Tag Archives: Chip Shields

An end to the madness?

by Joanne Zuhl, Staff Writer

For the tens of thousands of Oregonians and their families who have lost their homes in the past four years, the recent announcement of the national mortgage settlement is of small comfort compared to their loss. The 49-state settlement will stretch over three years, and divide the $25 billion pound of flesh from the five major lending institutions down to about $1,800 per victim in Oregon.

But for the tens of thousands who are in the pipeline of foreclosure today, an ounce of prevention is still worth a pound of cure.

In Salem, two bills are left alive that would give Oregon homeowners protection against the predatory lending practices that contributed to the housing crisis and the avalanche of foreclosures it caused. Championing that cause through the Senate committee process is State Sen. Chip Shields, D-North/Northeast Portland, who chairs the General Government, Consumer and Small Business Protection Committee.

Shields’ committee  cleared Senate Bills 1552 and 1564 that would install protections for consumers when they go to modify their loans to avoid foreclosure, and do away with the dual-track process that allowed banks to blindside homeowners with foreclosure even while they were in the process of modifying their loan. The measures echo the national mortgage settlement overview, the details of which are still unknown.

However, the bills survival is questionable, and reports as of yesterday (Feb 27) indicated they might not survive a vote. House Republicans snuffed four similar bills by denying hearings in the committee process. And there’s a Republican proposal to remove the dual-track violation from prosecution under the unfair trade practices act, an action that Shields says would water down the law, remove any remedy to victims and prevent the state attorney general from pursuing justice on an issue that now dominates concerns among his constituents.

Chip Shields: I’d say four years ago, 70 percent of my constituent case work was helping people who were having problems with government agencies, department of human services, etcetera. Now, 70 percent of our constituent work is people who are just complete at wits end about how inept, either on purpose or by accident, their lender or their mortgage company is. People in situations where they’re going along with the modification process in good faith, and then, wham, they get the notice right in the middle of it that the bank is foreclosing on them for no good reason — when they’ve been following the advice of the person on the other end of the phone. So it’s a huge problem, and we’re not just hearing from homeowners, we’re hearing from Realtors who are amazed at how poorly their clients are being treated. Continue reading

Extra! Extra!

The weekend is almost here, and when it arrives, be ready for the new edition of Street Roots, rolling on the presses right now. It’s still only $1, and delivered by the finest vendors in town. Here’s what’s headed your way:

An end to the madness? A discussion with Sen. Chip Shields on his efforts to get foreclosure reform measures passed in Salem. It’s an uphill battle, but the difference could help Oregonians threatened by foreclosures today.

‘Unemployed need not apply’ ads targeted by state lawmakers: A bill in Salem would prohibit companies from advertising jobs that don’t allow the jobless to apply.

‘We’ll have to come together and do our best’: A discussion with City Commissioner Dan Saltzman about his work in office and the challenges ahead.

Amanda Fritz, Mary Nolan and $: The latest rundown on campaign fundraising by Janice Thompson with Common Cause.

All this, plus commentary by the Western Regional Advocacy Project, Planned Parenthood, OPAL and economist Robin Hahnel. And much more, including news, poetry and notes from readers who wrote in about their experiences with vendors. A fun read! So don’t forget to tuck a buck before you head out tomorrow and say hello to your friendly neighborhood Street Roots vendor! Thank you!

Measure 11’s failing scorecard fans sparks of reform

By Amanda Waldroupe, Staff Writer

Last month, the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission released an in-depth and critical study of Oregon’s mandatory minimum sentencing law, Measure 11.

The Justice Commission, composed of legislators, prosecutors, defenders and others involved in criminal justice and charged with monitoring Oregon’s public safety sector, spent one year collecting and analyzing data from the 16 years that Measure 11 has been on the books.

The 83-page report made a number of findings, including who receives Measure 11 sentences, how the law is applied in each of Oregon’s 36 counties, how many people are indicted with Measure 11 crimes but subsequently charged with lesser crimes, and other ways in which Measure 11 has affected Oregon’s criminal justice system.

In all respects, the study found that Measure 11 is not working the way Oregonians were told it would when they voted on the measure in 1994. The report “makes a fair case that it falls short of reaching all of the objectives,” says Department of Corrections director Max Williams.

Measure 11 was sold to voters as a tough-on-crime measure giving prosecutors the power to giving longer prison sentences to the worst of the worst criminals to protect society and victims.

Mandatory minimum sentences requiring a specific prison sentence for a crime, no matter the circumstances, would create consistency in sentencing across the state. And the specter of those long sentences would deter potential criminals from committing crimes.

But many advocates argue the Justice Commission’s report debunks that argument for Measure 11 in its entirety.

“At this point, it’s clear,” that Measure 11 is not working the way it should, says David Rogers, the executive director of the advocacy organization Partnership for Safety and Justice.

Measure 11 has always been a hot-button issue for both tough-on-crime conservatives and liberals arguing that it is too costly and ineffective.

So the Justice Commission’s study leaves one to wonder: Has enough evidence mounted to give opponents of Measure 11 the steam to drive reform?

“People talk about it all the time,” Rogers says. “There are definitely people actively talking about the need to address Measure 11 at the Capitol.”

The Justice Commission’s report is the second critical report on Measure 11 to be released within the past year. Last summer, former Governor Ted Kulongoski’s Reset Cabinet, a group that investigated ways for Oregon to save money, reviewed the measure and recommended that Oregon rein in its prisons spending in order to have a stable budget. One of the main ways to do that, the report said, was to make changes to Measure 11. Continue reading