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Should Originators Really Care About Rate Checker?

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Take a trip up the main street in any big city and you will notice a few interesting things. Look at the gas stations that havebeen there for many years. There is probably one on each of the four corners on the major intersection right?

Now look at their signs. They are all different and one of them is usually significantly cheaper than the other three. Once you have filled up your tank, keep driving.

You will see a Walmart and a Costco if you live in a city with any sort of density. Not far away, usually a mile or two down the road, you will see a store that sells upscale jewelery, upscale clothing, upscale appliances and similar things.

Please stay with me here; this has everything to do with your own mortgage business.

In my hometown of Baltimore you can drive up York Rd. and see a mall full of cars shopping at Tiffany’s, Burberry and Nordstrom. Drive three miles down the road and you will see Dollar General and Walmart along with a Men’s Warehouse and other discount stores.

All of them are busy; all of them are doing business. All of them!

I mention all of this because of all of the noise the past few weeks over the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s rate checker and the new company that is trying to eliminate us and have “robotic” on-line originations.

That’s fine. Why waste your energy and time debating it?

None of us will ever have the best rate, and we don’t need to. (Read the last part again!)

If you know me at all then you realize that being successful has nothing to do with rates and points.

It’s all about expertise and marketing.

It’s all about “picking a niche,” which will lead you to become the expert and then you need to let everyone know about it.

My clients rarely even ask me about my rates and points. They want to know what their payment will be and how much cash they will need at closing – that’s it!

Yes, I realize that sounds easy but let me give you a real -life example.

I regularly mail to apartment complexes with a systematic way of generating new deals. I also mail directly to renters who I know are eligible and have had a bankruptcy or foreclosure and are now able to buy. One of the clients that came from this mailing was ready to buy and I got her pre-approved. I then called an agent in an office I had no relationship with and turned my buyer over to one of the top agents in that office who I had never met or spoken to.

That agent has already sent me two new deals- both conventional loans with 20% down and 800 credit scores.

Did you follow that recipe: I gave the agent what she wanted, a pre-approved buyer ready to buy and used that to build our relationship, much better than donuts. huh!

My niche, and the one that will be exploding this year, is buyers who have had a bankruptcy or other credit issue. Some have had a foreclosure three or four years ago or even longer.

They are now eligible for a mortgage, but they don’t realize that.

This segment has been given a name – Boomerang Buyers – and the last estimate was that there are close to 7.5 million of them who are now eligible to buy.

Are you talking to them? Didn’t think so! But they are ready and willing to get back in the market!

Stop worrying about pricing so much and start worrying about marketing and the niche you will become the expert in.

Brian Sacks is the president of Loan Officer Tips and Agents Chase You. He has taught thousands of loan officers over the past 30 years how to close more loans, make more money and still have time to enjoy life. You can view his free report at www.AgentsChaseYou.com.He is also the founder of the Loan Officer Tips group in LinkedIn, which you can join at https://www.linkedin.com/groups/Loan-Officer-Tips-8225444

Article source: http://www.nationalmortgagenews.com/news/origination/should-originators-really-care-about-rate-checker-1043978-1.html

Last-ditch foreclosure hearings draw many Detroit homeowners

By COREY WILLIAMS
Associated Press

DETROIT (AP) – Hundreds of Detroit homeowners in danger of losing their properties flocked Thursday to hearings that offered a last-ditch chance to avoid foreclosure and to keep the houses from adding to the city’s already huge glut of vacant dwellings.

The homeowners nearly filled a long conference room in Detroit’s Cobo Center while waiting for their cases to be heard. Many hoped to work out payment plans to ease their tax debts under new laws signed this month by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder.

“Everybody does have a story. Most of them are probably true, because you couldn’t make them up if you try,” said Eric Sabree, Wayne County’s deputy treasurer of land management. Officials expect more than 14,000 property owners to seek help over seven days of hearings that run through Feb. 6.

“We have to collect taxes by law … but we definitely do not want to take the property,” Sabree said. “We want to show options that people have to save their properties.”

More than 60,000 of the county’s 76,000 foreclosed properties are in Detroit, threatening neighborhoods that have yet to recover from the national mortgage crisis.

About $326 million in taxes, interest and fees are owed on the foreclosed homes, lots and other buildings in Detroit. Mapping data shows that about 37,000 of those properties are occupied.

