ACORN News: November 18

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Sun Nov 21 20:27:51 CST 2004

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

ACORN News: November 18, 2004In This Issue

            1. ACORN's 2004 Voter Participation Campaign 

            2. New York ACORN Joins Allies in Calling for Inclusionary Zoning 

            3. ACORN Canada Takes on Payday Lending 

            4. Hundreds Protest Chicago School Privatization Plan 

            5. Louisville Wins Interest Rate Reduction on Sewer Bill Loans 

            6. Illinois Passes Bill to Seal Records of Non-Violent Ex-Offenders 

            7. Delaware Members Pay Utility Bills in Pennies 

            8. Houston Community Bus Tour Highlights Housing Problems 

            9. Toronto Holds "Cockroach Derby" 

            Take Action: Buy a Share in Wells Fargo 

            ACORN News November 18, 2004

            ACORN's 2004 Voter Participation Campaign



ACORN National President Maude Hurd, right, hit the stree ts in Philadelphia to help turn out voters on Election Day. 
            With Election Day over, ACORN members are celebrating the accom plishments of our Voter Participation Campaign, which generated record turn outs in the communities where we worked. During the past year, ACORN, in pa rtnership with Project Vote, registered 1,125,158 voters in low-income Afri can-American and Latino neighborhoods - the largest voter registration camp aign in the country during this election cycle. ACORN then mobilized 10,057
 community residents and volunteers for door-to-door get-out-the-vote visit s to newly registered and infrequent voters. These volunteers and workers d oor-knocked 1,284,900 new and infrequent voters between two and four times each in October, and reached 2.2 million voters on Election Day. In Florida , ACORN, with Floridians for All and other allies, also collected 984,000 s ignatures to place a measure on the November 2 ballot to raise the state's minimum wage. The measure passed by the overwhelming margin of 71% to 
29% -
 giving 850,000 Floridians a raise! 

            ACORN also helped protect the right to vote for countless Ameri cans by directing Election Protection Coalition projects in key cities that
 placed volunteers at minority polling places to help ensure that no voter was turned away and every vote was counted. Said ACORN National President M aude Hurd of the Get-Out-the-Vote campaign: "ACORN's goal is to make sure t he voices of low and moderate income Americans are heard loud and clear in the political process. We have knocked on virtually every door in our neigh borhoods this year, and we brought over a million new voters to the polls. ACORN's campaign truly represents democracy in action." 

            New York ACORN Joins Allies in Calling for Inclusionary Zoning



                  New York ACORN Executive Director Bertha Lewis addresses the press, allies and other community members at an October 20 press event to release a study demonstrating the positive impact inclusionary zoning co uld have in the city. 
            On October 20, New York ACORN members joined with other members
 of the Campaign for Inclusionary Zoning to release a report that demonstra tes how mandatory inclusionary zoning could help meet New York City's affor dable housing crisis. The report, authored by the Pratt Institute Center fo r Community and Environmental Development and PolicyLink, analyzes housing needs, development opportunities and market conditions in New York City - a nd concludes that inclusionary zoning, which would require developers to se t aside affordable units in new housing developments, could create more tha n 15,000 units affordable to low and moderate income families. At the event , speakers and participants, including State Assemblyman Dick Gottfriend an d City Councilmembers Bill deBlasio, Yvette Clarke, Hiram Monserrate, David
 Yassky, and Gail Brewer, as well as ACORN members and other coalition memb ers, spoke about how the Mayor's plan to rezone more than two dozen neighbo rhoods across the city misses a unique opportunity to create more affordabl e housing for working families. Following this event, on November 15, ACORN
 then joined allies in a press event to appeal to the Governor, Mayor and C ity Comptroller to use money designated for development in the Battery Park
 City neighborhood for affordable housing production, as the funds had orig inally been intended to accomplish. For more information, contact Bertha Le wis at nyacornbrk at or 718-246-7900. 

