Help For Homeowners

From Congressman Paul Kanjorski:

TROUDSBURG, Pa. — (May 31, 2008) – In an uncertain real estate, economic and consumer climate, homeowners, housing counselors, lenders, and public officials gathered today for the Pocono Mountain Association of REALTORS┬« (PMAR) and the Pocono Builder’s Association (PBA) “Homebuyer’s and Homeowner’s Education Seminar,” to learn about homebuyer and homeowner opportunities.

       The speakers outlined federal, state and local programs and counseling was available for homeowners.

       “This high public interest showcases once again the need for education and information for area citizens and how responsive they are and how interested they are in hearing about their options to purchase homes as first time buyers or to remain in their current home,” said Cherylann Houseman, director of government affairs for PMAR. “Many individuals recognize that they might benefit, either now or at a later date, from the information they receive today.”

       Following brief introductions from sponsors PMAR and PBA, Congressman Paul E. Kanjorski (PA-11) discussed legislative efforts in Congress to curb the housing problems nationally and in the region, and he encouraged homeowners facing difficulties to seek help.  

“Many families facing the threat of losing their homes to foreclosure can negotiate changes to the terms of their mortgages if they communicate with their lenders, but they need help in understanding how to do that,” said Congressman Kanjorski.  “Counselors are available to help homeowners through this traumatic experience.  Because foreclosure is an expensive process for everyone involved, lenders are often willing to make concessions that will allow families to stay in their homes.”

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Congressman Kanjorski added, “From my position on the Financial Services Committee, I have worked to pass legislation in the House that will aid homeowners potentially facing foreclosures, boost the economy, and help prevent many problems in the housing market from occurring again by stopping predatory lending practices.  The rising number of foreclosures can have a profound impact on entire communities, not just the particular families at risk of losing their homes.  We need to work to avoid as many foreclosures as possible.”

“When looking to purchase a first home, or even a vacation or dream home, being well informed and educated should be a homeowners and home buyer’s priority,” said Eileen Chaladoff, president of the Pocono Mountains Association of REALTORS┬«.  “Of course we always recommend having a local REALTOR help you navigate the entire process, but certainly, events such as this one give consumers great ideas and information on the many options open to them as buyers and owners.”

Following the presentations, attendees met with PMAR and PBA affiliate members like lenders and bankers as well as the invited speakers about specifics on available programs. Groups available with information and services included First Horizon Home Loans; Indymac Bank; the PA Housing Finance Agency with information on their First Time Homebuyers Program, Refinance Program, Homeownership Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program; the United Neighborhood Centers of NEPA with information on their Homeowner Counseling Services; the Redevelopment Authority of Monroe County with information on their First Time Homebuyers Program; East Stroudsburg Saving Association’s Bank-First Time Homebuyer Program; Mr. Insideout Inspections, who will detail information on home inspections; Liberty Homes Custom Builders, an affordable housing builder; and National City Mortgage, a division of National City Bank.

“As the voice of the building industry, our association strives to be a resource for the consumer,” said Peter Gallagher, president of the Pocono Builders Association. “We understand the importance of being a partner with the Board of Realtors and our local politicians in order to bring this information together and reinforce that the American dream of home ownership is still attainable to all who are willing to work for it.”

Congressman Kanjorski: Working in Congress to Curb the Current Housing Problems

Congressman Paul E. Kanjorski (PA-11) has worked to respond to the current economic turmoil, including the problems in the housing market, with several specific legislative actions in the 110th Congress.

Throughout his tenure as a member of the House Financial Services Committee and now as the leader of the Subcommittee on Capital Markets, Insurance and Government Sponsored Enterprises, Chairman Kanjorski has acted to resolve many similar economic difficulties, from the Savings and Loan crisis in the late 1980s to the mortgage lending problems faced by his own district in the Poconos just several years ago.  Learning from these past experiences, Chairman Kanjorski has responded to the current crisis with specific legislative action in the 110th Congress.

Chairman Kanjorski worked in the House to enact the economic stimulus package in February, which began sending out recovery rebates to families at the end of April.  These rebates are designed to boost the economy and help people with their finances.  Congressman Kanjorski helped lead the successful effort in the U.S. House of Representatives to include cash payments for 20 million additional senior citizens and 250,000 additional disabled veterans nationwide who would have otherwise been excluded from the stimulus package.

