Category Archives: Contributed

Banks want to start making payday loans again

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A new Center for Responsible Lending (CRL) Policy Analysis, “Been There; Done That,” warns that banks are seeking the repeal of consumer protections established in 2013 that ensured that banks could no longer keep borrowers trapped in unaffordable payday loans. 

Six banks—Wells Fargo, US Bank, Regions Bank, Fifth Third Bank, Bank of Oklahoma and Guaranty Bank—were making predatory payday loans to their own account holders until 2013, when a public outcry and risks to the banks’ safety and soundness led bank regulators to establish commonsense guidelines to curb these unaffordable loans. The banks were siphoning $500 million annually from customers who were caught in a devastating debt trap structured just like storefront payday lending.

Now, as Congress invites a tempest of deregulation that would open the floodgates to predatory lending, the American Bankers Association is urging regulators to block and repeal protections against these dangerous loans.

“The banking industry is taking advantage of an environment in Washington where consumer protections are under siege,” Rebecca Borné, CRL Senior Policy Counsel and author of the report, said. “While payday lending has been effectively banned in 15 states plus the District of Columbia, payday lenders are still operating elsewhere and siphoning $8 billion per year in abusive fees from low-income communities. The banks want a piece of that action, to charge their own customers rates of 200 and 300 percent APR in order to strip away millions of dollars a year from fees on intentionally unaffordable loans.”

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is also the target of anti-consumer initiatives, including a proposal to eliminate its authority to regulate payday and car-title lending at all. The CFPB is in the process of finalizing a commonsense rule addressing these abusive 300 percent interest loans.

Like storefront payday lenders, the six banks making payday loans marketed them as an occasional bridge to the next payday, not meant for long-term use. But in 2011, CRL documented that the median bank payday borrower had 13.5 loans per year and was in debt at least part of six months annually. And in 2013, the CFPB found that borrowers spent an average of 114 days during the year in triple-digit debt. And CRL also found that more than half of borrowers had more than ten loans annually, and 12 percent had more than 30 loans annually.

The extreme harm payday loans cause borrowers has motivated communities, advocates, and state policymakers to address the practice. Data has shown that payday loans result in increases in difficulty paying living expenses, delinquency on credit card and other debt, delayed medical care, overdraft fees, loss of checking accounts and bankruptcy.

In their 2013 guidance, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency advised the banks they oversee that they must assess the ability of their customers to repay the loans without getting into deeper financial trouble. Instead, the banks got out of the business.

CRL recommends that the regulators keep the guidance in place and that the CFPB finalize a strong rule protecting consumers from debt trap loans. The policy analysis includes a range of other recommendations to stop both predatory storefront and online lending and the threat of bank payday lending.

SOURCE Center for Responsible Lending

Blaze burns through warehouse

At 12:07 p.m. June 21, the Irving Fire Department (IFD) responded to a structure fire at 1720 E. HWY 356 (Old Irving Blvd). The business name is New World International (NWI). This building consists of NWI, another warehouse business and several retail stores.

The fire was confined to the NWI warehouse. A second alarm was requested by the Incident Commander due to the size of the building, difficulty in reaching the fire through debris, and the high ambient temperature, which greatly affects the rehab process for our firefighters.

DFW Airport Fire Department was also requested to assist by providing their truck mounted high-volume ventilation fan capable of ventilating large buildings in a short amount of time. This worked well and allowed the smoke to be cleared from the structure permitting crews to continue digging through debris and extinguishing hot spots.

Two people were affected by light smoke inhalation; both were treated and released by IFD EMS crews. No injuries to IFD personnel were reported.

IFD crews mitigated the fire in a short amount of time.

The bystanders in the area are to be commended for calling 911 immediately, allowing for quick dispatch of IFD equipment. In the age of social media, often, bystanders become focused on obtaining video for social media and 911 calls are delayed. This was not the case today, and quick 911 calls helped the IFD in getting there quickly and limited the property damage.

SOURCE Irving Fire Department

Public investment around DART Rail moving North Texas

A new study looking at the economic impact of publicly funded projects near the light rail stations of Dallas Area Rapid Transit demonstrates what economists and private real estate developers have seen for nearly two decades:  DART Rail is driving the North Texas economy.

Researchers from the Economics Research Group at the University of North Texas, led by Michael Carroll, Ph.D., looked at 11 public projects, like Parkland Hospital, the Irving Convention Center or the Hatcher Station Health Center between 1999 and 2015 and found those types of projects are valued at $1.8 billion. Combined with privately funded transit oriented development, $10.8 billion has been invested near or along DART’s 93-mile light rail system since 1999.

