Saturday, July 04, 2009

Illinois gets manager licensing

New rule impacts property managers -- "'It is illegal to give somebody a haircut or sell a hot dog without a license, but it is perfectly legal in Illinois to be a community association manager with nothing but a business card,' said industry watcher Evan McKenzie, associate professor of political science at the University of Illinois at Chicago. 'Incompetence is a huge problem, and so is criminal misconduct.'"
It's about time.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Cracked Houses: What the Boom Built - Yahoo! Finance

Cracked Houses: What the Boom Built - Yahoo! Finance: "Because of tumbling real-estate values, those stuck with faulty houses say repairs often cost more than the homes are now worth. Many say they cant refinance their mortgages or sell, and they have no equity to leverage for repairs."
And so they think their only recourse is to sue the builder. Thanks to Fred Pilot for this link.

City of Casselberry backs down

Consumer health: Orlando "Populist outrage and plain fairness caused the Casselberry City Commission to ditch a new code requiring trucks with racks for ladders, pipe and other tools of serious work to be parked in garages or carports, which many truck owners did not have. The code had no provision for appeal or grandfathering current residents — stupid.

'Had a packed house at the commissioners' meeting,' reported plumber Mark Long. 'They canceled all enforcement on this code and decided to write a new one letting us park in the driveway if we take everything off the racks. No way this is perfect, but I don't know if we can get any more. I will keep on top of them and rally the troops if needed.' Power to the plumbers!"

Thanks to Beth Young for the update on this ridiculous idea. Cities need to stop emulating HOAs.

BBC - Earth News - Ant mega-colony takes over world

BBC - Earth News - Ant mega-colony takes over world: "A single mega-colony of ants has colonised much of the world, scientists have discovered.

Argentine ants living in vast numbers across Europe, the US and Japan belong to the same inter-related colony, and will refuse to fight one another."

Not only that, but they all live in condominiums.

Population numbers bounce back in cities -

Population numbers bounce back in cities - "The housing crisis and economic downturn that have forced many Americans to stay put are boosting older cities where population had been shrinking or was stagnant, according to Census estimates out Wednesday.

Last year, Los Angeles recorded its biggest annual increase since 2002 and New York its second largest this decade. Chicago, where population had declined for five years this decade, grew by 0.73%.

The article offers two explanations. The lefty urban planners who think we should all abandon the suburbs and our SUVs for tiny urban condos and walking to work are convinced that this is The Sign that their apocalyptic warnings have been heeded. But the other explanation is :"Cities' rebound may be a result of people not being able to sell their homes or condos or not having jobs to allow them to leave cities."

Can't get out is quite a bit different than can't wait to get in.

Stimulus or Not, States Are Cutting Summer School -

Stimulus or Not, States Are Cutting Summer School - "Nearly every school system in Florida has eviscerated or eliminated summer school this year, and officials are reporting sweeping cuts in states from North Carolina and Delaware to California and Washington. The cuts have come as states across the country are struggling to approve budgets, and California’s governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, declared a fiscal state of emergency on Wednesday...The federal stimulus law is channeling $100 billion to public education, and Education Secretary Arne Duncan has repeatedly urged states and districts to spend part of the money to keep schools open this summer.

But thousands of districts have ignored Mr. Duncan’s urgings."

That stimulus bill is turning out to be a great deal, isn't it?

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Commentary: Franken victory is not funny -

Commentary: Franken victory is not funny - "The metric system is the kind of thing that you can expect from the 60-vote filibuster-proof majority Democrats now have in the United States Senate."
Well, I've never thought Franken was funny anyway. But how anybody can think that converting to the metric system is a crazy idea is beyond me. The US, Liberia, and Burma, are the only three nations in the world that don't use the metric system. Does that put us in distinguished company, or something?

