Voice of Poor for Regional Federal Reserve Board

Sister Diane Donoghue’s religious calling led her to aid the poor. Her success at community development initiatives led her to the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.

After touring Esperanza, the non-profit Donoghue founded to develop affordable housing and offer other community services downtown, Mark Mullinix, executive vice president of the Federal Reserve Bank’s L.A. branch, decided she would offer a different voice on the board.

“He said, ‘We expect you to come with a bias,'” Donoghue said. “And I do have a bias.”

As one of seven members of the Los Angeles branch of the 12th District board, which covers California south of Fresno, southern Nevada and all of Arizona, Donoghue is a voice of the working poor. Other board members represent small and large businesses.

“For me, that means people who are at 30 to 60 percent of the median income,” Donoghue said. “They make $18,000 to $28,000 a year for a family of four.”

Board members are expected to present the perspectives of their constituencies to the Board of Governors and Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan.

Donoghue expects her greatest challenge to be representing the poor in an environment where other members have a considerably stronger voice.

“Los Angeles is the low-wage capital of the country. While 67 percent of Americans are homeowners, 85 to 90 percent of the people in our neighborhoods (downtown) are renters,” Donoghue said. “It’s a huge problem.”

Although Esperanza pays Donoghue a salary, her vow of poverty requires that she donate it to her order, the Sisters of Social Service.

In addition to Esperanza, Donoghue founded the South Central Organizing Committee and has served as executive director of several social service organizations. She was born in Minneapolis in 1931 and has lived in Los Angeles since 1936.

Matt Myerhoff


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