Friday, March 06, 2009

Arizona Capitol Times - Serving Arizona's Business, Government and Political Community since 1946

Arizona Capitol Times - Lawsuit says Casa Grande HOA run like a racket – community suffers : "The two swimming pools have been filled in with dirt. One clubhouse has been leased out to a volunteer fire department. Trash has piled up in an adjoining lot. The other clubhouse has been closed off with a chain-link fence and razor wire. What’s left of it was covered with graffiti. The streets were overgrown with weeds. Stop signs, utility boxes and a half-built house were all covered in graffiti. A back road from the main entrance into the community dead ends at a large flood-control canal. The last flood washed out the road. It was never repaired. “They didn’t do anything with the assessment money,” Neisent said. “They didn’t maintain the roads, the facilities that were promised. We have no clubhouse. We have nothing.” No new homes have been built for a few years, largely because the DC Lot Owners Association — the community’s HOA — outlawed septic tanks. No new sewer hookups are available. “It could have been a really nice area,” Neisent said. In another interview, she added: “It just deteriorated before your very eyes.”

The deterioration can be traced to the homeowners association, she said."

Fred Pilot sent this link. The photo shows a dilapidated clubhouse and a patch of dirt that once was a swimming pool.

Condo owner finds out he's been living and renovating in the wrong unit - KDVR

Condo owner finds out he's been living and renovating in the wrong unit - KDVR:
DENVER - He bought his first home, poured $30,000.00 into it to fix up, now 6 months later Jonathon Kyte has learned his home doesn't belong to him.

'I froze, I just pointed at it, my wife was there, we were just speechless.'

According to the city and county of Denver, Jonathon owns the dump, next door. He found out about the mistake almost by accident when he recieved a map which showed the unit he's living is actually unit number 4.

But he owns the deed and title to unit number 5."

Now, that has to hurt.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

GM auditors raise the specter of bankruptcy - Yahoo! Finance

GM auditors raise the specter of bankruptcy - Yahoo! Finance
Hasn't this been a foregone conclusion for at least a year? Get on with it. News FDIC running out of money to insure consumer deposit accounts: "Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chairman Sheila Bair said the fund it uses to protect customer deposits at U.S. banks could dry up amid a surge in bank failures, as she responded to an industry outcry against new fees approved by the agency."
Sounds like a great time to expand health care coverage, don't you think? What's a few trillion more?

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Green living hung up in Carrboro: Town seeks authority to override homeowners' associations: News: Orange County: Independent Weekly: Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill

Green living hung up in Carrboro: Town seeks authority to override homeowners' associations: News: Orange County: Independent Weekly: Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill: "Kolling-Perin lives in Roberson Place, a neighborhood governed in part by homeowners' association covenants. The covenants, like most other documents of their kind, restrict what residents may do with their property, including installing so-called 'sustainability features' like clotheslines. Rules like these are meant to protect property owners from less tidy neighbors, whose unsightly yard ornaments or garish color choices could conceivably lower property values for those around them. But Kolling-Perin was surprised to learn that her environmentally friendly community wouldn't allow a clothesline, even temporarily.

'Many of us moved here because of how liberal it is,' she said. 'Carrboro is a place where you can live your politics.'

Kolling-Perin contacted Carrboro Mayor Mark Chilton to see if the town had a process for circumventing homeowners' association rules when it came to environmentally friendly home improvements. Carrboro had no such law, but Chilton and the Board of Aldermen thought well enough of the notion to take it up as an issue.

'People in Carrboro take sustainability very seriously and want to be able to be a community on the leading edge,' Alderman Dan Coleman said."

What a hoot. This place would make a great sitcom.
Fred Pilot sent the link to this saga of conscience-ridden folks of Carrboro.

Russian scholar says US will collapse — next year

Russian scholar says US will collapse — next year: "MOSCOW – If you're inclined to believe Igor Panarin, and the Kremlin wouldn't mind if you did, then President Barack Obama will order martial law this year, the U.S. will split into six rump-states before 2011, and Russia and China will become the backbones of a new world order.

Panarin might be easy to ignore but for the fact that he is a dean at the Foreign Ministry's school for future diplomats and a regular on Russia's state-guided TV channels. And his predictions fit into the anti-American story line of the Kremlin leadership."

Fred Pilot found this upbeat piece from the Kremlin.
Civic Committee Task Force Report Asserts that State of Illinois Nearing 'Financial Tipping Point'
Here is the punch line from the executive summary:
One of the many lessons from our country’s current financial and economic crisis is that a failure to act brought unsound actions to a tipping point. When a financial tipping point is reached, it becomes impossible to contain the spread of economic damage or quickly remedy the situation.

