Marian Tasco and Political Courage

I am doing some research on a paper about Pennsylvania preemption of Philadelphia laws, and though I have mentioned before the work of City Councilwoman Marian Tasco, I thought it was worth passing along this article from 2001.

The setting is that Philly was being hit by waves and waves of foreclosures from subprime loans. (Not unlike today.) ACORN, Community Legal Services and others went to work on pressuring City Council. (Yeah, that Irv guy was pretty involved and basically wrote the bill, and so was current State Rep. Cherelle Parker, and, I believe, current at-large City Council Candidate Derek Green, who worked worked in the City Law Department for with Tasco.) In Tasco, consumer groups found a real ally.

Anyway, the basic point is that the City was being crushed under the weight of all these foreclosures. So, consumer groups found a willing partner, in Tasco, who pushed a strong predatory lending bill. It was not an easy climate to do so, as the financial services industry, the Philly Chamber of Commerce and others were pushing hard against the bill (which did not, notably, have the support of Mayor Street).

Daily News, April 5, 2001:

Council members, consumer advocates, religious leaders and city labor leaders lined up with Tasco to show support for the bill, which prohibits the city from doing business with high-cost lenders.

Meanwhile, bank lobbyists visited some Council members, urging a vote against the measure, which they say will hurt business and make it hard for borrowers with bad credit to get loans.

Council members were blitzed yesterday with dozens of telephone calls and faxes from the lending industry. Much of the activity seemed like an orchestrated effort by employees of Household Finance, the large subprime lender, one Council aide said.

Councilman James Kenney, a supporter of the bill, said the lobbying push was the most intense he has seen during his City Hall tenure. Council members seemed confident that the bill would withstand the lobbying and Mayor Street's effort to delay a vote.

Looking back, the bill was pretty visionary. Why? Because it did not just deal with traditionally predatory loans. It also went after high-cost loans, with requirements for counseling, demands that borrowers could actually pay for their loans, and other measures that today the feds are considering after seeing that so many of the thousands of foreclosures are not from traditional predatory lending, but from the subprime industry run amok. Put simply, this law would have saved thousands of Philadelphia homeowners.

The bill passed largely because day after day, the Daily News ran the pictures of each Councilperson who had not declared their support, with their phone numbers underneath. That, combined with the work of advocates, and Marian Tasco, got it done.

The Daily News, April 30, 2001:

After City Council voted 16-0 to approve the predatory lending bill, Councilwoman Marian Tasco held a quiet champagne celebration with staffers and supporters in her office. Then she went to get her hair done.

Tasco's low-key response to her biggest legislative victory is telling. Throughout her 13 years on City Council, Tasco has been a behind-the-scenes operator, looking for consensus.

In her calm but firm manner, Tasco faced down the powerful banking lobby and the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce. She got her fellow Council members to vote unanimously for the toughest predatory lending bill in the country. And she stood up to Mayor Street, who let the bill become law without his signature.

....

The bill was quickly voted out of committee. Within weeks, the lending industry had hired a high-powered lobbying force to kill the legislation.

Citigroup retained two friends of Street, public relations executive Bruce Crawley and attorney Carl Singley. Nick Maiale, a South Philadelphia ward leader, was later brought in by Citigroup. Household Finance retained attorney Obra Kernodle and lobbyist Howard Cain. The Pennsylvania Bankers Association brought in Tabb Bishop from the lobby firm Wojdak & Associates.

Bill Miller, a public relations executive from Ross and Associates was hired to lobby for the insurance subsidiary of American General Corp.

Miller is a longtime friend of Tasco's. The list of lobbyists with ties to Street, Tasco and other pols prompted some City Hall watchers to speculate the bill stood no chance of passing.

Ironically, the bill was then quickly killed by the PA Legislature, led by Vince Fumo and... Dwight Evans (a close ally of Tasco).

Why am I bringing this up? Because simply put, it is important for young progressives like us to know just who our allies and leaders are. Marian Tasco is one of them. (And, the article notes the support of Jim Kenney, as well.)

A Great Reason to Work on Council Races

Is to elect enough new members so that a smart independent progressive like Marian Tasco could have a shot at being Council President!

Can you imagine how much better this city would be with Michael Nutter Mayor, Marian Tasco Council President, and folks like Vern, Damon, Maria, Irv, Marc, Matt and Derek on Council?

Dare to dream, progressive Philadelphia!

Just be ready to work for the dream!

