Last spring, the president of the Atlanta City Council formed a committee to investigate the "extremely important and timely" issue of racial discrimination in lending.
"We don't need to take six or seven months. We need to come back with some hard recommendations in 30 days. No, make it 20 days," council President Marvin S. Arrington said on May 4, 1988.
Nine months later, the Fair Lending Practices Action Committee has not issued a report. It has not met since May. Half of its subcommittee heads are threatening to resign this week, claiming Mr. Arrington's staff and his two appointed chairmen are stonewalling.
Mr. Arrington maintains that a report will be released soon. "It's being typed," he said in mid-January.
In fact, the report has been typed for more than a month. A draft obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution proposes 50 policy changes and $500 million in investment over the next 10 years by the city's banks, savings and loans and insurance companies.
While his lending action committee has not issued a report, Mr. Arrington's law firm has increased its activity in the real estate lending business. Last fall he added a second staff attorney to handle real estate deals referred to him by banks, according to an associate.
"It's odd, but setting up that committee didn't hurt his business with the banks at all," said Patrise Perkins-Hooker, Mr. Arrington's senior real estate lawyer. "He does work for First Atlanta, C&S, Trust Company, First Union. Bank South has started sending over some major commercial work, too. I'd say it's about 15 (percent) to 20 percent of his business.
"Marvin is just one of those people who's able to take a conciliatory attitude, dealing from a position of strength, instead of blowing it up and getting nothing for anybody."
The council president did not return phone calls Wednesday, Thursday or Friday to discuss the committee and his law practice.
The Fair Lending Practices Action Committee was born May 4, the publication date of the last article in "The Color of Money," a Journal-Constitution series documenting racial patterns in lending practices and services of Atlanta banks and thrifts.
That day, at a special council meeting, Mr. Arrington set up the committee of lenders, housing activists, ministers, elected officials, neighborhood leaders and others.
On May 13, before the committee had met, Mr. Arrington conducted a news conference in which nine banks and savings and loans announced $65 million in low-interest loans for working-class home buyers on the primarily black Southside.
Mr. Arrington said then that $65 million was a first step but not enough, imploring the committee to meet ``the urgent need for a truly dedicated, citywide commitment to devising and instituting clear-cut, meaningful corrective actions."
On May 18, the 24 committee members held their first meeting and split into six subcommittees to study and report on homeownership, small business, development, insurance and surety bonds, real estate and appraisal, and consumer credit and financial services.
On June 1, 50 people attended the committee's public hearing.
In July, the committee's six subcommittees returned their reports.
In the fall, the reports were given to City Council staff, which made minor editing changes and dropped a recommendation that lenders put more branches in black areas.
Since the fall, committee members say they have heard nothing.
"We were had," said Lynn M. Brazen, a leader in the Georgia Housing Coalition and a Fulton County development official. "The report is no different now than it was at the end of July. All of this is just a lot of game-playing, just a way to say they were doing something without doing anything."
Mrs. Brazen was among five committee members, including three subcommittee chairmen, who wrote to Mr. Arrington on Tuesday, threatening to resign if the committee doesn't meet by Friday.
"The general consensus shared by many committee members is that from its inception, the efforts of the committee have been thwarted," said the letter signed by appraiser Pamela Smith; Ed Menifee, executive director of the Atlanta Business League; businessman Raymond McClendon; the Rev. W. Craig Taylor of Wesley Community Centers; and Mrs. Brazen.
The two chairmen Mr. Arrington named to lead the full committee say delays were unavoidable, that they are waiting for a report from their insurance subcommittee.
"It's not dead," said state Sen. Eugene P. Walker of DeKalb County. "We have all the reports in but one. As soon as we get each one of them, we'll set up a date for the full committee to meet."
"A couple of the subcommittees, the insurance committee hasn't reported," said Henry B. Garmon, chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Fulton Federal Savings and Loan Association. "We will have a meeting in the very near future, and probably sooner rather than later."
But the draft report obtained by the Journal-Constitution includes reports from all six subcommittees. And a member of the insurance subcommittee, Lee M. Sessions Jr., the Atlanta head of Citizens and Southern National Bank (C&S), said its report was completed weeks ago.
Even without a full committee report, bankers on the committee say it has accomplished much, establishing lines of communication between bankers and political leaders.
"Behind the scenes, things have happened without people having to wait for a report to come out," said Mr. Sessions.
He and other members agreed, however, that many parts of the report are entirely new, especially the enforcement section.
If the recommendations are not followed to the letter, the draft copy says, the city should withdraw city deposits and protest to federal and state regulators.
Mr. Arrington endorsed such use of city deposits in May: "There is no question in my mind that I would approve an ordinance like this. If it wouldn't pass, what did Martin Luther King Jr. live for?"Go to the next article or back to the Color of Money index or Power Reporting
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