Saturday, June 21, 2008

News: Leisure World residents win legal battle for openness : "Last week, the four-year ordeal was brought to an end when California Fourth District Appellate Court ruled in favor of the seven residents in a countersuit Golden Rain filed against them. The decision reaffirmed a lower court ruling that the GRF is indeed a common interest development so it must follow state rules on governing associations, such as homeowner's associations. State law requires that financial records of these associations must be made available to residents."

I get so tired of hearing all the free marketers and industry flacks talking about how HOAs are local democracies. What kind of democracy requires you to spend four years suing them in order to see how your own money is being spent? And what kind of democracy is it when you, the owner, have to vote without knowing what is going on? Congratulations to these 16 folks who fought for transparency. People are getting stonewalled all over the country by HOAs who come up with all sort of absurd excuses and obstructionist arguments for not living up to legally mandated disclosure obligations.

Condo Company Unwraps Plan For Clothing-Optional Pool

Condo Company Unwraps Plan For Clothing-Optional Pool: "COUNTRYWAY -- Swimmers will have the option of wearing nothing at all at the Arbors at Branch Creek, a complex of 390 homes that landed on the idea to help move units in a down market. One pool is being set aside for nude swimmers, sunbathers and hot tubbers, said Christine Pirkle, director of sales with the Web site for the project's developers."
The naked truth is that when you strip this idea to its bare essentials, it is nothing nude. I mean new.

The Gated Community « Cindy Thornton Fine Art

The Gated Community « Cindy Thornton Fine Art
Check out this painting.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Pat Dollard | Young Americans | Blog Archive » Woman in Conflict With Homeowner’s Association Puts Up Confederate Flag
This sort of thing backfires. To some people the stars and bars symbolizes a rebellious spirit and a link to the southern past, but to a lot of other people it stands for the defense of slavery and Jim Crow laws. Maybe she should fly a different flag, like the one that says, "Don't Tread On Me."

As a commenter notes, she is claiming that the monthly fees she has been paying have not been going to an HOA, because (she says) there is no HOA and no CC&R enforcement. If I understand this lady correctly, the flag (to her) is meant to protest the "redneck" lifestyle that she believes is allowed due to the lack of covenant enforcement. She didn't mean it in a historic sense, but to convey that her neighborhood was too rednecky for her taste--as in, "This neighborhood is turning into the kind of place where people would fly the confederate flag." She also has a toilet on the front lawn and some anti-redneck signs. Whether there is an association, or a defunct association, or a golf club or whatever, I do not know, but flying that flag sure takes it from a neighborhood dispute to a more political level. In political science we call that enlarging the scope of the conflict. That doesn't always pay off.

The Frederick News-Post Online - Frederick County Maryland Daily Newspaper

The Frederick News-Post Online - Frederick County Maryland Daily Newspaper: "“JILL,” A GAITHERSBURG HOMEOWNER, DOESN’T WANT HER REAL NAME USED IN THIS STORY. You see, for several years “Jill” has been willfully violating her Montgomery Village Association homeowners rules: She hangs laundry to dry on her backyard clothesline."
Add clotheslines to the list of things that make sense that HOAs fine you for doing. Along with lawns that don't need water, solar panels, home businesses, gardens, satellite dishes (now covered by federal law), pickup trucks, and questioning authority. | How will the area clean up in the event of a hurricane?

Hilton Head to do hurricane cleanup for gated communities: "Hilton Head Island town officials decided last year they would be solely responsible for debris management in the cleanup effort after a hurricane. The decision ended a confusing system that involved duplicated efforts by the town, county government and each of the gated communities. The policy makes the town responsible for clearing all private roads, including ones in gated communities, and the dirt roads still found in many native islander areas. About 70 percent of residents live in gated communities. Previously, the state, county and town all were responsible for clearing their own roads, while gated communities and residents along private roads were left to fend for themselves."
With 70% of the population living in gated communities, the line between private and public priorities tends to get a little blurred.

First lakeside gated community for Saudi Arabia

First lakeside gated community for Saudi Arabia
Lake? Saudi Arabia? What's wrong with this picture.
Oh, and it will have 11 mosques. Gardening Gardening: "We're just days away from water restrictions, and that means watering your lawn a lot less.

So what do you do if your Homeowner's Association requires you to keep a green lawn?"

Well, I guess you choose between between being fined by the City of San Antonio for violating the water restrictions, or being fined by your HOA for not keeping your lawn green. (Fred Pilot sent this link.)

Court: mentally ill defendant can't be own lawyer - Yahoo! News

Court: mentally ill defendant can't be own lawyer - Yahoo! News: "WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Mentally ill criminal defendants who have been found competent to stand trial can be denied the right to represent themselves, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Thursday."
Once I prosecuted a crazy man who insisted on representing himself. The offense was trespassing. He was living on somebody else's land and had built himself a shack complete with the treasures he accumulated by rummaging through trash. His defense was, "God owns the land." The jury was out 8 minutes. A few months later another prosecutor got the same defendant and same defense. Result: 5 minutes to guilty verdict. My record stood for a while, anyway.

