Video above contributed by Leona McElvene
Video above contributed by the Detroit People’s Platform
Groups demand moratorium on foreclosures
Treasurer extends payment deadline to May 1
But should people pay inflated, illegal bills to profit the banks?
Some say NO, demand a current assessment of home value, cancel county debt to banks
By Diane Bukowski
April 8, 2015
DETROIT – Hundreds of Wayne County residents from numerous groups protested the pending property tax foreclosures of 37,000 homes, with an estimated 100,000 residents, during the tax payment deadline last month.
They confronted Wayne County Treasurer Raymond Wojtowicz at his home March 30, trying to deliver hundreds of petitions, and at his offices March 31.
“Detroit, the largest majority African-American major city in the country, now faces the largest forced housing evictions possibly in the history of the United States,” Linda Campbell of the Detroit People’s Platform told a crowd of 50 people before they got on a bus to travel to Wojtowicz’s home at 15310 Carlisle in Detroit.
She said the announced foreclosures affect nearly one-sixth of Detroit’s population. The People’s Platform is demanding at least a one-year moratorium on all foreclosures of occupied homes.
“Many Detroiters and Wayne County Residents are being foreclosed upon due to incorrect tax bills with exaggerated property assessments and disputed water bill liens,” Campbell continued. “Persistent and high rates of unemployment, government cuts to services Detroiters rely on and increased displacement and forced relocation will result in enormous physical and mental stress and trauma on children and families.”
Outside the Treasurer’s offices in downtown Detroit, at 400 Monroe, dozens more marched on March 31, while others poured into the building to try to negotiate deals with Deputy Treasurer David Szymanski, and pay their tax bills.
Protesters outside chanted, “Housing is a human right, fight, fight, fight,” and carried signs with slogans like “Tax Foreclosure is a Crime.” They included members of Moratorium NOW, Detroit Eviction Defense, the Russell Woods-Sullivan Area Association, and the Detroit Active and Retired Employees Association, among others.
They also called for a moratorium. They said delinquent taxes can be paid using $251 million of unspent federal Helping Hardest Hit Homeowner Funds. Those funds have largely been diverted to billionaire Dan Gilbert, head of Detroit’s “Blight Removal Task Force,” to demolish acres of properties across Detroit, creating in reality a virtual “Black Removal.”
“These funds could be used to prevent the thousands of foreclosures which will further destroy our neighborhoods. . . .[and help in] resolving the financial crises in Wayne County and Detroit, which in large part are a result of declining revenues as a result of tax foreclosures,” a representative of Moratorium NOW! said.
Shortly afterwards, to the uncritical acclaim of the mainstream media, Wojtowicz announced the deadline for payment would be extended six weeks. The date is not listed on the Treasurer’s website, but that should make it Tues. May 1. Wojtowicz has actually extended these deadlines for years, but he appears especially intent on getting his payments now. The County has been facing a possible state takeover due to its ballooning budget deficit.
Cornell Squires of We the People and RICO Busters said he was not impressed with Wojtowicz’s extension and called on people NOT to pay their taxes during the six weeks, until they get accurate assessments of their homes’ value.
“They’re just trying to put fear in the people so they will run out, borrow money and get into more debt, so they don’t lose their homes,” Squires said. “Those tax bills are illegal, essentially criminal false statements, because they are not based on annual reassessments of property value, required by state law. The Treasurer is just extending the time so he can rake in more money.”
Squires, who has helped hundreds of people with foreclosure issues, suggested that instead of paying their taxes, people should put the money into personal escrow accounts, pending a current assessment, and so notify the Treasurer.
“Taxpayers can request that a city assessor come out to their house, like I did in 2012, and do a proper appraisal, inside and out, not just taking pictures,” Squires said. He said the assessor found a crack in his home’s foundation when he came out and eventually lowered his assessment. The Detroit Assessor’s office is located in Rm. 804 of the Coleman A. Young Center. Click on http://www.propertytax101.org/michigan/city-of-detroit/taxassessor for further information including phone numbers.
“The government charged Kwame Kilpatrick with perjury for making a false statement denying his affair with Christine Beatty,” Squires said. “Along with other charges, he ended up with 28 years in prison. How many years should Wojtowicz and his cronies get for making false tax reports and throwing 100,000 people in the street?”
Last year, Wayne County Auditor General Willie Mayo reported that Wojtowicz WAS committing fraud by cooking the books on the county’s Delinquent Tax Revolving Fund. He said Wojtowicz had concealed up to $127 million by placing it in “restricted” accounts.
What—racketeering in the Treasurer’s office? Are more criminal charges in store? Should Wojtowicz and staff join Kilpatrick in the pokey? Click on http://www.wxyz.com/news/local-news/investigations/audit-says-wayne-county-treasurer-withheld-106-million-during-cash-crisis- for full story of audit last year.
After the exposure, Wojtowicz agreed to give up $150 million to the county’s general fund from the restricted accounts to decrease its deficit. The delinquent tax fund is comprised of taxes, penalties and fees charged on top of delinquent property taxes, then used as collateral to obtain loans from the banks to make more money and more debt. (Click on Delinquent Tax Revolving Fund to read document establishing fund.)
BELOW IS INTERVIEW OF DETROIT HOMEOWNER DESCRIBING WHAT SHE WENT THROUGH TRYING TO PAY HER TAXES MARCH 31./Courtesy Detroit People’s Platform.
That fund is another source that could be used to pay off delinquent taxes, in addition to the Hardest Hit Funds.
In February, newly-elected Wayne County Executive Warren Evans announced that he expects a much larger deficit this year than that former Executive Robert Ficano had predicted. So the money Wojtowicz is trying to rake in from property taxes will go first to pay off the banks to forestall another budget deficit and possible state takeover and/or bankruptcy.
On Feb. 6, Moody’s downgraded its rating of Wayne County’s General Obligation Limited Tax debt by three notches to a junk level of BA3, with a negative outlook, meaning interest on county debt will increase dramatically.
“The negative outlook reflects our expectation that the county faces hurdles in implementing significant cost reductions,” Moody’s said in its report. “Failure to reach structural balance in the near term will further degrade available liquidity and could raise the probability of state intervention and increase the risk of the county seeking to restructure its debt and other obligations.”
It said the County’s rating could plummet further under various conditions, including “Lack of improvement in regional economic conditions that limits the stabilization of funding or exerts further downward stress on property tax revenues,” and “Initiation by [the] county of efforts to restructure debt obligations through consent agreement or seeking Chapter 9 protection.”
So will Wayne County become the next Detroit? If so, why should people throw their hard-earned money into the county coffers just to see it sucked up by greedy Wall Street banksters? Emergency management in Detroit and a subsequent declaration of Chapter 9 bankruptcy have left city retirees, workers, and other residents, particularly unemployed youth in much more dire circumstances, as the city’s assets including its $6 billion Water and Sewerage Department are sold off.
For more information contact:
- Moratorium NOW! 313-319-0870 Website http://moratorium-mi.org/
- We the People, c/o Cornell Squires 313-460-3175
- Detroit People’s Platform website http://www.unitingdetroiters.org/
- Detroit Eviction Defense website http://detroitevictiondefense.org/
- RICO Busters You Tube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCd3xqk6Kc778ASLAsRpV5ag
Fox 2 coverage of March 31 protest: http://www.myfoxdetroit.com/story/28675429/foreclosure-deadline-extended-for-wayne-county-homeowners