Saturday, October 16, 2004

Monterey County Herald | 10/16/2004 | UNEASY RETIREMENT
Fred Pilot sent this link. Once again, the Associated Press' Jim Wasserman proves that he is the best journalist in the nation on this issue. Here he focuses on the "time bomb" aspect of the CID revolution. I've been talking about it for almost 20 years. Jim lays it out in the clearest possible terms:

As developers build more planned communities, they are also turning them -- and their multimillion-dollar annual budgets -- over to residents and volunteers to run once the developers sell out. Often, development experts said, residents from California to Arizona to Florida learn they've inherited financial time bombs.

Cracks develop in clubhouses, tennis courts and roads. On the championship golf course that once lured buyers, grass either dies or turns soggy because of defective irrigation systems. Often, residents find the problems are due to construction defects and that the developer didn't leave enough money in the reserve funds to pay to fix them. Either the associations have to raise dues or collect one-time special assessments, often raising living costs beyond buyers' original expectations.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Do these people ever learn?
From KOAA in Colorado:

A local woman is arguing with her neighbors about how she is allowed to show her patriotism. The Quail Ridge Homeowners Association in Pueblo West sent Judy Voytek a letter telling her that she is not allowed to have a flag pole in her front yard or drape American flags from the pillars of her front porch.
The neighborhood's covenants prohibit hanging blankets or laundry in the front yard, but says nothing about flags. The association voted in a meeting that flags can be flown in specific ways, but this was not one of them.

How can it be, in the United States of America, that "the association voted" to ban American flags not flown in the way they approve? The covenants say nothing about this, so all you property lawyers please spare me the usual contract rhetoric. Ms. Voytek didn't sign on for this, nor, I'll bet, did she specifically agree to surrender her basic rights of American citizenship to the whims of her neighbors. Not to put too fine a point on it, but where do people get off thinking they can do a thing like this? And what good is the court system, and the Constitution for that matter, if they can get away with it?

Thursday, October 14, 2004

The backlash against homeowners' groups |
For decades, such associations have occupied a murky niche as more than a private business but less than a local government - collecting taxlike "assessments" but subject to little public oversight. Yet as more Americans move into homes governed by associations, there are signs of a mounting revolt.

Stories like Best's are but one part of the issue, as residents chafe against the authority of homeowners' associations to determine everything from the appearance of patio roofs to the politics of lawn placards. More broadly, legislators are increasingly taking the issue into statehouses, seeking not only to clarify the laws governing homeowners' associations, but also how to enforce them.

True. But if you've been reading this blog you've known that for a long time, haven't you?

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Las Vegas: Voter Registrations Possibly Trashed
When privatization goes bad...

Employees of a private voter registration company allege that hundreds, perhaps thousands of voters who may think they are registered will be rudely surprised on election day. The company claims hundreds of registration forms were thrown in the trash.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

IFILM - Short Films: Fellowship 9/11
Thanks to Michael Moore, the truth about the Aragorn administration is getting out just in time for the election.

Michael Moore's searing examination of the Aragorn administration's actions in the wake of the tragic events at Helms Deep. With his characteristic humor and dogged commitment to uncovering - or if necessary fabricating - the facts, Moore considers the reign of the son of Arathorn and where it has led us. He looks at how - and why - Aragorn and his inner circle avoided pursuing the Saruman connection to Helms Deep, despite the fact that 9 out of every 10 Orcs that attacked the castle were actually Uruk-hai who were spawned in and financed by Isengard.
Eminent domain, eminent nonsense - The Washington Times: Commentary - October 12, 2004
Here's an unusual conservative take on the pending USSC case of Kelo v. City of New London (link is to the 79 page opinion of the Connecticut Supreme Court that is under review by the USSC). This is a major land use case that deals with whether a municipality can use eminent domain to take private property, with compensation, for a "public use" that consists of increasing the taxable value of the land. For example, can the city use condemnation to take property from middle class owners to sell it to a commercial developer? They do it all the time with poor people, says the article I linked to above--why not with the middle class? But property rights advocates are supporting Kelo, saying that this is a violation of the 5th Amendment takings clause because increasing taxable value is not a "public use." Fascinating case.
Times-Herald - Condos demand payment
Homeowners inside Vallejo's premier waterfront condo complex say they must cough up $12,000 each for repairs by New Year's Day or face fines, liens and possible foreclosure, the Times-Herald learned Sunday. The Mariner's Landing Homeowners Association board notified all 94 homeowners last month that they must pay $12,109.76 each by Jan. 1 as an equal share of an estimated $1.1 million in emergency repairs to long-standing water damage. The notice was confirmed by the board president Sunday

This is the side of private residential governance that they don't put in the marketing brochures, and that your realtor never mentions: you are on the hook for major repairs.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Even if Growth Slows Down, State Services Need to Catch Up
I keep saying that local governments like CIDs because they get taxpayers without having to provide services and infrastructure. This article documents the cost issues: 2010 — if the state's latest projections are on mark — there'll be 39 million people here, instead of 40 million. In 2020, there'll be 44 million — not 46 million — fighting for freeway space, scarce water and classroom desks. Plus affordable housing within commute distance...The scary part is what else the story said: "State planners are reconsidering long-term needs for new schools and other public services."

The point is that it is hard to see where the money will come from to build all the infrastructure and provide services for these new residents. Enter...private residential governance.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Yahoo! News - Finance: Losing the Right to Sue
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - More and more businesses are sticking mandatory arbitration clauses into their contracts, forcing consumers to give up their right to sue if they want to conduct business, and consumer groups have made the elimination of these clauses a top priority.

The practice started with brokerage and credit card contracts but has become increasingly popular with mortgage lenders, car dealers, employers and even hospitals and doctors.

"These clauses are the single biggest threat to consumer rights in recent years, a de facto rewrite of the Constitution that undermines a broad range of consumer protections painstakingly built into law. No other consumer issue hits so many Americans where they live every day," said the National Consumer Law Center.


Well, maybe not the biggest threat, but one of the bigger ones. How does this differ from the CC&Rs that strip away your right to fly the flag or put up a Nader for President sign? I also saw today that Fannie Mae is instructing mortgage lenders not to put mandatory arbitration clauses in mortgages, a practice that is common for high risk loans. And Smart Money had an article on mandatory ADR last month.