On behalf of the 2,000 Cleveland employees of Charter One, we take great exception to "The Bank of Jim Crow" [August 16]. The article misrepresents our record, our commitment to fair lending, and our successful role in providing lending and other products and services that meet the needs of all communities. These include low- to moderate-income and minority individuals, organizations, and neighborhoods.
Charter One has contributed a great deal to the communities we serve. In May, we joined Mayor Michael White in signing a $170 million agreement to invest in Cleveland's Neighborhood Reinvestment Program. Last week, we pledged to invest more than $80 million in the Greater Rochester area. More recently, the Federal Home Bank of Cincinnati presented Charter One with its 2001 Community Partnership Award. This prestigious award honors the financial institution that "best exemplifies the spirit and accomplishment of affordable housing and economic development in partnership with other community providers."
We'd also like to call your attention to the following items:
· In 2000, Charter One Bank originated 426 loans in the City of Cleveland, which amounted to $27,337,000. For the first six months of 2001, Charter One originated 292 loans for $19,583,000, compared to 224 loans for $14,802,000 for the first six months of 2000.
· Charter One Bank maintains a free Credit Counseling Program, which provides over 4,000 hours of service annually. Also, Charter One has sponsored or participated in various home-buyer workshops conducted by community-based organizations.
· Since 1998, Charter One Bank has offered a Down Payment Match Program in certain neighborhoods designated by the City of Cleveland. The program provides individual grants of up to $2,000, matching half of a borrower's down payment. Since the inception of the program, Charter One Bank has provided 94 grants totaling $121,875.
· Charter One Bank delivers its affordable housing products in the central cities and low- to moderate-income neighborhoods through the use of four community loan originators. They are compensated by salary plus incentive, rather than straight commission. The salary program allows us to focus on central-city lending regardless of loan amount.
· Senior executives at Charter One Bank provide leadership to various community and economic development organizations by sitting on boards or special committees. Those organizations include Neighborhood Progress Inc., Cleveland Housing Network, Northern Ohio Local Initiatives Support Corporation, United Way Services, Cleveland Action to Support Housing, Neighborhood Housing Services of Cleveland, and the Fannie Mae Cleveland Partnership Advisory Committee.
As you can see, our commitment to Cleveland is well established and ongoing. The lending issues your article examines are not easily simplified; nor do these issues provide an accurate context for the inflammatory illustrations used in the article.
While we are always looking for ways to improve how we serve our customers and the communities in which they live, we are proud of our role in maintaining and building healthy communities, and we look forward to continuing these successful efforts in the future.
Charles John Koch,
Chairman and CEO, Charter One Bank
Agencies are our undoing:
"Family Cries" [August 23], by Andrew Putz, puts poverty in a perspective not often seen in the print media. The more Cassandra Jackson became involved with social service agencies, the more her plight worsened. The most powerful part of the feature was never directly mentioned: that so many people working for and managing these agencies earn a middle-class income because they are skillful at keeping the Cassandra Jacksons of Cleveland dependent on at least one social service agency. Now another generation, her adopted son, is dependent on at least one social service agency. Is there anything more reprehensible than keeping other human beings in poverty? Contrasting the feature with the same week's "The Edge," this reader saw one example of how the creation of opportunity is a back-burner item in Cleveland.