Friday, May 07, 2004

Government Arrogance in Action: "Alderman defends having police watch her home"
Your tax dollars at work: here in Chicago government officials can get private security at public expense, courtesy of the Chicago Police Department. After a couple of burglaries, the CPD is keeping a special eye on this alderman's home, including a cruiser and officer parked outside on weekends at a cost of $366 per day. The peons who complain, however, should just shut up, because, says Alderman Marie Antionette...oops, I mean Arenda Troutman, ""Deserve it? Damn right," she said. "I should receive the protection I am receiving. I am an elected official. You're darn right." Sure, of course, Alderman Troutman. Elected officials first, ordinary people can eat cake. Welcome to Chicago.

And you know what will happen now that this has been publicized? Exactly nothing.
Officials give HOAs a pass, says Dan Watson of Gilbert, Arizona
This opinion piece ran parallel with the editorial below, and is referred to in the editorial. It deals with whether a municipal government that is mandating HOAs in all new construction should take some responsibility for protecting the owners who are conscripted into HOA living.
It seems that Mayor Steve Berman and other town officials have once again taken an all-too-common position of disregarding the needs and concerns of the citizens of Gilbert. While our state lawmakers are busy trying to pass legislation that would rein in the powers of out-of-control homeowners associations in Arizona, Gilbert is still mandating HOAs for all new developments. In fact, Berman has decided that on his watch he will not address this critical issue for the citizens of Gilbert. His response to taking such an action (as reported by Brian Powell in the Tribune May 2) was that he "likes the idea of establishing a town commission to oversee HOAs, but with the town having no legal authority over HOAs, he doesn’t see how the commission would work." It’s a strange situation in that Gilbert feels it has the legal authority to mandate HOAs but will not get involved in resolving homeowner disputes that result from imposing unchecked HOA conditions, covenants and restrictions (CC&Rs) on homeowners. Come on, Berman, you can’t have it both ways. The concept proposed by Steve Maggs of forming a Gilbert town commission to address homeowners’ concerns is a genuine step in the right direction. Unfortunately, I don’t think it goes far enough. We don’t need an advisory group without power to offset the actions of unruly HOA boards. We do need a system that will return equality to Gilbert homeowners. As it stands now, the Gilbert-mandated HOAs have the final say in critical homeowner issues affecting Gilbert residents. The only recourse for homeowners today is through the courts, which is both expensive and time consuming. It’s difficult to understand how Gilbert town officials can mandate that every new development have an HOA without establishing a check-andbalance structure that would protect an individual homeowner’s investment. They should be taking an active, legal role in their mandated HOA management system.
An obvious HOA reform
Here's a newspaper editorial talking about Gilbert, Arizona's practice of requiring HOAs in all new construction, and then taking zero responsibility for dealing with the conflicts they cause, or as some would put it, the oppression of homeowners.
Gilbert’s Congress of Neighborhoods has been trying to get the Town Council to set up a municipal commission to deal with HOA issues. The organization’s chairman, Steve Maggs, says that since Gilbert mandates new subdivisions have HOAs, the town should take a role in trying to resolve disputes that sometimes arise. It’s a good suggestion, one that’s echoed by Gilbert resident Dan Watson on the following page. (Watson goes further, urging the Town Council to drop its mandate that new subdivisions have HOAs.) Homeowners associations are probably here to stay, for several good reasons. First, most homeowners like the having a neighborhood association protecting the appearance and property values of their area. Second, if private associations are maintaining neighborhoods, there is less demand for government to do the job — and that saves tax dollars. But the growth of HOAs has not been accompanied by a similar growth in checks and balances. Although the greatest check on HOA abuse is for homeowners to be aware of and involved with their association, even elected groups need oversight; that’s why the governor has veto authority over the Legislature. The Legislature has made some strides in recent years to bring some checks and balances to bear on HOAs, but has been appropriately cautious so as not to hamstring associations. It has also been reluctant to create a new state entity to mediate HOA disputes. The Gilbert Town Council should step in with a commission that acts as an ombudsman in hearing HOA disputes and possibly offering solutions. Perhaps airing disputes in public would be enough to win compliance with the commission’s recommendations.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Yahoo! News - Town Has Firehouse, No Firefighters
What if they gave a fire and nobody came? 60s flashback. You had to be there.
Construction of a new fire station in rural Stanislaus County will soon be completed. The problem is, there won't be anyone to staff it. In March, voters in the rural Oakdale area of Valley Home rejected a measure to pay for a fire crew. Each home would pay $165 a year.
I guess this shows that municipalities can have the same problems as HOAs. Taxes, assessments...whatever. - Foxlife - Madonna: Stay off My PropertyLawyers acting for the Material Girl argued on Wednesday that walkers should not be allowed to traipse across her $11 million country estate of Ashcombe House in Wiltshire, southern England...Madonna and her husband, film director Guy Ritchie (search), are disputing their obligations under a new law designed to give ramblers access to open land across Britain.

Britain has a "Planning Inspectorate" and a "Countryside Agency" that decide whether or not you need to allow strangers to perambulate on your land. There is also an organization called the "Ramblers' Association," with 140,000 members, who apparently make a hobby out of walking on other people's property. Given the size of Madonna's estate (1200 acres), the next issue should be whether she or the Ramblers' Association should pay for the porta-potties that will be needed.
Pension Underfunding Undermines Financial Health of the PBGC, Worker Retirement Security
The historical parallel to the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corporation (FSLIC, R.I.P.) is chilling. Government sets up insurance program to socialize the risk that private institution will become insolvent. Private institution proceeds to engage in risky behavior, because, hey, it's all federally insured so nobody gets hurt. Private institution fails. Taxpayers pick up the tab. In the case of the S&L collapse the total cost was $153 billion, of which the taxpayers got stuck with 81% and the industry with 19%. What will happen with these insured pension funds that are on rocky ground?