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Average home price tops $100000 in Mansfield area

For the first time in several years, the average sales price of a home in the Mansfield area has topped $100,714 for a year-to-date period. It was a long time coming.

Back during the real estate boom year of 2005, home prices in the Mansfield Multiple Listing Service region averaged $106,598, only to reach a recessionary low four years later of $78,306. Since then prices here have been on a long, slow (often imperceptibly slow) recovery, which finally began to gain momentum this year.

According to the Ohio Association of Realtors, the average sale price of a home in the Mansfield MLS climbed to $100,714 for the first nine months of 2014, up 15.4 percent from the average of $87,288 at the same point last year.

In fact, average prices are up year to date in all 20 regions of the state the OAR monitors, and are now above $100,000 in all of them except Marion ($97,803). The highest average home price can be found in the Columbus MLS, at $184,483.

The year-to-date price hike of 15.4 percent in Mansfield is well above the state average of 4.6 percent, and second highest among the 20 MLS zones, behind Knox County.

Home sales, meanwhile, have leveled off, or are even dropping slightly, both in the Mansfield area and statewide.

For the year to date, sales are down 6.7 locally compared to the first nine months of 2013, worse than the average statewide decline of 3.5 percent.

“The market is redirecting itself to a more normal sales pattern,” Debra Jones, president of the Mansfield Association of Realtors, said. “The Ohio Association of Realtors is projecting that the numbers will be slightly lower than 2013. The first quarter started out slow due to the extreme weather conditions.”

“Through the three-quarter mark of 2014 the Ohio housing market has been able to display modest stability in the overall level of sales activity and healthy growth in pricing,” OAR president Chris Hall said.

“It’s evident that we’re continuing to make significant progress in re-establishing a solid foundation for the state’s housing sector. Throughout the year, our marketplace appears to have settled into a more traditional cycle, with minor variances in activity levels due to current market factors.”

For September only, home sales in Mansfield were up 12.9 percent from last September, with the average sales price up to $110,031, 7.6 percent higher than September 2013, trends consistent with most other MLS regions across Ohio for the month. But monthly statistics can exhibit considerable volatility compared to year-to-date numbers.

There were 605 properties in some stage of foreclosure in Mansfield in September, according to RealtyTrac, up from 594 in August. As a percentage of all property filings, foreclosures in Mansfield were lower than both the state and national ratios.

Mansfield’s highest concentration of foreclosed properties last month, one in every 1,035, was in ZIP code area 44905, east of downtown.

The average rate on a 30-year mortgage in Ohio is presently 3.80 percent, below the average of 4.01 percent a year ago. Mortgage rates have remained low despite the fact the Federal Reserve has been phasing out its bond-buying program, considered partially responsible for keeping rates low.

Those purchases are scheduled to stop completely this week, sending mortgage rates up slightly; 38 percent of outstanding mortgage securities are owned by the Fed.


Twitter: @ToddHillMNJ

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For Willie Nelson, a biodiesel dream deferred


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Oregon leads nation in percentage of vacant-house foreclosures, report says – The Oregonian

It’s an obscure data point, but Oregon had the nation’s highest percentage of vacant homes going through the foreclosure process, according to RealtyTrac, the real estate data firm.

About 18 percent of all properties in the foreclosure process nationally had been vacated, the firm says. Within that subset, Oregon had relatively more of these so-called “zombie” foreclosures than any other state. This may herald a new wave of foreclosure proceedings in Oregon.

John Helmich, chief executive of Eugene’s Gorilla Capital, which tracks foreclosure filings in most of Oregon, said this month “we see zombies in nearly every neighborhood and all have been empty for months or years. We expect more zombies to pass through foreclosure and back into the market over the next few months.”

Vacant houses are most likely to end up as auctions, short sales or bank-owned sales, RealtyTrac said.

The real estate data firm said 1,091 — or 36 percent of Oregon’s properties in foreclosure in the third quarter — had been vacated.

In terms of volume of such foreclosures, Oregon is far behind states such as Florida, which had almost 36,000 zombie foreclosures in the quarter, and New York, which had more than 12,000.

Oregon’s percentage of vacant houses may represent the state’s lengthy, on-and-off efforts to rework its foreclosure procedures. Federal judges and Oregon legislators have changed the rules about how lenders can proceed against delinquent borrowers.

Oregon launched its foreclosure mediation program in 2012. The Legislature expanded it last year. Those initiatives tended to push more foreclosures through the judicial process, which typically moves more slowly than non-judicial alternatives. But the changes also caused lenders to stop or not initiate foreclosure proceedings until the rules were clear.

Overall, zombie foreclosures declined in the third quarter in Oregon and around the country, RealtyTrac reported.

-Mike Francis

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Can Chevron Buy Richmond? – Truth

2014 1029 chev 1Richmond working families rally at City Hall, October 23, 2014. (Photo: David Solnit)

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The first Battle of Richmond took place in 1862, when the Confederate army won a stunning victory over Union troops in that Kentucky town. In terms of casualties, 206 Union soldiers were killed, 844 were wounded and 4,303 were captured or missing. The Confederate side suffered far fewer losses – 78 killed, 372 wounded, and only one soldier missing.

The current Battle of Richmond pits Big Oil and Wall Street against the citizens of the working class city of Richmond, California, north of San Francisco. The weapons aren’t rifles and cannons, but corporate cash against the votes of ordinary citizens. What’s at stake is the future of our democracy.        

Across America, cities have become ground-zero in the battle against plutocracy. In cities like New York City, Seattle, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, Boston, San Antonio, Phoenix, Newark, Los Angeles and Jackson, Mississippi, voters have recently elected progressive mayors and city council members who campaigned to challenge Wall Street and corporate America.

Once in office, these progressive and populist politicians work with community groups, environmental activists and unions to address the widening gap between the superrich and everyone else, adopt citywide living wage laws to help lift families out of poverty, fight for families facing foreclosures and layoffs, reign in the corporate polluters who put profits over people and public health, end racial profiling by local police and deal with racial inequality and discrimination by landlords and employers.

