FHFA REO Bulk Sale Program – what you need to know.

In response to the ongoing depression in our country’s housing market, the federal government has proposed yet another one-size-fits-all band-aid solution to a highly localized problem. As with most of the knee-jerk proposals they have attempted during the past 4 years, this program will not resolve the underlying issue and, in some cases, will make it substantially worse. I’m talking about the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s (FHFA) ‘REO Initiative’ pilot program destined for implementation in Los Angeles and Riverside Counties.

What the program proposes to do is effect a ‘bulk sale’ of REO (bank-owned) properties in select areas in order to ‘remove this overburden of inventory’ from the housing market and convert it to rental units for 5 years. Currently designated in Riverside County – more than 2,500 REO units.

Here’s the problem with that. Contrary to what the government tells us we are experiencing, we actually have a significant shortage of housing units for sale to begin with. There are areas of the country where this program might be effective in accomplishing what the government claims to want to fix, but our area is not one of them. There are areas of the county with a 2 year inventory of homes for sale, prices are continuing their precipitous slide and consumes are not buying homes at any price. Our area is not one of those.

It’s been nearly four years since our market had an inventory in excess of 12 months. Following a record sales year in 2010 and continued strong demand in 2011 and so far in 2012, our inventory of homes for sale is less than four months. For much of that time it has actually been between 2 and 3 months and, as I have written before, if you back out the higher end homes (over $1,000,000) that are selling very slowly, our local inventory of salable homes in Murrieta and Temecula stands at just 1.7 months. A ‘healthy’ inventory is considered to be 6-7 months and we are waaaay under that. Taking a large chunk of properties off the market would only further reduce the opportunities for home buyers to find a home and may well result in further price erosion and market deterioration.

But how about the government’s second argument that we are suffering from a severe shortage of rental units and that by releasing these units to large investor groups we would replenish that stock? Again, not true. Nearly 60% of current single family purchases are by individuals or small local investors who are buying the properties to either A) fix up and re-sell to qualified buyers, or B) keep as rental units.

Local individuals and small investors would be eliminated from the equation as the government program would only sell large blocks of homes to institutional investors far removed from our community. In addition to eliminating opportunities for home buyers and investors, the program would also exclude local property managers, as the properties would be handled by new departments of these institutional giants, and it would remove local Realtors® from the equation either as selling or rental agents in the transaction.

And what is the logical consequence of some far removed institutional investor buying a group of 100 or 200 properties in Temecula? Well, they’d probably want to rent them out as quickly as possible so they would rent them out at the cheapest rate possible. After all, they’d be buying them for pennies on the dollar so any income stream is better than a continuing vacant property. While this may result in some short-term advantage for local renters, long-term it would result in another round of foreclosures as current owners who are barely covering their cost would no longer be able to do that and would lose those properties.

Finally, in what may be the crowning insult, the primary groups that would stand to benefit from these bulk sales are many of the self-same industrial investors whose bad practices enabled the housing implosion to begin with. So they would now be able to purchase the same properties they made bad loans on for a fraction of their original price and they’d be buying them with the bail-out money the government (read: you and me) gave them.

As I initially stated, there are areas of the country where removing properties from the market and converting them to rentals might be good policy. We don’t happen to live in an area that, by definition, would benefit and could see substantial harm to our fragile recovery. The National Association of Realtors® has submitted a letter signed by most of our local Congressional delegates to Edward Demarco, acting head of FHFA, along with a bevy of other federal functionaries requesting that this ‘solution’ be applied only to carefully targeted areas of the country and to cancel any proposed sales in Los Angeles and Riverside Counties, and indeed in the whole state. We don’t want it. We certainly don’t need it – but when has that ever stopped the federal government from giving it to us anyway? Remember Ronald Reagan’s 9 scariest words – ‘We’re from the government and we’re here to help’. He was undoubtedly thinking about a program exactly like this.

 

 

Another Bogus Budget

KEVIN’S CORNER

It was another rough month for the families and taxpayers of California, as the legislature completed this year’s budget this week.  I don’t know if there is anyone who is actually happy about the budget, as even the majority party who crafted it in its entirety would certainly rather be growing rather than cutting and eliminating programs.  But there are bad ways to deal with a deficit of this size, and there are worse ways, and make no mistake about it-they have chosen some of the very worst ways to do it.

