Category: News Briefs - Original Written by Amber L. Bogins
UAW Vice President Cindy Estrada, disappointed and angered by the withdrawal of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from a Detroit hearing on foreclosures, will proceed with plans to co-host the May 20 event. “This was our chance for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to listen and learn about how destructive their policy of foreclosure and eviction is for metro Detroit,” says Estrada, who anticipates spirited testimony at the People’s Hearing. “They need to see and hear the evidence that their policies are hurting working families and undermining neighborhoods.”
Following two months of discussion and planning, the federal agencies have withdrawn from the hearing at the direction of legal counsel, claiming-- at the 11th hour-- that it would be “awkward” for officials to hear testimony from homeowners who are in litigation fighting eviction by Fannie or Freddie.
Throughout the planning process, organizers of the event provided full disclosure of the anticipated agenda and details of the public hearing. Officials from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the failing mortgage investors taken over by the federal government in 2008, agreed in March to come to Detroit and hear testimony from homeowners, union members, and community leaders about the foreclosure crisis. Fannie and Freddie, which own or insure more than half of all residential mortgages in the country, have foreclosed on more than 15,000 families in Wayne County since the government takeover by the Federal Housing and Finance Agency (FHFA). Thousands more have lost their homes in Oakland and Macomb.
Fannie and Freddie have declared a moratorium on foreclosures in areas stricken by Hurricane Sandy. Estrada and organizers from Detroit Eviction Defense argue that they should do the same for Metro Detroit, flattened by banking fraud, mass unemployment, and the resulting storm surge of foreclosures. They are also calling on Fannie and Freddie to reverse their current policy of refusing to lower the principal on “underwater” loans where the balance owed is higher than the plummeting market value of the home.
Testimony at the May 20 hearing will be videoed, and organizers vow to hand-deliver the recording to federal officials. “The UAW sees the fight to halt foreclosures as part of its historic commitment to social justice for all working families,” said Estrada. FHFA officials have committed to scheduling a discussion with UAW representatives, community leaders, and public officials as soon as possible to review policy alternatives specific to the Detroit area.
A new report, “A Hurricane Without Water: Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Foreclosure Crisis in Metro Detroit,” will be available at the hearing and at http://www.detroitevictiondefense.com/
Last Updated on Friday, 17 May 2013 11:13
Category: News Briefs - Original Written by michigan Chronicle Staff
Funding Provided for Inspection of Aerial Ladders, Ground Ladders
DETROIT – Detroit Mayor Dave Bing announced today that AAA Michigan will donate $23,500 to the Detroit Public Safety Foundation to pay for the inspection of 20 aerial ladders and 4,600 feet of ground ladders used by the Detroit Fire Department (DFD). The gift is the latest in a recent series of recent corporate donations in support of the City of Detroit’s public safety operations.
“Once again, one of Detroit’s corporate citizens has come forward and generously shown its support for our public safety operations, our first responders and our citizens,” Mayor Bing said. “The proper inspection of our fire department’s aerial ladders and ground ladders was a critical need that AAA Michigan has graciously met. I appreciate the leadership and continued concern for public safety that AAA has demonstrated with this gift.”
"Our history of supporting the community dates back nearly a century," said AAA Michigan President Steve Wagner. "We are very pleased to present the Detroit Fire Department with this grant, which we know will help save lives."
The ladder inspections are required to keep DFD equipment in compliance with standards of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), an independent organization that establishes fire safety codes and regulations for various industries and the firefighting profession. Detroit Fire Commissioner Donald Austin ordered last February that until a full inspection of the entire ladder fleet is completed, DFD will not engage in manned aerial ladder operations -- unless there is an immediate threat to life. In cases where a manned ladder must be used, every effort will be made to properly support the ladder. DFD continues to use unmanned aerial ladders as “water towers” to fight large fires.
“We are grateful for AAA’s generous donation,” Commissioner Austin said. “Aerial ladders can place firefighters 100 feet above ground, often with large amounts of water flowing under high pressure. Because of the tremendous stress placed on ladders, regular testing is needed to find the smallest stress fractures and metal fatigue. Completing the testing of our aerial and ground ladders will go a long way toward ensuring the safety of Detroit’s citizens and firefighters.”
