August 08, 2013
By Nisa Islam Muhammad
Special to the NNPA from The Final Call
“My name is Annette Smith. I am 69-years-old; I live in a small town outside of Sacramento, Calif., and am a long-time customer of Wells Fargo … I have been receiving Social Security as my only income for about 7 years. Today, my Social Security check is for about $1,200—that is the only income I have to pay all of my expenses,” she recently testified at the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging.
Ms. Smith said in 2007 she asked a teller at a local Wells Fargo branch about a small loan for car repairs. Staff explained the bank didn’t make small loans for under $5,000, and suggested she consider using a Wells Fargo Direct Deposit Advance instead.
“Getting the loan was easy—the bank just required me to sign into my account online and transfer over $500 from the bank. Unfortunately, paying it back has been almost impossible. It was tied into my bank account, so Wells Fargo repaid itself the $500 and $50 in fees at the beginning of each month (later it went to $37.50) when my Social Security Check of $1,200 was deposited,” she said.
“After Wells paid itself, that left me about half of my income, which wasn’t enough to pay all of my bills, so then I’d have to take another advance from the bank. The next month, the exact same thing would happen.”
Her $500 loan cost her $3,000 in fees because she could never repay it on her fixed income. The Senate hearing July 24 examined the impact payday and other short-term high-cost lending products have on seniors.
Cash-strapped older Americans are finding it easier than ever to opt for the expensive loans, whose annual interest rates can range from 225 percent to more than 500 percent.
According to the Center for Responsible Lending, Social Security recipients now account for more than a fourth of all bank payday loan borrowers. Banks are among the newest players to enter the payday loan marketplace by offering so-called deposit advances which seniors often secure through their pending monthly Social Security benefits.
“Payday loans—loans of around $350 averaging 300-400 percent annual percentage rate (APR) repaid from the borrower’s next paycheck or receipt of public benefits—are designed to create a long-term debt trap. Borrowers already struggling with regular expenses or facing an emergency expense with minimal savings are typically unable to repay the large payment of principal and fees due and meet their other expenses until their next payday,” testified Rebecca Borne, senior policy counsel, Center for Responsible Lending.
While the industry contends the loans are popular among users, consumer advocates worry that fees and overdrafts associated with the products are eroding seniors’ benefits and trapping them in a cycle of debt.
In April, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found these loans typically lead to a cycle of debt for consumers and indicated a willingness to exercise oversight over payday and short-term lending products.
That same month, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Office of Comptroller of the Currency released proposed guidance on deposit advances, requiring, among other things, that banks examine customers’ income and expenses to make sure that they can actually afford to pay off the loan and associated charges.
Andrea Luquetta, policy advocate with the California Reinvestment Coalition, has worked with Ms. Smith. “Annette’s story shows how destructive bank payday loans are for your average consumer. The banks pay themselves back by automatically deducting the money out of your bank account as soon as your income is deposited,” said Ms. Luquetta.
August 01, 2013
LAWT News Service
The Minority Apartment Owners Association (MAOA) held its bi-monthly membership meeting on July 11, 2013. Ruth A. Hayles, Executive Director for the organization and General Manager for the parent company, International Realty & Investments, welcomed all attendees. Ms. Hayles provided an overview of the most recent meeting she attended for the industry held in San Diego sponsored by the National Apartment Association. Ms. Hayles also discussed the history of the MAOA and the fact the organization was founded in 1987 and will celebrate its 26th Anniversary in September.
The MAOA was founded in 1987 by its parent company International Realty & Investments. The purpose of the MAOA was to provide information for owners in predominately minority neighborhoods who were more negatively impacted by issues not experienced in other neighborhoods. The MAOA has grown to become a strong voice for rental property owners in the local, state, and national arena. Most recently the parent company formed a nonprofit arm known as Urban Housing, Inc. More information will be provided as how you can become involved in this organization
Ms. Hayles introduced Ms. Joy King of King and Associates who was the keynote speaker. Ms. King has years of experience in the field of property inspections, building plans, permits, and consulting owners who are experiencing problems with illegal construction and additions without permits. Ms. King provided several helpful hints as to how to avoid the pitfalls of unpermitted construction and other code violations. Ms. King provided helpful information as to how one can check the information as to square footage, certificates of occupancy, and other such necessary information owners should consider before buying any property.
