Friday, October 08, 2004

The Calaveras Enterprise: Radcliff lawsuit to follow Schwarzenegger veto of anti-foreclosure bill
This article rehashes the veto message, and the famous $120 foreclosure case involving the Radcliffs that inspired the bill, but if you scroll down you find that the Radcliffs are pursuing private justice:

The Radcliffs filed a lawsuit against Copper Cove Lake Tulloch Homeowners Association, the collection agency Coast Assessment Service of Garden Grove, and the man who bought their home at auction, Robert Vardanega of Oakland. Also included as defendants are Yvette Villanueva-Ezell, association president and Norman Bailey, association secretary. The suit alleges the association and Coast caused the Radcliffs "great and serious mental anguish and emotional and physical distress." The Radcliffs' symptoms include inability to sleep, a sense of being overwhelmed and severe nervousness, court documents said...An all-day mediation for the Radcliff's case is set for Oct. 26.

Thanks to Fred Pilot for spotting this article--I never would have found it, not being a regular reader of the Calaveras Enterprise.
Detroit's plan for 'African Town' stirs racial tensions - The Washington Times: Nation/Politics - October 08, 2004
The Detroit City Council, in defiance of Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, likely will move forward with plans to create an "African Town" in the tradition of Chinatowns and Little Italys nationwide, even though the issue has turned into a racially divisive economic-development proposal.
In July, the council resolved to build up a section of the city devoted to African and black American literature, cuisine and art, which Mr. Kilpatrick endorsed. He vetoed the resolution, however, when it became clear that the council's plan would allow only black businessmen and investors to use the $38 million earmarked for the project. Mr. Kilpatrick argued that the resolution is both racist and unconstitutional.
"It's not the African Town proposal. We like the idea," said Howard Hughey, spokesman for Mr. Kilpatrick. "But ,strong.what they are proposing is to create a publicly funded private entity and give one man $40 million to use and distribute to investors, and it is unconstitutional to do that based on race and [the resolution] says very clearly that it would be."
The nine-member council — which has two white members — voted 7-2 to override Mr. Kilpatrick's veto and passed the resolution. In addition, they resolved that Detroit is a "majority-minority" city that is underserved.

So here is another version of the private-public partnership idea that has been used by many cities for urban revitalization. As the article notes, there's nothing unusual about an ethnic theme, but a constitutional issue under the 14th Amendment Equal Protection Clause presents itself regarding distribution of money on the basis of race. Can they limit receipt of $40 million to African-Americans only? Sounds like a problem. Even the local African-American Chamber of Commerce says it's unconstitutional, according to the article. Yet the city council votes for it.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Yahoo! News - Police Charge Man In Fire Attack Of Neighbor
No word on whether it was a condo development, but this seems like good evidence of a serious decline in neighborhood civility...

Police on Tuesday charged a man who they said set his neighbor on fire in Pauoa. The victim was not only attacked with gasoline, but also a spear gun, according to court documents. The victim also had a restraining order against the man who allegedly attacked him.
[more] Kerry should call off the thugs
People are starting to comment on this series of attacks on Republican HQs and supporters:
We're beginning to see a pattern:

Bush-Cheney headquarters in Orlando attacked by a union mob
Anti-Bush protestor attacks GOP committee chairman in Gainesville
In Miami, more than 100 union protesters stormed the Bush-Cheney campaign office and pushed volunteers inside
In Tampa, about three dozen protesters crowded into the second-floor office of the local Bush-Cheney headquarters where three elderly volunteers, two interns and a campaign staffer were working at the time
Shots fired into a GOP headquarters in Knoxville
In Madison, a Nazi swastika was burned into a home's lawn near where Bush-Cheney signs were posted
Duluth teens vandalize Bush yard signs
50 demonstrators supporting Democrat presidential candidate John Kerry stormed a Republican campaign office in West Allis
If this sort of thing were happening to Democrats, both the Michael Moore-types and the mainstream media would be screaming about Republican stormtroopers directed by Reichsführer-SS John Ashcroft. Since it's happening to Republicans, however, it is mostly covered just by local media. In any event, it cerainly gives one pause about putting up a Bush yard sign or putting on a Bush bumpersticker.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004 | The Gainesville Sun | Gainesville, Fla.: Democrat slugs area GOP chief, GPD says
What in the world is going on? Here we go again with another alleged Democrat attack in a Republican campaign office within the last week or so. Seattle (burglary), Nashville (shooting), Orlando (mob attack), and now Gainesville (assault):

Politics in Gainesville turned rough and tumble Thursday night when, police say, a social behavior sciences instructor - a Democrat - punched the chairman of the Alachua County Republican Executive Committee in the face.

