Governor, help foreclosure victims

By Common Council President Willie L. Hines, Jr.

Governor Walker is engaged in the political fight of his life, raising millions of dollars to defend himself against the grassroots effort to remove him from office. But politics aside, Governor Walker needs to undo an injustice he carried out against countless Milwaukee families.

As we all know, banks across the country made out like bandits during the recent fiscal crisis. The taxpayers sued, and in a recent national settlement over mortgage practices and abuses, Wisconsin state government received $31.6 million. These were funds intended to help families who lost their homes to foreclosure or are underwater on their mortgages. Additionally, the settlement was awarded to strengthen programs that help keep homeowners out of foreclosure in the first place. But Governor Walker diverted more than $25 million to fill the state’s budget hole instead.

The governor recently announced that Wisconsin has a budget surplus. If that is truly the case, then Governor Walker needs to reverse course and give Milwaukee foreclosure victims the federal settlement money they deserve.

Families in Milwaukee need the help—now. There have been more than 20,000 foreclosure motions against Milwaukee homeowners during the last four years, more than twice the historical average. More Milwaukee families were affected by the housing crisis than anywhere else in the state, and a significant number of those hurt have been seniors and children. Beyond the human costs, foreclosures have weakened the city’s economy and residential tax base, and city resources are being stretched thin to inspect and maintain foreclosed properties.

This federal settlement was intended to help victims of foreclosure abuse, not politicians. These families have already suffered at the hands of unscrupulous lenders, and then their state government kicked them while they were down. It’s long past time for Governor Walker to make this right.

Unfortunately, the governor has stated that his governing philosophy is to “divide and conquer,” to steer power and money to those who he views as being on his side while leaving the rest of us behind. It is exactly that philosophy that gravely divided the state and has led to his recall.

Governor Walker has the right to practice politics as he sees fit. But his actions are extremely punitive towards those who are already suffering. The governor must not let his personal political needs stand between struggling families in Milwaukee and the resources meant to relieve them from their pain.

Make this right, Governor Walker. Don’t “divide and conquer” the families that are struggling the most.