March 4, 2013
The Chase Bank House
FORETHOUGHT

Intent: To show that the City spent taxpayer money to clean up the Chase house.


Happening all across America

The 2010, G.A.O. Report on abandoned bank repos paints a bleak picture for continued income inequality. Banks are not required to notify anyone when they walk away from a house – this is according to the American Banker's April 23, 2013 article titled “Banks Halting Foreclosures to Avoid Upkeep.”

The G.A.O. estimates that between 14.5K -34.6K of these undocumented houses are scattered throughout the country. Frequently they occur in clusters. In 2010, four of these houses were abandoned in my neighborhood – millions of dollars in net worth were destroyed. It isn't just the immediate neighborhood that is damaged. Comparable values within one mile radius are reduced.

I believe much of the lethargy in today's economy is due to inaction by City Hall. Our net worth is being destroyed as the banks save $150 per month of maintenance. City Hall isn't being paid off, they are simply ignoring the problem. They allow dumping, graffiti, and property destruction despite laws that proscribe it.

People give up on their government when it refuses to enforce laws against banks. As political apathy sets in, anger builds and people become reactive about their situation.


Transforming anger into action

I am angry about what is happening in my neighborhood. Being angry about boundary violations can either propel me forward if I use my agress energy creatively, or destroy my case if I blame others for the problem.

Rather than buying into the power game, tonight I am focused towards solution. I am:

  • Effective – I say what I want, naming the problem instead of reacting against the inaction of the City.
  • Heard – I ask clearly and directly for what I want.
  • Going to get results – By not blaming, I draw attention to my ideas.

I choose to keep my anger in check, and not blame. Instead I ask for an accounting of the situation and how it came to be. My presentation was quite succinct and took just under 2 minutes to lay out.

I find short succinct presentations help keep me focused on solution, instead of blame.

 

Law and Code

Tonight, at the podium, I am going to make a case to change the City's tolerance policy of allowing these blights to go unchallenged. State law says: “The City Manager shall faithfully execute all ordinances and law”. It provides no exception for banks. See Law for more insights into integrating it into your campaign.

I am going use a Power Point presentation for the documents my attorney researched. I keep my audience focused by not showing the whole bankruptcy file – just the critical page. The community will see the house being surrendered to Chase 35 days prior to garbage being dumped.

Municipal Code is far reaching and prohibits these types of blights. It also provides the ability for the City to recover all monies spent on cleanup through property tax liens. These liens cannot be stripped off the property through the foreclosure process. The lien is placed on the property, not the individual in Bankruptcy. The City is first in line for monies from property tax liens; ahead of the Bank and even the IRS.

People in politics do not like their shortcomings pointed out in public from the podium. Combining that knowledge, with law and code, calls into question their continued employment. I will use the City Manager's refusal to deal with this issue to make a case for changing policies. The person serving as the City Manager is a policy decision. I will be making a case for a new direction of the City, and a new City Manager.

 

Time for decision

I would ask you to suspend judgment about my speaking style until you see the results. Ultimately, I have to choose between:

  • Blaming and not getting the results I want.
  • Being effective and getting the situation cleaned up.

I choose to be effective.

 

Power's Achilles Heel

Power that engages in control over others does not like being called out in public about its shortcomings. Instead it prefers to fight and deflect. Blame and excuses are its hallmark, not fixing problems. These behaviors are its primary weakness.

 

The Sting

To motivate power into action I embed a sting into my speeches and letters. The bold text in the Reconnaissance sections shows the underlying message I delivered. I don't have to raise my voice to call out willful inaction when using this approach. Political power does not like being engaged this way.

In adding solution to the sting, the governance of the City is called into question. Councils live and die by the decisions and actions of their City Manager. Power will do whatever it takes to avoid stinging presentations: including fixing the problem.

In standing forth as an adult, and speaking to the issues without blame: I am heard. Some people call this, “Speaking Truth to Power”.

 

 

TEXT OF SPEECH

I hired a bankruptcy attorney to investigate the October 26th story in the Highline Times about the abandoned foreclosed houses. I believe I found evidence of mismanagement and misuse of City funds.

