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 by Jennie S. Bev 

San Joaquin County is one of the hardest-hit counties in California in this mortgage crisis. And Mountain House was named by New York Times in November 2008 as “the most underwater community in the United States,” as 90 percent of home values there have gone underwater, and the depth of depreciation is as steep as 70 percent.

Those who have been paying skyrocketing monthly mortgage payments and have been receiving reduced earnings are probably feeling the pinch of the economic crisis. Many of them have stopped payments and are facing foreclosure.

With 18.7 million vacant homes this year and 7 million more properties expected to foreclose in 2010 and 2011, this mortgage crisis is more than our neighbors’ issue —it is our own personal issue as well.

Many of us have grown to be skeptical as no one seems to be able to lend a hand. Not attorneys, not government officials, and especially not lenders.

When we started to distrust the system, this man came along.

Bruce Marks was named 2007 Bostonian of the Year, yet his activism affects all of us, including Tracy and Mountain House residents.

From October 16, 2009 through Tuesday, Marks and the nonprofit organization he founded, Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America, had a colossal Save the Dream tour at the Cow Palace.

I was there, and I was among 25,000 people who were grateful and astonished by the magnitude of this event. Most lenders nationwide, 270 NACA counselors, and a few hundred volunteers provided their services with homeowners’ interest in mind.

As a scholar-activist, I am a hopeful individual. But I always keep an objective view, so by nature I wasn’t too enthusiastic when I first heard about NACA. Today I’m relieved and proud to call myself a NACA member, a Bruce Marks follower, and a loan restructuring activist.

Marks has advocated the public’s interests since 1988 with his debut activism for the Hotel Workers Union in Boston. Today, he is known as “the nonviolent bank terrorist,” as Wall Street Journal named him. He literally “terrorizes” bank CEOs with his strong, pit-bullish words.

Marks has advocated for elimination of a second mortgage scam and has campaigned against predatory lending by going to each bank and having them sign an agreement with NACA. He also won a case against Sen. Phil Gramm, whose Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act in 1999 removed the separation between consumer and investment banks and has been believed to have caused the current economic and mortgage crisis in the first place.

Bruce Marks is the only name we need to remember when it comes to fighting the foreclosure crisis. Even if you have to fly to the East Coast to attend one of his tours, the effort would be worthwhile.

NACA has more than 1 million members who can testify how their loans have been restructured based on affordability, instead of credit score and how much their net incomes are.

NACA’s underwriting guidelines have proven to result in the lowest default rate nationwide —less than 1 percent— while other nonprofit organizations have showed more than a 2 percent default rate.

“Bruce Marks is a godsend,” one NACA member said at the Cow Palace. With more than 1 million people who agree, no endorsement is too exaggerated.[]

Tracy Press, October 23, 2009

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