Loving the San Francisco Bay Area... Community development, urban ministry, trying to defeat poverty, faith, religion, politics, good music, the quest for the perfect pizza, the Yankees, motorcycles... All in a 'day's life'

Monday, September 14, 2009

Important Meeting Tomorrow Night

As many of you know, we've been working in collaboration with the EARN group and one of the Menlo Park City Councilmen to implement an innovative approach toward saving local homeowners in foreclosure. This approach effectively de-leverages local homeowners through an innovative investment of city redevelopment funds coupled with mortgage write down by local banks. We believe this approach is exceedingly fair to both the city and the homeowner and could end up saving 10 to 13 homeowners. Additionally, we're hoping this will serve as a pilot program to other cities. Tomorrow night the city council will host a study session for the plan. If passed, the city will allocate $1 million to this project, to be paid back to city coffers over time.

If all goes well it will go to a vote on October 6th. We have had positive feedback from the council and staff members to this point.

There are a few ways you can help:

1) You can attend the council session tomorrow night (Tuesday) at 7:00 pm at the Onetta Harris Community Center and hear about the proposal. The community center address is: 100 Terminal Ave Menlo Park, CA 94025
2) You can tell others about the session, and ask them to also attend
3) You can email, call or write the council members to express your support. You can find their contact information here: http://www.menlopark.org/council/city_council.html
4) Pray that God will guide the council as they consider this proposal

I have attached an early draft of the city proposal for your review. The final should be available at the meeting (as we have suggested some changes). Please let me know if you have any questions. Thank you for your support.


- John

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Another Useless Homicide in EPA

Another homicide in EPA this weekend. Another young life cut short. This one was closer to home, since it was the son of one of the other tenants in our building. I'm tired of the violence. You can read the news report here. Pastor Bains knew this young man well.

I found strength in the U2 song 'Drowning Man' this morning. I'll take it as words from God and a prayer for the family.

Take my hand
You know I'll be there
If you can
I'll cross the sky for your love

For I have promised
Oh, to be with you tonight
And for the time that will come

Take my hand
You know I'll be there
If you can
I'll cross the sky for your love
And I understand
These winds and tides
This change of times
Won't drag you away
Hold on, and hold on tightly
Hold on, and don't let go
Of my love

The storms will pass...the storm will pass...
It won't be long now...it won't be long now...
His love will last
His love will last...forever

Take my hand
You know I'll be there
If you can
I'll cross the sky for your love
Give you what I hold dear

Hold on, hold on tightly
Hold on, hold on tightly
Rise up, rise up
With wings like eagles
You run, you run
You run and not grow weary

...Take my hand, take my hand...
Hold on, and hold on tightly
Hold on, hold on tightly
To this love...last forever
To this love...last forever

Take my hand

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Author of 'Dead Aid' on Colbert

Thanks for the head's up, Rudy.

What say you? Does the traditional models of relief and aid work? What is the alternative?

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Book: White Man's Burden - thoughts for Labor Day Weekend

I'm reading a fascinating book that has some of the same themes that run through Bob Lupton's recent writing. It's called 'White Man's Burden" by William Easterly. (I get the feeling some of you have read this already.) You can find it here. The title of the book is somewhat unfortunate, it's meant to be sarcastic.

There are some amazing points here, stuff NCUD and others at CCDA have been talking about for years. I encourage you to check it out - here's a couple of great excepts from the first chapter:

"But I and many other like-minded people keep trying, not to abandon aid to the poor, but to make sure it reaches them. Rich countries have to address the second tragedy if they are going to make any progress on the first tragedy. Otherwise, the current wave of enthusiasm for addressing world poverty will repeat the cycle of its predecessors: idealism, high expectations, disappointing results, cynical backlash."

"Let’s call the advocates of the traditional approach the Planners, while we call the agents for change in the alternative approach the Searchers."