The economic stimulus package also raised the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) 2008 loan limits in Monroe, Lackawanna, Luzerne, and Columbia counties more than $70,000 (from $200,160 to $271,050) and up to $402,500 in Carbon County.  This temporary change will help more homebuyers in Northeastern Pennsylvania to use the stability of FHA as a resource for their mortgage financing.

On May 8, the House passed the FHA enhancement bill to allow the FHA to take on up to $300 billion in refinanced loans for struggling homeowners.  This legislation would help approximately 500,000 financially strapped American families facing foreclosure to keep their homes, and protect the home values of families living nearby.  The legislation is not a bailout.  It requires both homeowners and lenders to take responsibility for their mortgages.  Chairman Kanjorski’s Emergency Mortgage Loan Modification Act of 2008 was folded into the House-passed bill, too.  The Chairman’s bill eliminates the fear of legal action from investors for loan servicers that work with families facing mortgage defaults to modify the terms of the loan.

Also in May, the House passed the Neighborhood Stabilization Act to provide $15 billion in loans and grants to states to acquire vacant, foreclosed homes.  The legislation would allow local communities to rehabilitate foreclosed properties, which currently drive down surrounding home property values.  Once restored, these homes would be placed back on the market and sold or rented at affordable rates.  The Congressional Research Service estimates that Pennsylvania would receive nearly $600 million for grants and loans as a result of this legislation, if enacted as currently drafted.

In November, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Mortgage Reform and Anti-Predatory Lending Act.  Currently pending in the Senate, this bill includes Chairman Kanjorski’s Escrow, Appraisal, and Mortgage Servicing Improvements Act, which requires escrow accounts for property taxes and homeowners insurance for many borrowers, improves appraisal independence, and enhances mortgage servicing.  Many of the provisions in his legislation address problems first identified at a field hearing Congressman Kanjorski held at East Stroudsburg University in June, 2004.  The House-passed bill also includes broker licensing, education, and oversight reforms that Chairman Kanjorski first advocated putting in place nearly three years ago.

Additionally, in February, Chairman Kanjorski announced the appropriation of $230 million in federal funding, as laid out in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, for housing counseling and mortgage foreclosure mitigation activities.  These funds will make it possible for more families facing foreclosure to obtain help in negotiating changes to their mortgages to allow them to remain in their homes.  Signed into law in December, the bill allocates $180 million for NeighborWorks America to make grants to credit counseling agencies approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and $50 million for housing counseling through HUD’s housing counseling assistance program.

Congressman Kanjorski encourages homeowners who are at risk of losing their homes to foreclosure to contact their lender or servicer as early as possible.  Alternatively, they can contact housing counselors with HOPE NOW by calling 888-995-HOPE (4673) or the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency at 800-822-1174.  If people have other questions, they can contact Congressman Kanjorski’s office at http://kanjorski.house.gov/ or 800-222-2346.

News & Notes

There are a few things I’d like to catch up on from the last six weeks.  I attended some rallies at the Capital and spoke with a number of people during my hiatus.  Thanks to everyone who encouraged me to continue the blog.  Those who were curiously silent make me ponder…

At least at the beginning I don’t intend to spend the amount of time and money I did before.  After what happened I have to wonder why I would?  Some of my coverage will also vary from before due to some recent events.

First and foremost I’d like to send condolences to Congressman Jim Gerlach who lost his mother recently.  I suspect the Roggio campaign learned a difficult lesson about jumping to conclusions that week.

Good friends Beth Hafer and Mike Waltner lost their Congressional races and though we support those Democratic nominees who were successful, we are sad to see these two good people not get to Washington.  Stay involved and don’t go away, both of you.

State Committee meets next Friday and Saturday and I have to decide whether to cover the events.  

I continue to hear how the Governor isn’t happy with some of my coverage.  Let me be clear:  I think Ed Rendell has been a very good Governor, one of the best we have ever had.  I disagree with him on two issues where he has broken with established Democratic principles:  privatization (turnpike)and corporate welfare (mandating health insurance purchasing from that corrupt industry).