The Democrat also (allegedly) punched a life-sized cutout of W. I'm telling you, some of these folks have seen Fahrenheit 911 ten or fifteen times too many. Relax--it's just a presidential election. We have one every four years. Sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose.
S. Elgin OKs maintenance backup plan
Thanks to Fred Pilot for sending this interesting approach used by an Illinois suburb:
SOUTH ELGIN — If the homeowners associations for three developments coming to town don't maintain their roads, green spaces or water detention, the village has an ordinance in place to ensure that such work is paid for in the future.

The village board voted Monday night to require special service areas, or SSAs, for the Parkside Woods, Cambridge Bluffs and Prairie Pointe subdivisions.

The SSAs are merely backups "if the homeowners associations don't do what they are supposed to with infrastructure," said Steve Super, director of community development.

For example, if the Cambridge Bluffs homeowners association does not clean out the storm water storage pipe underneath the development, the village can charge the cost of cleaning directly to those homes, said Village Attorney Derke Price.

This builds the HOA into the intergovernmental system as a default participant, and one that is actually backed up by the village. This beats the usual approach of just off-loading responsibilities to HOAs and hoping for the best.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Entertainment: People Article | Rodney Dangerfield Dies in L.A. at Age 82

Now, this is hard. Rest in peace, Rodney. We respect you. - Politics - Protestors Ransack Bush/Cheney Headquarters In Orlando
Here's some bad news from Florida to offset the good news below. And I am wondering how it happens that last week the Seattle offices of the Bush campaign were burglarized and computers stolen containing important plans for the last 72 hours of the campaign; yesterday the Nashville offices of the Bush campaign were shot up; and today we have these folks storming the Bastille at the Orlando Bush HQ. What is going on here?

ORLANDO, Fla. -- A group of protestors stormed and then ransacked a Bush-Cheney headquarters building in Orlando, Fla., Tuesday, according to Local 6 News.Local 6 News reported that several people from the group of 100 Orlando protestors face possible assault charges after the group forced their way inside the Republican headquarters office. While in the building, some of the protestors drew horns and a mustache on a poster of President George W. Bush and poured piles of letters in the office, according to the report.
[more] | 10/03/2004 | Law boosts rights of homeowners
Good piece on the new laws enacted in Florida in the last session:
You've been told to shut up at a homeowners' board meeting.

You've been hit with hundreds of dollars of extra homeowners' fees -- from a special assessment that you didn't even know your association's board of directors was considering.

And when you balked at paying homeowner association fines or a special assessment, you found yourself threatened with a lien against your home.

Now relief is on the way -- or so Florida legislators hope, as new laws took effect Friday to give homeowners in associations more rights.
[more] - Politics - Protestors Ransack Bush/Cheney Headquarters In Orlando

Yet another example of political violence directed against Bush supporters (see below). This one is in Orlando, FL, home of Disney's famous New Urbanist planned community, Celebration.
You'd think with all that physical beauty around people would be more mellow, like Jimmy Buffett. You know, feeling celebratory. But noooooooooo. Must be the after-effects of the Chain O' Hurricanes.

Seriously, though--Bush's Seattle campaign HQ was burglarized last week and computers with campaign plans were stolen. Yesterday somebody shot up the Nashville HQ. Today people "stormed and ransacked" the Orlando HQ. I hope this isn't the start of something more widespread.

A group of protestors stormed and then ransacked a Bush-Cheney headquarters building in Orlando, Fla., Tuesday, according to Local 6 News. Local 6 News reported that several people from the group of 100 Orlando protestors face possible assault charges after the group forced their way inside the Republican headquarters office. While in the building, some of the protestors drew horns and a mustache on a poster of President George W. Bush and poured piles of letters in the office, according to the report.

