Beacon Hill and Bank of America

SAFE: Standing Against Foreclosure and Eviction

Commentary by Bryce Phillips (a SAFE Member)

SAFE’s roots are in the Occupy movement which emerged in 2011. The roots of SAFE can also be found in struggles of workers and the unemployed in the 1930s, where eviction blockades and move back-ins were common. There was a moratorium on bank evictions in 25 states and struggles for civil rights, racial and gender equality, free speech, protecting the environment, and peace that continue to this day. It can be found in the movement to confront the World Trade Organization, and the increasing unchecked power of corporations and financial institutions over our lives. SAFE is directly inspired and informed by the struggle of City Life/Vida Urbana in Boston for the rights of tenants and “bank tenants”— those of us who pay our hard earned money to the parasitic banks to continue to live in our homes.

The Occupy movement exploded worldwide in a matter of days, it was a great spectacle that challenged the oppressive status quo in the streets and in the realm of ideas. The scope was enormous and the location, goals, and direction rather vague. There was an exciting but unrealistic sense that we could change the world overnight by sheer outpouring of emotion. It was a spark that burned bright but burned out quick. SAFE emerged from the embers as an organization dedicated to the long, arduous task of waging the battle on a daily basis. Confronting the biggest threat to our communities—especially on Beacon Hill in Seattle where SAFE began—displacement.

The vision is to come together and build community in our communities amongst a great diversity of race, ethnicity, age, religion, and to organize a spirited defense of that community from the forces that seek to destroy it. Jane Jin Mair came to Beacon Hill from China where she fought for human rights and marched in Tiananmen Square. As the only English-speaker in her family, she manages the finances—that of her sister and mother. Bank of America has exploited and taken advantage of Jane’s family at every turn, harassing them with phone calls, losing their paperwork, and trying to take away the home they have worked so hard for. Those “bloodsuckers” as Jane aptly describes them, have no right! BofA happens to have a branch located only a block away from the home of Jane’s sister right on North Beacon Hill. This is exactly the kind of fight SAFE was made for!

On a daily basis, working people in the Beacon Hill community come to that Bank of America to deposit their paychecks and probably to have confusing and infuriating conversations about their accounts and mortgages as well—in a word to get ripped off. Even most of the bank employees know the fraud and duplicity of their employer, they see it firsthand. Beacon Hill has been waiting for a fighter like Jane and an organization like SAFE to lead the way. This is where real community organizing takes place. Are things going on in legislatures and courts important, yes, it is at the community level however where the big changes take place. Across America and in Seattle in particular, there is a crisis of displacement from the city. Thousands of homes sit empty, more than even the growing amount of people sleeping on the streets.

Rents jump as much as 40 percent in a single year while the City of Seattle tears down a livable housing project that served those in need since the 1930’s to make way for yet another playground of wealthy developers. Will Seattle be a city of walkable, livable, diverse communities we find on Beacon Hill, or will it become a soulless corporate office park and upscale shopping mall? We will be putting Bank of America on notice! If they wish to continue doing business in this community they need to stop destroying it! Join us; together we can create a livable community one neighborhood at a time!

UPCOMING ACTIONS

Wednesday Sept. 25th 2:00 PM – Seattle City Council Housing, Human Services, Health, and Culture Committee Meeting – Chair Nick Licata and all the committee members need to hear our battles, demands and solutions. Show up at 1:45 to sign up for public testimony; each person gets 2 minutes. This week’s agenda, click here. Council Chambers, Seattle City Hall, Floor 2, 600 Fourth Avenue, Seattle, WA 98104. Meeting is held every 2nd and 4th Wednesday of the month.

Thursday Sept. 26th 4:00 PM – Chase Picket for Alton and Demand Delivery in West Seattle at the Junction. Contact Sonia Hoglander for more information Sonia@HomEvo.com

Friday Sept. 27th 4:00 PM – Beacon Hill Picket at BofA for Jane – meet at Red Apple on Beacon Hill at 4PM. We will be picketing BofA for 45 minutes. Contact Bryce Phillips for more information. brycetphillips@gmail.com

SAVE the Date, Oct 26th – Halloween Party – This is to celebrate our successes. We are chasing out the ghosts and goblins of the banking industry. Let us shine the magical light of truth on the shadow economy and take back the power for the people. They lock their doors, they flail about trying to quiet our voices, they are indignant that we fight back AND WE are RIGHT! Those moments, those looks on their faces are better than any costume we could dream up. They are losing and we are the champions of the world! More details to come! Sheri bottom-lining; contact her to help. mamakin12.sp@gmail.com

THIS PAST WEEK

Lobbying Training Friday Sept. 6th – Nancy Amidei gave training on how to Lobby, this was amazingly informative and on the heels of Strategic Planning will help us formulate a comprehensive plan of attack. Eminent Domain, Eviction Moratorium, Principle Reduction, Debt Forgiveness, whatever, you gotta know the game to win the game.

September 11th – Seattle City Council Housing, Human Services, Health, and Culture Committee Meeting – Washington CAN (Reset Seattle) and SAFE filled the chambers to give testimony regarding foreclosure and eviction travesties in the Seattle area. Cornell University law school professor Robert Hockett delivered the astounding report about the state of housing in Seattle, “Post-Bubble Foreclosure-Prevention and -Mitigation Options in Seattle” pdf

September 13th – Demand Delivery for Alton who is suing Chase for non-good faith negotiation during mediation. Document & Demand Delivery for Jane fighting for fairness with BofA. We delivered with great gusto at both locations, Beacon Hill was especially busy this Friday afternoon, many took notice; even tellers gave us the fist up approval. Chase at Othello Station is a good place for a future Banner Drop for rush hour commuters. Follow up pickets are scheduled for the 26th (Alton) and 27th (Jane).

