Just Economy Conference – May 4, 2021
John Taylor, President and Founder, NCRC
NCRC video transcripts are produced by a third-party transcription service and may contain errors. They are lightly edited for style and clarity.
Thank you everybody for giving me the opportunity to address you virtually. I’d obviously love to be there and see people and be able to have side room conversations and so on, as we always do with our annual conferences. And thank you to all the people who are sponsoring and supporting this really appreciate it. In the late 1990s, at the invite of Joe Kennedy, I went to Washington DC, to volunteer with a small group of Washington and Washington inside the beltway nonprofits, they had come together to save CRA from being get it in by by late by 1991, this group of volunteers decided that they really needed to have staff to head this new coalition, which they call the National Community Reinvestment Coalition. They asked me to apply for this position. And on January 2 1992, January 2 1992, I was made president and there I was in Georgetown alone in a cold windowless office, made generously made available to us by the Center for Community change. From that humble beginning, we’ve grown from that one staff person to over 100 across our various programs and enterprises. And through the next three decades, we had some rather astounding success. Number one, we save CRA from being gutted or repealed, that was the whole point of why we came together. Another big success was we got 100 data to be publicly available. Before NCRC, you had to have a mainframe computer. And it was really next to impossible to get the data on what banks were doing and lending and mortgages across the country. Today, you can get that for free on two CDROMs, every mortgage made in the country. More importantly, we changed the way banks are examined on the CRA. If you understand that, in the old days, the process for examining banks was actually based on process you had to have a file and assign and yet they have certain trappings that that you would you were complying with CRA. In effect, your performance was not necessarily measured as much as your structure for complying with CRA. And this obviously did not serve low and moderate income borrowers and people of color very well. President Clinton and Al Gore invited ncric to appear on the lawn of the White House to announce two new initiatives. One was regulatory reform, CRA regulatory reforms that did take the regime by which banks were measured and under CRA and redefined it. And to help create a new entity and the US Department of Treasury known as the CDF II fund. President Clinton actually appointed me as the first community representative to serve on the cdfa advisory board. The important thing there is that we, we I’ll get to that. The Federal Reserve Bank working with the OCC Jean Ludwick, Plato was the head of the OCC at the time played a key role in this to craft a performance pay based regulatory oversight. So that we were going from a process base to a performance base what it actually got to doing in the way of lending. And I’ll never forget that meeting at the Federal Reserve Bank and in the meeting room of the Board of Governors, which I was invited to, and it was full of press. And in making the announcement of what the new rules are going to be. The person announcing started by saying First, I want to recognize the work of NCRC. And the input generated through our members to establish the community perspective on how these banks would be regulated. In fact, and I remember this, it was the first time in the history of the Federal Reserve Bank that the number of comments the Federal Reserve received, outnumbered. received from community groups outnumber those financial institutions. Normally, when there’s a regulation or request for input on a rule. The industry organizes itself and gets in all the letters. But for the first time, we got more community voices in there and it helped.
Built in organized as a Civil Rights Coalition, totaling 637 nonprofit organizations members whose common focus is economic justice. This has been truly the greatest impact, I think of NCRC. We’ve had a myriad of legislative and regulatory successes when I just mentioned, we were very instrumental in helping and part of the leadership group in helping to build the CFPB Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Most recently, well not so recently, we added section 71 1071 to the Dodd Frank act requiring small business lending to be reported by banking institutions. We lead the opposition to CRA reform deform proposals by Walmart and other non banks, and now watchdogging it as as cryptocurrency and FinTech firms as they try to get into banking. But perhaps one of our greatest accomplishments has been our work over the last several years to procure community benefits agreements, from financial institutions seeking to acquire other banks are seeking to improve the CRA record. In the last six years, NCRC has procured 15 community benefits agreements, written signed agreements commitments, totaling $298 billion and astounding figure. And these commitments for banks to make more loans, investments grants in lower low and moderate income communities and minority neighborhoods and to make sure that branches stay open, or they open where they don’t exist. So we focused, you know, on creating opportunities. Also for NCRC, outside of these benefit agreements, we focused on being more self reliant, wanting to avoid being in a situation where we’re constantly reacting to a foundation that changes its its priorities or, or program offices leave in the new person comes in, they have a different idea of what they should be funding or the same thing happens even with federal and state money. So we really felt that in order to have the independence that we really needed to have as First and foremost, an advocacy organize an advocacy organization, really, really needed to become more masters of our own destiny. So we set about trying to generate our own income. Surprisingly, you know, a lot of funders, they just didn’t fund advocacy and organizing occasionally they would, but it was, it was not a high on their list. So we’ve, we’ve created a couple of funds that where we hope to create affordable housing and, and have been doing that, in fact, we’ve we’ve I think we just passed to 700 homes that are now owned by low and moderate income people in low and moderate income neighborhoods, that we have been responsible for acquiring rehabbing and selling. And at the same time, we have a fund that’s launching now called NCRC’s Equivico, that’s going to be doing small business lending to minority owned small businesses, women owned, veteran owned. And in both of these funds, we hope over time as they become very successful and prosperous and get a lot of investors hopefully, investing at reasonable rates that will allow us to, to procure or provide homes and small businesses with loans and to help traditionally underserved neighborhoods grow, but at the same time to help NCRC. We also acquired and own our own office building and manage to hold on to the previous headquarters, both in Washington both in the shadow of the US Treasury and the White House. These are major assets that in the future will be helpful to ncrs ease independence. So with foundation support, and and other supports NCRC, in the last five short years has doubled the size of its revenue. Today we have an annual annual budget of over $35 million annually.
