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Dollar Points To An NCUA Irony

WASHINGTON-In accepting a Herb Wegner Anchor Award from the National Credit Union Foundation, former NCUA Chairman Dennis Dollar said it was hard not to point out the irony that he would be recognized for his work at the agency. "The board that hired me (as CEO of Gulfport VA FCU) caught a lot of flak from NCUA for hiring a guy with no credit union experience."

A Tough Act To Follow-Her Own

In her remarks accepting a Herb Wegner Award on behalf of her credit union, Caryl Stewart, CEO of Opportunities CU (formerly Vermont Development CU), noted that she was preceded by a flattering video about her credit union, and found herself thinking, "Gee, that is going to be a tough act to follow. Then I realized it's our act." Founded in 1989, the credit union has made $135.5 million during its lifetime and been in the black since 1994. Later, in among the most touching remarks at the Wegner Awards, Stewart read from the letter of one handicapped member-to whom it had made a loan for an handicapped-access van-in which the member said, "I struggle to convey in a few words how I've gone from wishing for an early death to wishing for more hours in the day."

Lesson Learned Brick By Brick

WASHINGTON-Other poignant remarks came from Dr. James Likens, head of the Western CUNA Management School. A child of the 1930s Dust Bowl, Likens shared with the crowd his own memories of holding a flashlight at night as his father built their first home brick by brick. Later, he described his alma mater, UC-Berkeley, as a "combination of Harvard, Oxford and Oz."

Banks Using Effective Tactics

WASHINGTON-Utah's credit unions are finding many of their efforts being countered by very effective tactics from that state's banks. For instance, one CU CEO told The Credit Union Journal the banks have reworded their accusations about credit unions in ways that make it difficult for credit unions to reframe the same question.

Case in point: the banks have been doing phone "polling," said the CEO who reported one of his members had received such a call, in which the caller states, "Credit unions are making X number of dollars. Don't you think they ought to support taxation."

-Frank J. Diekmann

The Root of Quirky Utah Bill

WASHINGTON-Numerous bills and resolutions related to restricting credit unions in Utah have been submitted in that state's legislature. Among the most recent is a bill from State Rep. LaVar Christensen that, in addition to seeking to specifically define CU membership, includes a strange provision to make members' contact information available to other members upon request, and which would also allow members to determine if they want excess earnings to go to cash dividends or invested in certain projects.

Utah League of Credit Unions CEO Scott Sullivan told The Credit Union Journal the provision is a reflection of Christensen's displeasure with a local water board that he feels practices no meaningful democracy.

"It's a solution in search of a problem," said Sullivan. "I think it smacks right into the federal privacy laws. And it's coming out of the same committee that has just been talking about identity theft. Fortunately, our regulator has stood up to this."

Divisions Over Social Security

WASHINGTON-The division in the country over Social Security Reform was more than apparent during CUNA's GAC. Treasury Secretary John Snow extolled President Bush's plan to allow 10% of retirement savings to be invested in private accounts. That view was supported or countered by nearly every congressman and senator who followed. Republican New Hampshire Senator John Sununu, Jr. also advocated the president's plan.

But Democratic Sen. Paul Sarbanes said that "Social Security has worked extremely well. We have challenges, not a crisis. We can still pay current obligations through 2052. It's not going to go broke or fall off a cliff. The shortfall needs to be addressed, but telling people its not going to be there when they retire is the height of irresponsibility."

Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D-PA) said he is getting the biggest turnouts at the town halls he has hosted for the past 20 years in his district due to the Social Security reform proposal.

He said the biggest issue is not addressing the "fiscal irresponsibility" of the federal budget, noting that the interest being paid on the federal borrowing could instead be used to shore up Social Security. Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) added that "Changes aren't going to happen."

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