Wednesday, February 28, 2007

L'Eggo My Lego

It seems that this really happened in the space-time continuum that we inhabit. The question is, how will kids who have been brainwashed in this fashion function in the HOAs that I assume they will buy into at some future date? Maybe this is good preparation...

Some Seattle school children are being told to be skeptical of private property rights. This lesson is being taught by banning Legos. A ban was initiated at the Hilltop Children's Center in Seattle. According to an article in the winter 2006-07 issue of "Rethinking Schools" magazine, the teachers at the private school wanted their students to learn that private property ownership is evil. According to the article, the students had been building an elaborate "Legotown," but it was accidentally demolished. The teachers decided its destruction was an opportunity to explore "the inequities of private ownership." According to the teachers, "Our intention was to promote a contrasting set of values: collectivity, collaboration, resource-sharing, and full democratic participation." The children were allegedly incorporating into Legotown "their assumptions about ownership and the social power it conveys." These assumptions "mirrored those of a class-based, capitalist society -- a society that we teachers believe to be unjust and oppressive." They claimed as their role shaping the children's "social and political understandings of ownership and economic equity ... from a perspective of social justice."
The LA Suburb that the law forgot...
This story is about as shocking as anything you are likely to read today.

Cudahy resembles a Mexican border town more than it does a Los Angeles suburb. Entrenched gangs and Mexican drug trafficking have trapped working-class legal and illegal immigrants in a cycle of violence and fear, in a city where less than a quarter of the 28,000 residents are eligible to vote. An uneducated city council, a deeply troubled police force imported from Maywood two towns over, and the raw power of the 18th Street Gang — a complex criminal organization with a knack for setting up business fronts and obscuring underground drug activity — make Cudahy residents seem like hostages in their own city. By most accounts, Cudahy City Council members — two retired union managers, an insurance salesman, a waitress and a grocer — do not run the city as they were elected to do. Rather, they defer to City Manager Perez, a former janitor who is known to favor revenue traps such as DUI and driver’s license checkpoints over aggressive tactics that make gangs and drug dealers less comfortable.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Homeowners group's ex-leader accused of theft
Thanks to Jean Winters for this very disturbing story about HOA misconduct:

Something had gone wrong in the quiet Boca Rio Townhomes neighborhood near the Broward County line, residents noticed last year. The sprinklers stopped working. Broken fences weren't mended. The grass turned brown in their orderly suburban community. No one answered the phone at the clubhouse anymore, and those who did get through to homeowners association President Betty Marshal met obstinate refusal to let them see the books. One resident, Randy Gavitt, started digging further. What he says he uncovered led to Marshal's resignation as board president and a lawsuit filed Friday in Palm Beach County Circuit Court. Marshal, a 68-year-old grandmother, gambled away nearly $500,000 of her association's money and fled to Pennsylvania, residents allege in the lawsuit. Over three years, she used the association's debit card and withdrew as much as $30,000 a month on what appear to be personal expenses at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood, online gambling sites and the chocolate factory in her hometown of Hershey, Pa., and for airline tickets and other items, the lawsuit says. She left the neighborhood in disrepair and $662,070 poorer.
Community Associations Institute - New England Chapter -- Court Limits Liability for Third Party Web Postings
Here's a post advising CAI people about a California Supreme Court case (Barrett v. Rosenthal) that limits liability for re-posting on a web site the libelous posts of other people, based on a provision of the Communications Decency Act of 1996. CAI's advice is still on the side of caution, saying HOAs should still be careful about reposting potentially defamatory material. Seems like good advice to me. Thanks to Shu Bartholomew for pointing this out.

The ruling applies only in California, but many trends begin there, and legal analysts say it is possible that other courts will adopt this court’s “freedom of Internet speech” logic if confronted with suits raising similar questions. On the other hand, most associations would no doubt prefer not to end up in a protracted (and expensive) legal battle, even if it’s a battle they might ultimately win. So the best advice, still, is probably to assume the association would be sued for potentially libelous statements and avoid posting them, or having them posted, on the community’s Web site, in newsletters or any other communications venues the association controls.
ABC News: New England Town Prints Up Its Own Currency
So give me one good reason why HOAs can't do the same.

Monday, February 26, 2007

AB 1164 Assembly Bill - INTRODUCED
Fred Pilot sent this link to a piece of legislation introduced in California that would prohibit sole-provider agreements between apartment owners (and HOA developers and boards, as I read the summary) and video or broadband providers. Developers have been granting cable companies monopolies in exchange for a simple covenant banning antennas.

