Edward DeMarco – Chicago Newstips by Community Media Workshop http://www.newstips.org Chicago Community Stories Mon, 14 Jul 2014 17:31:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.4.13 Community groups cheer DeMarco replacement http://www.newstips.org/2013/05/community-groups-cheer-demarco-replacement/ http://www.newstips.org/2013/05/community-groups-cheer-demarco-replacement/#comments Thu, 02 May 2013 00:15:34 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=7169 Last week Chicagoans joined a national protest action at the home of Federal Housing Finance Agency director Edward DeMarco, demanding his resignation.

On Wednesday, President Obama responded to growing demands to replace DeMarco, naming U.S. Representative Mel Watt (D-NC) as his replacement.

“It’s long overdue,” commented Katie Buitrago of the Woodstock Institute.

“This is a good day for homeowners and families across the state of Illinois and a big step in the right direction for our economy,” said Rev. Marilyn Pagán-Banks of IIRON, a Chicago-area organizing network.

“We now encourage Congressman Watt to implement common-sense policies like principal reduction to bring relief to tens of millions of homeowners and to jumpstart the economic progress our country needs.”

Community groups and housing advocates have called for DeMarco’s replacement for over a year, faulting him for blocking principal reductions on mortgages owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which the FHFA oversees.

They argue that reducing mortgage principal to reflect the fair market value of homes that since the housing crash are worth less than what homeowners owe would prevent foreclosures, stabilize the housing market, and boost the economy.

DeMarco has been “the biggest roadblock to our country’s economic recovery,” said Tracy Van Slyke of the New Bottom Line coalition, which has spearheaded a “Dump DeMarco” campaign.

At last week’s action, as 500 people from National Peoples Action gathered at DeMarco’s Washington D.C. home,  Reverend Cliff Parks of Illinois Peoples Action noted that Fannie and Freddie control over half the mortgages in the nation, including those of nearly 14 million  underwater homeowners.  (See video below.)

Elizabeth Scrafford, a DePaul student and leader with IIRON Student Network, read a resignation letter drafted for DeMarco, holding him responsible for 1,800 families facing unnecessary new foreclosures every day that he has delayed approval of principal reduction.

Watt is known as an early advocate for action against predatory lending, Buitrago said.

Noting that he faces an uphill battle to win confirmation from the Senate, Buitrago said Obama should consider installing Watt with a recess appointment.  The administration’s previous nominee for the post withdrew in 2011 after Senate Republicans refused to act on his nomination.

Republicans say they want a plan from the administration for eliminating Fannie and Freddie before they consider an FHFA appointment.  But IIRON and other groups are calling on Watt to “support the vital role [the agencies] play in ensuring housing opportunities.”

Check out “NPA knocks on Ed DeMarco’s door,” from April 22:

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Madigan joins calls to replace DeMarco at FHFA http://www.newstips.org/2013/03/madigan-joins-calls-to-replace-demarco-at-fhfa/ http://www.newstips.org/2013/03/madigan-joins-calls-to-replace-demarco-at-fhfa/#comments Tue, 19 Mar 2013 23:01:39 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=7058 Days after Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan joined the growing chorus demanding the replacement of FHFA interim director Edward DeMarco, fifteen protestors interrupted DeMarco’s appearance Tuesday before the House Finance Committee.

Five were arrested, according to the New Bottom Line Campaign.  (Video here.)

“DeMarco is kicking my family out of my home,” called out Ramon Suero, a homeowner facing foreclosure and one of the five arrested. “Dump DeMarco! Principal Reduction now!

“Ed DeMarco’s policies are putting my three kids, my wife, and me out on the street. If the president doesn’t get rid of him, he’s responsible for putting millions of Americans just like me on street as well.”

Housing advocates have been calling on President Obama to replace DeMarco, who has blocked principal reduction for underwater homeowners with mortgages held by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  (See previous Newstips here.)

“DeMarco’s actions are driving millions of Americans into foreclosure and record debt,” said Tracy Van Slyke, executive director of the New Bottom Line.

