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She Wants To Be "The People's Sheriff" In Philadelphia

Housing right leader wants to Be 'The People’s Sheriff' in Philadelphia, USA, february 2011

Cheri Honkala announces she's running for Sheriff of Philadelphia

Cheri Honkala, founder of the Kensington Welfare Rights Union and national organizer of the Poor Peoples Economic Human Rights Campaign, announced on Thursday, February 17, she will be running in the November election as the Green Party candidate for Sheriff in the City Of Philadelphia.

“I’m running for Sheriff because something needs to be done to address the plague of home evictions being faced by poor and working families in Philadelphia,” Honkala said. The theme of the Honkala campaign is: “Keeping Families In Their Homes.”

Since evictions and Sheriff's sale auctions of foreclosed properties are a core task undertaken by the Office Of Sheriff. Honkala’s entrée adds a provocative dimension to an already interesting race.

Given corruption in the Real Estate Department of the Office of Sheriff has become such a hot potato, efficiency and how to more effectively fill the city’s tax coffers are prime motivations for removing the task from the Sheriff's office.

Meanwhile the question at the heart of the Honkala For Sheriff campaign is whose interests do the Office Of Sheriff serve in the city of Philadelphia?

In the past, the Sheriff has served the interests of banks and the financial class in their desire to recover what they deem to be theirs, in this case, homes being lived in by poor and working families who, for one reason or another, cannot keep current on their mortgage payments.

Traditionally, the Sheriff has been the bad guy the banks rely on to go out and toss families and their belongings onto the street. Honkala says that will never happen if she is elected Sheriff.

“While my opponents proceed from a politics of scarcity, I believe we live in a city and country that has plenty. It has just been protecting the wrong people,” she said at the press conference announcing her candidacy.

“When I become Sheriff of Philadelphia we will have no more empty homes. We will fill vacant homes; we will take the homes left to rot and make them into decent affordable housing. Houses taken by the sheriff's department in drug raids will be turned into long term recovery houses.”

She talked of developing “a community controlled land bank” so, she said, “we can control what happens in our neighborhoods. And we will crack down on speculators who leave abandoned properties to destroy our neighborhoods.”

She envisions a program where families that fall behind on taxes or mortgage payments due to hardships like un-employment will be encouraged to help out in the neighborhood.

“We will not kick them out of their homes!”

As Honkala likes to point out, the poor, working family homeowner did not cause the current economic disaster. They simply needed a place to live. It was the profit-seeking greed of a high-flying, unregulated, out-of-control Wall Street financial class noted for “credit default swaps” and virtual Ponzi schemes that led to the real estate bubble, its bursting and the long-term mess we’re in.

At this point, the financial class that created the mess was bailed out. The financial institutions they were captains of were “too big to fail." Intimately involved members of that class were appointed to key positions in both the Bush and the Obama administration to oversee the bail out of those at the top. It was couched as a national emergency and much of it was done in secret.

No one, however, is working very hard to bail out the lowly working-family homeowners at the bottom who only wanted to be part of the great American Dream and have a home.

The just submitted Obama budget sadly seems to follow this pattern and is receiving justifiable flak for giving short-shrift to the poor while giving breaks to the rich.

The Honkala campaign is not, as some will say, a joke; she has a message that could resonate with voters at this time. There is also current and historic precedent for her position on evictions. Last year, for example, sheriffs in both Chicago and Detroit stopped evicting families from homes until the economic bad weather cleared and the banks worked out all the confusion that has been the legacy of the real estate bubble bursting.

New York State just passed a law providing homeowners facing foreclosure free lawyers. This is because finding lawyers has been a major problem for families facing foreclosures. Some lawyers have reportedly been threatened by banks and other powerful forces if they take such cases.

Back in 1933, one of President Franklin Roosevelt’s first acts as President in the midst of the Great Depression was the Home Owners Loan Act, in which the federal government backed up homeowners and guaranteed their loans to prevent foreclosures and evictions.

These kinds of helping services are absence in Philadelphia. The city's government is plagued with corruption and becoming more and more desperate for income. In such a climate, for a poor peoples' activist to run for Sheriff to turn it a watchdog for the interests of the little guy, if nothing else, should stir things up and be educational.

Winning is clearly a long shot, but Honkala says she’s in the Sheriff’s race to win. Either way, win or lose, she's taking political activism to a new level.

The Honkala campaign can be followed at www.CheriHonkala.com  .

 For the original, full article, go to This Can’t Be Happening at: http://www.thiscantbehappening.net/node/468

John Grant

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Cheri Honkala , sheriff


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