Tag Archives: Grace Ross

Eviction Showdown – Worcester – Tomorrow (Thurs 5/4) – 9:30 am

The Worcester Housing Court has issued its tenth Execution to evict disabled foreclosure activist Marjorie Evans from her home at 158 Orient St. Worcester, tomorrow (Thurs 5/4) at 9:30 am, by Freddie Mac (the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation) which claims to be the new owner.

According to Worcester resident and statewide anti-foreclosure organizer Grace Ross, this will be st least the tenth attempt this year to evict Ms. Evans.

In Ms. Ross’s words, “The Housing Court has decided to proceed with this eviction without Freddie Mac ever proving ownership and right to evict, and issued an execution while Marjorie was under a “stay” on the proceeding by higher courts (the Appeals Court, Supreme Judicial Court, and the Bankruptcy Court).”

The Worcester Anti-Foreclosure Team has called for a mass turnout of members and friends to stop the eviction by blocking the Constable and movers access to the property. A dramatic confrontation is very possible. A colorful protest and a good story with many opportunities to interview participants is guaranteed.

Worcester Anti-Foreclosure Team

Below, full statement by Grace Ross and the WAFT leadership team:

Friends:
 
We are writing requesting your urgent attention and assistance in the egregious eviction case of Marjorie Evans. Like, a huge number of folks, who’ve been illegally foreclosed on in Massachusetts, Marjorie Evans had a manageable disability prior to the damaging downward slide of her housing situation – starting with a declaration from Freddie Mac (who did admit to being the owner of the mortgage) that she was in default.

Freddie Mac declared her in default while she was still paying her mortgage, they stopped accepting her payments. That is where the nightmare began for her.
 
On Thursday May 4, 2017, at 9:30 am, Freddie Mac once again is scheduled to illegally evict Marjorie based on documents that Freddie Mac obtained from the Worcester Housing Court while she has a bankruptcy stay in place so that they would be able to go ahead and illegally evict her.

The stress from the years of fighting prior to the actual foreclosure of her home was bad enough. Since the illegal foreclosure of her home (known as “void”), Marjorie knew her rights enough to know that she could stay in her home. She knew that post the purported foreclosure would be her first chance in front of a Judge – where the foreclosing party would have to try to prove its foreclosure was valid, and their alleged right to possession of her home.
 
However, while Marjorie had gathered more evidence than most homeowners’ ever get their hands on in their case, and has proof, not only showing the declaration of the default while she was still paying, but numerous other legal violations – any one of which shows that the foreclosure was illegal.
 
Then, having made her first few conceptually straightforward legal motions in this case to defend her home, her health, her future, her financial base; she planned ahead and hired an attorney; she then lost her attorney almost immediately to a heart-attack. 

Having preemptively hired a lawyer knowing that she would not be able to handle these multifaceted interactions in the stress of the court, Marjorie found herself without an attorney less than a month away from the jury trial.
 
She was now confronted with the complexity of a legal trial by herself. Given the heavy stress of her fundamental right to her home being on the chopping block, her health began to deteriorate. Because of the behavior of the opposing counsel, and the Worcester Housing Court, the complex interaction of a trial situation is exactly the kind of situation in which Marjorie’s disability is profoundly aggravated and limits her handling.
 
She was then forced to request more time from the Worcester Housing Court and in doing so, she had to reveal her disability to the Judge. In strict compliance with Title II of the ADA Act, the legal history in the Massachusetts courts is: once you have informed to the Court that you have a disability that will limit your ability to participate in your case without a reasonable accommodation – it becomes the court’s job (burden) to sort out with you how the proceedings can continue to meet legal standards but also be adjusted to ensure your full participation.
 
This is especially central as a defendant defending one of your three constitutional inalienable rights to life, liberty, and property once it is under threat.
 
Instead, the Judge, once Marjorie informed the court, became the inquisitor; she forced Marjorie to endure more than 20 minutes in open court in front of opposing counsel on the public record to answer a series of invasive questions about: what was the medical condition, her educational history, her work history, her present physical limitations, her finances, and even about whether Marjorie filed taxes the year before. She did all this while making eye contact with opposing counsel when she would answer.
 
You can imagine what a gross and complete violation this was of Marjorie’s rights. In her belief that the court should be exposed for what it was doing, she allowed the questioning to wind itself down instead of, for instance, leaving against the court’s rules to protect her rights under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and her privacy. To leave would also to a certain extent protect her from the serious post-traumatic stress that not surprisingly has resulted.
 
That post-traumatic stress from the Judge’s unethical behavior as well as the general limitations that she would have in handling the court proceedings has rendered her unable to appear in court.
 
Backed by strong doctor’s orders that she must not participate, Marjorie has attempted (and very eloquently we might add) to defend her right to her home in writing and through numerous filings. With every single filing and every single opposition to a filing from the other side, she has included consistent requests for a reasonable accommodation that would allow her filings to be fully addressed by the court.  The court has denied each request.
 
As folks who have been backing Marjorie now for over a year, we are horrified by the destruction of this brilliant and amazing woman’s health under the grueling and incessant stress of not only the court case – but, the shocking disregard of the facts and the gist of every single filing that she has made in the Worcester Housing Court – and the absolute and complete disregard of any of her rights under Title II of the ADA Act.
 
The record is, in fact, rife with the explicit and repeated statements in writing by the Judge that she will be ruled against Marjorie simply for her inability to appear and verbally argue her case in front of the Judge.
 
This, of course, flies directly in the face of Marjorie’s personal report of her disability condition (certainly sufficient under Title II of the ADA), and the fact that she has provided two notes from physicians currently treating her and helping her manage her disability. Yet, the Court has never even approached the physicians if it had any doubt as to Marjorie’s report of her disability that she has struggled with since childhood.
 
We need your help now!  

Marjorie has managed to stave off 9 or 10 illegal eviction attempts. Evictions that are not only illegal because Freddie Mac does not own her home (given the illegality of the foreclosure), but evictions illegal in and of themselves; the Court has decided and issued Freddie Mac papers and authority to carry out evictions without Freddie Mac ever proving ownership and right to evict, and while Marjorie is under a “stay” on the proceeding by higher courts (the Appeals Court, Supreme Judicial Court, and the Bankruptcy Court).
  