The updated study was presented at a meeting of the Urban Land Institute on May 11. Previous studies by UNT researchers looked at TOD projects like Mockingbird Station or CityLine and identified more than $7 billion in economic impact from new or planned construction within a quarter mile of rail stations.

Researchers concluded the projects studied “represent not only the region’s commitment to multimodal transportation options and an urban landscape that reflects the importance of those options, but billions of dollars in economic activity and tens of thousands of jobs throughout the region.”

“This proves the wisdom of regional leaders in building a regional transit network like DART,” Carroll said.

The 93-mile light rail system, the nation’s longest, was built at a cost of $5.5 billion. The most recent extension, three miles, connecting a renewed Ledbetter Station to the campus of the University of North Texas Dallas, opened Oct. 24.

“Public transportation transforms cities,” DART President/Executive Director Gary Thomas said. “It not only provides connections to great destinations; it can be the catalyst for economic growth and community renewal.”

SOURCE Dallas Area Rapid Transit

Irving affected by national immigration orders

By Vaughn Zel-Lloyd and Joe Snell

A week after the initial immigration executive orders were released by the Trump administration in late January, local law firm Mosaic Family Services, Inc. set up phone banks to speak with every one of their clients over the last several years. Their goal was to advise clients on their rights and offer assistance in collecting proper documentation.

“My job now requires me advising my clients about rights that I never had to in the last two years,” said Anna Rupani, a staff attorney with the firm. “Things like if an ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) agent comes to your door, you don’t have to open it unless they have a warrant. You have the right to remain silent. Things that I never had to think about actually advising my clients about. Under the prior administration, there wasn’t this manhunt so to speak of undocumented immigrants, which seems existent now.”

The first of the executive orders, released on Jan. 25, was titled “Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements.” A second order, “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States,” was released only two days later and lowered the number of refugees admitted into the United States, suspended the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for 120 days, suspended the entry of Syrian refugees indefinitely, and directed cabinet secretaries to suspend entry to individuals from seven specific countries unless issued an exception. Those seven Muslim-majority countries included Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.

The latter order, known as the “travel ban,” set off protests amid cries of discrimination, as individuals who had previously been allowed to enter the country were detained, including a number of immigrants at DFW International airport.

“I was at the airport during the first travel ban,” Rupani said. “There were plenty of people that were behind CBP (Customs and Border Protection) for 16 hours, which is absurd when you think about the fact that they either have visas or are green card holders.”

Dual-citizen of the United States and Iran, Persia Abdanan, joined a large demonstration in downtown Dallas immediately following the announcement of the ban. She marched, because she was afraid family members would not be allowed back into the United States after visiting Iran.

“We heard stories about people being dual citizens and being detained,” Abdanan, a Muslim, said. “Even though [my father] is a U.S citizen, he’s still a citizen of Iran. It’s on his passport that he was born in Iran, so we were worried about that. Green card holders, even though they are legally here, can’t travel out of the country and come back during the middle of the weekend. My aunts, uncles and cousins are very afraid to leave the country at all.

“My grandpa in December got really sick, and my dad had to make an emergency trip to Iran,” she said. “If this would have happened in January, then what? If he, God forbid, passes away soon, we won’t be able to go to his funeral.”

Local resident Mary Anne also attended the march to show her solidarity with detainees. Anne believes that a united presence aimed at elected officials is important to making a difference.

“The goal is to have our elected officials see what the people want,” Anne said. “Our elected representatives work for us, so they need to follow our lead. We’re sending a message saying that we’re not going to turn our backs on our refugees. We’re not going to allow the law to be broken, and that’s why all these wonderful lawyers and judges are so important.”

Rupani echoed Anne’s belief in communicating with local government officials.

“I can’t say enough that people calling their representatives actually changes peoples’ minds in Congress and in the State,” Rupani said. “Protesting and volunteering are your other two things.

“Going to the White House website and actually reading the orders is important.”

Since the initial march in downtown Dallas, a number of large marches in the metroplex have taken place including the “Dallas Mega March” on April 9, which attracted thousands and began at the Dallas Catholic Cathedral.

“An event like this is really to educate us even more,” Anne said. “I think it will make people even more willing to speak out, organize, and volunteer in other ways to potentially to help the cause of these people and make the Muslim people feel welcome and not so scared.”

Officer James McLellan of the Irving Police Department emphasizes that officers do not stop and question individuals over their immigration status. Questioning, he says, is typically done pertaining to state criminal laws. Part of the normal booking process for the Irving Police Department for arrested persons involves taking fingerprints. Those prints are submitted to the Texas Department of Public Safety, which maintains Texas criminal history information.

