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Struggling to find a job in Dutchess

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Struggling to find a job in Dutchess

Finding a job in manufFor former tool maker Glenn McGinnis, crafting small machine parts for jet engines was like “splitting hairs.

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Poor and need a civil lawyer? New center in downtown Syracuse is one-stop …

The reception area of the George Lowe Center for Justice. 

Syracuse, NY — If you’re in trouble with the law, the Constitution provides you a lawyer at no charge if you can’t afford one.

But what if you’re a law-abiding citizen who needs a lawyer for life’s other challenges? Facing utilities being turned off, an abusive spouse or an eviction or foreclosure, for example? There’s no Constitutional right to a lawyer in those cases.

Those are the basic “necessities of life,” the state’s top judge declared recently in Syracuse. They impact children, the elderly and other vulnerable members of society.

A new one-stop destination will officially open today to serve those basic needs of Central New York’s poor — and vulnerable — population.


The George H. Lowe Center for Justice is located on the third floor of Financial Plaza, 221 S. Warren St. in downtown Syracuse. It’s within walking distance of the bus station, the Civic Center and other destinations critical to poor people.

The center brings three little-known legal service providers under one roof: Legal Services of Central New York, Legal Aid Society of Mid-New York and the Volunteer Lawyers Project. All three were in separate offices downtown.

What’s the difference between the three? To someone in need of legal help, it doesn’t matter. By bringing them into one location, a client will be sent to the appropriate lawyer, regardless of what name they work under.

The separate entities are required by law because they are funded with a patchwork of 80 to 90 grants for different purposes: evictions, divorces, etc. But the differences are now masked, with the groups sharing office space and expertise.

The sign for the George Lowe Center outside Financial Plaza on South Warren Street. 

The project was fueled by the state judicial system’s focus on providing services for the poor. Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman said in Syracuse last month that the lack of representation for the poor is a “crisis” and urged young lawyers to defend the needy.

Lippman has also convinced the state legislature to open the purse strings, budgeting $85 million this year to help legal service groups. When Lippman took office in 2009, the state budgeted zero.

In Syracuse, that has meant that legal services — which had existed in the shadows — saw its budget grow from $1.8 million to $5 million a year.

That means it can help 15,000 people a year, up from 5,100 in 2008, before the state’s funding. This year, the state gave $3.35 million to legal services. The other groups — legal aid and Volunteer Lawyers Project — have also seen growth.

It’s a start, but still not enough: only about one-third of poor who need a non-criminal lawyer are getting one, Lippman said. He called it the greatest problem facing the judicial system today.

In Syracuse, the center is named after longtime defense lawyer and judge, George Lowe, who has long advocated for legal help to the poor.

“This is indeed a tremendous honor for me,” Lowe said in a statement.”Expanding free legal services for the indigent has always been one of my top priorities, and these three organizations operating in collaboration goes a long way in meeting that goal.”

Legal help line: 1-877-777-6152. This is for people in need of legal assistance who don’t know where to turn.

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Downsizing tricks from a Charlotte couple who moved to D.C.

Nicholas Herman and his wife, Shannon Claire Smith, had dreamed for years of moving from Charlotte to Washington. In April 2014, Herman, 31, flew to Washington for a job interview. When Smith, 29, arrived to pick him up from the airport, he handed her his phone: He had an email offering him the position in the George Mason University development office, starting in two weeks.

First, she burst into tears.

But as she dried her eyes, she was already figuring out a plan to downsize.

“I began working like a madwoman,” says Smith, who now works at American University as a Web content and marketing coordinator while also running a design business and writing a design blog, Burlap Lace. “We knew that in D.C., all we could afford was a one-bedroom, so we had to sell and donate most of our possessions. We weren’t even sure we could keep our king-size bed.”

The only nonnegotiables were their pets: Pomeranian Max and two cats, Fritters and Miss Kitty, would have to be welcome in their new digs.

