Monday, October 13, 2008

Another Hero

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

I have had the opportunity to write about a couple of young men over the past year whom I regard as heroes. Jesus Manuel Cordova slipped across the border illegally and was walking through the Sonoran Desert of southern Arizona last year over the Thanksgiving weekend when he came across a frightened young boy who had escaped a horrible car wreck in which his mother died. Cordova spent the night protecting the lad and turned him over to some hunters the next morning. He got deported for his heroism.

Daniel Millis was also the hero in an immigration story. The young Spanish teacher from the Tucson area had been carrying water jugs into the Sonoran Desert as humanitarian assistance to the refugees who come into the United States across the hot and dangerous land. Millis was arrested and refused to cooperate by paying a fine for littering, forcing the government to take this dangerous "litterer" into Federal Court. The irony was that he had actually been picking up litter while distributing the life-saving water. Millis was later found guilty by a federal judge, but no punishment was imposed.

Recently I have heard about another hero who also deserves to be recognized. Tom Dart is the Sheriff of Cook County (Chicago), Illinois. As the sheriff of the second largest urban area in America, one of Dart's duties was to assist in the eviction of individuals whose mortgage payments are in arrears. That wouldn't be a pleasant job under any circumstances, but in this awful economy it is even more despicable.

Sheriff Dart and his deputies began to notice that often when they showed up for evictions, the homes were occupied by renters who were current of their rent and had no idea that the homes were about to be foreclosed upon. Eventually the unfairness became too much for the good sheriff to bear, and he responded by declaring that his department would no longer assist in bank foreclosures and evictions.

Say what? A duly elected public official refusing to enforce the law? That's right! Sheriff Tom Dart, taking a page directly from Henry David Thoreau, refused to enforce a law that he felt was unfair. When is the last time something like that happened in America?

The sheriff blames the banks for the current state of housing chaos in his county. Illinois law says that people have to be notified well ahead of time when they are going to be evicted. The banks are supposed to contact these people, find out who lives in the homes, and do their due diligence. Sheriff Dart says that the banks aren't doing their part. The banks, those stellar beacons of civilization, are trying to have the sheriff held in contempt by the courts.

A couple of thoughts on the matter: 1. The law basically protects two interests, people of privilege and property, and property itself. The poor always get the hindquarters, and generally nobody notices or cares. And, 2. If the banks want these individuals evicted, why don't they gather up some cardboard boxes and go do it? Why should public officials (people paid through taxes collected from all of us) be at the beck-and-call of behemoth banks who suck their income from the rents and mortgages of the working class? They need to be doing their own dirty work!

Sheriff Tom Dart, you are a good man - and my hero!

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