By: Neal Santos
In dealing with the economic crisis, we aren't exactly national leaders. Pennsylvania was the last state in the union not to have a budget. Philadelphia remains the last big city not to have a contract for municipal workers. We haven't been hit as hard by the crisis as, say, Florida. We're no beacon of hope, either.
There is one exception to this disappointing trend. Back in the middle of 2008, at the height of the foreclosure crisis, an order was issued postponing all foreclosure proceedings in Philadelphia. And a special court was set up by Common Pleas Judge Annette Rizzo to try to prevent as many of those foreclosures as possible.
The thinking behind the Philadelphia Residential Mortgage Diversion Pilot Program is simple: No one wants foreclosures to happen. Not the homeowner, not the lender. So, before one occurs, Rizzo's program brings the players together for a sit-down. They try to negotiate a workable solution for both parties, whether it's a loan modification, a new payment plan or a settlement.
There were early challenges. Foreclosure has long been a tool for enforcing the payment of mortgages, and when the program began, one lender told City Paper, "Stop paying your mortgage. ... In Philadelphia, apparently, you don't have to."
But the judge stuck with the program, and it began to work. By early this summer, nearly 1,000 Philly homes had been saved from foreclosure. But the economic crisis isn't over, and more families will undoubtedly need help with their mortgages before it is. When they do, they'll have Rizzo's program to turn to. And Philadelphia, in turn, will have something to be proud of.
Honorable Mention: Government and PoliticsBill Green
Charles H. Ramsey
The new mayor's new police commish had an impossible mandate: Lower a spiking crime rate all with the threat of massive-force cuts looming. Somehow, he did it.
The suburban Rep gets big ups for not letting the Big Eddie-endorsed flip-flop by once/future Democrat (and former/future Republican) Arlen Specter go unchecked.