            ACORN Canada Takes on Payday Lending



                  Toronto ACORN members presented Money Mart, Canada's larg est payday lender, with a "Shark of the Year Award" at a November 13 protes t. 
            On November 13, ACORN Canada, with offices in Toronto and Vanco uver, launched a campaign against payday lending in the country. There are an estimated 1,200 payday lenders across Canada which generate more than $1
 billion (Canadian dollars) in annual business. Yet the industry is not onl y completely unregulated in most of the country, but also illegal. Accordin g to Section 347 of the Criminal Code, annual interest rates must not excee d 60% - but payday lenders charge between 300% to 900% or more in effective
 interest rates. Despite this flaunting of the law, the government has yet to crack down on these activities. To bolster ACORN's campaign, ACORN Canad a also released a report, "Protecting Canadians' Interest: Reining in the P ayday Lending Industry" that explores in depth the problems and harmful eff ects of payday lending in Canada. ACORN Canada is calling on the Premier of
 Ontario to both crack down on illegal payday lending loans, and implement a comprehensive regulatory system governing the industry in order to protec t Canadians from these predatory lending practices. ACORN Toronto member Re nee Chinn said of her family's experiences with payday lender Money Mart: " They don't tell you that all their charges and fees are illegal. They just take your money and then lend you more and more so that, before long, you'r e stuck with a huge debt and no way to pay it off. They're just loan sharks
 taking advantage of vulnerable people." For more information, read the rep ort at ending_Report.pdf or contact John Young at acorncanada at 

            Hundreds Protest Chicago School Privatization Plan

            More than 100 Chicago ACORN members joined hundreds of other me mbers of the Chicagoans United for Education coalition at a November 12 ral ly across from City Hall to protest the city's proposed "Renaissance 2010" program. Renaissance 2010 seeks to close some eighty public schools in Chic ago and then reopen some of them as charter schools without unions or local
 school councils. Both the Chicago Teachers Union and Service Employees Int ernational Union were represented at the rally along with the Chicago Feder ation of Labor and other community organizations. For more information, con tact Madeline Talbott at ilacorn at or 312-939-7488.

            Louisville Wins Interest Rate Reduction on Sewer Bill Loans

            In October, Louisville, Kentucky, ACORN members won an agreemen t with Republic Bank to lower by one percent interest rates on the loans th at had been provided to thousands of Louisville households to pay for one-t ime sewer fees of over $6,000 charged to residents by the city. When the ci ty's Metropolitan Sewer District charged households $6,200 each to build a new sewer system - despite years of inadequate service and drainage in many
 ACORN neighborhoods - Republic Bank stepped in to provide 30-year loans to
 families to cover the high fees. That means that over the 30-year term, fa milies would end up paying a total of $11,500 on the $6,200 loans. By lower ing the interest rate on these loans by one percent, an estimated 3,400 fam ilies will save approximately $1,800 over the life of their loan. ACORN mem bers have been fighting to challenge the high sewer fees since earlier this
 summer. For more information, contact Lindsay Mullaney at kyacornloro at acor or 502-568-1918.

            Illinois Passes Bill to Seal Records of Non-Violent Ex-Offender s 

            On November 10, the Developing Justice Coalition, of which ACOR N is a part, won the first record-sealing bill for non-violent ex-offenders
 in Illinois. Under the terms of the bill, which ACORN, TARGET and many oth er organizations had been working on for more than a year, ex-offenders who
 have been conviceted of small scale drug possession or prostitution feloni es (some 25% of the ex-offender population) would have their records sealed
 for employment purposes, thus permitting them to obtain jobs. The records will remain accessible to law enforcement authorities and to employers of s ensitive work with children. The goal is to reduce recidivism, and the effo rt won wide approval from business, law enforcement and ex-offender organiz ations, passing the State Senate by a vote of 33-23. For more information, contact Madeline Talbott at ilacorn at or 312-939-7488.

