Winning water in Portland
reports on new developments in Alicia Jackson's struggle.
ACTIVISTS IN Portland, Ore., who are organizing to help keep Alicia Jackson in her home hope they chalked up another victory last week when her water was turned back on.
Jackson was forced to move out of her home last August following a flurry of foreclosure notices from Wells Fargo. On May 1, 500 community members moved her back into her home with a rally, march and celebration organized by Occupy Northeast, the Black Working Group (BWG).
The title to Alicia Jackson's home now shows Fox Capital Corp. as the owner. Jackson has been unable to contact Fox Capital by phone. Fly-by-night operations like Fox Capital are the bottom feeders in America's foreclosure epidemic.
The Portland Water Bureau refused to acknowledge Jackson as the rightful owner and occupant of her home, despite the fact that she lived there and paid her water bills for years. After 10 days without water, Jackson and the Occupy movement organized a group of 30 activists on May 10 to enter the downtown Portland Building and confront Water Bureau officials.
After some negotiation, a delegation of six was allowed upstairs to press Jackson's case with the Water Bureau administrator David Shaff. Undaunted, even in the face of a clouded title which was being contested by Jackson in court, Shaff insisted that the unreachable Fox Capital must consent before water could flow into Jackson's home.
The delegation returned to the street to find City Commissioner Randy Leonard addressing the crowd. Leonard, who is a member of the Portland City Council and commissioner of the Water Bureau, attempted to placate the angry Occupiers. He accused the group of "using Alicia as a pawn in your political agenda," stoking protesters' anger and provoked a charge of racism from BWG leader Ahjamu Umi.
Jackson herself confronted the commissioner, demanding that her water be turned on. Backtracking, Leonard tried to claim that he had Jackson's best interests at heart and offered to move her into affordable housing. Jackson responded that she had housing--what she needed now was water.
Protesters jeered at Leonard, pointing out that the city's waiting list for affordable housing was years long. Commissioner Leonard then offered to contact Fox Capital, which no one has been able to contact, to ask their permission to turn on Jackson's water.
At this point, several Occupy activists turned the conversation to the larger issue of the epidemic of fraudulent foreclosures, pointing to the predatory lending, the targeting of Black and Brown communities, and the Mortgage Electronic Registration System (MERS), which is attached to the great majority of recent foreclosures.
Offering the example of the San Francisco, where an audit found 85 percent of foreclosures had some kind of violations and the Board of Supervisors recently passed a resolution calling for a moratorium on foreclosures, protesters challenged Leonard to introduce such a motion in the Portland City Council. Leonard agreed, and protesters said they would hold him to the promise.
Disappointed but determined to find a way to get Jackson's water turned on, Occupy demonstrators left the Water Bureau to rethink their options. Within days, she had access to water again.
It's Day 12 and Alicia Jackson is in her home with all her utilities turned on and a band of Occupiers standing guard, defending Portland's first home re-occupation. The Black Working Group vows that there will be many more.