Changes

New Orleans     The first arrivals of the annual Year End / Year Begin meeting that are held by the ACORN family of organizations began yesterday. Many more will be coming in today and the last arrivals will roll in on Friday morning before the opening gun sounds for the meeting.

Years ago old timers can remember when these meetings were held over the last weekend of the year. Many of those years we occupied a group camp together at the Fontainebleau State Park across the lake. The weather would often be damp and foggy. Frequently Keith Kelleher, head organizer of SEIU Local 880, and I would run on the wet pavement up towards Lake Pontchartrain flushing rabbits and deer as we slogged along. We would cook our own meals with different crews of staff taking alternate shifts. We would squeeze the 50 or 80 or almost 100 staff before we gave it up more than 20 years ago into the one open room and crowd around the picnic tables pulled together and pretend we could hear and participate.

Now we are at the huge Hilton convention hotel along the riverside in New Orleans with close to one thousand people coming. We have guest speakers. We have a banquet. The leadership comes in to make presentations. And the meetings are now endless so that we can maximize the value of the expenditure. We handed over a check of almost $100,000 to the Hilton earlier this week for the rooms and food. The food and beverage manager was still shaking his heads at what kind of group this might be that would drink more than $16,000 worth of coffee. Some things change. Some stay the same.

Mike Shea, executive director of ACORN Housing, shared an email this morning on the report given to the housing counseling staff on the economy that made one want to put something in a cup of coffee. He said they “had a presentation… that was just frightening. In last quarter 3/4 of the MSA’s [metropolitan statistical areas] in US had a drop in housing price. 74 of those had a drop of 5 to 20% in that quarter alone. The delinquency on credit is now rapidly spreading beyond mortgages to home equity loans, credit cards and every other consumer credit vehicle. They now believe that housing won’t begin to recover until 2010 at the earliest. And this is in a relatively strong economy, as measured by job growth, unemployment, and personal income!”

It may be a different kind of meeting, but it obviously couldn’t happen at a better time to prepare for the next year.

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