Saturday, January 20, 2007

Telegraph | News | Entire village suspected of mayor's murder
Here's a headline you won't often see. I posted this for all the folks who think their HOA president is bad. It could be worse. What if you couldn't herd farm animals through the neighborhood? - News - Gulf turtles revive under sun lamp
Would somebody please explain to these sea turtles that the problem is supposed to be global warming, not frozen turtles? Don't they read their email?

SOUTH PADRE ISLAND, Texas–At least three dozen sea turtles are getting a little vacation under heat lamps in this spring-break capital after being rescued from an arctic blast that caused water temperatures in their arm of the Gulf of Mexico to plummet to little more than 10C. The rapid drop this week left the cold-blooded creatures comatose in the shallow bay where juveniles feed. Rescuers feared the cold would kill the turtles, which weigh 225 kilos when mature, or make them sluggishly vulnerable to sharks.
Lindenhurst shifts funding ideas | Chicago Tribune
We live in Lindenhurst, where a little drama has played itself out recently that shows the interplay between HOAs and TIF districts in suburban real estate development. There is one big parcel of good land for development left here. A big San Diego developer proposed to use the 200 acre parcel for 800 homes and 700,000 feet of retail space. Sounds good, right? Except that at the last minute it was disclosed that the developer wanted it to be a TIF. And that's what led 600 people to show up at a Village Board meeting and object to the TIF, and three school districts to threaten a lawsuit if the village approved the TIF. Outcome: board says no to the TIF. They are up for re-election in April, by the way. I will have more to say about HOAs and TIFs, but I see both as forms of special districts that allow municipalities to do development in non-traditional ways and make out well financially. And both have effects on other aspects of public life and public financing that others find very objectionable. The article lays out what a TIF is, in case readers of this blog don't know.

Friday, January 19, 2007

BBC NEWS | England | Wiltshire | Mystery over roadside underwear
This should be easy to solve. What Monty Python alumnus lives closest?

Police in a Wiltshire village have been trying to get to the bottom of an underwear mystery. Around 30 pairs of knickers have been draped over road signs and gravestones in Purton, near Swindon
Comments enabled
Let's see what happens. Please keep it civil.
YOU'RE FLAGGED!! Trump fined over large flag at Fla. club - Yahoo! News
Fred Pilot found this little item, and tags it as follows: "The Donald gets a taste of HOA life by a municipality HOA wannabe."

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Officials in the ritzy coastal town of Palm Beach have voted to fine Donald Trump $1,250 a day for flying a large American flag atop an 80-foot flagpole at his lavish club in violation of town codes.

Fred Pilot comments on the "Subdivision opposes maintenance tax" story (see below)
These are Fred's comments:
I think this trend recognizes the reality (a refreshing change from the "HOAs protect property values" pap) that homebuyers are rejecting private local government in the form of mandatory HOAs and seek a return to traditional, public government. Local governments see the handwriting on the wall and are wisely preparing for a wave of defunct and dissolved HOAs. The trend holds a big plus for property owners: unlike HOA assessments, property taxes that fund special districts are income tax deductible.

Fred also wants to know why I disabled the comments feature on this blog. The answer is because I got so many commercial spam posts and rage-filled, defamatory, screeds. Maybe I should enable it again and see what happens? What do you think, readers?
Northwest Herald - Subdivision opposes maintenance tax
Fred Pilot sent me this. Here we have a municipality setting up a backup plan in case an HOA fails in its maintenance responsibility. If that happens, the municipality uses a special district to force the residents to pay for the maintenance. This is becoming fairly common.

WOODSTOCK – Apple Creek subdivision residents spoke out this week against a special taxing area proposed for the new Woodstock subdivision. City officials explained that the proposed special service area would levy a tax on the property owners only if the homeowners association failed to maintain common areas. | 01/18/2007 | No-spank bill on way
When Sweden did this years ago, Americans were amused. Now, here it comes to the largest state in the nation. The left wing of the Democratic party has always wanted to turn the US into Sweden. I thought they would start with Minnesota, but I guess California will do. This bill makes it a crime--a misdemeanor--to spank a 3 year old. Obviously the idea is to start with the young ones, so they can make the "why would anybody hit a 3 year old" argument, and then extend it to the rest of the kids. And the larger objective is to socialize parenting--to assert sweeping governmental control over the family. Hillary Clinton says it takes a village. I guess in California it takes a state legislature.

