5 x 8: When the banks win

The Monday Morning Rouser:

http://youtu.be/pxUgfyUpB68

1) A FORECLOSURE IN RUSH CITY

We don’t hear many news stories surrounding the issue of foreclosures anymore. The economy is picking up and some states — Massachusetts being the latest — took the opportunity to pass legislation requiring lenders to consider all available loss-mitigation options before proceeding to foreclosure.

A year after the Minnesota Legislature made a new stadium for the Vikings its priority, it finally passed a homeowners bill of rights this year, but the banks who helped craft the legislation stripped it of a provision for mandatory mediation between banks and homeowners in danger of losing their homes.

Mardee Jerde of Rush City could’ve used a little more. The Star Tribune reports today the 70-year-old has lost her home after a five-year fight. She thought she’d qualify for a loan modification program, so she cleaned out her savings and gave the bank $50,000, only to be immediately told by the bank she didn’t qualify for a little help.

She still shows up to tend the flowers in the garden.

Most politicians never really got around to devoting serious effort to the foreclosure crisis that collapsed the economy other than “show” legislation that looked better than it really was. Almost all the checks have gone out now, for example, from a settlement between government regulators and banks that was going to hold the banks accountable and right the wrongs done to many homeowners, USA Today reported last week. They were to receive money from mortgage holders who improperly denied their requests for loan modifications. The program has turned out to be a bust.

Some homeowners who had expected $6,000 checks, got about $300 instead. USA Today tells the story of the Bailey family, which sounds fairly familiar:

They fell 30 days behind on their mortgage payments in 2009 but caught up, according to a credit report from Equifax that they provided.

They say Wells Fargo then invited them to enter the government’s loan modification program, and bank employees told them not to make payments for several months until the trial modification started.

A payment history from Wells Fargo, which the Baileys also provided, shows they made their three trial payments on time. They say they continued to make those new lower payments for months afterward.

In April 2010, they learned they’d been denied a modification and that they owed $13,750 — the sum of the payments they missed before their modification started and the difference between their trial payments and their old higher ones. The couple didn’t have the money, and their house was sold in a foreclosure auction that fall.

Many other homeowners had similar experiences, says Neil Barofsky, who formerly headed a government watchdog team that monitored federal spending for bailouts and foreclosure prevention programs during the financial crisis. Homeowners were wrongly told to skip payments to qualify for trial modifications, got stuck in long ones, then were denied, he says.

The Baileys say they deserved a $125,000 payout because they were current on their mortgage at the time they entered the government’s modification program and did all that was asked of them while in it.

Wells Fargo refused to comment on individual cases.

Americans lost $192 billion in wealth because of foreclosures in 2012 alone.

Related: Home price gains bring sellers off the sidelines | Minnesota Public Radio News.

2) THE FIGHT WE CAN’T WIN

It may not rain all week. That’s probably good news for mosquitoes who have had plenty of wet weather to breed and now will have their favorite meal come out of their houses. Swell.

I noticed the mosquito control helicopter was in the neighborhood on Friday, shoveling its sand against the tide. It’s a fight humans cannot win, CBS News says.

3) LAWYERS WHO DEFEND THE POOR

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Gideon v. Wainwright Supreme Court decision. The justices ruled, unanimously, that defendants in criminal cases deserved legal representation in state courts and the government would pay for it if they can’t afford an attorney. A new HBO documentary, Gideon’s Army, follows three black public defenders working in the Deep South. It airs tonight. NPR introduces us to the three.

It doesn’t take much, though, to destroy the system, as evidenced by this comment to the NPR story.

Here in Jacksonville, the elected public defender is a political ally of the elected state attorney. Within days of th election, he had fired the experienced staff and replaced them with inexperienced young attorneys. They had so few resources and so little experience that a group of high-profile criminal defense attorneys in private practice intervened to represent one defendant, because he obviously wouldn’t have had an adequate defense otherwise.

