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Strange & Ugly Times for Villaraigosa

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Mon, Sep 8, 2008 at 8:00 AM

Something strange and ugly is happening in Los Angeles, although you don't hear Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa speaking much about it. On Tuesday, the National Fair Housing Commission visits Los Angeles to hold a hearing on the foreclosure crisis. According to the commission's press release, "Forty years after the enactment of the Fair Housing Act in 1968, significant housing discrimination still exists in Los Angeles and across the country."

These are powerful words, especially when they're followed up with this sentence: "Los Angeles is among the hardest hit cities in the current foreclosure crisis, and the commission will examine cases of discriminatory and predatory lending, the federal enforcement of fair housing laws, and the state of fair housing in the region."

The Washington D.C.-based commission has two, political heavy weights coming into town on its behalf: former Department of Housing and Urban Development secretaries Jack Kemp (a Republican) and Henry Cisneros (a Democrat). It will be hosted by the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund, the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund & Educational Fund, and the National Fair Housing Alliance. The hearing itself will take place on Tuesday morning at 11 a.m. at the headquarters of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund on Spring Street.

The hearing comes only four months after the United Nations, reportedly at the invitation of the United States government, sent a "special rapporteur" to eight American cities to investigate racism in the U.S. These cities included Washington D.C., New York, Chicago, Omaha, New Orleans, Miami, San Juan, Puerto Rico, and...Los Angeles. The investigator was Doudou Diene, who flew into L.A. for three days starting on May 28. That visit went largely unreported by the L.A. press, except for an "opinion" piece in the Los Angeles Times.

Diene has yet to release a report on his findings, and the National Fair Housing Commission will send out its findings and recommendations sometime in December. All in all, it's weird stuff when you consider these things are happening under the watch of L.A.'s first Latino mayor in over 100 hundred years. No word yet if Villaraigosa, who has strong connections to the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, will testify at Tuesday's hearing.

Contact Patrick Range McDonald at pmcdonald@laweekly.com.

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