SACRAMENTO - The state Legislature is about to weigh in on a question that stirs impassioned debate among moms and dads: Should parents spank their children? Assemblywoman Sally Lieber, D-Mountain View, wants to outlaw spanking children up to 3 years old. If she succeeds, California would become the first state in the nation to explicitly ban parents from smacking their kids.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Residents to decide on road fee | The Bryan-College Station Eagle
Private road goes bad. HOA asks city to take it over. City say, residents of HOA must contribute bucks to upgrade road to public standards first, at cost of $500 each. Watch for many more such stories over the coming years, as cheap private infrastructure crumbles prematurely, and HOA residents seek public bailout, having no bread in reserves with which to fix the problems.

First, Hunter's Creek resident David Acker started noticing cracks forming along the edges of the private roadways lining his 2-year-old subdivision. Then there were weeds growing out of the pavement. Eventually, he said, he even saw a few mesquite saplings starting to sprout. Acker joined about 20 neighbors at the Brazos County Courthouse Tuesday morning during a public hearing to gauge support for a county plan to fix the roadway problems. The solution county officials have proposed is for each of the east Brazos County neighborhood's approximately 40 residents to pay a one-time $500 fee to get the roads up to county standards. After that, officials said, the county can take over permanent responsibility for maintenance as it does for other subdivisions. According to Acker, who is president of the Hunter's Creek Neighborhood Association, the proposed solution has about 99 percent support from homeowners there.

Associations' rules can really hit home - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
But then, we all knew that, didn't we?

From reminding property owners when it is time to paint their houses to not allowing fences or sheds on property they own, these resident-run groups often supersede municipal rules.
Tampa Bay Newspapers : Grants available for homeowner associations  
Another example of HOAs being built into the intergovernmental system as extensions of local government:

LARGO – Through the Good Neighbors Partnership Grant Program, homeowner associations have a chance to get free money. A Good Neighbors Partnership Grant Workshop will take place on Wednesday, Jan. 24, 6 p.m., at Largo City Hall Community Room.
warding up to $10,000 in matching funds, the City Commission established the program to help fund neighborhood projects, such as entryway monuments, park improvements, decorative lighting and landscaping.
Freeport balks at dredging canal for harbor
This story is from Texas. Seems the local government doesn't think it has authority to dredge a canal, but an HOA could, if it could be brought back from the dead. So the story goes. Isn't it something when an HOA has the power to solve problems the municipality is helpless to deal with?

FREEPORT — If residents of the Bridge Harbor subdivision want to see their neighborhood canal dredged, they should form a homeowner’s association for the effort, City Council members said Tuesday night...City representatives said the city should not be involved with any dredging efforts because of possible liability issues if dredging were to spread chemical contaminants that might have accumulated at the base of the canal...Although the subdivision is within city limits, the city does not control the canal, which courses about a mile through the waterside community. Federal and state agencies control water access, while the private corporation which owns Bridge Harbor also owns the actual canal bottom.
City Attorney Wallace Shaw told the homeowners they should “resurrect a homeowners’ association or some other non-profit group to take ownership of this canal,” and then dredging could ensue. Jim Pirrung, who has lived in Bridge Harbor for 17 years, disagreed.
“I would like to see the city buy the canal and dredge it and then assess property owners for costs,” he said. “We had a home association before annexation, but afterwards the association died from lack of interest. It was assumed the city would take over the responsibilities of a homeowners’ association.” Shaw said such an arrangement isn’t possible. “There’s no way repair of the canal could be assessed by the city like street (repairs),” he said. “There’s no authority from the Legislature for a city to do that.”