A few of the worst elements of this budget plan (in no particular order):

  • Once again, the process was done largely in secret behind closed doors.  Hearings were held only on the most general concepts (when they existed at all), and witnesses were unable to say how specific programs might be affected or how much would be spent or cut.  Groups who were affected by the cuts (like local governments) were not allowed to see the final language until it was too late to organize against it, and promises that had been made in negotiations before the budget were absent when the bills were passed on the floor.
  • The budget is based on the assumption that California’s voters will pass an $8 billion tax increase in November, despite the fact that voters have rejected the last 8 taxes to appear on state-wide ballots, including the tobacco tax that just failed in June.  If voters are unwilling to support a relatively small tax that doesn’t affect most of them to cure cancer, are they really likely to pass a massive tax increase that will affect everyone and be spent by our dysfunctional state government?
  • The relatively successful Healthy Families Program that covers medical and dental care for poor children was scrapped, putting them into the state’s Medi-Cal program instead.  Healthy Families is administered by a private group for $50 per client, Medi-Cal is run by state employees for $395 per client.
  • Roughly $16 million was budgeted for administration and collection of the problematic and likely illegal fire tax.  It is likely that no net revenues will ever be recovered from this tax before it is struck down, and we will pay $16 million  for nothing.
  • It is expected that next week the Legislature will approve the $2.7 billion in bond sales that the governor wants for initial construction of the High Speed Rail Program, which will cost the state general fund roughly $180 million annually for 30 years-enough to keep all the State Parks open, fully fund the UCR Medical School, and restore funding to the cities in Riverside County who were victimized in last year’s budget-and still leave tens of millions of dollars to restore other cuts in critical programs or schools.
  • The Governor has targeted massive and unnecessary cuts at education if his tax increase fails as expected  in November.  I supported a budget alternative that would have protected schools and higher education from budget cuts, but it never even received a hearing.  Holding a figurative gun to the head of schools to force voters to pass his tax increase is a cynical move that exposes his true priorities.
  • Pension reform has been cast aside again.  Rather than including the billions in potential savings from legitimate reform in the state budget, votes on the Governor’s plan (a good one, actually) have been rejected, and all discussion of reform has taken place in private.  Rumor has it there may be a vote on some sort of reform next week, but once again, nobody but the legislative leadership and the government union leaders who elected them know what will be in it.
  • Local governments were once again victimized in multiple ways that attack their authority, their flexibility, their budgets, and the safety of their residents.

I am asked regularly what can be done to fix the problems in Sacramento, and there are no easy answers.  With the passage of Proposition 25 two years ago, only a simple majority is required to pass a budget, so the party in charge in Sacramento has free reign and can now make decisions based on whatever priorities they want.  The only way to change what is happening in the Capitol is to change the folks who are running the State Capitol.

Another option is through the initiative system, which allows citizens to go around those who control state government.  There is an initiative which just qualified for the November ballot that does put some restraints on how your government operates, including a requirement that bills be in print and publicly available for 72 hours prior to a vote.  I haven’t had a chance to review all the reforms contained in this measure, and this should not be considered an endorsement of the “Government Performance and Accountability Act”, but it is increasingly clear that the legislature is not willing to reform itself, and change will likely have to be forced upon them.

Because I am leaving the Assembly at the end of the year, this was my last budget fight in Sacramento, and I can guarantee I will not miss it one bit!

Sincerely,

Kevin

CAR OPPOSES AG’s Homeowner Bill of Rights.

California Homeowners Bill of Rights:

A Lesson in Political Expediency & Unintended Consequences.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris announced in a much heralded press release today that her ‘California Homeowners Bill of Rights’ has ‘taken a key step toward passage’. Here’s the key step – she bypassed every preliminary opportunity for the bill to be discussed, debated or voted on in either the Assembly or the Senate. What she did, or had her minions in the Legislature do for her, was have the bill introduced to a ‘two-house conference committee’ that voted this morning to pass the bill. That means tomorrow or, more probably Monday, the full Senate and Assembly will vote on the bills – SB 900 & AB 278 with no discussion.

You’ve heard me discuss the measures previously as the Nevada Suite of bills, so named for the deleterious results Nevada experienced after passing similar legislation last year. Did I mention the ‘special committee’ was made up of 4 Democrats and 2 Republicans? Now guess what the vote was? That’s called a ‘procedural matter’ in Sacramento. Roughly translated it means ‘bend over’.

Here’s C.A.R.’s take on the issue:

C.A.R. is OPPOSING conference report, AB 278, containing anti-foreclosure legislation sponsored by the state Attorney General. C.A.R. opposes provisions in this measure which will allow anyone to stop the foreclosure process by filing a lawsuit, merited or not, C.A.R. agrees that careful and balanced reforms to the foreclosure process are necessary. However, C.A.R. opposes this conference report because it will further delay the housing recovery by inviting bad-faith lawsuits and defaults, and making it difficult for even well qualified borrowers to obtain financing. Financing is already very difficult to get. This conference report will only make a difficult situation worse.

Initially the Attorney General had sponsored a package of bills; the so-called the “Homeowners Bill of Rights.” For procedural reasons, the majority of these bills have been under consideration by a Conference Committee made up of six legislators. REALTORS® had the opportunity to educate these legislators about C.A.R.’s concerns as part of Legislative Day and since then C.A.R. lobbyists have been working directly with the conferees and legislative staff to make them aware of the unintended consequences of some of these proposals. The Conference Committee has now issued its final report and it must be passed by both Houses of the legislature. These votes may occur as early as Monday, July 2nd.