“We are fed up, and it is time for President Obama to act on his promises to America’s middle class by dumping DeMarco and nominating a permanent director who will move principal reduction at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and stand with all homeowners and taxpayers.”

New Bottom Line is backed by Chicago-based National People’s Action.  Local groups including the Woodstock Institute and IIRON have also called for DeMarco’s firing.

With 25 percent of the nation’s homeowners owing more than their homes are worth — including a half-million homeowners in Illinois — systematic principal reduction would provide a major boost to the ailing economy and revive the housing market, New Bottom Line has argued.

On Sunday, the New York Times reported that Madigan joined attorney generals from several states in calling on Obama to fire DeMarco.  The Bush administration holdover has ignored Treasury Department support for principal reduction, which was a major feature of the state AGs’ settlement with five big banks over the “robo-signing” foreclosure fraud scandal last year.

“Unfortunately, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac remain an obstacle to progress by refusing to adopt policies that will maximize relief for homeowners,” Madigan said in a release. “It is time for new leadership at the agency who will address the foreclosure crisis in a meaningful way to help bolster the nation’s economic recovery.”

The FHFA’s continued position that principal forgiveness conflicts with its goal of asset preservation is “not supported by reality,” the attorneys general assert in a letter to the president.

Last month, Representative Jan Schakowsky joined 44 House members in a letter to Obama calling on him to replace DeMarco.

“It is time now for the president just to say: ‘Edward DeMarco, you are fired,’” Schakowsky said.

Under DeMarco, the FHFA has challenged Chicago’s vacant properties ordinance, arguing the agency cannot be legally required to maintain foreclosed properties it owns.

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Second term: immigration, climate, foreclosures http://www.newstips.org/2013/01/second-term-immigration-climate-foreclosures/ Sun, 20 Jan 2013 02:24:45 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=6934 Immigration reform, climate change, the foreclosure crisis: with some disappointment over limited progress on these issues over the past four years, local activists hope more will be done in President Obama’s second term.

While support for comprehensive immigration reform has broadened noticeably since the November election, immigrant rights groups are concerned over dramatically stepped-up deportations under Obama, which reached 409,000 last year.

They’ll march on Inauguration Day (Monday, January 21, starting at 11 a.m. at the Daley Plaza and rallying at 12 noon at the Federal Plaza) calling on Obama to declare a moratorium on deporations.

A moratorium would be a first step toward comprehensive reform, said Eric Rodriguez, executive director of the Latino Union of Chicago.

“We want the president to be on the right side of history,” he said.  “His second term will define his legacy.  Will he be the president who deported more people than any other in history, or the president responsible for championing inclusion and equality?”

Immigration raids are a constant threat in Chicago communities today, said Tania Unzueta of the Immigant Youth Justice League; just last week scores of local residents were picked up in raids on a factory and two gathering places for day laborers.  IYJL is working to support several families who have members in detention, she said.

“Obama says he wants to do the right thing and keep families together, but we aren’t seeing it in our communities,” she said.

What should reform look like?  It should be comprehensive rather than piecemeal, and it should include a path to citizenship — not some kind of extended residency — that does not exclude large numbers of people, said Fred Tsao of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.

“It needs to fix the current legal immigration system, so people aren’t waiting in line for ten or twenty years,” he said.  Reform should extend to enforcement policies, which have been cited for human rights violations, for impairing community safety, and most recently for exorbitant costs, with immigration enforcement spending outpacing the combined budgets of the FBI, DEA, Secret Service, and BATF.

Immigration reform should also include measures aimed at integrating immigrants, including English language education and citizenship training, Tsao said, pointing at Illinois’s New Americans Initiative as a model.

He adds that the support of Republican leaders in Springfield for a measure providing drivers licenses for undocumented residents during the recent veto sessions offers another model for politicians in Washington.

(For more, Colorlines has a guide to immigration reform.)

