By Lynda Jones
This week Milwaukee Inner City Congregatons Allied for Hope (MICAH) organized a press conference to demand that ALL $31.6 million Foreclosure Fraud Settlement dollars be directed to homeowners. Governor Scott Walker and Attorney General JB Hollen have decided to use these dollars to plug up state budget holes instead.
Leaders in MICAH and around the community spoke out against using this money from a Federal Government settlement with five of the Nation’s largest banks over foreclosure abuse and fraud. The moral implication of the measure has moved leaders in the faith-based organization to stand up and speak out.
“These are people that have been dealt a bad hand, and the Federal Government has stepped in to intervene, but the Governor does not want them to have their fair share. Milwaukee has been one of the hardest hit areas in the country by the foreclosure crisis, this is not the time to rob Peter to pay Paul”. said MICAH President, Reverend Willie Brisco. “…high speed rail money returned, money to provide health care returned; enough is enough…people are struggling”, Brisco added.
Mayor Tom Barrett stated that at the end of January of this year, he reached out to the Governor’s office and to the Attorney General’s office and requested to be included on the decision making process for these funds. Not only was he not contacted back, but the settlement was received and before the end of the day last week the decision to plug budget holes was made.
What makes this move even more insulting is the fact that Governor Scott Walker is on record for criticizing past administrations for using one time lump sum money for budget issues, when the money is meant for something else. Here he goes and does the same thing that he has criticized others before him for doing. He also claimed that the state’s budget was balanced, now suddenly it is not.
Citizens of Milwaukee need to speak out and let this Governor and Attorney General know that they are wrong. Unfortunately, they used the loop hole in the settlement that doesn’t make it mandatory for these funds to be used the way that they were intended for. And based on this Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, who helped to fight for these funds said that she would ask that in any future settlements, mandatory guidelines should be used.
“The only court now to take this to is the court of public opinion,” stated Mayor Barrett, and he encourages the public to call the Governor’s office and the Attorney General’s office and let them know that this is wrong…competely wrong.
The neighborhood that served as the site for the press conference alone had multiple boarded up homes, at one point there were three homes in a row. Residents in the neighborhood stated that law enforcement has to come out several times during a week to secure the vacant homes. Vacant homes do so much more damage than just a family losing a house, and that is bad enough. Vacant homes take away from the property tax base for the city. They diminish home values for those who still live in the neighborhoods and crime rises. But this Governor continues to make it harder for Milwaukeeans.
“We can only do so much… we have implemented so many programs to help ease the foreclosure issue from the city’s position…but for every move forward, we run into obstacles from this governor and this administration.”stated Common Council President Willie Hines.
Contact JB Hollen’s office at (608) 266-1221. And contact the Governor’s office at (608)267-7303.