COME TO OUR WEEKLY MEETING

Tuesdays, 7:00 – 8:30 PM: Weekly SAFE Meeting: Bethany UCC, 6230 Beacon Ave S (corner of Graham St). All are welcome! This is where we bring new participants and have free attorneys available from time to time. Find out what SAFE is about and what we are working on. Our objective is to end bank evictions through mutual aid and direct action with homeowners/bank tenants that are fighting the banks to stay in their homes. This is the first step to getting involved!

Angeline Thomas from Seattle University Law School will with us on the 8th to answer questions.

QUESTIONS & COMMENTS

You can reach us at info@SAFEinSeattle.org or 206-203-2125. Please visit our web site: www.SAFEinSeattle.org .

Eminent Domain

In Richmond, CA, half the homes are underwater (the homes are worth less than the mortgages). The city, which is composed mainly of people of color, is hemorrhaging financially, but the mayor, Gayle McLaughlin, an Occupy Wall Street activist and Green Party member, wants her city to invoke eminent domain to stanch the bleeding. The plan would be for the City to buy the underwater mortgages from the banks at about 80% of market value, then sell them back to the homeowners at full market value. If the banks don’t voluntarily comply, the City of Richmond would invoke eminent domain to force the banks to sell.

Richmond’s plan, of course, has Wall Street and the real estate lobby writhing in apoplectic convulsions. “You’re violating the sanctity of private property!” “All contracts will become void!” How odd it is we never hear these complaints when a city uses eminent domain to build a new shopping center or highway.

When the San Bernardino, CA, County Council contemplated studying eminent domain about a year ago, the same financial lobbies came down on them so hard, the Council immediately backed off.

Wall Street: “Hey … San Bernardino … Yeah, you, I’m talkin’ to you … Come here … Now what’s this I hear about you and eminent domain? … Listen … You listenin’ to me? … If I hear one more word about this eminent domain thing, no one in your little county will ever get another mortgage loan again … You got that? … Good boy.”

Whether Richmond’s politicians can withstand a similar onslaught remains to be seen, but even if they can, how eminent domain will actually play out is another matter. If the banks can’t forestall it, they will do whatever they can to subvert it. Everything depends on how willing the people are to fight the banks.

On July 29, 2013, the NY Times published a front-page story about Richmond’s approach. The Times named two other cities considering the eminent domain tactic: Newark and Seattle!

If the tactic of eminent domain takes hold in Seattle, we must be vigilant and not rely on the good conscience of the politicians to secure our interests. (According to archeologists, the genes that produced political conscience were permanently destroyed some 300 million years ago at about the same time reptiles first appeared on the planet.)

On Aug. 6, 2013, Amy Goodman of DemocracyNow.org talked with the mayor of Richmond, CA, and also interviewed Laura Gottesdiener, the author of A Dream Foreclosed: Black America and the Fight for a Place to Call Home. In the past six years, according to Gottesdiener, the banks have evicted ten million people across the US. Ten million people equates to the entire population of Michigan

This Past Week:

July 31 to Aug. 5: Backbone’s Localize This! Summer Camp was a great success. Several SAFE members attended, made contacts, took seminars, and supported a demonstration against the Army Corps of Engineers who evaluate projects without considering the impact on climate change. (We’re not making this up!)

Aug. 2: Auction Protest at Northwest Trustee Services: Fannie Mae bought Larry and Flor’s home at auction. Our focus now is on persuading Fannie Mae to accept a rental or lease-to-own agreement with Larry and Flor.

Upcoming Actions:

SAFE’s Tactical Working Group is currently planning an action that, due to its nature, we will only be able to announce on very short notice. Please watch your e-mail and text messages.

Aug. 17, Sat., 4 − 7 PM: SAFE Fund-raiser: At the Bethany Playground (behind the sanctuary and SAFE House)

Tuesdays, 7:00 – 8:30 PM: Weekly SAFE Meeting: Bethany UCC, 6230 Beacon Ave S (NE corner of Graham St). All are welcome!

Sundays, 5:30 – 7:00 PM: Weekly SAFE Active Member Homeowner’s/Bank Tenant’s Support Group: Also at 6230 Beacon Ave S.

Needs vs. Profits

On every newsletter we send you and nearly every flyer, brochure, and banner we produce SAFE includes the words “Housing is a Human Right!” Our belief is that all human beings, solely because they are human beings, should have a right to safe, clean, and dignified shelter.

This is a tad different from the way things work in the US, where hundreds of thousands of people bed down at night in parks, shelters, and under bridges, while a few distinguished people, like Sen. John McCain, cannot recall how many mansions they own.

At SAFE we focus on foreclosure and eviction, but those who face the tragic and degrading realty of being thrown out of their homes are frequently beset by medical problems, divorce, and unemployment, experiencing the humiliation of being without money, food, water, medicine, transportation, and so on.

A society committed to the well-being of all its people not only regards housing as a human right, but also food, clothing, medical care, etc. – in short, all basic human needs. Does this mean we all are entitled to have our basic needs met by society? Yes! The satisfaction of our basic needs is a human right. Does this mean we have an obligation to work in and for such a society? Yes! Those who are able should work to sustain such a society.

But if everyone’s basic needs are already met, if everyone has food, clothing, shelter, and so on, why bother with the drudgery of work? Just stay home and enjoy a life of leisure.

If we are to avoid a society of forced labor – as in Russia shortly after the 1917 revolution – we must change the nature of work from drudgery to that which is intrinsically fulfilling.

To do this we must satisfy two necessary conditions. First, all the people should own the economy, not just the 0.1%. Our factories, our banks, and our land must not be the private property of the few, but the property of everyone. When a person goes to work, s/he should perform a job not for the enrichment of the factory’s owner, but for the benefit of the society at large.

