A civic campaign this week in Minneapolis looks to underscore joblessness, declining schools, foreclosures.
Steve Fletcher, executive director of Neighborhoods Organizing for Change or NOC, pointed to a foreclosed North Minneapolis home on Newton Ave., owned by Wells Fargo, and described the toll foreclosure takes on communities and schools.
Church, community and labor leaders have joined forces for a weeklong campaign to confront financial institutions and elected officials, urging them to "restore opportunity to ordinary Minnesotans."
Using public forums and marches, ISAIAH, Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, two locals of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and Minnesotans For a Fair Economy will focus on the plight of the unemployed, residents affected by the foreclosure crisis, immigrant families and the elderly as part of the "Don't Foreclose on the American Dream" movement.
Neighborhoods Organizing for Change kicked off the action Monday, releasing an analysis indicating that foreclosures, spurred by banks that offer subprime loans, have cost Minneapolis Public Schools more than $100 million in lost revenue by forcing families to desert the city in search of housing.
Holding signs that read "Bail Out Schools Not the Banks," and "Failed Homes Fail Our Kids," supporters gathered in front of a foreclosed home on Newton Avenue in north Minneapolis to cite the role of foreclosures in the district's enrollment and funding losses. The home is a block over from Lincoln Middle School, one of several district buildings shuttered because of declining enrollment.
"The practices by big banks in communities of color need to change," said Nick Muhammad, lead organizer of Neighborhoods Organizing for Change. "It affects families, it affects housing, it affects schools. A lot of people are too busy in life to connect the dots and see how this really works."
The group plans to address the Minneapolis school board at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, requesting that the district no longer bank with several financial institutions. Their report said the foreclosure crisis has done more to shrink enrollment in that portion of the city than even "Choice is Yours," a program that afforded North Side families free busing to suburban schools, organizers said.
"It's an important issue to consider, but it's always difficult to say the foreclosures have led to it," said school board member Carla Bates, chair of the board's Finance Committee.
"I'm skeptical to draw that line because there are foreclosure problems all over the metro area."
ISAIAH, a coalition of 90 churches, will host a public meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday at St. James AME Church, 624 Central Av. W., in St. Paul, to discuss a study on the foreclosures that have swept St. Paul and to offer solutions.
The events lead up to the "March and Rally to Save the American Dream" that begins at 3 p.m. Friday at Peavey Plaza, 11th Street S. and Nicollet Mall, where hundreds are expected to take to the street.
The events are not tied to OccupyMN, an ongoing anti-Wall Street, anti-corporate influence protest in downtown Minneapolis set off by similar events around the nation, but the themes are similar, said Kevin Whelan, spokesman for Minnesotans For a Fair Economy.
"Both reflect the frustration that people have," Whelan said. "People are standing up and doing something about it."
Corey Mitchell • 612-673-4491