Friday, September 10, 2004

Missoulian: Law school faculty consider challenging Natelson ruling
I have reported on this before. Bob Natelson has written on property issues pertaining to condominiums and HOAs generally. He is a quality researcher and from what I gather a good teacher. His law school until recently wouldn't let him teach Constitutional Law. Natelson challenged that, claiming he was being denied this opportunity because he is a conservative, and he prevailed in a hearing held in August. Now faculty members are trying to overturn the ruling in his favor. Apparently the problem is that
University of Montana Law School faculty are talking about challenging UM President George Dennison's decision last week to appoint conservative lightning rod Rob Natelson to teach a class on Constitutional Law.

Some of Natelson's colleagues will meet Tuesday to consider filing a formal grievance with the university or appealing to the state Commissioner of Higher Education.

Thursday, September 09, 2004 Mayor outlines elaborate camera network for city
Hello, surveillance society. What I find so interesting here is that many liberals and leftists are terrified of Attorney General John Ashcroft, who they suspect of peering over their shoulder at the library and rifling through their trash. But here is Democrat mayor Richard Daley installing thousands of video surveillance cameras, all linked into some sort of network. Will the left complain? Let's see.

September 9, 2004 (Chicago) — The city of Chicago plans to network more than two-thousand surveillance cameras in public places to alert authorities to suspicious behavior or emergency situations.
Mayor Richard Daley says the plan announced today would give authorities what he calls "the equivalent of hundreds of sets of eyes." Daley says it's "the next best thing to having police officers stationed at every potential trouble spot."

The city plans to put 250 new cameras in places determined to be at high risk for crime or terrorism. They would be networked with existing cameras, including those at O'Hare Airport, on the city's transit lines and in public housing buildings and schools.

The system is expected to be in place by the spring of 2006 and will be funded with a five-(M)million-dollar homeland security grant.

Disabled boy wins right to front door
This one qualifies as a world-class and well-deserved legal spanking of a condo association by an advocacy group for the disabled and the US Attorney's Office here in Chicago. Good for them. Now, the question is whether all the other associations in the nation are paying attention.

For 10-year-old Jaime Trujillo, it was the modern-day equivalent of being forced to sit in the back of the bus.

But, as of Wednesday, the wheelchair-using Glenview boy no longer will be forced to enter his condo building through a back service entrance alongside a loading dock and trash cans.

Jaime instead finally can come in through the front door without fear of getting fined or yelled at, after a settlement was struck between his family and the Triumvera Tower Condominium Association.

The association agreed to pay $83,500 in fines, its president will resign, and its board will apologize to the Trujillos and throw out the rule that prohibits people who use wheelchairs from entering through the front door. A portion of the settlement, $10,000, will go to a previous tenant, now a widow, whose late husband also was kept from entering the 106-unit high-rise through the front.

Karen Tamley -- who heads Access Living, an advocate group for people with disabilities that sued on behalf of the Trujillo family -- blasted the association for having a rule she says was so antiquated it hearkened back to the days before civil rights reforms.
"This was akin to requiring African Americans to sit at the back of buses or use separate drinking fountains," Tamley said.
U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, who later joined in suing the association, called the rule "blatant discrimination" and said the case sends a message that "second-class treatment for persons with disabilities will not be tolerated."

UCLA Anderson School of Management | Media | UCLA Anderson Forecast Warns of Possible Recession in 2005 or 2006 for the US Economy
...and check out this language about California, putting it together with the preceding post about mass illiteracy in LA with no end in sight:

The state budget is the big issue in California, as the essential structural imbalance – spending more than revenue income – remains. In his overview of the state’s economy, UCLA Anderson Forecast Senior Economist Joseph Hurd notes that the imbalance is being “funded” by state borrowing of $15 billion (based on Proposition 57) from cities and counties across California.

“The economic implications of the budget mess are not good,” Hurd said. “In the short run, cities and counties will shed employment due to the ‘loans’ they are being forced to give the state. We expect total job losses of about 45,000 at the state and local level in 2004 and 2005.”

Hurd’s report, titled “California: Growing and Growing … But a Few Fixes are Needed,” assumes that Sacramento “solves” the budget problems by the next fiscal year. He speculates that it will be a combination of taxes, user fees and spending cuts, while “California becomes the gambling capital of the nation (and partly lives off casino income).”

Not solving the budget issue has a big impact on the annual long-term forecast, as the postponement of building maintenance and other infrastructure projects will be put off indefinitely.

L.A. Daily News:Illiteracy shockingly high in L.A. Half of workers unable to read
Continued immigration and a stubborn high school dropout rate have stymied efforts to improve literacy in Los Angeles County, where more than half the working-age population can't read a simple form, a report released Wednesday found.
Alarmingly, only one in every 10 workers deemed functionally illiterate is enrolled in literacy classes and half of them drop out within three weeks, said the study by the United Way of Greater Los Angeles.