This Supreme Court ruling is sensible because crazy people can't represent themselves effectively and the courtroom becomes even more of a loony bin than usual. Of course, it raises the question of what constitutes being competent to stand trial, but to crazy to be your own lawyer. If you are too crazy to represent yourself, how can you be competent to assist your attorney in your own defense? And is there any risk of a judge disallowing a certain type of defense by saying you must be crazy and forcing you to have an attorney, even though you as the defendant want to present it that way?

My Way News - White House threatens veto of foreclosure rescue

My Way News - White House threatens veto of foreclosure rescue: "WASHINGTON (AP) - A broad bipartisan coalition supporting a massive foreclosure rescue beat back GOP efforts to gut it Thursday, defying a White House veto threat and quashing a bid to make it victim to revelations about two senators' VIP mortgages. Administration officials said they oppose the inclusion of $4 billion in the measure to help states buy and rehabilitate foreclosed properties, and a plan to have government-sponsored mortgage giants Fannie Mae (FNM) and Freddie Mac (FRE) pay for the rescue. They announced those and other objections as two GOP senators said they would try to block the package until a committee can investigate how much Countrywide Financial Corp. (CFC) and other lenders stand to gain from it."
I don't know why, but for some reason whenever I see the words "broad bipartisan coalition" my skin crawls and I reach back to see if my wallet is still there.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

MyFox Tampa Bay | Homeowner's fees leading to foreclosures: "AMPA - Attorney Bob Tankel's day revolves around foreclosures. His inbox is full of cases needing his attention, but he doesn't work for a bank. Tankel's carved out a thriving business working for homeowner's associations - handling delinquencies involving unpaid fees that can lead to foreclosure. 'I feel people don't understand the implications or ramifications of not paying their fees,' Tankel said. For homeowners barely able to pay their mortgages, the HOA fees - usually more than two hundred dollars a month - are often the first bill left unpaid. That's when the homeowner's association brings in Tankel to begin the foreclosure process."
The HOA foreclosure lawyers are doing great now, because as the article notes, when people are in financial trouble, "HOA fee...are often the first bill left unpaid." And, as the article further explains, these lawyers move as fast as possible toward foreclosure so they can get there before the mortgage company does. How about this comment: "I'm sending out a thousand certified letters a month," Tankel estimated. "And that includes demands, 45-day letters, and lien letters." And this is just one lawyer from the Tampa area. Think about what is going on all over the country.

Yet another reason why people need to think very, very carefully before buying a unit in an HOA or condo development...

Wednesday, June 18, 2008 Nealz Nuze Today's Nuze Neal Boortz opines on HOA leadership: "As I've said many times before .. Condo and Homeowner's associations are the scourge of our land. You will usually find two types of people serving on these boards: (1) People who wielded power during their work years, and miss it; or, (2) People who have never had power before in their lives and get absolutely drunk on it. Oh ... I know there are exceptions. I'm very lucky to experience a really good condo association at my Florida home. In spite of that ... I think that we need to get their attention, and one way to do this would be to select one association at random every year or so, and --- on pay-per-view TV --- execute them."
Not to put too fine a point on it, or anything.

Thanks to Rick Black, of Marietta, GA, who sent this link.

Facebook 'dipping' craze irks pool owners - Telegraph: "Teenagers are using internet satellite images to spot outdoor swimming pools before meeting for late-night dips. The new craze, known as “dipping”, involves people using pictures from Google Earth to identify homes that have large outdoor pools. Once a venue is found, the youngsters use social networking sites including Facebook and Bebo to meet for impromptu swims and pool parties. Police said some residents have woken up to find youngsters using their pools. Others have come home from work to find their pools full of beer cans."
Young whippersnappers.

Property Owners Association Act webcast and summary | VARbuzz

Property Owners Association Act webcast and summary | VARbuzz
This goes to a summary of the act and a blog post announcing a Friday webcast to explain the new Virginia law.

Watch Me Sleep My Way To The Top Of The Glendale Homeowner's Association | The Onion - America's Finest News Source

Watch Me Sleep My Way To The Top Of The Glendale Homeowner's Association | The Onion - America's Finest News Source
This is hilarious.