United Press International - NewsTrack - San Antonio community wants embryos out
Here's a remarkable story sent over by Fred Pilot:

SAN ANTONIO, Jan. 17 (UPI) -- The Dominion Homeowners Association in San Antonio issued a "cease and desist" notice to an embryo brokerage accused of violating deed restrictions.
The association claims Jennalee Ryan, the owner of the Abraham Center of Life, is violating her deed agreement in the upscale community by operating the business out of her home, the San Antonio Express-News reported Wednesday.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

City Council might study neighborhood associations : Local : Albuquerque Tribune
It's about time. But check out the relationship with the city that these HOAs have already:

City Councilor Don Harris isn't involved in this dispute - his district is on the other side of town - but he's heard this sort of problem story enough that he wants to do something about it. "Most neighborhood associations and homeowners associations are functioning fairly well, but there is a significant minority where residents feel disenfranchised," he said. On Wednesday, Harris will introduce legislation to study the problems and pursue a solution. His bill would create a nine-member task force and charge it with investigating the situation and looking over two pieces of draft legislation that would set up new regulations for both types of neighborhood groups. The proposed rules, which Harris said likely wouldn't be introduced until summer, impose standards for the election of association officers, and in the case of homeowner associations, mandate that records be open for public inspection. While homeowners associations basically function as their own entities, neighborhood associations play a critical role in city government as a whole. The city maintains a formal process for recognizing associations (right now there are 188) and shares information with them about upcoming city projects, development proposals and even liquor license applications in their area...The official relationship goes further. City councilors, if they didn't already have an incentive to know their neighborhood leaders, are by law supposed to be given the contact information of officially recognized neighborhood association leaders. The same list is given to the news media on a monthly basis, meaning association leaders are routinely called on to represent their area to the rest of the city and region. The overall importance of associations is all the more reason, Harris said, to make sure the groups are transparent, democratic and actually representing their areas. "The neighborhood is oftentimes your first line of government," he said.

Poinciana Park parents want sex offender out | | Naples Daily News
Note the HOA directors involvement in, or at least support for, trying to get a law passed that will keep sex offenders from living within 2500 feet of day care centers, parks, and schools.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

A Ticket On a Taurus Grows Into Much More -
It seems private property still counts for something:

A three-judge panel in Alexandria went even further than Eberth had imagined, ruling that Prince William had no authority to ticket vehicles with expired inspection stickers parked on private -- or public -- property. The ruling by Judge Robert J. Humphreys said state law prohibits only the operation of a vehicle with an expired inspection sticker, casting doubt on whether police anywhere in Virginia can ticket parked vehicles with expired stickers. Because Prince William's code dates to at least 1965, the ruling suggests that the county has been erroneously citing drivers for more than four decades. Since 2000 alone -- the year Eberth got his first of three tickets -- Prince William has written 29,871 citations under Code 13-322, for fines totaling more than $1 million.

Dissolving a Homeowners Association III > Politics > Stories > Golden >
Here we are on part three, and the author still hasn't given much detail. Here's how it ends, with a request that we "stay tuned."

His attorney told him that if he could bring him in-depth details concerning what the homeowner had just recited to him (details about possible HOA wrongdoings that appeared to the attorney to be the worst of which he had made notes about), such as HOA documents, audio and/or video tape recordings, etc (what is commonly known as "hard evidence"), the attorney would "go to court" with it. That is, file a lawsuit against the homeowner's HOA which might eventually lead to dissolving it (no, intelligent and rational readers, it is not easy to dissolve HOAs in a state that has legislatively mandated them - as the state of Colorado's legislators and Governor did in 1992, and then made worse in 2005 and 2006 by adding amendments to, and deleting portions of, those laws). In fact, it might be easier for HOA homeowner advocates and HOA homeowners to just gather signatures on petitions to repeal all HOA laws for your state. But that's another "story" for another time. As the HOA homeowner left his attorney's office, he was already planning how he he would get the "hard evidence" his attorney needed to start the ball rolling towards the goal of dissolving his HOA.

Stay tuned.....