Goodbye, 2,300-square-foot traditional north Charlotte house in the Keeneland near Northlake Mall with three bedrooms, a nice yard and two-car garage.

Hello, 850-square-foot one-bedroom in a 1928 building in the hip Adams Morgan section of Washington.

Herman and Smith, who met as students at UNC Charlotte, were married in 2009 and bought a house in a foreclosure sale around the same time. They upgraded the house with DIY projects, laying laminate flooring, changing kitchen countertops and installing crown molding.

He worked in fundraising at UNCC, and she was self-employed with a blog and design business. But they always talked about relocating to Washington, where Smith’s best friend lived. “We like the energy of the city,” Herman says.

So with his offer in hand, they focused on how much they could get rid of in four weeks. The plan was for Herman to start work and come back on weekends to help.

Shedding their stuff

First, they went apartment hunting. They found a pet-friendly one-bedroom rental for $1,850 – about three times their monthly mortgage payment in Charlotte. “We wanted a building with history and character and quirky detailing,” Smith says. “Our home in North Carolina was a cookie-cutter house and was builder’s-grade-everything.”

The apartment had original hardwood floors, a cute dining alcove, high ceilings and a glassed-in former porch that let in lots of natural light. The kitchen was tiny but had two built-in china cabinets with glass doors.

Back in Charlotte, they hosted yard sales, listed things on Craigslist and donated to charity. They dumped most of their furniture, half their clothes, 90 percent of their books and all their holiday decorations. “We realized there was no way to store a fake Christmas tree in an apartment,” Herman says.

“We watched from our window as people stuffed our tree into their car and pulled away,” Smith says, “just like the Grinch.”

The couple didn’t have a lot of sentimental attachment to most things, as they had bought them secondhand. “We had no investment pieces,” Smith says. “These were just our starter pieces.”

At the end of every weekend, they posted a “curb alert” on Craigslist and stacked up pieces that hadn’t sold, free for the taking. “People showed up and picked our driveway clean,” Smith says. The last day, “I mopped my way out the door.”

Figuring out a narrow room

They rounded up the pets and drove seven hours north, following their small moving truck. Inside were two white dressers, a desk, a small table, a sofa, a KitchenAid mixer, a knife block, dishes and the king-size mattress set, and what was left of their clothes and books.

Then it was time to settle in. “We had to think about design in a totally different way,” Smith says. “In North Carolina, we had extra space, and I filled it with stuff.”

They thought of ways to make each room serve several functions. “I wanted to embrace the size and wanted it to be as bright and bold as possible,” Smith says. “I wanted to break the rules and be colorful and have fun with things like painting the ceiling in the hallway pink.” (That would be Pink Popsicle by Benjamin Moore.)

They struggled with the long, narrow living room. To make sense of it, they created three spaces: an entry area with a console table and place for mail and keys, a library wall of open bookshelves (to keep it from feeling closed in) and a lounging area with a sofa and TV.

The dining alcove got a stylish new Scout Nimble hanging lamp that glows copper inside when lighted. Smith painted a blackboard wall in the kitchen and installed a tiny herb garden of mint, oregano and thyme in wall-mounted pots.

Goodbye knickknacks

There have been new DIY projects: building a radiator cover in the bathroom, painting white cotton Ikea curtains ($14 a pair) to make them look custom, and creating a headboard that required the two of them to wrestle $10-a-yard banana leaf fabric over layers of plywood, upholstery foam and batting. Thrift-shop bedroom lamps were updated with black drum shades from Target.

Their small space doesn’t deter them from entertaining. They had 30 guests for a make-your-own-gin-and-tonic party and a baby shower for 20, where Smith took everything off her bookshelves and filled them with presents. Last year they hosted Friendsgiving in their living room, sticking their sofa in the dining room and renting two tables to seat 20. Herman roasted two turkeys in the 7-foot-long galley kitchen. They are hosting the second annual Friendsgiving this year.

Yes, they do miss grilling and having parties spill outside to the backyard.