AAA Michigan, with 1.5 million members, is part of The Auto Club Group (ACG), the second largest AAA club in North America. ACG and its affiliates provide membership, travel, insurance and financial services to approximately 8.8 million members. AAA Michigan partners with civic and community groups and traffic safety organizations to improve neighborhoods and promote traffic safety through such programs as the AAA School Safety Patrol.
The Detroit Public Safety Foundation was formed in 2011 to support the Detroit Police and Fire departments. Mayor Bing’s Active and Safe Campaign, launched last fall, has a similar mission of supporting Detroit’s public safety and recreational programs. In March, the corporate community pledged $8 million to the public safety component of the Active and Safe Campaign. The money is being used to acquire 23 new ambulances for the Detroit Fire Department’s EMS unit and 100 new patrol cars for the Detroit Police Department. To date, a total of $22 million has been raised toward the $60 million goal of the three-year campaign.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 15 May 2013 12:14
Category: News Briefs - Original Written by Michael Cottman
Tension is mounting at Morehouse College.
As President Barack Obama prepares to deliver a commencement address at Morehouse, a prominent Philadelphia minister who wrote a scathing critique of Obama now says he is been disinvited to speak at Morehouse one day before Obama is scheduled to speak on May 18.
Rev. Kevin Johnson, senior pastor of the Bright Hope Baptist Church in Philadelphia, is embroiled in a growing controversy following a blistering editorial he wrote in The Philadelphia Tribune titled “A President for Everyone. Except Black People.”
“Given the president’s poor record in catapulting an economic and empowerment agenda for the African-American community, we must begin asking the questions, Why are we so loyal to a president who is not loyal to us?” Johnson wrote last month.
“To my disappointment, the president has not only failed the Black community, but also has failed to surround himself with qualified African- Americans who could develop policies to help the most disenfranchised.
“Indeed, if we objectively look at Obama’s presidency, African-Americans are in a worse position than they were before he became president.”
Johnson had been invited to deliver a baccalaureate address at Morehouse one day before Obama’s address, but after reading Johnson’s editorial, Morehouse College President John Silvanus Wilson Jr. — who previously headed the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities — told Johnson that he had decided to change Johnson’s address into a “multi-speaker” event to include three speakers.
“As president, I believe this is in the best interest of the college,” Wilson wrote on the Morehouse website. “In this instance, I decided to ask this invited speaker to share the Baccalaureate stage with two other speakers so as to reflect a broader and more inclusive range of viewpoints.”
Some Black professionals say Wilson is scolding Johnson for criticizing Obama because Obama is Wilson’s former boss. But one Black minister says Johnson is entitled to free speech and should not be punished for stating his political views.
“In an academic institution, it’s the wrong message to send graduating seniors who are going out into a diverse world,” Rev. Delman Coates, a Maryland pastor, told USA Today. “If Martin Luther King Jr. could challenge Lyndon Baines Johnson on the Vietnam War after Johnson won the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Act, then why should a distinguished alumnus of Morehouse College not raise pointed questions about the Obama administration?”
Johnson’s controversial editorial criticizing Obama comes as some Black Washington, D.C. residents have whispered their frustrations about a White House they consider too White. And in some Black circles, Johnson’s column has caused some Black leaders consternation over the issue of racial diversity in the White House.
“What we’re looking for is a government that, at a minimum, has been better than any other president has ever been on diversity,” Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, told Politico. “He’s not there yet, even though he’s African-American.”
But Johnson used harsher words to make a similar point.
“For me, the absence of African-Americans in a second term is not only disrespectful to the Black community, who voted 96 percent for President Obama in 2008 and 93 percent in 2012, but also underscores a larger problem of economic and job opportunities for the Black community,” Johnson wrote.
Last week, however, Obama nominated Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx to become secretary of transportation and Rep. Mel Watt (D-NC) to be director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency. Both men are African- American.
And Valerie Jarrett, the president’s senior adviser, spoke passionately earlier this year about Obama’s ambitious goal to rehabilitate 20 poor communities across the country where Black people have struggled for years.
Speaking to Black journalists in February, Jarrett said the plan to renovate some of the nation’s most devastated Black neighborhoods is part of a broad strategy to help improve the quality of life for many Black Americans and includes Obama focusing on a myriad of challenges facing young Black men as he begins his second term in the White House.
