Our two main features in this issue of Community Dividend explore efforts to address specific challenges in the community and economic development fields.
The challenge discussed in our first feature is the lack of uniform commercial laws in Indian Country, with particular focus on a type of commerce called secured transactions. The absence of uniform laws governing secured transactions can hinder economic development by making outside lenders reluctant to do business with tribes and tribal members. In 2001, a committee of commercial law experts from the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws set out to create a model secured transaction code for Indian Country that would provide uniformity on key legal points while allowing tribes to adapt the law to suit their unique traditions and circumstances. Working closely with an advisory group of tribal representatives, committee members analyzed and debated every aspect of secured transaction law and gradually drafted the new code. The Model Tribal Secured Transactions Act was completed in the summer of 2005, after a four-year drafting effort, and a number of tribes have already taken steps to implement it.
Our second feature discusses a challenge that frustrates some community development researchers: How do you perform inexpensive, up-to-date monitoring of neighborhood conditions when most neighborhood-level data resources tend to be either costly or out-of-date? The article examines recent research that suggests annual, inexpensive data from the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) can serve as proxies for a few important indicators of neighborhood health. When those proxies are tested in the Twin Cities region, the analysis indicates that HMDA data can be useful tools for tracking neighborhood changes in an affordable, timely way.