On Tuesday, October 23, over ­100 city and county officials, local and national experts, and community leaders gathered at William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul to discuss the brightest ideas that address the aftermath of the financial crisis, in particular the foreclosure epidemic.

Prentiss Cox, law professor at the University of Minnesota said that the foreclosure crisis existed before the financial crisis, but was largely ignored.  He explained that while the federal government rushed to help the banks when they failed, public sentiment turned against individual homeowners rather than the banks for the foreclosure problem.

Alon Cohen from the Center for American Progress, presented on city-based mediation programs.  He stated that in the cities where mediation has been implemented, “it offers people a last best chance to save their homes.”

John Taylor, President and CEO of the National Reinvestment Coalition, talked about responsible banking as a mechanism for local governments to negotiate with banks. He said that, “banks are the stewards of community wealth.  Local government should require banks to invest in the communities they serve – in turn creating capital within the community.”

City and county officials, community leaders, and others listened as the panel discussed the role cities can play in moving distressed communities to recovery.  There was a lively question and answer period where audience members asked how mediation and responsible banking have been implemented in other communities.

While federal action is clearly called for, communities across the United States are taking bold, smart and creative action to address the crisis through local policies.  Cox stated, “The reason to act at the local level is because all other actions on the federal and state level have so far been ineffective.  Local action is only the beginning of the solution to the problem but is something we can do right now.”

The event was organized by ISAIAH, Jewish Community Action, and Minnesotans for a Fair Economy.