Saturday, July 31, 2010

Upscale community may hire coyote trapper | Weird news stories, bizarre news, strange but true stories: Bizarre Florida | & St. Petersburg Times

Upscale community may hire coyote trapper | Weird news stories, bizarre news, strange but true stories: Bizarre Florida | & St. Petersburg Times
Gator trappers do a brisk business in Florida, and now a homeowners association in Parkland is contemplating hiring a coyote trapper, reports. Area residents say coyotes are slaughtering their cats, sheep and a dog. (We’ll assume the sheep are not in the gated, upscale CypressHead community.)
A few years ago, an HOA here in Lake County, IL, hired some meatball who tramped around with a .44 magnum trying to find the mountain lion they were sure was lurking nearby. He never found anything but he did get his name in the paper. Other HOAs have hired people to shoot geese and deer. If you buy a house near Mother Nature, you get animals. Personally, I like the fact that we have coyotes, deer, foxes, possums, raccoons, ground squirrels, herons, red-tailed hawks, owls, and snapping turtles in and around our back yard. I never got this perspective that you can just eradicate any animal species that displeases you.

Thanks to Fred Pilot for the link.

Regulators close banks in Fla., Ga., Ore., Wash. - Business -

Regulators close banks in Fla., Ga., Ore., Wash. - Business -
Regulators on Friday shut banks in Florida, Georgia, Oregon and Washington, lifting to 108 the number of U.S. banks to fail this year as the industry has struggled to cope with mounting loan defaults and recession.
And so the recovery continues.

Texas soldier gets home back after foreclosure | texas, dallas, foreclosure - Online Extras - Brownsville Herald

Texas soldier gets home back after foreclosure | texas, dallas, foreclosure - Online Extras - Brownsville HeraldDALLAS (AP) — The Frisco soldier and his family who lost their home to foreclosure while he was serving in Iraq will get the house back.

Army National Guard Capt. Michael Clauer and his wife, May, lost their $315,000 southwest Frisco home in May 2008 after falling behind on Heritage Lakes Homeowners Association dues.

The Clauers sued the association and subsequent buyers in federal court. A court-ordered settlement conference led to an agreement this week that gives the house back to the Clauers.

A gag order prevents those involved from sharing details.

Gag order? The episode is enough to make anybody gag. And the Texas state legislature is stirring itself into possible action, so stay tuned. But the state-by-state struggle to get simple protections for owners against their HOAs just goes on and on.

Thanks to Fred Pilot for the link.

Friday, July 30, 2010

States going deeper into debt - Jul. 30, 2010

States going deeper into debt - Jul. 30, 2010
NEW YORK ( -- The states are broke, and like many consumers, they're borrowing big time to get out of their fiscal binds.

The amount of debt that states are carrying spiked 10.3% last year to $460 billion, according to Moody's Investors Service. The debt is paid for through taxes and fees, making residents ultimately responsible.

Honestly, it amazes me that this situation is getting so little attention. While the press covers Chelsea Clinton's wedding plans, half the states are becoming insolvent.

Congratulations to Marjorie Murray and the Center for California Homeowner Association Law!

Evan: we want to share this announcement with you and with the readers. We look forward to seeing it posted on your blog and your website! We see small claims court and unbundled legal services as crucial tools for achieving justice for homeowners in the courts.

Please do visit our website: we have LOTS of new material on it – including a video of our small claims court workshop.

Regards –

Marjorie Murray, President
Center for California Homeowner Association Law
Oakland, California


The Center for California Homeowner Association Law (CCHAL) announced today that it has been nominated for the Louis M. Brown award given annually by the American Bar Association.

This national award honors advocates across the country, whose innovative programs improve access to legal services for the working poor and for moderate income people, that is: people who may not qualify for legal aid or pro bono legal services, yet do not have sufficient resources to pay for full-service attorneys.

Announcing the nominees, the Bar Association said, “The sole unifying element of the Brown Award nominees is their dedication to improving access to legal services for those who cannot otherwise afford it and thereby advancing access to justice for all.”

The Center has campaigned for better access to justice by making it possible for homeowners to bring certain issues into small claims court and for training homeowners in small claims court procedures. The Center is also training attorneys to provide “unbundled” or limited scope services. "Limited scope" holds promise as a more affordable way to deliver legal services to the working poor, to seniors, and to others of modest means.

A California superior court judge with in-depth knowledge of the Center’s work, nominated CCHAL for this national award.

Some of the small claims suits filed by homeowners are on the CCHAL website. [Keyword: small claims.] The CCHAL training video on small claims is also on the website. Trainers are two attorneys who are experts in preparing small claims suits. A DVD on preparing a small claims action is also available by mail from CCHAL.