Monday, October 04, 2004 - Politics - Swastika Burned Into Grass On Bush-Cheney Supporter's Lawn
MADISON, Wis. -- Madison homeowners are livid after vandals defaced their homes. Someone burned an 8-foot-by-8-foot Nazi swastika on a home's lawn near where Bush-Cheney signs were posted. The vandals used grass killer to spray the symbol.

Madison is a university town where the main campus of the U of Wisconsin is located. This is what happens if you dare to express Republican sympathies around the campus left. Oak Park, IL, where we lived until a year ago, is another left-wing bastion, full of university professors like me, where the one outspoken Republican family in our neighborhood had their signs torn down in 2000.

But of course John Ashcroft is the big threat to civil liberties. You knew that, didn't you?
MSNBC - SpaceShipOne wins $10 million X Prize
Sky Captain would be proud. Private space flight gets a huge boost in credibility:
MOJAVE, Calif. - SpaceShipOne soared to a record 368,000 feet early Monday, easily surpassing the altitude required to win the $10 million Ansari X Prize for private spaceflight, breaking an X-15 altitude record and creating a new astronaut in the process
Remember the X-15? When I was a kid, I thought there was nothing cooler or more exciting than the flights of the X-15. I built the Revell model and everything.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Yahoo! News - SpaceShipOne a Flight Away From $10M Prize
MOJAVE, Calif. - SpaceShipOne is one flight away from clinching the Ansari X Prize, a $10 million award for the first privately developed manned rocket to reach space twice within 14 days.

I hope this goes well. The first flight was successful, as I posted below, but there was some sort of unexpected spiralling that occurred. To a non-pilot like me, that sounds like a bad thing.

This reminds me of the new movie Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. The hero has a private air fleet, complete with giant hangars and all sorts of neat high-tech stuff. So he's a space privateer, but a good guy. Where does he get all that money? Don't ask such questions--just enjoy the movie. Hunter (my 13 year old son) and I saw the film last week and loved it.
Miramar, residents feud over fence: South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Keeping up with the Joneses is so hard these days. Seems that to be au courant (I'm practicing my French in case Kerry gets elected and that becomes our official language), one must have "a nice wall." To wit:

A group of homeowners want the city to build a concrete wall in their Turtle Bay back yards, along Miramar Boulevard, but officials disagree on who should foot the bill. Neighboring communities, such as Estates of Miramar, Franklin Farms, River Run and Riverdale, already have concrete walls, built by their developers more than 20 years ago. "We have a wooden fence there now, and it's the worst-looking thing in the community," said Roland Bhola, who has lived in Turtle Bay for 10 years. "The other communities have a nice wall. We just want to be compatible."
...City officials also question who will maintain the wall. Several residents agreed to make it a community responsibility, but without a homeowners association, officials are leery. Moseley said that while researching the issue, it was determined a homeowners association was formed in 1981, but it never collected assessments and has not met since about 1986. "The city has made no decision about building a wall," she said. "But if the homeowners would like us to help get their association up and running, they can assess themselves, and then they can have a wall."

Indeed. So if you want to look like a gated community, then jump-start your moribund HOA, assess yourselves, and put up your wall. Add in a moat and some alligators if you like. But don't expect "the city," meaning all the taxpayers, to foot the bill. I think that's the message here.
Centre Daily Times | 10/02/2004 | Binding covenants?
An opinion piece from State College, PA:

We live in Stonebridge, a covenanted community. According to the covenants signed by all homeowners, signs cannot be put up in front of houses.

We would like to put up political signs in our front lawns.

The president of the homeowners' association has warned us that putting political signs is against the covenants and is therefore illegal.

The president is backed up by the board of directors.