Well, that’s a little bit redundant. But let me just say, a few years ago, I approached the board and asked them to split my job from being president, CEO to just president and to hire a new CEO. The boy did a national search, and thanks thankfully settled on why I believe to be the best candidate for the job, someone with the economic justice, experience and knowledge and someone dedicated to the mission and strategies of NCRC my then see Oh, oh, Jesse Van Tol and I think that was a very wise decision on the part of the board and it certainly made me very happy and then We did something that everybody else said was a bad idea. Jesse and I split the responsibilities. Jesse became CEO for three years and I became president founder for three years, we co lead this incredible and dynamic organization. The truth of the matter is, you know, probably at the beginning, I had to get used to not not making every decision, but that didn’t take long and with the help of Bob Dickinson and Jesse and, and working with me and I with them, we were able to create a very effective management system in which we we Jesse and I ran different aspects of the organization and had a lot of success. NCRC has had a lot of talented staff come and go through NCRC over these many years, and many have left an indelible imprint on our success and efforts. Today, NCRC, in my opinion, has the best compilation of staff we’ve ever had. This bodes well for our ability to impact this country, going forward to address economic justice, discrimination, and income inequality. But equally important, has been the absolutely fabulous and selfless board of directors who throughout our organizational history of coming on and help NCRChave the impact that it’s had from our original Chairman, Jeff Patton, Javi, the third, and so many other distinguished chairs, Ervin Henderson, Bethany Sanchez. And for the past nine years, the very best of all chairs, my personal opinion, Bob Dickerson, I am grateful for all their wisdom, their commitment to NCRC their friendship, their patience with me, and their commitment to helping this organization stay on the right path and be successful in nearly all of its endeavors. So many organizations struggle with board members that limit the ability of their executive leaders to fly my board throughout these 30 years have created and nurtured the wind in my sails. And I’m will be forever grateful to them for that. And now the time has come for me to pass the torch to the next generation. I am announcing my decision to retire from full time employment at NCRC. On August 1 of this year, I will work full time until that date. Afterwards, the board and Jesse have asked that I remain in a consulting capacity to both Jesse and the board in areas where I can lend support and insight. I will also continue to pursue the development of a TV program that I’m working on with Florentine pictures about the white working class. That’s a whole other story. And I wish I had time to tell you about it. But I’m hoping we change the quality of the conversation about the about out there about how people prosper in this country. So no kid from the projects with a public school education. dependent upon food stamps and selling newspapers and shiny shoes. To give my money to my mom should have enjoyed the incredible and beautiful life that I have had on the NCRC I remember that day on January 2 1992. Wondering if that in that cold and dark office, what I left Boston and had I made a mistake. And I just as a as a I don’t know what this is, but I’d like them to put up a graph of what I looked like at the beginning. And you can all see what I look like now. So if the folks in in cyberspace can computer land wouldn’t mind putting up that. Okay. So you all get to see that. Under the sign the building community lender partnerships, that’s me. And that’s Janet Reno on the left down there. And that’s Bill Clinton and urban Henderson. I chaired the time. And okay, we can get rid of that. So it’s it’s been quite an endeavor to, to serve all these years, but really, you know, I am, I am so blessed to have been able to do this. And people are always saying, wow, you know, you’re amazing. You’re this year that I would be nothing without the staff with no without the board. And without the members that day, that on January 2 1992. When I moved to Georgetown, of course they’re in Georgetown where the public transportation doesn’t reach because the white people in those days didn’t want people, different people coming out on the train to their to their neighborhood. That’s where my first office was thanks to the Center for Community change. And ever since that day, I was blessed to end before that day, I was blessed to have on my side. A person with incredible sensibilities and common sense who another miracle in my life loved me. Susan forward isn’t has been my rock ever catching me and all my stumbles ever supporting me in all my endeavors. She has sacrificed a lot in this process, and has never complained. I just how incredible successes can credibly successful should one guy from public housing be? I certainly wish everybody else that same success. I will always think those who stood beside me, in front of me and behind me and most of all, I remember you, the members, and our allies and supporters who made all of this possible and will make much more of a future and greater contribution still, that NCRC can make with you through you towards addressing the just income inequality and racist history and things that we need to eliminate so that everybody in this country can get a decent education, good health care, living in an affordable home and have a job with a livable wage. That’s a democracy. That’s what the democracy should look like. So I’m moving on out, I will be here for the next few months, and then for the next three years, a consultant. So to Jesse and the board, but let me leave you with this quote, quote, from a very brilliant person. As civil rights leaders never die. They just become a little more civil, and a lot more righteous. If you want you can ask me and I’ll tell you who said that. But thank you, everyone. And thanks again to my lovely and beautiful wife, Susan