98.8 Percent Overhead

Preying on the Poor

As a plaintiff in the class-action lawsuit against Ameridebt Inc., I applaud Seattle Weekly for publicizing the issue of unscrupulous "credit-counseling" agencies ["98.8 Percent Overhead," Aug. 24]. I have tried to work within our political system, both state and federal, trying to get our leaders to crack down on the practice of "credit-counseling" agencies and predatory lending. In my research, I have discovered the same conclusions Bruce Rushton's article highlighted, but I also uncovered what I believe to be collusion between political leaders, credit-card companies, and other consumer lenders and the emergence of these "credit-counseling" agencies. In an effort to avoid having to declare Chapter 13 bankruptcy, I contacted my creditors to try to work out repayment plans and was told the same thing by each: "We do not work with individuals; we only work with credit-counseling agencies." Then they proceeded to give me a list of "approved" agencies they work with. This should be illegal. These "not-for-profit" credit-counseling agencies are charging debtors massive fees for using their services, and as a federal judge has found in the case against Ameridebt Inc., they are operating as for-profit companies. It is also a catch-22 when creditors will not work with individuals to help them repay their obligations and only work with these agencies. Even more unfortunate, the Bush administration and my member of Congress, Rep. Rick Larsen (a Democrat), passed the recent revisions to the bankruptcy law that will forever keep the working poor in indentured servitude and continue to allow the existence and proliferation of these "for-profit" credit-counseling agencies. What is the purpose of government if not to protect the citizens from predatory lenders like payday lenders and credit-card companies? These groups are the special interests that contribute to our politicians, and

therein lies the problem. The working poor continue to get screwed as these companies work the poor areas of Seattle and stuff our mailboxes with offers for "easy" credit. It is time for the state to crack down on predatory lending and the electorate to stop supporting the evil politicians who are screwing us on the one hand and waving the flag with the other!!

Anthony Vicari


Gov should Take Charge

It was with much joy that I read George Howland Jr.'s article on the tunnel funding ["State to City: Forget Tunnel," Aug. 24]. The North Seattle Industrial Association has long been an opponent of the tunnel and a supporter of the viaduct rebuild option.

What is interesting to me is Howland's article the week before about how to beat Initiative 912 ["'Queen Christine' and the Tax Revolt," Aug. 17]. His article about the tunnel shows why I-912 would win today. There is no transportation program to defend. While there are many defendable projects, the large projects are a mess. Are citizens voting for a tunnel or a rebuild for the viaduct? What is the proposed solution for the 520 bridge and how would it be financed? These two projects are over 25 percent of the gas tax package.

Howland's article points up the bigger question: Who is in charge of the state transportation system, the mayor of Seattle or the governor? It is clear today that the mayor is in charge, which is why so many people are voting for I-912. The rest of the state would like the governor to be in charge. Unless the governor takes charge, I-912 will pass overwhelmingly. A start would be for her to take ownership of the viaduct and tell the city of Seattle it is her highway, not theirs.

Whether the governor is involved in the campaign or not is largely irrelevant; she is not that popular. Whether she takes ownership of WSDOT and the viaduct will determine whether citizens feel someone is in charge and, therefore, whether they are willing to give their tax dollars to the state.

Eugene Wasserman

President, North Seattle Industrial Association

Shed Light on Tunnel

Several more reasons for concern over the Alaskan Way tunnel option are not mentioned in George Howland Jr.'s article ["State to City: Forget Tunnel," Aug. 24].

The cost to operate and maintain the tunnel: What will the power for ventilation fans, pumps, 24-hour-a-day lighting, fire suppression systems, and emergency communications systems cost?

What are the relative environmental impacts of a tunnel versus an above-ground viaduct? The tunnel might be quieter—that's the only advantage I can think of, and a new viaduct could have noise abatement features that the existing one doesn't have. It will use a lot more energy—forever.

When modifications become necessary, which alternative will be more costly and complicated to modify? Which one faces a greater security threat? (And which one will cost less to fix if a problem occurs?) Which is more vulnerable to damage from earthquakes and tsunamis? Which will cost more to fix afterward?

Perhaps one more reason for concern: I have been unable to get anyone at City Hall or WSDOT to respond to my questions.

Gene Hawkridge


Blame Our own Billionaire

Nice job in exposing the right-wing nuts at Seattle-based entities like the Discovery Institute, which promotes pseudo-scientific "alternatives" to evolution [Mossback, "Seattle, Seventh Heaven," Aug. 24]. But if one of Knute Berger's points is that we can't place the blame on others—that we have plenty of homegrown wackos—why does he attribute the Discovery Institute's funding to outside billionaires like Richard Mellon Scaife without mentioning that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation gives it $1 million a year? What a shameful mark on an otherwise fabulous foundation.

Yoram Bauman


Knute Knows Best?

Knute Berger shows once again that the Seattle left cannot honestly be termed "liberal" any more. Berger's Aug. 24 column [Mossback, "Seattle, Seventh Heaven"] doesn't try to answer conservatives so much as to slander them and then pronounce a kind of anathema. It doesn't matter what the issue is; if a conservative is on one side, Berger must be on the other.

The most bizarre example is his disparagement of the efforts of former Republican Congressman John Miller, now U.S. ambassador-at-large for human trafficking issues. Berger seems to think that the problem of contemporary slavery in the world is "overhyped" and uses as his example "sex work even in countries where prostitution is legal." It doesn't seem to bother him that the actual "sex work" under attack is coerced.

Seattle was home to a forced prostitution ring preying on illegally imported, non-English-speaking women a few years ago. The perpetrators were arrested. Other developed countries have winked at similar degradation, however, part of a tradition in some parts of Europe and Asia of ignoring the rights of powerless foreigners. In parts of Africa and the Middle East, kidnapping and sales of young girls into "sex work" dehumanize hundreds of thousands of women a year. And then there are the cases of forced servitude (that is what constitutes slavery, isn't it?)—everything from cases of Filipino household servants in Saudi Arabia to little boy camel jockeys in the Gulf states.

You don't have to be religious or conservative to stand up for human rights. But I suppose if you really fear people who are religious, let alone conservative, more than you care about human rights, it doesn't matter what crimes are committed. If your political target takes one side on an issue, then you must take the opposite.

Bruce Chapman

President, Discovery Institute


A Model Employee

Thanks for the update on Angela Holland, "Former Deputy Sues" [Aug. 24]. Angela is currently employed part time with me in a King County office dealing with public defense. During the several weeks she has been with us, she has shown extraordinary sensitivity to and concern for clients. And she has demonstrated more diligence and savvy than employees who've been here for years! I just hope her case wins out, that a discerning judge will eventually make a realistic decision on the realities of her condition and that Angela Holland will prevail again not as a sad but as a good cop.

Mac Wichman


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