City of Sunrise: No Foreclosure Benefit Concert Forthcoming

Though it sounded like a good idea a month ago, the City of Sunrise does not appear poised to stage a benefit concert to raise money for residents in foreclosure.

"There has been no discussion of a benefit concert, nor has the board ever voted for a benefit concert," says commissioner Sheila Alu. "I was opposed to it anyway -- I mean, who decides who gets the money?"

In these economic times, Alu continues, the idea seemed less and less likely all the time. "It's not really affordable or feasible -- I mean, it's $50,000 just for the BankAtlantic Center to open its doors."

The idea started last month when the city was contacted by Jani and Jacob Siwek. That didn't work out so well for either party, Alu says.

"I'm sure the mayor regrets ever opening his mail," Alu opines of Mayor Roger Wishner. "He was in the middle of a campaign, and he didn't know the Siweks had already refinanced the house twice and liquidated their assets or that we'd already given them $25,000 to rehabilitate the home."

After it was revealed that the Siweks have a lawsuit against Sunrise, the city's support, well, kind of evaporated.

"I don't believe they were truthful to the mayor, who ended up with egg on his face," says Alu. "But anyway, they would not qualify [for foreclosure assistance] because they don't meet the criteria. They don't qualify for a mortgage modification. They used their house as an ATM."

Richard Burton, the Siweks' lawyer, says he wants to help people suffering during the foreclosure crisis. He believes that the couple may indeed still have a case, even though he admits they have asked for "extraordinary assistance."

"I think they were pigeons," he says. "They thought they were shrewd with money, and it was easy for them to borrow, and they counted on the house being worth more and more -- why wouldn't they?"

Alu sounds like she's tired of the Siweks' complaints: "They abused the system," she says. "Then they blame the city for putting him in a wheelchair, and they sue us? We're trying to help people find affordable housing, but sometimes it's better to just vacate the premises."

However, this Saturday, July 17, the city has invited Burton to speak at a city-sponsored "Foreclosure Clinic."

"I'm honored that the city trusts me," he says.

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