Second, the people themselves must control the economy. Simply nationalizing the factories, the banks, etc., doesn’t suffice. It merely takes these economic institutions out of the hands of private capitalists and places them under the control of government bureaucrats.

When the people democratically own and control the economy, the nature of work shifts radically. Instead of a profit-obsessed management monitoring and directing your work life, you and your coworkers would decide what, how, and when to produce goods and services.

Exactly how decisions are made within a society and how decisions at the factory level are coordinated with other factories in the same industry and with local, regional, national, and global communities have been the subject of much debate. When people participate in economic decisions at their jobs, however, for the good of everyone, not just the 0.1%, people would be willing to work because they are active participants in the labor process. Instead of being treated as exploited commodities, the workers would be treated as creative, respected human beings.

At SAFE we don’t just fight the banks, we fight against a society run by and for the banks. We fight not only for our neighbors, especially the dispossessed, but we fight to build a society that encourages the well-being and development of everyone.

— Stephen Price, SAFE Volunteer 

Housing is a Human Right!

Questions?  Comments?

Upcoming Actions:

Fri., Aug. 2: Auction Protest at Northwest Trustee Services: For Larry and Flor. Gather at the SAFE House at 9:00 AM, leave promptly at 9:10 AM.
Now through Aug. 5: Backbone’s Localize This! Summer Camp. See backbonecampaign.org for details.

Tuesdays, 7:00 – 8:30 PM: Weekly SAFE Meeting: Bethany UCC, 6230 Beacon Ave S (NE corner of Graham St). All are welcome!

Sundays, 5:30 – 7:00 PM: Weekly SAFE Active Member Homeowner’s/Bank Tenant’s Support Group: Also at 6230 Beacon Ave S.

This Past Week:

July 26: Demand Deliveries: SAFE members deliver demand letters to Wells Fargo, Bank of America, and Chase branches in West Seattle. Two Seattle policemen at the Chase branch usher us out. (Why does Seattle pay police to protect bank branches? Chase cannot afford its own security?) At the BofA branch a private security guard run in to the branch just seconds before we arrive, locking in and locking out BofA’s own customers. Wells Fargo’s branch manager lets Dorli read our entire letter.

July 31: Eviction Blockade: Sheriff Urquhart’s office notifies SAFE members at 9:30 AM that he is coming sometime after noon to evict Jeremy. We immediately activate the RRN (Rapid Response Network). By 11:30 a few dozen SAFE supporters begin picketing in front of Jeremy’s house. At 1:00 PM large police SUV’s block off both ends of the 700 block of So. Henderson St, where Jeremy lives. Within a few minutes Sheriff Urquhart, his Chief of Staff, and a Captain, along with about ten additional deputies deploy, ready to evict. Four SAFE members — Dorli, Josh, Lauren, and Kshama — sit with their backs against Jeremy’s front door. The deputies come onto the property, pick up the protestors, arrest them, enter the house, and bring Jeremy outside. A locksmith then changes the locks in minutes. As KING 5, KOMO TV, the Seattle PI, and KBCS cover the story, the police handcuff the arrestees, put them in a small paddy wagon at the end of the block, take their ID’s, then release them on the spot, without taking them to jail. Jeremy begins moving his things to the home of another SAFE member. In the meantime, SAFE plans its next steps to fight Wells Fargo. (Deutsche Bank apparently owns Jeremy’s home, but Wells Fargo has full authority to dispose of his property as they see fit.) The result is that Jeremy now lives in a different, less spacious home; South Park has another empty house for the neighborhood’s arsonist to target — yes, three empty homes in South Park have been set afire, one as many as three times in the past three years — and Wells Fargo is left with an asset they will not sell. Why? Because SAFE will make it clear to any prospective buyer that Jeremy’s South Park home comes, for no additional charge, with a long-term protest. This is Wells Fargo’s “solution” to the foreclosure crisis: ruin families and neighborhoods! SAFE’s solution: Let Jeremy pay to stay in his home. The banks cannot simply throw people out of their homes without hearing from the people, especially when Seattle has more empty homes than people sleeping on the street. Wells Fargo, this protest ain’t over.

Local Anti-Foreclosure Group Presses Case Against State's Largest Foreclosure Company

What: Press Conference & Protest at Bellevue Foreclosure Auction 

Time: 10:00 AM
Date: Fri., July 19
Where: Northwest Trustee Services, 13555 SE 36th St., Bellevue, WA 98006
Who: SAFE (Standing Against Foreclosure & Eviction)
Why:

On July 11, Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Richard Okrent denied a motion to dismiss a case against both Quality Loan Service Corp. (QLSC), a Washington State trustee (foreclosing company), and McCarthy & Holthus (M&H), a California law firm representing the banks. The case alleges that QLSC did not act as a neutral party in a foreclosure as required by law, because the lawyers that own and operate M&H also own and operate QLSC.
Based on the above, SAFE (Standing Against Foreclosure & Eviction) is focusing its attention on the inherent bias of Northwest Trustee Services (NTS), the largest foreclosure company in Washington State, and Routh Crabtree Olsen (RCO), the law firm representing the banks. SAFE will be holding a press conference at NTS’s auction on Friday.
According to SAFE member Stephen Price, “NTS and RCO are involved in an unethical conflict of interest. NTS is required to act as a neutral party during the foreclosure process, but they are represented by RCO and owned by RCO lawyers. How can a homeowner expect fair treatment when the trustee is owned by lawyers representing the banks?”
“This conflict of interest,” says Scott Stafne, the lawyer who filed the case against QLSC and M&H, “throws into jeopardy all the home sales done by Northwest Trustee Services. Anyone buying a home at an NTS auction could become embroiled in a legal quagmire.”
                                                                                                                                                                                                    JULY 18, 2013
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                                                                                                                    WE SHALL NOT BE MOVED  

UPCOMING ACTIONS –

Now until ?? – The RAPID RESPONSE NETWORK is back in action! The Sheriff posted notice on Jeremy’s door on July 9th. He has promised to alert Jeremy in advance if he plans to come, but we will likely need to mobilize our blockade very quickly when he does. Update your info, if needed, on our website – Join us & be a part of history today!