Malcolm Bennett, Broker/CEO of International Realty & Investments and President of the MAOA, closed out the meeting with information related to the rise in lawsuits related to Proposition 8 signs that are required on certain types of property. Mr. Bennett provided an update on Assembly Bill 1229 (Atkins) which is without question the most important landlord real estate legislation since Costa Hawkins. The bill, if passed, would require price control of privately owned rental housing on newly built construction throughout the state. This bill, if passed, would seriously stifle new housing construction in California. Mr. Bennett provided a comparison chart of the difference between rent control and inclusionary zoning. Mr. Bennett indicated that all rental property owners need to get involved in these very important issues. It was stated that this piece of legislation will either fail or pass on a margin of one vote in the Senate. Please call or email for information as to what you can do regarding this legislation. Mr. Bennett thanked all attendees and indicated that additional information would be emailed to those in attendance regarding Assembly Bill 1229.
July 25, 2013
By George E. Curry
National Conference of Black Mayors Executive Director Vanessa R. Williams usually looks forward to the week immediately following the organization’s annual convention because that’s when she takes a week off to rest and get reinvigorated, usually with relatives in her hometown of Las Vegas.
But when she landed at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas this year after the Atlanta convention, she learned that the newly-elected president Kevin Johnson of Sacramento had been trying to reach her while she was en route.
At 12:42 a.m. on June 5, he wrote to Williams, using his customary lower case letters: “tried to call you. sorry we haven’t had a chance to talk, but I am very concerned by the things i am hearing and learning and we have to act fast.”
Williams replied, “Unfortunately as you are aware, I was on travel yesterday and unable to speak with you during the time period that you provided. I will return to Atlanta Monday afternoon. I will contact the mentioned representative upon my return to schedule a time that we may meet.”
Johnson wrote on that same day, “while I understand that a week off after the conference may have been past practice, given the gravity of the situation, we need to make an exception this year.”
At issue was a request that Williams immediately turn more than 30 documents, some dating back more than a decade before Williams’ arrival, including utility bills, all internal memos, expense reports, all receipts, an office directory and “Information protected by Attorney-Client Privilege” to the law firm Johnson had solicited to assist him.
Several key mayors told Williams the request was too broad and advised her not to immediately comply.
Attorneys representing Kevin Johnson, Treasurer Patrick Green of Normandy, Mo., and the special committee went to court seeking a temporary restraining order, and a permanent restraining order against Bowser and Williams in order to get copies of the requested records.
On July 15, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Christopher S. Brasher ruled in favor of Johnson and Green, ordering Bowser and Williams to turn over the requested financial documents within five days and pay Johnson’s and Green’s attorney fees. Judge Brasher limited the scope of records to Jan. 1, 2009 to the present.
The judge made it clear that his ruling had nothing to do with the ongoing dispute over who is president of the organization. However, Johnson’s attorneys returned to court the following day to seek another injunction to prevent Bowser, Williams and General Counsel Sue Winchester from challenging the validity of Johnson’s election or the creation of the board’s special task force. The judge indicated that ruling might not come until next month, at the earliest.
Traditionally, the presidency of NCBM was viewed as largely a ceremonial post, with the executive director responsible for the primary management chores. However, Johnson indicated he planned to be more actively involved, sending an email to Williams directing her to refrain from speaking to board members, forbidding any contact with the news media, prohibiting Williams from traveling without advance approval from him and not allowing her to execute any contract that exceeded $1,000.
Although Johnson’s petition accused Executive Director Vanessa Williams of “gross mismanagement,” in documents submitted to the court, more than a dozen board members signed affidavits with glowing reports about the performance of Williams, saying: 1) She had retired approximately $1.2 million of inherited debt; 2) That she “has performed all of her required duties in an exceptional manner;” 3) That she did not cause the NCBM to lose any tax exemptions under federal law; and that 4) Williams “has enhanced the reputation of NCBM by making significant accomplishments while having limited resources.”