I think the healthcare debate is Ed Rendell’s opportunity to establish a legacy as the single greatest Governor in Pennsylvania history.  Being the first Governor to sign a single payer system is his chance for greatness.  He’s missing the boat here. If he dislikes me because we disagree on only two issues I remind him of all the other issues for which I have supported his efforts.

The Capital rallies I attended were against the repressive “marriage amendment” and for the single payer healthcare system.  Watching dozens of medical students lobbying the state lawmakers on behalf of reform was inspiring.  Interestingly none of the state media saw fit to cover this event.

The rally against inserting language legalizing discrimination into our state constitution and legalizing the repression of a minority was something to see.  Several hundred people, gay and straight, filled the rotunda and chanted loudly and resoundingly against this bill.

Babette Josephs, Connie Williams, Mike O’Brien and Vince Fumo all spoke eloquently.  Fumo then attacked the measure by presenting an amendment which would outlaw all divorce in Pennsylvania.  This underscored the hypocrisy of the bill’s sponsors:  if they are truly concerned about threats to the “institution of marriage” then they should end divorce.

Marriage was, for centuries, a legal matter in which a woman became the property, nee chattel, of their husband.  Women had no rights as citizens and the family horse actually had more rights than a wife and mother.  This is the system for which the extreme right wing in America is upholding and saying is threatened.  Because they maintain nothing about the institution of marriage can be changed or it will destroy their unions (wtf???) they must then mean to revert back to this earlier tradition.  What’s to prevent that if we fail to move forward and provide equal rights to every American?

What I’d really like to see is a bill which would then strip all legal protections from married persons.  If every American cannot be entitled to the same rights then no one has any.  The Fourteenth Amendment guarantees “equal justice under law.”  

Progressive Majority Sponsoring Camp Wellstone

Progressive majority, an organization which has been quite impressive in Pennsylvania, is sponsoring a Camp Wellstone training in Philadelphia in July.  The effective week-end training seminar is a must for first time candidates and very useful for those working on campaigns and for Party leaders and volunteers.

The Camp is scheduled for July 26 and 27 and has three tracks:  candidates, campaign management and citizen activist.  If you are familiar with the Campaign camps run by Grassroots Solutions in recent years (they ran Camp Wellstone) you’re familiar with this program.

For more information contact Rafael (rvega@progressivemajority.org) or go to the website and register.

Rules Committee

The DNC Rules Committee meets today amid rallies supporting Hillary Clinton which were organized by her campaign.  The idea is to put pressure on members of the Rules Committee to ignore the fact Florida and Michigan violated the Party’s rules.

What are for anyway?  If anyone can choose to ignore rules what do we end up with?  Let me remind you:  George W. Bush.

The President violated rules and laws to get elected in 2000 and has chosen to put himself and his top advisors above the law.  Congress, of course, has allowed them to do so by refusing to impeach.What we have now is an all powerful Chief Executive who thinks he can completely pervert the constitution, and has.

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I support Hillary Clinton and believe she would be the stronger candidate and a very good President.  I have serious reservations about Barack Obama after covering the Pennsylvania primary.  Yesterday’s video footage showing more outrageous conduct inside his church makes me concerned voters won’t support him in November.

The mean spirited, intolerant mocking of Hillary Clinton by a Roman Catholic priest whose parish has been the recipient of Obama largesse undermines his claims to end politics as usual.  It continues to raise the specter of Rev. Wright.

Regardless rules are rules.  Florida and Michigan’s state legislators disenfranchised their voters by moving their elections in violation of the rules.  I don’t think voters in these two states are so stupid as to blame the Democratic nominee for these mistakes come November.  If they do it is our fault for not reminding them exactly what transpired.

The argument about disenfranchising primary voters is ridiculous.  Every four years millions of primary voters are disenfranchised when a nominee clinches early.  In fact this is why the rush was on to move primaries this year.  People in these states were fed up with not having a say in the nominating process.

Hillary Clinton thought she’d have the nomination sewed up on February 5th.  Had that happened we wouldn’t be hearing all this new talk about the need to not disenfranchise primary voters.  She’s have been all too happy to do so.  This discussion is demeaning and disingenuous.  It’s politics however.