The idea that in the USA, a month before a national election, your neighbors can make you take down your political signs seems to me such an outrage that I can't understand people submitting to it. Seems like these folks are ready to rumble. More to the point, what about the directors who do these things? What sort of person makes other folks take down their campaign signs? I just can't imagine the thought process or the values that animate such a decision. I think they should be ashamed of themselves.
CAI Press Release on Schwarzegger Veto (emphasis added by me)


CAI Wins Critical Legislative Victory in CaliforniaALEXANDRIA, VA, October 1, 2004

“ Seven million Californians living inhomeowners associations have Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to thank for vetoinglegislation that would have jeopardized the financial stability of communityassociations throughout the state.Acting on appeals from countless homeowners, community associations and others,the governor vetoed a measure (AB 2598) that would have had the practical effectof legalizing assessment delinquency up to $2,500 and, ultimately, adding tothe financial burden of responsible, dues-paying homeowners."Thousands of Californians urged the governor to find a solution that helps themajority rather than AB 2598, which creates a process that's the wrong answer atthe wrong time," said Bob Browning, chair of the California Legislative ActionCommittee (LAC) for Community Associations Institute (CAI). A reservespecialist, Browning is a member of the CAI Board of Trustees."Speaking for millions of Californians, we're gratified that Gov. Schwarzeneggerhad the strength and foresight to veto this misdirected legislation," said CAIChief Executive Officer Thomas M. Skiba. "By recognizing the financial havocthis legislation could have created, the governor made the right choice forhomeowners, communities, municipalities, developers and lenders. CAI will workconstructively with state officials as this issue undergoes additionallegislative review." Schwarzenegger's veto message directed state agencies to work with interestedparties to clarify California foreclosure statues.Homeowners, associations and municipalities aren't the only ones who wouldhave been hurt by AB 2598. The legislation would have created businessdisincentives for builders and lenders, who are central to responding to thestate's population growth.Developers expressed concern that they would not be able to sell units if newbuyers could willingly avoid paying the dues needed to maintain the property.Banks and lenders said they would have stopped loaning money to developers andhomeowners associations because their loans could be impaired.In his veto message, Schwarzenegger said, "While the intent of this legislationis laudable and intended to protect homeowners from being foreclosed upon forsmall sums of delinquent assessments, this bill is overly broad and couldnegatively impact all homeowners living in common-interest developments.""We faced an uphill struggle on an issue of critical importance to our members,"Skiba said. "We didn't know if we could carry the day given the emotional appealof the bill and the timeframe, but we knew the facts were on our side. That –along with a lot of hard work – led to this positive outcome. We're gratefulto our LAC and the countless CAI members who stood with us in defense ofcommunity associations in California."After hearing about the veto, homeowner Sam Dolnick of La Mesa, said, "As an86-year-old retired Californian, I applaud the governor for opposing this bill.By doing so he has protected millions of seniors and folks living on fixedincomes. We thank the governor for finding a better solution." Dolnick is amember of the Board of Directors of the Foundation for Community AssociationResearch. For members and general inquiries, contact the CAI Direct customer service team:Community Associations Institute225 Reinekers Lane, Suite 300Alexandria, VA 22314Phone: 703-548-8600Fax: 703-684-1581Email: CAIdirect@c...MEDIA CONTACT: Frank RathbunPhone: 703-548-8600, ext. 261Fax: 703-684-1581Email: FRathbun@c...+++++84100104

So it seems that, as I reported over the last couple of weeks, CAI was lobbying the Governator heavily after the legislature passed this bill. This veto suggests that the most revolutionary of the HOA activists have just hit a stone wall in their efforts to take power away from HOA boards in California. As long as Arnold is in Da House, he can be expected to use his veto pen like an Uzi on anything that looks like it would impair the financial viability of HOA living or make it hard for BODs to govern. That's the way I read it, at least. This veto is a watershed event and suggests that for the foreseeable future no dramatic reforms will be enacted in that state.

I support foreclosure reform, but it is clear that the next effort at foreclosure reform will have to be more modest. With such an enormous share of the state's housing being in CIDs, state and local governments just can't afford to have large numbers of insolvent CIDs, and mortgage bankers just won't allow that to happen either. So somehow the reformers have to prove that they aren't really out to wreck HOAs. Given the way some of the more extreme activists express themselves in various newsgroups, the moderates may not be able to carry that burden of proof because they will get tarred with the same brush as the Bastille-stormers.