"It's an emergency situation," said Mayor James Hahn, adding that poor literacy rates could jeopardize the region's economy by driving out high-tech businesses and other industries that pay well.

In the Los Angeles region, 53 percent of workers ages 16 and older were deemed functionally illiterate, the study said.

That percentage dropped to 44 percent in the greater San Fernando Valley -- which includes Agoura Hills and Santa Clarita -- but soared to 85 percent in some pockets of the Valley.

The study measured levels of literacy across the region using data from the 2000 Census, the U.S. Department of Education and a survey of literacy programs taken from last September to January.

It classified 3.8 million Los Angeles County residents as "low-literate," meaning they could not write a note explaining a billing error, use a bus schedule or locate an intersection on a street map.

And despite hundreds of millions of dollars spent in public schools over the past decade to boost literacy rates, functional illiteracy levels have remained flat because of a steady influx of non-English-speaking immigrants and a 30 percent high school dropout rate, authors of the report said.

And despite gazillions spent on bilingual education. Can we call that a colossal failure yet? And note the minimal interest among these functional illiterates in learning English. The trajectory for the LA area is pretty clear, isn't it? Would you locate your business in Los Angeles, if it required a work force that could read? Would you send your kids to public schools full of kids who can't read and whose parents can't read? If you wanted to raise a family and couldn't afford private schools, would you live in LA?

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Homeowners feeling trapped
Fred Pilot is on a roll with biblical plague stories. First rats, then poverty, and now there is a fungus among us. Mold. But not to worry: lawyers to the rescue:

ZIONSVILLE, Ind. -- When Sheri Weaver tells people she lives in the Brittany Chase subdivision, the reaction is almost like she's had a death in the family.

"Is everyone OK?" she is often asked.

"I just tell them my neighbors have it worse than me."

The subdivision of $200,000 to $500,000 homes has become the focal point for the mold problem gripping housing developments in some metro Indianapolis counties.

Fifty of the neighborhood's 127 homes are now vacant because the builder has bought them from their owners to eliminate the mold.

Some of the remaining Brittany Chase residents say they are trapped. No one will buy their homes, and their investments are too big to walk away from.

Judge Bernard L. Pylitt of Hamilton Superior Court will decide this fall whether to accept an estimated $24 million settlement of a class-action lawsuit brought by homeowners against builder Trinity Homes and parent company Beazer Homes. The proposed settlement was made public recently.
Levitt tried for rules but failed (
William Levitt tried his best.

But this renowned builder who so carefully sculpted the first planned communities in America couldn't put a stop to the individualist impulses of his homeowners.

Despite his dismay and even legal efforts, Levittown homeowners began breaking the rules spelled out in their deeds within a few years of moving in. They put up fences, let their shrubbery grow taller than the 3-foot limit and erected sheds and home additions - all in clear violation of Levitt's vision.

"I think it was hubris on his part," said Curt Minor, a curator for the State Museum of Pennsylvania who worked on a historical exhibit about Levittown for its 50th anniversary two years ago. "He thought he could put these things down and people would follow them. I think he underestimated the will of human nature."

The problem, Minor said, was that Levitt planned for rules, but not an enforcer.

As Austin Powers would say, riiiiiiiiiight....
OK, maybe "relatively" unknown, but (as I explain in Privatopia) the biggest builder of them all, Jesse Clyde Nichols, who founded the Urban Land Institute and built the Country Club District of Kansas City, had been using HOAs for this very reason for fifty years or so.

And this articlealso doesn't mention that Levitt also included one more deed restriction, as did Nichols: race restrictive (whites only) covenants.
Trouble in paradise (
Two from the Philadelphia suburbs:
On the surface, Ivygreene Run is like many neatly ironed communities that have sprung from former farm fields in recent years.

The 158 crisply veneered twin homes that go for $270,000 in Northampton are a uniform cream color with sparse landscaping and tidy door stoops. Little form of self-expression is seen.

But behind the trim exterior, a debate is raging in this development for those 55 and older. A group of homeowners is rebelling against a system of law and order it says is unfair, capricious and autocratic. They say the smallest details of their personal lives are under the scrutiny of an overvigilant homeowners association.

A military veteran was ordered to remove one of the two postcard-sized American flags on his lawn. A couple were told to uproot $150 worth of plastic flowers they've planted in their flowerbeds each spring for two years. And a computer programmer smacked up against a rule prohibiting plantings more than 5 feet from his house.

Leonie Rozenfeld had put in a grape plant, a symbol of his grandfather who spent 12 years in a Soviet prison for illegally selling wine. The Russian immigrant has been cited six times for breaking rules and fined $150 for refusing to remove the grape plant. He eventually did. "I leave Russia for freedom and what I get is prison," said Rozenfeld.
Board member: Know your rights (
He's been on the board for nearly three years and Bob Gore still wonders about the way his homeowners association works.

"It's silly," he said. Neighbors tattle on neighbors. Residents move in without knowing the rules.