What this really points out is the need to reorganize our primary process and have four monthly primaries which rotate every presidential election year.  I don’t really care if Iowa and New Hampshire get their knickers out of kilter because the country is more important than two small, white, rural bailiwicks which have provided us with loser after loser every four years.

The threat to take this fight to the convention demeans Hillary Clinton and the valiant and impressive effort she has sustained for the nomination.  I grew to like and respect her while covering her events and working with her staff (all but one local organizer who shall remain nameless).  Millions of Americans, especially women, have been empowered and inspired by Hillary.  Don’t risk it all with a quixotic quest to the Credentials Committee and a floor fight.  The Party and the country cannot afford that at this crucial juncture.

Hillary, you fought the good fight and waged a good campaign.  It’s time to leave with grace.

Anti-Gerrymandering Bill In Danger

A bill in the state House to reform the drawing of state House and Senate (it doesn’t affect Congress) districts is dying due to the inability of a bureaucrat to do his job.  In a column in today’s Inquirer Chris Satullo outlines the bill and it’s potential.

Steve Samuelson introduced HB 2420 and it was assigned to the State Government Committee.  Babette Josephs (Committee Chair) then asked the Legislative Reference Bureau for comment and they refused.  After some discussion over the meaning of the term “community of interest” the bill is being redrafted.

Now, admittedly, that term is vague and could be defined any way a nefarious person may want but this is a critically important bill which must be passed.

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Of course getting any bill through the constitutional process in Pennsylvania is difficult and convincing legislators to jeopardize their safely drawn districts is nigh on impossible.  Recognizing this Satullo is urging citizens to contact their lawmakers and apply pressure for passage of the bill.

Legislators in Harrisburg only react to several stimuli:  lobbyists with money and/or influence, the orders from their Party Majority Leaders who fund their offices and staffs, strong challengers for their seats, and the threat from voters back home to kick them out of office.  These are in their order of importance.

A concerted effort of citizen lobbying is something they pay attention to where they know their voters are upset or concerned in large numbers.  Contacting your Representative and Senator on these bills is important.  Please do so.

PA Supremes Punish Payday Lender

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has decreed that payday lender Advance America Cash Advance violated usury limits by imposing fees and interest which exceed state law.  

Payday loans such as Advance America provides leech funds from the poor at outrageously high rates.  Theirs impose a $150 fee and 6% interest for a $500 loan.  Former Philadelphia Mayoral candidate Tom Knox made his fortune preying on the poor with such usurious and immoral business practices.  Knox briefly toyed with the idea of running for State Treasurer last year and has his sights set on the Governor’s mansion in 2010.

NYU’s Brennan Center Supports Congressional Subpoenas

Citing the critical importance of separation of powers NYU’s Brennan Center for Justice has filed an amicus (friend of the court) brief in support of Congress’ authority to subpoena Harriet Miers and Josh Bolton.

The House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed both former White House officials in its investigation og GonzalesGate, the political manipulation of Justice by the Bush Administration.  Miers and Bolten have refused to comply with the orders to appear and are claiming all White House officials are above the law.

The Brennan Center brief argues that if the Court dismisses the action, as requested by Bolten’s and Miers’ attorneys, it could deal a significant blow to the Constitution’s separation of powers and “would signal to future presidents that they could hide behind executive privilege regardless of whether their legal claim was weak or strong–or even baseless.”

pull quote “The Committee is investigating allegations that partisan operatives commandeered Congress’s criminal laws and the machinery of the Department of Justice for improper purposes,” said Emily Berman, the Katz Fellow in the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center and one of the co-authors of the brief. “Information supplied by federal officials has been riddled with gaps and inconsistencies, raising the possibility that the Committee and the public have been misled. Congress can obtain these missing facts only from executive officials allegedly implicated in misconduct.”

“This case raises questions of fundamental importance to our Constitution’s system of Separation of Powers,” said Berman. “Congress’s constitutional obligation to ensure that the Executive acts within the bounds of the law requires that it complete this important investigation. Should the court deny it the power to do so, Congress’s oversight authority will be compromised, and with it our constitutional balance of power.

