 2004: Predatory Lending
            in America," to the press and representatives from
            the OCC, OTS, Federal Reserve and FDIC. ACORN leader
            Delores Lundy summarized the study's findings, which
            showed continuing discrimination in the subprime
            market, and several predatory lending victims shared
            their stories. ACORN President Maude Hurd and ACORN
            member Erasmo Villavicencio presented ACORN's
            recommendations to address predatory lending, which
            include passing strong federal legislation against
            predatory lending and opposing federal rules that
            would preempt state and local anti-predatory lending
            laws.   

            On March 9, ACORN members also visited 120
            Congressional offices as part of ACORN's annual lobby
            day. ACORN members pressured their Congressional
            representatives or staff members to support policies
            that will help low-income families, including full
            funding for No Child Left Behind and the DREAM Act to
            help immigrant students attend college. Following the
            lobby visits, ACORN members attended a reception
            where Senator Daniel Akaka of Hawaii committed to
            introducing a bill to increase regulations on RALs. 

            Other speakers at the conference included the ranking
            Democrat on the Senate Banking Committee Senator Paul
            Sarbanes, the third ranking Democrat in the House
            Rep. Robert Menendez, President of the Leadership
            Conference on Civil Rights Wade Henderson, President
            of the Public Education Network Wendy Puriefoy,
            President of the Center for American Progress  John
            Podesta, Vice President of the National Council of La
            Raza Cecilia Munoz, and many others. 

            For more information, contact Mildred Brown at
            alac at acorn.org or 202-547-2500. 



            Mass. Anti-Predatory Lending Bill Passes Committee


            On March 15, the Massachusetts House-Senate Joint
            Banking Committee approved a strong, ACORN-backed
            anti-predatory lending bill, which now moves on to
            consideration by the House. The four speakers at a
            subsequent press conference were Committee Co-Chairs
            John Quinn and Andrea Nuciforo, Jr., House Speaker
            Thomas Finneran, and ACORN President Maude Hurd.
            Massachusetts ACORN members have been organizing for
            four years to increase protections for borrowers in
            the state - meeting with elected officials,
            testifying at committee hearings, filing complaints
            with banking regulators, and bringing together a
            broad coalition of supporters behind the legislation.
            The bill now under consideration would establish a
            basic set of consumer protections on loans with very
            high fees and/or interest rates; ACORN will be
            working to make some adjustments to the final bill
            language. Sen. Dianne Wilkerson and Rep. Elizabeth
            Malia introduced earlier versions of ACORN-supported
            legislation. For more information, contact Lisa
            Clauson at maacorn at acorn.org or 617-436-7100.



            ACORN Study Finds High-Cost Lending Still Plagues
            Minority and Low-income Borrowers


            On March 9, ACORN released the study "Separate and
            Unequal 2004: Predatory Lending in America" which
            documents the targeting of subprime home loans to
            minority and low-income families. The study found
            that, nationally, African Americans who refinanced in
            2002 were 4.1 times more likely to receive a subprime
            loan than white borrowers, while Latinos were 2.5
            times more likely. These disparities remained even
            when comparing borrowers of similar income levels.
            Low-income homeowers were 2.6 times more likely to
            receive a subprime loan than upper-income homeowners,
            and moderate income homeowners were 2.1 times more
            likely to receive a subprime loan. Subprime loans
            carry higher rates, fees and other costs than prime
            loans, and while not all subprime loans are
            predatory, nearly all predatory loans are subprime.
            The concentration of subprime loans among low and
            moderate income and minority families and communities
            prevents the accumulation of home equity and
            entrenches deepening economic inequalities. 








                  In 2002, African American and Latino homeowners
                  were far more likely to receive a subprime loan
                  when refinancing than white homeowners. 




            ACORN National President Maude Hurd explained that:
            "This is another example of how divided our country
            has become. Different markets mean some families are
            treated fairly while other families continue to get
            ripped off." In addition to analysis of data
            nationally, the study investigates the distribution
            of subprime loans in 117 metropolitan areas around
            the country. To read the full report, or find out how
            your city ranks, link to
            http://www.acorn.org/index.php?id=1994. For other
            information, contact Valerie Coffin at
            natacornres at acorn.org or 410-735-3373.



            DC Wins $1 Mil. for Low-income Heating and Energy
            Assistance






                  DC ACORN members protested earlier this month
                  to win additional utilities assistance funds. 