“One of the reasons why we want people to stay in their homes is because when they become abandoned, they get stripped. They become a crime scene. They become a drug house,” Sabree said. “It’s better to let the person stay in the house and collect taxes even if it takes longer to collect the money.”

Mourice Neal was looking for just a little help. His tax bill is $4,900 on a home he bought in 2013 on Detroit’s North End. Paying that amount would dangerously stretch what he receives in Social Security payments.

“It’s a good process. They are looking at my income,” said Neal, who is 46.

But Thomas Jackson left his hearing without knowing if anything could be done with the $27,000 tax bill on his home in northwest Detroit. He said he was told special consideration was needed to get a payment plan. He has another hearing next month.

“They told me they can’t help me here,” said Jackson, 40, who has not paid taxes on his home since 2012, when he lost his automotive job.

He has since found a new job and wants to keep the house he bought in 2009, but said losing it would not be the end of the world.

“I’m working now. I can find somewhere else,” he said.

Regina Lee, 50, went to the hearing ready to pay the $1,200 owed on two lots that sandwich the home she grew up in. She said she was unaware her now-deceased grandmother listed her as owner of the lots until a relative received a foreclosure notice from the county.

“That’s my grandmother’s legacy,” Lee said. “I guess she put my name on them for a reason. I’m hoping that I can pay to keep them or do a down payment.”

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Article source: http://www.newson6.com/story/27975845/last-ditch-foreclosure-hearings-draw-many-detroit-homeowners

ACLU: Group Improperly Barred Protesters From Detroit Park

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By COREY WILLIAMS/Associated Press

DETROIT (AP) – A nonprofit group that maintains a popular downtown Detroit park improperly barred groups from protesting there, a lawsuit filed Wednesday alleges.

The American Civil Liberties Union names the Detroit 300 Conservancy and Guardsmark security in its lawsuit filed in federal court in Detroit.

The lawsuit contends that a security guard asked four members of the anti-foreclosure group Moratorium NOW! to leave Campus Martius as they began petitioning last February against cuts to city pensions in Detroit’s bankruptcy plan. The guard told the group that the public park was in fact private and that they risked arrest, according to the lawsuit.

About 15 members of Women in Black-Detroit, an anti-war group, also were prohibited in June 2013 from marching through the park, the lawsuit said.

“Campus Martius belongs to the city of Detroit and its people,” ACLU staff attorney Brooke Tucker told reporters Wednesday. “Regardless of who manages our public assets, no private organization’s rules will ever trump the freedoms enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.”

The ACLU is seeking a preliminary injunction to stop the banning of petitions and marches at Campus Martius, and an admission from the conservancy that the actions violated First Amendment rights, Tucker said.

Campus Martius is considered by many as downtown Detroit’s public square. Musical programs, Christmas tree-lighting ceremonies and other events are held there. The park is turned into an ice-skating rink in the winter.

On its website, the Detroit 300 Conservancy lists itself as successor to Detroit 300 Inc., which funded construction of Campus Martius. The conservancy says it is “responsible for management, maintenance and operation of the park” under an agreement with the city.

The organization said in an email that it would review the claims but that before Wednesday it was unaware of concerns about the events cited in the lawsuit.

“The conservancy takes the diverse and inclusive stewardship of Detroit’s public spaces very seriously and has a long history of working with our public and civic community partners,” it said.
Guardsmark didn’t immediately respond to a message Wednesday seeking comment.

Mayor Mike Duggan’s office said the lawsuit is being carefully reviewed.

“The city will appropriately respond in court,” city attorney Melvin Hollowell said in an email. “Of particular note is that the two alleged events giving rise to the lawsuit occurred a year ago and almost a year and a half ago, respectively. The city of Detroit respects the constitutional rights of all our citizens, and our policies reflect that.”

Duggan took office as mayor in January 2014.

Some types of demonstrations may need local permits, but First Amendment rights would apply for people in public parks anywhere whether the parks were managed by a city or a private entity, said Peter Scheer, executive director of the First Amendment Coalition.

The nonprofit is based in San Rafael, California, and focuses on protecting rights under the First Amendment and public access to information about government.

Detroit, which emerged in December from the country’s largest municipal bankruptcy, has entered into public-private partnerships as a way to improve some public amenities without using money the city doesn’t have available.