Dog and Pony Shows

John McCain is reminding voters that his likely opponent Barack Obama hasn’t visited Iraq in quite some time.  The Republican warmonger even is reciting the exact number of days it’s been-871 or something.

All the trips John McCain and other lawmakers have taken have done nothing to make us or the Iraqi people safer.  In fact they endanger our troops because they are diverted from real missions to provide security for these dog and pony shows produced and orchestrated by The Pentagon.

McCain, Obama and all the other officials spirited into the Green Zone are given glimpses only of what the White House and its sycophant generals wish them to see.  These are dog and pony shows which even those involved with have so described.

Why this political posturing by John McCain?  This is the fool who actually tried to visit a Baghdad market without wearing body armor.  It took 100 soldiers, several helicopter gunships and other heavy security to afford him one stupid photo opportunity.

We don’t need more stupid, counterproductive visits to Iraq by candidates.

Scott McClellan Gets Religion

Former White House mouthpiece Scott McClellan has written a book which is causing great angst among neoconservatives because he outed their propaganda campaign against the American people.  There is nothing new in this book, nothing many of us didn’t already know.  We’ve been writing about all the lies perpetrated by the Bush Administration for years.  This is why Karl Rove accused McClellan of “being a left wing blogger.”

The only news here is that Scott McClellan has “gotten religion.”  Being subjected to the treachery of his own colleagues in the Valerie Plame/Joe Wilson scandal, whatever shred of credibility he had left with the media corps disappeared and he resigned.

I wrote an article back then reminding everyone about Scott McClellan’s being a serial liar.  He lied about this war and much else from the White House podium.  He lied without regard to ethics, consequences or ethics.  His lies cost lives.

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I do not welcome his sudden conversion to “truth.”  he was one of those deeply involved in the propaganda campaign he now condemns.  He was a central figure conveying the lies he now exposes.  In fact, that was his job.

He did it so badly a diarist at Daily Kos called karateexplosions mocked his daily press conferences.  We all knew Scott McClellan was lying his arse off so why didn’t he?  Of course he did.  No one is that stupid.  Scott McClellan was a willing and full participant in the effort to lie America into war.

I will not buy his book just because he’s suddenly awakened and realized the consequences of his actions.

Meanwhile the lies continue.  I watched John McCain say that every intelligence agency in the world thought Saddam Hussein had wmd’s.  That is a bald faced lie.  It is one of the oft repeated untruths made over and over in an attempt to convince Americans it is true.  It is not.  This is a much more serious misstatement than saying one was open to sniper fire in Bosnia or that one’s uncle liberated Auschwitz.  This lie has cost tens of thousands of lives and its perpetuation will cost more.

John McCain, if you wish to become President it is time to stop lying to America about weapons of mass destruction.

Progress

We’ve been making progress towards a grand new relaunching of the blog.  I still have to import the old content from Typepad and get the header (being designed) and footers.  The blogrolls are done (let me know if any of the links aren’t working) and the site traffic reporting is transferred.  I have some pages written for “contact us” and “FAQ” but they aren’t uploaded yet so bear with us while we complete the site.

There will be gradual improvements as we go along but the writers seem hungry to get going again.

It’s been a long hiatus for all of us, about six weeks so far.  A lot has happened, a lot of articles not written and a lot of comments and feedback missed to those articles.  We missed you too.

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It’ll be impossible to cover everything that’s happened while we were away so I won’t even try.  We’ll pick up where we are and reference events from these weeks as we go along.

Congratulations go out to Keystone Politics, selected as the credentialed bloggers to be embedded with the Pennsylvania delegation to the Democratic National Convention in August.  I had also applied but having the blog shut down four days before the selection day doomed our chances.  This was of the really unfortunate consequences of the action taken against me.

I very much missed writing.  My routine is to spend my morning reading the newspaper then writing until noonish.  It’s been very strange not writing every morning.  I have done some reading and I’ll do a few book reviews as we gear back up.  I also got some kayaking but missed covering numerous campaign events.  Please put us back on your press release lists if you removed us.

Also, please update your links and blogrolls if you have been linking to The Pennsylvania Progressive.  One advantage to our new site is that ThePennsylvaniaProgressive.com is now our OFFICIAL domain name.  Before it was set up as a silent forward to the Typepad blog.