As part of the Secure Communities Act, those fingerprints are submitted to ICE, and in reviewing data, ICE may contact the Irving police department and request a detainer to be placed on an inmate.

Officer McLellan offers advice for what types of documentation his department requires individuals to carry.

“If people are driving a vehicle they are required by state law to have a drivers’ license in their possession,” Officer McLellan said. “If they’re not driving, they’re not required to carry identification, although it’s a good idea in the event something happened to them. People should not worry about not carrying identification unless they are in a driving situation.”

A redrafted executive order released on March 6 included a number of changes, including removing Iraq from the list of travel banned countries, removing the exemption for religious minorities in the banned countries listed, and applies language that says the order does not apply to green-card holders or anyone with a valid visa inside the U.S. The redrafted order also includes a case-by-case waiver process that was not available to refugees from one of the seven initial countries.

With the redrafted order as one example, Rupani believes the protests and calls to elected officials are not going unheard, especially here in Irving.

“People have seen this big movement with the indivisible project and seeing members who are a part of this indivisible group,” Rupani said. “I think this has made a difference. It hasn’t gone unheard. It has given rise to people in different parties on how they should treat their constituents and how they should be responding to their constituents.”

Irving-based bank among best companies to work for in Texas

The Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas (FHLB Dallas), an Irving-based wholesale bank owned by its approximately 850 member financial institutions, was named as one of the 100 Best Companies to Work for in Texas according to the Best Companies to Work for in Texas program, coming in at No. 31 for mid-size companies.

This is the first year FHLB Dallas competed in the competition. Created by Texas Monthly, the Texas Association of Business (TAB), Texas Society for Human Resource Management and Best Companies Group, the Best Companies to Work for in Texas program recognizes outstanding places of employment and gathers candid feedback from companies and its employees on areas such as benefits, workplace policies, corporate culture, demographics, availability of resources and employee engagement.

“This honor is a direct reflection of the investments we have made in building our learning and growth-based culture. From a strong emphasis on training and development to investing in technology that makes it easier for employees to do their jobs, we are committed to sustaining an atmosphere where employees can do their best work,” said FHLB Dallas President and CEO Sanjay K. Bhasin. 

The Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas is one of 11 district banks in the FHLB System created by Congress in 1932. FHLB Dallas, with total assets of $58.2 billion as of December 31, 2016, is a member-owned cooperative that supports housing and community investment by providing competitively priced loans and other credit products to approximately 850 members and associated institutions in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico and Texas.

Source FHL Bank Dallas

Car care clinics to address check engine light

Arlington, Texas – When that dreaded check engine light comes on, your mind inevitably races as numerous questions start flowing through your head.

What does it mean?

How serious is it?

Can I still drive my car?

How much will it cost to fix?

You can get these and other questions answered at one of seven Car Care Clinics planned throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth area in April. The North Central Texas Council of Governments partners with local automobile repair shops each year to help motorists address issues related to their vehicles. This is the second year for the clinics to focus on the check engine light.

When a vehicle’s check engine light turns on, there may be an issue that could negatively impact its emissions. Vehicles with check engine lights illuminated cannot pass the emissions portion of the State inspection. That means they cannot be registered.

These free clinics will provide drivers with an opportunity to talk to a technician about what may be causing the check engine light to come on and what may be required to fix the problem. Some vehicle owners may qualify for assistance with emissions repairs, if they meet certain income requirements.

A NCTCOG staff member will be on hand at each clinic to explain the AirCheckTexas Drive a Clean Machine Program, which will allow qualifying motorists to get their vehicles repaired for as little as a $30 copay so they can pass the emissions inspection.

Income requirements for the program are available at www.nctcog.org/airchecktexas. A family of four earning $73,800 or less, for example, is eligible for a repair voucher worth up to $600. Recipients’ vehicles must also meet certain conditions.

AirCheckTexas is one of many successful programs credited with helping the region improve its air quality over the past several years. Ten Dallas-Fort Worth area counties are in nonattainment for ozone pollution and are working toward compliance with the federal government’s standard.
Scheduled Car Care Clinics:

  • April 8, 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. Rick and Ray’s Auto Plaza, 2425 Cullen St Fort Worth, TX  76107
  • April 8, 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Kwik Kar Auto Service & Repair, 1820 Brown Blvd. Arlington, TX 76006
  • April 12, 1 p.m. – 3 p.m. Christian Brothers Automotive, 156 Interstate Highway 20 West, Weatherford, TX 76086
  • April 19, 8 a.m. – 12 p.m. Burdick Auto Solutions, 210 E. Erwin Ave., McKinney, TX 75069
  • April 22, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Heller Automotive, 3104 S. Rigsbee Drive, Plano, TX 75074
  • April 22, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Castrol Express Car Service, 240 E. Ovilla Road, Red Oak, TX 75154
  • April 29, 9 a.m. – 11 a.m. Starkey Service Center, 18 W. Davis St., Dallas, TX 75208.