EconPolice: Critical analysis of "American Murder Mystery": "In short, while we have not demonstrated in our initial analysis that Section 8 rentals are definitively not causing increased criminal activity, we certainly have shown the evidence as presented in the Atlantic article falls far short of doing so. Furthermore, the hypothesis presented in the article is a dangerous premise to dangle in front of the public with such non-existent evidence, as it lends a supposed veneer of scientific support to the notion that the federal Section 8 program I exporting crime, and thus potentially creating public resistance to the program for simply no valid reason."
Thanks to John Kroger for sending this link. I linked to the Atlantic piece below. The author of this rebuttal finds fault with their analysis, but he doesn't claim to have disproved the article's central claim, nor does he offer an alternative explanation for the increase in crime.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

ABC News: 'Neighborhood' Gun Tied to Girl's Death

ABC News: 'Neighborhood' Gun Tied to Girl's Death: "A teenager is expected to plead not guilty today to charges that he shot and killed a 10-year-old girl with a 'community gun' that he allegedly claims was shared by 'everyone in the neighborhood.'"
Apparently the virtues and savings of common ownership have at last trickled down as far as possible without dripping through the floor.

Thousands in Orlando want Shaq to help with mortgages --

Thousands in Orlando want Shaq to help with mortgages -- "A week after Shaquille O'Neal told the Orlando Sentinel that he's working on a plan to rescue Central Floridians facing foreclosure, he has learned just how widespread the problem is. 'He has two or three thousand e-mails,' said Curtis Cooper, an Orlando Realtor and mortgage broker working with O'Neal on the project. 'There have been a lot of calls from talk shows and radio shows.'"
Maybe he wants to reconsider that offer now.

Life is solitary in unfinished subdivisions |

Life is solitary in unfinished subdivisions | "One of just two residents in what was to be a 105-home development, the 54-year-old information technology manager strolls down lonely streets past silt fences, weedy lots, nearly 20 vacant homes and a sign cheerily announcing that a pool and cabana are 'Coming Soon!'

But his community lifestyle isn't without upsides. Three he mentions: Attractive housing. Lots of peace and quiet. And a female friend who has sunbathed topless on his back deck."

Sounds like fun. Hope the two residents enjoy paying the six-figure special assessment that may be lying in wait like a puff adder.

Gardening in the city |

Gardening in the city | "However, these front yard gardens are not without controversy, as neighbors and homeowner’s associations may oppose them saying the vegetable gardens detract from the general appearance of the neighborhood."
No doubt. After all, the entire development has to look the same or all human life as we know it will come to an end.

NBC2 News Online - Foreclosures: 'It's a nightmare across the board'

NBC2 News Online - Foreclosures: 'It's a nightmare across the board': "LEE COUNTY: The number of foreclosures in Lee County is up 350-percent for the first five months of the year. Now, the crisis is proving painful for more than just delinquent homeowners. NBC2 found out why people who can afford to keep their home are also paying the price. Less than a year ago, Lisa Norman bought a condo in the Terraces at Riverwalk. Now her neighbors are becoming scarce and she's feeling the hit. She just received a $500 bill out of the blue from her homeowner's association. 'I can't afford it. It's not in my budget,' said Norman. She has until August 15 to come up with the money. A section in the association's contract allows for 'special assessments' for unexpected events. The homeowner's association says the high number of foreclosures falls into that category. Homeowners were not paying their fees and the association was left with the bills for things like water, lawn maintenance, and keeping the pool in good shape."
I think this situation is going to snowball, as the threat of insolvency goes from owners to HOAs to local governments.

Chicago TIFS: Find out what 150 mayoral slush funds look like | Chicago News, Politics, Culture and Commentary -

Chicago TIFS: Find out what 150 mayoral slush funds look like | Chicago News, Politics, Culture and Commentary -
Tax Increment Financing Districts, or TIFs, are special taxing districts used to spur redevelopment of "blighted" areas. Redevelopment leads to increased property tax revenues. If the area is a TIF, that increase does not go into the general tax coffers. It goes to the city, but is used to pay back the developer for building the new infrastructure that went along with the redevelopment and otherwise serve as a "mayoral slush fund," as the article says. The result is that the school districts and other taxing bodies get nothing for 23 years, even though the TIF may greatly increase the burdens on taxpayers to those bodies.

As with every aspect of government in Chicago, it is nearly impossible to get accurate information on how this particular device is being used. But this article says that 30% of the land area of Chicago is now in TIFs. Makes life interesting for the other 70% when tax time comes. - More Iowa Towns Brace for Flooding Along Mississippi River - Local News | News Articles | National News | US News - More Iowa Towns Brace for Flooding Along Mississippi River: "OAKVILLE, Iowa — As some of Iowa's flooded towns began cleaning up, others braced for new flooding risks, particularly in southeastern Iowa along the Mississippi River."
You mean the citizens of Iowa (and Wisconsin and Illinois and Indiana) are actually doing something to mitigate the damage from impending flooding? How strange. They must be those bitter small-town folks Obama was talking about. Don't they realize that they are supposed to act like helpless victims?

