Daily Archives: June 11, 2010

Coming our way

Britain: 3,000 people a year die due to weekend staff cuts. An insignificant number, unless you yourself get sick on a weekend.

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Let Israel do it

Then the world can condemn it. Saudi Arabia clears its air space for Israel to attack Iran.

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Throw them out – throw them all out

New York State will fund its pension deficit by borrowing money from pension funds.

ALBANY — Gov. David A. Paterson and legislative leaders have tentatively agreed to allow the state and municipalities to borrow nearly $6 billion to help them make their required annual payments to the state pension fund.

And, in classic budgetary sleight-of-hand, they will borrow the money to make the payments to the pension fund — from the same pension fund.

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Answer to questions nobody’s asking

How to watch the World Cup Live

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Well duh

National Geographic now admits that it was duped by the supposed photographer William Lascelles, who photoshopped this picture. That should have taken what, two seconds?

The guy must be a real estate agent.

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Home ownership for all? Bad idea, says Joe Nocera

Good opinion piece here.

“For 25 years federal policy has been primarily focused on promoting homeownership and promoting the availability of credit to home buyers,” [Sheila]  Bair said. She mentioned some of the many subsidies home buyers get, including the home mortgage interest deduction and the ability to deduct property taxes.

She tossed in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two “G.S.E.’s” (government-sponsored entities) whose role as a guarantor and securitizer of mortgages greatly expanded the ability of mortgage originators to make loans to home buyers — and which are now, of course, in federal conservatorship, with taxpayers holding the bag for their gargantuan losses.

She also pointed out that during the bubble, when anyone with a pulse could get a mortgage, the percentage of Americans owning homes rose to an unprecedented 69 percent, a number that was greeted with bipartisan hurrahs, but which turned out to be “unsustainable,” Ms. Bair said.

She concluded: “Sustainable homeownership is a worthy national goal. But it should not be pursued to excess when there are other, equally worthy solutions that help meet the needs of people for whom homeownership may not be the right answer.” Like, you know, renting.

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Homo cop: “They were 16, so back off, buckaroo”

police lieutenant Thomas Cummings

A Norwalk detective skates because the boys he preyed on were all over the age of consent under Connecticut law. Took a few recantations of testimony, but it worked.

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What the hell?

Marva Savariau being fed a load of crap

Via Bill Clark, The Greenwich Senior Center has fired their cook. I’m sure I read just a week or so ago that the food service people who took over the operation had sworn to keep this popular woman on. Liars, obviously. They run Nathaniel Witherell’s food service and will now be sending canned food over to the seniors on Greenwich Avenue. I’ll be back with more.

UPDATE: Here’s the Greenwich Time article; Bill Clark’s post is below.

The Senior Center has contracted with Morrison Management, which provides meals at the town-ownedNathaniel Witherell nursing home. The center’s food program is currently run independently.

Though the contract will cost the Senior Center an additional $70,000, an increase that went through with the passage of the 2010-11 town budget, the center is expected to save more than $36,000 through bulk purchasing with Morrison, and by using the company’s bookkeeper, said Sam Deibler, director of the town’sCommission on Aging.

The Senior Center also will have coverage by a certified food operator for the days when the center’s cook is sick or on vacation.

The change will cost seniors a little more money, thoughLaurette Helmrich, Senior Center administrator, noted the price of lunch at the center has not increased in more than 10 years, and is still cheaper than many other senior centers in the area. The Greenwich Senior Center averages 65 to 70 meals a day.

“For what we’re providing, it’s certainly a very good value,” Helmrich said.

Izzo said that when some members learned about the changes recently, they also thought cookMarva Savariau would be let go. Izzo said she circulated a petition asking for her to stay. But Helmrich said the plan was always to keep Savariau on.

Bill Clark:

[T] his morning Marva [Savariau], one of the Town’s most dedicated and hard-working employees, who for many years has prepared and served many tens of thousands of tasty home-cooked meals to the folks at the Senior Center, was summarily fired. Laurette Helmrich and Sam Deibler marched into the kitchen together and demanded her keys. She was told to put her personal effects into a cardboard box, and to leave the building and not come back.

As a Town building, the Senior/Arts Center is open to anyone and everyone during its regular hours. Marva, who also happens to hold a part-time job in the building with a private non-governmental agency, has as much right to be in the building as anyone else. Laurette and Sam’s high-handed behavior is a textbook example of a lawsuit in the making.

As for Marva, she is in shock. She has worked for the Town for decades, and is only a year or so away from being eligible for her pension. Do you think something may be rotten in the Town of Greenwich, dear reader?

Marva is one of the most competent and dedicated workers this Town has ever seen. The seniors adore her. If the Senior Center were still under the purview of the Parks & Rec Department, this would never have happened.

But things changed. The Commission on Aging took it over. Laurette, who came to the Senior Center from Nathaniel Witherell, has been agitating for several years to bring in the same commercial for-profit food service company used by the nursing home, and to get rid of the independent Town of Greenwich employee Marva and her smoothly-running operation. Recently, food service executive types in fancy suits have been prowling around the Senior Center, sniffing out and scenting a new source of revenue in the offing. And sure enough: it was recently announced that they will be taking over Marva’s operation on July 1.