Background

The Attorney General has sponsored a package of bills to place into California law an expanded version of the national settlement between major banks and state attorneys general. The contents of some of these bills have been under consideration by a Conference Committee comprised of six members who have just approved a conference report on a party-line vote. Some provisions will have the unintended effect of drying up mortgage loans for anyone but the most well-qualified borrowers, and increasing the costs of all mortgages.

One provision allows any borrower, no matter what the circumstances, to file a lawsuit. This will encourage opportunistic lawyers to pursue frivolous lawsuits, bringing unnecessary and unjustifiable delays to an already difficult and time consuming process. The language is so vaguely written that the borrower doesn’t even have to show that they have been harmed to file suit and be awarded damages.

One-sided  attorneys fees may still be awarded only to plaintiffs based on the very broad definition of a “prevailing party” in the report. And, of course, if lenders don’t have the remedy of foreclosure to ensure they can recover their security in appropriate situations, they will be less likely to lend, credit will be less available and the housing market recovery will limp along even more slowly.

C.A.R. is OPPOSED to the conference report because:

 

  • The housing market recovery is still fragile. About half of all sales are of distressed properties. By restricting a lender’s ability to foreclose and exposing them to unnecessary liability, this report will dry up inventory, and it will further discourage lending other than to the most highly qualified borrowers. Additionally, these bills will artificially slow down the foreclosure process, keeping properties off the market that are legitimately in foreclosure. Finally, by removing the threat of foreclosure, the bill erodes the incentive for short sales as well.
  • The bill invites bad-faith defaults and lawsuits. By broadly defining under what circumstances a lawsuit can be filed, even those legitimately in foreclosure can “game” the system. Additionally, the bill creates an incentive for plaintiffs’ attorneys to file frivolous lawsuits even if no harm has been done to the borrower. The courts are already overwhelmed. This bill, by inviting frivolous lawsuits puts an additional strain on the already underfunded courts
  • Lending is already tight. Even the most well-qualified borrowers are finding it difficult to obtain financing. By stopping legitimate foreclosures, banks will be forced to further tighten lending standards at the expense of homebuyers.

 

We’re not intimating that everything contained in the bills is bad and we have been supportive of some of the issues. We also have a competing dual-tracking bill in play that we feel is more balanced and less vague. But this is a take-it-or-leave-it kind of bill – you have to eat the whole enchilada and there are no amendments allowed at this point. All the bad will be with us as law along with the few good things it might accomplish. Sound familiar?

This is also what is referred to as a ‘gut & amend’ bill. For 1 1/2 years some bills have been floating around the Legislature knowing full well they weren’t going anywhere. They were being held for just such a vehicle as this to rise from the ashes and require a last minute vote – often with only minutes of notice.

So this bill will pass UNLESS you can convince your Democratic Legislator to vote against it. Otherwise it’s a simple exercise in vote counting (53 – 27) to ascertain that our housing market will take another hit – a victim of increased frivolous lawsuits, further restrictions on foreclosures and tightened lending standards.

So now you know the proverbial ‘other side of the story’ and it’s not pretty. I encourage you to read the bill at  AB 278 and then read the AG’s release below. While the release summarizes a much glossed over purview of the bills, the devil is in the details. So go to work on your Democratic Legislators and let them know how Realtors® feel, and every homeowner and landlord who doesn’t feel like paying the price this bill will cost.

 

 

NEWS RELEASE

June 27, 2012

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(415) 703-5837

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California Homeowner Bill of Rights Takes Key Step to Passage

SACRAMENTO — Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced the passage of two central elements of the California Homeowner Bill of Rights through a special two-house conference committee. The 4 to 1 vote sends the bills to an expected vote next week in both the Assembly and Senate.

The two bills approved by the conference committee are the Foreclosure Reduction Act, which restricts the process of “dual-tracked” foreclosures and the Due Process Rights Act, which guarantees a reliable contact for struggling homeowners to discuss their loan with and which for the first time imposes civil penalties on the practice of fraudulently signing foreclosure documents without verifying their accuracy, a practice commonly known as “robo-signing.” The proposed legislation also includes meaningful enforcement for borrowers whose rights are violated.

The full Homeowner Bill of Rights includes additional provisions to reduce blight, ensure appropriate law enforcement response to mortgage fraud and crime, and protect tenants.  The bills containing these protections are also advancing through the Legislature.

“I am gratified by this vote, which represents one more step toward our goal of achieving a Homeowner Bill of Rights for California,” said Attorney General Harris. “The mortgage and foreclosure crisis in our state demands urgent efforts to help Californians keep their homes. The legislature will now have the opportunity to cast a vote on behalf of California’s struggling homeowners.”

