There has been enough ducking and weaving, enough posturing and piddling, and more than enough shuffling and stalling on what is to be done about the problem of racial discrimination in lending in Atlanta.
It is time for some explanations. And it is time for some action.
It has been nine months since a series of articles by Bill Dedman in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution revealed a persistent discriminatory practice of racial redlining by the city's lending institutions.
Those articles caused an uproar and prompted Atlanta City Council President Marvin Arrington to seize the issue and run with it. Mr. Arrington was outraged. He immediately formed a committee to investigate and report back with a plan of action.
Cynics noted that naming a committee to study a problem is a shop-worn method of burying the issue, but Mr. Arrington was reassuring. "We don't need to take six or seven months," he said. "We need to come back with some hard recommendations in 30 days. No, make it 20 days."
So now, nine months later, the question has to be asked: "Where is the committee's report?"
Mr. Arrington says it will be released soon. A few weeks ago he said, "It's being typed." As a matter of fact, the draft report was typed more than a month ago. The Journal-Constitution has obtained a copy of it and, as expected, it is hard on the city's banks, savings and loans and insurance companies. It proposes 50 policy changes and some $500 million in investment by those firms over the next 10 years.
So why the delay in releasing it? The two chairmen of the committee say they are waiting for a report from the insurance subcommittee. But the draft report contains reports from all subcommittees and a member of the insurance subcommittee says its report was completed weeks ago.
In fact, all of the subcommittees returned their reports in July. Minor changes were made in the fall and, since then, committee members have heard nothing. Some of the subcommittee chairman are now threatening to resign.
Lynn M. Brazen, a leader in the Georgia Housing Coalition and a member of the committee, put it bluntly. "The report is no different now than it was at the end of July," she said. "All of this is just a lot of game-playing, just a way to say they were doing something without doing anything."
Meanwhile, the outraged public official who vowed quick action is finding the delay no hindrance to his private law practice. A member of Mr. Arrington's law firm said, "It's odd, but setting up that committee didn't hurt his business with the banks at all." An associate said Mr. Arrington added a second staff attorney last fall to handle real estate deals referred to him by banks.
Is there a connection? The cynic would say the connection is obvious. But even the most trusting soul must now say that the time has come for some explanations for the continuing delay.
The recommendations in the draft report offer a solid program for ending the shameful practice of redlining. It is time -- past time -- for them to be brought out into the open, discussed openly and put into action.Go to the next article or back to the Color of Money index or Power Reporting
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