Dates, times and locations are subject to change. For more information and to confirm the details of the clinic near you, visit www.NTXCarCare.org. You may also email questions to NTXCarCare@nctcog.org, or call 817-704-5697.

SOURCE North Central Texas Council of Governments

Project remembers World War I, marks anniversary of America’s entry

“It’s a war that’s quickly being forgotten. We need to recognize World War I instead for the pivotal position it played in shaping modern America and its place in the world. It should be remembered forever.”

That’s how a Richland College professor describes World War I as the centennial anniversary of America’s entry into that conflict arrives on Thurs., April 6, across the country with, at times, little fanfare.

Clive Siegle doesn’t forget, and neither do his students, because he reminds them of the historic event and a war whose last veterans only recently have passed into history.

“This war is fading from America’s collective memory, and yet here we are, on the threshold of its 100th anniversary. It was a war that remade our world – an event of incredible international dissonance,” Siegle said. “Thankfully, a National World War I Memorial finally is being commissioned in Washington, D.C. A first-class museum in Kansas City also is dedicated to the war, which hopefully will help spark renewed public interest.”

Siegle and art faculty colleague Jennifer Rose began working almost two years ago on a project designed to commemorate WWI and to resurrect the poppy flower that long has represented veterans who fought and died during that conflict. With the help of hundreds of students – more than half were international – and community members, they created 5,171 ceramic poppies to remember the number of Texas veterans who died during WWI.

Poppies have been a memorial symbol for fallen soldiers since 1920, inspired by Lt. Col. John McCrae’s poem, “In Flanders Fields,” and its depiction of the bright red flowers growing among the battlefield graves in Western Europe:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

An American professor from another era, Moina Michael, is credited with promoting the poppy as an international sign of remembrance and sacrifice. She tirelessly advocated the creation and sale of paper and silk poppies to raise money for disabled veterans of the Great War.

Richland’s ceramic poppies were exhibited in fall 2015 along the shore of the college’s lake, and they were sold for $10 each; all proceeds were donated to Puppies Behind Bars, a nonprofit group that trains inmates to raise service dogs for wounded veterans. To date, Siegle said that poppy sales in Dallas and in Georgetown (where a separate exhibit was installed last year for the city’s annual Red Poppy Festival) have raised more than $25,000 for the organization.

“This project has been a chance for us to resurrect something that is uniquely American,” Siegle said.

Several hundred poppies still line the lake at Richland and can be purchased to benefit Puppies Behind Bars. The exhibit in Georgetown has been moved from the city’s courthouse to the library, where visitors can still enjoy and purchase Richland’s ceramic poppies, too.

Siegle, Rose and other team members from the Richland College “Blood of Heroes Never Dies” Memorial Poppies Project recently were recognized by the League for Innovation in the Community College with the 2017 John and Suanne Roueche Excellence Award. The award celebrates outstanding contributions and leadership by community college faculty and staff.

SOURCE Dallas County Community College District

Celebrate National Arbor Day with free shade trees

National Arbor Day is Friday, April 28, and the Arbor Day Foundation is making it easy for anyone to celebrate the annual tree-planting holiday. Join the Foundation in April and receive 10 free shade trees.

By joining the Foundation in April, new members receive the following trees: red oak, sugar maple, weeping willow, baldcypress, thornless honeylocust, pin oak, river birch, tuliptree, silver maple, and red maple.

The free trees are part of the Foundation’s Trees for America campaign.

“These trees provide shade in the summer and vibrant colors throughout the fall,” said Matt Harris, chief executive of the Arbor Day Foundation. “Through the simple act of planting trees, one person can make a difference in helping to create a healthier and more beautiful planet for all of us to enjoy.”

The trees will be shipped postpaid with enclosed planting instructions at the right time for planting in April or May. The 6- to 12-inch trees are guaranteed to grow or they will be replaced free of charge.

To become a member of the Foundation and receive the free trees, send a $10 contribution to TEN FREE SHADE TREES, Arbor Day Foundation, 100 Arbor Avenue, Nebraska City, NE 68410, by April 30, 2017, or visit arborday.org/april. 