The passionate and amazing commitment that Marjorie has shown refusing to have her rights to her home be taken away without her case ever being adjudicated – especially given the additional barriers of being self-represented, with a disability.  Her competence, incisive understanding and leadership are critical to our movement to end illegal foreclosures.
 
We believe her insistence that she has equal rights under our constitution to her home should be a model to everyone – as it is to us – regardless of one’s physical disabilities.  All of us should always insist and enforce our equal rights under the law, otherwise as you know, we won’t have them.
 
We cannot plead to you strongly enough for the need for your help and support in backing our courageous sister, Marjorie Evans in her fight for justice under the law.
 
Please consider the following:

• Share Marjorie’s story throughout your networks.

• Contact every elected official that you have a relationship within the state of Massachusetts. She is a constituent of the following elected officials. District Representative:

• For Freddie Mac, Melvin Watt, Director of FHFA  202-649-3001 or 202-649-3006  OfficeoftheDirector@FHFA.gov

• US Senate: Elizabeth Warren
(202) 224-4543  www.warren.senate.gov/?p=email_senator

• Congressional:                 James P McGovern phone:  508-831-7356

• State senate:               Harriet L. Chandler 617-722-1544

• State rep:                    Mary S. Keefe 617-722-2210

• Governor’s Council     Jennie L. Caissie 617-725-4015, ext. 7

• District Attorney                 Joseph D. Early (508) 755-8601
 
Further, we request your presence (and anybody you know) to help blockade this illegal eviction. If Freddie Mac continues to go forward with it and the courts are not willing to enforce the stays that they themselves have imposed on the Worcester Housing Court actions.

–     Please be at Marjorie’s home by 9:00 am this Thursday, May 4th, at 
     158 Orient Street, Worcester.

–     Honor the leadership and discipline chosen by WAFT’s leadership

–     We are calling on everyone to create a large enough nonviolent presence
     the constable will be afraid to go ahead with this illegal eviction.
 
Further, the Supreme Judicial Court, (“SJC”) of Massachusetts is aware of this situation and has been called on to act. While it is not their normal procedure to act this quickly, under the circumstances where a court has been allowed to engage in this kind of absolute egregious disregard of the rights of a homeowner – a woman of color, with a disability – without legal representation beyond her quite amazing brilliance on these issues, please call on the SJC to act now!
 
Please show a solid presence with us as we back and if necessary, some of us, put our bodies in the way to protect Marjorie Evans rights to her home, against Freddie Mac who does “not” have any legal rights to her property.  

Love,

Grace & All the WAFT Team!
 

Mass Voters Sue for Time to Preserve the Rights of 77,344 Foreclosed Homeowners

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HOME…Chef Joey’s babes at the front door, looking out at the snowscape … Where’s papa Joey?!💖💕 pic: Chef Joey

From Grace Ross and the Mass Alliance Against Predatory Lending:

Today, at the 10 a.m. Press Conference, Massachusetts voters who had attempted to put the law to minimize homeowners’ ability to reverse an illegal foreclosure on the ballot for this past November announced their filing of a suit in the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts.

The lawsuit alleges that the first group of homeowners whose rights this law attempts to curtail – those illegal foreclosed between 1997 and 2013 – should have up to the constitutional deadline to preserve their rights to reverse an illegal foreclosure.

“I am a leader in the Massachusetts Alliance Against Predatory Lending, a nearly all volunteer organization. Today, we are standing up to the powerful interests both in the Title industry and sadly, some of those in our elected government that don’t give a damn about the rights of the foreclosed – a full three quarters of whom were almost certainly victims of illegal foreclosures,” Zakiya Alake, Plaintiff and member of the MAAPL Steering Committee, “We will fight to stop this law, Chapter 141, from robbing them of their historic rights to fight back against illegal foreclosure. With the help of the National Lawyer’s Guild, we are standing up for the 77,344 home owners because we are the People’s Advocate.”

The Massachusetts Constitution requires that laws have an implementation deadline of 90 days after being signed. The law minimizing homeowners’ rights had a deadline that the Massachusetts Attorney General allowed to go forward of only 36 days. This is critically important because the one year time period for those who were the victims of roughly 77,344 foreclosures prior to 2014 need the time to record documentation at the Registry of Deeds or file in court to preserve their rights.

Press conference location was Shapiro, Weissberg, and Garin, 90 Canal St., 5th Fl. Afterward, Plaintiffs represented by Attorney Jeffrey Feuer of the National Lawyers Guild, will deliver the suit to the Supreme Judicial Court.

“The lawsuit today seeks the Constitutional deadline for previously foreclosed homeowners foreclosed before 2013 to have until February 23, 2017 to record their filings at the registry of deeds. We are deeply concerned about this “supposed” law for many reasons; however, today, we have focused down on the critical shortened deadline for homeowners whose rights are being taken away without any notification,” explained Grace Ross, voter-Plaintiff and Coordinator of the Mass Alliance Against Predatory Lending.

“The law that this lawsuit challenges is historically unique in changing the traditional 20 year rights to reverse an illegal foreclosure. These rights have been around for literally hundreds of years,” explained Sarah Mckee, a Plaintiff and former white collar crime prosecutor for Interpol. “These rights are summarily attempted to be cut off by an initiative of the Title Insurance industry.

“The roughly 77,344 foreclosures under this severely foreshortened and unannounced deadline to record documentation at the Registries of Deeds or bring suit amounts to over 25 billion dollars (this is a low estimate) in household wealth that could be barred forever from reclamation.”

The suit was filed by the Mass Alliance Against Predatory Lending and 14 -Voter Petitioners who attempted to have this legislation put before the voters of Massachusetts last November, 2016. When the Secretary of the Commonwealth received this petition, he sent over an almost immediate query to the Attorney General seeking her opinion on whether it was constitutional for this petition to be put before the voters or not.
This law is explicitly named and focused on the rights of homeowners to the legal title of their property.