July 19th –   Picket and Press Conference at Northwest Trustee Services – 10AM 13555 SE 36th Pl, Bellevue, WA 98006 – Arrive early as parking is not allowed on the property and it is not easy to find. It is an underground parking garage. It is rumored to be quite a spectacle!   More information – Contact Stephen (206-390-7125)
July 20th – Demand Delivery and Picket for Jeremy at Wells Fargo “Wells Fargo Home Mortgage has announced plans to bring its Affordable Home Tour® event to Kent on July 20 at the Wells Fargo Bank store located at 204 W Meeker Street.   The event is from 10 am – 4:30pm.” We will be meeting at 1PM and will deliver Jeremy’s Demand Letter and then Picket for 1 hour. Contact Lyn (206-604-4911).
July 21st  – Social Justice Fund Site visit at 2PM.  Solidarity Sunday!
July 23rd – 26th –  SAFE members travel to New York City for Right To The City Retreat to strategize on the Homes For All Campaign. Bank Tenants Evonne and Olu are attending to represent SAFE in New York. Please make a donation online here to support SAFE’s critical work. We are raising money to send two members to a RTTC strategy retreat in New York. SAFE is now a partner with RTTC. We are actively fundraising for their costs. Be a part, even if you must stay around the sound – see www.safeinseattle.org for the details. Contact Josh (360-880-6631). Thank you for your support!
July 26th – RE/MAX and Chase Demand Delivery in West Seattle July 26th at 4PM. People needing a ride be at SAFE House at 3:30PM. Sonia Bottomlining. RE/MAX Junction 4727 44th Ave SW Suite # 101, West Seattle. Chase Bank 4306 SW Edmunds, Seattle, WA. Meet at the Parking Lot at the corner of Alaska and 44th.
August 17th (not confirmed) – Outreach and Fundraising BBQ

THIS PAST WEEK –

July 12th –   Peacekeeper Training, Bethany UCC  1 – 3PM Building unity and learning can be fun!
–   WTF WF GT – Picket for Jeremy at Georgetown Wells Fargo. SIX cops showed up TO PROTECT 12 of US! WF GT is nicer to practitioners of the first amendment than downtown. ONE OF THE HARD-WORKING OFFICERS BROUGHT JEREMY A REFRESHING TALL GLASS OF WATER WHIST HE SHARED THE TRUTH VIA A BULL HORN! Seattle’s Finest, indeed!
July 13th –   Massive Canvassing Blitz
July 16th –  Our weekly meeting was informative with not only a lively informative educational (Thank you, Kraig! ); Rick from the Washington State Attorney General’s office gave a open minded, open ended session on the work he performs as foreclosure coordinator at the AG’s.

OTHER UPCOMING & ONGOING ACTIONS –

      Tuesdays, 7:00 – 8:30 PM: Weekly SAFE Meeting: Bethany UCC, 6230 Beacon Ave S (NE corner of Graham St).  All are welcome!
Sundays,  5:30 – 7:00 PM: weekly SAFE Active Member Homeowner’s/Bank Tenant’s Support Group: also at 6230 Beacon Ave S.

QUESTIONS & COMMENTS –

       You can reach us at info@SAFEinSeattle.org or 206-203-2125.  Please visit our web site:  www.SAFEinSeattle.org .

SAFE Newsletter Week Two July 2013

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Upcoming Actions –

Now until ????? – Awaiting word to resume Eviction Blockade as Jeremy’s home was tagged/eviction posted on Tuesday, July 9th.
July 12th –   Peacekeeper Training, Bethany UCC  1 – 3PM
–  WTF WF GT – Picket for Jeremy at Georgetown Wells Fargo. 5963 Corson Av S, Ste 140 98108 –  Further info contact Josh (360-

880-6631)
July 13th –   Massive Canvassing Blitz , Bethany UCC  1:15 – 4:45 – Further info contact Bryce (253-740-9804)
July 19th –   Picket and Press Conference at Northwest Trustee Services – 10AM, 13555 SE 36th Pl, Bellevue, WA 98006 – Arrive early as

parking is not allowed on the property and it is not easy to find. It is an underground parking garage. More information – Contact Stephen (206-390-

7125)
July 21st –  2PM – Social Justice Fund Site visit.
July 23rd – SAFE members travel to New York City for training conference with Right to the City. Be a part, even if you must stay around the Sound – see www.safeinseattle.org for the details.

This Past Week –
July 8th  –  4:30PM Mass Mailing at SAFE office.
July 9th  –  SAFE joined with the Chinese community at their dinner for the governor. A wonderful time was reported. A big thank you to them for

inviting us!
July 10th –  SAFE members joined others in solidarity to protest at a Lake City Chase branch.

Other Upcoming & Ongoing Events:

Tuesdays, 7:00 – 8:30 PM: Weekly SAFE Meeting: Bethany UCC, 6230 Beacon Ave S (NE corner of Graham St).  All are welcome!
Sundays,  5:30 – 7:00 PM: Weekly SAFE Active Member Homeowner’s/Bank Tenant’s Support Group: also at 6230 Beacon Ave S.

Questions?  Comments?

You can reach us at info@SAFEinSeattle.org or 206-203-2125.  Please visit our web site:  www.SAFEinSeattle.org.

