Saturday, July 24, 2010

Professor returns from vacation to find office covered in aluminum foil

News from The Associated PressST. PETER, Minn. (AP) -- A science professor at Gustavus Adolphus College left for a week's vacation this summer and returned to a shiny office. Very shiny. Professor Scott Bur's students had covered his office in aluminum foil. Computer screen, chairs, the ceiling, the floor - all covered in foil. Books and pens were individually wrapped, so was the phone, a ball cap, a bottle and the coffee maker.
Usually I stick to an aluminum foil hat. Keeps the mind control rays out, you know. Thanks to Fred Pilot for the link.

Amid Washington Heat Wave, Senator Talks 'Global Cooling'

His Al Gore igloo melted, Sen. Jim Inhofe Not Convinced of Warming Trend

Back in February, when Washington D.C. was buried under record-breaking snowfall and the capital was paralyzed, the nation's chief climate change doubter made much of a small igloo down the street from the Capitol building as he took to the Senate floor to refute climate change.

Friday, July 23, 2010

With municipal pay like this, who needs Privatopia?

BELL, Calif. – Residents in this modest blue-collar Los Angeles suburb where one in six lives in poverty were angry: Their city manager was getting paid more than President Barack Obama and the police chief more than the commander of the nearly 13,000-member LAPD.

* * *

Their mayor and three of their four council members, people they see every day at the grocery store or church, approved the contracts, and put an obscure measure on the ballot that allowed council members to pay themselves any amount of money.

And they did: collecting between $90,000 and $100,000 a year as part-time officials.

- - -
What a deal for counties and cities: not only do they shift the cost of providing services onto privately governed HOAs, they get volunteers to run them as well who are paid zip for doing so.

Real estate deflation hits most large California counties

ALAMEDA, Calif. — Assessed property values in California are likely to decline for the second year running, according to a Bond Buyer review of data from the state’s larger counties.

Even though the state’s tax assessment system has the effect of muting the volatility of property assessments, 11 of the state’s 12 largest counties experienced a decline in their property tax roll this year.

* * *

Even the center of the Silicon Valley, Santa Clara County, was unable to avoid a shrinking roll.

“This is far worse than anyone had expected,” County Assessor Larry Stone said in the news release announcing the tax roll. The roll dropped 2.44%, by $7.4 billion.

“This county has not experienced such a devastating drop in property values since the Great Depression,” he said.

- - -

The data show this isn't a typical real estate correction cycle in which prices fall back to earth following a boom. They're actually falling into a deflationary hole in much of California, which along with Nevada has suffered some of the steepest declines in real estate value in the nation.

Economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman recently wrote that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, who studied the Depression of the 1930s for his doctoral dissertation, so fears deflation that he reportedly said he'd toss sacks of $100 bills out helicopters to prevent it. Memo to the Chairman: deploy a squadron of black helicopters bearing bags of Benjamins to California, starting in my ZIP Code.

Credit card contracts unreadable for most Americans

Credit card contracts unreadable for 80% of Americans"Credit card contracts and other such documents are written in dense prose for a reason: So that the customer will NOT be able to understand it," notes Roy Peter Clark, a national expert on writing and a senior scholar at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Fla. "I may be cynical, but I don't think their writing strategies are accidental, the collateral damage of a bureaucratic mindset. I think those writers know exactly what they are doing."
Yes. And one might say the same thing about CC&Rs.

Alligator makes a meal of Tempe Town Lake fish | Phoenix News | Arizona News | | Phoenix News

Alligator makes a meal of Tempe Town Lake fish | Phoenix News | Arizona News | | Phoenix NewsTEMPE, Ariz. -- Since the dam at Tempe Town Lake broke and the lake drained earlier this week, one of the big questions has been what will happen to the fish left behind in the drying lake bed.

Well, let's just say an alligator named Tuesday is getting one heck of a meal.

And he (or she) has a nice smile, no doubt as the result of a full tummy. - Judge: Ohio man can't form own Indian reservation - Judge: Ohio man can't form own Indian reservationLIMA, OHIO: An Ohio man who claimed that his American Indian ancestry makes him exempt from city nuisance laws has been ordered to clean up two homes that have fallen into disrepair.

A judge told William Bowersock on Thursday that he has 30 days to take care of the properties in Lima (LY'-muh).

The judge rejected Bowersock's argument that he had seceded from the local government and formed his own Indian reservation, thereby making him exempt from the city's property code.

Obviously he should have formed a one-man HOA instead.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Man Pulled Gun On Condo Tenant In Shower

A Boynton Beach homeowner's association member was arrested after pulling a gun on someone in the shower Wednesday, police said.