On June 20 – just three weeks after Johnson was elected president of the NCBM – 16 members of the board sent a joint letter to Johnson expressing their displeasure with him and the law firm he had recruited.
“As members of the board we are very concerned about the recent activities of the Special Task Force and Ballard Spahr. We object to the recent tactics used by the law firm and do not approve of the way it is now handling the NCBM leadership and staff. Demands and actions are being taken that we as a board have not approved. The board of directors did not approve Ballard Spahr filing papers in the Superior Court of Fulton County,” said the mayors, who represented more than a majority of the 19 board members who were in good standing at the time (board membership has fluctuated because five mayors had left office and three slots designated for big-city mayors had not been filled).
“If such filings have been made we ask that they be removed immediately; we did not approve of an investigation of NCBM staff; we did not approve any attempts to micro manage and/or limit the duties of NCBM staff, nor did we approve of the removal of NCBM property nor were we made aware of or approve at any time the authority of the board of directors being given to a committee or third party. As a board we would not nor have we given to Ballard Spahr the authority to discipline and or terminate the contracts of NCBM staff. These measures are extreme and we certainly do not approve.” They added, “Both the report and the minutes that were provided to the members of the board are not consistent with the discussion that was held regarding NCBM receiving assistance from Ballard Spahr during the membership meeting…”
The 16 mayors authorized Executive Director Vanessa Williams to call a board meeting, which was held July 12.
In a last-minute effort to derail the meeting, Johnson sent an email to the board claiming that no board meeting had been called for July 12.
Using only lower case letters, as he customarily does in written communications, Johnson wrote: “i’ve been contacted by a number of board members asking for clarification about the status of the board meeting. it has come to my attention that some members of the ncbm board have circulated an email calling for a board meeting to take place tomorrow, july 12.
“as president of the ncbm and a member of the board, i wanted to inform you that a special board meeting has not been called. pursuant to section 3.7 of the bylaws, a special meeting may only be called by the president or the treasurer and upon request in writing of five or more directors. neither i nor the treasurer have called for this meeting.”
However, 16 board members, including Mayor Robert Bowser, called the special board meeting. They view Bowser, not Johnson, as president of NCBM until the next election is held. Both Kevin Johnson and Robert Bowser are claiming the title of president – until the judge steps in.
The relevant section of 3.7 of the bylaws state, “Special meetings of the Board of Directors may be held at any time and at any place called by the President or by the Treasurer through the Executive Director and upon request in writing of five (5) or more directors…”
A judge will determine whether Johnson or Bowser is the actual president, with the power to call a special board meeting. The court will probably also decide, based on the bylaws, whether five members of the board can separately call a special meeting.
In a 4-hour meeting on July 12, the reconstituted board, chaired by Bowser, formally accepted the findings of Sue Winchester, its general counsel, who said the May 30 election was invalid because at least four bylaws covering the election were violated, including the lack of secret ballots and allowing members who had paid their dues in time to vote.
In addition to deciding that Kevin Johnson was not the lawfully elected president, board members rejected the draft minutes of the May 31 special meeting. They also overturned a series of actions taken by Johnson, including:
Dissolving the special task force;
Removing Ballard Spahr as attorneys for the NCBM board and the special task force;
Restoring all of the powers that Johnson tried to strip from Executive Director Vanessa Williams;
Selecting Atlanta attorneys Robert L. Arrington and Richard W. Summers as general counsel for the NCBM;
Directing the lawyers to begin processing payments to creditors and
Authorizing the executive director to solicit bids to conduct an outside audit.
Because of the growing number of international mayors, the board had earlier voted to change the name of the organization from National Conference of Black Mayors to the Conference of Black Mayors. The board voted on July 12 to begin using the new name and new federal tax ID assigned to the newly-named the Conference of Black Mayors.
But Johnson and his supporters are challenging whether the re-constituted board has the right to do anything.