The ACLU says in 2013 it urged another nonprofit – the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy – to stop preventing demonstrations along the Detroit RiverWalk.

“As privatization becomes more widespread (there is concern) that people will somehow lose their rights,” said Michael Steinberg, ACLU legal director. “Campus Martius is a public park owned by the city of Detroit for the people of the city of Detroit, and they should be able to express their views on matters of public importance just like at any other public park.”
© Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Article source: http://detroit.cbslocal.com/2015/01/28/aclu-group-improperly-barred-protesters-from-detroit-park/

House of Cards: A DC Real Estate Column – The Intercept

In October of 2014, former Democratic Senator Majority Leader Tom Daschle and his wife sold their seven-bedroom, seven-bathroom house on Foxhall Road for $3.25 million.

It was not an unusually large haul for a member of Washington’s political elite, but it was a big step up from his financial circumstances in 2003. Daschle’s financial disclosure form—filed a year before he lost a race to John Thune, marking the first time in more than half a century that a Senate party leader failed to win reelection—showed his net worth to be between $400,000 and $1.2 million. It was a pitiful amount by congressional standards and led CNN to disparage him as a senator of “modest means.”

After leaving office, however, Daschle immediately began making millions by advising corporations. During the two years prior to his failed nomination to head Health and Human Services he netted $5.2 million, mostly from healthcare, energy, private equity and telecommunications companies. That included big compensation for speaking appearances (he is, according to his speakers’ bureau profile, “a tireless fighter for the common man”) and for authoring such works as, Getting It Done: How Obama and Congress Finally Broke the Stalemate to Make Way for Health Care Reform, which was subsequently found to induce narcolepsy in laboratory rats.

There’s a common perception that government doesn’t work and that “partisan gridlock” has made things worse than ever. But when it comes to fundamental economic questions, there is no partisan divide in Washington and the system is “broken” only if you’re part of the growing slice of the population that’s poor or middle class, for whom average income has been stagnant for decades.

For those at the top of the economic pyramid, like Tom Daschle, government is ruthlessly efficient at funneling money upward via tax cuts and loopholes, corporate subsidies, deregulation and other business-friendly policies. The richest 400 Americans now own more than the bottom half of the population combined and inequality “is greater now than it has been at any time in the last century, and the gaps in wages, income, and wealth are wider here than they are in any other democratic and developed economy,” historian Colin Gordon writes in “A Political History of American Inequality.” Meanwhile, a new report by Oxfam predicted that, by next year, the world’s richest 1 percent will command more wealth than everyone else.

One of the reasons that government works well for the wealthy is that so many elected officials are wealthy themselves, and directly benefit from the economic measures they pass. The median net worth of the current Congress is slightly north of $1 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, and that surely understates their wealth because it’s based on financial disclosure forms that don’t require the listing of real estate holdings.

Our millionaire politicians depend overwhelmingly on campaign contributions from their class comrades to win and hold office. Only 0.18 percent of Americans donate $200 per year to political candidates and only 0.03 percent give the legal maximum of $2,600. Washington has about 646,000 residents, just .02 percent of the U.S. population. But in 2014 thus far people using DC home or business addresses have collectively contributed $237 million to federal candidates, PACs, political parties and outside spending groups, about 17 percent of all individual donations. More political money flows out of the 20005 zip code—the heart of the capital’s lobbyist/PR complex—than from each of 19 states.

(For an unbelievably nonsensical take on why rich people don’t have inordinate political influence, read this opinion piece from the Washington Post Outlook section—naturally—by Darrell M. West of Brookings. He writes, for example, “Conservative financiers didn’t defeat President Obama in 2012, despite spending hundreds of millions of dollars to do so.” Note to West: There are plenty of billionaires who supported Obama.)

A political system that transfers wealth upward didn’t happen by chance, but was the willful creation, and decades in the making, of our corporate and political overlords.

The process began in the early-1970s, amid the twin political crises of Vietnam and Watergate and an economy showing signs of stagflation, when business began a campaign to smash the post-war agreement that tolerated unions and offered wages allowing millions of workers to join the middle class and, at the lowest end, escape poverty. Between 1947 and 1979, the share of income going to the top 1 percent fell by about 27 percent. Then the effects of the corporate campaign began to kick in. Between 1980 and 2012, the share going to the top 1 percent rose by 120 percent.