"He had the gun within 12 inches from my face, shaking his hand," tenant James Korienek said.

Korienek said he came face to face with an armed man inside the Boynton Beach condominium where he lives early Wednesday.

Boynton Beach police said Virgil Wilkinson, a homeowner's association board member, broke into the unit.

"I was locked in the bathroom," Korienek said. "I come out, open the door and the gun is pulled on me like this, and he had the Boynton (Beach) police on the phone. He said, 'Just stand back. Stand back.' And I'm like, 'Virgil, it's me, Jim.'"


Sounds like a scene out of a Hitchcock movie, doesn't it?

Should Condos have access to privately owned units? Is this an invitation for abuse?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Johnson battles homeowner's association in court

A homeowner's association in Kettering is suing Prince George's County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D) and his wife for allegedly failing to pay assessments to the HOA.

In court papers filed in Prince George's County District Court, the Kettering Community Association is asking for about $1,500 in late assessments and legal fees.

"We had this house for 30 years, paid our dues consistently for 30 years," Johnson said in an interview Friday. "They claim we didn't pay. ... It's only $150 (per year). The next thing I know I get a bill for $1,800 or more ... and [got a notice] they are going to foreclose on my house [from] some lawyer. I got pretty mad. I hired a lawyer representing me. ...

Mr Johnson says: "There's a pattern that's been really frustrating for us," he said. "You have these developers that come in and they build condominium associations and homeowners associations, but the way the bylaws are drafted, the citizens of Prince George's County never take control over their own communities."

Oh, Mr Johnson, I think the problem is much bigger than that!

Two bodies found in S.W. Reno house that burned after reported explosion

Investigators have found two bodies in the burned-out rubble of a home in an exclusive southwest Reno neighborhood. They have been unable to identify the victims who died in the blaze, which began shortly before 11 a.m. Tuesday.

Deputies with the Washoe County Sheriff's Office had attempted to serve an eviction at the home, which was under foreclosure, on Tuesday at about 10:40 a.m. They said they knocked and identified themselves, then heard what sounded like gunfire or an explosion and took cover.

Thanks to a a friend who alerted me to the story.

No word on whether this was a bank or an HOA foreclosure. Regardless, this is not the first time a homeowner has has self immolated in a burning house they were about to be evicted from. I sometimes think we are a little too cavalier about kicking people out of their own homes in this country.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Petition seeks to have wolves howl across US

Petition seeks to have wolves howl across U.S.

Those wild canines better not howl too close to any exurban HOAs or they may find the HOA will send out the exterminators.

Money missing from St. James HOA leads to embezzlement charge for employee

St. James | Brunswick County Sheriff's Office investigators arrested a Wilmington woman in an embezzlement scheme that siphoned more than $12,000 from the St. James Property Owners' Association.


Another embezzlement story from Cynthia Stephens.

Carolina Beach woman charged with embezzling $30,000A Carolina Beach woman has been charged with embezzling about $30,000 from homeowners associations

A Carolina Beach woman has been charged with embezzling about $30,000 from homeowners associations whose money she managed.

Michelle Lynn Bowman, 42, of 300 The Cape Boulevard, was arrested June 28 after turning herself in to Carolina Beach police. She is still being held in New Hanover County jail in lieu of $40,100 bond, according to jail officials.

She is accused of using identification numbers from four homeowners associations to get bank cards and withdraw cash, said Lt. Bill Goodson of the Carolina Beach Police Department.


Thanks to Cynthia Stephens for this story. I wonder how much money is missing from communal coffers in America's hundreds of thousands of residental associations?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

California political paradox unveils underlying tension between voters, interest groups

The Los Angeles Times has highlighted a political paradox that's playing out in California and certainly other states and the nation as a whole. While anti-incumbent sentiment remains high (last month, California voters nearly elected an unknown state worker who spent less than $5,000 on his campaign over an incumbent Assemblymember as the GOP nominee for insurance commissioner), it is incumbents whose campaigns are getting funded and not their challengers.

Voters in effect are saying we want new blood and someone not beholden to special interest groups, but we'll elect incumbents over non-incumbents since special interest groups get the incumbents' name out there more than their relatively unknown challengers. The real fight isn't over who gets elected, but between the voters and special interest groups.

The explosion of the Internet, which is already blowing a huge hole in the business models of the mass media, could change the equation. Folks running for office -- particularly in large, populous states like California -- have to raise gobs of money in order to buy political ads from mass media outlets. However, if more voters already sick of junior high school level attack ads decide to ignore them and visit candidates' websites instead, the balance of power is shifted between them and the special interest groups that fund candidates' high priced TV spots.