Illinois is dangerously close to a financial tipping point with unfunded debts of over
$116 billion—amounting to roughly $10,000 per resident, if not more. Government
inefficiencies and deficit budgeting will increase this by up to $10 billion per year. Unless
urgently-needed steps are taken, Illinois will soon reach a point of no return. The State will not
have sufficient resources to carry out basic public functions or keep its financial obligations to
retired public employees. This is a problem that will be faced by the current generation of
elected officials and residents of Illinois.

Note that language about what happens when you pass the tipping point. Their 2006 report was dire enough. Everybody agreed with them, but state government did nothing except make the problems worse. In August 2008, Blagojevich handed the state employee unions a 15% pay raise over 4 years. State employee pensions and medical benefits are a huge part of the problem, and the unions refuse to do much of anything to reduce those costs for new hires. They are stuck on more bread and butter for unions, forget the consequences.

Now the state of Illinois is staring right down the gun barrel of insolvency. And that is not an exaggerated metaphor. California has gotten all the press, but Illinois is very nearly in the same situation. If we had a responsible governing class, maybe they could work through it. But the fact is that Illinois ultimately is run by the Chicago Democratic Party machine, and they view the state government as an ATM. I don't expect the public employee unions, mobsters, machine hacks, and ethnic group privilege-mongers to do anything productive about this situation. It seems likely that, like California, Illinois will have to hit the wall.

Late HOA dues lead to foreclosure threat | Latest News |

Late HOA dues lead to foreclosure threat | Latest News | "Steve Pilat made his house payment, but not his homeowner's association payment. It was a decision that almost cost him his home.

The Irving homeowner's home was among 88 houses and condos listed to be sold at an auction Tuesday due to overdue HOA fees."

I suppose these are great times for all the HOA/condo association collections lawyers.

GOP to Michael Steele: Quiet About Rush Limbaugh or You're Fired - Washington Whispers (

GOP to Michael Steele: Quiet About Rush Limbaugh or You're Fired - Washington Whispers ( "For no reason, he is dividing the GOP between conservatives who like Limbaugh and moderates who don't and jeopardizing future fundraising efforts, his key responsibility."
As I said. Another strange thing is that Steele has decided that he, Michael Steele, is the public face of the Republican Pary. Not so. He's the CEO of an organization that needs to get certain basic things done, and fast. As a "senior party advisor" said, "He needs to hire staff for the RNC, get the operations up and running, start raising money, and understand that his role is to win elections,"... Officials are concerned that Steele either doesn't understand his responsibilities or has an inflated vision of his role. "At this point, it is as if he has a fundamental misunderstanding of the job description.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Geithner: Obama to fight international tax dodgers

Geithner: Obama to fight international tax dodgers: "WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama's Treasury secretary says the administration will unveil a series of rules and measures in the coming months to limit the ability of international companies to avoid U.S. taxes.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner told the House Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday that Obama will propose legislation to limit U.S. companies' ability to shelter foreign earnings from taxation in the U.S. He also said the administration will try to limit wealthy Americans' ability to use tax havens to avoid taxation."

Yes, this is the same Timothy Geithner whose appointment was in doubt because he dodged taxes while working overseas.

White House Knocks Jim Cramer For Calling Obama Budget "Greatest Wealth Destruction By a President" - TVNewser

White House Knocks Jim Cramer For Calling Obama Budget "Greatest Wealth Destruction By a President" - TVNewser
I find it odd that President Obama chose as his press secretary a fellow who is so fond of snide, nasty little jibes that take the place of answers to direct questions. I would have thought that Obama would choose someone relatively forthright. This Gibbs individual answers every tough question with some sort of snarky little personal attack.

Mall wants Manilow music to drive out unruly teens

Mall wants Manilow music to drive out unruly teens: "A group of several dozen young people regularly spread rubbish, spray graffiti, get intoxicated, use drugs, swear and intimidate patrons at the outdoor mall, he said.

The city council, police and local property owners covering 410 businesses agree that 'nice, easy listening' music like Manilow's 'Can't Smile Without You,' 'Mandy' and other hits might change the behavior of loitering teens.

But one 16-year-old told The Press newspaper that unfashionable music wouldn't deter them.

'We would just bring a stereo and play it louder,' Emma Belcher said.

Lonsdale countered that the city would then hit them with anti-noise laws."