2014 1029 chev 2Mayor McLaughlin at the home of a family facing foreclosure. (Photo courtesy of ACCE)

Of course, the plutocrats aren’t sitting on their hands while the people fight for a fair economy. In the wake of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United and McCutcheon rulings, big business is reaching deep into its pockets to stop this challenge to its power and privilege. They are spending billions in campaign contributions, lobbying and election slush funds to try to buy and rent politicians. And, make no doubt about it, many candidates have a “for sale” sign on their campaign headquarters, more than happy to take Wall Street and Big Oil’s money.

Nowhere is this battle between organized people and organized money more evident than in Richmond, a small city of 106,000. There, Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, together with a team of progressive elected officials and their feisty allies among community groups, environment activists and labor unions, have turned their town into a laboratory for democracy around major national issues like Wall Street accountability and climate justice.

Over the past decade, Wall Street banks victimized Richmond’s working class families with high-risk predatory mortgages. As a result, Richmond has had more than its share of foreclosures, particularly among black and Latino residents, who represent 26 percent and 40 percent of the city’s population, respectively.

2014 1029 chev 3Mayor McLaughlin in front of Wells Fargo Headquarters in San Francisco. (Photo courtesy of ACCE)Close to half of all homeowners there are “underwater” – they are drowning in debt. In response, Mayor McLaughlin and the City Council struck fear into Wall Street by becoming the first city in the country to pass a plan (still to be implemented) to use eminent domain – a tool typically used to hurt our communities – in a new way to fix troubled mortgages and keep people in their homes.

But the real David versus Goliath story concerns Richmond and Big Oil. Mayor McLaughlin and her progressive City Council allies have also stood up to Chevron – America’s third largest corporation (after Walmart and Exxon Mobil) – whose massive Richmond refinery is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. For years, it spewed pollution and dumped toxic waste into the water and air. Richmond’s rate of child hospitalizations for asthma is double the rest of the state. The Richmond area also has one of the highest rates of breast cancer.

For many years, Chevron controlled Richmond’s municipal government. As late as the 1990s, the city manager’s office reserved a desk for a Chevron executive. But in the past decade, Chevron lost its grip on the city government. Voters were frustrated by high levels of violence, widespread corruption (leading to an FBI investigation), and persistent police harassment and brutality of the city’s Black and Latino residents.

In 2004, local activists formed the Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA), a coalition of environmentalists and Green Party activists, progressive Democrats, Latinos and African Americans. Over the course of several election cycles, progressives began winning seats on the city council and adopting new policies to improve living and working conditions in Richmond. They’ve been bolstered by effective grassroots organizing by the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), Communities for a Better Environment (CBE), the Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN), the West County Toxics Coalition, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and other labor groups.

2014 1029 chev 4Mayor McLaughlin and Community prior to big vote on eminent domain to save homes. (Photo courtesy of ACCE)

In 2006, McLaughlin ran for and was elected mayor against the incumbent. She was re-elected in 2010. Although the mayor’s office has little formal power, McLaughlin has effectively used her “bully pulpit” to promote progressive causes and campaigns. She’s spoken at a meeting of over 1,000 people to oppose Richmond police’s cooperation with federal ICE raids against undocumented immigrants. She participated in rallies and meetings demanding corporate clean-up of toxins. She led the charge demanding that Wall Street banks help local residents save their homes from predatory lending and foreclosures.

McLaughlin and her progressive council colleagues, as well as community activists and unions, have supported many grassroots and policy initiatives that consolidated their broad political support. They joined forces with “Operation Ceasefire” (a national campaign to reduce gun violence) and “Safe Return” (to help ex-prisoners find housing, job training, and employment in Richmond). The City removed questions about prior convictions from its application forms for municipal jobs. Richmond’s new police chief shifted the department to embrace community-oriented policing. The number of homicides in Richmond declined form 47 in 2007 to 18 in 2012.

The progressives expanded access to playgrounds and athletic facilities for Richmond’s young people, winning support from soccer-loving Latino residents and the predominantly black football teams and their supporters. Richmond created a municipal ID program to help residents (including undocumented immigrants) who lacked driver’s licences and other photo IDs needed to get ATM accounts and other services. Activists got local police to end its driver’s licence checkpoints (which were aimed at catching undocumented immigrants) and focus efforts on stopping drunk drivers. They promote bike lanes, supported worker-owned co-operatives, and expanded public art.

The progressive city officials persuaded Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to open its second campus in Richmond, a catalyst for many construction, office and research jobs as well as for attracting private research-oriented firms to locate near the government-run facility. Under the progressives, Richmond’s bond rating was upgraded to A. They’ve also initiated an effort to adopt a citywide minimum wage.

Despite these improvements, Chevron is not happy with Richmond’s municipal government. Why is the oil giant so determined to oust McLaughlin and her colleagues in the November 4 election?

  • In 2005, the City Council overturned a local law (enacted in 1992) that allowed Chevron to inspect its own construction projects rather than have city inspectors examine the company’s safety standards.
  • In 2008, Richmond voters supported Measure T to require Chevron to pay its fair share of taxes to the city.
  • Two years ago, a fire and explosion at Chevron’s oil refinery in Richmond sent 15,000 residents to the hospital. The federal Chemical Safety Board revealed for a decade Chevron had disregarded the advice of its own experts and workers to replace the corroded pipe that failed. Mayor McLaughlin and a coalition of community and environmental groups took Chevron to court. Chevron had to pay $2 million in fines and restitution and pled “no contest” to six charges that included, the Associated Press reported, “failing to correct deficiencies in equipment and failing to require the use of certain equipment to protect employees from potential harm.”
  • Mayor McLaughlin and her team also successfully challenged Chevron’s misleading environmental impact study of a proposed expansion project and made Chevron pay a $114 million tax settlement to the city and install ground-level air quality monitors
  • Last summer, the city council approved Chevron’s billion-dollar modernization plan for its refinery. But in exchange for that approval, the local officials required the giant oil company to adopt additional air pollution restrictions, stronger safety requirements, and $90 million in “community benefits.”

