Thursday, March 25, 2004

Yahoo! News - U.N. Projects Historic City Populations by 2007

By Grant McCool

"UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - For the first time in history, most of the world's population will live in cities by 2007, U.N. demographers said on Wednesday.
They said that 48 per cent of the world's population lived in urban areas in 2003 and this was "expected to exceed the 50 percent mark by 2007, thus marking the first time in history that the world will have more urban residents than rural residents."They projected that the world's urban population would rise to 5 billion by 2030 from an estimated 3 billion in 2003. Conversely, demographers expect the rural population to decline to 3.2 billion from 3.3 billion in 2003 by that year.
Global urban populations would grow at an annual average rate of 1.8 percent and double at that rate in 38 years, according to the U.N. Population Division report, "World Urbanization Prospects: The 2003 Revision." Tokyo, the world's most populous city with 35 million, was projected to still be the largest in 2015 with 36 million people, followed by the Indian cities of Bombay at 22.6 million and New Delhi at 20.9 million. Next on the list were Mexico City at 20.6 million and Sao Paulo at 20 million."
And this raises some interesting questions. How is all this urbanization to be accomplished? How will the new housing be constructed and how will services be provided? If recent experience in other nations is any guide, the answer is: through privatization and the creation of housing that resembles American common interest developments.
As usual, some of the owner activists have gone off the deep end over my comments concerning foreclosure. I don't mind being disagreed with, and I welcome reasoned debate because I always learn from it. I received some good questions and criticisms from people, and thanks for that.

However, the problem once again is that there are these people who think the purpose of the internet is to make it easy for them to insult people who have the temerity to hold an opinion they don't like. Their idea of debate is just name-calling. I guess this makes them feel powerful or something, as if they had actually accomplished something for the first time in their lives.

I just don't have the time or the inclination to be engaged with these folks in any way or at any level, even to point out how wrong they are. Somebody--maybe it was Churchill--said that you should never fight in the mud with a pig because you both get dirty and the pig enjoys it.

Anyway, what kind of conversation is it where you spent an hour crafting and writing an argument with facts and inferences and conclusions, and the response is basically, "YOU ROTTEN *&(^%$()(_)(*&&^^^^%%$$!!@@#!!!"

My solution is simple. I just set up filters that automatically trash all e-mail that could possibly be from or about people who behave like that, and I don't read the message boards where they post, ever again. If group moderators won't keep things civil by weeding out the slander and profanity, then bye-bye. That's my policy.

So, the bad thing about the internet is that it has too many people who abuse it. The good thing is you can make them disappear.
Legislative update
I checked Lexis yesterday and I noted that the Arizona anti-foreclosure bill passed the House, where it originated, and is now in the Senate having been refered to a couple of committees. This is H.B. 2402. It passed the house with a three year waiting period rather than the original seven years, and it requires that the home be sold for "fair market value." There are lots of questions about how this bill would work in practice and perhaps the Senate committees will get into that.

In California, I see two foreclosure-related bills. One is AB 1527, having to do with "actual notice" before foreclosure, and the other is AB 1682, that would make a number of changes in foreclosure and would require that non-judicial foreclosure be for the assessed value of the property.

In Florida, there are two competing bills. One is SB 2984, emanating from the Jeb Bush-appointed HOA Task Force, and the other is H.B. 1223, from Rep. Robaina, chair of the House Select Committee on Condominium Governance. The Task Force bill would require mediation for election and recall disputes and make other procedural changes. The Robaina bill is the ombudsman proposal. It will be interesting to see how these things play out.
Memo to Scotland: Here is how we do it in the USA.Gun toters halt robbery attempts
Note that these are two separate self-defense situations in the Detroit area. The piece is from the Detroit Free Press.
"Farmington Hills police said a 32-year-old Novi woman, who had a permit to carry a small-caliber pistol in her purse, stopped a man armed with a 9mm semiautomatic handgun from taking her $40,000 diamond ring and Rolex watch.

