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Does the bank foreclosing on your home own your promissory note? This question was once ridiculous, but in the face of securitized debt and asset-backed securities, it is, sadly, very relevant.

Lenders and debt buyers were (and I hope this isn’t news to anyone at this point) greedy and made money hand over fist for a while by selling mortgages and then moving them into loan trusts and then getting investors to buy stock in the trust funds. When the cycle of greed started to lose its spokes, the trust funds started to foreclose in huge numbers.

But the evidence that the trusts own the mortgages is often weak, and is sometimes a sham. The trust’s lawyer shows up a foreclosure hearing with an affidavit from the trust fund. The affidavit says that the trust owns the borrower’s promissory note. That’s it. In this seemingly alternate universe, I could walk into court tomorrow and swear that you owe me $100,000. And the court would allow me to take your home to pay myself. That’s all it takes. That’s all the proof necessary, at least in the clerk’s offices and courtrooms of North Carolina, to take someone’s home.

Now, you might think (if you’ve been sleeping Rip Van Winkle style) that the trust would only foreclose if it knew that it owned the promissory note. But you’d be wrong. Foreclosure proceedings were recently initiated by two DIFFERENT entities against a Florida woman; both entities claim to own the promissory note. There are plenty of local examples as well, but none that I know of have links to press coverage yet.

No entity or person should be permitted to foreclose on a home unless it can prove that the borrower actually owes it money.

A black hole.In response to swelling anti-immigrant hysteria across North Carolina, state law enforcement officials in seven counties and one city have signed up to use their own resources to help the federal government identify and deport undocumented immigrants.  So-called "287(g) agreements" with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), authorize certain officers in local police and sheriff's departments to enforce federal immigration laws.

Immigrants' rights advocates have principally criticized 287(g) agreements by arguing that they pose a serious threat to public safety: After all, if the police are going to fight crime effectively, they need the public's trust and cooperation. And it's pretty hard to convince undocumented immigrants to report crimes and assist in investigations if there isn't a clear distinction between the local police and federal immigration officials.  This is to say nothing of the fact that 287(g) agreements effectively commandeer limited state and local resources to enforce brutish federal immigration laws.

Now add this to the case against 287(g) agreements: The prospect of indefinite detention in county jails for people who are merely suspected of being undocumented immigrants.  An article in this week's Independent Weekly reports on the nightmarish bureaucratic limbo that is the Wake County 287(g) program:

Of the 321 inmates processed by Wake County's 287(g) officers since the program began earlier this summer, 201 were held for possible deportation. ICE spokesmen couldn't say how many were kept in custody past the 48-hour deadline… Immigration attorney Ricardo Vasquez, who has a client he says has languished in ICE custody for more than 70 days, says the problem starts at Wake County jail. If ICE places a hold on a prisoner's release, the magistrate may not issue a bond even though it's required by law. And when a bond has been issued, those trying to post it may be told they can't because of the ICE detainer — even if the detainer has expired.

So we have documented cases of people being held in Wake County jail under no lawful authority whatsoever.  This should be intolerable to anyone who thinks the government ought to follow its own laws, regardless of his or her position on U.S. immigration policy and enforcement.  Whether similar problems are occurring in the other counties with 287(g) agreements needs to be investigated.  However, the easiest, fastest, and most cost-effective way to solve this problem is to tell the feds they're on their own when it comes to enforcing ill-considered federal immigration policies.

Compared to most folks contributing to this site, I'm a policy rookie, but here's an event that has statewide implications.

Here in Wilmington, the state run Alcohol Beverage Control has a retail store and distribution center on 17th St. between Castle and Church Streets.  This is a lower income area most out-of-towners only know as they drive through the Oleander St. corridor on the way to the beach.

Earlier this year, our local ABC board (three seated individuals and a supervisor) quietly started buying up the entire block around their facility to the ultimate tab of over $2,400,000.00, a figure the board members themselves contend is twice market value at the time (and probably more now).  On the physical block were three zoned commercial structures and ten single family homes dating from the early 20th century, examples of what Preservation North Carolina calls "vernacular housing".  These houses are currently zoned residential. 