Chevron isn’t used to being treated this way. It is used to telling politicians to jump and having them ask, “how high?”

McLaughlin is termed out as mayor, but she is running for the city council. With five of seven council seats up for grabs, this election will determine whether Chevron will control Richmond’s future. The oil giant – which last year made $21.4 billion income and paid its CEO John Watson $20.2 million in compensation – has spared no expense to win the second Battle of Richmond.

2014 1029 chev 5Jovanka Beckles in front of City Hall, July 30, 2014. (Photo courtesy of ACCE)Chevron has already poured about $3 million – over $150 for every “likely” voter – into a committee to support their hand-picked candidates. Those on the progressive slate include: Gayle McLaughlin, Jovanka Beckles, Jael Myrick and Eduardo Martinez for city council, and Tom Butt for mayor. Butt, a longtime council member, has accused the Chevron-backed candidates of making their top priority “to take care of Chevron and developers and the industrial community.”

There is no local newspaper in Richmond, so Chevron started its own newspaper website called the Richmond Standard, run by an employee of Chevron’s PR firm named Mike Aldax. Its “stories” are nothing more than Chevron propaganda. (To provide more objective news coverage, the Graduate School of Journalism at UC Berkeley started Richmond Confidential, an online news service staffed by graduate students in journalism.

Chevron has also paid for a massive phone call propaganda campaign. Voters in Richmond are getting telephone calls that are thinly disguised as opinion surveys, but are actually attacks on Mayor McLaughlin and other candidates that oppose Chevron’s power grab.

Every day Richmond voters get campaign flyers in the mail paid for by Chevron that viciously attack and lie about McLaughlin and the other progressive candidates. “I have personally received between 20 and 30 mailers from Chevron candidates,” Richmond resident Leon Zhou said at a rally last week.

Chevron’s propaganda accuses Mayor McLaughlin of not doing her job, but in fact, she’s only missed one city council meeting in the past 4 years.

The progressive coalition of community activists, environmentalists and union members has already knocked on thousands of doors to encourage people to vote on November 4. They believe – as progressives always have – that organized people can beat organized money.

Even so, they need money to help sustain their grassroots efforts. They’ve asked supporters to donate to the Richmond Working Families PAC so that they can field enough organizers to knock on every targeted door and get out the vote.

The more voters are aware of Chevron’s efforts to buy this election, the more they support the progressive candidates. Plus, Chevron has made some serious mistakes.

This week the East Bay Express reported that one of the Chevron-backed candidates, Al Martinez, engaged in a variety of criminal deeds while he was a Richmond police officer. Chevron’s political action committee, Moving Forward, has spent $62,000 on behalf of Al Martinez and another $262,000 to attack his chief opponent, Eduardo Martinez, a retired school teacher who is no relation to Al. After the Express reported the charges against Al Martinez, Chevron severed its ties with him.

Chevron has a long history of trying to use its money to peddle political influence. It has spent millions fighting the $9.5 billion in damages it was ordered to pay by the Ecuadorian Supreme Court for pollution of part of the Amazon rainforest.

In national politics, Chevron has made huge contributions this campaign cycle to the National Republican Senatorial and Congressional Committees, US Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Texas Senator John Cornyn, Senate minority whip as well as an influential member of the Senate Finance Committee.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics’, Chevron recently donated $1 million to the Congressional Leadership Fund, “a conservative super PAC with ties to Karl Rove’s dark money network.”

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont visited Richmond two weeks ago to lend his support to the progressive slate and the feisty progressive activists who are fighting Chevron’s attempt to buy Richmond’s city government.

“At this profound moment in American history, where the billionaire class wants to get it all, we have got to fight back tooth and nail,” Sanders said to an enthusiastic crowd of about 500 at the Memorial Auditorium. “We cannot allow them to take over Richmond. We cannot allow them to take over America.”

2014 1029 chev 6Richmond Working Families press conference at City Hall, October 23, 2014. (Photo: David Solnit)

At a rally last week, McLaughlin and local residents erected a 10-foot-high sign that said: “Our Election is NOT FOR SALE.” Richmond voters are tired of an avalanche of daily campaign mailers and phone calls, largely paid for by Chevron. “We need to stand up against the corporate money flowing freely into our election,” said Stacey Wilborn, a city employee and member of SEIU local 1021. 

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Putnam County court records

Putnam County Common Pleas Court

Oct. 16

Daniel J. Stauffer, 19, 7644 Road 15C, Ottawa, pleaded guilty to grand theft. He faces up to 18 months in prison and $5,000 in fines. Bond was continued while a presentence investigation is conducted with sentencing set for 3 p.m. Nov. 24.

Oct. 22

Dalton A. McKitrick, 21, 7445 state Route 109, Ottawa, pleaded guilty to grand theft, burglary and possession of drugs. He faces up to 48 months in prison, $12,500 in fines and six months to five years license suspension. Bond was continued while a presentence investigation is conducted with sentencing set for 3:30 p.m. Nov. 24.

New Cases

Fort Jennings State Bank, v. Lucinda L. Nienberg, Columbus Grove; foreclosure.

Putnam County Municipal Court dispositions

Oct. 16

Edward K. Schulte, 53, 5979 Road 18, Continental, pleaded no contest to wrongful entrustment and was found guilty. Sentence: $150 fine.

Oct. 20

Cameshia L. Crawford, 27, 2312 Victor, Lansing, Michigan, pleaded guilty to an amended charge of driving under suspension. Sentence: 10 days jail, suspended, $150 fine. A charge of speeding was dismissed.

Oct. 21

James Ramon Jr., 28, 1800 Oakwood Ave., Napoleon, pleaded guilty to firearms in a motor vehicle. Sentence: 30 days jail, 27 days suspended, $250 fine, with credit for three days jail upon completion of DIP. He was also fined $100 for right-of-way/stop sign and $100 for failure to control.