"The Planners have the rhetorical advantage of promising great things: the end of poverty. The only thing the Planners have against them is that they gave us the second tragedy of the world’s poor. Poor people die not only because of the world’s indifference to their poverty, but also because of ineffective efforts by those who do care. To escape the cycle of tragedy, we have to be tough on the ideas of the Planners, even while we salute their goodwill."

"Yet helping the poor today requires learning from past efforts. Unfortunately, the West already has a bad track record of previous beautiful goals. A UN summit in 1990, for example, set as a goal for the year 2000 universal primary-school enrollment. (That is now planned for 2015.) A previous summit, in 1977, set 1990 as the deadline for realizing the goal of universal access to water and sanitation. (Under the Millennium Development Goals, that target is now 2015.15 Nobody was held accountable for these missed goals."

"As for the actions of the West, asking the aid agencies and development workers to attain utopian ideals makes them much worse at achieving the doable things called for by the Searchers. It also makes them much less accountable for making specific things work, as the focus on the Big Goals of the Big Plan distracts everyone’s attention from whether more children are getting twelve-cent medicines. Acknowledging that development happens mainly through homegrown efforts would liberate the agencies of the West from utopian goals, freeing up development workers to concentrate on more modest, doable steps to make poor people’s lives better."

"Idealists, activists, development workers of the world, you have nothing to lose but your utopian chains. Let’s give more power and funds to the many Searchers who are already working in development. You don’t have to immediately eliminate world poverty, bring world peace, or save the environment. You just have to do whatever you discover works with your modest resources to make a difference in the lives of poor people."

Interesting and provocative thoughts on a weekend we celebrate the working person! To me, it fits well into the CCDA redefinition of 'Redistribution' into 'giving the poor the necessary skills and resources to work their way out of poverty'.

What do you think?

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Pagmill May Still Get What's Coming

Many have been following the fight betweeen the City and EPA's largest landlord, Pagemill Properties. Here is a recent news article about their financial woes. You can't mistreat the poor and get away with it. God's justice will prevail.

The Daily News 09/01/2009, Page A01


Page Mill may lose 1,700 units

Properties spokesman says company didn’t make $50M payment to Wells Fargo


Daily News Staff Writer

A Page Mill Properties spokesman said Monday that the ownership of more than 1,700 units in East Palo Alto is in question after the company failed to make a $50 million payment to Wells Fargo Bank
last month. The company and its subsidiaries couldn’t make the onetime balloon payment on Aug. 4 because of financial problems due to the economy, spokesman Sam Singer said.

“They have been successfully servicing the debt on the loans for the properties, but this balloon payment — they just didn’t have that amount on hand due to the declining economy,” Singer said.

He added that Page Mill is in talks with Wells Fargo and hopes to reach some resolution in the next month or so.

“It’s ironic that the bank would not want to renegotiate
the loan in a flexible manner given the glut of foreclosed properties on the market,” Singer said.

He added that the loan has nothing to do with a nearly $70 million investment the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, or CalPERS, made in the properties in 2006.

Wells Fargo did not immediately respond to an e-mail requesting comment Monday.

Tenants became alarmed after seeing employees of Woodland
Park Management — Page Mill’s property management company — taking down signs Monday.

However, Singer said the company took down one large sign advertising its properties only because the city ordered it to do so. East Palo Alto and Page Mill are involved in a bitter legal dispute over rent increases and other issues, with about 10 active lawsuits pending between them.

It wasn’t clear Monday whether Page Mill’s financial problems are connected with the recent closure of a number of swimming pools at the properties. The pools remained closed Monday afternoon with signs indicating San Mateo County health officials shut them down Aug. 21 due to lack of chlorination.

At least one of the pools was bright green with algae.

Tenants should not experience any changes in management as the property owners negotiate with Wells Fargo, Singer said.

“For the time being, Page Mill is in control of the property and will continue to assist the tenants with any life safety and any
habitation issues, any livability issues,” Singer said.

“They are in the same position as many regular people, husbands and wives, boyfriends and girlfriends, who given the declining economy don’t have enough money in the bank.”

E-mail Jessica Bernstein-Wax at jbernstein@dailynewsgroup.com.