From the archive: A Day in the Life of Public Defender

4) A BID FOR BUS LANES

“Where can the transit advocate turn for a ride that isn’t on rails, but still extends deep into the suburbs and doesn’t take forever to get there?” Streets.mn’s Alex Bauman asks. Two bus rapid transit lines are under construction or — in Bauman’s words — “in half-assed operation. Eight highway BRT lines are planned. He says fully built, BRT will carry as many riders as LRT. Maybe more.

And yet…

It’s amazing that local transportation planners don’t even consider dedicated bus lanes when reconstructing lynchpins of the bus system like Washington Ave. It’s possible this is because they are nervous about taking more roadway space away from their precious cars, but bus lanes can actually fit in well with the ecosystem of a neighborhood surface street.

Bus lanes work well shared with bikes and right turns, too, as long as you stripe them similar to 5th & 6th Sts in St Paul rather than Hennepin Ave in Minneapolis (it also probably doesn’t help to discontinue enforcement, as Minneapolis did). Of course, the suburban arterials I suggested above pretty much all have enough right-of-way to dedicate bus lanes in addition to cycletracks, right turn lanes, landing strips, etc.

It’s more likely, though, that local transportation planners don’t consider bus lanes because they just don’t have to. The seven layer burrito of transportation planning responsibilities in the Twin Cities metro allows for a lot of buck-passing opportunities, as one of Hennepin County’s engineers recently told me. According to him, Hennepin County didn’t consider bus lanes on Washington Ave because they don’t consider bus lanes unless prompted by Metro Transit. Can you guess how many miles of surface bus lanes Metro Transit has ever requested of any jurisdiction? Zero.

5) THE LARK OF DULUTH

The Lark of Duluth is going to fly again. It was the first commercial airliner. The Federal Aviation Administration has given an airworthiness certificate to the floating biplane, culminating the work of a group of people who’ve been building it, the Duluth News Tribune reports. It will fly again on July 12th, its 100th anniversary. (h/t: Jamie Merideth)

Related: Midwest seen as proving ground for biofuel-powered airliners | Midwest Energy News.

Bonus: Study: Americans Want To Be Informed About News Stories : NPR. Question: If this were true, wouldn’t you be getting more?

WHAT WE’RE DOING

Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: Is the Obama presidency in decline?

Second hour: Retiring overseas.

Third hour: How long can you wait to have a baby?

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): TBA

The Takeaway (1-2 p.m.) – Mass Anti-Government Protests in Egypt, Round Two of Texas Abortion Debate, Reflecting on the Battle of Gettysburg.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - Automated milking systems are becoming increasingly popular across Minnesota, as farmers look to boost milk production and cut labor costs. Eight years ago, a southwest Minnesota farmer became the first to use a robotic milker in the state. Now, more than 100 Minnesota farms use robotic milkers, which essentially let cows milk themselves. MPR’s Elizabeth Baier reports.

  • MrE85

    The Lark of Duluth story is pretty cool. Love them old timey aviation stories.

  • Chuck

    I bet just about every NewsCut reader knows someone who has had a similar “modified home loan” story. The name of my former coworker and husband could have been cut-and-pasted right into the USA Today story about the Bailey family. It’s shameful that this continues to happen. I know banks aren’t doing anything illegal, per se, but their ethics appear to have been packed away in some inaccessible cellar chamber. And where’s all the help from the government in making sure banks are playing fair? It’s very disheartening.

  • Chuck

    Today’s “rouser” was truly rousing! Whoever dug that up, and from wherever–great! Perky and upbeat, perfect for a Monday morning.

  • mark

    I worked as a default processor for several years. I think it’s fashionable and easy to portray the banks as sinful and borrowers as victims. One thing I noticed was a pronounced shift in bankruptcy courts from GETTING it right (accuracy), to DOING it right (process). This change has almost exclusively cut one way, against the mortgagee. Not to mention trustees who are openly hostile to servicers.

    • tboom

      Fashionable ???

      These corporate mortgage bankers fell all over themselves writing mortgages to unsophisticated borrowers (financially unsophisticated) with no hope of repaying … and the bankers knew it.

      In the late 80′s and early 90′s S&L were put out of business and their presidents/CEO’s went to prison for less. These guys walked away with bonuses, setting up an incentive to repeat their sins in the future.