Daily Archives: March 19, 2012

What makes teachers so special that they deserve lifetime employment when no one else does?


too dumb to sit in a chair

Governor Malloy has proposed changes in the tenure system for teachers and is being shouted down by the teachers and their political allies in Hartford. At a hearing held to explain the proposal to teachers at least one teachers representative complained of  ”hurt feelings”.  Only someone working in a system that punishes as  “bullying” a student’s use of a mean word, that considers a pointed finger a violation of the “zero tolerance” weapons policy,  could possibly think that the feelings of an adult are somehow relevant to a contract dispute, but never mind, I have a better proposal: abolish tenure entirely.

Why is there tenure at all? As I understand it, tenure was originally established to protect college professors ability to speak and teach freely and gradually worked its way down to kindergarten, but does a teacher really risk her livelihood by introducing a novel method of stacking blocks? I think not.

Good teachers, and we all know who they are, have job security because no administrator wants to lose them – they don’t need tenure. The bad ones: the stupid, the lazy and the mean would be quickly removed in any sane scheme, just as incompetents are eliminated in private industry and even, gosh, private schools. so what makes these overpaid, under educated dummies entitled to a guaranteed job for life? Beats me.


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Not much in the way of accepted offers reported

I mentioned the two of note this morning (“of note” still under $3 million”) but the other seven reported today are just properties previously recorded as accepted offers and now reporting in as having contingent contracts. That’s not a firm deal by any means, today and is already old news anyway.

On the other hand, I’m heading out to show some more houses and I’m sure I’m not alone, so I do see stirrings. Tell you what, though: if this is what’s passing for the spring market, you’d better get your house into play now (assuming it’s for sale of course) because summer promises to be a good time to take that long-delayed trip to Wyoming.

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Mike Bloomberg, food nanny

Mike and Michelle protect the poor

Hungry? Homeless? No soup for you!  Bloomberg bans food donations to homeless shelters because it might be “too salty”. Sterno-slurping hobos and crack heads everywhere sing alleluia.

DHS Commissioner Seth Diamond says the ban on food donations is consistent  with Mayor Bloomberg’s emphasis on improving nutrition for all New Yorkers. A  new interagency document controls what can be served at facilities — dictating  serving sizes as well as salt, fat and calorie contents, plus fiber minimums and  condiment recommendations.

The city also cites food-safety issues with donations, but it’s clear that  the real driver behind the ban is the Bloomberg dietary diktats.

Diamond insists that the institutional vendors hired by the shelters serve  food that meets the rules but also tastes good; it just isn’t too salty. So,  says the commissioner, the homeless really don’t need any of the  synagogue’s food.



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The Lord giveth, the banks taketh away

31 Mallard Drive, asking $875,000 and reported as having an accepted offer on March 8th, is back on the market.


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Busy weekend, apparently

Two accepted offers reported already this morning.

169 Valley Rd

169 Valley Road, an 1850 antique directly on the Mianus and asking $1.700 (down from original price of $1.890), 188 DOM. Looks like a neat house, but I somehow missed seeing it.

99 Overlook also has found a buyer. It was, I am informed by the listing agent, bought out of a foreclosure and put back up for sale at $2.555 million just eleven days ago. The builder who lost it tried to get, originally, $3.795 back between 2008 and 2011 but that obviously didn’t work.

99 Overlook


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What did you know and when did you know it?

I had what shouldn’t have been, but was, a painful moment Saturday when showing 12 Rocky Point to my clients. They loved the house, which I thought they would, but they’re really central Greenwich types and worried about driving there to the schools their children attend. That was their chief – only, actually – stumbling block and I’ll admit to a little hesitation before I volunteered the information that the main exits from Old Greenwich, Sound Beach Avenue and Tomac, are going to be closed down for four years beginning next year. Ouch. That did it, unfortunately.

But two considerations here: the first was that I really didn’t want people I’ve grown to like to sit stewing in traffic for four years and cursing me for not warning them of what was in store. The other was that it was the right thing to do – if I were still lawyering I wouldn’t have had a second’s doubt about what I should do and if I want to keep any shred of self-respect as “a peddler of dirt”, as Walt so succinctly puts it, I had to do it. So I did, but it hurt. I like to think my father would have approved, because he still spoke well of the real estate agent who in 1954 warned them that, much as they liked the Bush Holly house, which was then for sale, there were rumors that I-95 was going to be routed right overhead. If that unknown lady could be honest with my family, I can do the same for someone else.


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What was I saying about pricing? Oh yeah.