Tony L. Ackles, 44, 150 Burlington Place, Lima, pleaded guilty to theft. Sentence: 180 days jail, 150 days suspended, $150 fine, barred from Ottawa Wal-Mart for two years, and two years probation.

Joseph R. Shaver, 56, 126 N. High St., Columbus Grove, pleaded no contest to license forfeiture and was found guilty. Sentence: $250 fine.

Marcos Zavala, 20, 717 W. Broadway St., #2, Leipsic, pleaded guilty to OVI second-offense. Sentence: 180 days jail, 120 days suspended, $1,000 fine, $400 suspended, three-year license suspension, complete assessment at Pathways Counseling Center or equivalent agency, two years probation.

Oct. 23

Tyson R. Kerner, 33, 1250 E. Third St., Ottawa, pleaded no contest to domestic violence and was found guilty. Sentence: 180 days jail, 160 days suspended, $500 fine, and complete assessment at Pathways Counseling Center or equivalent agency.

Richard A. Mort, 19, 3922 Allentown Road, Elida, pleaded guilty to telephone harassment. Sentence: 180 days jail, 173 days suspended, $250 fine, complete assessment at Pathways Counseling Center or equivalent agency and no contact with victim for two years.

Putnam County Municipal Court judgments

Oct. 20

Midland Funding, LLC, San Diego, default judgment v. Jennifer Potts, Columbus Grove, $904.52, plus interest and costs.

Midland Funding, LLC, San Diego, default judgment v. Soila Zapata, Ottawa, $821.14, plus interest and costs.

Orthopaedic Institute of Ohio, Lima, default judgment v. Tippi S. Turpin, Ottoville, $653.63, plus interest and costs.

Oct. 21

St. Rita’s Medical Center, Lima, default judgment v. Thomas F. Szegedi, Ottawa, $262.34, plus interest and costs.

Fia Card Services, Newark, Del., default judgment v. Chad A. Heuerman, Cloverdale, $8,396.71, plus interest and costs.

Oct. 23

St. Rita’s Medical Center, Lima, default judgment v. Katie M. Rayle, Pandora, $97, plus interest and costs.

Orthopaedic Institute of Ohio, Lima, default judgment v. Michael S. Slusser, Ottoville, $496.06, plus interest and costs.

St. Rita’s Medical Center, Lima, default judgment v. Tony Hung, Leipsic, $285.05, plus interest and costs.

St. Rita’s Medical Center, Lima, default judgment v. Ruperto Rodriguez, Ottawa, and Mary Rodriguez, Ottawa, $2,965.64, plus interest and costs.

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HOA HOMEFRONT: Partial payments of assessment delinquency are OK – Press

Since the assessment collection procedures were changed by the legislature in 2005, many have questioned whether associations were required to accept partial payments from delinquent members. Most associations and their law firms contended that unless the board and homeowner agreed upon a payment plan, the association could refuse anything less than full payment.

That question was resolved by the appellate court opinion in Huntington Continental Townhomes Association v. Miner, issued Oct. 14.

In that case, homeowner Miner fell behind in his assessments and the association sued, asking for the court to foreclose upon the home. After the lawsuit was filed, Miner and the association agreed on a payment plan. However, Miner defaulted on the payment plan, and later sent a $3,500 check to the association. The payment was about $2,100 short of the full balance, and the association refused the check and proceeded to obtain a judgment against Miner.

The appellate court ruled that the Davis-Stirling Act does not allow associations to refuse partial payments, and that if a homeowner pays enough to reduce the balance below $1,800 or one year of principal, the association’s foreclosure activity must cease. The court pointed out the lien still remains in force, but that foreclosure activity on the lien must cease.

The court noted that even if a homeowner stops foreclosure in this fashion, the association has options – it can proceed with a small claims court action for the funds (small claims court cannot award foreclosure, only money), can pursue a money damages claim in Superior Court, or can wait until the principal balance again reaches one year or $1,800 delinquency.

The court’s opinion, interestingly, acknowledges that some delinquent owners may use this ruling to stall foreclosure by paying just enough to keep the principal balance below the threshold, but that “the Legislature engaged in a balancing process and chose to accept that risk in order to protect owners from foreclosure and the loss of equity in their homes..”

The upshot of the ruling is simple for California associations: If a delinquent homeowner offers money, take it. Credit it first to the principal balance (required under Civil Code Section 5655). Associations pursuing nonjudicial foreclosure must stop that process if the resulting principal balance falls under the threshold. If an association is pursuing judicial foreclosure, the lawsuit can proceed but only for money damages, until the principal balance reaches the threshold.

Associations and delinquent members still should try their best to agree upon reasonable payment plans. Agreed payment plans cut off the hostility and the increasing cost of an ongoing collection process.

If a homeowner plays the partial payment game, trying to stave off foreclosure and make the collection fees seem large compared with the principal balance, this tactic can be brought to the court’s attention to illustrate why the association’s collection costs are reasonable.

Association boards owe it to their community to make sure everyone in the association pays their proper share of the community’s expenses. There is no reason to let this ruling deter that effort – ultimately the owner who plays games with delinquencies usually just increases their debt and problems.

(Readers: See any California statute online at the official state legal web page, or at

Kelly G. Richardson, CCAL, is a member of the College of Community Association Lawyers and Managing Partner of Richardson

Harman Ober PC, a law firm known for community association advice. Send questions to Past columns at All rights reserved.

Contact the writer:

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City in the shadow of Chevron fights back: Vote Team Richmond

For the Bay View’s election recommendations, see Bay View Voters Guide: It’s time to claim our political and economic power

by Malaika Kambon

“Water follows the contour to chart its course
“While consummate military tacticians capitalize upon
“The enemy’s mistakes and weaknesses to achieve victory” – Sun Tzu

Richmond Vice Mayor Jovanka Beckles approaches Richmond Progressive Alliance headquarters for a meet-and-greet to kick off the big fundraiser featuring Sen. Bernie Sanders on Oct. 16.  Photo: Malaika Kambon

Richmond Vice Mayor Jovanka Beckles approaches Richmond Progressive Alliance headquarters for a meet-and-greet to kick off the big fundraiser featuring Sen. Bernie Sanders on Oct. 16. – Photo: Malaika Kambon

As Chevron Corp. tries to kill the world, one tiny corner of the world is fighting back.

