The impact of the financial crisis was just as devastating for Main Street as it was for Wall Street–if not more so. That’s the message conveyed to members of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission from those invited to testify from smaller communities in California and Nevada.
Beginning in Bakersfield, California, on Tuesday, September 7, the commission started with opening remarks from Rep. Kevin McCarthy from California’s 22nd District, Kern County District Four Supervisor Ray Watson and Bakersfield City Councilwoman Irma Carson.
The hearing was then separated into five sessions that included local banking, residential and community real estate, local housing market, foreclosures and loan modifications and, lastly, a forum for public comment.
“The current crisis was caused quite simply by too much debt,” said Arnold Cattani, chairman of Bakersfield-based Mission Bank. “The impact on our community of the recent crisis has been profound. There are tracts of abandoned real estate projects on all four sides of Bakersfield and in each small town in the county and abandoned houses in almost every neighborhood. There are empty strip malls in every commercial area. The largest locally owned bank went under, unemployment is high and equally as important, people are frightened rather than optimistic about their future. Restaurants are empty; schools are short of funding and laying off young teachers, who worked hard to earn their degrees who are now waiting tables. These people have the feeling that the system failed them.”
“The impact was and is the most dramatic I have ever witnessed as a 48-year veteran independent real estate appraiser in Bakersfield,” said Gary T. Crabtree during testimony on the local housing market.
The 10 members of the bi-partisan commission were appointed by Congress on July 15, 2009. The chair, Phil Angelides, and vice chair, Bill Thomas, were selected jointly by the House and Senate Majority and Minority Leadership.
The next hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m. PT, September 8, 2010 at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.