The California Homeowner Bill of Rights was introduced February 29, 2012 at a press conference featuring Assembly Speaker John A. Perez and Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and bill authors from the Assembly and Senate. The goal of the Homeowner Bill of Rights is to take many of the mortgage reforms extracted from banks in a national mortgage settlement and write them into California law so they could apply to all mortgage-holders in the state.

“The mortgage and foreclosure abuse in California ends here,” said Noreen Evans (D-Santa Rosa), co-chair of the Joint Conference Committee. “This committee has passed historic legislation that codifies the
protections eligible homeowners deserve, while helping to stabilize the foreclosure crisis that has thwarted California’s economic recovery. The Legislature has studied, listened and engaged Californians and
industry to find a solution that is fair and effective to mitigate this crisis. I look forward to the full support of the Legislature and Governor in implementing this package.”

“This bill is the result of a long and difficult process in which we received input from all interested parties; including homeowners and the banks and found that foreclosures benefit no one,” said Assemblymember Mike Eng (D-Alhambra). “We ended such dubious practices as having a bank foreclose while a homeowner is in the process of modifying a loan and cut through confusion by making sure that there is a ‘single point of contact’ with mortgage servicers.  With half a million California homes at risk of foreclosure, this action was urgently needed.”

The California Homeowner Bill of Rights extends Attorney General Harris’ response to the state’s foreclosure and mortgage crisis. Attorney General Harris created a Mortgage Fraud Strike Force in March, 2011 to investigate and prosecute misconduct related to mortgages and foreclosures. In February 2012 Attorney General Harris extracted a commitment from the nation’s five largest banks of an estimated $18 billion for California borrowers.

More details about the California Homeowner Bill of Rights are found on the attached fact sheet.  To learn more about how the bills impact California homeowners, review the slideshow at: www.oag.ca.gov.

# # #

You may view the full account of this posting, including possible attachments, in the News & Alerts section of our website at: http://oag.ca.gov/news/press-releases/california-homeowner-bill-rights-takes-key-step-passage

 

Temecula, Murrieta among nations safest cities again.

Finally there’s a national statistic that shows parts of California in a positive light – and two of my cities are at the top of the heap. Business Insider.com recently released their analysis of FBI statistics for 2010 showing the 13 safest cities in America along with the 25 most dangerous. California scored 6 out of the 13 safest and just 3 of the 25 most dangerous.

According to FBI stats, violent crime, including murder, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault, is down across the country by 5.5%. That’s pretty good considering the economic situation. You might imagine just the opposite would be happening but so far so good.

For at least the 2nd year in a row Irvine California ranks #1 in safety with almost 10 times less than the national average crime rate – just 55 crimes per 100,000 people with Zero murders and 30 robberies. Contrast this with the most dangerous city in the country, Flint MI, with 2,208 violent crimes per 100,000 including 49 murders and 84 forcible rapes.

Southwest County again scored well. For the past couple years Murrieta has ranked #2 behind Irvine, with Temecula coming in at 4 or 5. This year Temecula leapfrogged to #2 and Murrieta came in 4th. Temecula had just 72 violent crimes per 100,000 with 3 rapes while Murrieta had 95 violent crimes and 1 murder. Considering that each city has just over 100,000 population, that means there really were only 72 violent crimes in Temecula last year. Applying the same count for #2 Detroit with 1,887 violent crimes per 100,000 and a population of 800,000 gives you a crime spree of nearly 19,000 violent crimes and 340 murders last year. Yowza!

The 13 safest:
Irvine CA
Temecula CA
Cary NC
Murrieta CA
Gilbert AZ
Red Rock TX
Frisco TX
Simi Valley CA
Bellevue WA
Orange CA
Amherst Town NY
Thousand Oaks CA
Surprise AZ

The 25 most dangerous:

Flint MI
Detroit MI
St. Louis MO
New Haven CT
Memphis TN
Oakland CA
Little Rock AK
Baltimore MD
Rockfort IL
Stockton CA
Buffalo NY
Springfield MA
Cleveland OH
Hartford CN
Washington DC
Springfield IL
Philadelphia PA
Lowell MA
Richmond CA
Saint Petersburg FL
Nashville TN
Kansas City MO
Miami FL
Lansing MI
Elizabeth NJ

It’s not job loss – it’s simply a little leakage.

If you’ve read much of my stuff before, you know the high esteem in which I hold most legislators, with an extra dollop of esteem for our California Nimrods. Yeah, these are the same addlepates that year after year saddle us with budgets they know won’t work, with 20+ billion dollar deficits every year, who recently mandated we instruct grammar school students on their gay heritage, who just passed the Dream Act, providing billions in financial aid to residents who are here illegally when our own resident students cannot get into classes or receive financial aid if they do. Yeah – we’ve got the best and the brightest working for us in Sacramento.