We learned on Aug. 6, 2012, just how many of us live under Chevron’s shadow when a huge toxic mushroom cloud from Chevron’s oil refinery in Richmond, looking for all the world like a war zone in Afghanistan – or Ferguson, Missouri – ripped a hole in the fabric of the universe, sending 15,000 Richmond residents to the hospital.

Said mushroom cloud then jumped on a thermal wind and for over five hours, rode it all over the Bay Area, spreading gaseous waste in its wake.

So even though Chevron has a website disguised as a community news source, let’s not get it twisted: Chevron is the enemy. It is the enemy of clean, breathable air, of people’s self-determination to be healthy, of community control of our destinies. Chevron is the enemy of a livable wage, of community investment, of affordable accessible health care, of formerly incarcerated people working, and of a free and fair electorate.

Chevron doesn’t care. But the city of Richmond does care. So they sued Chevron. This has angered Chevron, so it’s spending $1.3 million in an attempt to buy out the power of the people.

But the grassroots people of Richmond care about their city, and they are fighting back. Team Richmond, comprised of Gayle McLaughlin, Jovanka Beckles and Eduardo Martinez, continue to rise to the occasion. Running for seats on the 2014-2015 Richmond City Council, Team Richmond has battled everything from sexist, racist harassment, public slander and misinformation to Chevron trying to buy out the city elections.

Jovanka shares a big hug with longtime Richmond resident Miss Betty. Most Richmond residents can easily identify with Jovanka, whether they are Black, Latino/a or lesbian. She is all that  and progressive.  Photo: Malaika Kambon

Jovanka shares a big hug with longtime Richmond resident Miss Betty. Most Richmond residents can easily identify with Jovanka, whether they are Black, Latino/a or lesbian. She is all that – and progressive. – Photo: Malaika Kambon

But on Oct. 16, 2014, in a rousing, packed standing-room-only fundraiser that started at the Bobby Lee Bowens Progressive Association office and flowed to a capacity house in the Richmond Auditorium, people were literally hanging off the balconies and out the door in a wildly enthusiastic overflow crowd, where support for Team Richmond and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders literally brought down the house.

Sen. Sanders, also known as “the only independent member of our U.S. Senate,” in the words of Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, came all the way from Vermont to support Team Richmond and its fighting constituency.

And support them he did! There was a roundtable discussion at the office, filmed by UC Berkeley’s School of Journalism, followed by a meet-and-greet. People walked in off the street to talk with their candidates, eat good food, shake hands, break bread with and get their photos taken with a U.S. senator – and the mayor, vice mayor and retired public school teacher who is also an influential voice for Richmond’s Environmental Justice Coalition in Richmond. These are the people who comprise Team Richmond in their 2014 bid for the Richmond City Council.

Holding Daud Abdullahs powerful mosaic are partners Nicole Valentino and Jovanka Beckles and the artist.  Photo: Malaika Kambo

Holding Daud Abdullah’s powerful mosaic are partners Nicole Valentino and Jovanka Beckles and the artist. – Photo: Malaika Kambo

Folks coming in off the street ranged from Miss Betty, who has lived in Richmond for decades and who enthusiastically greeted Jovanka Beckles, to well known human rights attorney Ann Fagan Ginger to Richmond’s 18-year veteran mosaic artist Daud Abdullah, whose history of transforming the ordinary into works of art is legend. He recently received a grant through the Neighborhood Public Art grant project to decorate most of Richmond’s 300 trash cans and has decorated cans in Oakland, too.

On this night, he brought with him a beautifully done mosaic piece of an American flag with the words “I WANT A GOVERNMENT THAT IS NOT FOR SALE” written in it.

Obviously, Chevron is being out-matched, out-maneuvered and out-gunned in the face of the successes of the Richmond Progressive Alliance candidates. Their successful programs of raising the minimum wage, banning the box so that formerly incarcerated persons can work, demanding clean air and community investment from Chevron, keeping Doctor’s Hospital open, saving homes from foreclosure, taxing corporations, protecting the environment are now legendary and are spreading across the U.S. as role model accomplishments to inspire other cities.

Chevron’s response to this is public slander, a really big mushroom cloud of toxic contagion, no real safety measures against a repeat performance of that, and billions of dollars of what can only be as termed an anti-Richmond smear funding campaign!

The grassroots people of Richmond care about their city, and they are fighting back. Team Richmond, comprised of Gayle McLaughlin, Jovanka Beckles and Eduardo Martinez, continue to rise to the occasion.

Quiet, soft-spoken Eduardo Martinez is a powerhouse. He didn’t speak for very long, but then his 25-year track record of “Building a City for Our Children” as a city councilman, a man of the people, a retired schoolteacher and fighter for Richmond’s environment speaks for itself.

Richmond turned out to see their hometown heroes and potential presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, literally packing the big Richmond Auditorium to the rafters.  Photo: Malaika Kambon

Richmond turned out to see their hometown heroes and potential presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, literally packing the big Richmond Auditorium to the rafters. – Photo: Malaika Kambon

Next up, Mayor Gayle McLaughlin said, “There is no place like Richmond to experience the blatant evil that is Citizen’s United with the Chevron Corp.!” To a captive audience, she discussed things like the decay inherent in a “dysfunctional, market driven system,” the need for unity of will and purpose on a national level, and moving forward into the 22nd century to stop the corporate corruption of Chevron (and corporations like Chevron) when they bring their pants full of money to drown out every bit of opposition to itself. The applause when she spoke of these things rocked the foundations of the auditorium.