But they have no regrets. “It’s like a giant weight of knickknacks has been lifted off our shoulders,” Smith says. “We honestly don’t miss our old stuff.”

From house to apartment

Moving from a 2,300-square-foot house to a one-bedroom rental required Shannon Claire Smith and Nicholas Herman to rethink everything. Here are some tricks they used to think outside the “rental box” and make the most of their smaller living space.

Create zones: Breaking up a long space into smaller, separate areas makes your home seem bigger. Use furniture or rugs to define “rooms.” Carve out a designated entry area for keys and mail, a comfortable spot for seating and a functional work space.

Bring the focus up: Hang artwork and curtains tall and wide. Put curtain rods just below the ceiling. Install floor-to-ceiling shelves to maximize storage without taking up floor space. Stretching the surface area of the walls creates the illusion of height and space.

Paint, if you’re allowed: Painting an accent wall or hallway creates depth and dimension. Don’t be afraid of bold or dark colors; they give the illusion of depth.

Light it up: Avoid overhead fluorescent lighting. Place lamps and mirrors strategically to create mood lighting and bounce natural light around the room. Replace boring light fixtures with vintage finds.

Update your bathroom: Replace dated faucets and install a rain shower head; stash the originals to swap back when you move out. Consider building a screened radiator cover to hide the bulky unit as well as provide another surface. Smith and Herman painted a black stripe around the room to mimic tile.

Washington Post

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It’s insurance season and time to shop 2016 health plans – Las Vegas Review

It’s almost Halloween, and you know what that means.

No, it’s not time to buy some candy and swill another pumpkin spice latte.

Better than that, it’s insurance season! Come Sunday, you’ll be able to shop 2016 health plans online and through local insurance brokers.

Before you go back to your bags of fun-size Snickers and your sugary coffee, stick with us for just a minute, because ignoring us could cost you: If you don’t have health coverage, you could face a noncoverage tax of 2.5 percent of your household income or $695, whichever is higher. Uncovered families will see a maximum penalty of $2,085.

If you’re insured through work, you’re probably set. Most employer-based plans offer the minimum benefits required under the Affordable Care Act.

No employer-sponsored coverage? No problem — Nevada’s individual insurance market has dozens of plans, including federally subsidized policies that give you a tax credit to cover your premium. Subsidy eligibility will depend in part on your age and plan, but in general, you qualify if you make between 133 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty wage. At the low end, that’s $15,521 for a household of one and $31,721 for a family of four. At the high end, that’s 46,680 for a single-person household and $95,400 for a family of four.

If your income falls below $15,521 to $31,721, you may be eligible for Medicaid, which provides coverage for free.

You can avoid that federal penalty as long as you have a plan by Jan. 31.

What’s new?

The upcoming enrollment session will be the third sign-up period under the Affordable Care Act.

Some things will look different from past periods.

“A lot of the plans have just totally changed,” said Brent Leavitt, an insurance broker and Certified Financial Planner with Nevada Benefits in Las Vegas. “They have different copays and different deductibles. Some of them are more generous, but some of them are more stingy. You can’t expect things to just roll over. Be cognizant that your new plan may not be 100 percent what you had.”

You’ll also see a change in insurers selling through Nevada Health Link.

Two carriers have left the marketplace. Assurant announced in June that it would shutter its nationwide individual insurance division after it couldn’t find a buyer for the segment.

And Nevada Health CO-OP, a Las Vegas nonprofit created to provide competition on the exchange, will close Jan. 1 due to high claims costs and limited forecasts for enrollment growth.

At the same time, Reno-based Prominence will offer its first-ever Southern Nevada plans.

Prominence joins industry giants UnitedHealth Group and Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield on the exchange. Prominence and UnitedHealth will sell HMO plans, while Anthem will offer both HMO and PPO coverage.

You’ll have more choice off of the exchange, so if you don’t qualify for a federal subsidy, there’s no point for you to buy through the marketplace, Leavitt said. Eighteen carriers are selling coverage outside the exchange. There’s little to no difference in level of benefits available on or off the exchange, because the Affordable Care Act requires all plans to offer the same essential health coverage.