Make a recurring donation to support SAFE’s critical work or even donate some supplies we might need. More information at our website – www.SAFEinSeattle.org

Thoughts & Opinions:

(SAFE welcomes written opinions from all supporters. If you have a letter or comment you’d like to include in the Thoughts & Opinions section of this Newsletter, please e-mail info@SAFEinSeattle.org. Opinions must be informative, relevant to the foreclosure/eviction crisis, and consistent with SAFE’s mission and principles. The opinions below do not necessarily represent those of SAFE.)

This thought is the newsletter’s shout “EXTRA! EXTRA! ”
In yet another week of keeping with the back to basics theme; there’s been some questions about terms we in SAFE use. One is “Direct Action”.

Housing is a Human Right!

Close the Survival Gap! Friday @1:30PM in Seattle City Hall

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Join faith leaders and lawyers at a press conference to support expanded tent encampment options

FRIDAY, JUNE 28th, 1:30PM inside SEATTLE CITY HALL

A press conference will be held in the atrium at Seattle City Hall (5th Ave. between Cherry and James) to deliver letters from the religious and legal communities in support of Council Bill 117791, which would allow managed homeless encampments on public and private property.

The Defenders Association, Columbia Legal Services, The ACLU, and the Seattle Human Rights Commission will present a letter stating that communities have a legal obligation to either provide sufficient housing or shelter, or to allow encampments to exist. The Church Council of Greater Seattle will present a letter in support of the City Council bill based upon a thirteen-year history of encampments being hosted by more than thirty separate faith communities.

According to the annual one night homeless count, there were 2,736 homeless people outdoors after the shelters were full on January 25, 2013.  City Council recently passed legislation to close the Nickelsville homeless encampment on September 1st. CB 117791, which will expand options for Nickelsville to relocate after that date, was passed out of Nick Licata’s Housing and Homeless Services Committee today and will proceed to the full council for debate.

JOIN US FRIDAY AT CITY HALL TO HELP CLOSE THE SURVIVAL GAP!

Questions? Contact organizer@realchangenews.org.

Jobs Assistance Bill Passes! Next: Legalize Tent Encampments!

Real Change

We banned the box!

On June 10th, Seattle City Council voted unanimously to pass the Jobs Assistance Ordinance. With it’s passage, employers in Seattle can no longer ask about criminal history on a job application or reference criminal history in advertising. This law will give thousands of people with a criminal record a second chance at building a new life.

Real Change supported this ordinance through a campaign led by Columbia Legal Services. Over 47 vendors signed or wrote letters of support and others provided personal testimony during a council hearing. One vendor, Nick Maxwell, was even quoted in The Seattle Times. He explained, “When I got out of prison, and put in a job application, I was honest about my incarceration, but I found all doors closed…If a person has paid his debt to society, he should have an opportunity for a job and to feed his family. People shouldn’t have to serve a life sentence for their past.” Another vendor, Sharon Jones, was featured on KUOW: “I’ve always answered that question correctly…now I can’t get back to work. I just graduated from medical school and I’m trying to be a phlebotomist technician, and I sure would like to get a job.”

Thanks to all who emailed, provided testimony and called councilmembers!

Help Close the Survival Gap: Legalize Tent Encampments!

Real Change supports a proposal before the city council’s housing and human services committee that would legalize homeless encampments on public and privately owned property and help expand the number of faith-based sites. With 2,736 unsheltered people counted outside during the January One Night Count, tent cities save lives and they need to be supported by the City. Read about Council Bill 117792 and learn more in Tim’s Director’s Corner.

What you can do:

  • Email or call councilmembers TODAY and ask them to support Council Bill 117792. 206-684-CITY.
  • Join us June 25th at City Hall to show your support! We need to pack the hearing to demonstrate our support for this bill.

State Advocacy: Reject SB 5895, Enact Revenue!

Senate Bill 5895 imposes an arbitrary spending limit to non-education investments and would force deep cuts to child services, mental health, veteran’s benefits, and senior services. As Washington Low Income Housing Alliance explains: “At a time when record numbers of people are living in poverty and are struggling to keep a roof over their heads, we should be looking to increasing our state’s investment in the safety net, not demanding on the passage of bills that seek to destroy it.”

Take Action with WLIHA to reject SB 5895 and support a budget that protects the safety net and invests in the Housing Trust Fund. While you’re at it, support Governor Inslee’s plan to close tax loopholes through AFSCME.

Opportunity Knocks

Much is made of the principle that all of us should have an equal opportunity  to Food, Clothing, Shelter, Healthcare, Education, and so on (FCSHE+). That it is wrong to discriminate based on one’s color, religion, creed, gender, sexual orientation, disabilities, etc., should be obvious to anyone capable of forming thoughts. Yet, in the US the Equal Rights Amendment could not garner the necessary support of 38 states to become a constitutional amendment. Latinos, African Americans, and Native Americans continue to suffer chronic social and economic disadvantages compared to white Americans. Lesbians, gays, transsexuals are viciously discriminated against throughout our society. And on and on.

Of course, one could argue that someone who is blind should not be given a job as a baseball umpire; yet, such exceptions are often raised, not as concerns to be accommodated, but to quash the entire concept of equal opportunity. Certainly, exceptions attend nearly every moral imperative, but while exceptions should be addressed, they should not be used as a means to destroy the imperative itself. During the 1970s, for example, conservatives cried that if the ERA passed, men and women would have to share the same locker rooms and bathrooms, i.e., all hell would break loose. These same conservatives didn’t give a damn that women’s incomes were less than men’s, as long as they didn’t have to urinate next to someone of the opposite sex.

