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Springfield Story: Do We Learn from Disasters?

foreclosureNew Orleans There’s a t-shirt coming:  global warming gonna get your mamma! The spate of disasters from Japan to Joplin, Birmingham, Alabama to Springfield, Mass brings all the horror home again.  Living in New Orleans and still in recovery from Katrina and weaker and wiser from the experience, I keep an eye on these things, and in the case of Springfield I have been connected to some of the scrappy organizations, organizers, and activists trying to contend with the both the learning curve and the vast unmet and crying needs of victims and the community itself.

Springfield is at the top of the list for foreclosures in Massachusetts and sitting with the redoubtable Congressman Barney Frank, banking expert and one-man accountability squad, but people are still demanding a moratorium during the crises for foreclosures and have yet to win it, despite the Springfield City Council joining the call and FHA saying they are ready.  A federal disaster has been declared.  Occupancy for housing units was frightfully low (about 6%) before the tornado, yet no action.  Why after Katrina is this not automatic?  Why do families and their organizations have to start from scratch here?

Housing can’t be found.  There is still no moratorium stopping evictions for families still living in houses that have been foreclosed during this crisis.  What the frick?!?

This morning I have been listening to a video of interviews with survivors.  I did not need to watch.  I’ve heard all the stories before from different faces.  We are almost 30 days out from the disaster and people have their famous FEMA letters, but no money yet.  It seems that the emergency payments that helped us survive post-Katrina have not been issued.  The Red Cross has announced that it is closing shelters today and some of the survivors who were interviewed talked about the crushing indignity of having their cots and gear moved out yesterday as they got the notice.  Why do we still let the Red Cross muddle through the mess?  They are good at giving out water and food, waving their flag and raising money, but they don’t know how to handle housing or survivors once the first punch has been taken and the long sloughing fight to rebuild sets in.  Why are we still not being better?  This is a congressionally authorized corporation with virtually no accountability in Washington that preys on disorganized and panic victims thankful for any help.  Listening to one woman talk about how she felt Puerto Ricans and African-Americans faced discrimination at the hands of the Red Cross was just flat over the line for me!

Hotel rooms are going begging for guests in Springfield now, and there is word that survivors unable to locate housing may be relocated to some, but in a typical disaster catch-22, FEMA says it will reimburse the survivors for their lodging which means these poor, working families would have to come up with the money now on the front end and get reimbursed who knows when?

And, working, forget about that even though protecting livelihoods is lifeblood for families and for the community.  One woman talked about having lost her car and having no way to replace the transportation so knowing that her job was going to be the next thing she would lose and then she would have to “start all over.”

In New Orleans we had to learn how to organize to win on all of these fronts after Katrina and we’re still paying the price.  Now almost six years after Katrina where are new communities and new victims and survivors of disaster still facing the same maze of obstacles and obstinacy in the face of tragedy when our national and local policy should be an open and helping hand?

  • Chieforganizer

    Great interviews with Springfield survivors at http://www.tornadosurvivors.org.   Worth a listen to understand how little we have learned!

  • Lynn Greg

    You sir are an idiot! The policies that you as a community orgainizer pushed for are coming to fruition! Socialism dies where ever it is tried! You made your bed, now lie in it!!!!!!!

  • Conservative Behemoth

    Let me get this straight…….. Barney Frank is here on YouTube saying there is nothing wrong with Fannie Mae. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_MGT_cSi7Rs&feature=player_embedded
    This was in 2004 after the troubled mortgage institution had been audited and the books were found to contain “serious inaccuracies”.

    Here is an article from Boston.com. The article points out that Frank in 2005, “initially supported a Republican measure in 2005 that would have imposed stricter standards on the lenders. But he voted against it in the full chamber because it did not include funding for affordable housing, he said.” Interesting that you call Frank a banking “expert” as he openly admits in the article that “he didn’t know what was going on.” Wow! Seems like we’ve got a lot of those “experts” in Washington these days.

    Here’s an article from August of 2010. In it Frank says that Fannie Mae must go. What? http://www.realclearmarkets.com/articles/2010/08/19/barney_frank_fannie__freddie_must_go_98631.html
    That much is true, but why don’t you ask Mr. “Banking Expert” Frank about these comments?

    In 2000, when Rep. Richard Baker proposed more oversight for the GSEs, Frank called concerns about Fannie and Freddie “overblown,” claiming there was “no federal liability whatsoever.”In 2002, again, Frank said: “I do not regard Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as problems. I regard them as assets.”In 2003, he repeated himself in opposing reform, saying he did not “regard Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as problems.”Even after a multibillion dollar accounting scandal hit Freddie Mac just a month after those remarks, Frank insisted nothing was wrong. “I do not think we are facing any kind of crisis,” he said.By 2004, Fannie had its own accounting scandal. Frank again insisted it posed no threat to the U.S. Treasury. Even if the two went belly-up, he said, “I think Wall Street will get over it.”If this turd is actually figuring out how markets work, it sure took a lot of the American people’s money for him to acquire that education. It will cost us TRILLIONS and maybe even the solvency of this great nation. My guess is that Senior Hershey Highway just wants to get re-elected and expects stupid people, such as yourself, to vote for him even in the face of the wealth of information that he was intimately involved in the banking crisis.
    Ain’t the internet a bitch? It’s awful hard for lying liberals like yourself to bend the truth when a quick check on Google will show that you are full of crap.

  • WereTurtle

    Barney Frank?  A one man accountability squad?  You have got to be kidding me?  I am convinced that people who are involved in politics, unions, and community organizing have no grasp on reality and are driven solely by ideology and not at all by logic and common sense.

    Barney Frank is part of the problem.  A man who should have been part of a two-man accountability squad, along with Chris Dodd.  I would go as far as to say they should both be in jail for engineering the biggest financial calamity caused by our government.

    There would be no rash of foreclosures in Springfield or any other city if the banks were NOT FORCED to lend to people who clearly could not pay the lenders back.  But, you know, social justice over common sense and sound banking principles right?  I know, you hearts are all in the right place, so it shouldn’t matter that the left has caused another catastrophe…