"Police Chief William Dwyer said the woman, whose name was not released, was in the parking lot of a business at 12 Mile and Drake, where she worked in the accounting department, when a man confronted her Friday morning.

"When he came within about 10 feet, Dwyer said, the woman calmly pulled the gun out of her purse and pointed it at the man -- identified as Carl Walker, 21, of Detroit.

"Walker did not draw his weapon, police said. Instead, he ran to a nearby car and the woman called 911. Police later arrested Walker and recovered a pistol. Two companions, Monique Bell, 26, of Detroit and Daphne Patterson, 28, of Southfield, also were arrested."
" Two other men -- a father-son team accused of trying to rob a 65-year-old retiree -- are expected to be arraigned this morning in St. Clair County.

"The men already had robbed one woman before being stopped by the home owner's bullet on Friday, police said.

"The Ft. Gratiot Township home owner answered his door on Keewahdin Road about 8 p.m. and was accosted by a 20-year-old Worth Township man armed with a handgun. When the young man's attention was diverted, police said the home owner grabbed his own .38-caliber handgun and fired.

"'The round ended up coming out of his buttocks, so I'm sure he'll be thinking about that old man every time he sits down for a while,' said Detective Lt. Mike Bloomfield of the St. Clair County Sheriff's Department."
See, this is what I call privatization. You take the law enforcement function and you break it down to the individual level, where the individual citizen is trusted with having enough good sense to use force only when and to the extent that it is warranted. Contrast that with the Scottish/British approach, where you have to depend entirely on the government. In other words, self-defense is fully socialized. If they aren't around when you need them, and of course they hardly ever are because crooks don't generally commit robberies in front of police officers, you are supposed what, exactly? Curl up in the fetal position and beg the criminals for mercy?

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Man Who Killed Armed Intruder Jailed Eight Years

This amazing article is from The Daily Scotsman:

"Carl Lindsay, 25, answered a knock at his door in Salford, Greater Manchester, to find four men armed with a gun. When the gang tried to rob him he grabbed a samurai sword and stabbed one of them, 37-year-old Stephen Swindells, four times. Mr Swindells, of Salford, was later found collapsed in an alley and died in hospital.

"Lindsay, of Walkden, was found guilty of manslaughter following a three-week trial at Manchester Crown Court. He was sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment."
Riiiiiiiiiiiiight...I guess those hoary notions of "self-defense" have gone the way of the old home-is-your-castle least, in Scotland. I'd say William Wallace must be spinning like a top. Maybe if Mr. Lindsay had used a Claymore instead of a samurai sword it would have been a lesser sentence.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

My ears are burning...somebody must be talking about me.
Over at "HOAs", Mika Sadai's Yahoo group that owner activists frequent, a min-debate about me popped up amid the serious discussions they are having on the legislative front--(and by the way, if you haven't checked out that group, along with George Staropoli's "hoanet" you ought to).

The issue was that I practiced law for ten years, including six years in civil litigation when I did mostly HOA representation. Does that mean that my views on the subject--in this case my opinion that HOAs need to have some recourse to foreclose--are suspect?

This is an interesting predicament when you think about it. If you have never worked in the industry you are morally pure, but on the other hand you don't really know what's going on behind the curtain. If you have done legal work for associations, you are tainted forever, but you have a body of knowledge that can only be acquired by experience. This is similar to the issue that broke up the friendship between Sartre and Camus. Sartre believed philosophers should get their hands dirty by being involved in practical politics (which in that case meant revolution), and Camus said he would stick to writing. So--which is better--the knowledge you gain from actual involvement with an imperfect system, or the moral purity you keep by never doing the work? Hard to say.

As for me, I think I was lucky to have the best of both worlds. I stumbled into HOA practice from the construction defect side, and I never did any covenant enforcement or collections work, and never wanted to. I was a litigator, better known as a trial attorney. My job was representing the association against the developer or against an insurance company, or some variation on that theme.

