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.

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