Gloria Ferris

one woman’s view from a place by the zoo in the city

Archive for July 10th, 2007

Hard To Focus When So Much Is Going On

without comments

I have tried to stay focused on the Cool Community Forum at the Louis Stokes Auditorium scheduled for noon on Thursday. It is now less than two days away, but Bill Callahan has been focusing on the foreclosure problem over on his blog. As I read his entry for July 8th, I remembered that Ray Pianka had given me a copy of his testimony that he gave in Washington DC at the Committeee on Oversight and Government Reform Domestic Policy subcommittee hearing that Congressman Dennis Kucinich held the night he sat down with Meet.The.Bloggers. I believe the addenda he attached to that testimony dovetails nicely with Bill’s expose.

The first addendum is Cleveland Housing Court Bank/Lender Warrant Capias List. Both banks-Deutsche(twice) and Wells Fargo (once) show on this list . The significance of this list pretains to Judge Pianka’s “Clean Hands’ doctrine. If a bank/lender is on the Warrant Capias list which means that there is a court case pending for code violations the Judge will not issue evictions until the lender or a representative shows in court to address the charges against the bank/lender.

Then there was the list that shows the City of Cleveland Special Assessment Certification List-Vacant Lot Maintenance Liens (Corporations List). Deutsche Bank appears fourteen times for a total owed of $5094.82. Wells Fargo appears ten times for a total of 3320.32. The alarming thing about this list was the number of community development corporations listed on this addendum for assessments. Remember this list pertains to vacant lot maintenance. For instance, Cleveland Housing Network shows up 82 times! The State of Ohio shows up 16 times and HUD shows up 20 times. The Cleve land Board of Education shows up. The Clinic Foundation shows up there as does First Energy.

And then the final list deals with the board up charges for vacant and abandoned housing. Deutsche bank appears 22 times for a total of $12,244 and Wells Fargo appears 13 times for $6172. These were the figures through May 9th, 2007. So I am sure that Bill can use his statistical knowledge to calculate how many more of the foreclosures that Wells Fargo and Deutsche Bank continue to file will add to the $$$ owed to Cleveland.

In a more recent post, Bill cites the 356 additional foreclosures in Cleveland on July 9th, but an additional 250 suburban homes were on that list as well bringing the grand total of the properties offered for sale on Monday to 606. No one is bidding on these properties, not even the banks. The numbers are dismal. The number of withdrawals due to bankruptcy is rising as well.

This is everybody’s problem and it does not bode well for America. We are at the epicenter of this hurricane, but the rest of the country is reeling as well. Economists will say it is the ebb and flow of supply and demand and that we need to leave the market correct itself, but why aren’t we talking about what this is doing to our country globally? The United States has always been known as a “safe harbor” for foreign investors with real estate being one of the more stable investments. Not any more. With the advent of derivatives and hedge funds brought to us by our own government with those two geniuses Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, we are squandering our major export “TEA” worldwide–the kind of “tea” you get from our accountability, our integrity, our security. And Congress’s answer to this has been to hand the fixin’ over to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. When Warren Buffett tells you that he can’t understand derivatives, maybe they are not to be understood and not used.

Written by Gloria Ferris

July 10th, 2007 at 11:01 pm

And Here is What I Want to Know

without comments

Only three days until the Cool Community Forum takes place at noon in the auditorium of the Louis Stokes Wing of the Main Library. i suggest public transportation or carpooling. Parking downtown is not easy or convenient at that time of day. The intention of this forum is to allow the public to air their questions and the issues they may have with the proposed 1/4% sales tax increase. I for one have many unanswered questions concerning the purpose of this tax, the use of this money generated by this tax, and the economic sense of another regressive tax to a struggling community. When revenues are down isn’t the prudent course of action to cut spending rather than increase spending.

There are two phrases that are often overused today “follow the money” and “connect the dots”, but in this case, they both seem very apropos. Mayor Jackson signs off on the sales tax increase which will benefit the county and Forest City Enterprises. Forest City Enterprises bankrolled a large portion of Mayor Jackson’s bid for his present position. The County considered Tower City as well as the East Ninth site for their new, “signature” county building. The East Ninth site won that bid helping the Jacobs Group out of a financial fiasco. Where do their contributions go? And now, enter the convention center/medical mart payback to Forest City Enterprises or another site somewhere close by owned by the Jacobs Group. Interestestly, we never hear the third option that the City Planning Commission is considering–the present site of the convention center with a beautiful view of the lake.

Now, none of this would mean a hill of beans to me, if we had a viable BUSINESS plan that shows economic impact, benefits and costs, but where is it? I have seen the sketchy thing that Merchandise Mart’s owners have placed on a few websites here in town, but there certainly seems to be a lot of statements without the accompanying backup statistics showing financial viability. And I don’t mean for the company shareholders. Where are the financial benefits to the city and the county? Where are the studies showing the best placement for this Medical Mart? I don’t know-I am just one of those “dumb” citizens- but it appears to me that placement nearer to University Hospitals and the Cleveland Clinic would be a better placement or what about placing it between Lutheran Hospital and MetroHealth Center?

And then, there is this tax increase thing. We all know that this is a regressive tax that will put a burden on those least able to afford it. If such a tax is levied by three commissioners and not by the voting public, we should have a good idea of what the long tail benefits will be for our region as a whole. The answer will be “jobs” but let’s talk about those “jobs. Day after day, we hear the lament that our “skilled” workforce is deficient, that our schools are in disarray and not ready for employment. How will this sales tax change these “facts”? Obviously, skilled workers will be imported from other areas to fill the new neighborhoods being built in and around downtown. Recently, the Plain Dealer reported that there had been a net loss of population in a four (?) county area. How are we going to market this area to a workforce that study after study shows trending toward picking a “place” and then, finding a job. This isn’t the fifties anymore when large workforces migrated north to fill manufacturing jobs, but sometimes, I think our government officials think it is.

Why do we have a government spending more money when revenues are down, population is down, and private citizens are tightening their belts? Shouldn’t they be leading the way with learning how to do “more with less”? And then, there is this troubling question in the back of my uninformed mind, if the medical mart is tied to the convention center, does this mean that both the East Ninth Complex and the Tower City complex will not pay real estate taxes? How much of the City of Cleveland proper is covered by the nonprofit sector that does not pay real estate taxes? Can we really afford this much more? Who will be responsible for the infrastructure? Who will be responsible for the safety of the visitors that attend the fifty conventions a year? In other words, whose services will be cut? And anyone who thinks this will not happen has not been listening to the continuing dialogue of shortages in the Cleveland Police Force and the cost of those forces.

And another thing, have any of you when you attended a convention had the free time to walk the city streets and explore the city proper? The ones I have attended have been so chock full of things to do within the venue that very little free time is available. And, when I have asked others if they wanted to explore with me I never get many takers. Most attendees are willing to simply gather in the lobby of the hotel for coffee or retire to the bar for a few drinks and conversation.

And why am I so troubled by the feeling that this latest “plan” is nothing more than a few old men way past their prime having their last hurrah at our expense? Why can’t I see how this works into the big picture of a prosperous and wealthy region? Could it be because this “plan” appears just to “Old School” with no input from the “new” thought leaders that will be stuck with these decisions? It is time for the informed community to step up and demand that our government serve the community that they were elected to serve. If they don’t, then it is time to take matters into our own hands and elect servant leaders who will.

Written by Gloria Ferris

July 10th, 2007 at 9:10 am