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August 2008 Newsletter         Subscribe to this newsletter


August 2008

In this issue:

Changes in the American with Disabilities Act

Tribute to the Veterans of Fort Lawton Court-Martial: Seattle Honors Soldiers and their Families

Miami-Dade County seeks Seattle's Assistance on Race and Social Justice

Staff Profiles

Kudos Corner

Announcement:

Save the Date! 6th Annual Seattle Race Conference
- Save the Date! flyer

To Own and Keep Your Home - Mortgage Intervention Workshop and Community Discussion
Learn the latest information on foreclosure prevention and available options. Click here for more info.

Facing Foreclosure or Purchasing a Home?
Avoid Predatory Lenders and Mortgage Discrimination

Has your adjustable rate mortgage "adjusted" to a sky-high interest rate? Have your employment or health situation changed? Are you in the market for a new home? Holding on to your home - or purchasing your first home - can seem insurmountable. Navigating the many loan options can look overwhelming.

In both cases, staying alert against predatory lenders and discrimination in lending is essential. A recent study by the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Urban Institute found that African American borrowers on average paid $415 more in closing costs in FHA-guaranteed mortgages than whites. The study also revealed Latino borrowers paid $365 more in closing costs.

What is Predatory Lending?

Predatory lending takes advantage of borrowers by charging higher fees and hidden costs. Predatory lending can include:

  • Charging excessive interest rates and/or higher points and fees;
  • Failing to disclose the true terms of the loan;
  • Approving a loan without consideration of the borrower's ability to repay;
  • Pressuring a borrower to sign documents without understanding the terms of the loan;
  • "Flipping" or frequent refinancing of a loan;
  • Targeting people of color or elderly homeowners for high-cost loans.

What is Mortgage Discrimination?

Discrimination in mortgage lending is illegal. The federal Fair Housing Act makes it against the law to do any of the following based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or disability:

  • Refuse to make a mortgage loan;
  • Refuse to provide information regarding loans;
  • Impose different terms or conditions on a loan, such as different interest rates, points, or fees;
  • Discriminate in appraising property;
  • Refuse to purchase a loan or set different terms or conditions for purchasing a loan.

Do you believe you have been the victim of predatory lending or your home lender has discriminated against you? Call the Seattle Office for Civil Rights at (206) 684-4500. We can help you explore your options under the law. For more resources on predatory lending visit our website at www.seattle.gov/civilrights/about.htm#Predatory.

 


Changes in the American with Disabilities Act
By Greg Bell, Policy & Outreach

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Restoration Act of 2007 is currently working its way through Congress. The House of Representatives has passed H.R 3195 by the staggering vote of 402-17, and the Senate has taken up the bill (S. 1881). Congress has long felt that the courts were reading the definition of "disability" too narrowly and subsequently created a new definition that will be broader and more inclusive.

The ADA Restoration Act of 2007 amends the ADA of 1990 to remove from the definition of "disability" a reference to "substantially limiting one or more major life activities." In determining whether an individual has an impairment, it prohibits considering whether the individual uses a mitigating measure, the impact of any mitigating measures, or whether the impairment is episodic, in remission, or latent. It also declares that an adverse action taken because of an individual's use of a mitigating measure constitutes discrimination under the Act.

Under the current reading of the law, an individual with a disability that is mitigated with medicine or other assistive efforts are considered to no longer be disabled. Thus they are not protected under the ADA. The original intent of the ADA was to prevent discrimination against disabled people. However, the courts have defined disability so narrowly that the alleged discrimination is rarely discussed. Accordingly, plaintiffs bringing ADA suits in federal courts have lost 97% of the time. This was never the intent of Congress in drafting the ADA, and the new act will correct that.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) is also proposing changes in the rules that they use to enforce the ADA. Seven million business and all federal and local governments will be affected and the DOJ expects compliance with these rules to cost $23 billion during the period of their implementation. Some of the rules changes are substantial and will have a profound effect of those who use or enforce the ADA.

One example of local significance is that service animal protection under the ADA will only be extended to those animals that have been trained to offer assistance to the person with the disability. Thus, companion, comfort and therapeutic animals will no longer receive service animal protections. The DOJ is awaiting public comment on the matter right now, and will review the comments to help determine which rules they will keep or change.


Tribute to the Veterans of Fort Lawton Court-Martial: Seattle Honors Soldiers and their Families
By Brenda Anibarro, Policy & Outreach

US Army Color Guard US Representative Jim McDermott's office, the US Army and a number of dignitaries and more than 500 community members came together to pay tribute

 On Saturday, July 26th the City of Seattle, King County, US Representative Jim McDermott's office, the US Army and a number of dignitaries and more than 500 community members came together to pay tribute to the African American soldiers who were wrongly convicted of murdering an Italian prisoner of war in 1944 at Fort Lawton, now known as Discovery Park.

Seattle journalists Jack and Leslie Hamann were instrumental in raising evidence in their book On American Soil that caused Representative Jim McDermott to encourage the Army Board for Correction of Military Records to re-examine the case. The tribute was an opportunity to make public the Army's apology and give honor to the men and their families who had been served an injustice.