 

Chicagoans will be among thousands of protestors in Washington D.C. on February 17 for Forward on Climate, called by 350.org, the Sierra Club, and the Hip Hop Caucus, urging Obama to reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline as “the first step in putting our country on the path for addressing the climate crisis.”

After 15,000 protestors circled the White House a year ago, Obama postponed a decision of approval for the pipeline. Tar sands oil emits far more carbon than conventional oil, and a new study points out that the use of a refinery byproduct as a coal substitute – even more carbon-intensive than coal – will add dramatically to climate damage.

“We’re trying to start the new session of Congress and President Obama’s second term by showing that the public is beyond ready for serious action on climate and clean energy,” said Jack Darin, executive director of the Illinois Sierra Club.

On clean energy, “we need to level the playing field; it’s been titled toward fossil fuels for decades,” he said.  “If we give the market a clear signal we’re going to support and buy clean energy, it will respond.”

Darin praised departing EPA administrator Lisa Jackson and several initiatives in the administration’s first term, including raising mileage standards for cars — “the single largest reduction of pollution ever” – and regulations on toxic emissions from coal plants and on carbon emissions from new sources.  “The key now is finding ways to reduce carbon from existing sources,” he said.

Obama’s “all-of-the-above” energy policy, which seeks development of renewable energy along with oil, coal, and natural gas, came in for criticism from Len Richart of the Eco-Justice Collaborative.

He points out that destructive new “extreme” technologies like fracking and tar sands extraction are making additional sources of fossil fuels available, adding to carbon emissions when we should be reducing them.

“We really need a transitional plan,” Richart said.  “We’re going to be dependent on fossil fuels for the foreseeable future, but there’s a big difference if we agree on a transition to renewables.”

He’s particularly skeptical of the “clean coal” technology that Obama supports.  “They talk about it as if it’s up and running, and that’s not the case at all.”  In the meantime, he said, coal continues to be mined and burned, contributing a third of the nation’s carbon emissions.

Working with the Heartland Coalfield Alliance, EJC sends delegations of local activists to learn about the impact of coal mining in central and southern Illinois, which includes destruction of farmland, natural areas, and entire communities, and groundwater pollution from coal slurry and unlined pools of coal ash and sludge.

Like tar sands oil, much of Illinois’s high-sulfur coal is being exported to developing countries – which Richart argues should put to rest the argument that “all-of-the-above” development is needed for “energy independence.”

 

Housing advocates seem unanimous in their top priority for Obama’s second term: replacing Edward DeMarco as interim director of the Federal Housing Finance Authority.  “We need someone there who’s looking out for homeowners and communities and not the bottom lines of banks,” said Liz Ryan Murray, policy director for National Peoples Action.

DeMarco has blocked Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which FHFA regulates and which control a huge chunk of the nation’s mortgages, from carrying out loan modifications with principal reductions to reflect the collapse of housing prices.   That’s a key step if the foreclosure crisis is to be stemmed.

In the Chicago area, the foreclosure rate has been up and down, said Katie Buitrago of the Woodstock Institute.  Last year several poor communities where foreclosures had been dropping saw sharp increases: up 60 percent in West Pullman, 25 percent in Englewood, she said.

If the employment situation doesn’t improve – and if long-term unemployment benefits are cut – foreclosures could continue at high levels, she said.

Obama tried to replace DeMarco, a Bush administration holdover, two years ago, but the appointment was held up in Congress.  If Congress won’t approve a replacement, Obama should made a recess appointment, Murray said.

Principal reduction has been a key proposal for housing groups since the start of the crisis, when they pushed for bankruptcy reform, a proposal that Obama supported and then backed away from.

The administration’s early efforts at foreclosure prevention were largely ineffective, in part because they sought voluntary participation by banks.  Mortgage services seemed to lack both the capacity and the interest to address the crisis on their own.

Recent settlements by state attorney generals and federal regulators have improved the framework, though according to Murray, “legal aid attorneys say the on-the-ground experience hasn’t changed dramatically.”