And one of the problems, as you’ll recall, is that some 90% of our Democratic legislators (who comprise the majority in both houses) have NEVER held an honest job. In one fashion or another they have been on the public dole their entire career, public office holder, commissioner, union organizer – some facet of public employment which has never forced them to meet a payroll, be responsive to the desires of customers, never required that they produce a product or a profit. Honest!

So it was no wonder during a recent discussion of the far-reaching costs of our landmark AB32 Greenhouse Emissions bill, that Democratic legislators referred to one of the by-products of the bill as ‘leakage’. Know what leakage was a euphemism for? JOBS! Yeah. Our state, with consistent unemployment of 12+% and these a-holes are referring to further job loss as ‘leakage’.

They were voting on some final rules to this horrendous piece-of-crap bill that will drive more businesses out of state and put even more people out of work but to them it’s simply leakage. Implementing this bill has already cost long-haul truckers and construction crews their jobs and resulted in increased costs for consumer goods from food to gas in the state. The last phase, slated for implementation in 2013 and 2014 sets in place the cap-and-trade emissions system whereby companies will either cut their emissions levels back to what they were in 1990, OR pay for emission credits from companies that emit below their cap OR pay substantial fines.

So the exodus of jobs from California will not only continue but probably expand. We already have more than 5 times as many companies leaving the state, reducing their footprint in the state or just going out of business as we did just 2 years ago. Aww, it’s just leakage says the California Air Resources Board. Oh, and the manufacturing and other jobs that are being over-regulated and over-taxed out of state – they’re going to Mexico or China or other states that have more realistic goals for emissions. So not only is California losing jobs but by our intransigence we are also INCREASING the amount of pollutants in the air.

So to get this straight, our never-held-a-job legislators passed an overarching landmark bill designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the state. Notice I didn’t say pollutants – that’s not covered specifically – just greenhouse gasses which they claim will reduce manmade global warming – if you still believe in that. And the appointed-not-elected wing-nuts on the California Air Resources Board have taken on the challenge of putting teeth into all these rules. And they admit that at times they have relied on specious science to formulate their rules. In fact they admit that AB32 will not reduce global warming even if they shut down every business in the state. But according to their logic – it is a beacon that was passed to encourage other states and countries to follow California’s lead.

Oh Puh-leeze.

What my Momma used to say – ‘just cause that other knott head jumps off a cliff, you gotta go do the same thing?’ Not me. And especially when I can just as easily follow the out-migration of businesses and jobs and people to places where the politicians s still have a brain cell or two, where my congressman might actually have held a job in the not-too-distant past and where the human tragedy of job loss is not simply dismissed as ‘leakage’.

Of course that’s just my opinion – I could be wrong.

What will they call sub-prime loans next time around?

Lower conforming loan limits back to 2007 levels? Who’s bright idea was that?

Another cluster **** from a government reeling from one uninformed decision to the next. It seems every time you turn around someone from the administration is bemoaning the state of housing in the country today. Housing has pulled us out of 6 of the last 8 recessions – why not this one?

Why? Because Washington says one thing and does the complete opposite. Or one branch does one thing while another branch acts to negate the first (see: PACE Program). Is it any wonder confidence is at record lows? If you people are going to screw up, at least do it consistently so we can move forward with confidence that you’ll continue to screw up the same way – we can deal with that. It’s the multiple levels of screw-ups and misdirection that has us lost.

For those of you that live in the middle of the country, I know it makes no difference. It’s not your fight. But at least get out of the way for those of us that do have a dog in the fight, OK?

Here’s a primer – prior to 2007 GSE loan limits were low. Even though we were in higher cost California, for our county it was about $355,000. Some very high cost areas got 115% of the median price of the market up to $417,000 and some areas as high as $525,000. Problem was, in 2005 – 2007 the median price for a home in our state was approaching $600,000. In our little backwater, medians were in the low $500,000’s for 2 years. That meant that anybody coming to our area COULD NOT GET a conforming loan for even a median price home. They were increasingly pushed into the jumbo market with higher fees, tighter qualifying and higher interest rates. Use of FHA and GSE backed mortgages plummeted from as high as 55% to around 7% by mid-2007.

But where there’s a problem, there’s also an opportunity so lenders came up with ways to address people’s inability to get conforming loans by inventing a whole new category of loans – the exotics. And it worked so well, they kept inventing new features. Can’t qualify for an Alt A or subprime, how about if we ask for ‘0’ down? No? How about interest only for 3 years? Still don’t qualify? How about if we just tell you how much you need to make in order to qualify and then you tell us you make that much? Better?

And the GSE’s saw their market share falling even more and the geniuses on Capitol Hill saw that that was bad so just as things started to implode they made a corrective move to increase conforming loan limits. Had they done that 3 or 4 years earlier while maintaining the relative quality of the loan qualification process, we would not be in the trouble we are today.