That in the twenty-first century we must continue to fight for equality of opportunity for all people is a moral outrage. But even if we could guarantee equality of opportunity for all, the fight would not be over, for what we ultimately must demand is not just equal opportunity to FCSHE+ but the right to have FCSHE+. Having an equal opportunity to buy a home is not the same as having a right to live in a home.
In our society, FCSHE+, like all goods and services, are viewed as commodities to be bought and sold. Our only concern is that we not discriminate against the buyer based on her religion, color, gender, and so on. Yet we can and must discriminate against the buyer based on her ability to pay for these commodities. Discrimination based on one’s wealth and income, is not only acceptable in a market economy, it is necessary to the functioning of a market economy.

A commodified society such as ours, where everything and everyone has a price, naturally regards equality of opportunity as its pinnacle of fairness, its cornerstone of moral rectitude. The principle of inalienable human rights, on the other hand, rights that cannot be bought and sold, is anathema to a commodified society.

From a humanistic perspective, we must regard FCSHE+, not as commodities, but as human rights available to every member of society. Our super-rich, profit-obsessed, corporate warmongers, however, would like us to believe such rights are unaffordable. “Nothing,” they say, “is free in life. Who will pay for these?”

A graduated income tax is a start. If our taxes can pay for cruise missiles, nuclear submarines, aircraft carriers, and the most invasive eavesdropping system in the history of the world, our taxes can pay to feed, clothe, and shelter our people.

Imagine the human potential we could unleash if everyone was guaranteed healthy food; clean and beautiful clothing; safe, clean, and dignified shelter; comprehensive healthcare; education through college that focused on developing your individual talents; ecologically sustainable transportation; leisure time for artistic or athletic development; and on and on.

But if the goods and services to meet our basic needs are free, won’t everyone stop working?!

To be continued . . . . (by Stephen)


Upcoming Actions:

June 14: Auction Protest at Northwest Trustee Services in Bellevue for Jen
June 21: Auction Protest at Northwest Trustee Services in Bellevue for Larry
Depending on the outcome of Jeremy’s next court hearing, we are prepared to re-establish the eviction blockade on June 25. If you have yet to join SAFE’s Rapid Response Network, so that we can alert you as soon as the sheriff arrives to evict, please visit www.SAFEinSeattle.org, click on JOIN RRN, and sign up

This Past Week:

June 5: By unanimous consent Nickelsville and SAFE agree to join forces for direct actions. Since many SAFE members are only one-step away from homelessness, this is a natural fit. SAFE members are humbled and thrilled!

May 30: SAFE members deliver demand letters to Seattle branches of Bank of America and Chase. Rather than accept a letter from their customers, the BofA on the NE corner of Third Ave. and Madison shuttered their branch 90 minutes early! According to a security guard, “We knew you were coming.” The same with the BofA branch on Second Ave. and Cherry, where non-SAFE customers couldn’t get in and those already inside couldn’t get out. We then walked north to an unsuspecting Chase branch and delivered our letters, after reading them aloud in the lobby, without incident. Our meet-up spot for this action was the SW corner of Third Ave. and Madison, next to Wells Fargo’s headquarters. Even though we had no plans to deliver letters to this bank, their security guards shut down the building’s normal entry ways.

Other Upcoming & Ongoing Events:

Tuesdays, 7:00 – 8:30 PM: Weekly SAFE Meeting: Bethany UCC, 6230 Beacon Ave S (NE corner of Graham St). All are welcome!

Questions? Comments?

You can reach us at info@SAFEinSeattle.org or 206-203-2125. Please visit our web site: www.SAFEinSeattle.org.

Thoughts & Opinions (SAFE welcomes written opinions from all of its supporters. If you have a letter or comment you’d like to include in the Thoughts & Opinions section of this Newsletter, please e-mail info@SAFEinSeattle.org. Opinions must be informative, relevant to the foreclosure/eviction crisis, and consistent with SAFE’s mission and principles. The opinions below do not necessarily represent those of SAFE.)

Exposing the sociopathic mercilessness of the banks

EXPOSÉ

When we started Jeremy Griffin’s eviction campaign at his South Park home, it seemed only reasonable to discuss our concerns with James Gorman, Chairman and CEO of Morgan Stanley. When Mr. Gorman’s staff learned we were sullying their good name in the streets of Seattle, they called Jeremy to assure him that they in fact have nothing to do with his property (even though the King County Recorder’s Office lists the owner as “Deutsche Bank National Trust, as Trustee for Morgan Stanley Loan Trust 2005-7”). The real property owner, Morgan claimed, is Deutsche Bank. Deutsche Bank then tells Jeremy they also have nothing to do with his home, and the real owner is Wells Fargo. However, Wells Fargo, who serviced Jeremy’s loan up until last year’s foreclosure auction but whose name has since dropped off all of the eviction-related paperwork and court motions, says they are almost certain they are not the owner of Jeremy’s home, but it’ll take them until June 5 to be sure. If it weren’t tragic, it’d be the stuff of farce.

That Morgan Stanley, Deutsche Bank, and Wells Fargo, with combined assets of $4.9 trillion, are so befuddled and afraid of the goings on in Seattle’s South Park neighborhood, is a small indication of our power and their vulnerability. We cannot compete with them financially; we cannot, and will not, force their hand by violence; we cannot out lobby them in Congress; but we can expose them for who they are. Nothing frightens a board of directors like the truth. The very last thing these profit-obsessed titans want to see on TV is the Sheriff on the orders of their bank throwing families onto the street. It doesn’t make for happy viewing after a day of golf at the country club.

What we need to expose is the sociopathic mercilessness of the banks. At his first eviction hearing after Jeremy pleaded that the bank should at least have had the human decency to talk with him before selling his home, especially given that he is now working and can afford to pay them rent, the lawyer for the bank said in a tone consistent with someone reading a phonebook, “My client had no legal obligation to do so.” (If there is a psychiatrist reading this, please let me know if such a cold-blooded response to the evisceration of a human being is generally considered a good thing.)