July 25, 2013
By KENNETH MILLER
Assistant Managing Editor
Mayor Eric Garcetti recently announced two key appointments of African Americans to the influential Board of Public Works and the powerful Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
Garcetti selected former Assemblymember Mike Davis as a commissioner to the Board of Public Works and “Jackie” Dupont-Walker to the Board of Directors of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority.
“I want to make sure we’re careful and strategic with our transportation dollars. That’s the only way we’re going to make a real difference in the traffic congestion that costs us billions of dollars in lost productivity and billions of hours in time away from our lives,” Mayor Garcetti said. “I will work to make smart investments in bus and rail to improve the ride for transit-users, speed commutes for drivers, and create new jobs along transit lines and around stations.”
“Jackie” Dupont-Walker is the founding president of Ward Economic Development Corporation, a faith-based community development organization, and is chair of the USC Master Plan Advisory Committee where she represents the residents of the West Adams district. She is involved in numerous other civic organizations and serves as the AME Church International Social Action Officer and as the Social Action chair of Delta Sigma Theta – Century City.
“I am looking forward to collaborating with Mayor Garcetti to create an L.A. transportation system that will help bring our city's diverse neighborhoods closer together in every way,” Dupont-Walker said. “A world-class system should be accessible to every L.A. neighborhood, and new transportation hubs and corridors are opportunities to spark much-needed job creation and neighborhood revitalization by spurring local economies.”
Davis represented the 48th Assembly District from 2006 to 2012 and served as vice chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus and chair of the Select Committee on Rail Transportation. Prior to assuming office, he served as a senior deputy supervisor for Los Angeles County Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke and as district director for Congresswoman Maxine Waters during her tenure in both the California State Assembly and US Congress.
“It’s an honor to be trusted by Mayor Eric Garcetti to serve as a member of the Los Angeles Board of Public Works,” Davis said. “My responsibility is to help make the infrastructure of our great city better. I am committed to helping bring efficient and effective services to improve the quality of life for our constituents.”
Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson commended both of the appointments by the mayor.
“As a member of the MTA Board, Jackie Dupont-Walker will be in a key position to provide the oversight we need during the planning and construction of the Crenshaw Line. Her leadership will be crucial to the success of this project,” said Wesson.
“Mike Davis is uniquely qualified to serve the city as a member of the Board of Public Works. The economic downturn has devastated city services. Mike Davis has the experience and will provide the leadership we need to restore these needed services.”
Brotherhood Crusade President Charisse Bremond-Weaver was equally pleased with the mayor’s most recent appointments.
“In just a short time, Mayor Garcetti has demonstrated his commitment to the African American community, and these two appointments of Mike Davis and Jackie Dupont-Walker are a reflection of that commitment,” she said.
July 25, 2013
LAWT News Service
Millennium Corporation, a service disabled veteran owned small business and certified 8(a) Professional Services company, announced recently, that Linda Gooden joined their Board of Advisors effective July 11.
Gooden is the retired executive vice president of the Lockheed Martin Information Systems & Global Solutions (IS&GS) business sector as well as an officer of the Lockheed Martin Corporation. She provided strategic leadership for IS&GS while supervising over 30,000 experienced professionals providing integrated information technology solutions, systems and services to support worldwide missions for civil, defense, intelligence and other government customers.
Mr. Kevin Jennings, president & CEO of Millennium Corporation, stated, “We are extremely pleased and fortunate to have a leader of Linda’s capacity join our Board of Advisors. Linda’s strategic vision, leadership, and technical acumen will provide significant value to Millennium’s executive team. Her leadership experiences and extraordinary technology and business expertise will add significant contribution as we shape the future of Millennium.”
Members of the Millennium Corporation Board of Advisors include:
• Mr. Dean G. Popps – former acting assistant secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology (ALT) and the Army Acquisition Executive (AAE)
• Major General David R. Gust, USA (Ret.) – former deputy chief of staff for Research, Development and Acquisition, U.S. Army Material Command
• Brigadier General Thomas Cole, USA (Ret.) – former program executive officer for Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors (IEW&S)
Visit Millennium Corporation online at www.millgroupinc.com.