Now many of the same geniuses who got us into the problem are charged with getting us back out. And they look at the higher loan limits and see that very few people are using that higher limit today. Duh. So their conclusion is not that they tanked the market, but that the higher limits must no longer be needed. And many Republicans are against the higher loan limits because they see this as a way to ‘reduce governments stake in housing’. Great time to be worried about this, ya schmendrakes. Why not just drive that stake right into the heart of the market while you’re fiddly-farting around trying to make us believe you actually have principles.

YOU DULLARDS! First of all, you are absolutely killing any nascent move-up market that may be starting to percolate. In my area we’re down from $500,000 to $355,000 as a conforming cap and sales of $400,000 – $600,000 homes, which were damnably slow to begin with have dried up completely.

It is true that it has not impacted the broader base of our business because our median price has fallen from the mid-$500’s to the high $200’s or low $300’s. But what about when the market snaps back? And it will. It always does. Even Obama can’t kill the innate drive for the American Dream of Homeownership. So what happens in my little market, or the broader California market, or the other 593 higher cost counties in 42 states when the median price again creeps over that cap?

Well, lenders are working on a solution to that even as we speak. The only question is – what are they going to call sub-prime next time? That name’s probably played out.

Of course that’s just my opinion. I could be wrong.

Governor Brown – VETO SB469

On Friday morning, September 30, 2011, several representatives from our community held a press conference asking Governor Jerry Brown to VETO SB 469 (Vargas). This bill is another in the long line of attacks by California on both businesses and municipalities in our state. It is just one example of why California finds itself 49th out of 50 states for having a business friendly environment. It’s why we’re losing 5.4 companies every week to places like Texas and Colorado and North Carolina and Nevada. It’s another example of that political-think that says Sacramento can make better decisions for our local cities than they can themselves – keeping in mind that Sacramento is deeply in debt, can’t pass a budget, is divisively gridlocked and stocked with career politicians who have never held a real job. Yet they feel perfectly content to try to dictate to the rest of us how we should comport ourselves.

This morning I joined the Mayor of Murrieta, Randon Lane, Wildomar Mayor Pro-Tem Ben Benoit, Menifee City Council member Darcy Kuenzi, Lake Elsinore Finance Director Allan Baldwin and League of Cities rep Dave Willmon in providing our statements to the assembled press. Here is my statement:

Good morning. My name is Gene Wunderlich and I’m Chair of the Southwest California Legislative Council, a coalition of businesses and Chambers representing more than 3,000 small, medium and large businesses in Southwest Riverside County.

Communities throughout our state are facing crisis. In Riverside County our unemployment rate is 14.7%, statewide it is 12.1%, and that’s only the people they count. Like many other cities and counties across California, we each face problems that are similar in nature, yet unique to each locality. We must be able to make decisions that are best for our communities, our families and our friends.

Our elected leaders in Sacramento don’t seem to know what’s going on in Temecula, or Wildomar, or Menifee or communities across Southwest Riverside County. SB469 is a perfect example of that with its bureaucratic roadblocks and overreaching state authority. It’s a one=size-fits-all bill and it will not help us create jobs in our community – although it may well keep several attorneys busy for years.

This bill takes away the power of a community to build and define itself and gives that power to the state, having local land use issues defined in Sacramento. The state SHOULD NOT be imposing more regulations on local governments right now. The state SHOULD NOT be telling us what kinds of businesses we can and cannot approve and the state SHOULD NOT be interfering in our ability to help reduce the high unemployment rate in our own community.

We are asking Governor Brown to help Southwest Riverside County and cities and counties across the state. Join us in helping create new jobs, not destroy more jobs.

VETO SB469.

This bill is also opposed by the California Association of Realtors® and dozens of other pro-jobs, pro-business & pro-local rights groups throughout the state.

Crow with West Nile Virus found in Wildomar

A crow with West Nile Virus was recently found in Wildomar. Crows cover a lot of ground during their day and may play host to lots of mosquitoes. Here’s the caution from the County on how to avoid situations where you may be exposed.

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.

The California Democratic Party is at it again – and they’re counting on you being too stupid to notice.

Dan Walters, Political Columnists for the Sacramento Bee, recently wrote about the slew of Democratic legislation aimed at eviscerating the initiative process in our state. You know, the initiative process – whereby ordinary citizens have the opportunity to get measures on the ballot that legislators don’t like? Yeah, that process. Democrats complain that ‘the initiative process is being abused’ and they want to protect us from ourselves.

Now granted there are too many initiatives on our ballot sometimes – there were 10 on last Novembers ballot alone, But in its 100 year history, the initiative, referendum and recall petition has produced many beneficial results in addition to a few clinkers. Prop. 13 comes to mind, and last years successful Prop 20, which removed the redistricting process from the hands of our legislators, and failed Props 19, to legalize marijuana and  23, which would have overthrown the onerous AB 32.