The price of the new portion-controlled assembly-line meals will jump 33%. The quality will almost assuredly go down–how can you improve on Marva’s home cooking? But Laurette and Sam will no doubt have earned the gratitude of the food service honchos for their help in landing this profitable new contract, and if the seniors get the short end of the stick, well, they’re not exactly the most vocal or powerful constituency in Greenwich, are they?

It’s too bad that Charles Dickens is no longer around to roast the Town of Greenwich for this despicable and rotten behavior towards Marva, not to mention the many people for whom her cooking has long been their main meal of the day. But he’s not, and his type of righteous indignation is not considered fashionable in this Town these days. Probably most people in Greenwich will simply shrug their shoulders and say, so what?

But if there are any people out there who happen to believe that what happened to Marva this morning is shameful and wrong, here are the names of your neighbors who are in charge of this fiasco:

COMMISSION ON AGING MEMBERS
TERM EXPIRES Appointed

’11 Lori Jackson (Chairman) 2005 698-0158 (H)
46 Keofferam Rd.
jaxon@optonline.net
Old Greenwich, CT 06870

’11 Catherine M. Brennan (Vice-Chairman) 2005 869-6222(H)
1 Meadow Drive 536-9576© Cos Cob, CT 06807 869-0080(O)
869-0082(Fax-office)
cbrennan@cbrennanlaw.co

’10 Kristen N. Browne (Sec) 2007 203-661-0693 (H)
4 Grange St. 203-863-3206 (W)
Greenwich, CT 06830 Kristeng@greenhosp.org

’12 James B. Dougherty 2009 203-661-4865(H)
747 North Street 203-869-3085(W)
Greenwich, CT 06831 Jdough1928@aol.com

’10 Karen LaMonica 2004 661-0216 (H)
34 Benenson Drive 914-997-7912 ext. 750(W)
Cos Cob, CT 06807 203-536-7062 ©
914-997-0024 (F)
Ktlamonica@msn.com

’12 John “Jack” Morris 2009 203-637-2143 (H)
49 Lockwood Ave. 203-253-0567 ©
Old Greenwich, CT 06870-1718 morrislj@optonline.net

‘11 Howard “Chip” Serrell 2007 661-2498 (H)
12 River Lane 769-2542 (W)
Cos Cob, CT 06807 howard.serrell@wachovia.com

Staff: Samuel E. Deibler 862-6710 (O) 867-6711(Direct)
1 Mill Pond Court 862-6701 (Fax-office)
Cos Cob, CT 06807 661-9343 (H)
sdeibler@greenwichct.org

Chicky Krois 862-6710 (O)
862-6701 (Fax-office)
ckrois@greenwichct.org

Oh, and you might consider calling or emailing the Board of Selectmen as well. Peter Tesei, Dave Theis, and Drew Marzullo can all be reached athttp://www.greenwichct.org/ –just click on “Board of Selectmen” at the right margin on the home page.

In a perfect world, Marva would be re-hired, and Laurette and Sam would be the ones told to put their personal belongings into a box and get out. And the greedy for-profit food service people would be told to get out and stay out. But Greenwich, Connecticut is far from a perfect world, and today it has become markedly less so.

UPDATE II: I have received a somewhat cryptic email from one of the Board members urging me to get my facts straight. Well I can’t really do that if he won’t provide the facts, but in fairness, I will say that there appears to be another side to this story. We will have to wait, I guess, to see what that other side is.

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Hope and change

Obama administration prosecutes leakers like no other administration before. Not saying that’s wrong, but it is surprising.

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This should be fun: FBI to arrest hundreds for mortgage fraud next week

From Calculated Risk.

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Well, two contracts, anyway

88 Riversville Rd

This house on Riversville, priced at $4.999, didn’t work for me but someone obviously liked it.

129 Clapboard Ridge

The owners of this house on Clapboard Ridge found a new home to buy so they priced this at $3.495, very close to the $3.2 million they paid for it in 2002. Wise move – it’s got a buyer in just 32 days.

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Cool! I can now expect to benefit from all those civil rights laws

Whites in US about to become minority.

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If this is as far away as we can send him, I’ll accept it

Joe Biden in South Africa to watch World Cup while the Obummer stays behind to rail against BP.

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Bomb Deepwater?

Here’s a Marine Corps scientist with a proposal for using a non-nuclear bunker-busting bomb to seal the well. Unlike other suggestions circulating on the web, this one sounds plausible.

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Obama the appeaser

Works to limit sanctions on Iran

Reporting from Washington —

The Obama administration, which labored for months to impose tough new United Nations sanctions against Iran, now is pushing in the opposite direction against Congress as it crafts U.S. sanctions that the White House fears may go too far.

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What is this, hockey without skates?

Oops! Missed!

First World Cup game ends in a tie, 1-1.  What kind of sport can’t produce a winner? Ridiculous.