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

GM Seeks Court's OK to Become 'New' Company - Auto -

GM Seeks Court's OK to Become 'New' Company - Auto - "NEW YORK — General Motors Corp., hoping for a quick exit from Chapter 11, on Tuesday will ask a bankruptcy judge to approve its plan to refashion itself as a leaner automaker owned mostly by the government."
Isn't "leaner" and "owned mostly by the government" an oxymoron?

Gloomy U.S. consumers clip housing recovery hopes - Yahoo! Finance

Gloomy U.S. consumers clip housing recovery hopes - Yahoo! Finance: "WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. consumer confidence took an unexpectedly steep slide in June, figures released on Tuesday showed, suggesting the 18-month-long recession had yet to loosen its grip on the economy.

A separate report on April house prices in major cities offered some encouraging signs that the worst of the housing slump may be over, but that was not enough to lift investors' spirits, while another crop of economic data showed business activity in New York City and the Midwest remained weak and retail chains slogged through a rough June.

Billionaire investor George Soros added to the cautionary tone, saying fears of inflation would drive up borrowing costs and choke off growth once financial markets recover."

The local paper says retailers are writing off any hopes for a good summer season and are dumping recreational gear, with half-off sales and big off-loading to internet overstock sites.

Home price decline flattens out in April - Jun. 30, 2009

Home price decline flattens out in April - Jun. 30, 2009: "Home prices continued to tumble in April, falling 18.1% from a year earlier -- but the change from March narrowed sharply, indicating that housing markets may be starting to turn.

The 20-city slice of the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price index recorded a drop of 0.6% from March to April, compared with a 2.2% drop in the prior month. The index has declined every month since July 2006."

It's about time.

Queen Michelle the First? - Jeremy D. Mayer -

Queen Michelle the First? - Jeremy D. Mayer - "Michelle Obama wants a bigger role in her husband’s administration, according to The Washington Post. Unlike Laura Bush, who focused on a few peripheral issues, Obama wants a seat at the table when key policies are made.

Obama’s new chief of staff, Susan Sher, is part of the crucial 8:15 a.m. White House staff meeting. The first lady’s team of more than 20 has been told to think “strategically” about how to make her a player on policies she cares about.

This could be a very bad idea."

I think I saw this movie. It was in all the theaters between January 1993 and January 2001.

CHA mixed-income building has class clash --

CHA mixed-income building has class clash -- "Low-income apartment dwellers and middle-class condo owners have shared Westhaven Park Tower since the building opened in 2006 -- an innovative setup that the city hoped would unite residents and exemplify Chicago's $1.6 billion overhaul of public housing.

Proximity, however, has not led to harmony.

The most recent skirmish inside the 113-unit midrise on Hermitage Avenue on the West Side concerned building security. Another flare-up centered on the proper use of the lobby: Public housing residents -- who make up a third of the building -- saw it as a place to hang out; condo owners did not.

Kathy Quickery, president of the building's condominium association, put it bluntly in a letter to the CHA last month: 'After living in the building for three years, I consider the project a failure for homeowners.'"

This is one of the outcomes of the Clinton Administration's housing policy. These mixed-income developments were the result of the HOPE VI program that replaced public housing projects with places like this. Another part of the Clinton-Cisneros housing policy was expanding home ownership to the poor by forcing banks to lend to them. That worked out just about as well as the mixed-income housing concept.


Check out Koreen Kruger's blog. Thanks to Fred Pilot for the tip.

Sen. Inhofe Calls for Inquiry Into 'Suppressed' Climate Change Report - Political News -

Sen. Inhofe Calls for Inquiry Into 'Suppressed' Climate Change Report - Political News - "The 98-page report, co-authored by EPA analyst Alan Carlin, pushed back on the prospect of regulating gases like carbon dioxide as a way to reduce global warming. Carlin's report argued that the information the EPA was using was out of date, and that even as atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have increased, global temperatures have declined."
The Obama Administration can't have that report floating around just as they are getting the cap and trade bill passed.

