Wednesday, August 13, 2008 | Gated communities put brakes on scooter use

Then they came for the motorcycles: Gated communities put brakes on scooter use: "[D]riving mopeds, scooters and motorcycles is forbidden in Sea Pines, as it is in many other area plantations. That makes it challenging for some people, who have found those forms of transportation good options when it comes to the saving money on gas."
This is a new one on me. No motorbikes in the gated communities of Hilton Head, SC.

WXVT-TV Delta News - More Local News and Weather | Ark. city neighborhood under 24-hour curfew

WXVT-TV Delta News - More Local News and Weather | Ark. city neighborhood under 24-hour curfew: "HELENA-WEST HELENA, Ark. (AP) - Helena-West Helena Mayor James Valley says he ordered a round-the-clock curfew and heavy police patrol in a ten-block section of town because the neighborhood was 'under siege with repeated gunfire, loitering, drug dealing and other general mayhem.'...Thursday night, 18 to 20 police officers carrying M-16 rifles, shotguns and night-vision scopes patrolled the 'curfew zone.' They arrested about eight people and confiscated drugs and loaded weapons. Under Valley's order, officers do not tolerate loitering or 'hanging out.' Officers can stop and investigate all foot traffic, bicycle, horseback, mo-ped, motorcycle, riding mower, golf cart or other means of transportation. The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas says the curfew is 'blatantly unconstitutional' and has demanded that Valley lift the order immediately."
What leads public and private officials to think they can exercise unlimited power over people? This is why there have to be constitutional limits on government power. At least somebody can go to court and stop this nonsense.

Residents beg city to bulldoze shuttered Houston condos | Front page | - Houston Chronicle

Residents beg city to bulldoze shuttered Houston condos | Front page | - Houston Chronicle: "Desperate residents who live near a shuttered condo complex in northwest Houston thronged a City Council meeting Tuesday, begging the mayor to bulldoze the empty buildings. Candlelight Trails, at 5626 De Soto, is a pretty name, but the property has become nightmarish, the neighbors said. Although the property is fenced off, criminals, squatters and drug addicts haunt the buildings, they said. The city closed the 240-unit development last August, citing myriad dangers, such as exposed wires, broken glass and broken sprinklers. Mayor Bill White appeared to support demolition but said it would be a long and legally difficult process because there are multiple owners of the units."
Submitted for your consideration: Isolated Instance Number 2645.

Eleven Becker & Poliakoff attorneys depart firm - South Florida Business Journal:

Eleven Becker & Poliakoff attorneys depart firm - South Florida Business Journal:: "Prominent litigation attorney Daniel Rosenbaum and a team of 10 other attorneys from Becker & Poliakoff have joined Katzman Garfinkel, a Miami-based firm focused on community association law."
Law firm wars...

Condo trustee to be prosecuted by state - Truro, MA - Wicked Local Truro

Condo trustee to be prosecuted by state - Truro, MA - Wicked Local Truro
What? Impossible! This must be another one of those "isolated instances."

Foreclosure fallout: Houses go for a $1

Foreclosure fallout: Houses go for a $1: "DETROIT -- One dollar can get you a large soda at McDonald's, a used VHS movie at 7-Eleven or a house in Detroit.

The fact that a home on the city's east side was listed for $1 recently shows how depressed the real estate market has become in one of America's poorest big cities.

And it still took 19 days to find a buyer."

Will Detroit be the first major American city to disintegrate into total chaos?

Emerald ash borer found in River Forest

Emerald ash borer found in River Forest: "The emerald ash borer beetle has been found in River Forest.

Top public works department officials made the announcement to trustees at a meeting the village board's public works committee on Tuesday night.

The news comes a week after the beetle's presence was confirmed in Oak Park by state agriculture department officials. The fast-moving beetle has been confirmed in at least 20 Chicago area municipalities."

River Forest is an old and very ritzy suburb a couple of miles west of Chicago. This emerald ash borer situation is potentially disastrous, because ash trees are everywhere in this metro area, and the characteristic look of many suburbs and neighborhoods is trees, trees, trees. I have two big ash trees in my back yard. River Forest could end up looking like River Desert.How bad can it get? The ash borer cost 40 million trees in southeast Michigan alone.

