Sunday, September 15, 2013

Broke a pledge to myself to not attend council meetings -- or enter into civic matters as long as I'm working for the park service ... .

... that. because (1) I've become a high-profile member of my relatively small community, and (2) because I am limited by being a federal employee subject to the Hatch Act restrictions.  Though my political activity is not constricted as long as I'm not in uniform;  not identified as National Park Service ranger; nor acting in that agency's name.

Our Mayor Gayle McLaughlin is in a continuing struggle to apply Eminent Domain in an effort to bring relief to those either undergoing or threatened by home foreclosures.  The issue has brought Richmond into public scrutiny nationwide as our city challenges the banking industry with a plan that pits their investors against the increasing negative effects of blight and poverty.  This is unbelievably courageous and not without risk, of course.  And maybe I needed to set aside caution and take on some of that risk myself, as a member of my community.

For the first time in my history with the NPS, I would step out of my comfort zone and add my voice to those of others.

Because of the expected overflow crowd on Tuesday evening, the meeting had been moved from council chambers to the Convention Center, and the planners had not over-estimated the numbers who would attend.  The media was well-represented by sound trucks and news photographers in abundance; something I'd forgotten about -- but I'd not let that to deter me.  By the numbers in that room and the fact that I'd not arrived early enough to submit a card that would allow me to testify at the podium until the wee hours, and by the time that would happen the press would be long gone; which proved to be right.

It was 3 hours and 48 minutes before my turn came up, at which point -- at the calling of my name I rose to take my place at the podium, and said:

"I'm a 92 year-old woman who speaks for a segment of the community whose voice has not been heard.  I have a modest condo which was purchased about 12 years ago and that now has a balance of $200,000.00 and a value of $78,000.00.  I'm still working 5 days-a-week in a continuing effort to build an estate to leave for my children.  I've never missed a payment, nor am I in foreclosure.   I will not live long enough for those values to rise. The bank has collected 12 years  of interest on my mortgage.  I will now leave my heirs a worthless gift.  How can that be without any law being broken?
I also remember that the first property we owned was purchased by a white woman because our bank at the time disapproved of where our family was seeking to locate.  Our lot lay outside the ghetto in an otherwise "white" suburban community.

I am sure that the banking industry is fearful of the court cases that will bring "discovery" and exposure of today's discriminatory practices.  By bringing the use of Eminent Domain in as a tool to solve an urgent problem , we will be setting a much-needed precedent as these cases are brought all over the country."
This was a statement that I could defend.  I was not in uniform and stated clearly that I was speaking as a private citizen.

Notified our superintendent early the next morning that I'd done so, and gave him the exact point on the streamed videotape of the proceedings on the public access channel (348.38) which is KCRT-TV.  The statement was limited to 2 minutes, and -- since I'm paraphrasing -- I suspect that there are at least two sentences included here that weren't in my oral statement (only what I wish I'd said!).

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