Vice Mayor Jovanka Beckles, named Outstanding Civic Organizer and Woman of the Year by Contra Costa College in 2014, received a standing ovation of several minutes when she was introduced. Leading the fight in fierce battles – and victories – on several key issues, she is most fiercely respected for uniting Richmond residents into a force that even Chevron has to respect.

If there had been an election held that night in the Richmond Auditorium, Richmond would have had Team Richmond on its City Council and one new mayor named Tom Butt.

Jovanka took the stage, poised, thanking all, assuring that persons with disabilities were comfortably seated before remarking that MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow ran an eight-minute TV segment on Oct. 13 entitled, “Big Money Chevron Muscles Local Government Election,” discussing Chevron’s attempt to buy off Richmond city government and install their very own company agenda talking heads.

It is fascinating for this reporter to note that Chevron, in its efforts to defeat a powerful movement, has bought its very own Negro-for-mayor and thrust him bodily into the upcoming Nov. 4 elections! His name is Nat Bates. He whines when he doesn’t get enough speaking time, and is rabidly homophobic. Political satirists and other pundits have had a field day with his antics.

The stars came out in Richmond on Oct. 16: Eduardo Rodriguez, Gayle McLaughlin, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Jovanka Beckles and Tom Butt.  Photo: Malaika Kambon

The stars came out in Richmond on Oct. 16: Eduardo Martinez, Gayle McLaughlin, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Jovanka Beckles and Tom Butt. – Photo: Malaika Kambon

Unlike most spry 83-year-olds, Bates is in his dotage. With 35 years as a Richmond City Council member and two terms as Richmond’s mayor in the ‘70s, Bates sits firmly in Chevron’s lap as a mayoral candidate, atop its seemingly limitless pocketbook.

Turn back the clock and circle the wagons, the Jurassic period has returned! Chevron has given this doddering relic $1.3 million in campaign funding, has plastered photos of his younger visage over all the billboards in the city of Richmond, and has sicced him on those whom Chevron wants out of office. At $1.3 million, he’s probably the most expensive slave in the history of the city!

This is dirty pool, even for Chevron – scraping the bottom of the plantation to find the most amenable puppet, one who will sit and stay on command! The man claims he cannot even remember how he votes on key political issues from one year to the next.

Maddow’s piece starts out, chillingly enough, with the comment, “As a general rule, you do not want the skyline of your city to look like this,” pointing to the giant mushroom cloud that formed over Richmond and the Bay Area during the 2012 Chevron oil refinery explosion.

Jovanka Beckles brought to the attention of the already pumped crowd that “Citizens United is the Supreme Court decision that says corporations are people and they may spend as much money as they want on political campaigns, and what we’re seeing going on in Richmond is what is going on nationally on a broader scale.”

Richmond Vice Mayor Jovanka Beckles speaks to a standing-room-only crowd at the Richmond Auditorium.  Photo: Malaika Kambon

Richmond Vice Mayor Jovanka Beckles speaks to a standing-room-only crowd at the Richmond Auditorium. – Photo: Malaika Kambon

Suffice it to say that as the evening continued, the City Council member running for mayor, Tom Butt, spoke of holding Chevron accountable, community policing, and veterans’ rights. And Sen. Sanders spoke of building a better world, in which the people hold corporate Goliaths like Chevron accountable – and win! – instead of depending on, in Mayor McLaughlin’s words “a hypocritical, health care budget cutting, chicken hawk Republican!”

Team Richmond spoke of “the movement that is happening right here at ground zero in Richmond,” that is being supported on a national level when a U.S. senator comes to town to support a tiny city fighting for its political life against corporate power politics.

If there had been an election held that night in the Richmond Auditorium, Richmond would have had Team Richmond on its City Council and one new mayor named Tom Butt.

Nov. 4 is days away. The power of the people is winning. Even though Chevron is trying to put the big fix on, the sprint to the finish line is near. The victory flag is in sight. All power to the people!

Malaika H Kambon is a freelance, multi-award winning photojournalist and owner of People’s Eye Photography. She is also an Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) state and national champion in Tae Kwon Do from 2007-2012. She can be reached at

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American Homeowner Preservation Foreclosure Filing Provokes Solution

American Homeowner Preservation Foreclosure Filing Provokes Solution

PRWEB.COM Newswire

PRWEB.COM NewswireChicago, IL (PRWEB) October 28, 2014

American Homeowner Preservation (“AHP”) announced today it was able to keep a struggling homeowner in his Indiana home with a loan modification this month. The borrower responded to AHP’s outreach efforts only after AHP initiated the foreclosure process six months ago. AHP purchases nonperforming mortgage pools at significant discounts in order to keep families in homes. Sometimes, when borrowers are unresponsive, AHP proceeds with foreclosure. Yet, in cases such as this Indiana homeowner, the company demonstrates a willingness to work with distressed borrowers even after starting foreclosure.

When AHP acquired Jim’s loan in late 2013, he had not made a payment since 2011. AHP contacted Jim with several settlement options including a loan modification, discounted settlement option and deed in lieu of foreclosure. Despite AHP’s efforts, Jim was unresponsive and foreclosure became the only option.

However, before AHP could commence the foreclosure process, its litigation department discovered a missing document. This prolonged the start of foreclosure until a lost allonge affidavit was produced. When the foreclosure process was set to proceed, AHP reached out to Jim again to advise him of his options. Jim remained unresponsive and the foreclosure moved forward.

Shortly after the foreclosure complaint was filed, a legal representative of Jim reached out to AHP and orchestrated a phone conference to discuss the case. In a show of good faith, AHP provided Jim and his legal representative with previous homeowner success stories to emphasize the company’s social mission. Jim originally had the option to settle his more than three years of delinquent payments for just $2,000, but due to his delayed response and the foreclosure start, Jim had to also pay legal fees.

As it turned out, since AHP had acquired his mortgage, Jim received an inheritance after his mother passed. This allowed Jim to comfortably afford AHP’s settlement offer, resume his monthly payments and stop the foreclosure.