Out-of-network coverage may be one other reason to kick tires outside the exchange., a California-based website that compares and ranks insurance plans, released an Oct. 7 report giving Nevada poor marks for access outside of networks. Just 14.6 percent of the state’s exchange-based plans covered out-of-network medical bills. That was the third-worst share in the nation, after South Dakota (zero percent) and New Jersey (10.2 percent).

What’s old?

Unlike enrollment a year ago, Nevada Health Link doesn’t need to switch to a new sign-up platform. The exchange will borrow the federal system for a second straight year.

The agency plans to boost its call center from six people to 10 to handle calls from consumers who have questions during enrollment, said spokeswoman Janel Davis.

Also, as long as income is steady, premiums will stay relatively unchanged for subsidized plans, Leavitt said. Premiums on the exchange will rise an average of 8.7 percent, but federal tax credits should also increase to cancel out most of the gain, he said.

Premiums for off-exchange coverage will be up 9.6 percent on average.

Leavitt added that he expects the number of sign-ups to be “about the same” the 2014 session, when his firm enrolled roughly 500 people through the exchange. About 70,000 signed up statewide for exchange-based coverage for the 2015 plan year.

“Hopefully, it’ll be pretty routine,” Leavitt said. “If people know what they’re going to buy, the renewal process takes only five minutes or so.”

What’s next?

Nevada Health Link plans a Sunday enrollment health fair to kick off sign-up season. The event, which runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the College of Southern Nevada’s campus at 6375 W. Charleston Blvd., will feature insurance brokers and enrollment assistants to walk consumers through eligibility and application. Attendees learn about what kind of federal tax credit they can receive to help pay premiums.

The exchange also plans a number of sign-up and pop-up events through the enrollment period. It’s set to launch a barrage of fliers, mailers and ads to get the word out, Davis said.

“We’re really getting out there to get the word out and keep our enrollment number the same or even higher,” she said.

Consumers who want additional face time with an insurance professional will still be able to work with licensed brokers. Nevada Health Link has a broker search tool on its website that lets consumers find help in their ZIP code.

Contact Jennifer Robison at Find @_JRobison on Twitter.

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Yes, Marco Rubio’s Finances Are a Big Deal

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The big post-debate story is about the media. CNBC is being pilloried by Republicans for the way it conducted last night’s event, in Boulder, Colorado. “CNBC should be ashamed of themselves,” Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, wrote in an e-mail to supporters. “Let’s put the mainstream media on notice. I want to send a message to moderators of upcoming debates that any bias won’t be tolerated.” Rand Paul, who was once the darling of the mainstream media and celebrated as a top-tier Republican candidate, but who has been a non-entity in the Presidential campaign, used the anti-CNBC backlash to raise money. He changed his Twitter avatar to a picture of the senator with a black rectangle over his mouth and the word CENSORED across it. “Fight back against the media bias” was superimposed on the new photo.

Whining about tough questions and media bias is an old campaign tactic. On both the right and the left, there are now well-funded institutions that do nothing but scour the Internet, TV, and radio for perceived slights from the press. The CNBC journalists are public figures who surely know that getting beaten up by partisans comes with the job of covering American politics. And, of course, just because accusations of bias or unfairness come from the R.N.C. and the G.O.P. Presidential candidates, who all have strategic reasons for attacking the press, doesn’t mean that they are untrue.

But, as last night’s debate went on and the candidates realized that the crowd had turned against the moderators, and that they could score easy points by lambasting them, legitimate grumbling about some tough questions turned into something else: using the charge of media bias to avoid answering legitimate questions. The candidate who pulled this off better than anyone was Marco Rubio, who was generally seen as the winner of the debate.