The Attorney General refused to put it on the ballot based upon a minor part of the bill, involving codifying some Supreme Judicial Court decisions that clarified these powers already existed in the jurisdiction of the Housing Court; this minor section had been added literally after both sides of the legislature had voted on the legislation, debated it at length and handled numerous amendment votes and when the bill was conferenced and sent back as a final vote without any discussion.

The AG argued that this changed powers the courts, even though that section was plainly peripheral to the main purpose of the bill, which was dealing with the hundreds years old rights of former homeowners to challenge illegal foreclosures.

“As far as I’m concerned we homeowners met with Maura Healey when she was running for office. She promised she would be on the side of the homeowners in our fight with the banks. She has blocked our moves and refused us funding from her settlements. Now is her chance to step aside from defending the industry’s law against the Constitutionally protected homeowners of the Commonwealth,” said Mildred Collins, Plaintiff and a homeowner whose rights may have been taken away by this law.

From Grace Ross and the Massachusetts Alliance Against Predatory Lending …

ADVOCATES ANNOUNCE SIGNIFICANT STEP TOWARD REMOVING UNFAIR TAX AND FURTHER HARM OF FORECLOSED HOMEOWNERS

Advocates affiliated with MAAPL (Massachusetts Alliance Against Predatory Lending) and others are pleased to report that an important piece of legislation decreasing unfair burden on the 68,000 households foreclosed in this crisis has taken a step forward.

“In our case, our family has a court ruling that the foreclosure of our home in Worcester was illegal, yet the Massachusetts Department of Revenue (DOR) came after us for a “forbearance” that the bank reported so that the bank could take a tax write off, even on an illegal foreclosure!” explains Mildred Collins, a Worcester, MA homeowner sharing her terrifying story: “This was money we certainly never profited from and DOR levied my bank accounts, overdrawing them, and even threatened to take away me and my husband’s drivers licenses. I have had to spend hours and hours traveling to and from the DOR office in Springfield and am still waiting for resolution on this issue. “ 

The United States Congress and the IRS recognized the injustice of taxing people on money they never made in an overpriced mortgage that led to a foreclosure (whether it is ever found illegal or not); federal legislation making this type of decrease in debt not taxable passed half a dozen years ago. Foreclosed homeowners have not received a profit.

“An Act Relative to the Tax Relief of Mortgage Debt” has been favorably reported out from the Massachusetts Legislative Joint Committee of Revenue. This bill will protect all homeowners from being taxed for a “profit” they never received from losing their home to foreclosure whether it is ever found illegal or not).

“Many people don’t know that even when a homeowner wins a court battle against the bank that illegally foreclosed on them, they may still be taxed for the supposed “profit” they made from having their mortgage wiped out by foreclosure,” continues Mildred Collins, who is also a member of the Worcester Anti-Foreclosure Team. This bill will protect homeowners who have proven a foreclosure is illegal but continue to be victimized in other ways.

“Illegal foreclosures are among the most insidious injustices affecting our families and communities.  Whether a family proves that a foreclosure was illegal, they are often still being taxed by the state.,” explained Dawn Duncan who has fought foreclosure herself and is a member of Lynn United.

Attorneys representing homeowners have seen this practice too. “We have seen many homeowners face incredible challenges to prove that they were exempt from phantom income due to forgiveness of debt.  Most couldn’t afford a tax attorney and ended up with oppressive tax bills and loss of tax refunds.  This bill would properly exempt this phantom income and remove this unfair burden,” says Todd Kaplan, Senior Attorney in the Consumer Rights Division of Greater Boston Legal Services. 

House 2607 and Senate 1464, the same bill filed on both sides of the legislature, now moves forward and advocates are hopeful that an expedited vote will help provide relief as soon as possible to this additional and unfair destructive financial burden on the families of Massachusetts.

“We applaud the work of the Revenue Committee and look forward to the widely supported bills passing quickly into law,” said Grace Ross, Coordinator of the Mass Alliance Against Predatory Lending, “This past January, MAAPL filed nine (9) bills because Massachusetts residents and our entire economy deserve a full-fledged repair to the massive and pervasive damage caused by illegal subprime lending and the ongoing foreclosure crisis that has followed.”

From the Worcester NAACP

YWCA

Salem Square, Worcester

The next Worcester NAACP meeting will be held TOMORROW, Thursday, May 28 – 6:30 pm …

… in the upstairs Boardroom of the YWCA, Salem Sq.

Grace Ross of the Mass Alliance Against Predatory Lending will be presenting an information session on “Illegal Foreclosures and Predatory Mortgages.”

If you or someone you know is in jeopardy of losing his/her home, or have been victimized by a predatory lendor, please come out and learn how you can fight back.

From Grace Ross …

From “The Grace Team”:

Massachusetts Alliance Against Predatory Lending

maaplinfo@yahoo.comwww.MAAPL.info The statewide Alliance working to reverse the foreclosure crisis in Massachusetts, expressed concern yesterday about an unexpected development in the handling of post-foreclosure evictions.   “We are finally getting the word out to families that you do not have to leave at foreclosure. Our state protects your rights to a legal eviction,” explains Grace Ross, Coordinator of the Mass Alliance Against Predatory Lending. “We were dismayed then to hear from our local affiliates about the arrests without warning in Brockton. In general, police (like fire and other municipal workers) have experienced enough foreclosures in their ranks to be more respectful of housing rights they are only recently being dragged into address. We stand ready with training materials for police forces across the state. We trust this was just a single incident mistake that will be corrected today and that those facing foreclosure will feel safe to stay post-foreclosure knowing their legal rights will not be violated.”

Brockton Family Evicted and Arrested after Tense Standoff Arraignment in Brockton District Court Brockton – Yesterday Tyrone Hubbard and his two sons were arraigned in Brockton District Court.  They are facing charges of trespassing stemming from a Fannie Mae eviction on Friday September 28th, at their 137 Walnut Street home in Brockton.  Approximately 40 people supporting the Hubbard family protested and formed an eviction blockade, leading to an intense standoff with police.  Supporters included members from City Life/Vida Urbana (CLVU), Brockton Bank Tenants Association, the Coalition of Social Justice and Lynn United for Change. Brockton City Councilor Jass Steward, who was also at the location, made courageous efforts to amicably resolve the issue without eviction.