But the Democrats don’t like us to have that much say in our government – because they know what’s best for us and how best to spend our money without any pesky input from us. Heck, they already control our legislature, our governor, and every major elected office in the state – they just don’t want to contend with the actual voice of the people.  They’re also afraid of public backlash against their incompetence and malfeasance in office which is threatening to put bills on upcoming ballots mandating pension reform, restrictions on political fundraising by unions, education entitlement and reform and a host of other issues that citizens are pissed off about but that the legislature refuses to act on.

Now in an act of craven insincerity, they are backing radio ads aimed at inducing fear of signing initiative petitions. You may have heard them – a sweet female voice just signed a petition outside the local grocery store while the wise male voice tells her she probably just gave her signature to an identity thief, all her pertinent information will be shared on the global network of signature gatherers/identity thieves, and she should never do that again. Listen closely at the end, after the terrified woman promises never to do such a stupid thing again – listen to who is paying for the ad. It’s a  group called – Californians Against Identity Theft,  ALONG WITH backing by unidentified labor groups. The origins of the group are murky but the goal is not.  Identity theft is a major issue and cause for concern for everybody, I’ve written about it numerous times over the years, But the SOLE FOCUS of CAIT appears top be  signature gatherers and the initiative process. Sound like a well rounded group focused on the real issue – or some special interest? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

Maybe I’m just cynical but could the liberal labor movement and their Democratic lackeys in the legislature be in cahoots on this? Could they actually be waging a concerted campaign both in the legislature and on the airwaves to further their agenda of coercion and control? Naw, I’m probably just being paranoid. Of course just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they really aren’t  out to get you.

How much do like being manipulated? You must – you keep voting for these people.

Read more: http://www.fresnobee.com/2011/08/03/2487995/calif-democrats-attack-initiative.html#ixzz1UqBID2Lb

The opinions expressed in this blog are solely the purview of the author and in no way represent the views or policies of SRCAR, or any other reputable organization or asylum I am associated with.

What’s wrong with our Association?

Yesterday I stood in the back of the room during our Tuesday morning mls marketing meeting. As usual it was well attended and the highlight yesterday was the forum by candidates who are running for our board of directors. We are truly blessed to have an exemplary crop of folks who are willing to give of their time to help guide our association into the future. It wasn’t that many years ago we had one or two people, if we bullied them into running. Now we have a surfeit of well qualified people from members from our Young Professionals Network to people who have been in the industry for 30+ years.  We have three openings this year and 8 people interested in filling them. The future looks bright.

But a question was raised from an audience member during the Q & A referring to a ‘disconnect’ between the board and the members. Now keep in mind I sat on the board for 12 years, chaired it three times and have sat in the back of the room as an observer the past 2 years. Never have I seen a board more connected to the members. Everybody on our board is a practicing Realtor®. They come from big franchise offices and one man brokerages. There are salespersons and brokers. There are people that work hard to do 5 deals a year and others who do 80 or more. There are people with lending and appraisal experience, men and women, young and not-so-young – in short, a board that mirrors our membership pretty well.

This board is also very engaged. There have been times in the past where board members were just padding a resume but todays board members sit on a variety of committees, several are traveling directors to our state association, some travel to national association meetings, others are involved in our regional and state mls, some are members of our fraud task force and some have stepped in from our future leadership pool, the Young Professionals Network, to become leaders today.

How do you even intimate these people are ‘disconnected’ from our members? They represent the very best of our members. And the people running for the positions represent a continuation of that excellence – it is insulting to them and to the current board to say they’re disconnected.

But then I had to step back and consider the source. Not everyone out there is connected, that’s obvious. The person calling for more transparency in board meetings is obviously not aware that board meetings are open to everyone to attend and that minutes are subsequently posted to the association website. In spite of repeated efforts to inform them, they’re disconnected from the bigger picture.

Another member bemoaned the lack of ‘outreach’ to get members to attend the Tuesday morning marketing meetings. This has been an ongoing  issue over the years as people tend to come to the meetings when times are tough but don’t attend when times are good. But even during the best of times attendance seldom exceeds 1% or 2% of our members plus a healthy dose of affiliates. Again, some members are disconnected. They think the entire association revolves around these Tuesday morning meetings simply because that’s the one thing THEY attend. As one director pointed out, an email goes out every week reminding members of the meeting – they can either choose to attend or not. Apparently of our 3,500 members, about 3,440 regularly choose ‘not’. Yet amazingly enough many of those people are very successful without attending the meetings. Not a lack of outreach, simply a matter of choice and priority.