The public record shows Chase receiving free city cleanup at 11416 26th Ave. S. That was the house with 40 yards of garbage.

If you look at the overhead projector you will see Page 3 Section V of the bankruptcy filing. This is the section where the house was surrendered to Chase on March 25th 2010. That was 35 days before the dumping began and eight months before the City cleanup.

Instead of pursuing abatement action against Chase, the legal owner, the City Manager and City Attorney chose to cleanup the mess with City funds.

Since the City chose not to charge Chase, the legal owner, for the cleanup their property. I want to know what public accounts were charged for cleaning up Chase's legal obligation. How many thousands of dollars were involved. I want to know why things were done the way they were.

I respectfully request that a due diligence report into this matter, including recovery of these monies be entered into the public record by August 1st. Recovery efforts should evaluate action against Chase and if that is not an option, then the Council should contact your insurance carrier for recovery of lost City funds.

 



RECONNAISSANCE
March 4, 2013

King County Recorders office showed no liens from Burien regarding clean up of the Chase Bank house.
Cleaning up private property without a lien is an illegal use of City funds.

News story in the Highline Times provided a number of points for me to investigate.

  • Half dozen letters to Chase Bank
  • No response from Chase Bank
  • City funds were used to clean up private property
  • City was unable to recover clean up costs
  • Acknowledged the existence of other Bank REO's in my neighborhood.

Shows a lack of follow through on the part of the City to known issues.

Attorney documents showed that the house was surrendered to Chase 35 days prior to dumping.
These documents call into question the City Manager's handling of both money and polices.

Burien Municipal Code (BMC) does not allow blighting and provides full recovery for all monies expended. This includes administrative staff, attorney fees, and the actual clean up itself.
This calls into question the oversight of the City Manager by the Council in regards to his execution of their ordinances.

 

Good news / Bad news

The bad news is things were far worse than I expected. The Council doesn't seem surprised or interested in the problem. The problem is far more pervasive than the Bank REO's. It extends into almost every aspect of the City.

No one appears to be in control of the situation; blame and deflection is substituted for meaningful action. The Council is highly polarized; there is infighting.

The good news is it was easy to lay out a campaign for change. Each of the problems I saw in the Council Chambers represented an opportunity. I used these possibilities to articulate a case for new direction. Staying through the entire Council meetings when I spoke, provided me with plenty of fresh material for each of my presentations.

I would invite you to attend a couple of Council meetings prior to speaking. That way you will have a better grasp of what is going on in your City. If your City is in decline; there will be no shortage of material to speak about. You will be able to quickly pencil out your campaign and get down to the business of writing.

With The Bully Pulpit, you won't have to reinvent the wheel to get things cleaned up in your City. You can use it as a template, or better yet; improve on it.

 

After Thoughts

Presentation Issues


Making a stand for my beliefs creates adrenaline. This is perfectly normal. I was:

  • Very nervous
  • Quite tight
  • Having difficulty with the volume of my voice
  • Voice sounded crackly to me

Adrenaline affected my perceptions, not the presentation itself. There is a tab to called Breathing. As a result, I am now doing breathing exercises for 3 minutes a day to help counteract adrenaline. By the middle of the 4th presentation you will see a dramatic shift in my energy as I become more relaxed by breathing easier. My presentations will become more nuanced and I will engage the audience more effectively.

 

Changing the course of the Nation


Seeing what confronts you and your City, as an opportunity instead of as a problem, is an important distinction to make. Seeing it as a problem will make it just that. Seeing it as an opportunity allows anger to be transformed into passion. Passion is infectious. It gets results.

The easiest way to change the course of the country, is to change the discourse at the political level. The podium is perfect for this endeavor. It provides a high visibility message to the community and the Council for change.

Staying focused on solution instead of blame, is where connecting to the audience is made possible. I am modeling the behavior I want to see.

If the City ignores you – that's O.K., it has nothing to do with you, its just how power operates. If this happen to you too, this behavior can be quite useful for the community to see. It will help them comprehend why things are the way they are.

 

The Chase House

My decision to speak for a more expansive change required I know more about this property.