Quick Hit Ellyn Fortino Monday June 11th, 2012, 4:22pm

State Leaders Join Forces With Local Advocates For Economic Justice

Members of the faith-based power network IIRON signed a covenant on Sunday for economic justice and called on Attorney General Lisa Madigan and other elected officials to sign it in order to create a more just economy.

IIRON and its related organizations — Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation (SOUL), Northside P.O.W.E.R., the Northwest Indiana Federation and the IIRON Student Network — rolled out the set of economic principals at St. Mark United Methodist Church, located at 8441 S. St. Lawrence Ave.
The covenant is about moving forward, said IIRON President Rev. Marilyn Pagán-Banks.

Those guidelines include ensuring economic justice by providing opportunities for all; protecting the common good with publicly funded and administered health care, education and public infrastructure, among others; and protecting democracy and the environment.

“Let’s create a new covenant, a new promise saying that when we begin to talk about money and the economy and how we create a healthy economy that it’s going to be for everyone at the table,” she said.

Chicago Alds. William Burns (4th) and Roderick T. Sawyer (6th), State Rep. Marcus Evans (33rd), newly-elected State Rep. Christian Mitchell (26th), U.S. Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-9), and Indiana Sen. Lonnie Randolph, were among the elected officials and dozens of IIRON members that signed the covenant.

Toby Chow, chair of the bank accountability taskforce at SOUL, stressed the need for principal reductions for underwater mortgages. Chow called principal reductions a clear “economic and justice issue.”

“This problem was created by a system of intentional fraud and theft, and that needs to be stopped,” Chow said.

“It’s a clear economic issue, because this underwater mortgage debt functions to suck wealth out of neighborhoods, out of homeowners, out of our economy and up into the hands of Wall Street, and that needs to end.”

Here's a slideshow of photos from the event:

In January, President Barack Obama created the Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities Working Group, a taskforce meant to conduct investigations into fraud within the mortgage industry. Madigan is a member of the group.

“This body has the potential to hold Wall Street accountable to bring relief to homeowners and to bring America out of this depression,” Chow said.

On stage, Chow asked Madigan if she would pursue the remedy of principal reductions for underwater homeowners.

“Yes I will,” Madigan answered, which caused the audience to erupt with cheers.

Although Madigan did not sign the covenant, she said will work to reduce underwater-mortgage principals. But she added that Cook County residents should lend a hand to those whose properties are in financial trouble.

“It’s so important that everybody takes the time to not just say we’re going to come to church one day, we’re going to sign a covenant, but there has to be real action that takes place," Madigan said in remarks outside the church. "And so much of that is offering a helping hand to people, saying are you in trouble?”

She said it’s critical that people reach out and do “the very difficult work” of approaching the bank and asking for relief with the help of advocates.

“It can be intimidating, it can be embarrassing, but what is worse is that you could lose your home, destroy your credit, ruin a community,” Madigan said.

Madigan along with key IIRON members urged the hundreds in the audience to take their money out of big banks, particularly J.P. Morgan Chase, as protest of their actions.

“If you disagree with what the big banks are doing, then take your money out of the big bank and put it in a community bank. Put it in a credit union,” Madigan said. “There are options.”


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