 Historic Wilmington Foundation and others have been pursuing a Historic District designation for this neighborhood for over two years, and that designation is near becoming a reality.  While the structures in the area are not mansions nor public 19th century monuments, they do represent 80 to 100 year old houses from a previous era that are a contributing part of the historic fabric. As many of the larger building in our area have been preserved (and some tragically levelled), we are now looking to expand the scope of preservation to the more simple participating structures.

 Earlier in the summer, the ABC Board applied for demolition permits to level all thirteen existing buildings despite the current residential zoning. Their intent was to create a larger distribution facility and parking on the land.  No attempt was made to contact the citizens in the area, elected officials, or the like regarding this impactful "growth".  In addition, the ABC allowed the purchased properties to remain open and unsecured to invite vandalism and theft, thereby pursuing their projected demolition by neglect, I suppose their thinking being that they would get permits faster if the dwellings were dilapidated.

Historic Wilmington and others made multiple gestures to the ABC Board in attempts to save the houses. None was heeded.  When a request was made for design plans and ideas for the new ABC structures, none was forthcoming.  When the question of nondisclosed use of public tax payer generated moneys was brought up, the ABC stated that they are exempt from any disclosure as they are an income generating entity outside general transparency guidlines.

Within the last two weeks, all structures on the physical block have been destroyed.  They are gone.  A few days later, the ABC Board pulled their permit request to rezone the block from residential to commercial due many folks think to public outcry and a very pointed Wilmington Star-News Op-ed piece blasting the ABC Board members by name.  The board did not, however, pull the request until after all the houses were eviscerated.

While the houses are gone, this incident has been a rallying issue for downtown Wilmington.  Lawn signs saying Stop the Expansion! dot the nearby neighborhood and adjoining areas as well. 

We can't save these buildings, but we can raise the bar on what is and what is not acceptable conduct by appointed officials, elected officials, and developers.  Preservationists and builders can work together to avoid runaway growth in older neighborhoods.  I have no interest in seeing Wilmington have Myrtle Beach type high rises where older building once stood.  Our town has numerous talented architectural and design professionals who are on board with responsible growth, infill, and rehab.  Let's us them.

This just in from Action for Children

House Bill 898 sponsored by Rep. Alice Bordsen (Alamance) would allow a judge to expunge — or clear — a person's criminal record of a non-violent felony they committed when they were a minor.

Someone is only eligible for expunction if they meet numerous requirements including doing 100 hours of community service and proving they have been of good moral character for four years after finishing their sentence.  While some negative amendments were added (possession of cocaine or heroine cannot be expunged), this is an important victory for teens.

Representative Haire cited the most recent brain research on how teen brains were not fully developed to explain his support for the measure.

This award winning documentary airs tonight on at 8 pm on HBO. Trials of Darryl Hunt

In 1984, Deborah Sykes, a young white newspaper reporter, was assaulted, raped, sodomized and stabbed to death just blocks from where she worked in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Though no physical evidence implicated him, Darryl Hunt, a 19-year-old black man, was ultimately convicted of the crime and sentenced to life in prison.

Ten years later, DNA testing proved that Hunt did not rape Sykes, and cast serious doubts on his involvement in her murder, but he spent another decade behind bars for a crime he did not commit. The eye-opening HBO documentary THE TRIALS OF DARRYL HUNT tells his riveting story – and the story of those who fought to clear his name.

As Hunt's story unfolds, it becomes a textbook example of how the presumption of innocence can be subverted when a city's need to solve a gruesome crime, fed by sensational media coverage, leads to a rush to judgment that validates a flimsy case. In addition to clearing their own client, the defense team is ultimately instrumental in identifying the real killer, who is now behind bars. 

Today the Darryl Hunt Project for Freedom and Justice , a nonprofit organization in Winston-Salem founded by Darryl Hunt helps others by:

• Providing assistance to individuals who have been wrongfully incarcerated.

• Helping ex-offenders obtain the skills, guidance, and support they need as they return to life outside the prison system.

• Advocating for changes in the justice system so innocent people won’t spend time in prison.