Saturday, February 11, 2006

Boy charged with felony for carrying sugar
I post stories like this every now and then to make the simple point that constitutional public local governments are just as capable of doing completely ridiculous and abusive things as the HOAs I usually write about. And here's an example of extending the "all jokes will be taken seriously" policy that originated in airport security to the public school system. The sugar became a "look alike drug" in the eyes of the school and the police because the boy told some friends, jokingly, that it was cocaine, then said, "Just kidding." I wonder if we have a cultural problem here, which is that people in positions of authority increasingly seem to misunderstand that each and every one of them has a limited governmental function to perform. Common sense, for example, once imposed limits on school officials' actions. Now, with "zero tolerance" policies, they have abandoned that limitation and behave like tyrannical robots. The officials here claim that they can't tell the difference between real drugs and look-alikes. If these school officials are incapable of correctly identifying a bag of sugar, I respectfully suggest that the local school board might want to inquire into whether these folks have the intelligence needed to run a middle school.

A 12-year-old Aurora boy who said he brought powdered sugar to school for a science project this week has been charged with a felony for possessing a look-alike drug, Aurora police have confirmed. The sixth-grade student at Waldo Middle School was also suspended for two weeks from school after showing the bag of powdered sugar to his friends. The boy, who is not being identified because he is a juvenile, said he brought the bag to school to ask his science teacher if he could run an experiment using sugar. Two other boys asked if the bag contained cocaine after he showed it to them in the bathroom Wednesday morning, the boy's mother said. He joked that it was cocaine, before telling them, "just kidding," she said.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Power to the homeowner
Fred Pilot sent me a link to a story that I should already have known about, because it's right here in Illinois:

SPRINGFIELD — Homeowners stand to gain more rights under legislation proposed by House Republican Leader Tom Cross of Oswego.

Cross' proposed Homeowners' Association Act would establish formal ground rules for the operation of neighborhood groups that have increased in number throughout the Fox Valley with each new subdivision but occasionally create more conflicts than they resolve.

"I am introducing this legislation because of the many abuses homeowners have suffered," Cross said.

"Given that homeowners' associations have the power to collect association dues, create rules for the use of one's property, and levy fines or place a lien on a person's property for not paying dues or following association policies, it makes sense to create a law giving association members basic rights."

JURIST - Paper Chase: New London mayor proposes eminent domain compromise
Thanks to Nancy Levy for this link to a follow-up story on the Kelo v. City of New London situation. But what do you make of the compromise offered by Mayor Beth Sabilia:

Under Sabilia's plan, the homeowners would be allowed to remain in their homes provided they pay the city to continue to live there. The homeowners would also have to surrender ownership rights to the city.

-----I thought the whole point of the city going all the way to the USSC to grab this land was that they just absolutely had to have it so they could knock down the homes and put up ritzy condos and a business park and a health club, thereby saving the City of New London from becoming like Newark. But now it turns out that the homes can stay if the former owners agree to become renters? What gives?
Charlotte Observer | 02/10/2006 | Trickle-down tactic: No dues? No water
Nancy Levy sent this link to a story about a dramatic showdown between a condo association and two owners. The association decided that cutting off the water supply was more humane than foreclosure. Oh..and also cheaper and faster.
In a move that is apparently a first for North Carolina, a condominium association on Thursday cut off water to two south Charlotte homeowners who were thousands of dollars behind in paying their homeowners' dues. The Princeton at Southampton owners association, which controls the development's master water meter and pays the neighborhood's water bill, decided a shutoff was preferable to the traditional approach of taking someone's home through foreclosure, said association president Michael Kan.
So it hired a plumber to sever lines that deliver water to the Ballantyne-area townhomes.
Boing Boing: Posh kids' clubhouse themed to look like a Li'l Raskals' treehouse
Mystery Reader sent this link to a picture of a luxury treehouse...and the name, it seems, is..."Evan's Clubhouse." Is MR trying to get me to rename this blog?

