A lonely day at the polls

first_imgLos Angeles voters, some red-faced, said they were too busy, too tired, too unaware or too disinterested to go to the polls. They had the chance to influence local politicians who theoretically have the most influence over their lives and they did … other stuff. Maybe it was the negative campaigning. Or the fact that the last election came in November and there’s another in May. Or the lack of much competition. Or the fact that the most hot-button citywide issue was whether to amend the City Charter over school board elections. “When you have two or three elections in a two-year period with pleas about `If you don’t vote, the sky’s gonna fall,’ it dulls the senses,” said Kareem Crayton, assistant professor of law and political science at USC. “It’s not that the issues are less important – if anything, they’re more because they affect you most directly. But without a clear sense of what’s at stake, it’s hard to get people involved.” Ironically, the stakes were particularly high in Tuesday’s contest, with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s school board challengers squaring off against union-backed candidates. Though the future of the board and public education hung in the balance, it did not register with residents. “I know the mayor’s trying to take control of the school board, which I don’t like,” said Carol Brown, a Chatsworth voter who did not cast a ballot. “But not enough to do something about it. I’m a little ashamed, because it’s our civic duty.” The cabbie’s cigarette concerned him more than the future of his city. On Tuesday, when Angelenos had a chance to vote for city and school board leaders, the most local of politics, the man in the yellow taxi – and just about everyone else – didn’t bother to show up. Only a fraction of the more than 1.7 million eligible voters took the time to vote. “Voting? Huh?” the cabbie said, mesmerized by the smoldering butt between his fingers. “Look, I’m very busy right now. I don’t have time to talk about that.” A civic duty that for most couldn’t compete with picking up dry cleaning, getting some gasoline or purchasing lottery tickets. “I completely forgot,” said C.Y. Arrieta, 34, a business analyst from Woodland Hills. “I don’t pay attention to the local stuff. It’s not as big as a presidential election. “I think we ought to care more about this, myself included, because it’s important.” Not important enough, however, to get people into voting booths. As Arrieta enjoyed her morning coffee, Hildy Seligson, a volunteer clerk in a North Hollywood precinct, looked over her sheets of “I Voted” stickers. She had an ample supply. “Nice of you to come by and break the monotony,” she said. “You shoulda been here before – I think we had three people! I’ve been getting four things a day, those slick envelopes with those expensive-looking ads, in the mail for weeks telling me about the election. But where are the people?” They were having lunch at El Indio, a Mexican joint on Roscoe Boulevard in Northridge. The tables were full of prospective voters, but only one had actually cast a ballot. Glenn Thornhill, 54, a stay-at-home dad from Sylmar, cared enough to take an absentee ballot to his hospitalized mother. But he did so more out of a sense of tradition than any excitement about the candidates or issues. “It’s a rule – you have to vote in my family,” he said. “It’s a sad state of affairs in Los Angeles. Almost no one votes, but you’ve got to. I go, shake my head, and that’s that.” At Precinct 900624A in Woodland Hills, inspector Glen Wilson logged 20 votes in his first six hours at the polls. He awoke at 4:45 a.m., arrived an hour later and cast open the doors at 7, hoping for a big turnout. But instead, he found only the cool morning air. Later, a kindly pastor at the church that supplied the room for the polling place lent the workers a television to stave off boredom. “Apathy runs across party lines,” Wilson said. “You get all the supplies ahead of time, fill everything out, get all ready and come in to work. Then, Bleah! Nothing.” [email protected] (818) 713-3738160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img

Housing crisis reflected in loans

first_img“So if a card holder is showing signs of distress, the lender can scale him back from a $15,000 line of credit to $7,500 and limit its exposure,” McBride said. “It’s not like a mortgage, where the money is out there; it’s lent.” Another reason the changes to consumer loans have been small so far is that markets related to consumer credit haven’t been as riled as those tied to mortgages, where growing defaults have prompted investors to shun mortgage-backed securities and have sent several dozen mortgage companies into bankruptcy. Because credit cards have not seen substantial increases in delinquencies, “we haven’t seen deterioration in the performance in credit card asset-backed securities,” said Cynthia Ullrich, a senior director in Fitch Ratings asset-backed securities group. Still, investors concerned about mortgage problems have demanded a slightly higher return on securities backed by credit card receivables in recent weeks to make up for a higher perceived risk, Wall Street analysts said. Those higher costs in the secondary market are being passed on to consumers, Chessen said, noting that financial institutions have the tools to raise rates for riskier customers while holding them down for those with better credit scores. Arnold, of CardRatings.com, said one card issuer has held the rate on its cards at 10.99 percent for customers with the best credit ratings; but those with poorer ratings will be paying interest of 18.99 percent, up from 17.99 percent just a few weeks ago, he said. “In terms of rates, the fallout from the subprime mortgage market has financial institutions practicing risk-based pricing,” he said. Although JP Morgan Chase’s Dimon discussed the steps his bank is taking, other credit card issuers were loath to reveal their credit terms. Asked about current conditions, Bank of America Corp. in Charlotte, N.C., said it “maintained consistent underwriting standards” and evaluated each credit application on the individual’s merits. USAA in San Antonio said it was monitoring the market “and will make changes if necessary,” and Discover Financial Services said delinquency rates remained at a record low so it hadn’t changed business practices.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! One card issuer, for example, has reduced its introductory period for zero percent interest from “six months” to “up to six months,” Arnold said. Others are doing away with zero percent offers and going to teaser rates as high as 5.9 percent, Arnold said. James Chessen, chief economist with the American Bankers Association trade group in Washington, D.C., said of lenders: “We’ve also heard they’re taking a more careful look at people with less-than-stellar credit. There’s the feeling that the risk may have been underpriced in the past.” But the changes in consumer credit products are not anywhere near as extreme as those involving mortgages. The dollar amounts involved in credit lines and consumer loans are much smaller – often a fraction of a typical mortgage – and defaults haven’t been as worrisome. “What’s driving what’s happening in the mortgage market is the increase in delinquencies,” said Greg McBride, senior financial analyst with Bankrate.com in North Palm Beach, Fla. “These other products haven’t shown that surge, and they have protections in place.” Credit card issuers, for example, can raise the rate on a customer’s card with little notice or shut off the line of credit at any point, he said. NEW YORK – The stream of credit offers that have filled consumers’ mailboxes in recent years might be slowing just a bit. Although credit card issuers and other companies that lend to consumers have escaped the barrage of defaults that mortgage lenders have suffered, they’re nonetheless being more careful about whom they lend to, and under what terms. Some card issuers are raising interest rates, while others are cutting back offers to less-creditworthy customers or lowering credit limits. Personal and auto loans are also going through changes. Credit card companies and other lenders are extremely reluctant to reveal the changes they’re making, for competitive reasons. But Jamie Dimon, the president and chief executive of JPMorgan Chase & Co., told a recent conference with analysts that his bank, one of the nation’s largest card issuers, was cutting back on teaser rates and balance transfers and looking instead to profit from greater growth in existing accounts. “Lenders are obviously doing some tightening to protect themselves,” said Curtis Arnold, founder of CardRatings.com of Little Rock, Ark. Arnold said he was seeing “pretty subtle – but significant – changes” in credit card offerings. last_img read more