CCHAL NewsBrief
July 20, 2010

Few in U.S. move for new jobs, fueling fear the economy might get stuck, too

Few in U.S. move for new jobs, fueling fear the economy might get stuck, too: "Labor mobility has nearly ground to a halt in the past two years, and policymakers are increasingly worried that the slowdown is not just a symptom of the nation's economic struggles but also a barrier to overcoming them.

With many people locked in homes by underwater mortgages, only 1.6 percent of Americans moved between states in a one-year period that ended in March 2009 -- a labor stagnation not seen in half a century."

Thanks to Shu Bartholomew for this link. People aren't buying homes because they can't sell the one they have. How can they move to another city without a job to go to, and without selling their home?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

AP survey: A bleaker outlook for economy into 2011

AP survey: Economists turn more pessimistic for coming year, but most say rebound will endure

Economic growth the rest of this year and early next year will be weak -- less than 3 percent. For the April-to-June quarter, economists pegged growth at 2.8 percent. That's far below the 3.7 percent pace predicted just three months ago.

-- The unemployment rate will be no lower at the end of the year than it is now -- 9.5 percent. A majority think it will be 2015 or later before the rate falls to a historically normal 5 percent.

-- State budget shortfalls pose a "significant" or "severe" risk to the national economy. The loss of tax revenue has forced state and local governments to cut services and lay off workers.

Memo to Prof. McKenzie: The economy is indeed post recessionary based on the growth figures above. But it's no great shakes as you are noting from the trailing indicators including unemployment and state budget shortfalls.

President of St. Louis Federal Reserve concerned by prospect of deflation

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Debate is intensifying at the Federal Reserve over how best to cope with a weakening recovery, with momentum growing for a concrete plan to prevent a backslide into recession.

That came into view Thursday as James Bullard, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, offered a specific proposal. He said the Fed should revive a crisis-era program to buy government debt if the country seems headed toward a bout with deflation.

Bullard, a voting member this year on the Fed's main policy-setting committee, worries that the United States could tip into a Japanese-like bout of deflation if the economy weakens. Deflation is a widespread and prolonged drop in prices of goods, values of homes and stocks, and in wages.

For now, Bullard thinks the deflation risk is still low. But the danger could grow. Buying government debt would energize the economy and nip deflationary forces.

I believe deflation is a very real and present danger to the economy given the paralyzing gut shot it has taken over the past two and a half years that has sucked out all the money and consequently left a large amount of slack in the economy. All that excess capacity of goods and services can't be bought up because consumers and small businesses don't have a lot of dollars in their pockets to spend on them. They become devalued as a result.

It will be difficult for the nation and its economic policymakers to cope with deflation after four decades of being geared to counteract the threat of inflation starting in the 1970s.

Foreclosures up in 75 percent of top U.S. metro areas | Reuters

Foreclosures up in 75 percent of top U.S. metro areas | Reuters
Foreclosures rose in 3 of every four large U.S. metro areas in this year's first half, likely ruling out sustained home price gains until 2013, real estate data company RealtyTrac said on Thursday.

Unemployment was the main culprit driving foreclosure actions on more than 1.6 million properties, the company said.

I guess all of us will just have to stay put for another three or four years...

Books - Mission Creep - Administrative Glut -

Books - Mission Creep - Administrative Glut -
In 1976, for every 1,000 full-time students, there were 42 professional administrative staff members, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. By 2008, the most recent year available, there were 84. At the same time, the number of full-time faculty members for every 1,000 students has declined, from 65 to 55, due to the greater use of adjuncts and teaching assistants.

While fewer undergraduates are being taught by full-time professors, the number of administrators keeps growing.

So say political scientist Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus. And they are right.

Tow fees: Chicago suburbs cash in on towing -

Tow fees: Chicago suburbs cash in on towing -
Great expose by the Chicago Tribune that blows the lid off the auto impound racket. Municipalities have laws that allow the police to impound any vehicle involved in any way in any misdemeanor or felony, or some specified list of crimes, even something as trivial as an expired license or not having proof of insurance. Doesn't matter who was driving, ever if the owner was at home sleeping when it happened. The car gets impounded and then you have to pay hundreds of dollars to get it back. If you don't pay, you lose the car for good.

This is another of those municipal money grabs, like red light cameras and mandating that all new construction has to be in CIDs. There is also a map that shows the entire Chicagoland area with the details of all the various laws.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Thanks to Fred Pilot and Shu Bartholomew

I can't thank Shu and Fred enough for keeping this blog lively while I was away on vacation with my children. I was able to check in from time to time, even though we were driving, camping, sight-seeing, and spending great times with family. The posts and comments were full of insights and what Bruce Lee used to call "emotional content." Great stuff.