The corporate campaign created a political consensus that churns out business-friendly policies no matter which party is in power. It also changed the nature of government employment. Fifty years ago, people came to Washington drawn by a sense of public service, however they defined it, and they often stayed in the public sector over much of their careers. Now working in government is a brief way station on the road to better things. Many of those who come to DC with little wealth leave in a position to become rich, and those who come rich are able to become richer.

After he went to prison for bribing public officials, lobbyist Jack Abramoff claimed in his memoir, Capitol Punishment, that he controlled around 100 members of Congress. In addition to offering them and their staff free meals at his high-end restaurant, Signatures, Abramoff handed out luxury box tickets to sporting events and junkets to the world’s most exclusive golf destinations. But his most effective tactic was simply to float the suggestion to congressional staffers that he’d hire them when they left the Hill. Abramoff would then effectively “own” the staffer, who would perhaps even unconsciously start making decisions that benefited his future employer. “His paycheck may have been signed by the Congress, but he was already working for me, influencing his office for my clients’ best interests,” Abramoff wrote. “It was a perfect–and perfectly corrupt–arrangement.”

In this environment it’s misleading to use the term “revolving door,” because that falsely suggests that there are sharp lines separating corporate America, government and the influence peddling complex.

Linda Daschle stands with her husband, Tom Daschle, former majority leader, during the 15th Annual Mark Twain Prize for American Humor at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., U.S., on Monday, Oct. 22, 2012. Photographer: Stephanie Green/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Linda Daschle stands with her husband, Tom Daschle.

For the political class, cashing in doesn’t require brains, hard work, dedication or talent, but merely a willingness to sell to the highest bidder the Rolodex you compiled while in government. That brings me to a topic I’ve been writing about a lot, namely the incredible wealth being compiled by former politicians and hangers-ons, with a focus on their real estate holdings.

Over the past month or so, I’ve written about a former FBI director’s beachside penthouse (co-owned by his wife, and a client he “cleared” of wrongdoing), an Iraq War-financed McMansion, and a lavish Virginia property owned by a CIA torturer. I like writing about real estate because it’s hard to get people’s bank account records, but you can roughly track their wealth through their property holdings.

Consider, for example, Daschle, and his wife, Linda. Tom now lobbies for America’s biggest corporations but avoids registering (and disclosure laws) by calling himself a “strategic adviser.” He was Barack Obama’s first choice to be Secretary of Health and Human Services but had to withdraw due to a number of embarrassing ethical lapses, like failing to pay taxes on a chauffeured limousine provided to him by a friend and political donor. His second wife Linda, a former Miss Kansas, advertises herself more honestly and is considered to be one of the most powerful lobbyists in Washington.

The pair met in 1980 when Tom was a freshmen House member and Linda held a low-level position with the Civil Aeronautics Board, which is supposed to help regulate the airline industry. He had stopped by her office as part of a congressional visit and wedding bells rang swiftly (as soon as Tom dumped his first wife, who in 1978, according to this story in Washington Monthly“had helped him ring 40,000 doorbells and go on to unseat an incumbent by 14 votes”).

Soon after their marriage, Linda landed a lobbying job with the Air Transport Association and in 1993 Bill Clinton appointed her to a senior position at the FAA. Four years later she tired of public service and returned to lobbying (at a firm founded by former senator Howard Baker).

Linda emerged as a lobbying powerhouse by representing clients (mostly aviation firms), whom her husband helped out while in the Senate. For example, she helped American Airlines get bailouts, even after the carrier had worked to “water down safety and security regulations that might have helped foil the World Trade Center attacks.” There’s no way to track Linda’s lobbying income, but she’s assuredly a mega-millionaire in her own right.

When Tom was a senator the couple owned a comfortable home in DC, but in 2011 they bought the seven-bedroom house at 2830 Foxhall Road NW. The year before, the Daschles bought two plots of land for $1.3 million in Bluffton, South Carolina, near the resort town of Hilton Head Island. By 2013, they had started building a house on them. It’s a perfect spot for this ardent champion of the “common man” and his superlobbyist wife. Bluffton has been proudly described by southernnationalist.com as the Antebellum birthplace of Southern secession that made its name by “embracing inequality as a positive good and rejecting democracy as a destructive evil.”