Ms. Belcher threatens to pump up the jam. Lonsdale will go nuke in response. And the strains of "I Write the Songs" depress spirits all over the mall.

Our Troubled Economy Is a Response to Barack Obama's Policies -

Our Troubled Economy Is a Response to Barack Obama's Policies - "As 2009 opened, three weeks before Barack Obama took office, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 9034 on January 2, its highest level since the autumn panic. Yesterday the Dow fell another 4.24% to 6763, for an overall decline of 25% in two months and to its lowest level since 1997. The dismaying message here is that President Obama's policies have become part of the economy's problem."
Somebody in the press finally said it.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Moffett to quit Freddie Mac as CEO - Mar. 2, 2009: "Freddie Mac's chief executive, installed last year after the government took over the troubled mortgage finance company, is resigning, the company and its regulator said Monday."
CEO of Fannie Mae = Drummer for Spinal Tap ?

Portland Downtown Living: New guidelines for Fannie Mae condominium loans

Portland Downtown Living: New guidelines for Fannie Mae condominium loans: "Effective March 1, 2009, Fannie Mae is implementing condo guideline changes “in light of the current condo market and the need to mitigate risk on condo loans”. Some of these changes may affect a buyer’s ability to obtain conventional condo loans for new and established condos."
Check out this summary from the article:
"* For new construction and newly converted condo developments, 70% of the units must be pre-sold (closed or under contract). This is being increased from 51%.
* No more than 15% of a condo project units can be more than 30 days delinquent on HOA dues. This is an existing guideline that is now being applied to new condo projects. The calculation was also changed from being 15% of HOA fee payments to 15% of total units.
* Fidelity insurance will be required for condos with 20 or more units, ensuring that homeowner association funds are protected. Presently, this requirement applies to new projects and is now being extended to include established condos.
* A requirement that borrowers must now obtain a condo-owners insurance policy unless the master policy provides interior unit coverage; coverage may not be less than 20% of the assessed value. A condo-owners policy, known as an HO-6 policy, covers personal property, personal liability, and the physical unit from the studs and in. Many policies also include special assessment coverage or the option to include a special assessment coverage rider.
* No more than 10% of a project can be owned by a single entity.
* No more than 20% of a project can consist of non-residential space.
* The homeowners association must have at least 10% of its budgeted income designated for replacement reserves and adequate funds budgeted for the insurance deductible."

Lawmakers look for ways to aid condo associations - Business Monday -

Lawmakers look for ways to aid condo associations - Business Monday - "State Rep. Julio Robaina, a Miami Republican who has hosted a series of town hall meetings on the issue, said his top priority would be ensuring associations are made whole by banks before the foreclosure process is finished and huge delinquencies have accumulated.

Other lawmakers are also proposing legislation to address the problem.

''Constituents have brought me clear evidence that banks are purposely delaying the foreclosure proceedings, thus hurting the associations,'' Robaina said."

I wonder if owner groups can join with CAI in backing this.

German MP wants DNA testing on dog poo: "A German lawmaker proposed on Monday a novel and high-tech way of dealing with the menace of dog poo on the streets: DNA testing to identify the canine culprit and fine its owner.

Peter Stein, a conservative politician in eastern Germany, told AFP that under his proposal, officials would test the excrement and then match it up to the offending dog using a DNA database of all pooches."

I expect this technology to show up in the nation's HOAs as soon as it gets cheap enough. Imagine the potential for imposing fines.

Steele to Rush: I'm sorry - Mike Allen - "Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele says he has reached out to Rush Limbaugh to tell him he meant no offense when he referred to the popular conservative radio host as an “entertainer” whose show can be “incendiary.”

“My intent was not to go after Rush – I have enormous respect for Rush Limbaugh,” Steele said in a telephone interview. “I was maybe a little bit inarticulate. … There was no attempt on my part to diminish his voice or his leadership.”

Oh, really? He "meant no offense"?

Here is what Steele said, in the real world where most of us reside: Steele told CNN host D.L. Hughley in an interview aired Saturday night: “Rush Limbaugh is an entertainer. Rush Limbaugh — his whole thing is entertainment. He has this incendiary — yes, it's ugly.”"

I completely understand Steele's original point of view--the one he is trying to crawfish on--and his frustration. His party has been identified with a certain kind of discourse that is often so harsh and uncompromising it turns off groups the party needs in order to win elections, at least outside the South. Limbaugh, Hannity, Savage, Ingram, Coulter, and others are louder than any voice that comes from within the party organization or even elected Republican office-holders. They are "branding" (Steele's word) the party in a way that makes it hard to win over the non-ideological center of the political spectrum.

