Editorial: Mayor Lee: Ease off Mirkarimi and help stop the foreclosure crisis


And so the downtown gang (Willie Brown/Rose Pak, PG&E, the Chamber, the big developers et al) used Ed Lee to outmaneuver the progressives and roll Lee into the job of "interim mayor" on condition Lee not run for mayor.  Then Lee kept lying for months about his intentions and saying over and over that he would not run for mayor--until the downtown gang convinced him to run as a way to further damage the progressives. And now, according to news reports, Mayor Lee is poised to file misconduct charges against Mirkarimi for his gulty plea of false imprisonment in the Mirkarimi domestic violence case.

This could lead to an explosive and polarizing scenario where the Board of Supervvisors, in an election year, would be asked to remove Mirkarimi, a former fellow supervisor and political ally, as sheriff or side with him on what has turned out to become a toxic political issue. This would affect at minimum Mar, Avalos, Campos, and Olague in the supervisors' races and Mar, Avalos, and Campos in the upcoming Democratic County Central Committee race. It would also affect any candidate in any race that said a nice word about Mirkarimi.  If anybody thinks the mayor and the downtown gang would be unhappy with this prospect, think again. I recommend that Lee hold off on Mirkarimi, and work to uphold his position as a "unifier," and not become a polarizer and promoter of media and City Hall circuses. Instead of taking on Mirkarimi and the progressives, he should concentrate on such important and timely issues as helping stop the foreclosure process on the thousands of homes facing foreclosure in San Francisco. More: he should go after the big foreclosure banks, starting with the Bank of America and its multi-million dollar short term cash account with the city, and  Wells Fargo, with its national headquarters here in town.b3

More than 1,000 homes in San Francisco are either in foreclosure or at the start of the process. Some 16,000 homeowners are underwater, and as many as 12,000 may face foreclosure in the next 12 months. A report by the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment shows that the city could lose $115 million from the reduced property taxes and the costs of carrying out evictions.

That's a crisis — and while the mayor has no direct control over home foreclosures, he ought to be speaking out and joining the protesters who are fighting this cascade of often-fraudulent bank actions.

The problems are legion: An audit released in February by Assessor Phil Ting shows that more than 80 percent of the foreclosure notices filed in San Francisco contain at least one legal irregularity, and many contain multiple. Banks back-date documents, use faulty information, and in some cases clearly and directly break the law when they move to seize property — often because of bad-faith loans that were more the fault of the banks than the homeowners.

A group from Occupy Bernal, the well-organized, sophisticated operation that's been intervening in foreclosures and evictions in the Southeast neighborhoods, visited us recently, and the stories we heard were alarming. Some told of bankers who promised to make loan modifications — then went ahead with foreclosure anyway. Some people spend weeks just trying to figure out who actually owns the mortgage — and while the financial institutions are ducking calls and hiding from responsibility, they're moving forward to toss people out of their homes.

ACCE and Occupy Bernal have had some successes — they slowed down foreclosure actions, forced banks to come to the table and in some cases saved homes. But the activists are up against big corporations and big numbers — too many homes on the block, too many financial institutions, and not enough people and money.

The Ting report showed enough violations of law that we've already urged the city attorney and the district attorney to start taking action.

But we've heard little beyond silence from the office of Mayor Ed Lee.

Lee's the city's chief executive, the person who has to handle the financial fallout of the foreclosure crisis as well as the human impacts — families evicted from their homes have a high chance of winding up on the streets, putting additional pressure on already-stressed social services.

Besides, this is a tragedy — and a lot of the problem is simply unaccountable, unreachable financial institutions. If Occupy Bernal and ACCE, through volunteer organizing and community pressure, can prevent a fair number of evictions, think of what the mayor of San Francisco could do — just by speaking out.

Lee ought to show up at some of the Occupy Bernal actions, but that may be too much to ask. But it's not too much to suggest that he publicly support the foreclosure fighters and call on the banks to work with local homeowners.

The city keeps its multibillion-dollar short-term cash accounts in institutions like Bank of America, which is responsible for more than 10 percent of all foreclosures in the city. Wells Fargo, with its headquarters right here in town, is responsible for 22 percent of the local foreclosures. Lee ought to let the banks know the city won't keep doing business with bad actors.

With a little visibility, the mayor could help save hundreds, maybe thousands of families from facing homelessness. This crisis calls for leadership; where's the mayor?