At approximately 11 am, Brockton police formed a line, marched through protesters, entered the home and immediately arrested Mr. Hubbard and his two sons.  Two protesters sitting in the doorway – Sue Parsons and Annie Hunt, were pushed aside and not arrested.  Rev. Stewart Lanier, who was also sitting in the doorway willing to risk arrest, was also arrested.  Rev. Lanier, an extremely disciplined and mild-mannered man, has been charged with trespassing, and as reported by the Brockton Enterprise he is also charged with assault and battery on a police officer along with interfering with a police officer in the performance of his duty.

At no time was a warning given to any one to “leave the premises or be arrested.”

In addition to Mr. Hubbard, his two sons and Rev. Lanier, the police  also took into custody a young mother and her 6-week old baby who are members of the Hubbard family.  They were secretly taken out the back door, through a hole in the back fence and later to the hospital.  Police alleged that there was carbon monoxide in the home.  No appreciable amount was found in either the mom or the baby at the hospital.   During protests, City Life always emphasizes that the fight is with the bank, not the police.  The Brockton police have made their behavior an issue and in doing so, gave 3 different reasons for arresting the family:

·        First, police said the family refused to leave when ordered; but they received no such order. The family was fully prepared to leave – they were scrambling to get medicine etc., when arrested. This is the first family EVER arrested in a City Life eviction blockade.

·        Second, police maintained the family had been trespassing ever since 9 am, the time the constable said he was arriving.  This is a suspect legal rationale.  But even people who are trespassing are told to leave or face arrest.

·        Third, supporters and City Life members were told the police decided to arrest the family because they were nervous about protesters and believed that the protesters would disperse once the family was arrested.  City Life blockades are loud but extremely disciplined, and there is never a hint of violence.  City Life never leaves members in jail without supporting them.

For the following reasons, Fannie Mae is completely responsible for everything that happened on Friday September 28th, as well as the arrest of Rev. Stewart Lanier and the entire Hubbard Family.  Fannie Mae rejected 3 different alternatives to resolve this case without eviction:

·        Fannie Mae refused to offer principal reduction to avoid foreclosure, even though their own studies show it’s cheaper to reduce principal than to foreclose and evict.

·        Fannie Mae accepted the Hubbard’s rent for 11 months (through September) but refused to continue to take rent and allow them to stay.  As a result of a CLVU protest against Fannie Mae in DC, one of Fannie Mae’s national attorneys called to agree that the Hubbard’s had paid rent through September, BUT they still planned to evict them!

·        Fannie refused to wait for the outcome of the Hubbard’s application for a new mortgage from Boston Community Capital, a non-profit that Fannie Mae has previously worked with.

As the city of Brockton continues to be hit hard by foreclosures and bank evictions, the bank tenant movement will continue to grow.   As a result, there will inevitably be more protests. So, the Brockton Bank Tenant Association, City Life or is supporters will not be intimidated or deterred from organizing or conducting eviction blockades in the city of Brockton.

Voter apathy and how we can “rock” the system

By Chris Horton

Retreat of the “Obama voters”

I’ve participated in 10 election campaigns in the past seven years, including President Obama’s, and the voters – my neighbors, many of them – have taught me a lot. The regular people of our city and commonwealth, are fed up with politics. “Black” or “white,” native or immigrant, Republican, Independent or Democrat, we’re all fed up. On the bread and butter issues like Social Security, Medicare, jobs, war and peace, who should pay the taxes and not letting the banks take our homes and drive us to ruin, most of us agree. But what we want doesn’t seem to matter. So a majority of the people in Worcester have just given up on voting.

And who can blame them? We keep re-electing a great Congressman, yet things keep getting worse. We elected – and hopefully will re-elect – a young, populist mayor, yet things seem to stay the same. And we turned out in near-record numbers to elect a dynamic young President who talks like the second coming of Jesus. Yet things keep getting worse.

So why bother?

When Grace Ross campaigned for City Council a few years ago, our strategy was to find the people who don’t usually vote but who had turned out to vote for Obama. I went door to door talking to these “Obama voters,” and I caught an earful. Many agreed that we need a change in City Hall and that Grace sounded really good, but on the day of decision the Obama voters stayed home. The most common reason I heard for not voting was … Obama! I heard many versions of “We turned out and voted for Hope and Change and what did we get? Nothing!” More proof that voting doesn’t matter, that politicians are all lying to us, that once they get into office they’ll get sucked into the system and forget about us, and anyway they can’t change anything.

(The number two reason cited by people was the city pools! Over 600 people turned out for the public hearings the City Council organized. Hundreds spoke and nearly every one wanted all the old pools repaired. Yet the City Council turned around and voted for the City Manager’s one-pool plan as though the hearings had never happened! I would argue “that’s why we need Grace on the city council.” Some would nod and agree, but what they were really saying was “why bother voting?

It’s not apathy! It’s a boycott!

Do people care? They know a lot about what’s going on in Worcester. They’re concerned. They care enough to show their anger! And they’re clear about why they’re not voting! They, and sometimes their parents and their grandparents before them, are making a point. They’ve been boycotting the elections, for generations! They suspended their boycott to vote for Obama – and the result has confirmed their worst fears. So now they say they’re all done!

And yet, vote we must, so long as we still have that right. Not just to elect people who will truly represent us, but also for getting organized and learning how to stick up for ourselves and for each other.

Elections are times when people come together to talk about all the issues we face, to talk about programs and ideas that will bring us together, the times when we see how all of our struggles are part of a bigger picture. We need those conversations. We need to learn how to use elections to get together, to get organized, to build unity and community. But how?

Stop doing what doesn’t work!

The things people are doing to get elected these days are the very things most regular folk are sick of. If we want a different result from elections we need to admit what isn’t working and let go of it.