Representative Richard Baker, a Democrat from Louisiana, asks a question at a House of Representatives Financial Services Committee hearing titled Sarbanes-Oxley at Four: Protecting Investors and Strengthening Markets, in Washington, D.C., September 19, 2006.  Photographer: Dennis Brack/Bloomberg News

Representative Richard Baker, a Democrat from Louisiana.

Because I’m bipartisan, let’s now turn to former Congressman Richard Baker, a Democrat turned Republican in 1986. While representing Louisiana in congress between 1986 and 2008, Rep. Richard Baker was a reliable voice of right-wing hackery (in one of his last official acts he sponsored a resolution that “calls attention to…the contributions of Christianity to the foundation of the United States”) and evil (“We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans,” he was overheard telling a group of lobbyists soon after Hurricane Katrina. “We couldn’t do it, but God did.”).

Baker long served on the House Banking Committee and chaired a subcommittee that was supposed to police Wall Street, but instead worked to repeal the Glass-Steagall Act, which was passed during the Great Depression and separated commercial and investment banking. This was Wall Street’s wettest dream and led directly to rapid consolidation of the financial industry and the economic crash of 2008 that cost Americans $22 trillion and left millions unemployed and in foreclosure.

As a token of gratitude for such service, the financial industry contributed nearly $1.6 million to Baker’s congressional campaigns; his three single largest career donors were JPMorgan Chase, the American Bankers Association and Bank of America.

Baker resigned in 2008 and moved directly to Wall Street’s payroll as chief lobbyist for the Managed Funds Association (MFA), the voice of the hedge fund industry. Since then Baker has helped his patrons defeat stricter regulation of derivatives trading and higher taxes on hedge funds and their executives.

Enriching Wall Street firms (like JPMorgan, which sits on the MFA’s board) and destroying the American middle class has netted big returns for Baker. By congressional standards he was poor when he left office; financial disclosure forms show his total net worth at the time was $75,000 and that his biggest single asset was K’s Louisiana Market, his wife’s catering firm. Back then he resided in a modest home in Baton Rouge.

Life improved dramatically when Baker went to work for the Managed Funds Industry. According to the group’s latest IRS tax filing, he took home $2.3 million in 2011, which included a bonus of $700,000 and represents a 1,500 percent raise from his tawdry congressional salary of three years prior.

While Baker cleaned up, his financial sponsors were systematically ripping off his former constituents. For example, in 2012 Wells Fargo—a major campaign contributor to Baker and member of the MFA—settled a federal housing discrimination complaint over charges that it had allowed properties it foreclosed upon in minority neighborhoods of New Orleans to fall into neglect and disrepair, while carefully maintaining its stocks of foreclosed homes in white neighborhoods (Wells Fargo, as part of the settlement, agreed to pay $234.3 million in relief and compensation).

Such Louisiana woes don’t appear to have affected Baker. He currently owns three properties in his home state, among them a waterfront lot. (The real estate advertisement for the lot read: “Are you looking for the ultimate in elegant, private, and classy river front property but haven’t found it yet? Stop!!!!”). He paid $237,000 for it, a mere month’s pay on his current salary. It’s not a mansion, but it does come with room to dock two forty-foot boats.

But don’t worry–the “Waterfront Sanctuary” isn’t Baker’s most impressive property. In 2010, already flush with hedge fund cash, he bought a shiny new home in Baton Rouge for $2.27 million.

Coming next on House of Cards: Code Ridge

[Author’s Note: I’ve been writing about these issues for a very long time. Some parts of the above were adapted from my prior articles, which have appeared previously in Harper’s, and other publications.]

Photo: David Zalubowski/AP; Stephanie Green/Bloomberg/Getty; Dennis Brack/Bloomberg/Getty

Article source: https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2015/01/29/house-cards-dc-real-estate-column/

The majority of consumers have subprime credit scores, report says


(Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

The job market may be growing at the fastest clip in 15 years, but many consumers are still trying to clear nasty scars from their credit reports.

The majority, or 56 percent, of consumers have subprime credit scores, according to a report released Thursday by the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED), a nonprofit that advocates for policy changes to help low- and moderate-income households. As a result, these consumers are often locked out of the lending markets. And if they are borrowing, chances are they’re missing  out on the lowest rates being offered to consumers with stronger credit.