Curb your renters | Daily Press: Victorville, California
The Spring Valley Lake Association is hoping to change the codes, covenants and restrictions to keep better track of renters — bringing them out of an anonymous state and informing them of the rules. Based on a request by several members, the association formed a committee to amend the CC&Rs, said Chuck Jackson, chairman of the committee. “They asked the board to see if they could do something about better security and better enforcement of the rules and regulations,” Jackson said.If passed, the CC&Rs would require, for the first time, that landlords provide the homeowner’s association with a list of all tenants and residents of the home, and at the same time require renters to read and sign a copy of the rules and regulations.

The Seattle Times: Local News: Smoking foes bring the fight to apartment buildings
Obviously this will include condos. I guess the idea is to work throught the state legislatures and city councils, and also through the condo boards.

A year after a statewide smoking ban took effect at workplaces, restaurants, bars and other public places, a new battlefield over secondhand smoke is emerging: apartment buildings. Spurred on by nonsmoking tenants and public-health leaders, more private landlords are considering restricting smoking inside their rental units. And local public-housing agencies are also looking at banning smoking in the units of some buildings.

Monday, January 15, 2007

State Farm loses $2.5 million Katrina decision--Mississippi couple who lost home awarded punitive damages
Despite all the speculation, I don't think one jury trial in a single federal District Court is going to be the end of this coverage issue. State Farm and other insurers have gazillions at stake here. Still, it is good news for a lot of homeowners:

GULFPORT, Miss. - A jury on Thursday awarded $2.5 million in punitive damages to a couple who sued Bloomington-based State Farm Fire and Casualty Co. for denying their claim after Hurricane Katrina, a decision that could benefit hundreds of other homeowners challenging insurers for refusing to cover billions of dollars in storm damage.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Jean Jacques Couturier, 79; Union Organizer, Professor -
Shu Bartholomew informed me that Jean Couturier had passed away in early December. I am very sorry to see him go. He was a great man, they don’t make many people like him anymore. I met him at Borders book signing in Silver Spring, MD. He was interested in HOA reform and had some practical ideas about it. I gave a talk and mentioned Charles Ascher, who designed the model private government for Radburn, and he sent up a note that said, “I knew Charles Asher.” That was quite a shock, because all the events I described had occurred in 1928! Then we hooked up again in Oak Park. One of his chidren lived there. He was exploring the feasibility of a national HOA owners groups and told me he had decided it was going to be difficult, but he came up with a model for doing it. He was very smart, knew a whole lot about how to run organizations and governments, and was dedicated to the public good. It is really a great loss. My condolences to his family and friends. Here is part of the obituary from the Washington Post:

Jean Jacques Couturier, 79, a union organizer, civil service reformer and university professor before retiring as executive director of the Senior Executives Association in Washington, died Dec. 7 at Lancaster Regional Medical Center in Lititz, Pa. A former resident of Chevy Chase, he had lived in Lancaster, Pa., since 2004. He spent the last two years of his career advocating for senior-level government workers. Before retiring in 1983, he took issue with reports that aides to former EPA administrator Anne Burford had compiled a hit list of career employees that they wanted fired or reassigned. He urged the Office of the Special Counsel of the Merit Systems Protection Board to investigate the alleged harassment.Throughout his career, Mr. Couturier worked on behalf of federal, state and local employees at all levels. He also spoke and wrote on topics such as civil service reform, collective bargaining in government, federal encroachment on state and local governments and careers in public management. In the academic arena for several years, he was director of research and sponsored programs at American University's College of Public and International Affairs in the early 1980s, as well as being an adjunct professor in residence in the School of Government and Public Administration, now called the School of Public Affairs. From 1974 to 1980, he was professor of public management and director of graduate studies in public management at Northwestern University. He was co-author of the book "The Public Interest in Government Labor Relations" (1977). One of Mr. Couturier's biggest achievements, said his son, Andy Couturier of Oakland, Calif., was his development of the National Civil Service Reform League's Model Public Personnel Administration Law of 1970, which has been adopted by numerous local governments.