New servicer regulations by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau may help, establishing strict timetables for servicers to act on modification requests and ending “dual tracking,” in which homeowners on trial modifications were simultaneously foreclosed on.

The future of Fannie and Freddie, now in government receivership after being bailed out, is under debate. The agencies should be reformed “in a way that maintains wealth building opportunities for the low-wealth communities of color that were targeted by predatory lending and really hurt by foreclosures,” Buitrago said.

“Completely privatizing the housing market and handing it all back to Wall Street couldn’t be a worse idea,” Murray said.  “We’ve already seen what that would mean.”

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Two actions target Fannie Mae http://www.newstips.org/2012/09/two-actions-target-fannie-mae/ Tue, 04 Sep 2012 22:13:00 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=6595 Four years after Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were put under federal conservatorship, actions tomorrow and next Monday are targeting the agencies for blocking principal reduction in mortgage refinances.

On Wednesday, September 5, Occupy Chicago will rally at 5 p.m. at Fannie Mae’s office at 1 S. Wacker, where families facing eviction will speak out, and then march to President Obama’s campaign headquarters, 130 E. Randolph, where protestors will be chained together with balls representing mortgage debt.

It’s part of three days of actions targeting “Obama’s failures as president” and “how both Obama and Romney fail to represent the interests of the 99 Percent,” according to a Facebook announcement.

On Monday, September 10, local community groups joined by Occupy Our Homes groups from Minneapolis and Detroit will march from Daley Plaza at noon and rally in front of Fannie Mae (1 S. Wacker) at 1 p.m. and Freddie Mac (333 W. Wacker) at 2.

That protest is part of a national day of action against Fannie and Freddie by community groups working to stop foreclosures in several cities, said Stuart Schussler of Centro Autonomo of Albany ParkChicago Anti-Eviction Campaign is also participating.

Centro Autonomo protests at bank branches to support families in foreclosure who are seeking loan modifications. Principal reduction is a vital component of affordable loan mods, Schussler said.

“Sometimes we get a favorable response from the bank” that’s servicing the mortgage, but but if Fannie or Freddie holds the morgage – as they do in a large proportion of cases – “they’ll say it’s out of our hands,” he said.

Housing groups have been calling on Obama to replace Federal Home Financing Agency interim director Edward DeMarco, who has refused to allow Fannie or Freddie to do principal reduction – even after the Treasury Department belatedly embraced the idea.

“In the bigger picture we need some really profound changes in order to make good on housing as a human right, but in the short and medium term, DeMarco and the FHFA are in the way of getting help for a lot of people who are in trouble,” Schussler said.

The center does “community building” through popular education, health programs, and workers cooperatives, Schussler said.

Occupy groups have protested at the Republican and Democratic conventions, seeking to divert attention from the “horserace” to “the issues that matter to people,” said David Orlikoff of Occupy Chicago.

He points out that while the FBI estimates that financial institutions committed fraud in a large proportion of subprime loans, financial fraud prosecutions have dropped steadily under the Obama administration and are now at a 20-year low.

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AG Madigan to back ‘maximum’ homeowner relief http://www.newstips.org/2012/06/ag-madigan-to-back-maximum-homeowner-relief/ Fri, 08 Jun 2012 19:40:58 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=6360 At a rally with community organizations on Sunday, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan is expected to commit to pressing for “maximum” mortgage relief for underwater homeowners as part of the federal-state investigation into bank fraud.

She’ll appear with the regional organizing network IIRON on Sunday, June 10 at 3 p.m. at St. Mark’s United Methodist Church, 8441 S. St. Lawrence.  IIRON will also be unveiling a new Covenant for Economic Justice.

It’s a significant step for Madigan, who’s a member of an Obama administration task force investigating securitization fraud in the foreclosure crisis, organizers say.

