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The Color of Money

Follow-ups and reaction

Fair Lending panel identifies goals,
begins planning for public hearing

By Bill Dedman, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Published May 19, 1988, Page C3

Copyright 1988, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Fair Lending Practices Action Committee agreed on its mission Wednesday: "To identify and propose corrections to institutional lending policies and practices experienced by black and low-income people."

The group, appointed by City Council President Marvin Arrington, also agreed to hold a public hearing, tentatively scheduled for June 1, at 6 p.m. at City Hall.

Also Wednesday, former Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson told black real estate agents Wednesday that access to capital will be "the civil rights issue of the 1990s."

Jackson told the Empire Real Estate Board that recent disclosures of unequal lending in Atlanta gives him hope.

"There is a different kind of discussion now than there was before. The debate is no longer on, `Is it true?' Now the debate is, `What do we do about it?'

"I don't think calling names is going to make it better," said Jackson, who again indicated he plans to run for mayor next year. "I believe the banks have listened. The issue now is to what extent action will be forthcoming.

"One example: Let us request that lending institutions base their compensation of their loan officers on their lending to previously redlined areas."

Jackson's comments and Arrington's committee were prompted by a series of articles earlier this month in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The articles described how banks and savings and loans make five times as many home loans to whites than to blacks of the same income, and many lenders make services less accessible in black or integrated areas.

The Arrington committee formed subcommittees for the following areas: home ownership, small business, consumer credit and financial services, insurance, real estate brokers and appraisers, and development.

Some members said identifying the problems won't take long.

"We know what the problem is," said state Rep. Charles Walker of Augusta, chairman of the Legislature's Black Caucus. "I'm prepared to make some recommendations today."

The meeting put a disparate group of politicians, lenders and community activists at the same table. L.C. Fagin, an elderly member of the activist Association of Communities Organized for Reform Now, sat next to Wade Mitchell, executive vice president of Trust Company Bank.

"It has appeared that this is a we-they thing," said Richard Guthman, former city councilman and senior vice president of First American Bank. "We need to build partnerships. We need to start trusting each other, understanding each other."

Some members warned the group not to try to do more than is possible in the 60-day period set by Arrington. After some debate, the group agreed to use city and county staff, resisting the temptation to open an office and hire a staff.

"This is not a panacea," said City Councilman Hosea Williams. "What frightens me about this committee is, if we fail, we're doomed."


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