Becky Quick, a CNBC correspondent, asked Rubio the following question:

Senator Rubio, you yourself have said that you’ve had issues. You have a lack of bookkeeping skills. You accidentally intermingled campaign money with your personal money. You faced foreclosure on a second home that you bought. And just last year you liquidated a sixty-eight-thousand-dollar retirement fund. That’s something that cost you thousands of dollars in taxes and penalties. In terms of all of that, it raises the question whether you have the maturity and wisdom to lead this seventeen-trillion-dollar economy. What do you say?

This was as predictable a question as Rubio could expect. His personal finances have been raised as an issue for years. In his own memoir, Rubio wrote about the troubles he had mixing personal and business purchases on a Republican Party credit card, and lamented his “lack of bookkeeping skills.”

But Rubio decided that the question was hostile and that he could therefore evade it. “You just listed a litany of discredited attacks from Democrats and my political opponents,” he said, as if that proved the accusations were false, “and I’m not gonna waste sixty seconds detailing them all.”

Quick’s questions were cited by several conservative commentators after the debate as being unfair. Several argued that Democrats were not asked similarly tough questions in the recent CNN debate. That’s silly.

The first question of the Democratic debate, for Hillary Clinton, was “Will you say anything to get elected?”

Rubio, clearly feeling how the room had turned against the moderators, came back a little later in the debate and delivered one of the big applause lines of the night: “I know the Democrats have the ultimate super PAC. It’s called the mainstream media.”

Not a bad line. But Rubio must know that the issue of his finances isn’t going away. The Miami Herald has reported that Rubio “amended his financial disclosure forms … after The Miami Herald asked why they lacked a $135,000 home equity loan he obtained from a bank controlled by his political supporters.” The Tampa Bay Times has reported that Rubio “double-billed the Republican Party of Florida and state taxpayers for eight flights while he was House Speaker.” (He said that was a mistake, and that he would repay the party.) The Times also reported that “Rubio billed the party for more than $100,000 during the two years he served as the state’s House speaker,” and that “charges included repairs to the family minivan, grocery bills, plane tickets for his wife, and purchases from retailers ranging from a wine store near his home to Apple’s online store.” (Rubio said that the expenses were all related to party business.)

Rubio is about to go through a period of much more intensive media scrutiny. Complaining about media bias won’t be enough to get him through it.

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Quick reads: Georgia gun-running, lottery scams, foreclosure fraud in the news

A former Atlanta police officer helped run a lottery scam that targeted elderly people in the U.S., and now he is heading to federal prison. Dominic Hugh Smith of Douglasville conspired with others to call elderly victims to tell them they had won jackpots in a Jamaican lottery and persuaded them to pay advance fees before receiving their winnings, the Justice Department said. Then Smith, who also once worked as a Transportation Security Administration agent in the Atlanta metro area, pocketed his split of the money. The 27-year-old drew a 27-month sentence.

A Fulton County foreclosure auction

A Fulton County foreclosure auction

If you’re keeping count, a 10th Atlanta-area real estate investor has copped a plea to rigging foreclosure auctions. Trent Gaines admitted he conspired with others not to bid against one another at Fulton and DeKalb foreclosure auctions.

The latest Georgia gun-running case was the peg for an L.A. Times examination of the “Iron Pipeline” – the corridor favored by smugglers taking guns from the South to New York. Prosecutors said that straw buyers purchased more than 100 guns in Atlanta, then Michael Bassier took a low-cost interstate bus to take them to New York City. A secret recording caught him bragging about the haul. “I’ve got MAC-10s on me, an SK assault rifle and four handguns and I’m walking through New York,” he said in a recorded phone call, according to prosecutors. Meanwhile, another gun sting was announced Tuesday in New York, also pegged to the Iron Pipeline. Six men who sold weapons to undercover cops were arrested in and around the Harlem area.

Three months after Georgia ended its $5,000 subsidy for buyers of electric cars, sales have plunged, according to If you’ve noticed a lot of new Teslas or Leafs on the road, it’s probably because buyers rushed to buy them before July 1, when the subsidy ended, and since then sales plunged. State lawmakers pulled the plug on the subsidy in April, saying it would save Georgia $125 million a year, the AJC reported earlier this year.