8 Witherell Drive (or maybe 19 – history is a bit confusing) is back again, now at $5.250 million. The would-be sellers paid $5.2 million for the place in 2003, renovated it and put it back up for sale in 2007 for $8.695. Five price cuts and three brokers later it expired unsold in 2009 (545 DOM) with a last asking price of $5.450. So now it’s back, at that 2003 price.

The house is sort of eccentric and I thought it overpriced back in 2003. Maybe now, with all those free renovations added, it’s a better deal. Good location, at any rate.


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Carp or crap? Depends who’s asking

America's problem

Giant Carp were imported into this country by some foolish catfish farmers and now they’ve invaded our rivers and are threatening our Great Lakes. Big problem here but the Chinese are envious as all hell because over there, the fish is a delicacy. Seems to me the answer to our carp problem is to remedy China’s carp shortage and start shipping them over there (turns out China’s waters are too polluted to support carp, but don’t tell Thomas Friedman). Carp, the other possum meat.

Dining opportunity


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Now it can be told

12 Rocky Pt. Lane

I mentioned last week that I’d seen a new listing in Old Greenwich that I thought was in such a good location and was such a nice house that a bidding war was inevitable. That house was 12 Rocky Point and sure enough, highest and best offers are due at 9:00 this morning. How come so fast? Pricing, for which the listing agent Christie Frazier and the seller are to be congratulated.

The house was priced at $3.375 and of the nineteen houses currently for sale in Riverside and Old Greenwich priced between $3.250 and $4.250, this was to my mind the hands-on best house in that inventory. Obviously buyers agreed as the frenzy of activity surrounding it proves. And this same house offers an excellent illustration of what happens when you overprice a house. In 2006, the previous owners priced it at $3.995 million, eventually dropped it to $3.650 and after 209 days, sold it for $3.4 million in March, 2007, just about the peak of the real estate market.

This time around it was priced slightly below that 2007 price and because of the high prices of other comparable houses, drew the attention of every buyer in this price range looking to live in Riverside or Old Greenwich and will undoubtedly fetch more even than the $3.4 paid for it five years ago. I’m guessing anywhere between $3.425 to as much, maybe, as $3.550. So the seller can move on after just four days while other sellers will sit and stew. There’s a lesson here, but I doubt those sellers will learn it.


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Obama and his crowd move to delay, stop leasing of oil exploration properties

Want a mortgage and yet you’ve leased your mineral rights? The federal government has found a new way to stop you: an environmental impact study. I have no truck with government give-away programs, whether to General Motors or, as the Times calls these people, “low-income and living in rural areas” and if all such programs were eliminated I’d call it an improvement. But this singling out of one tiny group is clearly designed to stop one specific activity and nothing else – hog farming, for instance. The government is forcing the homeowners to choose between government money or the oil companys’ (although private lenders will also stop lending once these federal requirements hit) and it’s doing so at the behest of the Rockefellers and their allies.

Imagine, if you will, what would happen to your own mortgage application if you had to undergo an environmental impact statement, complete with public hearings attended by federally-subsidized, professional protestors from Washington. Money quote is in bold.

The proposal by the Agriculture Department, which has signaled its intention in e-mails to Congress and landowners, reflects a growing concern that lending to owners of properties with drilling leases might violate the National Environmental Policy Act, known as NEPA, which requires environmental reviews before federal money is spent. Because that law covers all federal agencies, the department’s move raises questions about litigation risks for other agencies, legal experts said.

Drilling for gas has become more common using a technique known as hydraulic fracturing, which breaks up rock deep underground using water and chemicals under high pressure. The drilling has been an economic boon — creating jobs and reducing dependence on foreign energy. But it has raised concerns about contamination of water wells, air pollution and above-ground spills.

Over the last year, some banks and federal agencies have started revisiting their lending policies to account for the potential impact of drilling on property values.

“We will no longer be financing homes with gas leases,” Jennifer Jackson, program director for rural loans in the Agriculture Department’s New York office, wrote in an internal e-mail this month, citing several factors, including the costs of conducting such reviews.

“There is substantial controversy over the extent, range, and issues associated with hydraulic fracturing (fracking) for gas,” Mr. Bailey wrote in a March 8 e-mail to members of Congress, adding that “for a number of years” the loan program typically had considered its mortgages exempt from environmental review. But the agency notice will clarify that this is not the case for properties with drilling leases.

Requiring environmental reviews for such properties will be slow but will allow the public to have more say in the matter, he added.

“Approval of such leases would allow for a number of potential impacts to possibly occur which would need to be analyzed in a NEPA document that would be reviewed by the public for sufficiency,” he wrote.

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