In achieving outcomes such as this, AHP is playing a pivotal role in helping some homeowners recover from the housing crisis. “I started AHP in 2008 because millions were at risk of losing their homes,” AHP Founder and CEO Jorge Newbery. “I am pleased that we have saved many, but disappointed that millions were unable to find help. Keeping families in their homes is imperative to stabilize communities.”

American Homeowner Preservation is a socially responsible investment fund manager which empowers accredited investors to purchase equity in pools of distressed mortgages and earn returns of 9-12%. For further information or inquiries please visit or call 800-555-1055.

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Wikert: What’s wrong with Braley voting with Obama?

Joni Ernst said in her opening statement at a recent debate, “We see that now that Congressman Braley has voted 95 percent of the time supporting Nancy Pelosi and the president.” This statistic has also been used recently in anti-Braley ads on TV. So this begs the question, what’s the problem with voting for President Barack Obama’s agenda?

Supporters for Ernst may feel that they will be able to take advantage of Obama’s approval ratings which have been in the middle to lower 40th percentile ranges recently. History actually shows these numbers are not that low since they probably represent the Democratic base right now. In election years these numbers are expected.

Republicans must feel these approval ratings are low considering Obama once had ratings as high as 76 percent in February 2009 during the onset of the worst economic difficulties the U.S has experienced since the 1930s Great Depression.

Republicans seem to forget George W. Bush’s lowest approval rating was 19 percent. Since it was Bush’s administration that created conditions just short of the Great Depression, approval ratings of 20 percent for him seem fitting.

The other night I watched the 2005 award winning movie, “Cinderella Man.” The movie is about the fall and the rise of famous boxer James Braddock who eventually became the Heavyweight Champion of the World. His downfall was partially due to the Great Depression, and as I watched the movie I realized how lucky our country is today and how proud we should be of Obama.

The movie showed a realistic depiction of a “Hooverville” that was in Central Park in New York City during the time. The Central Park village sprung-up like the many homeless communities of cardboard and wood shanties that accumulated in public parks and properties throughout our great nation during the Great Depression.

The families and people living in these “Hoovervilles” had no employment or homes, and subsisted on bread lines and soup kitchens if those where available. They had no money and little access to medical help during this period. Although scholars’ opinions differ, it has been thought that virtually millions of Americans died of starvation or poverty related reasons from 1929-1940.

Many financial experts warned in early 2009, that if the U.S. government did not take crucial steps to help stop the decline of the stock market and the collapse of our banks, the country could see conditions similar to the ones of the Great Depression. Americans now seem to forget the fear that was present just six years ago in early 2009.

My generation remembers stories our parents told us about the Great Depression, so my wife and I considered withdrawing cash we had from our bank accounts, thinking that the collapse of the banks was a possibility. We finally decided to “stay the course” and put trust and hope in our new president. Without the steps Obama took and the speed in which he implemented them, we could have experienced similar effects to the 1930s, so some comparisons might provide perspective.

The unemployment rate during the Great Depression went from 3 percent in 1929 to a peak level 4 years later of 25 percent. Unemployment was still at 15 percent in 1940, 11 years later.

Thousands of banks closed with more than 4,000 banks closing in 1933 alone. People lost everything they owned. During the years of 1929-1932 household incomes plummeted 40 percent and construction of new homes dropped 80 percent. By 1934 more than half of all house loans in the U.S. were delinquent. Not until 1941 with the onset of World War II did the depression start to subside.

Comparatively, the U.S. unemployment rate in December 2007 was about 5 percent and it peaked in October 2009 at 10 percent in the middle of the recession. Through the diligent work of the Obama administration the unemployment rate is now down to 5.9 percent as of September 2014.

Unfortunately European countries that took less effective measures saw consequences like the 1929 crash. Some of these countries did experience unemployment of more than 25 percent. The United States should count itself lucky we have had such a decisive leader.

September 2014 marked the 55th continuous month of job creation for the U.S with 248,000 new jobs being created. Foreclosure activity across the United States declined in September to the lowest level since July 2006, as banks reclaimed fewer homes. September was the 48th consecutive month of year-on-year declines in overall foreclosure activity, which includes foreclosure notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions. Mid-September 2014 brought record highs on the New York Stock Exchange.

Although Obama is not a perfect president, it would appear that he has done a great job and I am disgusted with what I refer to as “Obama-bashing.” The disrespect that has been shown for Obama seems unprecedented in my lifetime.

A Republican even shouted, “You lie!” during the President’s televised Healthcare Address in front of the Joint Session of the U.S. Congress in 2009. Social media and emails are inundated with racial slurs, lies and twisted facts about Obama. Although many are afraid to say it, bigotry is still alive and well in America. Even considering philosophical differences, how else can you explain some of the Republican’s total disregard for the people they represent?

Republicans in Congress have been largely incompetent, except for the proficiency they have shown for obstructing the president. This obstruction started on Obama’s first inauguration night when a group of Republicans held a secret meeting and decided to do anything they could to oust this president—including voting no to every measure of legislation Obama put forth. Their obstructionism has won them the distinction of the worst, least effective Congress in the nation’s history.

Republicans seem very hard working when trying to create or mislead the public with phony scandals while trying to discredit the president. A writer for wrote, “The real scandal plaguing Washington is Republican obstructionism and their apparent glee at having phony scandals to cover the fact they lack any agenda to govern absent tax cuts for the rich and defaming the African American in the Oval Office.”

I personally hope there are some caring Republicans out there that want to work with our president and the Democratic Party, if only they could dispel their allegiance for party solidarity.

Ernst, other Republican candidates, and their supporters involved in political campaigns for offices this year in Iowa, seem to be emulating the same misleading and defamation techniques of their Washington comrades. When Iowan voters go to the polls on Nov. 4 they should remember that Braley did vote with Obama 95 percent of the time.

