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143 12 Shel Trapp and Gale Cincotta n V A R I O U S A U T H O R S * Introduction Starting in 1967, and continuing until Gale Cincotta’s death in 2001, Shel Trapp and Cincotta worked together as organizer and leader. They met in the Austin neighborhood of Chicago as part of Organization for a Better Austin (OBA), where Tom Gaudette had hired Trapp in 1966 as an organizer and where Cincotta eventually became president. After Trapp left OBA and became the director of Northwest Community Organization (NCO), Trapp and Cincotta collaborated to build the West Side Coalition, which was officially formed by NCO, OBA, and Our Lady of the Angels Catholic Parish. Together, in 1972, Trapp and Cincotta held the first national housing conference on what would eventually be called “redlining” by banks and savings and loans (as well as insurers and others who engaged in parallel practices). This was the practice of not lending, or charging substantially higher rates, to entire neighborhoods, typically resulting in racial turnover. Soon after the conference came the creation of National People’s Action (NPA) and the Neighborhood Training and Information Center (NTIC); for convenience, I refer to them collectively as NPA.1 NPA worked to form a national coalition of groups to fight for federal legislation, first on housing and then around other issues. They also created the Metropolitan Area Housing Alliance (MAHA), a coalition of NPA organizations in Chicago and then Illinois. In 1974, they won city and state regulations mandating mortgage loan disclosure and outlawing redlining. Nationally, NPA led the charge for the passage of the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) in 1975, which Cincotta and Trapp helped draft, and the federal Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) in 1977. This chapter includes writings by and interviews with Trapp about his organizing approach and philosophy. It concludes with selections from documents telling the story of Cincotta’s life. It focuses more on Trapp because he was the organizer in the pair. This chapter is indebted to Michael Westgate and Ann Vick-Westgate, who collected a wide range of information for their book, Gale Force: Gale Cincotta—The Battle for Disclosure and Community Reinvestment. In Trapp’s case, this chapter generally emphasizes Chicago-based organizing efforts prior to his work with NPA; the later work of NPA is referred to more generally in the Cincotta section. For more on Trapp, This chapter was edited by Aaron Schutz. PEOPLE POWER 144 see his book Dynamics of Organizing: Building Power by Developing the Human Spirit, as well as his other writings (some available online).2 How Redlining Worked “Redlining” is the name for a process that hurt white ethnic neighborhoods and made African Americans pay dearly for the opportunity to move into previously all-white neighborhoods. Here’s the basic outline of how it worked. (1) Lenders and insurers would either stop doing their business or charge substantially higher rates in a white lower-middle-income/working-class neighborhood. When asked “Why?” the response would be, “The neighborhood is deteriorating.” (2) City agencies would diminish the level of public services so that the quality of life in the neighborhood did, in fact, decline. (3) “Block-buster” or “panic-peddler” realtors would tell white homeowners, “Sell now before the blacks move in and your house loses a lot of its value.” Realtors would purchase at below the previous market rate and then sell to blacks at a much higher price. On both transactions they earned commissions and often participated in the profits. (Sometimes the block-busters were themselves black.) (4) The presence of the newly moved-in African American households would confirm what the block-buster had been saying to the white homeowners. Soon there would be panic as home prices plummeted. (5) A self-fulfilling prophesy was created by this often deliberate and conscious conspiracy of public and private parties. (6) Redlining continued to hurt African Americans who moved into the neigh­ borhood. Among other issues, they had greater difficulty obtaining home improvement loans and paid higher interest rates on them when they did get them.3 Within redlined neighborhoods, it was difficult to obtain a standard loan, so borrowers had to turn to FHA (government) guaranteed mortgages. These mortgages came with additional fees, and the federal guarantees encouraged predatory lending, as Trapp explains below. Shel Trapp From “Here Comes Trouble” (1995) —Mike Ervin* Trapp is a chain smoker of Marlboro Light 100s, a hard drinker who tosses around expletives like...


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