As more homeowners see eviction notices posted on their doors, we will expand our blockades from Jeremy’s home to other homes throughout Seattle. Sadly, every homeowner in SAFE has a story as heartrending as Jeremy’s. We fully expect that the more we reveal the bank’s mistreatment of Seattle families, the more the banks will try to discredit us. The more panicked they will get, the harder we will fight.

Given the thousand of families the banks have crushed in Seattle alone, there is plenty to expose. Summer’s coming, the weather will soon get hot; let’s undress the banks.

— Stephen, SAFE Volunteer

Housing is a Human Right!


News: COURT ORDERS EVICTION STAY

SAFE Suspends Blockade Until June 25

Upcoming Actions:

May 31: 4:00 PM: Demand Deliveries to Seattle Banks: Meet at SW corner of Third Ave. and Madison St., downtown.
June 14: Auction Protest at Northwest Trustee Services in Bellevue for Jen
June 21: Auction Protest at Northwest Trustee Services in Bellevue for Larry
Jane’s foreclosure auction has been postponed indefinitely!
Depending on the outcome of Jeremy’s next court hearing, we are prepared to recommence the eviction blockade on June 25. If you have yet to join SAFE’s Rapid Response Network, so that we can alert you as soon as the sheriff arrives to evict, please visit www.SAFEinSeattle.org, click on JOIN RRN, and sign up.

This Past Week:

May 15 – 21: SAFE supporters conduct effective phone and fax blast to Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman. Morgan Stanley claims they’re innocent. (See Thoughts and Opinion below.)
May 21: The Stand the daily newsletter of the Washington State Labor Council gives SAFE’s blockade front-page coverage!
May 22: Great press coverage from in The Stranger!
May 23: SAFE members attend contentious town hall meeting with King County Councilmember Rod Dembowski and Attorney General Bob Ferguson
May 24: Following a 10-day eviction blockade, King County Superior Court grants Jeremy Griffin a stay of his eviction until his next hearing on June 25
May 24: SAFE suspends its blockade in Jeremy’s yard. Celebrates to the wee hours!
May 28: Members from Nickelsville and Share attend SAFE’s meeting. Discuss how we can forge an alliance. Stay tuned.
May 30: Front-page coverage from Real Change (their second cover-story on SAFE)

Other Upcoming & Ongoing Events:

Tuesdays, 7:00 – 8:30 PM: Weekly SAFE Meeting: Bethany UCC, 6230 Beacon Ave S (NE corner of Graham St). All are welcome!

Questions?  Comments?

You can reach us at info@SAFEinSeattle.org or 206-203-2125.  Please visit our web site:  www.SAFEinSeattle.org.

If you have a letter or comment you’d like to include in the Thoughts & Opinions section of this Newsletter, please e-mail info@SAFEinSeattle.org. Opinions must be informative, relevant to the foreclosure/eviction crisis, and consistent with SAFE’s mission and principles. The opinions do not necessarily represent those of SAFE.

Wealth Inequality

The three richest people in the world possess more wealth than the poorest 42 nations combined. In the US, wealth inequality has skyrocketed, especially since the start of the Great Recession.

Consider the Koch brothers Charles and David, owners of the second largest privately held company in the US (next to Cargill), whose financing of right-wing groups like the Tea Party is well known. While they are not the richest men in the US – Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison wouldn’t let them shine their shoes – together they have a net worth, according to Forbes, of $68 billion.

Meanwhile, Evonne and Jose Martinez, SAFE members, have worked all of their lives. When Evonne became ill, she lost her job as a social worker, and Jose had to take time off as a letter carrier to care for her. When their 26-year-old son needed two brain surgeries, they sold what they had to pay for his treatment. In the course of this tragedy, they understandably fell behind on their mortgage. Their bank, however, was less understanding. JP Morgan Chase sold their home at auction and is seeking their eviction – even though Evonne and Jose are now back at work and can pay their mortgage!

Then there’s Larry Ellison. In 2012, he increased his net worth by $7 billion. Assuming a 40-hour week with two weeks unpaid vacation, he made $3,500,000 per hour, i.e., $972.22 per second.

Unfortunately in 2012, Larry and Flor Benes, also SAFE members, did not fare so well. After serving ten years on active military duty plus a three-year stint in the Reserves and the National Guard, Larry developed PTSD and a total service-connected disability rating of 70 percent. Nonetheless, he then worked as a stevedore for 20 years, but was eventually laid off because of his disabilities. To survive, Flor works two jobs. In 2012, Larry himself had no income. Bank of America is foreclosing on their home.

We are not claiming that all billionaires are moral reprobates. Our point, rather, is that there’s something terribly wrong with an economic system that allows, and even honors, such a skewed distribution of wealth.

How do the rich and their academic sycophants justify such extreme inequality? Four arguments:

The US is the greatest country on the planet, because each of us has the freedom and opportunity to become a billionaire (formerly, millionaire, but those days are now considered quaint).
The opportunity to amass enormous wealth motivates us to grow our economy.

Wealth and poverty have always existed. Inequality is a natural phenomenon, a law of nature.

The rich are the job producers; without them, there would be no jobs.

Some thoughts:

(1) How well is this freedom-to-become-a-billionaire model working? In Qtr. 1, 2013, the US had 442 billionaires, one out of every 701,000 US residents. Do we call this a well functioning model? Is your car well functioning if it only starts one out of every 701,000 attempts to turn it on? Should we have a Lemon Law for economic systems?