            With Federal LIHEAP dollars for District families
            exhausted, in recent weeks DC ACORN members have been
            organizing a series of actions to demand that Mayor
            Anthony Williams allocate funds from the District's
            "rainy day fund" to help low-income families keep
            their heat and electricity on. In response, ACORN
            members won a March 5 meeting with City Administrator
            Robert Bobb and representatives from the Mayor's
            office where Bobb committed $1 million in funds to
            the DC Energy Office, the agency that manages LIHEAP
            dollars in the District, to help thousands of
            low-income DC residents pay their utilities bills.
            The full $1 million was released to the DC Energy
            Office on March 12. To distribute these funds, every
            Thursday the DC Energy Office is providing staff at
            DC ACORN's newly created Utilities Service Center to
            help low-income families receive much-needed
            utilities assistance. In addition, as part of a
            previous campaign win, Washington Gas is providing a
            shut-off prevention program one day per week through
            the ACORN Utilities Service Center. Each week,
            Washington Gas representatives help families with
            overdue bills to develop agreements to avoid shutoff
            or have their service turned back on. For more
            information, contact Will Ward at dcacorn at acorn.org
            or 202-547-2500.  



            St. Louis Passes Anti-RAL Resolution


            In response to St. Louis ACORN's ongoing actions
            against Refund Anticipation Loans or RALs, including
            demonstrations at H&R Block offices and meetings with
            Aldermen, on March 12, the St. Louis Board of
            Aldermen unanimously passed a resolution condemning
            high-cost RALs and calling on the Missouri State
            Attorney General to "carefully scrutinize" the
            practices of companies selling RALs. Before the vote,
            ACORN members Gwen Cogshell and Nichelle Farmer, who
            had herself been pressured by H&R Block into buying a
            RAL, testified before the Board about the thousands
            of dollars of resources lost by their communities
            through RALs each year. The resolution was sponsored
            by the President of the Board of Aldermen, James F.
            Shrewsbury, who also committed to taking action at
            the city level to fight abusive practices associated
            with RALs. St. Louis now joins Philadelphia, which
            recently passed a similar resolution in the City
            Council, among cities decrying RALs. For more
            information, contact Ken McKoy at moacorn at acorn.org
            or 314-531-7023. 



            Orlando Secures Police Accountability Measures on
            Racial Profiling


            Following a three month long campaign to fight racial
            profiling practiced by the Orange County Sheriff's
            Department, ACORN has won a number of critical
            reforms and accountability measures from the
            Sheriff's Department. These changes come in part as a
            response to the 300-person candlelight vigil ACORN
            organized in January against abusive police practices
            after an unarmed, innocent African American man,
            Marvin Williams, was shot and killed by a police
            officer who had previously been investigated for
            racial profiling. New accountability measures
            include: 

                 Data collection of all traffic stops and
                 searches, including race and reason for stop or
                 search,  A more informative website which
                 clearly tells people how to file complaints, 
                 ACORN leadership meetings with the Sheriff's
                 Dept. every other month,  ACORN-hosted community
                 meetings every other month to identify and
                 troubleshoot problems with the Sheriff Dept.'s
                 relationship with the community,  The ability to
                 file complaints about racial profiling and other
                 abuses with the Citizens Review Board, in
                 addition to the Sheriff's Dept. itself, and 
                 Increased independence for the Citizens Review
                 Board, which will no longer have Deputies as
                 members, and will have all meeting broadcast on
                 local television. 

            For more information, contact Stephanie Porta at
            flacornorro at acorn.org or 407-254-5912. 



            Cincinnati Candlelight Vigil Protests Racism 


            On March 5, only a week after ACORN founded its first
            chapter in Cincinnati in the Price Hill neighborhood,
            an African American family from the neighborhood came
            home to find a four-foot gasoline-soaked cross in
            their front yard.  New ACORN members in the community
            organized quickly, and that evening ACORN members
            joined the family for a candlelight vigil in front of
            their home. The incident, and ACORN's vigil in
            response, received coverage on all four local news
            channels. The Price Hill ACORN chapter plans to
            organize next around a campaign for police
            accountability, both in Price Hill and, ultimately,
            throughout the city.  For more information, contact
            Diedre Murch at ohacornciro at acorn.org or
            513-221-1737.



