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Here Comes the Fed

Local housing activists to lead a public meeting with Federal Reserve officials on the effects of the financial crisis

As posters all over the West Side have proclaimed for weeks: The Fed is coming to Buffalo. It may seem unbelievable that a government agency would leave the comfy confines of Washington, D.C., to visit our fair city, but that’s exactly what will happen this Thursday, July 16.

It’s all part of a tour arranged by the grassroots organization National People’s Network, which challenged Federal Reserve Chairman Benjamin Bernanke to get out into the country and see the effects of the financial crisis on America’s hardest-hit cities. Nine cities are part of the tour—including Rust Belt cities like Cincinnati, Chicago, and Des Moines—and each stop is hosted by a local community activist group. Buffalo’s meeting will be hosted by PUSH Buffalo, a West Side housing organization. “There is growing and mounting frustration in communities nationwide,” says George Goehl, executive director of National People’s Action. “The same financial institutions that created the foreclosure crisis then needed billions of dollars in bailouts…The Federal Reserve clearly dropped the ball in a big way.”

At the meeting, community organizers from PUSH, Partnership for the Public Good, and the Western New York Law Center will present their data and research to show how Buffalo was devastated by the mortgage crisis. A study done by the Western New York Law Center of foreclosed homes in 2007 and 2008 shows the largest concentration on the East Side as victims of subprime mortgages. No doubt they’ll use this study to emphasize the point that poor people in Buffalo have been victimized by predatory lenders. After the presentations, community members will get the chance to express their concerns to Fed liaisons directly. The underlying message of the evening is sure to be reform. At a time when many are wondering whether the stimulus package will do what was promised, tensions are high as the recession lingers. “These meetings are an opportunity to stand face to face with Fed officials and state frustrations and put forth common sense proposals on how the Fed can help clean up the current mess and deliver their original mission,” Goehl says.

After visiting each city, the Fed representatives will bring their data back to Bernanke, who will afterward meet again with the National People’s Network. This a key time if any reform is going to happen, as Congress is scrutinizing the government’s relationship with the financial industry. Key amendments to the Community Reinvestment Acts and Home Mortgage Disclosure Acts are on the table as well, both of which could tighten government accountability.

“The meetings will focus on federal policy changes, and highlighting, advancing, and amplifying the work local organizations are doing,” says Jordan Estevao, campaign director for National People’s Action. “We want the Fed to listen, but we want them to act and change rules and change way they’ve been enforcing them.”

Buffalo is the first stop of the Fed’s tour, so local organizers are hoping for a strong turnout and have invited local lawmakers to throw their support behind the cause. The event will take place at 6pm Thursday at Trinity Episcopal Church on Delaware Avenue.

ellen przepasniak

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