Proudly supporting the BEAUTIFUL Philly For Change Council Slate and MICHAEL NUTTER for Mayor

Great to See Marian Tasco Acknowledged

I have said at various places over the last few weeks, that Councilwoman Tasco is the progressive wing of the Democratic Party in City Council right now. I've been following her work closely for the last few years and I think she is the best member of Council we have. Her heart is always in the right place and she has worked hard and smart to attain progressive goals. (By the way, she was a sponsor of the resolution to hold hearings on public financing of campaigns.)

However, she has been hamstrung by the lack of allies and the pro-Street block. For example, when I was working with folks to save the Cohen Wage Tax Rebate last year, I think Councilwoman Tasco wanted to vote with us. But given Street's control over the budget numbers and alliance with a Council majority, she was forced to delay the wage tax rebate in order to get money for district recreational centers.

She needs help from some new progressives who share her ideals.

Revisionist History

Mainly off-topic from the post, but Marc, who are you kidding with this revisioning of Street?

Street and his block of votes is what prevented massive BPT cuts. You and I both worked to support the goals of OnePhiladelphia which worked against those cuts.

Further, many progressives, including my former boss at PUP, John Dodds, who you worked closely with on the minimum wage bill, opposed the Cohen bill from its start. John and I and others thought the answer to tax-cut frenzy was not more tax cuts.

Predatory and Pay Day Lending is still an issue

Dan, as you know, predatory and pay day lending is still an issue, especially in Philadelphia. Considering the number of foreclosures and collapse of various subprime lenders, the ongoing effects of these practices will really hit Philadelphia hard over the coming years. Unfortunately, there has been little talk about this growing storm.

Compared to other large cities, Philadelphia has one of country's highest homeownership rates. Accordingly, homeowners may have the opportunity to use their home's equity to start a business (like me and my wife, www.soles-shoes.com), send a child to college, or handle emergencies. Yet, various banks do not provide real access to loans due to their heavy reliance on credit scoring.

This shift in lending policy is why I left banking in the early 90's to go to law school. When I was an Assistant Branch Manager and small business lender for Meridian Bank in North Philadelphia, I had my own lending authority and
was able to help people establish credit and provide loans based on my own review of the customer's application. When lending authority was taken out of bank branches, predatory and pay day lending surged because bank officers were not empowered to go out into communities, develop relationships, and help people establish credit.

Considering this experience, I was recruited, while in the City Law Department, to work with Councilwoman Tasco to address this issue. Following the Councilwoman's lead, Irv, Cherelle Parker, Steve Masters, and I spent several months crafting a bill that became a national model for consumer protection.

As you stated, Councilwoman Tasco showed a lot of courage in getting this bill passed because a number of her long time friends and allies lobbied her to not move forward on this issue. However and being a woman of conviction, she did the right thing on this issue. Having served as her Chief Legislative Aide and Counsel, I have learned a lot from her and hope to follow in her footsteps by bringing this same sense of conviction to City Council by continuing the fight against predatory and pay day lending and other issues that impact our City.

ACORN PAC

I noticed that ACORN PAC was mentioned in Dan's post above, they have endorsed me, Wilson Goode and Blondell Reynolds Brown at-large and will be a key part of my field operations on election day. They have determined that I share their values. Marian Tasco is a leader. We need to vote for progressives, like me, that have a shot at victory and will do the right thing no matter the potential political cost.

Bill Green
Democratic Candidate
City Council At Large
www.greenforphiladelphia.com

School work

It's so fun to use school projects to research an interesting aspect of Philly politics.

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http://benwaxman.com

All that's good

The Predatory Lending thing got Tasco all kinds of great attention around the country. Richly deserved, of course, but it worked out well for her. I like Tasco becaue I'm impressed with a lot of the people who have come out of her office (including this year's Candidates Maria Quinones-Sanchez and Derek Green). I'm a little mystified about her dogged loyalty to Rep. Evans (who I like in many ways but has passed some bad legislation in the past few years), considering the fact that he did pretty much nix one of her biggest accomplishments...
but, on the flip side,
I'm from Kansas and we are all about putting personal loyalties first there. I tend to go along with that worldview, so there are probably deeper ties between the two of them than I can really ever know about.
So, when I look at the Evans-Tasco team in that light, her values and mine probably line up even more than her public record can testify to. She's very solid. It would be nice if she got a chance to take on bigger things.

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BradyDale OnLine
The R.I.I.C. Blog
The Philadelphia Unemployment Project

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