            Delaware Members Pay Utility Bills in Pennies



                  ACORN member John Martin pushes a wheelbarrow full of pen nies to pay a Conectiv utility bill. Photo: Delaware News Journal
            On October 22, Delaware ACORN members protested a proposed gas rate increase by utility company Conectiv by paying their bills with over 9
8,352 pennies. ACORN members are demanding that Conectiv delay its proposed
 rate increase of 11% until state lawmakers pass a bill that would limit ut ility bills for low-income customers to 6% of household income. Originally,
 Conectiv had proposed a 16% rate increase which ACORN helped to successful ly decrease to 11% after a series of protests and testimony at hearings. Fi nal approval of the rate increase is scheduled for March 2005. In addition,
 to build pressure on Conectiv to delay the increase, on October 26 ACORN m embers negotiated to be able to make a presentation at the Conectiv-sponsor ed Low-Income Energy Assistance Summit about the pending Universal Service Fund Program Bill that would protect low-income consumers from unaffordable
 utility bills. Delaware ACORN members are also planning protests around Co nectiv's documented billing discrepancies that have affected a number of AC ORN members. For more information, contact Apryl Walker at deacorn at acorn.or g or 302-656-3699. 

            Houston Community Bus Tour Highlights Housing Problems

            On November 13, the newly appointed Mayoral Chief of Staff for Housing and Neighborhoods joined ACORN members on a Community Bus Tour of l ow-income Houston neighborhoods as part of ACORN's grassroots campaign to w in a comprehensive affordable housing plan for the city. During the tour, A CORN members testified about the problems that affect their neighborhoods d aily, including dangerous abandoned buildings, a vast number of tax delinqu ent properties, seniors in dire need of home repairs, rent-to-own scams, an d the encroaching real estate speculation that is threatening some ACORN ne ighborhoods with gentrification. As a result of the tour, ACORN members won
 a commitment from the Chief of Staff to work with ACORN to make a major ta x-delinquent tract of vacant land one of the first pieces of property to be
 turned over for affordable housing construction. For more information, con tact Ginny Goldman at txacornho at or 713-868-7015. 

            Toronto Holds "Cockroach Derby" 

            On October 20, Toronto ACORN members organized a "Cockroach Der by" and a Code Enforcement Tour to draw attention to poor living conditions
 in two large apartment complexes where ACORN members live. On the tour, AC ORN members showed their City Council representative Frances Nunziata and a
 code enforcement team from the city some of the most egregious issues in t he buildings, including mould, giant holes in the walls and cockroaches cra wling out of phones and in people's beds. To highlight in particular the ma jor pest infestation issues in the apartments, ACORN members held a Cockroa ch Derby where residents competed to see who could round up the most cockro aches from their apartments. The event garnered significant local media cov erage, and residents have already won a number of repairs and initial pest control measures in one building. ACORN members in the buildings plan to co ntinue organizing to win more effective pest control, additional repairs, a nd other improvements such as re-opening a recreation center in one buildin g. For more information, contact Judy Duncan at onacornto at

            Take Action: Buy a Share in Wells Fargo

            ACORN and Responsible Wealth, a partner in the fight against pr edatory lending, are making plans for Wells Fargo's annual meeting in the s pring of 2005.  In addition to a large rally outside the meeting, we will h ave as many ACORN members as possible inside the meeting, where they can di rectly address Wells Fargo executives and board members about the company's
 predatory lending. One share is all you need to get into the meeting. ACOR N and Responsible Wealth are asking supporters to buy a share and allow an ACORN member to use it to attend. Responsible Wealth will also introduce a shareholder resolution linking executive compensation with the company's ef forts to stop predatory lending.  For more information, contact Jordan Ash,
 at financialjustice at or 651-644-5061.

                  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 n on-member allies, people who do not live in neighborhoods with ACORN chapte rs but who support the work ACORN is doing. For more information, link to 

   or contact Steve Kest at natexdirect at acorn. org or 718-246-7900.

            ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform No w, is the nation's largest community organization of low- and moderate-inco me families, with over 150,000 member families organized into 700 neighborh ood chapters in 65 cities across the country. Since 1970 ACORN has taken ac tion 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 go vernments, and better public schools. We achieve these goals by building co mmunity organizations that have the power to win changes -- through direct action, negotiation, legislation, and voter participation.

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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 


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