Monday, June 16, 2008

More Than 60,000 Bees Removed From North Carolina Man’s Home : "North Carolina man says his house was so overrun with bees that the walls ooze honey."
This would make a good Abbott and Costello routine:

"That's right. It's coming out of the walls."
"I said, Honey?"
"I said, that's right. Coming out of the walls."
"Hey, Honey! I'm talking to you."
"It isn't hay. It's honey."

Is America's suburban dream collapsing into a nightmare? -

Is America's suburban dream collapsing into a nightmare? - "Recent market research indicates that up to 40 percent of households surveyed in selected metropolitan areas want to live in walkable urban areas, said Leinberger. The desire is also substantiated by real estate prices for urban residential space, which are 40 to 200 percent higher than in traditional suburban neighborhoods -- this price variation can be found both in cities and small communities equipped with walkable infrastructure, he said.

The result is an oversupply of depreciating suburban housing and a pent-up demand for walkable urban space, which is unlikely to be met for a number of years. That's mainly, according to Leinberger, because the built environment changes very slowly; and also because governmental policies and zoning laws are largely prohibitive to the construction of complicated high-density developments.

But as the market catches up to the demand for more mixed use communities, the United States could see a notable structural transformation in the way its population lives -- Arthur C. Nelson, director of Virginia Tech's Metropolitan Institute, estimates, for example, that half of the real-estate development built by 2025 will not have existed in 2000.

Yet Nelson also estimates that in 2025 there will be a surplus of 22 million large-lot homes that will not be left vacant in a suburban wasteland"

Fred Pilot sent this cheerful piece about how the American suburban dream died. Again.

Illinois pension debt worst in nation - Rockford, IL - Rockford Register Star

Illinois pension debt worst in nation - Rockford, IL - Rockford Register Star: "The state’s pension debt will exceed $44 billion this summer, increasing at a rate of about $120 per second, according to Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s administration. The debt already tops $42 billion — enough to give every one of Illinois’ 12.8 million residents a check of $3,300 or buy 937,000 Cadillacs at $45,000 a pop.

The combination of debt in terms of both money and percentage gives Illinois the infamous distinction of having the nation’s worst pension problem, according to an Associated Press review of records and interviews with experts. And there’s no solution in sight."

The problems that HOAs and condo associations are starting to have with finances are coming at a bad time, because a number of state and local governments are in trouble. Illinois is a fiscal basket case. When the bozos in Springfield do the annual budget Kibuki play, they speak in terms of a $2 billion or $3 billion dollar deficit that they have to cover. They ignore the fact that they have systematically refused to make their full payments to the five state employee pension funds for about 20 years running. Now the pension debt is $44 BILLION.. And climbing.

Not to mention the fact that private pension plans are hurting. And the baby boomers start to hit retirement age in 2011, which is only 3 years away.

Oh--and the generation that is supposed to keep Social Security alive for us is convinced that the human face looks great with five pounds of metal stuck through it.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

American Murder Mystery

American Murder Mystery: "While crime rates in large cities stayed flat, homicide rates in many midsize cities (with populations of between 500,000 and 1 million) began increasing, sometimes by as much as 20percent a year. In 2006, the Police Executive Research Forum, a national police group surveying cities from coast to coast, concluded in a report called “A Gathering Storm” that this might represent “the front end … of an epidemic of violence not seen for years.” The leaders of the group, which is made up of police chiefs and sheriffs, theorized about what might be spurring the latest crime wave: the spread of gangs, the masses of offenders coming out of prison, methamphetamines. But mostly they puzzled over the bleak new landscape. According to FBI data, America’s most dangerous spots are now places where Martin Scorsese would never think of staging a shoot-out—Florence, South Carolina; Charlotte-Mecklenburg, North Carolina; Kansas City, Missouri; Reading, Pennsylvania; Orlando, Florida; Memphis, Tennessee."
Fred Pilot sent this along. The author suggests that the problem is caused by dispersal of former public housing tenants who are now using Section 8 vouchers to move from big city projects to smaller cities and suburbs.

Towns push sex offender limits - The Boston Globe

Towns push sex offender limits - The Boston Globe: "...this spring, Weymouth joined a growing number of communities across the Commonwealth by banning Level 3 sex offenders - those deemed most likely to re-offend - from living within 1,500 feet of any school, park, daycare center, or recreational facility. And in doing so, Weymouth officials not only made it almost impossible for Level 3 sex offenders to live in town, they managed to stoke fears in other communities that predators, unwelcome in Weymouth, may be headed their way."
Another town that wants to become a gated community. I guess one town at a time all the places sex offenders can live will disappear until there is only one town left, and all of them will be there. Kind of like musical chairs. What unlucky community will be home to all the nation's sex offenders? I figure it will have to be someplace with an appropriate name, like Toad Suck, Arkansas.