At a Montgomery County candidate forum in January, Ernst told a crowd that she believed Obama had “become a dictator” and that he needed to face the consequences, “whether that’s removal from office, whether that’s impeachment.” Republicans hope that Iowans are gullible and fickle enough to believe the misdirected and twisted facts they are bombarding them with in the media. But clearly these two candidate have differing philosophies.

How will you vote on Nov. 4?


Steve Wikert is a native Iowan, Vietnam veteran and retired educator in Cedar Falls. Click here to read more of his work.

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McArdle: Don’t buy a home if you can’t afford one – The Virginian

America needs more low-down-payment loans.

That seems to be the opinion of our government, anyway. The government agencies that drive most of the housing market are pushing for lower down-payment standards on mortgages, easing the 20 percent requirement that has become standard for much of the market.

The Center for American Progress approves: “We shouldn’t obsess about down payments,” said Julia Gordon, director of housing policy. “Research confirms that low-down-payment loans to lower-wealth borrowers perform very well if the mortgages are well-underwritten, safe and sustainable.”

This depends, of course, on what you think “perform very well” means. A low-down-payment loan made to someone with a good credit rating and a low debt-to-income ratio will perform better than a low-down-payment loan made to someone with terrible credit and a lot of debt. But it has a higher default risk than a mortgage made to a similar borrower with an adequate down payment, because when you start out with little equity, you’re apt to find yourself in foreclosure if you get into financial trouble.

I’m with Arnold Kling, a member of the Mercatus Center’s Financial Markets Working Group at George Mason University, which favors a free market:

“There is simply no way to make low down payment lending stable in any environment other than in a rising house price environment. The Center of American Progress’ study says it covers the last decade. If you made a low down payment loan in 2001, there was enough of a price increase after that you’re probably fine. But it only works in that environment and it creates this cycle of a boom as house prices are rising, and then once they stop rising everybody crashes. You get this epidemic of foreclosures. It destabilizes the entire market.”

Is there a good public-policy reason to encourage people to make a heavily leveraged bet on continued upward movement in home prices? Presumably, the argument is that many homeowners have done very well out of this over the past 50 years; rising home values sowed the seeds of many a college education and retirement fund.

But there are huge drawbacks to housing, too. Leveraged bets are great when they pay off; when they don’t, they leave you dead broke. Especially a bet on a large, illiquid asset such as a house. Put a homeowner into one of these gambles at the age of 35, send the local housing and job markets south a few years later, and the end result is a broke middle-age person with trashed credit in desperate need of a good rental unit. Which legislators should know, because we seem to have a lot of them around right now.

You also end up with a much more unstable housing market. When a huge segment of the market has negative equity or has equity too low to cover the substantial costs of a sale, then in any economic downturn, you are going to end up with a lot of foreclosures. Those foreclosures will, in turn, depress both the housing market and the broader local economy. Which again, we should all know, because we just went through this very process. So why are we so eager to return to this situation?

Because, I think, most of us still haven’t managed to shed the idea that buying a house is a good way to get some unearned bonus wealth. Too many people managed to do just that for too many years. We think of 2008 as an aberration, rather than reversion to the mean. And that’s a costly mental error.

The long, steep increase in American home prices from 1946 to 2008 was driven by a whole lot of trends that are hard to repeat: the invention of the 30-year, fixed-rate, self-amortizing mortgage, which allowed people to pay more for a house by lowering the monthly payments. The securitization revolution, which lowered mortgage risk by bundling the loans into large, diversified portfolios, thereby lowering rates. Rising inflation, which pushed up the price of houses. Falling inflation, which lowered interest rates and monthly payments still further and allowed people to pay even more for those houses. The credit-scoring revolution, which allowed banks to offer loans to more people, increasing demand for the existing housing stock. And in dense coastal areas, you also had the rise of NIMBY zoning laws, which made housing scarcer and therefore more expensive.

The problem is, these things have already happened. Most of them cannot happen again — interest rates can’t really go much lower. NIMBYism will go on, but the expectation of rising land values is already priced into the current value of the houses. If anything, it’s overpriced; I have a lot of conversations with Washingtonians who expect our housing market to follow a path like Brooklyn’s did, despite the notable absence of hyperwealthy financiers and international billionaires who want a pied-a-terre in our modest burg.

So I’m unimpressed by the argument that it’s unfair to lock financially marginal buyers out of this wondrous investment product. It’s unlikely that current homebuyers are going to experience the kind of windfall that their parents and grandparents did, if for no other reason than the fact that too many of them are still expecting that sort of windfall and factoring that expectation into what they’re paying for a house.

Which is not to say I am against buying homes. I am very much for buying a home — so much so that I went and bought one myself a few years ago. But buying a house is a good idea only if you meet the following conditions:

You can afford a sizable down payment to cushion you from the effects of local economic downturns or you have a super-stable job, such as working for the government or your father-in-law, that makes you unlikely to ever miss any payments.

You can afford the maintenance as well as the payments, insurance and property taxes.

You have good disability or mortgage insurance to make sure that you do not miss any payments even if you break your back and can’t do your job anymore.

You are pretty sure you do not want to leave your area or move to a larger, more expensive home anytime in the next five years.

Your payment is a reasonable percentage of your take-home pay (I shoot for under 25 percent; anything over 35 percent is far too risky).

You have a sizable emergency fund to deal with contingencies.

You can afford other forms of savings, rather than counting on your house as a piggy bank for future needs. In general, if declining home prices would send you into a hysterical panic about your financial situation, you are buying too much house.

When legislators and activists say that we need low-down-payment loans because most people couldn’t possibly save up for a 20 percent down payment, what they’re really saying is that people can’t actually afford to buy a house. Helping them to go buy one anyway is not a great idea; it will work out well for some, to be sure, but it will have tragic consequences for others, and for the housing market as a whole if there’s another downturn. We just spent six years learning, the very hard way, that you can’t borrow yourself rich. That knowledge is too expensive to throw away so easily.


Megan McArdle is a Bloomberg View columnist.     



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