Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Michigan Activists Demand Hearings on Moratorium Bill

Activists demand hearings on moratorium bill

By Kris Hamel
Published Sep 7, 2008 8:46 PM

Activists in Michigan with the Moratorium NOW! Coalition to Stop Foreclosures and Evictions have started a campaign to force state Sen. Randy Richardville to move a bill mandating a moratorium on housing foreclosures out of his committee. Richardville is chair of the Senate Banking and Financial Services Committee, where the bill, SB 1306, has lain dormant since its introduction last spring.

The coalition is demanding that Richardville convene a public hearing on Sept. 17. That’s the day activists and foreclosure victims will be at the state Capitol in Lansing, Mich., for a mass demonstration to press for the law’s passage by the Legislature. SB 1306 would place a two-year moratorium, or halt, on foreclosures and evictions by delaying the sheriff’s sale or extending the redemption period on foreclosed homes.

The law would provide immediate relief to tens of thousands of working-class families around the state. Over 72,000 homes in the Detroit area alone are in foreclosure. One in every 137 homes in Michigan was subject to foreclosure during the second quarter of this year. (July 2008, RealtyTrac)

Organizers sent Richardville a certified letter requesting he immediately move the bill out of the banking committee and hold public hearings on the foreclosure crisis. When he failed to respond to their letter within seven days as requested, they held a protest Aug. 28 outside the senator’s home in Monroe, Mich., about an hour south of Detroit.

They gathered in downtown Monroe outside the county courthouse, where a short rally was held after an afternoon of leafleting and outreach. Then they piled into vehicles for the two-mile drive to Richardville’s residence. About 20 protesters converged on the home’s front lawn, where they held a banner and signs demanding “Sen. Richardville—move on SB 1306 now!”

The senator’s home on the Raisin River is situated on a busy road. Many motorists honked in support as they drove past the demonstration. Protesters chanted, “We want hearings now!” and “Moratorium now!” Several people from Monroe enthusiastically took part in the action.

During the demonstration, a delegation of coalition activists went to the home’s front door to deliver another letter to Richardville demanding immediate public hearings. They knocked loudly, shouted his name and looked through the window but no one answered, so they left the letter in the door. Organizers believed the home was occupied at the time because two cars were parked in the side driveway.

Meanwhile, Richardville’s father came on the scene and shortly thereafter officers from the Monroe Police Department and the Monroe County sheriff arrived, but they did not interfere with the demonstration.

During the ride back to Detroit after the action, coalition organizer and attorney Jerry Goldberg received a call from Richardville, who obviously had been at home during the protest. He stated he had just received the letter.

Goldberg told Workers World: “Richardville expressed dismay over the demonstration, but for the first time said he would consider hearings on the moratorium bill.

“Richardville said he didn’t believe the moratorium or any proposal raised so far would provide a long-term solution to the foreclosure crisis. I told him this is precisely why a moratorium is needed, so that tens of thousands of people can stay in their homes while a solution is developed over time.”

Goldberg continued: “I stressed to him that whatever his personal position on the bill, he has a duty to move this bill out of committee and let there be a genuine debate on this critical issue. I also pointed out to him the legal precedent for the moratorium, which he was unable to challenge.”

An excellent video called “Randy & Me—Moratorium Now,” by coalition organizer Alan Pollock, is available on YouTube. It highlights the letter delivery and scenes from the protest at Richardville’s home. Other videos on the foreclosure moratorium struggle in Michigan can also be seen on YouTube.

To reserve a bus seat from Detroit to the Sept. 17 demonstration in Lansing, call 313-887-4344 or visit The cost is $20; no one will be turned away for lack of funds. Donations can be sent to the Moratorium NOW! Coalition, 23 E. Adams, 4th floor, Detroit, MI 48226.
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