This becomes a cost issue. Municipalities typically order removal of trees by landowners, and with HOAs that means...the association, i.e., the owners. That costs hundreds of dollars per tree including chipping or removing the wood. If a development has, say 100 ash trees, this can be a major expense for somebody.

Main Street -

Home owners win one for a change: "In the latest of man-bites-dog rulings from the state courts, a three-judge panel of the New Jersey Appellate Division actually sided with ordinary homeowners over a greedy local government and developer.

In their ruling, the judges unanimously reversed a lower-court decision giving the city of Long Branch a green light to pursue its redevelopment plan. That has put a serious crimp into the city's hopes for taking the homes of about a dozen longtime residents -- and turning them over to a developer to put up luxury condos in their place."

Thanks to Daniel Bliss for this link.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008 Worldwide

Subprime writedowns top half a trillion: "The International Monetary Fund in an April report estimated banks' losses at $510 billion, about half its forecast of $1 trillion for all companies. Predictions have crept up since then, with New York University economist Nouriel Roubini predicting losses to reach $2 trillion.

``It just keeps spreading from one asset to another, so it's hard to know when these writedowns will stop,'' said Makeem Asif, an analyst at KBC Financial Products in London. ``The U.S. economy needs to stabilize first. But even then, Europe could lag and recover later. There's still a lot more downside.''"

A lot more downside? How much is "a lot"?

McClatchy Washington Bureau | 08/11/2008 | Cop cameras don't just catch speeders, they raise cash: "[C]op cams can be cash cows.

In Chevy Chase, for example, where speeding tickets brought in about $8,000 monthly before cop cams, 'We are routinely bringing in approximately a quarter-million dollars per month,' Geoffrey Biddle, Chevy Chase's village manager, told his Board of Managers in February.

For a community of 2,000 with an annual budget of $4.6 million, that's a bonanza. What's more, because locals know enough to evade the cop cams, the village's new revenue mostly comes from outsiders, rather like a commuter tax.

Nor are Chevy Chase's big gains unique. Washington's dozen cop cams have taken in more than $200 million since 2001. Scottsdale's six freeway cameras took in $17 million in 2006."

Yet another way municipalities are finding new revenue sources to take the place of federal grants in aid, property tax revenues, and other streams that have dried up. Now it is HOAs, tobacco lawsuits, sin taxes, charging fees for what was once free, and cop cams. Worldwide

I think this means the housing bubble has burst...: "Aug. 12 (Bloomberg) -- Almost one-third of U.S. homeowners who bought in the last five years now owe more on their mortgages than their properties are worth, according to, an Internet provider of home valuations."
Zillow also says that almost one quarter of all US homes sold in the last year were sold at a loss.

Roswell tightens codes, including clothesline rules |

Roswell tightens codes, including clothesline rules | "Nothing seems simpler than a load of fresh laundry hung on a clothesline to dry. Unless you live in Roswell, where a public view of socks and shirtsleeves snapping in the breeze may spell trouble. As part of an effort to strengthen code enforcement rules, the city last week started requiring its residents to hide clotheslines behind houses. The city also lowered the acceptable height of weeds and grass from 18 inches to 10 inches and reduced the time homeowners have to tidy their properties from 10 to three days. While other local governments in metro Atlanta don't admit to regulating clotheslines, it isn't uncommon to find such bans in neighborhood association covenants."
There is some sort of convergence between municipalities and HOAs going on. Thanks to Fred Pilot for this link.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Myth of 'Privatopia' / Do private residential governments mean the end of the American dream?

The Myth of 'Privatopia' / Do private residential governments mean the end of the American dream?
Thanks to Fred Fischer for the link to this San Francisco Chronicle article that has some comments from yours truly.

BBC NEWS | UK | Wales | South East Wales | Cher fan has his stereo destroyed

BBC NEWS | UK | Wales | South East Wales | Cher fan has his stereo destroyed: "A man who blasted Cher and U2 from his home has had his stereo equipment and music collection destroyed. Karl Wiosna of Graig, near Pontypridd, was warned to turn down his music by Rhondda Cynon Taf Council after complaints were made. He was served with a noise abatement notice, which he later admitted breaching. As a result, his two tape and record decks, his radio and his tapes and CDs were seized by the council."
I have to go along with this one. Cher? Talk about ruining property values.