022215 nuke priceWho’s responsible for cost overruns at Plant Vogtle? Contractors had sued Georgia Power, saying they were owed money for additional expenses. Georgia Power had counter-sued. Now, co-owners of the nuclear power plant have settled with all claims with contractors over construction costs. The settlement means that Georgia Power will pay about $350 million, while co-owner Oglethorpe Power says its share will be about $230 million. The deal means Westinghouse will be the sold contractor for the construction. In news releases, Georgia Power said that including the settlement, customers will see less than a 1 percent increase in rates until the project is complete.

The Foreclosure Race: Is It Worth Trying to Make a Deal with the Bank?

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Experts from Approved Oil answer questions about heating needs and energy solutions, including locked-price oil agreements, locked-price gas agreements, biofuel, mobile boilers, and going green.

Click here to visit Ask the Experts, where you’ll find more insights and answers from authorities in fields such as finance, law, leak repair, building restoration, laundry, and lobby design.

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Former Roseville resident headed to prison for role in foreclosure rescue scam

A former Roseville resident has been sentenced for his role in a loan modification and foreclosure rescue scheme that targeted members of the Spanish-speaking community.

Martin Wayne Flanders was sentenced Thursday in Sacramento by U.S. District Court Judge Troy L. Nunley to six years and five months in prison, according to a U.S. Attorney’s Office news release.

Flanders and his wife, Ligia Sandoval Spafford, 48, of Roseville, pleaded guilty to mail fraud for their participation in the fraud scheme.

According to court documents, between 2008 and 2010, Flanders charged clients advance fees in exchange for a number of financial services, including loan modifications, mortgage loan audits, credit repair, debt relief, bankruptcy filing and a program to sell homes to “investors” with a rent-to-own option.

Flanders and Sandoval marketed these services to economically distressed homeowners, particularly targeting those who were Spanish speakers, authorities said. Sandoval speaks Spanish, but Flanders does not.

Sandoval promoted the services during a radio program aired twice weekly by a Bay Area Spanish-language Christian radio station, Radio Luz. Authorities said she also advertised on Spanish-language television station Univision and in Spanish-language magazines. About 98 percent of the defendants’ clients were of Hispanic descent, and some spoke little or no English, authorities said.

Flanders and Sandoval made numerous false statements to investors as to the success of the programs offered or the refunds that would be available if the programs were not successful. The couple also used “Ghost offers” – fictitious offers to purchase the victim’s property through short sale – and “skeleton bankruptcies” – sham bankruptcy petitions that were quickly dismissed by the bankruptcy court, authorities said.

At least 25 to 30 individuals paid for services and did not receive them, or did not receive refunds when the programs failed to deliver as promised. The total loss to the victims was at least $125,000, authorities said, and some homeowners who were not able to obtain relief were foreclosed upon by their lenders.

Flanders has been detained since his arrest in October 2012, according to the news release.

Sandoval is currently out of custody and is to be sentenced by Judge Nunley on March 3.

The case resulted from an FBI investigation.

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Banks caught redlining black communities

The old adage, “the more things change, the more they stay the same”, seems somehow an apt description for what a growing number of communities are suffering; a lack of fair lending.

In recent weeks and in varying locales, the issue of redlining has led to lawsuits that have been challenged or settlements that avoided courtroom dramas. Regardless of locale, allegations are remarkably similar: lack of access in mortgage lending coupled with a lack of convenient access to full-service banking.

Last month, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Department of Justice jointly ordered Hudson City Savings Bank to pay a total of $32.75 million. Of these funds, $25 million will be dedicated to subsidizing increased mortgage opportunity for black and Latino neighborhoods, $5.5 million paid in penalties, and $2.25 million for outreach and community programs in Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and both New York City and Staten Island.