First, television spots, slick post cards, robo-calls, but most especially phone banking – volunteers calling computer-generated lists of most likely voters – may swing some of the usual voters, but are such a turn-off to most regular folks that they only increase the level of disgust and non-participation. Even door to door work in other people’s neighborhoods is pretty useless these days. People are only going to be moved by someone with whom they have some kind of connection.

Second, words aren’t enough. The candidate reaching us with his or her message isn’t enough. No one can top Obama for great speeches. Heck, he got a Nobel Prize for his speeches! But as my Grandma used to say, “Words butter no parsnips.” We’re so done with speeches and promises! We need campaigns that call us to action, to do something, to make a change, win or lose on election day.

Third, campaigns are not enough. Campaigns that are the personal property of the candidate, campaigns that end on election day, build nothing. Campaigns that put all the information gathered in a drawer, all the networks they built forgotten until the candidate decides to run again are a kind of theft from all the people who contribute to them, who go out organizing for them! That has to stop!

Finally, campaigns that pit the people who choose to run against each other have to go. In the City Council race of 2009, progressives Grace Ross, Kola Afolabi, Mary Keefe and Joe O’Brien ran for City Council, competing for resources and volunteers. If everyone who worked on their campaigns had worked to get all four elected, if they had coordinated, all three would have won. Instead, only O’Brien won, mostly with support from the usual voters.
O’Brien lives in District 4, and campaigned there. So the “Obama voters,” the ones who didn’t turn out for Grace, didn’t turn out for him either! Unless he can help change that, his base is shaky.
…………………………..
So how do we build a different kind of campaign?

First, every campaign should be real community organizing, real relationship building. Door to door canvassers should look for potential leaders on each block and get them together with the candidate; then support them in talking to their neighbors, talking over the issues, setting up events to meet the candidate and then geting each other out to the polls.

Organizers should be finding and drawing in the natural leaders in the District from every group and organization, getting conversations going in workplaces, community centers, religious and social communities, unions, finding ways to draw everyone’s interests together around the campaign.

Second, the campaign should organize people to struggle and win concrete things they need, during the campaign! Maybe including dramatic actions like stopping an eviction, a sit-in at City Hall until they vote to do something they promised, or a community takeover of an abandoned building! This makes clear what the election is about, not just issues, but power. Our power to make things happen when we stand together.

Third, campaigns should be about building grass-roots organizations that stand for something and belong to the members. Campaigns should belong to the people, and continue on from election to election and in-between. They should leave behind ward-level, precinct-level and block-level organizations, with precinct and block captains who will stay connected to their neighbors, lead them in struggles to stop an eviction or keep a food pantry open, and to hold the people we elected to account!

The walking lists, databases and notes – or copies of them – should stay with this organization and with the campaigners. When the next election comes around the office-holder should have to go back to us for support. So the officeholder would feel the need to keep coming back to the campaigners, coming to our ward and precinct and block meetings to explain themselves and take instructions from the people about how to vote!

Last, this great grass-roots organization, with block committees and precinct committees throughout the city, should decide who runs for us, and would become the ready-made kernal of thir campaign!

The way we’re doing it now is stupid and wrong. With all respect for some very good people we’ve elected that are trying to do their best, it’s not real democracy.

The challenge; rebuilding our democracy

Once upon a time we had parties that had a mass base. They were called Machines by the press, their leaders were called Ward Bosses, their activists were called Ward Heelers. The “reformers” – folks with money, mostly – organized to do away with them by making local elections – the heart of politics – “non-partisan.” Those “machines” were not democratic enough and were often corrupted, but they connected working people and their government every day, and turned working people out to vote.

Those “machines” elected Franklin Roosevelt four times, and helped win the New Deal. Boy, could we use some of that now!

We need something like that but controlled by the members. We could try rebuilding the Democratic Party, but the non-partisan election law may force us to build outside of it. A political movement that will give people a voice, connect us with each other and with our government, and draw all our other movements together. One that will require the politicians answer to and work with us, not just on election day but every day.
…………………………..
So my challenge to all the candidates for this City Council race is this: Build your campaign to last. Build it around connecting people, not just with you, but with each other, with our neighbors and all the leaders among us. Build it by design to go on fighting for our needs between elections, win or lose, with your leadership so long as you go on earning it. Fighting for things like stopping the foreclosures and saving Medicare and Social Security and saving or making jobs and making sure no one goes to bed hungry. Build it so it can resume campaigning for the candidate of its own choice in the elections next year and the year after that and the year after that.

Give it its freedom, and then go on being the leader we would choose again!

Worcester’s foreclosure crisis: What you need to know to save your home

By Grace Ross and Worcester County families

In 2006, Massachusetts with Worcester frequently in the lead began to see an ever-increasing number of foreclosures. While the crisis grew, many engaged in the blame game. Worcester had gotten into the breech early, but did not want to face how fast it was going to snow ball. Early reports that the problem was subprime mortgages with bad terms taken mostly by lower income, new borrowers, led some to blame the borrowers.

The first major case brought in Massachusetts Supreme Court where one of the best judicial minds in our state got to review the standard sub-prime mortgage documents (and his ruling was upheld by the rest of the Court). And he found the problems were unequivocably caused by inherently unfair practices by the big mortgage companies. Mortgage companies were not regulated like the rest of the banks, the loans they provided were not in any way comparable to traditional prime mortgages, and, as Justice Gants pointed out, were specifically structured to trap borrowers.

Those of us who have waded into the nitty gritty of what was happening to our neighbors in this mess found the truth to be the opposite of what we were told. Now the shannigans of the largest financial players in the world are splashed across the headlines but we heard it first from the grass roots.

Some of the people who went searching for the real story, real answers and continue to do so, are your neighbors who make up the Worcester Anti-Foreclosure Team.

