EXCLUSIVE: Worcester Councilor Wants City to Cut Ties with Big Banks
Friday, May 25, 2012
District 3 City Councilor George Russell is taking aim at the “big banks” in Worcester, specifically Bank of America, which in his opinion, “acts irresponsibly when it comes to dealing with families and the foreclosure process.”
He wants the city to stop doing business with Bank of America, an institution Russell said would “rather sell (a property) in a short sale to someone else” than work with homeowners to come to a reasonable solution.
Councilor files an order
As a local real estate agent, Russell said he has seen the practice firsthand. It has upset him enough that he put forth an order on the agenda for the city council’s next meeting Tuesday, May 29 calling for both City Manager Michael O’Brien and Chief Financial Officer Thomas Zidelis to “review the listing of institution into which they direct municipal deposits to ensure that these same institutions are in full compliance with the City of Worcester protocols for bonding, securing and maintaining foreclosed properties.”
In addition, both Russell and District 1 Councilor Tony Economou cosigned a request for a report on the city’s plan to deal with vacant lots and foreclosed homes. But Russell is going a step further in actually suggesting the city stop doing any business with Bank of America, including payroll. City checks are currently issued through that bank, according to the city treasurer’s office.
“I’m encouraging the city and businesses, but primarily the city, to stop doing business with these big banks,” Russell said. “Maybe they’ll wake up and realize they should start handling things differently.”
Neither O’Brien nor Zidelis could be reached for comment Friday, the start of a long weekend to celebrate Memorial Day.
Help Small Banks
“I’ve got serious problems with the city continuing to do business with these banks, any of these large banks with their hands in the foreclosure process,” said Russell, while singling out Bank of America. “It’s frustrating for me to see the decimation of our neighborhoods through these foreclosures. Overall, the city needs to send a statement. Not only that, it has to make an effort to do business with our local banks. Let them grow and expand.”
Citing a potential conflict of interest because he is also a real estate professional, Economou would not comment directly about Bank of America. He did, however, say something must be done about the foreclosed property in the city.
“Inspectional services have been on top of it and doing a good job,” Economou said. “But what more can we do as a city to stay on top of this?”
Investors swoop in on many of the properties, gobble them up, then turn around and sell them for a profit, Economou argued, saying, “Is there something we can do to be more proactive in taking back the city’s properties? I don’t condone the city being a property owner, but I’m just trying to find an avenue where we can clean up properties quicker. If banks are willing to own up to their responsibilities, then I think we should see what we can do.”
Occupy Chimes In
Told that a locally elected official had joined the cry against corporate banks, Jonathan Noble of Occupy Worcester, had a quick and simple response: "I think that's a wonderful idea."
Occupy Worcester formed as an off-shoot of Occupy Wall Street as a way to rally against perceived corporate greed. The local group has already protested outside Bank of America here in Worcester before and likely will again, according to another member, Samuel Catogrossi.
"I'm glad to see other people are jumping on the bandwagon. It took them long enough," said Catagrossi, who helps organize Occupy Worcester protests. "It's nice to hear we're not shouting to hear our own voices. This is definitely something our community should gather around."