Although the Equal Credit Opportunity Act bans businesses from discriminating against applicants in credit transactions on the basis of race, color, or national origin, 94 percent of Hudson City’s branches were in areas with scant consumers of color.  Further, 94.5 percent of the bank’s top 50 brokers’ offices were concentrated outside of minority communities. In Philadelphia and in Camden, none of the bank’s 47 loan officers were based in black and Latino areas.

“Hudson City Savings Bank structured its business operations to systemically avoid providing credit services in predominantly minority neighborhoods,” said U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman of the District of New Jersey. “There is no room for such behavior in our banking system.”

Nor is Hudson City Savings alone. Just a few days later on September 29, another Justice Department settlement noted redlining in the St. Louis area by Eagle Bank and Trust. Citing both the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, a $975,000 settlement will now open two new locations in northern St. Louis among other changes.

The next day, September 30, a federal judge in Chicago denied efforts by HSBC Holdings to stop a fair housing lawsuit brought by Cook County in Illinois. On behalf of its citizens, Cook County charged that foreclosures dating to the late 2000s were the result of steering minority borrowers into high-cost loans even when their credit profiles made them eligible for cheaper loans offered to whites.

In his decision, U.S. District Judge John Z. Lee wrote, “These discriminatory actions increased the minority borrowers’ risk of default and foreclosure, resulting in a rash of foreclosures in the county, which in turn caused economic and noneconomic injury to the county.”

HSBC must now decide whether to appeal the denial, defend its actions in court or broker a settlement with Cook County.

In yet another case in Buffalo, NY, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman secured an $825,000 agreement with Evans Bank to end its discriminatory redlining that denied services to the largely black East Side of the city. In this action, Evans Bank was found to use a lending map that excluded Black consumers while including neighboring communities. It also disqualified East Side mortgage applicants regardless of their creditworthiness.

The largest portion of settlement funds – $475,000 – will be used to create a Housing Opportunity Fund to support development and restoration of affordable housing. Remaining monies will be dedicated to marketing and advertising to communities of color ($200,000), a special financing program to increase lending activity in underserved areas ($100,000), and payment of fees and costs to the state ($50,000).

In recent months, even more similar legal actions have been filed, but the pattern should be clear: communities of color often lack access to mortgages and/or fair credit. Artificially raising the cost of the single largest investment most consumers make is just as harmful as the failure to approve mortgages to creditworthy borrowers.

The moral to this continuing saga is that once laws have been passed to correct discriminatory lending, vigorous enforcement will make those laws real for consumers and lenders alike.

“Without access to affordable credit, neighborhoods deteriorate in the long shadow cast by unfair lending,” said Richard Cordray, Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Charlene Crowell is a communications manager with the Center for Responsible Lending. She can be reached at

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What to watch for in tonight’s Republican debate: Ohio Politics Roundup

Will John Kasich’s new strategy work? Will Sherrod Brown help Hillary Clinton rally liberals around her campaign? Read on in Ohio Politics Roundup.

What to watch for tonight: Ohio Gov. John Kasich has signaled he’ll pull no punches tonight in Colorado as he meets his rivals for the Republican presidential nomination.

“Kasich abruptly shifted his tone Tuesday by sharply rebuking three of his higher polling rivals for the nomination: [Donald] Trump, Ben Carson and Jeb Bush. This is a risky escalation of Kasich’s adult-in-the-room strategy. Where before acting like the grownup meant staying out of Trump’s muddy mosh pit, Kasich now is the angry father telling his children all the many ways they have disappointed him.” My debate preview and analysis of the New Kasich.

Join the club: “John Kasich needs a good debate. Then again, he’s not the only one. Which is why the Ohio governor treated guests at his debate send-off party Tuesday to a moment of vintage John Kasich,” writes the Cincinnati Enquirer’s Chrissie Thompson.

When and where to watch: An undercard debate featuring Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former New York Gov. George Pataki and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania begins at 6 p.m. on host CNBC.