And what were those stories? And what can we tell you to do if your story sounds like one of these? Read on …

Ann Kamarauskas

We got the house, me and my sister, when my mother passed. We took out a couple small mortgages – we wanted to take a mortgage to get stuff done around the house, because it is very old. Given our credit report, a friend, a broker said the only one we could go through was Full Spectrum Lending, part of Countrywide. Then I needed a car so we did a re-mortgage. But they said we had to take out more than I wanted because of my sister’s debt. So that was when it went into Countrywide and they put it under my sister’s name. This second time, unlike every time before where they asked for our paystubs, checking/bank account statements and all this financial paperwork like our taxes, this time they didn’t ask for anything – I thought it was weird but I didn’t know anything – I figured maybe they had all our stuff on file.

We got the mortgage and that time, the lady came over – we’d always gone to a law office before so we didn’t know what was going on. The lady kept saying she was in such a rush. My sister notices that they have her name spelled wrong all the way through. So the lady is all pissed off and rushing, they have to go through all the papers, the lady crossing off the s, my sister writing in the z.

I had not had problems paying the mortgage before but we started having problems paying this mortgage. Where my sister works, she doesn’t make $4,333 we found later they put on the mortgage and she told them she does not work in the summer. So we went back to our friend, the broker, to see if she could help us renegotiate our loan. She said “wow, Barbara makes a lot working down at the middle school.” I said, “What are you talking about?” She says, “ according to this paperwork, she makes over 50 grand per year!” “She’s lucky if she takes out 21 thousand per year,” I told her.

She ended up calling them and saying,“I know what you people do to get people mortgages.,” She was yelling at them, “I own my own mortgage company I know what I am talking about.” But nothing came of it.

After that I got laid off in 2009. And my sister couldn’t keep doing the payments. We just kept calling countrywide, no reply. Then we heard about loan modifications, we kept filling out paperwork. We ended up driving down to Dedham. They went over our paystubs, bank accounts, tax stuff. They said we would be the first on their list to do a loan modification. They would not take my paperwork only my sister’s.

They said, “you’ll hear from us 2 weeks.” But we didn’t hear and kept calling; our paperwork kept changing hands. Then they kept asking for new paperwork again and again.

Then we got a letter for October 2010 saying they were foreclosing April 8th. We called and they called their loan officer, called back and said it was postponed but we don’t know what happened.

Ann comes every first and third Weds, 5:30 pm at the Pleasant St. Network Center to WAFT meetings. We will see what we can do. She might be able to afford a modified loan if they count both her and her sisters’ income and bring the house value down to closer to today’s values. She has a friend who can re-appraise and if we can get the bank to send out the “Net Present Value” letter which is supposed to come with a loan turn down, then we can figure out why the bank sasy they cannot afford it.

ALSO, we wonder why letters from the lawyers and the court were sent on behalf of a bank that only owned the loan many months later! And then, maybe we can get something done about why Countrywide put down the wrong income for her sister in the first place!

Marty

My wife and I split up like 15 years ago. I had refinanced the house. I had been doing fine.

Then my business went under in this economy– self-employed. That was when I went into depressed and stop being able to make the payments, anything. They kept sending mortgage bills, then Harmon Law got involved, saying they were going to foreclose.

So then Chris, my neighbor who was a member of WAFT got my name off the listing of foreclosure auctions and came by. He said I should come by a WAFT meeting. That got me hooked up with Jen & Luz – realtors who are part of WAFT.

I was going through bankruptcy at that point and my lawyer said not having the mortgage on the bankruptcy would be much better in the long run. By then, Jen & Luz had found me a buyer.
The bank had put the original auction off; they had given us a date by which to sell the house by. That time was just not long enough for the sale to go through, the buyer needed more time to get financing. So they threatened to auction it again.

So last minute we went and got a bankruptcy from the court. That made the auction not legal. WAFT came and protested and that stopped the auction process. This meant we were able to sell the place and fully pay off the mortgage. It was ridiculous that they were willing to get less money through the auction instead of the full amount through my signed Purchase & Sale. It made no sense.
We got that small bankruptcy dismissed but went with the full bankruptcy which I needed.

I wonder now if that sale was the best way to go. Wells Fargo could never prove they had the note. Maybe now that all the illegal actions of the banks have come out in the paper, I wonder if I should have stayed and made them prove they own the note instead of selling the property.

Marty was really lost until we worked together but he always willing to stand up and help someone out. He worked to get a buyer to pay off the bank. When they would no longer wait even though it was just a couple of weeks and tens of thousands more pay-off for them, Marty worked to get a bankruptcy and have WAFT folks come protest to stop the auction.

We know more now. You should look up all the mortgage, assignment, complaint paperwork on the Worcester Registry of Deeds website. And now that it is public, that many of the banks swore to affidavits they never read, claim ownership of mortgages where there is no proven chain of ownership going back to the first filing, missed dated paperwork – we wonder what justice is there is in cases like his: even if we show they did not own the mortgage and were sending him letters threatening a foreclosure they had no right to, he did a private sale…

Charity

I bought the house in 2003 and went through the broker and then Fast Choice. That was sold to CitiMortgage. When things started going bad and I was still working, I kept trying to remortgage. They said I was making too much. Then when my income went down some, they said I made less so they would take the application over the phone. Then they would sit on it; by the time you call again, they send you somewhere else. Finally I became sick last April. I kept telling them about the workers comp when they kept calling for the payments.

But one group there did not know what the other group was told. Finally I went to Neighborworks – they took my papers and bills and we sent it to Citi; they said they would get back to us in a few weeks. Then it was a few months; they want all the paperwork over again. And after we faxed all of this paperwork, finally a woman from Citi called, wanted the worker’s comp & financials and said not to talk to anyone else; we faxed everything else. Then we get the paper for the auction date April 1st. I left messages.

Finally, she called in early March and said the underwriter said they cannot do anything without a return date to work. I have to wait for my employer to find light duty so they declined me.
I met WAFT on Sunday, the auction was the Friday before. Chris came by and told me something I didn’t know: “you can stay even after foreclosure.”

I got this notice pinned to my door four days after the foreclosure giving me ten days to move out or all my things would be declared abandoned and removed. Thank God, the Worcester Anti-Foreclosure Team came to my door. My heart was pounding. I had gotten boxes, terrified that at any moment the realtor would arrive to move my stuff out.