This bill would prohibit a provider of video service or broadband
service from entering into an agreement with any person owning,
leasing, controlling, or managing buildings or dwellings that would
diminish or interfere with the rights of any tenant or other occupant
of the building or dwelling to the use of any video service or
broadband service offered by another party.
Tennessee Center for Policy Research: Al Gore’s Personal Energy Use Is His Own “Inconvenient Truth”
Gore’s home uses more than 20 times the national average

Now that Al Gore has his Oscar and his Nobel Peace Prize nomination, I suppose boring facts like this are irrelevant, but I ran across this on The Drudge Report, so here it is. I didn't watch the Oscars, but the news today is full of what went on. Environmental scientist Leonardo DiCaprio pronounced it the "green" Oscars. Does that mean that the stars flew in on private jets fueled by organic peanut butter?

Gore’s mansion, located in the posh Belle Meade area of Nashville, consumes more electricity every month than the average American household uses in an entire year, according to the Nashville Electric Service (NES). In his documentary, the former Vice President calls on Americans to conserve energy by reducing electricity consumption at home. The average household in America consumes 10,656 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year, according to the Department of Energy. In 2006, Gore devoured nearly 221,000 kWh—more than 20 times the national average. Last August alone, Gore burned through 22,619 kWh—guzzling more than twice the electricity in one month than an average American family uses in an entire year. As a result of his energy consumption, Gore’s average monthly electric bill topped $1,359. Since the release of An Inconvenient Truth, Gore’s energy consumption has increased from an average of 16,200 kWh per month in 2005, to 18,400 kWh per month in 2006.
Do fence me in - Los Angeles Times
Nancy Levy flagged this story. I have my doubts about this claim that gated communities are all that popular.

If a man's home is his castle, gates are the modern equivalent of living behind the moat. Gated communities, in fact, are the fastest-growing form of housing in the U.S., according to census data. Why? Those who opt for gates point to reduced crime and traffic, a safer environment for children and the prestige of living somewhere that's exclusive. But not everyone likes being sealed off from the world. Some people view gates as elitist or don't want the bother of calling the guards each time a visitor is expected. Whether new or old, suburban or urban, surrounded by affluence or a gritty neighborhood, a secured perimeter with controlled access generally makes a home more expensive. "Gated communities command a higher price when they enter the market," said Setha Low, an anti-gates anthropologist who wrote "Behind the Gates: Life, Security and the Pursuit of Happiness in Fortress America." "Their advantage diminishes as the development ages and their maintenance costs increase." The view on the ground in Southern California comes from John Karevoll, chief analyst for DataQuick Information Systems, a La Jolla-based real estate research firm. "There is initially a bit more value to those properties. In general, 5% to 7%.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Retirement community rift pits Baby Boomers against the elderly
Marjorie Murray, President of the Center for California Homeowner Association Law, sent me the link to this story about a new issue that needs some serious consideration:

Sprawling retirement communities are attempting to spruce up facilities to appeal to the onslaught of Baby Boomers, while the longtime residents worry that they are subtly being nudged out the gate. Out in Walnut Creek, where the "active retirement" community of Rossmoor is experiencing growing pains, resident Dick Hayes, 71, a former president of the Residents Association, speaks for many retirees. "I think there is an attempt, and it may be subtle and unconscious, to get rid of the 80- and 90-year-olds,'' says Hayes. - Officials To Review Rat-Infested KFC Inspection
See my post criticizing the cozy relationship between the so-called "Health Department" of NYC and the infamous rat-infested KFC. Now check this out. The dump was inspected the day before CBS filmed rats doing half-gainers into tubs of extra crispy wings and running laps around the feet of horrified diners. Result: congRATulations! You pass the Health Department inspection! Read the comments of the "health department spokesman" who doesn't want to prejudge anybody or anything like that. Heaven forfend.

(CBS) NEW YORK Health officials are going to review the inspection of a Greenwich Village KFC/Taco Bell, which was completed one day before CBS 2 cameras caught dozens of rats scurrying across the store, jumping on tables, and climbing into food trays. "It doesn't look like the inspection that was done Thursday met our standards," said Geoffrey Cowley, a health department spokesman. "I don't want to prejudge that. We're concerned and we're going to carefully revaluate that inspection."