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Back in the office

I attended a seminar on short sales this morning conducted by Ivey, Barnum & O’Mara laywers Mike Jones and Viki Comberiati. I’m not sure I learned anything new – the process is long, drawn out and illogical, but I’ve already discovered that – but I was impressed by the turnout of my colleagues. I guess there aren’t many straight-forward sales these days, so everyone is having to adjust to a new market.

(I don’t know Attorney Comberiati, but I’ve known Mike Jones since something like 1983 and he’s the real stuff. Both he and his colleague are obviously on top of this new world of short sales and foreclosures, and if you are in the unfortunate position of experiencing either, you’d be well advised to give them a call early. Hiding your head in the sand accomplishes nothing and cuts off options that a guy like Mike might otherwise be able to offer you).

On that topic, as of this writing, we have had no contracts reported in the past two days. This was once the height of the market. Hmm.

UPDATE: I have a bank-owned property under contract as of yesterday but it’s not a MLS listing and thus off the radar. It’s possible there are more of these, all unreported, but the MLS itself is not seeing much activity.

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Housing market tanks

Prices still too high

Nearly 49% of all homes sold in Atlanta in April were sold at a loss.  The figure is 47% for Miami, 40% for Las Vegas, 35% for San Diego, and 30% for Chicago.  For those of you who think the housing collapse was confined mainly to the four states of California, Florida, Nevada and Arizona, the figure is 35% for Toledo, 36% for Minneapolis, 24% for St. Louis, and 21% for Seattle.

The number is a surprisingly low 18% for the New York metro area.  But that is due to the collapse of sales volume throughout the entire New York metro area in the past six months largely because sellers have refused to drop their asking price.

Most Sellers Are Reluctant to Lower Their Asking Price

Trulia.com was the first website to track what percentage of home sellers had dropped their listing price since posting the house on their site.  In April 2009, Trulia reported that 27% of all listings had lowered their asking price.  A year later, that figure had declined to 20%.  The CEO of Trulia described the change in this way: “We’re beginning to see early signs of stabilization in the housing market.”  Is that really what it indicates?

A mid-April Gallup Poll published in the Washington Business Journal announced that 34% of respondents thought that home prices would rise in the next year.  Only 23% of them believed that prices would fall.  For respondents on both the east and west coasts, 39% thought that prices would climb.

This poll seemed to show that optimism about the housing market was returning to a growing number of Americans.  A great influence in this change was the many real estate analysts who had confidently been announcing over the past six months that housing was “bottoming.”  If home prices were likely to be higher a year from now, why would a seller drop the listing price?

The May report issued by trulia revealed that the number of listings on their website with price reductions through the end of April had increased to 22%.

Twelve of the fifty cities studied showed more than 30% of their listings with price cuts including Minneapolis, Dallas, Jacksonville, Boston and Nashville.

Regardless of whether the percentage of homes with price cuts is 27% or 22%, the one clear conclusion to draw is that the great majority of home sellers have been very reluctant to lower their asking price.

Most sellers have probably not seen a less-widely reported study by the online brokerage firm ziprealty.com.  On May 17, the Wall Street Journal posted this revealing report online which showed the percentage of sellers listing with ziprealty in 27 major metros who had lowered their asking price in the past 18 months.  For all 27 metros, the average percentage of home sellers who had dropped their listing price was more than 41%.  This means that more than 40% of the homes listed on ziprealty in these major metros had not sold as of April 30 in spite of dropping their listing price at least once in the past 18 months.

Soaring House Rental Listings Offer an Enticing Alternative to Buying

A continuing problem for home sellers throughout the country is the attractiveness of renting a house for potential buyers.

As early as 2005, apartment landlords were facing heavy competition for renters from investors and speculators who had purchased houses during the bubble years.  An article in an August 2005 issue of the Wall Street Journal entitled “Speculators Push Rents Down” pointed out that a glut of investor-owned properties was dragging rents down and creating a “shadow supply of rental units that doesn’t show up in traditional rental market measures.”  This was a key factor that caused the vacancy rate for all rental properties to climb to record levels of more than 10%.

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NYC – spring real estate market starts strong

But has already fizzled out.

This year, the burst of real estate action that marks the spring season came early in New York. Manhattan saw a big sales spike in March, well before the market’s usual busy season in May and June. But now, instead of going into the expected overdrive, some brokers say, sales have started to stall.

That could simply mean that spring arrived and ended early, as buyers gained confidence in the market and began to shop. Or it could mark the beginning of a slide that will lead to another dip in prices and sales activity.

Although many brokers will tell clients that the market has already hit bottom, some economists and real estate experts predict that prices are still falling, and will drop 5 percent to 15 percent by the end of next year.

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No muslims here!

Muslim grandmother celebrates 9/11

Opposition to mosques in New York City.

In the last few months, Muslim groups have encountered unexpectedly intense opposition to their plans for opening mosques in Lower Manhattan, in Brooklyn and most recently in an empty convent on Staten Island.

Unexpectedly? What the hell do these people expect? These mosques show videos to young jihadists and encourage them to go out and kill Americans. Would you want such a cesspool in your neighborhood? I think not.

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