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Sorry about the missing links...
Don Nordeen kindly informed me that the hyperlinks were missing from my Twin Rivers posts. I don't know how that happened, but they are all fixed now. Thanks, Don.
N.J. homeowners groups must recognize residents' free speech
A former student of mine, Shawn Healy, sent this link to the First Amendment Center's web site, which has some other good things on it that people may want to look over. The story is basically the AP wire story I linked to yesterday.
TRENTON, N.J. — A state appeals court panel ruled yesterday that homeowners associations must recognize residents’ rights to freedom of speech under the New Jersey Constitution.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Breyer Says 'Zero' Politics on the Court - Yahoo! News
I just had to post this one. And this is NOT from The Onion.

[United States Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer] said, however, that he hadn't detected any split on the high court along Republican and Democratic ideological lines. "I haven't seen that kind of politics in the Supreme Court. Zero. It doesn't exist," he said.

Victory for dissident residents
Two articles from Fred Pilot on the Twin Rivers victory:
A state appeals court has ruled that members of homeowners associations are entitled to constitutional rights to engage in free speech that is critical of their governing boards even though the associations oversee private property. The ruling could affect the more than 1 million state residents who live in "common-interest" developments and who may find themselves at odds with their homeowners associations.Legal experts said the ruling Tuesday by the state Superior Court's Appellate Division was the first of its kind in the country and raised new questions about the reach of constitutional rights in the operation of the associations.
The case has been watched closely by residents of the Radburn neighborhood in Fair Lawn, who have been lobbying for election reform on its board of trustees.
Community group must honor rights:
A state appellate court ruled that homeowners' associations have to recognize free speech.

From the Philadelphia Inquirer:

TRENTON - A state appeals court ruled yesterday that homeowners' associations must recognize rights to freedom of speech under the New Jersey Constitution.

The three-judge panel unanimously backed residents of the private Twin Rivers community in East Windsor who sued their homeowners' association to be able to put political signs on their lawns, to have equal access to a newspaper run by the community's board of trustees, and to meet in a community room. Frank Askin, a Rutgers University Law School professor and lead counsel for the Committee for a Better Twin Rivers, said the appellate court was the first to rule that such private communities were "constitutional actors" and must respect members' freedom of speech. "The court recognized that, just like shopping malls are the new public square, these associations have become and act, for all practical purposes, like municipal entities unto themselves," he said in a statement. The case had been dismissed by a state Superior Court judge. The appellate panel said: "Expressive exercises, especially those bearing upon real and legitimate community issues, should not be silenced or subject to undue limitation because of changes in residential relationships, such as where lifestyle issues are governed or administered by community associations, in addition to being regulated by governmental entities."

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Twin Rivers opinion: a big win for HOA residents in New Jersey
The opinion is here. I will have more to say after I read it more fully, but it is a definite win for the Committee for a Better Twin Rivers and for all New Jersey HOA residents.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Supreme Court and Appellate Court Opinions
When the Twin Rivers opinion is posted, I think it will be on this hyperlink. Remember...tomorrow, as in Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2006. I'm hoping it will be a day to remember.
Twin Rivers ruling to be announced tomorrow
From the website of the New Jersey Court System:

Tuesday, February 7, 2006

I am very optimistic that the Appellate Court will do the right thing. As many readers know, I served as the expert witness for the Committee for a Better Twin Rivers. The New Jersey branch of the ACLU, in the person of elite constitutional litigator Frank Askin (director of the Constitutional Litigation Clinic at the Rutgers Law School), has done a tremendous job on this case. The CBTR seeks to establish that city-like HOAs should be held subject to certain provisions of the New Jersey Constitution. It would be a major step in advancing the rights of HOA residents in New Jersey, and if the precedent can be followed elsewhere, perhaps nationwide. I'll be watching and waiting for this decision tomorrow. Cross your fingers. - News - Councilman Wants To Ban Smokers From City Jobs