The two-hour main event begins at 8 p.m., also on CNBC. Joining Kasich, Trump, Carson and Bush on the stage will be New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida.

Ohio Strong: Kasich’s Tuesday rally in Westerville originally was intended to show his strength in the battleground Buckeye State. His campaign released a list of more than 300 endorsements from GOP officeholders and activists in Ohio. The message: Even if current polls show him trailing Trump and Carson here, he’s the favorite son.

Tap the Rockies: In advance of the debate, Kasich also announced his Colorado supporters, led by former Colorado House Majority Leader Amy Stephens and Majority Whip B.J. Nikkel. Also endorsing Kasich: Former State Rep. Jeannie Reeser and former Republican National Committee member Mary Dambman.

Going with Grover: Kasich has signed the Americans for Tax Reform Taxpayer Protection Pledge – a vow not to raise taxes if he’s elected president.

“Gov. Kasich understands that government should be reformed so that it takes and spends less of the taxpayers’ money, and will oppose tax increases that paper over and continue the failures of the past,” the group’s leader, Grover Norquist, said Tuesday.

Kasich also signed the pledge in his capacity as governor. Some of his budget proposals have included consumption tax increases offset by income tax decreases. Norquist’s group has offered qualified blessings of those plans because they offer net decreases.

The Wall Street Journal takes a look at Kasich’s Medicaid expansion: “John is not a small-government conservative,” Ken Blackwell, Ohio’s Republican former secretary of state and losing gubernatorial candidate in 2006, tells the newspaper’s Janet Hook. “John has made his mark in being able to manage big government more efficiently.”

General Assembly patchwork:State lawmakers gave final approval Tuesday to legislation that offers an additional $44 million for dozens of Ohio school districts as well as tens of millions more to avert an unexpected tax hike on many small businesses next year,” the Northeast Ohio Media Group’s Jeremy Pelzer reports.

The waiting game: “As thousands of Ohio homeowners faced foreclosure during the last decade’s financial crisis, the state came through, delivering millions in bailout dollars sent from Washington. But first, the homeowners had to wait. And wait some more,” reports NEOMG’s Stephen Koff

“The process was painfully slow, with Ohio homeowners waiting months to get help – and sometimes more than a year, a pace that made the state the worst in the nation for many delays, according to a report being released Wednesday by a federal inspector general.”

Disclaimer of the day: “Marijuana still a federal crime even if Ohio legalizes it,” by NEOMG’s Jackie Borchardt. The votes will be counted in six days.

Buddie, explained: “Buddie, the mascot for a campaign to legalize marijuana on the Nov. 3 ballot, made a stop in Toledo on Tuesday to promote passage of the proposed constitutional amendment,” the Toledo Blade’s Tom Troy reports.

“‘College students 18 and older enjoy this and like having their picture taken with him,’ said Michael McGovern, coordinator of the Buddie bus tour on behalf of ResponsibleOhio. … McGovern said … Buddie has made stops twice a day since August. He denied the character is designed to encourage children to use marijuana, and said, “we call it ‘Buddie’s 21-and-up club.’”

Abortion bill pushback: “Cincinnati resident Batsheva Guy was overjoyed earlier this year when she found out she and her husband of over a year were due to have their first child together,” writes Dina Berliner of the Columbus Dispatch. “Shortly after they found out the sex of their baby during Guy’s second trimester ultrasound, doctors informed the soon-to-be parents that at 22 weeks into their pregnancy the fetus had a fatal spinal abnormality. Because of her experience, Guy said she is concerned about a pending bill in the Ohio legislature that would ban abortions after 20-weeks.”

A key liberal breaks for Hillary Clinton: “U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat, is endorsing Hillary Clinton for president,” Koff reports. “Brown’s endorsement could matter among Ohio primary voters next March as Clinton vies with Bernie Sanders for the party’s nomination. Brown has long embraced the progressive label, taking positions more often affiliated with colleagues such as Sanders, of Vermont, and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts than with moderates such as Clinton.”

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