Ridiculous. Mirkarimi abused his wife, lied about it, attempted to supress information, apologized to everyone for doing these things - AND you want him to keep his job?

If Mirkarimi was a republican, there would be legions of bay guardians marching in the street.

Posted by Greg on Mar. 20, 2012 @ 3:25 pm

I am so sick of this "Greg" or whomever the political ally of Ross's enemies is really called, who keeps posting on the Guardian site. Move onto SFGate, will you, where the craven heathens who are in your tribe all reside. Guardian readers understand nuance, context and political machinations when they see them.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 20, 2012 @ 4:29 pm

I agree, I shouldn't have to read comments from anyone who might differ from my political POV. The best way to understand nuance is to have one POV!

Posted by Greg on Mar. 20, 2012 @ 5:07 pm

are a matter of federal jand state law. If you don't pay your mortgage then you lose your home. Everyone knows that, just like you lose your home if you don't pay the rent.

Here is a wild and crazy idea. Pay your freaking mortgage!!!

Posted by The Donald on Mar. 20, 2012 @ 5:12 pm

Hi there, The Donald;

It's not that simple. Most of the homeowners we're working with in Occupy Bernal want to pay their mortgages and keep their homes. The problem is predatory loans, which include but aren't limited to the following practices, according to an FDIC report (http://www.fdicoig.gov/reports06/06-011-508.shtml):

> balloon payments with unrealistic repayment terms;
> equity stripping associated with repeat refinancing and excessive fees;
> pre-payment penalties that may trap borrowers in high-cost loans;
> spurious open-end loans;
> steering of borrowers who qualify for lower-cost loans to higher-cost financing

During the gush of subprime lending, lenders specifically targeted people who were elderly, low-income, less educated, or were African American or Latino for predatory loans, since these groups were presumed to be more likely to trust the lender without questioning the terms of the loan. For example, in 1998, predatory lending accounted for 51 percent of refinance loans in predominantly African-American neighborhoods compared with only 9 percent in predominantly white neighborhoods (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 2000b).

One homeowner we're working with is an elderly African-American man, a federal retiree who worked at the San Francisco Mint and whose mortgage is now more than he gets in monthly income, because of ballooning interest rates on his predatory loan. Cases like his are why we're pressuring the banks to negotiate loans that homeowners are capable of repaying.

We in Occupy Bernal believe it serves our community to keep families stable and keep our neighbors in their homes. That's why we want Mayor Ed Lee to take a public stand in favor of a foreclosure moratorium.....and San Francisco Supervisors to approve a resolution calling for a moratorium on foreclosures. It's also why we applaud Kamala Harris for calling on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to halt foreclosures and investigate whether principal reduction is in the best interest of both homeowners and taxpayers.

Kat Snow

Posted by Guest on Mar. 21, 2012 @ 12:12 am

This proposal merely is a "statement of policy". There is no legal basis to prevent a foreclosure if the bank is entitled by the courts to do so.

Some people took on loans they could not afford but calling that "predatory" seeks to blame only the banks and not those who borrowed more than they knew they could ever afford.

And please don't insult us by trying to play the race card. Debtors come in all colors.

Posted by Anonymous on Mar. 21, 2012 @ 7:29 am

Exactly correct. Absolutely nothing the BOS or the mayor can do except spout hot air and talk. They have no power over this. It's all theater.

Posted by SMB on Mar. 22, 2012 @ 3:44 pm

He originally intended not to stand, and then he changed his mind due both to the mass of the populace supporting him and the lack of quality of the other mayoral candidates.

Changing your mind isn't lying, and the fact that over 60% voted for Lee over the runoff alternative shows you that the people are behind him.

Posted by The Donald on Mar. 20, 2012 @ 5:10 pm

I supported and worked on all of the candidates campaigns (with the exception of Olague) that you mention are at risk. It is embarassing that the guardian keeps defending ross. Dude was convicted and admitted to abusing his wife. This isnt a progressive or conservative issue. You are hurting us by continuing to defend Ross. On a personal level I feel terrible for the guy, but enough is enough. This is not some grand conspiracy. Ofcourse moderates would like to get rid of ross. If Gascon did something similar we would be jumping at the opportunity to dump him too. Obviously. But the fact is that when the chief jailer admits to false imprisonment and the evidence is so clear that yes, he did bruise his wife, its time for the guy to go.