Last year IIRON pressed Madigan to hold out for more money to help homeowners wrongfully foreclosed on in the robo-signing settlement by state attorney generals. Though the monetary settlement in that case was disappointing, grassroots pressure did result in limiting banks’ immunity from liability in the deal, said David Hatch of IIRON.

He said IIRON and groups including National People’s Action are calling for $350 billion worth of principal reduction for underwater homeowners.  An NPA report last year estimated underwater homeowners in the U.S. owe a total of $700 billion more than their homes are worth.

Stealth bailout

That’s a serious drag on the economy, these groups argue, taking hundreds of billions of dollars out of the consumer economy – and a “stealth bailout” of banks, which caused the housing crash through reckless and predatory lending practices, and which have received trillions of dollars in bailouts and backstops, most of which will never be repaid.

Large-scale principal reduction would set the housing market on a firm foundation and constitute a significant economic stimulus – and boost to government revenues – and no cost to taxpayers.

One obstacle to large-scale relief is the opposition of Federal Home Finance Administration interim director Edward DeMarco, who has blocked government-backed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac – which together own 70 percent of the nation’s mortgages – from carrying out principal reduction.

Madigan recently wrote DeMarco calling on him to reverse that policy.  IIRON, NPA, and others have called on President Obama to replace DeMarco.

IIRON and other local groups were among a thousand NPA members who protested last month at FHFA offices in Washington D.C., Hatch said.

Values

The Covenant on Economic Justice is “a conscious attempt to change the conversation about what our economy should look like” by reclaiming the idea of values from those who maintain “that justice can be distributed through the market, that basic human needs should be treated like commodities,” Hatch said.

The document addresses economic justice, public services, democratic principles, living wages and workers rights, and environmental protection.

As a faith-based network of grassroots organizations, IIRON “will put these values to work in our organizing around issues,” Hatch said.  “Whether in the housing crisis and foreclosure prevention or calling for services instead of cuts and for taxing the rich, all our work is evidence that we mean it when we sign.”

The group is also calling on JPMorgan/Chase to “return the favor” of its taxpayer bailout by turning vacant foreclosed properties over to nonprofit housing groups for use as affordable rental properties.

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Bank fraud investigation hailed http://www.newstips.org/2012/01/bank-fraud-investigation-hailed/ Thu, 26 Jan 2012 00:21:41 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=5583 President Obama’s State of the Union announcement of a new investigation into bank fraud represents a victory for community groups, said National Peoples Action on Wednesday.

“We’ve been calling for a full investigation for over a year,” said Liz Ryan Murphy of NPA.  “This is a big win, but we still need to see results.

“We need a complete investigation to get to the bottom  of what they’ve done, with penalties and restitution that are commensurate with the crimes.”

The Woodstock Institute also hailed the announcement.  “Making it clear that criminal activity in the financial sector will not be tolerated is necessary to restore confidence in the mortgage market and the broader financial system,” said Tom Feltner.

Obama announced that New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman will head a new task force looking into abuses in the mortgage origination and securitization sector.

Schneiderman’s appointment came as NPA and other groups (including IIRON in Chicago) expressed concern that the administration was pressing for a settlement in the robo-signing scandal that would release banks from legal claims covering a sweeping range of misconduct.  Schneiderman was among state attorney generals said to be raising similar concerns

Principal reduction

If it is narrowly focused on relieving claims arising from fraudulent foreclosure filings, a settlement could begin to bring relief to hard-hit communities in the form of loan modifications which reduce principal to reflect depressed home values, Feltner said.

Principal reduction is “a critical missing piece in the response to the foreclosure crisis,” he said.

NPA has argued that homeowners have lost billions of dollars of equity since the housing market collapsed due to the malfeasance of big banks, and that wholesale principal reduction would constitute a massive economic stimulus.

Both groups have called on the Federal Home Finance Authority to direct Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which own 70 percent of home mortgages, to allow principal reduction.

Murray said Obama should replace Edward DeMarco, acting director of the FHFA, who has ruled out principal reduction.

The president “should consider a change in leadership” at FHFA, Feltner said.

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