 

SOURCE Arbor Day Foundation

Stop the raid on Texas schoolbook funds

By Colby Nichols

More than 150 years ago, Texans set aside a fund to provide free textbooks to children in the state’s public schools, and ever since leaders have worked to keep faith with that covenant. Until now.

Now, the Texas legislature seems determined on abandoning their commitment and raiding the proceeds of the Permanent School Fund which provides not only for books, but the 21st Century technology our children will need to succeed.

Your Texas Senate has adopted a budget which cuts the fund for technology and textbooks by $104 million from the proceeds from the Permanent School Fund.

Similarly, the House has proposed to cut the same fund by $125 million.

Texas legislators frequently say more money should be spent in classrooms, but these cuts fly in the face of that rhetoric. No resources can be more directly tied to students and classroom instruction than the instructional materials allotment (IMA) which both chambers of the Legislature propose to cut.

Cutting these funds tears books and instructional technology from the hands of Texas schoolchildren.

A century-and-a-half of Texas leaders have understood that instructional materials provided free-of-charge to our students are vital to public education. In 2011, the Legislature channeled proceeds of the Permanent School Fund to pay for instructional materials, technological equipment, and technology-related services for all districts and open-enrollment charter schools.

Legislative members constantly hound schools to provide for a “21st Century education.” The State even wants to provide expanded broadband access for that purpose. This requires a substantial investment in technology. School districts around the state were ready to upgrade and purchase technology in the current biennium because no major instructional material updates were anticipated. The Legislature’s proposed raiding of the IMA will prevent this needed improvement.

These are not tax funds; they’re the return on 150 years of investment in the future of children. In fact, that may be the reason lawmakers want to siphon the funds away from kids; they can look like heroes who balanced a budget without raising taxes.

The Instructional Material Coordinators’ Association of Texas believes raiding these funds – balancing the budget on the backs of Texas schoolchildren – establishes a dangerous precedent and a tempting target for future state policymakers. In the future, there will be more temptation to pilfer the PSF proceeds to avoid the harsh realities of budget-making and when the time comes for a major overhaul of materials – English/Language arts in the next biennium, for example – kids will come up short.

Without an appropriately funded IMA, our children will be without the necessary tools to have a world class education. It is imperative the State continue to fund the IMA with all the funds available from the 150-plus-year commitment to Texas schoolchildren.

 

Colby Nichols is the Legislative Counsel for the Instructional Materials Coordinators’ Association of Texas.

Texas legislators file ‘Granny Tax’ bill to fill state budget hole

Austin,Texas — Texas legislators Senator Chuy Hinojosa and Representative J.D. Sheffield have filed legislation to tax nursing home residents paying for their own care. Known as the Granny Tax, Senate Bill 1130 and House Bill 2766 would generate state revenue by taxing elderly residents of nursing homes. Nursing home residents would each carry a tax bill of over $4,000 per year. The bill would tax 30,000 nursing home residents a total of over $120 million dollars.

“The legislation balances the state budget on the backs of elderly veterans, retired teachers, and other Texans paying for their own nursing home expenses,” said George Linial, President of LeadingAge Texas, the association representing non-profit nursing homes.

C.C. Young, a faith-based retirement community in Dallas, would see residents hit hard by the tax. Russell Crews, President & CEO, sees the legislation as an unacceptable route to generate state revenue.

“We are asking the generation that has already sacrificed so much to now pay a significant and unfair tax,” Young said. “We hope legislators make the right choice and find quality of care solutions that are paid for by all Texans, not just those that are sick and aging.”

In San Antonio, Air Force and Army veterans would be forced to pay the Granny Tax. Retired Air Force Lt. General, Chip Utterback, is now on a mission to defend retired veterans from the scope of this tax.

“This is not the way to fill a hole in the state budget,” Utterback said. “This tax will put much needed care out of reach for many of our vets.”

Many of the nation’s largest for-profit nursing home chains are pushing the tax to improve Medicaid funding. However, a recent report by AARP indicates that Texas nursing home quality is among the worst in the nation.

“This tax simply throws money at a problem without linking funding to quality. It’s unfortunate that care for those paying their own way might now be jeopardized,” Utterback said.

Rather than taxing elderly residents of nursing homes, LeadingAge Texas supports tying state funding to quality of care.

“As Texans, we pride ourselves in minimizing the number of taxes on our citizens and a granny tax seems inconsistent with that sentiment,” Linial said. The Texas Legislature is almost mid-way through its legislative session, as bills continue to wind their way through the legislative maze.

SOURCE LeadingAge Texas