When asked about the president’s perceived reluctance to discuss race publicly, Jarrett said the White House plans to do a better job communicating its social and economic policies to the Black community.
“We’re not afraid to say this is going to help Black people,” Jarrett said during a White House interview.
Obama also traveled to the South Side of Chicago in February where he spoke to 16 Black male students at Hyde Park Academy High School who are growing up poor, troubled and some without fathers.
“This is very personal for him because he didn’t have a father,” Jarrett said of the president. “He was raised by a single mom so he knows the challenges.”
Some Morehouse alumni are calling on Wilson to honor his original terms and allow Rev. Johnson to be the only speaker during the baccalaureate event at the historically Black college in Atlanta.
“If President Wilson turns his back on one of our most distinguished alums because of an exercise of free speech and political commentary, he will have set Morehouse on a dangerous course and departed from the great tradition bequeathed to us,” Amos Brown, a Morehouse graduate and senior pastor of Third Baptist Church in San Francisco, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Obama’s speech at Morehouse also comes as four Morehouse College athletes were arrested in March and charged in connection with two separate sexual assaults. Three of the students – all Black men — were charged in an alleged on-campus incident prior to spring break. The fourth was charged in a different case off campus.
And while Obama is poised to speak at Morehouse, many African- Americans in Atlanta remain focused on Rev. Johnson’s blunt criticism of the president.
“When one compares the first African-American president to his recent predecessors,” Johnson wrote, “the number of African-Americans in senior Cabinet positions is very disappointing.”
Last Updated on Wednesday, 15 May 2013 02:16
Category: News Briefs - Original Written by AJ Williams, Chronicle Web Editor
With a little less than two weeks to go before the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix takes over the Motor City’s famed island park for three days of fun, excitement and racing, preparations for the fast and furious event are on schedule, according to Grand Prix officials. The event, which will be held from May 31– June 2, is expected to draw more than 100,000-plus fans and will garner a national television audience of millions.
Grand Prix officials are working long days to assure that the event is entertaining and memorable as some of the world’s greatest race drivers will compete in some of the world’s most powerful and fastest cars. “We are moving forward,” said Charles Burns, general manager for the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix. “We are getting geared up for a first-class event. Roger Penske and Bud Denker (event chairman) have set the standard for excellence, and we have a great team that really wants to perform well and showcase the Grand Prix, Belle Isle, and the city of Detroit. So we are staying on top of all the details and preparations necessary to make this event successful.”
Staying on top of details has included a recent long drive from Detroit to Birmingham, Alabama for Burns. “Two of the three racing series that will be held on Detroit’s Belle Isle will be held at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham this weekend (April 5-7), said Burns, via cell phone, as he motored towards Birmingham. “So I’m going down to Birmingham to talk with officials from both series about some logistical things that we have to work through. In addition, I want to spread the good word down there about our great event on Belle Isle which is right around the corner.”
This year’s Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix will feature the Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit presented by Quicken Loans featuring the cars of the IZOD IndyCar Series, the Chevrolet GRAND-AM 200 at Belle Isle presented by the Metro Detroit Chevy Dealers with the sports cars of the GRAND-AM Rolex Series, and the Cadillac V-Series Challenge presented by the Metro Detroit Cadillac Dealers featuring the cars of the Pirelli World Challenge Championship Series. ABC will nationally televise the IndyCar races on Saturday and Sunday.
In addition to the various racing series, Grand Prix attendees will be entertained by national recording acts. On Friday, Detroit’s own Dwele will showcase his vocal talents on the MotorCity Casino Hotel Entertainment Stage as part of the Free Prix Day at the Grand Prix. On that Friday, everyone will be admitted to the Raceway at Belle Isle Park free of charge. “Dwele is a true Detroit success story and we’re very excited to bring his unique sound to the MotorCity Casino Hotel Entertainment Stage on Friday night at the Grand Prix,” said Bud Denker, chairman of the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix. “With some great action on track Friday and Dwele highlighting a strong entertainment lineup, fans will have a terrific experience on Free Prix Day.” Dwele’s performance will follow a full opening day of track activity featuring practice and qualifying for the IZOD IndyCar Series, the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series, and the Pirelli World Challenge Series on the newly-configured 2.3-mile Belle Isle street circuit.
