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Watching and listening to Maxine Waters stand up for homeowners threatened by the foreclosure crisis reminds me how fortunate we are to be represented by her in the United States Congress.
During her more than 30 years of public service, Waters has been an effective advocate for the African American community and an outspoken champion of our causes. Her pursuit of fairness, equality, opportunity and justice for all has been relentless and her victories legendary. Clearly, however, she is not one to rest on her laurels, or to rest at all it seems.
To those who might be unaware of her success on our behalf, who might take her for granted, or who ask what she has done for us lately, I suggest that her efforts to protect homeowners are worth noting—both for the specific accomplishments she has made and to illustrate her continued commitment to give voice to the voiceless and hope to the hopeless.
The subprime mortgage meltdown has caused an epidemic of home foreclosures. This has been a leading factor in the national and state economic woes. California has been especially hard hit. Chances are there is a family facing foreclosure, a boarded up home, an abandoned property nearby in your neighborhood, maybe even on your street.
Our own Maxine Waters is leading the fight to assist homeowners and to aid cities and counties hurt by the foreclosure crisis. She is pursuing this battle on two fronts, both right here in the community and in the corridors of power in Washington, DC. She is writing and passing legislation, as well as continuing her organizing and activism.
Waters and the dedicated staff in her office often meet face-to-face with residents of her district who are feeling the financial squeeze and on the verge of losing the home they have worked so hard and sacrificed so much to obtain. At a town hall meeting last week, Waters listened patiently and supportively to one heartbreaking tale after another of someone victimized by a mortgage lender or broker who used fraudulent, dishonest, deceptive and unsavory tactics to take their money and property. The Congresswoman offered sound advice as well as the expertise of helpful counselors whom she assembled. No matter how busy or important she has become, Maxine Waters still identifies and fights for the little guy. She still does casework herself, directly intervening to get satisfactory answers and successful results. She personally has been responsible for preventing foreclosures from costing a number of families their homes.
A Powerhouse in Washington
In addition to getting involved at the local level, Congresswoman Waters is employing the power and clout she has earned to find solutions at the national level. She chairs the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Housing and Community Opportunity, a key position that enables her to help prospective homebuyers and struggling homeowners in our neighborhoods and all across America. She has put together legislation addressing various aspects of the housing crisis and successfully moved it through the House.
Most recently, the House passed a bill she introduced that would enable states like California and counties like Los Angeles that have been severely impacted by foreclosures to stabilize neighborhoods by buying up foreclosed homes, fixing them up and putting them back on the market for rent or sale. This would help make up for lost property taxes that are causing state and county budget cuts, prevent further harm to owners of surrounding homes, and provide affordable housing opportunities to lower and middle income families.
In addition, earlier this month the House passed another major bill that Congresswoman Waters helped put together to enable homeowners to refinance with more affordable loans.
These are just the latest legislative victories she has achieved as the leader of one of the most active and effective subcommittees in Congress.
Cracking Down on Home Mortgage Fraud
Waters is not only focused on responding to help those in need. She is also seeking to prevent more foreclosures by fighting to stop the schemers, hustlers and con artists who have preyed on hard-working, unsuspecting folks in our community. Waters will seek criminal penalties against those responsible for home mortgage abuses. She has called for leaders of banks and other financial institutions to defend their practices and change their ways. She has threatened to use subpoena power if necessary to get their testimony—and anyone who knows Maxine Waters knows not to doubt her willingness to follow through.
After all, it was Maxine Waters who fought the closure of MLK Hospital. It was Maxine Waters who developed the Minority AIDS Initiative to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS among our population and has continued to win more and more funding for this important program. It was Maxine Waters who fought against police brutality, harassment, the use of the chokehold and the battering ram by LAPD during the years of Chief Darrell Gates. And it was Maxine Waters who fought against the CIA when it turned a blind eye to the spread of crack cocaine on the streets of our neighborhoods to fund a war in Nicaragua. And it has been Maxine Waters leading to fight to assist public housing tenants and homeowners displaced by Hurricane Katrina by introducing the Gulf Coast Hurricane Housing Recovery Act and successfully getting it passed by the House.
Whether through aggressive oversight or creative legislation, she will continue to pursue solutions to the housing crisis.
But her legislative priorities extend beyond housing and include other key issues for our community. She has introduced bills to improve health care by providing screenings for diseases that affect us like cancer, diabetes, HIV, and Alzheimer’s, to end the Iraq war, and the Jubilee Act to help reduce poverty in Africa and other nations burdened by debt.
Using Her Clout for Us
Many people have been the beneficiaries of her work over the years. Thankfully, her passion still burns strong and her persistence has paid off. Now that she has even more clout in her leadership roles as Chief Deputy Whip for the House Majority, Chair of the Out of Iraq Caucus, and a senior member of the Judiciary Committee, we can continue to expect her to stand up for us.
This year she received three notable awards that are testament to her ongoing accomplishments for us: The South African government this year bestowed the Oliver Tambo Award, one of its highest honors, on Congresswoman Waters for her work fighting apartheid and helping the people of South Africa for over 20 years. Black Entertainment Television presented her with its BET Inaugural Honors Public Service Award. And she was inducted into the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame. As impressive as these latest accolades are, the hugs and smiles she receives from a grateful constituent whom she has helped no doubt give her just as much satisfaction and motivation.
Let us be grateful to have Congresswoman Waters representing us.