Local bankers say they're not surprised that lax oversight and lending policies helped lead to our economic downturn. But at a federal commission meeting in Bakersfield Tuesday bankers joined many others in expressing their surprise at the depth of the impact from the financial meltdown of 2009.
Former Congressman Bill Thomas is co-chair of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, and he led the discussion Tuesday. The ten member committee is hitting four cities, starting with Bakersfield.
It had all the feeling of a congressional hearing, but in this case Washington came to Bakersfield to find out why our area was hit so hard in banking and in foreclosures. Arnold Cattani, the chairman of Mission Bank, spoke at the hearing. He believes the reason is partly du to the huge amount of land in Kern County that was too appealing to investors, eager to cash in on inflated housing prices. "I really do believe if you get back to sound, disciplined lending, maybe things won't be as volatile, there will be a more solid foundation," said Cattani.
"Allowing a consumer to provide stated income as a qualification for a loan, that's reckless disregard for financial responsibility," said Anthony Waymire has seen his construction jobs slow from 200 a week to two. "it's a completely different universe."
The commission is charged with talking to residents in beleagured communities to find out why they think the crisis started, and how it's affected them. That was a little frustrating to some who came to the meeting Tuesday, hoping instead for answers. "They're talking about what happened to them, there's, there's no answers," said Waymire.
If you didn't get a chance to go to the meeting, you can log on to the commission's website, www,fcic.cov/contact, and provide your name, phone number, email address and testimony describing your experience, in the comment box.
The commission will present their findings to congress and President Obama in December.