The MotorCity Casino Hotel Entertainment Stage at the Grand Prix will also welcome rock icon Bret Michaels on Saturday evening and modern-rock band Plain White T’s on Sunday afternoon. Several other local artists will also perform on the stage throughout the weekend. Burns added that there will be something at the Grand Prix for everyone, including the Meijer Family Fun Zone and the Quicken Loans Go-Kart Track. He also said there will be some events beginning the Tuesday before the Grand Prix weekend. Stay tuned!
For Burns, Detroit has made a great impression on the West Lafayette, Indiana native. “I love Detroit,” said Burns, who moved to the Motor City last year. “There are so many positive things going on that the world doesn’t know about. When Roger Penske and Bud Denker offered me the opportunity to come to Detroit as the general manager for the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix, it was a no brainer. I saw it as an opportunity to come to a great city and work with an outstanding company (Penske Corporation) and a team of individuals committed to not only making the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix successful, but also committed to making Detroit a better place.
“We are all working long hours, but it has been great. It will be so special and rewarding to see our fans smile and having a grand time when they get to the island and witness all of the wonderful events and activities connected to this year’s Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix.”
Last Updated on Wednesday, 15 May 2013 10:07
Category: News Briefs - Original Written by Bankole Thompson, Chronicle Senior Editor
Kevyn Orr, the man charged with bringing Detroit back to financial stability said he is surprised at the numbers that will be released on Monday when the Emergency Financial Manager discloses his operating financial plan to the state and the public. The plan is coming out barely two months after Orr took over at city hall to right the financial ship of Detroit's local government whose debt obligations are in the billions.
Orr, during an exclusive interview with the Michigan Chronicle’s Bankole Thompson ahead of Monday's announcement said the city is in the first steps of a very long journey and the numbers are what they are.
“First thing you are going to see is sort of a fair snap shot of what we’ve been able to discern from sort of a document of the city as to the city’s financial status. My operating financial plan is coming out on Monday,” Orr said. “The plan is going to be sort of an analysis of the best information we have available as what the city’s condition is. I think it is fair to say at least my initial perception is that our debt service and debt obligation is probably worse than we’ve expected. To put it in a vernacular we are deeper in a hole than I thought we were.”
Since Orr took over the reigns of government in Detroit after Gov. Rick Snyder named him emergency manager, many have been waiting to see what “bold” steps would be taken to get the city on a path to financial recovery.
Even though his presence is still being protested by some who disagreed that Detroit does not need an emergency manager, a sentiment that rings true with some of the city’s civil rights activists, Orr in the interview said the numbers about the city’s situation cannot be debated.
“It just means that the numbers are going to be bigger than have previously been discussed. It means that the challenges and negotiations with the interested parties are probably going to be a little bit more intense because it’s more at stake,” Orr said. “There’s more money on the table. There is more attention. Our revenue projections are precarious.”
He said historically for instance some of the way the city has budgeted, taken on a debt to try to make a balance budget while deferring payments with some obligations to make for financial shortfalls did not help matters.
“When I say it’s worse than expected, if the city were to try to run and meet its debt obligations on an ongoing forward basis- based on what it takes in revenue fees and other incomes and balance that against what it’s obligations are paid in the in the ordinary cause that would be very challenging,” Orr said.
The million-dollar question is whether the parties tied to the financial wellbeing of the city including labor, creditors and others can negotiate a plan or reach an agreement?
Orr when he was introduced to the public during a press conference with Gov. Snyder sounded a reconciliatory note saying he believes parties of good faith can negotiate in good faith.
Asked if he still believes that after Monday’s report is announced, he said yes.
“I really do and this is why I mentioned the financial operating plan. I’m going to be fully open with everything. That includes labor, debt holders, citizens, elected officials and the press. Let’s just get it all out there the best we can,” Orr said. “Nobody really can debate the numbers. They are what they are. The math is the math. So now the next step becomes what are we going to do about it. I’m assuming rational behavior that everybody wants to get the city to a position that is both on a sustainable path, a path for growth and a healthier going forward financial practice.”
Last Updated on Monday, 13 May 2013 11:15
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