States brace for shutdowns - Los Angeles Times

States brace for shutdowns - Los Angeles Times: "Indiana is one of five states -- along with Arizona, California, Mississippi and Pennsylvania -- bracing for possible shutdowns this week as time runs out for lawmakers to close billion-dollar gaps in their fiscal 2010 budgets.

Of the 46 states whose fiscal year ends today, 32 did not have budgets passed and approved by their governors as of Monday afternoon, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Although the majority of those are expected to pass eleventh-hour budgets, the fiscal futures of a handful remain uncertain, said Todd Haggerty, an NCSL research analyst."

Just heard that the Illinois House has come up with a great solution: borrow $2.3 billion. Way to cut that Gordian Knot, guys.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Indiana Governor Warns Government Shutdown Possible

Indiana Governor Warns Government Shutdown Possible: "Gov. Mitch Daniels has said he was prepared to keep essential services such as public safety running if lawmakers do not pass a budget by midnight June 30, but warned that most of state government would shut down.

Daniels said he would use emergency powers to keep state police and prisons operating, and public assistance - including unemployment insurance - would keep being distributed to those already eligible. The Indiana National Guard, state Department of Homeland Security and health officials would be available on standby.

But he said state parks would not be open and Bureau of Motor Vehicle branches and other state offices would close, as would casinos and the lottery because they are regulated by the state. Most of the state's 30,900 employees would be furloughed."

Thanks to Fred Pilot for this barely pre-apocalyptic announcement.

Congressional Budget Office: Debt Tsunami

The Debt Tsunami - "To put it bluntly, the fiscal policy of the United States is unsustainable. Debt is growing faster than gross domestic product. Under the CBO's most realistic scenario, the publicly held debt of the U.S. government will reach 82 percent of GDP by 2019 -- roughly double what it was in 2008. By 2026, spiraling interest payments would push the debt above its all-time peak (set just after World War II) of 113 percent of GDP. It would reach 200 percent of GDP in 2038.

This huge mass of debt, which would stifle economic growth and reduce the American standard of living, can be avoided only through spending cuts, tax increases or some combination of the two. And the longer government waits to get its financial house in order, the more it will cost to do so, the CBO says."

There is no way the national government will reach those debt levels, which are not only unsustainable but impossible, because at that point nobody will buy our bonds. Long before the federal government hits that level, our creditors--including the Chinese--will have forced the US government into virtual receivership and will be dictating our policies, on pain of no more lending.

And a government that out of control will cripple the economy. If we get this cap and trade policy, along with national health insurance, energy prices and tax rates will go so high that this recession will never end. The state and local governments are raising taxes already, and soon the higher federal taxes will suck up even more private revenues.

Condo association president gets 2 years for embezzling $530,000 | prosecutors, kontos, association, laser, condominium - News -

Condo association president gets 2 years for embezzling $530,000 | prosecutors, kontos, association, laser, condominium - News - "SANTA ANA – The former head of a Newport Beach condominium association was sentenced to two years in prison Friday in a case involving embezzling more than $530,000 and shining laser beams into cockpits of police helicopters, county prosecutors said."
Thanks to Shu Bartholomew for this insight into the life of a busy guy.

Clotheslines blow through culture again | Richmond Times-Dispatch

Clotheslines blow through culture again | Richmond Times-Dispatch: "Planned communities and condos frequently have covenants that ban or restrict the use of clotheslines. In the Richmond area, restrictions vary -- from all-out prohibition, as in Charles Glen in Henrico County, to restricted use, as in Chesterfield County's venerable Woodlake and Brandermill subdivisions.

'We do allow portable devices [drying racks], just not permanent ones,' said Brian Hoyle, community-standards manager for Woodlake, where racks must be brought inside once the laundry is dry.

With more than 300,000 community associations across the country, promoting clothesline use has been an uphill task for Alexander Lee, founder of the nonprofit Project Laundry List, which he started 11 years ago as a Middlebury College student."

Using coercion to enforce bonehead stereotypes about what is bad for property values--your HOA in action.