I hope they will continue to post things here from time to time as the mood strikes them.

BBC NEWS | Business | How can water be fairly distributed?

BBC NEWS | Business | How can water be fairly distributed? I think issues related to water will be at the center of politics at all levels in the decades to come.

Homeowners Association Spends $300,000 In Legal Fees Over A Pick-Up Truck - The Consumerist

Homeowners Association Spends $300,000 In Legal Fees Over A Pick-Up Truck - The ConsumeristA homeowner in Florida was awarded $187,000 in legal fees from a years-long court battle over the right to park a pick-up truck in his driveway. Now the homeowners association is going to have to pick up the tab for $300,000 in fees.
How do you react to a story like this? Do you cheer for the owner who won? Or do you lament the fact that every owner in the development now has to pay for the folly of their governing board? In any event, thanks to Mystery Reader for sending it along.

HOA Foreclosures; Necessary Tool or Extortion Racket? - Real Estate Channel Global News Center

HOA Foreclosures; Necessary Tool or Extortion Racket? - Real Estate Channel Global News CenterAlthough the HOA foreclosure crisis is clearly concentrated in the states of Texas, Florida, Arizona and California, the problem is not limited to these states. Some 33 states permit a nonjudicial HOA foreclosure. Unfortunately, we have no reliable statistics on how many of these HOA foreclosure filings actually lead to seizure and sale of the home. The CAI claims that the percentage is very small. Perhaps.

The fact that HOAs are able to file the foreclosure as a threat and then collect several thousand dollars in late fees, interest, fines and attorney fees for a delinquency that may total only $300-$600 has led critics to describe the situation as nothing more than a "shakedown racket."

Thanks to Fred Pilot for the link to this detailed piece on HOA foreclosures.

Nevada's Economic Misery May Be America's Future

Nevada's Economic Misery May Be America's FutureNevada has a greater concentration of economic misery than any other state. The state's unemployment rate, which in June edged up to 14.2 percent, has risen faster during the past year than it has anywhere else, and nearly six percent of all homes across the state's desert landscape received a foreclosure filing in the first six months of the year.

While the concentration of misery may be greater in Nevada, it was caused by the same unchecked housing bubble and unregulated financial gambling that brought pain to the rest of the country. If present trends go unchecked, Nevada is America's future.

Now that's a scary thought.

I looked at President Obama's latest job approval numbers and maybe he ought to be scared, too. An average of seven different polls shows that he is currently at 45.7% approval and 49% disapproval. The election is just over three months away.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Home Vacancies Rise as U.S. Ownership Falls to Lowest in Decade - Bloomberg

Home Vacancies Rise as U.S. Ownership Falls to Lowest in Decade - BloombergAbout 18.9 million homes in the U.S. stood empty during the second quarter as surging foreclosures helped push ownership to the lowest level in a decade.

The number of vacant properties, including foreclosures, residences for sale and vacation homes, rose from 18.6 million in the year-earlier quarter, the U.S. Census Bureau said in a report today. The ownership rate, meaning households that own their own residence, was 66.9 percent, the lowest since 1999.

And yet people keep saying the economy is out of recession--with the housing market still in a trash can and government budgets gushing red ink from the federal government down to the local school districts.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Homesteads and Other Sources of Tax Income -

Homesteads and Other Sources of Tax Income - NYTimes.comAround the nation, cities and towns facing grim budget circumstances are grasping at unlikely — some would say desperate — means to bolster their shrunken tax bases. Like Beatrice, places like Dayton, Ohio, and Grafton, Ill., are giving away land for nominal fees or for nothing in the hope that it will boost the tax rolls and cut the lawn-mowing bills.

In Boca Raton, Fla., which faces a budget gap of more than $7 million, leaders are thinking about expanding the city’s size and annexing neighborhoods as an antidote. Sure, more residents would cost more in services, but officials hope the added tax revenues will more than make up for it.

And leaders in Manchester, N.H., and Concord, Mass., are taking an approach that might have once seemed politically unthinkable. They are re-examining whether their communities’ nonprofit organizations really deserve to be tax-free.

Municipal promotion of CIDs is about money, and now cities are getting even more desperate. Soon they will be selling the right to rename the city. BP-Ville! Microsoftburg!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The 18 States Facing The Most Brutal Austerity Cuts

The 18 States Facing The Most Brutal Austerity Cuts
They have Illinois as the third worst, exceeded only by New Jersey and Nevada. I hear the talking heads referring to the "recovery" we are supposedly in, and then I look at the condition of state and local governments and think, "no way, baby."