Sunday, May 25, 2008

People's Coalition in Michigan Mobilizes to Win Passage of Foreclosure Moratorium Bill

'We have to hit the streets': People’s coalition mobilizes to win passage of moratorium bill

By Bryan G. Pfeifer
Published May 24, 2008 7:54 AM

In an ongoing effort to win passage of a two-year moratorium in Michigan, the Moratorium NOW! Coalition to Stop Foreclosures and Evictions met May 17 to continue building a fighting mass people’s movement.

The multinational meeting at the Central United Methodist Church in downtown Detroit included participants from a wide range of labor, community, religious and student organizations.

Rep. John Conyers stressed the seriousness of the moratorium struggle, saying it’s a crime for poor and working people to be foreclosed on and evicted, or have their water and lights cut off due to inability to pay. “We have to nationalize this moratorium movement. This is a global situation,” he said.

Conyers and all other participants pledged to continue mobilizing to win passage of the two-year moratorium bill, SB 1306, recently introduced in the Michigan legislature by state Sen. Hansen Clarke.

SB 1306 would allow a homeowner facing foreclosure to go to court for an automatic stay, which would delay a sheriff’s sale for two years or extend the repayment period from six months to two years. The court would set a reasonable repayment plan based in part on the borrower’s income and ability to pay. The law would be in effect for three years, meaning that anyone in foreclosure at the time the law is enacted, or is placed in foreclosure during that three-year period, could take advantage of the moratorium.

Bruce Feaster of Sen. Clarke’s office told coalition participants that “you are the lobbyists” for this bill. He described how the banks pay millions to their lobbyists to get what they want, but that there are more poor and working people than bankers. Feaster called for an all-out mobilization to win passage of the bill, with tactics such as contacting legislators, organizing town hall meetings, people’s delegations to Lansing and much more to build pressure from below to build a movement that can’t be denied.

In an effort to win passage of the bill, moratorium coalition members have thus far spoken at numerous events and distributed thousands of leaflets throughout Metro Detroit and throughout the state, including Upper Michigan. This work is being conducted through rapid response, office and clerical staffing, visual documentation, research, press and outreach, and speakers committees.

‘They can’t get away with this!’

At every moratorium organizers’ meeting, horrendous and heartbreaking details of victims of foreclosures and evictions emerge.

At the May 17 meeting Diane Campbell, an African-American Detroit resident, described how a longtime friend and neighbor of hers, Charlie, and another man were recently blown up in a home in Detroit. Charlie had owned his own home for more than 20 years, but when his home was foreclosed he was forced to sleep wherever he could.

Eventually Charlie returned to his foreclosed home to rest one evening. When he lit a cigarette, the house blew up because of a massive gas leak that was never repaired by the gas company. A man sleeping upstairs also perished. According to Charlie’s friend, the entire block shook from the explosion, which put many more people at risk of serious harm or death.

After hearing this, Debbie Johnson of the Moratorium NOW Coalition said: “We need a multipronged approach. We have to target the banks and Detroit Energy. We can’t allow them to get away with this. They are responsible.”

At the May 17 meeting two action proposals were unanimously adopted. On Friday, June 6, from 4 to 6 p.m., a march and rally targeting banks and financial institutions responsible for the moratorium disaster will be held in downtown Detroit. More than 72,000 homes faced foreclosure in Detroit in 2007.

And on June 14 a statewide organizers’ conference from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and a Town Meeting from 2 to 4 p.m. will take place, sponsored and chaired by Sen. Clarke at the UAW Local 7 hall, 2600 Conner St. in Detroit. Sen. Clarke will take testimony from foreclosure and eviction victims at this event and a legal clinic will operate to assist victims as well.

These events and more over the summer are being organized with the goal of having a mass action at the state Capitol in Lansing in early fall 2008.

In an effort to build the moratorium movement’s campaign coordination and outreach, the Rev. Ed Rowe of the Central United Methodist Church has donated office space for the Moratorium NOW! Coalition at his church at 23 E. Adams, 4th Floor, Detroit, MI 48226. Donations can be sent to this address.

Caleb Maupin, the moratorium coalition’s intern, announced at the meeting that the office is now officially open, with hours from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday. Maupin said that this would be “an office of action” where leaflets, outreach information and much more will always be available. Leaflet delivery is also possible by calling the office at 313-964-5813.

Pastor Golliday in Benton Harbor has also endorsed the moratorium bill, and is using his church as an organizing center in Western Michigan.

“We’re about action and we have to hit the streets to win this moratorium,” said David Sole, an organizer with the Moratorium NOW! Coalition and president of United Auto Workers Local 2334.

The next Moratorium NOW! organizers’ meeting is May 31, 2 p.m. at the Central United Methodist Church.

See the coalition’s Web site for PDF leaflets, videos and more:

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