Ray Snow and Mayor Greg Nickels Ronald James, the Assistance Secretary of the US Army, made a public apology on behalf of the Army

Ronald James, the Assistance Secretary of the US Army, made a public apology on behalf of the Army. The families of eight of the veterans, who had since passed, were exonerated and received honorable discharges. One of two surviving veterans, Samuel Snow, flew to Seattle to attend the ceremony but was taken to the hospital on Friday night due to heart problems. He died on Saturday night. His son Ray Snow accepted the papers in his father's place, and Mr. Snow was able to hold his papers the night before he passed away.

The tribute brought our community together to honor these men and their families Mickey Fearn and Julie Nelson

The tribute brought our community together to honor these men and their families. It is up to us to keep their stories alive and remain constant in our work for racial justice so that we learn from history; making the changes we must, so as not to repeat our past.

 


Miami-Dade County seeks Seattle's Assistance on Race and Social Justice

  On July 10th, Miami-Dade County held a Social Equity Summit. SOCR Director Julie Nelson, Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) Assistant Director Sharon White and Ron Harris-White, Climate Action Now Coordinator, were invited by Miami - Dade County leaders to participate. They knew of Seattle's work on Race and Social Justice and wanted to learn from the experiences of a municipality working actively to end institutional racism.

Miami-Dade County's Social Equity Summit was convened under the leadership of Commissioner Audrey Edmonson and staffed by the Office of Community Advocacy. The Summit brought together governmental leaders, academics and community members to discuss and develop strategies to address issues of racial disproportionality.

Julie, Sharon and Ron shared the vision of the Race and Social Justice Initiative: a city where racial disparities have been eliminated and racial equity achieved. Julie spoke about the strategies of the overall Initiative, and Sharon and Ron shared their experiences implementing the Initiative within SPU. Participants were eager to hear about Seattle's emphasis on our own institution, and about how we are confronting the ways in which racism can be unintentionally perpetuated through our institutions.

The experiences in Miami-Dade County are not unlike the experiences Seattle faces in struggling for racial equity. By sharing strategies and lessons learned, we strengthen our ability to create more equitable institutions. Seattle welcomes the opportunity to partner with other cities to bring about systemic change, and ultimately, more equitable communities - communities where race and social justice truly exists.


Staff Profiles

Marta Idowu Marta Idowu

 Marta has worked as a Planning and Development Specialist for the Seattle Office for Civil Rights for 5 years as liaison to the Seattle Human Rights Commission and the Seattle Commission for Sexual Minorities. Marta enjoys working as a team with co-workers on projects and the unique cultural diversity of the office. Marta enjoys reading, helping people, working on auctions, cooking, traveling and very passionate about the work we do in Civil Rights around race and social justice issues and fairness for all.


Latrice Ybarra Latrice Ybarra

What is your position at SOCR and how long have you been with the office?
HR, Finance and Administrative Manager (what a long name!)

What do you love most about working at SOCR?
The people and the culture luncheons which gives us the opportunity to learn more about cultures, each other and of course the amazing food.

What hobbies or passions do you have outside of work?
My passion is simply taking the time just chill with family and friends.


Kudos Corner

In addition to investigating civil rights cases, our Civil Rights Analysts also provide trainings on civil rights law in relation to employment and housing. The following kudos arrived in our office after several recent trainings.

We received the following kudos for Karina Bull and Monica Beach from our Enforcement division, which provided training to a local housing management company:

Hi Karina - I just wanted to send a thank you to each of you, including Monica Beach---for taking the time to come and speak at our annual manager's meeting yesterday. The feed back that we received was that the training was interactive and topics were relevant to our every day experiences. It also helped that you all portrayed yourselves as approachable which, I think, made the discussions more natural for our staff.

Other evaluations from the training included the following:

"You guys did a great job with such a dry subject!"

"Presenters were knowledgeable and very friendly. I liked that you guys were not 'stiff' and 'stuffy.' I liked your jokes. It kept it fun."

"It covered the biggest problems to a site manager"

"It was a great informative and helpful presentation. The team was great! Can't think of any improvements it was perfect!"

"I've been to these presentations for 20+ years. Excellent presentation."

"Having more than one speaker made it interesting."

"Great speakers - kept the info they provided interesting. Very easy to listen to and actually learn something when the speakers are fun." "Straightforward, casual and useful."

"Very informative! Examples made things easy to understand and fun. I have been to several meetings. Yours has been outstanding."

We also received kudos for Chenelle Love and Merle Weiss from our Enforcement division for their presentations at July's Fair Housing Workshop and Fair Housing Seminar.

"This contains a lot of information that is important for any landlord."

"It was very informative...good, well planned and laid out."

"Speakers were knowledgeable and articulate."

"I thought each part had value and each presenter was well versed."

"Yes, the presenters were great. I am a realtor and yes, this did apply to my job. I would recommend this to others."

 

Seattle Office for Civil Rights
Julie Nelson, Director

For newsletter questions contact Brenda Anibarro, (206) 684-4514 Brenda.Anibarro@Seattle.Gov