But of course from doing this, I learned a lot about how associations work and how lawyers do covenant drafting and enforcement along with association general counsel work. I certainly began to see very quickly how the cards are stacked against the owners. I noticed among other things how the lawyer works with the BOD, and how the owners are shut out of the loop most of the time, and how a great deal depends on how the lawyer views the owners. Some attorneys want to keep the owners informed and supportive, but others think the mushroom theory is the way to go (keep them in the dark and give them just enough BS to keep them alive). It became obvious to me that the best lawyers understand that it is much better in the long run to keep the owners involved.

So I'd say that I had the best of both worlds in that I learned about this industry without having to go up against individual owners. I saw good board members and control-freak nut cases, and saw the same kind of variation with the owners--some were terrific, others were...not. Good and bad lawyers, board members, and owners. Kind of like people in general. The problem is an unbalanced system that has little or no protection for owners against the misbehavior of lawyers and board members, while there are all kinds of checks against owners getting away with anything improper.

I think this experience did influence my views on many things. As for foreclosure, to me it is an extremely harsh remedy that should only be available as a last resort and with greatly increased limitations and protections for the owner. I want to stop these foreclosures for $250 and $2500 in attorney fees, and I think nonjudicial foreclosure should be legally prohibited.

But to take away the foreclosure power completely is the wrong way to go, it seems to me. Banning HOA foreclosure is premised on the illusion that there is somebody else to pay the bills, some pocketbook or cash trove somewhere that will pay the pool cleaning company and resurface the streets. But there isn't. There is no getting around the fact that when you buy into an HOA you take on a major financial responsibility. If the association doesn't pay its bills, then IT will become the debtor, and IT will be getting attacked by collection agencies.

The way things are shaping up I think even with foreclosure power many more associations are going to be in wobbly shape in the near future. If associations can't keep the flow of assessments coming in because people feel they have no teeth, it will be that much harder.

And if you are pro-owner, if you want owners to be happy, you don't want their association to be in financial trouble. I just can't see how increasing the financial fragility of HOAs is good for owners, and if somebody can, please explain it to me. The biggest problem potentially facing owners--one I think the owner groups should think about fixing legislatively--is what I call the "bottomless pit" liability of individual owners for corporate debts and liabilities. The law is shaping up so that the owners are going to be stuck with the bills for BOD-generated liabilities, non-dischargable in corporate bankruptcy--(see Le Parc and Oak Park Calabasas). That would include debts and tort judgements. This is a frightening prospect indeed. Jim Lingl, an attorney who does a lot of legislative work in California, is trying to get a bill passed that would protect owners against this sort of thing. If you have a story to tell him about such an incident, send him an e-mail at

Sunday, March 21, 2004

Big push for 'reform' sidesteps real issues

Here is attorney Scott Carpenter's counterpoint to the issues Pat Haruff addresses in the article linked below. Carpenter is a big supporter of HOA foreclosure powers.
Time to rein in folks who prey and profit

This is an article by Arizona's CHORE activist Pat Haruff about HB 2402, a bill in the state legislature that would restrict HOA ability to foreclose on liens. - Barking loudly as CA watchdog is alliance's goal

Columbia is one of the largest planned communities in America and has had a lot of good press over the years, but it was recently the subject of a series of newspaper articles that mainly focused on problems.
Another Case of Guilt by Association
More HOA violence, this time with a 78 year old woman as the victim. Here's a passage from the article by columnist Dana Parsons"

"When people sense that the person lording power over them is being unreasonable, the resentments and frustrations build. Sometimes, they explode with disastrous consequences. Homeowners association board members can satisfy themselves simply by saying that violence is the fault of the perpetrator. It is, to be sure. But if only for their own preservation, why not take a moment and ask why that violence sometimes comes looking for them."

That's a surprisingly unsympathetic take on a man allegedly thumping an elderly woman, I'd say. Sounds a bit like the old "She had it coming" philosophy on rape. I wonder how the victim feels, reading that in the Los Angeles Times. Similar sentiments are popping up in owner activist newsgroups, with some people calling her vulgar names. They don't know her, of course--they are just slandering her because she is an HOA director and that's enough.

So, do some people want an open season on BOD members?