Of course, once WAFT knew about the notice pinned to Charity’s door which illegal pressured her to leave immediately, we called the Attorney General’s office. They had sued realtors, agents for the banks, who did this elsewhere in Massachusetts. Once we found out it violated Charity’s right to stay until a court evicted her, did not give her a chance to try to negotiate rent, we went and protested the Realtor (see story in last In City Times). But WAFT took action and now notices telling people they can stay till a court evicts them have been posted and …

Now I just heard from Tony, the realtor. He was very nice now, no more harassing calls. And he said he would tell the bank that I want to stay and pay rent and talk to them about the leak in the roof.
Charity has been a fierce voice since she found out about her rights and has joined WAFT. We look forward to helping her stay in her home with a fixed roof. And if she get her work figured out, she want to try to re-purchase!

Christeen

I bought this house with my own money & a regular mortgage. When I had to refinance, my same broker put me in a subprime mortgage – I had no idea. I was shocked when I suddenly got a bigger bill!
In the fall of ’08 when they foreclosed, they started immediately trying to force me out. Two days after the auction, someone was outside mowing the lawn. Then I heard someone banging on a door. I checked the front door. I went to the back door, opened it and this guy was there.

He said, “You’re lucky you were home and opened the door because I was ready to bust the knobs off your doors.” I replied, “What do you mean your going to bust my door knobs off? I at least have thirty days here.” He said “well, I am just doing what I was told to.” “How are you going to come at nine in the morning, people have lives, people are at work; why don’t you come like at five, six o’clock when people are home from work?”

I got letters, visits, phone calls. It turned out to be a local realtor who harassed me for the bank to get me out.

I got lucky and ran into the WAFT at a community event. They taught me that the lender’s people could not force me to leave, that they had to repair when there was flooding and life-threatening mold built up. They supported me to call code and force the lender to make the home safe for me, my son and grandchildren till we moved.
Meanwhile IndyMac started trying to evict me thru the court (the only way they can legally evict). But it was weird because we had a deed showing that Deutsche Bank owned the property.

The lawyer from Harmon Law said it was IndyMac and argued even when we showed her the deed. Eventually IndyMac stopped the eviction; then the same lawyers started over again as Deutsche bank.
I always thought that was weird. How could they not know who owned it when they went to evict me? How did they prove they owned the property? With WAFT’s help, I fought them. And when they finally settled for me to move out, I got two and a half times as much money as what they had ever tried to get me to take when first harassing me to move out.

I tried to negotiate renting, talk to them about the mortgage – they NEVER responded.

Now today, I have paperwork showing IndayMac did not have clear ownership of the mortgage when they foreclosed!

You know what this has put my family through? This Experience has been extremely Detrimental to my family’s health…mentally & physically: Heartache, Distress, Deep Depression, Behavioral issues with my children in school, Self-esteem, feeling like a Failure. All in all, 1000’s of families are going thru the same situation. In all actuality, it boils down to: the bank, MY bank, the one you think is on your side & there to help you, they didn’t!

They never responded & didn’t even own the loan any more! I am fighting the illegal foreclosure and I want a fair settlement since they never had the right to foreclose!

Christeen showed us the power of connecting, learning your rights, and fighting for decent treatment with the support of others. She found out she did not have to leave right after the foreclosure, that they cannot legally call, drop by and harass you to leave. And when they take you to court, the lawyers cannot lie about who owns the property. She got repairs when there were serious health threats to her baby grandchildren and got time for her son to finish out the school year before they moved.

And now she knows she was one of thousands in Massachusetts that may have had their home illegally foreclosed by banks. And she’s still fighting. It will never make up for the investment she had in her home but she won’t be a victim.

M (asked that her name not be used)

Problems started after we refinanced to do major repairs on the house (a four family: all our family and one unit rented). It was in 2004 and an adjustable rate mortgage but we figured we’d be able to refinance again into a fixed rate; that was the goal. The broker suggested we do that because at the time that was the best rate we could get.
We got the loan, did the repairs. Once we got closer to the date for the rate adjustment we reached out to banks for a new mortgage but we couldn’t get one because by then we were upside down; the value on the home had gone down!

For years now the loan is much more than the house’s value. So we tried to find help to refinance because we knew there was no way to afford this mortgage. We had income. We tried directly with Wells Fargo for a loan modification but they said their investor would not do it because we were current.

So we went to NACA 2007 (worked with them through 2011). We also went to Oakhill. Same story: bank said there was no incentive to work with us because we were current.

In July ’09, I became unemployed – our renters allowed us to still pay the loan through til May 2010. Between losing renters and my mother’s business having fewer children (because so many other people are unemployed), we couldn’t do it any more.
We attempted to work with Wells Fargo but kept getting stalled. We went to a special lenders day through NACA and signed with a Wells Fargo representative what I understood was a three month moratorium. In February, I got employed; I reached out to both NACA and Wells Fargo then with a full time income. They said I needed four pay stubs for them to even review. Inbetween that, we finally got the application in through NACA on March 15th. On March 17th we got the Harmon Law letter saying they were foreclosing.

It is important to note: we got the moratorium on October 31. Until that time Wells Fargo had been both the owner and servicer of the loan. In mid-November, they assigned the mortgage to Deutsche Bank and that is when Harmon Law started the foreclosure. We were unaware of this so through February we sent Wells Fargo money at the lower rate.

April, we were sent the auction date – based on that we filed the complaint in Superior Court because we thought it was only fair that we complete this process before the auction was allowed.
I went to court the first time. No one appeared from the bank. The second time, we showed up again, the lawyer showed up and we agreed to put off the court date to mid-July. The lawyer said he would make sure that Deutsche bank sent the loan modification forms to me. Two weeks ago, we got notice that the auction had been postponed from May 11th til end of July. And I have just submitted them, sent them back to them.

This process has been a learning experience for me. Only since we got referred to WAFT, we found out that we aren’t the only ones in the situation. We are more empowered. You went through paperwork with us and supported us with court.