The media's conservative flame throwers disagree with that strategy, and want the party to fight Goldwater/Reagan-style from the hard ideological right, which (they believe) is a winning strategy because of an inherent conservatism that they discern in American political culture. Steele is frustrated because he thinks he knows how to win, but these folks are standing between him and the media and electorate.

I don't know what the Republicans should do. I don't have an ideological axe to grind anyway. But I do know the leader of a national political party can't shoot his foot off this way. Even Howard Dean was more circumspect. Whatever you do, you just don't alienate your base.

Coming on the heels of conservative delight at Limbaugh's speech at CPAC, Steele's timing couldn't have been worse. There is nothing Steele can do to erase the effect of what he said. It will never be forgotten, much less forgiven, by the conservative base of the GOP. That resentment will translate directly into an unwillingness to contribute, and exacerbate the existing division within the party over ideology and electoral strategy.

Teen shows gun is safe by shooting self in foot | | Tampa, St. Petersburg, Clearwater

Teen shows gun is safe by shooting self in foot | | Tampa, St. Petersburg, Clearwater: "The Manatee County Sheriff's office says a 15-year-old boy shot himself in the foot. The boy had been playing around with a loaded 9mm Ruger while at a friend's house. The 17-year-old friend warned him of the danger and asked him to put the gun away. The 15-year-old wanted to show his friend that the gun was safe by pointing it to the ground and pulling the trigger. The gun went off and teen now has a hole in his foot."
Maybe he should take over the leadership of the Republican Party.

CNN Political Ticker: All politics, all the time Blog Archive - Limbaugh fires back at Steele « - Blogs from
As Emperor Rahm Emanuel Palpatine said, "Everything is unfolding as I have foreseen."
Emanuel set this up brilliantly, if obviously, by saying that Limbaugh was the leader of the GOP. That predictably ticked off the newly-elected leader, Michael Steele, who proceeded to insult Limbaugh as nothing more than an entertainer, ugly, etc. That was an incredibly stupid thing to do, and it makes me think he isn't as smart as advertised, but it is too late to take it back. Of course, Limbaugh blasted back using his gazillion-watt national blowtorch. And now the conservatives, all of whom love Limbaugh, are furious with the GOP, which they see as directionless, leaderless, and devoid of principle. Steele's main job as head of the RNC is raising money, because McCain was grotesquely outspent. Insulting Limbaugh and by implication the conservative base is the best way to make the money dry up.

The core dispute in the party is that the conservatives always hated McCain, who has been RINO-in-chief of the US Senate, but they supported him in the general election anway. The result is the most leftist presidency in US history. The right is furious at what is coming from Obama and they believe a real conservative would have won the election.

I don't know about that, but I do know that the Republican party is coming apart at the seams. I think one-party systems are inherently awful (take a look at Illinois), but I guess that's where we are headed.
When I was in graduate school, I took a political theory course from Mark Kann, one of the best teachers I ever encountered. One day, somebody in the class argued that we needed a real socialist as president, because then we could have socialism in the US. Kann responded by asking, rhetorically, what the student thought would happen if a president and congress started enacting European-style social democratic policies in the US. Kann said that the stock market would crash, and that's why nobody would try it. Looking at today's Dow Jones average--plummeting another 300 points or so and plunging well into the 6000s--I think maybe Mark Kann was half right: that's what happens, but somebody is trying it anyway.

Texas Legislator Aims to Limit Power of Homeowners' Associations

Texas Legislator Aims to Limit Power of Homeowners' Associations: "Texas State Rep. Burt Solomons (Carrollton) has announced plans for a sweeping reform of the state's homeowners' association laws, including a constitutional amendment that would prohibit foreclosure of a homestead by a homeowners' association.

Solomons, a real estate attorney in the North Texas area who served for fourteen years on the House committee with jurisdiction over homeowners' associations, said the legislation is necessary.

'It's clear to me that while homeowners' associations are valuable' said Solomons, 'things have just gotten out of control with some of them. I think it's amazing that in Texas the courts, not the legislature, have allowed homeowners' associations to foreclose on a homestead.'"

From Fred Pilot--sounds like the annual HOA wars have gotten underway.