            Contra Costa Comes Close to Beating Wal-Mart


            Despite being outspent by more than 2 to 1, the
            grassroots campaign to keep big-box stores like
            Wal-Mart out of Contra Costa County came within a few
            thousand votes of beating the corporate giant. At
            final count, 53.7% or 123,252 voters voted to allow
            big-box development in their community, while 46.3%
            or 106,192 voters voted yes on Measure L, which would
            have kept big-box stores out of the unincorporated
            areas of the county. The closeness of the vote sends
            a message to other cities considering ordinances like
            Contra Costa's that attempt to limit the size of
            superstores in their communities, that victory is
            possible. The campaign, which became the most
            expensive in Contra Costa County history, started in
            2003 when a broad coalition of community, labor,
            faith, senior and environmental groups passed an
            anti-big-box ordinance through the County Board of
            Supervisors. Within weeks, Wal-Mart began pouring
            hundreds of thousands of dollars into a campaign to
            challenge the ordinance through a referendum. Over
            the course of the campaign, Wal-Mart spent $1.5
            million, in addition to paying to air thousands of
            pro-Wal-Mart ads on local television stations. In our
            work to defeat Wal-Mart, ACORN and our allies
            including the United Food and Commercial Workers
            Local 1179, the Contra Costa Central Labor Council,
            and other groups in the Neighborhood Alliance for
            Local Control, knocked on over 60,000 doors, made
            over 100,000 phone calls to voters, and reached tens
            of thousands more through mailings and television
            ads. Building upon this momentum, other California
            cities considering similar anti-big-box ordinances
            include Los Angeles, Turlock and many cities in the
            Central Valley. For more information, contact Doug
            Bloch at polcal at acorn.org or 510-434-3110.



            Houston Takes On Major Real Estate Investor






                  Houston ACORN members protest real estate scam
                  operator Jack Markman. 

            Since January, Houston ACORN has organized over 140
            victims of real estate operator Jack Markman. Under
            19 different registered companies, Markman operates a
            Contract for Deed or Lease-to-Own scam that targets
            immigrant families, promising them that after 20-30
            years of on-time payments as renters they will "own"
            their homes. However, if these families are forced to
            move or miss payments, they forfeit all investment in
            the property and are left empty-handed. Markman owns
            800 pieces of property in Houston, with up to 40
            homes per property, and has been operating this
            predatory practice for 38 years - meaning that
            hundreds of families have lost what they were led to
            believe would be their own homes. ACORN members who
            have been taken advantage of by Markman, have
            organized an aggressive campaign to win rightful
            ownership of their homes and to force change in the
            practices of real estate investors like Markman. In
            January, ACORN members won a written agreement from
            Markman to accept pre-payments on the lease-to-own
            contracts, contrary to the contracts themselves which
            do not allow buyers to pay in advance. On February
            20, ACORN members took Congressman Gene Green and two
            City Council members on a tour of Markman's
            properties. In response, the  City Attorney's office
            has launched a formal investigation into Markman's
            operations. ACORN members are now working to move the
            Attorney General to investigate the scam, and to pass
            legislation on the city and state levels that would
            prohibit contract for deed practices For more
            information, contact Ginny Goldman at
            txacornhoro at acorn.org or 713-868-7015.



            Atlanta Public Housing Tenants Win New Stoves,
            Heaters 


            After over a week without a stove or heat, Atlanta
            ACORN member Jackie Troutman, a tenant in the Bowen
            Apartments complex, a publicly subsidized but
            privately managed housing development, decided to
            take action. Three weeks before, an elderly man
            living in the complex had died of carbon monoxide
            poisoning, and in response building management had
            removed Ms. Troutman's stove and shut off her gas as
            a "temporary precaution." When management failed to
            replace the stove and turn the gas back on, on March
            10 ACORN members invited local news stations on a
            tour of residents' units to witness their disrepair.
            ACORN members then protested in front of the
            management company's office, and presented a list of
            demands. Within hours the building's management not
            only replaced Ms. Troutman's stove and turned on her
            gas, but went on to replace stoves in more than 40
            other units where tenants had been requesting new
            stoves for months and even years. Building upon this
            win, Atlanta ACORN is moving to organize tenants in
            other public housing developments in the city as part
            of a larger citywide affordable housing campaign. For
            more information, contact Darryl Durham at
            gaacorn at acorn.org or 404-525-1121.  



            Louisville, Kentucky, ACORN Opens 


            ACORN has opened our first Kentucky office in the
            city of Louisville. ACORN is currently organizing a
            neighborhood chapter in Louisville's South End
            neighborhood, where residents are organizing to
            address concerns about the high fees, ranging from
            $5,000 to $13,000, that they are being required to
            pay for sewer installation. For more information,
            contact Amy Staebler at kyacornloro at acorn.org or
            502-776-5876.



            REGISTER TO VOTE ONLINE!


            Still need to register to vote? You can register
            online through ACORN's national voter registration
            campaign. Just link to:
            http://www.registrationbyworkingassets.com/ACORN


                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. 

            To subscribe to ACORN's Email list go to
            http://acorn.org/?52 

            To unsubscribe go to http://acorn.org/unsubscribe/


            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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