“There are millions of Americans who are being excluded from the financial mainstream,” says Jennifer Brooks, director of state and local policy at CFED and lead author of the report. “They’re relegated to using fringe, often high cost financial products that trap them in a cycle of debt.”

Credit experts say the report is a reminder that even as many Americans are returning to work and earning steady paychecks for the first time in a while, repairing credit takes time. Late payments and delinquent accounts that are sent to collections, such as defaulted credit cards or a foreclosure, can stay on your credit report for up to seven years. Bankruptcy filings can stay on there for up to 10 years.

“In the world of consumer credit scoring, if you mess up, it’s a seven to 10 year penalty,” says John Ulzheimer, president of consumer education at CreditSesame.com, a credit management Web site.

It’s been seven years since the Great Recession officially started. But many of the people who fell behind on loan payments, lost their homes or filed for bankruptcy may still be waiting for those results to clear out of their credit reports, Ulzheimer says. “I think most people were able to keep their job for some period of time — they fought the fight,” he says. “If they did eventually lose their home, they probably didn’t do so for a few years.”

The researchers at CFED analyzed credit data from TransUnion, one of the major credit reporting agencies. The credit score information was based on the TransRisk score, which ranges from 100 to 934. Anyone with a credit score of 700 or lower was considered to be near prime or subprime, says Kasey Wiedrich, director of applied research for CFED.

The consequences of having a subprime credit score vary. For some consumers, it will mean having to pay higher interest rates for mortgages, auto loans and credit cards, Wiedrich says. Other consumers may not qualify for conventional loans at all, requiring them to turn to riskier and more expensive ways of borrowing, such as payday loans or car title loans. “There is a big range,” she says.

Some consumers who have thin credit files because they haven’t taken out many loans in the past were not included in the report. It’s also important to note that there are many types of credit scores and the TransRisk score is not the most commonly used by lenders, Wiedrich says. Banks and financial institutions can use different standards when assessing potential borrowers and setting the terms on loans, she adds.

Many of the people who fell behind on loans during the crisis may now be making steady payments and are on a path to rebuilding their credit scores, says Ulzheimer. Some of the issues that held them back initially, such as late payments or delinquent accounts, will count less toward their credit scores as time goes on.

People working to repair their credit scores should focus on making their payments on time each month, since recent payments will have a bigger effect than older payment records, says Gerri Detweiler, director of consumer education for Credit.com. Reducing the overall debt load will also make a difference.

“The two things that are going to have the greatest impact on your score are going to be your payment history and the debt that you’re carrying,” she says.

Consumers should also watch how much of their available credit is in use. Using less than 10 percent of available credit is ideal, but if that’s not attainable, people should use less than 25 or 30 percent of their credit.

It may also hurt someone’s credit scores if any one credit card has a high balance, Detweiler says, so consumers should try to keep individual credit card balances to below 30 percent of available credit. And people should be selective about how many credit cards they apply to, since credit inquiries can ding a person’s credit score and stay on their credit reports for up to two years, she says.

Read More:

Want to lose weight? Get on a budget.

Stop paying so much for tax help

Pulling people out of poverty with one-on-one help

Article source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/get-there/wp/2015/01/29/the-majority-of-consumers-have-subprime-credit-scores-report-says/

ACLU lawsuit: Detroit conservancy improperly barred protest groups from …


DETROIT –

A nonprofit group that maintains a popular downtown Detroit park improperly barred groups from protesting there against the city’s bankruptcy and domestic and overseas violence, a lawsuit filed Wednesday alleges.

The American Civil Liberties Union names the Detroit 300 Conservancy and Guardsmark security in its lawsuit filed in federal court in Detroit.

The lawsuit contends that a security guard asked four members of the anti-foreclosure group Moratorium NOW! to leave Campus Martius as they began petitioning last February against cuts to city pensions in Detroit’s bankruptcy plan. The guard told the group that the public park was in fact private and that they risked arrest, according to the lawsuit.

About 15 members of Women in Black-Detroit, an anti-war group, also were prohibited in June 2013 from marching through the park, said the suit.

“Campus Martius belongs to the city of Detroit and its people,” ACLU staff attorney Brooke Tucker told reporters Wednesday. “Regardless of who manages our public assets, no private organization’s rules will ever trump the freedoms enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.”