I agree that it is a complicated situation, but progressives have traditionally been great advocates for victims of domestic violence for good reason. Why throw this relationship and good standing with the community away over alliance to one guy who is surely going down one way or the other. Ross was a good legislator, a little bit of a coward when it came to anything that could get in the way of his political career and is now unfortunatly in this terrible situation. I truly feel sorry for him and his whole family.

With that said... Stop embarrasing us with these 'oh look a squirl' type distractions. Thats great that John is taking the lead to end foreclosures. It also has nothing to do with the mirkarimi issue.

Seriously, why are you treating your readers like we are a bunch of fucking idiots?

Posted by nate on Mar. 20, 2012 @ 6:59 pm

Great editorial as always. You hit it right on the head - if a bunch of volunteers at Occupy Bernal are ready and willing to take on the Wells Fargo for destroying what little diversity remains in our fast gentrifying neighborhood, what the heck are the Mayor,the DA, and the City Attorney doing?

Posted by Buck Bagot on Mar. 21, 2012 @ 7:05 am

do with "diversity", "Buck"?

Are you saying that diversity means having both responsible homeowners AND deadbeats in our city?

Posted by Anonymous on Mar. 21, 2012 @ 7:26 am

I think it has more to do with the fact that foreclosures are disproportionatly done to people of color in a city that is loosing a huge percentage of its black population.

Posted by nate miller on Mar. 21, 2012 @ 11:57 am


Foreclosures are done to people who don't pay their home loans, and non-whites tend not to repay their home loans more than whites.

So what you're really saying is that non-whites are poorer, which of course we all know. But that isn't to say that banks are being racist. Race doesn't even appear on a loan application and most lenders do not meet their borrowers, so don't even know their race.

Posted by Greg on Mar. 21, 2012 @ 12:16 pm

I'm a progressive too, and I worked on all these campaigns. How do you know? Because I said so.

Anyway, now that my progressive bona fides are extablished, let's get on with the business of running ross out of office and replacing him with someone of ed Lee's choice. Until that goal is met, we need to focus like a laser beam on ross. Bruising of the arm is a serious crime. At this point I don't really care how it got there. The point is that the DA filed charges and Ross pled guilty. end of story. Arm bruising is much more serious than people losing their homes, so anything else is just a distraction. By not getting behind Ed lee and george Gascon in their efforts to remove ross, you're just embarrasing bona fide progressives like me. So let's get back on track with the main issue of removing ross, and when that goal is acomplished then we can run articles about foreclosure and evictions.

Posted by Fox Progressive on Mar. 21, 2012 @ 8:18 am

I said that I worked to help said people to establish that, yes, I have and continue to support them (or at least the ideas that they ran on and usually represent). And I did that because little turds like you all react and argue in the same way. As predicted, you immediatly try to misrepresent my point of view by claiming that I am somehow supporting Ed Lee and George Gascon, despite the contrary, which is clearly stated in my post. Yes, it is embarassing that when a man cops a plea deal on a DV charge, handles the situation terribly and is now about to put a bigger hole in the ship (as this article points out), the only thing that a lot of people who I associate with can do is make up conspiracy theories because he is our man. Progressives screw themselves when they become more intent on holding onto power (or relationships to power) instead of standing up for things that we claim to care about.

And yes... this straw man argument, comparing arm bruising to foreclosures, is absurd. If we followed this line of thinking, anytime I did something bad, I could excuse myself by demanding that people instead focus their energy on cleaning up toxic waste in hunters point because it is worse. Seriously, what a bunch of BS.

Props to the Occupy Bernal people, ACCE, CJJC and all the other awesome groups who are fighting foreclosures. Sorry that your legitimate fight is being used as a diversion here.

Posted by nate miller on Mar. 21, 2012 @ 11:38 am

I think people can focus on both things. It is pretty simple:

1) Ross needs to go. Period. He *should* step down. If he refuses (as he has so far), he should be removed. End of story.

2) Foreclosures are a real issue and need to be addressed. I see Avalos did exactly that today. Start of story.

There - focus on two items in less than 30 seconds. This is not a one-or-the-other choice. The writer of this article makes it out to be and, frankly, sounds like a wife-beater apologist. Bruce, put the politics aside and call Ross what he really is - an abusive husband. That is not the type of dude you should be supporting - no matter what his public polices may be.

Posted by chief on Mar. 21, 2012 @ 9:03 am

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