World stocks fall on US economic slump, bank woes - Yahoo! Finance

World stocks fall on US economic slump, bank woes - Yahoo! Finance: "Wall Street headed for another big drop, one that could hurl the Dow Jones industrials below 7,000, after American International Group Inc. posted the largest quarterly loss in U.S. corporate history. The Dow Jones industrial average has dropped for six consecutive months, and is worth less than half of its October 2007 record high of 14,164.53."

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Westside race for 5th District City Council seat is wide open - Los Angeles Times

Westside race for 5th District City Council seat is wide open - Los Angeles Times: "Although neighborhood councils and labor unions have expanded their reach into other parts of Los Angeles, homeowner associations remain a potent political force in the 5th, at times hiring their own traffic engineers as they fight the district's many multistory development projects.

Many of those neighborhood groups joined forces in 2007 to mount a recall campaign against Weiss, who is now running for city attorney. Although that effort fizzled, several of the same activists have coalesced this year around neighborhood council member David T. Vahedi, who lost to Weiss in 2005.

Vahedi, 42, made a splash by promising not to accept any contributions from real estate developers who do business with the city, a dramatic break from the current councilman. He also courted neighborhood activists by promoting a constituent bill of rights, one that includes 'the right to have local homeowner association leaders and residents present at all meetings where development projects are discussed.'"


Brown woos Obama on global deal - Times Online

Brown woos Obama on global deal - Times Online: "Many US politicians believe economic policy should put America first, and have shown little interest in concerted global action. Brown will argue for a renewal of the transatlantic relationship, with the two powers working together to solve global economic problems.

The prime minister will borrow from the rhetoric of Franklin Roosevelt, who introduced the government-financed New Deal to tackle the US Depression of the 1930s. He will argue that his 21st century “global new deal” will also require public spending on a huge world-wide scale."

Spending? Spending what, exactly? How can the US, with or without Great Britain, save anybody by spending money we don't even have?

L.A. budget gap could hit $1 billion - Los Angeles Times

L.A. budget gap could hit $1 billion - Los Angeles Times: "Los Angeles could face nearly a $1-billion shortfall by 2010 because of a mammoth bailout needed for the city's employee pension funds, which have seen investments tank in the spiraling national recession, according to a city budget report released Friday.

The grim forecast of a $983-million budget gap came as Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa already was considering widespread city layoffs and deep cuts to services because of the worsening financial crisis. The mayor is also exploring whether to privatize the Los Angeles Zoo and leasing city parking garages and meters, which could raise hundreds of millions of dollars. The total budget this year is $7 billion."

You know it is bad when a socialist mayor is thinking about privatization.

Buffett says U.S. Treasury bubble one for the ages | Reuters

Buffett says U.S. Treasury bubble one for the ages | Reuters: "NEW YORK (Reuters) - Warren Buffett, whose Berkshire Hathaway Inc (BRKa.N) (BRKb.N) sits on $25.54 billion (17.8 billion pounds) of cash, said worried investors are making a costly mistake by buying up U.S. Treasuries that yield almost nothing."
After the '82 recession the economy got going with what I would characterize as a defense spending bubble and leveraged buyout bubble and the savings and loan bubble. Then after the USSR collapsed, and the 1991-92 recession, we had the dot com bubble, and when that crashed we had the housing bubble. Now that crashed. So apparently we are now on to the Treasury bubble.

My question is: when is the US once again going to have an economy that is based on producing something real that people get paid to make, and that people actually need and will pay for? Bankruptcy talk derails city bond sale Bankruptcy talk derails city bond sale: "STOCKTON - The city was trying to sell $31 million in bonds last week when, in an unrelated meeting of the City Council's budget and finance committee, Councilman Dale Fritchen brought up bankruptcy.

It made the news the next day, and investors who were prepared hours earlier to buy Stockton bonds at an average interest rate of just less than 7 percent became skittish, perceiving an increased risk and demanding a higher rate of return."

Yes, that would tend to depress the market for buying the city's bonds.

Door tags let residents play water cops

Door tags let residents play water cops: "“Dear neighbor,” the hanger reads. “Our region is facing a serious water shortage. This makes eliminating water waste more important than ever. While passing your home, I noticed the following:”

Five check boxes allow you to identify a variety of offenses, including sprinklers that run every day (instead of two or three times a week), broken nozzles that leak and irrigation systems that turn on even when it's raining.

Leaders of the San Diego County Water Authority hope that residents will act as self-appointed hydro-cops and hang 1.75 million of these tags on the doors of water-hogging neighbors."

This should do wonders for neighbor relations in the gazillions of HOAs all over San Diego.