The ACLU is seeking a preliminary injunction to stop the banning of petitions and marches at Campus Martius, and an admission from the conservancy that the actions violated First Amendment rights, Tucker said.

Campus Martius is considered by many as downtown Detroit’s public square. Musical programs, Christmas tree-lighting ceremonies and other events are held there. The park is turned into an ice-skating rink in the winter.

On its website, the Detroit 300 Conservancy lists itself as successor to Detroit 300 Inc., which funded construction of Campus Martius. The conservancy also says it is “responsible for management, maintenance and operation of the park” under an agreement with the city.

The Associated Press left phone messages Wednesday with conservancy president Robert Gregory, who is named in the lawsuit, and Guardsmark. A message seeking comment also was left with Mayor Mike Duggan’s office.

Detroit, which emerged in December from the country’s largest municipal bankruptcy, has entered into public-private partnerships as a way to improve some public amenities without using money the city doesn’t have available.

The ACLU says in 2013 it urged another nonprofit — the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy — to stop preventing demonstrations along the Detroit RiverWalk.

“As privatization becomes more widespread (there is concern) that people will somehow lose their rights,” said Michael Steinberg, ACLU legal director. “Campus Martius is a public park owned by the city of Detroit for the people of the city of Detroit, and they should be able to express their views on matters of public importance just like at any other public park.”

ACLU legal complaint invovling Detroit park

Article source: http://www.clickondetroit.com/news/aclu-lawsuit-detroit-conservancy-improperly-barred-protest-groups-from-popular-public-park/30966182

Attorney fires back at Saints/Pels owner’s heirs

NEW ORLEANS – Attorneys for the owner of the New Orleans Saints and Pelicans, Tom Benson, fired back at his daughter and grandchildren in court Tuesday, arguing in a case filing that they have no legal right to try to get him declared incompetent.

It’s the latest in the battle over future control of the Saints and the Pelicans, after Benson decided last week to put the team in the hands of his wife, Gayle, not his daughter, Rene Leblanc, or his grandchildren, Ryan and Rita Benson Leblanc.

Tuesday, attorney Phil Wittmann filed an exception for no cause of action countering the heirs’ petition for interdiction in which they are asking a judge to declare Benson incapable of making sound business decisions.

“Petitioners [the heirs] are not, as they claim in their petition, trying to protect Mr. Benson and his business interests. Rather, they are cynically employing the interdiction procedure to wrest control of those business interests from Mr. Benson,” Wittmann’s latest court filing reads.

Tom and Gayle Benson are one of Louisiana’s power couples. The couple married before Hurricane Katrina, and since then Tom Benson has taken the Saints to the Super Bowl and acquired the New Orleans Pelicans basketball team.

Tom and Gayle signed a standard pre-nuptial agreement in 2004 that keeps their assets separate and would give Gayle $2 million if they ever split.

But that agreement does nothing to determine the future of the two teams.

“The effects of the pre-nup could be undone by a subsequent will or a trust,” said attorney Doug Sunseri, an attorney and a former employee of Benson and the Saints.

He said the family struggle over control of the team will be closely looked at by the courts, the National Basketball Association and the National Football League. That look will likely dig into Gayle’s background.

She owned an interior design business in the ’80s and ’90s and a had a string of small-claim lawsuits filed against her over it in first city and civil district courts, something not unusual for any business person, her attorney argues.

She was also arrested in connection with the alleged theft of furniture in one of the cases. The district attorney’s office didn’t prosecute her for it and she later sued in federal court over the arrest.

But the question ultimately becomes how much of that background will play a role in the vetting process, if any, by the NFL and the NBA over the transfer of ownership, whenever Tom Benson is no longer in charge.

“I think it raises a concern, but I don’t think the concern would be enough to stop or have the NFL vote against the succession plan,” Sunseri said.

Gayle Bird, her previous married name, was on financially shaky ground at one point, with one bank beginning foreclosure proceedings on her then-Uptown home. She had both state and federal tax liens against her business for failure to pay taxes. All of her debts have since been settled.

The Bensons’ attorney Phil Wittmann said it will “absolutely not” be a problem in the vetting process.

“They could be looking at it in terms of three possibilities: who will be best for the succession of the Saints? Will it be Rita? Would it be Gayle Benson? Or would it be best with a third person to come in with the NFL selling the franchise? I think they would probably determine it will be Gayle Benson,” Sunseri said.