You guys are like the untapped resources. You guys do an awesome job. Only wish more people knew about you.

M and her family are amazing; they filed a complaint in Superior Court before they ever even found WAFT. Like many, they had a plan when they got refinanced into a loan they knew would be unaffordable when the interest rate increased two year later. But they had not planned for prices to drop. And being pro-active about seeking a loan modification, M found out – like thousands of others who have tried – that they won’t let you get ahead of the problem, they want you delinquent in payments and in trouble with income first.

But going to court with some legal guidance and support from WAFT, they have been able to go after a loan modification. Meanwhile, we want to know how Wells Fargo signed a legal agreement and then sold the mortgage to Deutsche Bank.

In each situation, we know the information WAFT has is making a difference. More importantly, though, we often find we need each other for support and even for public action and getting in touch with resources like the Attorney General’s office.

And there is nothing more important than the doorknocking WAFT members do every week to reach our neighbors whose homes may be listed on the new auction lists. During our outreach we often knock on doors of buildings that were auctioned two or three weeks previously, and very frequently we find the buildings empty – with both tenants and former owners gone. We know that “notice to quit” forms that look like eviction orders and “cash for keys” offers presented as the last best chance for getting some help with moving are parts of how this is being done.

We’ve heard many stories about banks that have failed to provide heat and essential repairs post foreclosure, and we have only heard of a few cases where the bank has informed tenants of their right to stay as tenants of the bank.

Together, we as Worcester residents are turning situations around when we can reach people in time. And we need more help not only reaching people but to pressure the banks not to empty out our City but come to reasonable resolutions with our neighbors

A progressive’s view of the federal and MA state budgets

By Grace Ross

Doing the same thing and expecting a different result is that fabulous definition of crazy. Yet economically as a state and nationally as a country, we continue the same economic policies somehow expecting that the ones that got us into this economic crisis are going to get us out.

One of my pet peeves is elected officials who seem to think that their responsibility as our representatives is to balance the budget of the level of the government to which they were elected. In fact, every single one of us elected these folks expecting them to have an eye on their district’s economy as a whole and balance their level of government’s budget so as to improve our economic lives and realities not just their “isolated” bottom line.

We all knew that the federal government should not give money to the very banks that got us into this mess. Instead, Congress lent not just hundreds of billions publicly but the Federal Reserve Bank lent them tens of trillions guaranteed by us taxpayers. Yet, we knew the big banks still would not rewrite all the bad mortgages or lend so our small businesses survive.

Obviously, our elected leaders need a complete rethink of the purpose and focus of government budgets: what makes our economy thrive and what doesn’t, not satisfying the economic desires of a few.

It’s staggering to hear our present governor, Deval Patrick, express such outrage that Fidelity now plans to take 1,000 jobs out of state. Surprised? We’ve just been through the whole debacle of the $56 Million Evergreen Solar infrastructure and tax sweetheart deal. They are a local grown business that could have played a central role in rebuilding manufacturing in one of the few growing sectors: green energy. But like most corporate money deals, Evergreen was not actually bound to anything for our state residents; that same money could have subsidized regular people being able to afford solar panels and thus create a burgeoning market to incentivize Evergreen to manufacture and create jobs here! (Of course, the Governor himself is planning to cut more jobs.)

In the 1990s, our legislature passed whole sector tax cuts: the military industrial sector break (known as the “Raytheon tax” break) and the financial sector break known as, you guessed it, the “Fidelity tax” break. These tax breaks were sold as keeping (maybe creating) jobs in Massachusetts. History, however, shows that these jobs have dwindled in our state since those tax breaks. Studies also show that companies don’t move somewhere primarily for tax incentives. Continue reading A progressive’s view of the federal and MA state budgets

Bank of America: guilty as charged!

From: Mass Alliance Against Predatory Lending

Bank of America: Guilty as charged!

Demanding: An end to all post foreclosure evictions

Inclusion of principle reduction in modifications

The event:

Protest & Testimony, Action & Street Theatre:

TO DELIVER A SENTENCE FOR THEIR CRIMES**

The Date & Time:

Saturday, May 14

10 am @ Copley Square (across from the Bank of America on Boylston St)

** Causing millions of Americans to lose homes and jobs

Creating and reaping the benefits of a foreclosure crisis

Illegally foreclosing on families with robo signing, perjury and illegal documents

Taking a $1.9 billion tax refund… despite making $4.4 billion in profit in 2010

Taking over $200 billion in bail out money and refusing to help struggling homeowners

Organizers: City Life/Vida Urbana, The Chelsea Collaborative, Springfield No One Leaves, Worcester Anti-foreclosure Team, Direct Action for Rights and Equality (DARE-Providence, RI), Lynn United for Change, The Merrimack Valley Project

Co-sponsors: Mass Alliance Against Predatory Lending, Jobs with Justice, SEIU 615, 1199 SEIU United Health Workers, The Greater Boston Labor Council, Community Labor United, Massachusetts Community Action Network, Kavod House, Right to the City Coalition, US Uncut

Please call:

Steve Meacham, City Life/Vida Urbana, 617-524-3541, smeacham@clvu.org

Grace Ross, MAAPL, 617-291-5591, maaplinfo@yahoo.com

InCity Times book review: Main Street $marts, by Grace Ross

By Chris Horton

Grace Ross’ book “Main Street $marts, Who got us into this economic mess and how we get through it …” is out. But why a book by Grace Ross?

A list of authors of other well-known books about the crisis includes seven professors, three heads of think tanks or consulting firms and two Nobel Prize winners, cabinet secretaries and advisors to Presidents, liberals and conservatives, all Very Important People.

But Grace Ross? Community and housing rights activist? First-time author? Sometime candidate for public office? No PhD? Not even a gig with the IMF or the Treasury Dept.?

First, not one of those other books was written by someone who knows firsthand what is going on, has been hearing what regular people are saying and seeing what they are going through. Not one of them has been working at our sides as we struggle for our rights and for our survival. Continue reading InCity Times book review: Main Street $marts, by Grace Ross