(2) The motivation argument. Clearly, if you “earn” $3.5 million per hour, you too would love going to work, but what about the rest of us whose jobs are dehumanizing, repetitive, and, at times, injurious? How motivated are we to go to work, or does our motivation come from the fear of being unable to provide for our families? Sixty percent of our population, 186,000,000 people, own only 4.2% of our nation’s wealth. Are they not motivated, or is our economy broken?

(3) Inequality is natural. The problem with the natural-law argument is the fallacy of deriving an ethical conclusion from an existing state of affairs. Because slavery exists (astonishingly, it’s still with us), does that make it right? Because only a man and a woman can procreate, does that mean gays and lesbians should not marry? Because there is economic, social, educational inequality, this does not make it right; it makes it something we need to correct.

(4) The rich are the job producers. What this means is the rich have the capital to invest in people and machines, which in turn produces jobs. The problem, however, is that the rich are getting richer, but they are not producing jobs. We hear a lot about the unemployment rate (7.5%), but more revealing is the underemployment rate (17.5%), which includes (a) those who are looking for work but cannot find a job, and (b) those who want a full-time job but must settle for part-time work. It does not include those who have given up looking for work. When 17.5% of the work force is suffering, the system isn’t working.

The rich are the job-producers argument, however, has a second and more serious flaw. True, the rich now have the capital to create jobs. But if we remove the distinction between rich and poor, it doesn’t follow jobs will disappear. If wealth is divided more-or-less equally, why couldn’t the people collectively create jobs?

A first step to a more just and healthy society, one that prizes the growth and development of all its members, is a redistribution of wealth. Why should some – like the Koch brothers, who inherited their father’s oil business – start life with an insurmountable advantage over those who are born into poverty, despair, and deprivation? Why should someone, like Stephen A. Cohen, the hedge fund manager under investigation for insider trading, have the wherewithal to buy a Picasso for $155 million to put into his recently purchased $60 million mansion in the Hamptons, while others live without shelter, let alone art?

A second, and decisive, step to a more wholesome society involves the collective and democratic control of the redistributed wealth. Consider housing. Nearly all of us, if we wish to live in a home, must arrange a mortgage loan with a bank, the terms of which are set entirely by the bank for the profit of the bank. We, as buyers of the loan, have no input. To correct this, should we nationalize the banks? Yes, but in itself nationalization only shifts bank ownership from private hands to government bureaucrats. It does not address the question of who controls the banks and who decides their social purpose. What is needed instead is a revolutionary change in the way our society is structured, away from a class-stratified society where the few decide for the rest of us how our resources are allocated and distributed towards a classless society where the people decide democratically how our social wealth is utilized, one in which the unsustainable accumulation of profit for the few is proscribed and the amelioration of all is cherished.

Is this utopian? Perhaps. But what we have now is unjust and immoral. SAFE brings people together to fight the banks and to fight for Evonne, Jose, Larry, Flor, and all those suffering under the yoke of capitalism, struggling for a better life.

— Stephen, SAFE Volunteer

Housing is a Human Right!

 

SAFE EVICTION BLOCKADE: DAY 7

Upcoming Actions:

  • Wednesday, May 22: Send a fax to Morgan Stanley CEO, James Gorman (212-761-0086):
    • “Jeremy Griffin, 725 So. Henderson St., Seattle, will pay you rent to stay in his home. Don’t evict him; accept his money!”
  • Thursday, May 23, 6:30 – 8:30 PM: Northgate Community Center, 10510 5th Ave NE, Seattle (Meet up outside of building.): Town Hall Meeting with Attorney General Bob Ferguson: Ask the AG what he’s doing to stop foreclosures and evictions. Demand a Moratorium.
  • Friday, May 24, 5:00 PM: SAFE Solidarity Blockade Party: At Jeremy’s home: Celebrate Day 10 of the Blockade!
  • If you have yet to join SAFE’s Rapid Response Network, please visit www.SAFEinSeattle.org, click on JOIN RRN, and sign up.
  • If you wish to be part of the 24-hour Watch Brigade on Jeremy’s South Park lawn to monitor any attempt by the Sheriff to evict, please also sign up on our website.
  • Check out articles in this week’s Real Change and The Stranger and today’s issue of TheStand.org for coverage of the SAFE blockade at Jeremy’s.
  • Two auction disruptions scheduled: May 31 (for Jane) and June 14 (for Jen). More details in next week’s Newsletter.
  • Jeremy Griffin’s court appeal has been rescheduled for 8:30 AM, Tues., June 25.

This Past Week:

What a week!

  • May 14: SAFE set up its first eviction blockade in Jeremy’s yard. Blockade will continue until Sheriff comes to evict. We will resist!
  • May 15: Press conference: Nearly all the local media came (except the Seattle Times). Good coverage on all TV channels and many radio stations; great stories on The Stranger’s blog, Real Change, The Seattle Weekly, The Stand.
  • May 17: Auction disruption at Northwest Trustee Services: Great crowd on hand. Larry and Flor Benes’s auction postponed until June 21!
  • May 17: Two SAFE members met with Sheriff John Urquhart to open a communication channel between his office and SAFE.

Other Upcoming & Ongoing Events:

Tuesdays, 7:00 – 8:30 PM: Weekly SAFE Meeting: Bethany UCC, 6230 Beacon Ave S (NE corner of Graham St). All are welcome!

Questions? Comments?

You can reach us at info@SAFEinSeattle.org or 206-203-2125. Please visit our web site: www.SAFEinSeattle.org.

Thoughts & Opinions (SAFE welcomes written opinions from all of its supporters. If you have a letter or comment you’d like to include in the Thoughts & Opinions section of this Newsletter, please e-mail info@SAFEinSeattle.org. Opinions must be informative, relevant to the foreclosure/eviction crisis, and consistent with SAFE’s mission and principles. The opinions below do not necessarily represent those of SAFE.):