Wittmann is now arguing Benson’s heirs have no right to challenge his competence and said Tuesday that, “No one other than Tom has ever had control of those assets. Tom has all the voting stock of the Saints and the Pelicans and Benson Tower and he’s exercising that power now.”

Article source: http://www.wwltv.com/story/sports/nfl/saints/2015/01/27/attorneyrespondstoattempttodeclarebensonincompetent/22431841/

A Plan to Pay Off an Underwater Mortgage

With an $850,000 inheritance from her father, the woman wanted to upgrade to a larger home in her neighborhood. But she had a problem to address: She was upside-down in her current mortgage and stood to lose nearly $100,000 if she sold the house she had.

To decide whether to make a move or stay put, she contacted her adviser of 12 years, Jim Carroll.

“She had dug herself a bit of a hole by investing in real estate at its…

Article source: http://www.wsj.com/articles/a-plan-to-pay-off-an-underwater-mortgage-1422457018

My turn- Grant’s House of Pits

Three snowfalls in five days, combined with Wyoming wind resulted in an emergency earlier this month for the only pit bull rescue in Wyoming. Nine miles outside of Casper, 36 pit bulls live in 18 donated campers. These small, mobile structures are easily heated with propane and protect the “pitties” from the Wyoming wind and cold.

This Christmas, the pitties got snow for Christmas, which may provide more insulation but can cause problems transporting both the dogs and the propane. The founder and operator of Grant’s House of Pits, Annell Grant, knew this all too well when she dragged four propane bottles through the snow using dog collars and leashes when her truck broke down after the snowstorm. She was able to fill the four bottles, but couldn’t get back to her dogs until a plea on social media resulted in a volunteer offering to make the drive.

Grant has taken to social media again this week, but this time requesting donations of money, food and blankets. The rescue lost two trailers and three dogs to a fire, leaving three other dogs displaced and one badly burned. Annell and her husband, James, are devastated. Grant’s House of Pits has been a dream of Annell’s since she was a girl of 19. Her dream to own a ranch to house displaced animals and provide work for individuals with various disabilities was never realized. However, in April 2012, she was able to open Wyoming’s first and only pit bull rescue. This was the first step toward her goal, and Annell will not stop until the rest of that dream is realized.

Annell and James lost their home due to foreclosure in April 2012. At the time they were caring for their own two pit bull puppies, as well as their children’s, totaling 12 dogs. With no other options, and impassioned to care for these dogs who were also homeless, they were relieved to find an ad in the newspaper for cheap Wyoming land. Shortly after, Annell and James selected a 40-acre plot under contract for deed, with their ranch in mind. Their daughter helped them find a camper to live in, and they soon began accepting donated campers for the pit bull rescue they planned to open. That plan was soon realized when a family friend needed a temporary home for his own dog.

The operation has grown along with the need. With no other rescues in the state, Annell has to network with rescues in surrounding states as well as local volunteers to help transport and rehome these animals.

Since it opened, Grant’s House of Pits has had to turn down hundreds of requests due to a lack of resources and space. Annell has primarily used her own personal income to keep the rescue operational, and only just received Federal 501(c)3 status, allowing them to apply for federal grants. Despite the obvious obstacles and limited resources, Grant’s House of Pits has helped 198 American pit bull terriers. Amazingly, it seems the citizens of Casper are unaware of this fantastic dog rescue, a mere nine miles outside their city.

It may be only in its beginnings, but Grant’s House of Pits plans to rise up from the ashes. The winter troubles of cold weather, vehicle problems and the tragedy of the trailer fire only amplify the need. Annell and James have been raising money to build a suitable facility for the dogs to live safely, stay warm and exercise comfortably. The trailers are a temporary solution to a permanent problem. The Wyoming weather does not allow suitable outdoor living conditions for animals. These dogs, rescued from homelessness, abuse and starvation, need a home. It will only come by generous donors and hard work.

For more information about Grant’s House of Pits and to learn how you can help, go to http://grantshouseofpits.webs.com.

The writer is a family friend of the Grants

Article source: http://casperjournal.com/news/opinion/my_turn/article_9dd6b077-0b6e-520b-8fbc-64eddbc7aae8.html

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