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Santa Monica: Land Of The Giants:

In general, there’s a human tendency to want to be associated with winners. Last Tuesday I cheered on the Golden State Warriors, who would ‘bring it’ in the form of a pretty exciting game 6 finale to the NBA Championship, simply because the Warriors are based in California.  

Geography was all it took for me to sort out my allegiance in the NBA Finals. Previously, I faithfully watched all of the Clippers thrilling play-off action. I’m saying that it’s easy to align yourself with forces that dominate and win, whether it’s the Olympics or politics or maybe the forces over your life.

It’s much harder to stare down a giant who is winning and say, in effect, “we don’t believe what you’re doing is in the best interest of our community, our families… and perhaps humanity in general.”  

That’s just a general statement of mine, from my upcoming book, “Ouch, My Broken Back: How Giant Corporations Stomp Us into Pulpy Pancakes.”

I’m thinking of revising the possibly provocative title.

But now, from the web site of Blackstone Equity: “At Blackstone, we apply our strengths as a leading global investment and advisory firm to deliver solutions, unlock value and propel growth. Our capital fuels the development of businesses and communities.” And this, from The World Property Journal: “Blackstone is the largest owner of single-family homes in the United States, after spending an estimated $7.5 billion to buy 40,000 foreclosed properties.”

Anything with an out-sized name such as “The World Property Journal” immediately sets off my global manipulation buzzer. But Blackstone is a winning multinational private equity; the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) is “a multi-racial, democratic, non-profit community organization building power in low to moderate income neighborhoods to stand and fight for social, economic, and racial justice”, according to their mission statement.  

ACCE stared down giant Blackstone on Tuesday of last week when they held a rally outside the Santa Monica offices of Blackstone.  

As reported by The Mirror’s Atlas Novack, ACCE is concerned that Blackstone is buying up pools of mortgages from the U.S. Department of Home and Urban Development (HUD) and the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), flipping those pools for profit… all without much if any regard for the residents in the properties. Almost like… well, pulpy pancakes.

ACCE would like this activity to cease and to advise the government that what they’re doing with Blackstone is irresponsible and continues to “sell the American dream out.”  They want responsible, and I’m going to add responsive, landlords. Their protests are scheduled to continue.

ACCE has already scored with me in the following way: I was not aware of Blackstone’s presence in Santa Monica. But we embrace giants here, such as Google, although many of these global titans have words like “capital” or “equity” in their names. Hey, they create jobs and make great tenants! So what if, every once and while, they are making it impossible for middle and lower income families to hang on to their homes?

Somewhere, there’s a definition of progress written down that includes all people and the advancement of better things for everyone. “Progress” is not just the march of money, just as winning and building capital is not the totality of all endeavors.

My father always warned his kids about feelings of hopelessness. One of his biggest notes was, “don’t ever feel as though your vote doesn’t count or doesn’t matter. Because that’s what THEY want you to believe.” Dad might have been vague on who THEY were, but I’m almost certain he’d applaud ACCE’s effort to bring light to how the quiet processes of making money from money tend to crush people’s dreams. It’s not just courageous to stare down a giant; it’s often absolutely necessary.

in Opinion
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