Some pointed to a lack of Broker involvement or commitment to force their agents to attend these meetings. We have a very robust Broker community that take a very active role in our association. We hold regular meetings with them to provide information and solicit their input and these meetings are very well attended. Right now we are involved in an ongoing efforts to get a majority of our Brokers signed onto the Broker Involvement Program through CAR & NAR. The BIP has been shown to increase the response rate for calls to action by anywhere from 2 – 3 times. That’s critical for our state and federal legislative programs – far more critical at this juncture than pressuring these Brokers to force their agents to attend a Tuesday morning  meeting. Not only that, most Brokers have their own weekly marketing meetings and if they’re going to have their agents kill a morning a week, they would just as soon it be at their own office meeting. Their choice, not the association’s position to badger them.

Unfortunately, as all people running for office, our candidates treated all these questions with a gravitas often undeserved. Sometimes the premise behind a question is invalid and it’s OK to point that out. And as much as we’ve been told over the years “there are no stupid questions”, we all know better, don’t we? In any group there’s bound to be at least one asking stupid questions repeatedly. Yet our candidates, to their credit, dealt with each question, often according it way more legitimacy than it deserved. A couple even twisted themselves into corners on what they would do if elected trying to address every realm of some obscure question. Welcome to the world of politics.

Ah well, bless the candidates for stepping up. Three of them will go on to represent our members very effectively and develop that special connection. The ones not elected will still continue to contribute as they have over the years which brought them to this position today. Yesterday they staked out their positions and answered questions for an hour – all for the benefit of 5, count ’em, 5, people who had not yet voted. They treated it like it really made a difference – because it does. If you don’t like it, get involved yourself. It’s easy. All you have to do is step out from the back of the room lobbing vollies and move to the front of the room fielding them.

Southwest Healthcare expands facilities/services in Murrieta & Wildomar

In a major step forward for our hospitals and our community, Universal Health Services recently announced the opening of  greatly expanded Southwest Healthcare facilities at both Rancho Springs Medical Center in Murrieta and Inland Valley Medical Center in Wildomar. Long-time readers may recall my rants from early last year wherein the hospitals appeared to be locked in a life-or-death (for residents of our community) struggle to open new emergency rooms and other much needed facilities that had been built, outfitted and staffed for over a year.

I’m not going to dredge up all that unpleasant history at this point other than to say significant changes were made at the hospitals while other changes were taking place at the state agency. Finally last month the state gave the go-ahead to open these  facilities at first on a partial basis, followed quickly by a full opening. (In the interest of full disclosure, I was one of 5 new members named to the Board of Governors for the two facilities, though I take no responsibility whatsoever for the progress made).

New CEO Ken Rivers initiated a sea change of atitude by instilling the concept that each patient is not just a patient but a family member. Treat each person you meet as if it’s your own parent, sister or child. Together with some tweaks to procedural issues raised by state and federal regulators, the level of care is reaching new heights.

new er

The move at Rancho Springs opened up a $50 million expansion which saw emergency beds go from 8 bays separated by curtains to 30 fully private bays with not only state-of-the-art medical and trauma gear but flat screen TV’s in every room and family comfort stations.

er

Equally important for the community is the entire 2nd floor dedicated to womens services, pre-natal care and a host of other services. These include spacious suites for Moms that have individual sleep-chairs for Dads, infant warmer beds and specially designed facilities to accomodate all services within the same room – including C sections and other procedures. No more wheeling the patient around here and there, most everything can be done within the comfort of her private suite.

wc

One opening that has been delayed is the dual bay neonatal intensive care unit with surgical centers. Originally staffed and trained, the two year wait to open meant that staff was moved to other areas and now must be re-trained so this much needed opening has been delayed for a few more months.

In addition to being a regional trauma care center, Inland Valley Medical Center also added to their own ER center as well as a much needed cardio-vascular care center. Intensive Care Units were also expanded at both facilities and new technological advances were incorporated into both the new facilities and the existing buildings, an ongoing process.

One more very cool thing – you can visit the nursery anytime to see the newborns. Check out theses little bundles and their happy Mom’s. Friends and relatives from across the country and around the world can log on and see how Mom & baby are doing. Grandma in Topeka can go in and see when Casey T. was born, how big she was and view several snapshots of the nipper.

More beds, more space, more technology and more caring – means a better healthcare experience for all our patients. After all, we know you really don’t want to be here and would just as soon be on your way as quickly and easily as possible.

It’s not just about healthcare, it’s about people care. I like being part of that.

Another Reason California’s in the Crapper: Tom Ammiano.

Every once in awhile a legislator comes along who is just so horrendously, laughably bad that even by California’s low bar, they are exemplary. If you’re involved at all, you start to recognize the same names popping up time and again over the years to the point where any bill that has their name attached you just automatically assume is going to be bad – and it usually is. Too bad because sometimes they do have a cogent thought but not often enough to disregard the voluminous reeking detritus that daily disgorges from their oral orifice.

The newest Drum Major for California’s ‘A**holes on Parade’ has to be Assemblymember Tom Ammiano. Let me just say three words about Tom – San Francisco & Democrat. Adding the term ‘liberal’ to that would merely be gilding the lily – an exercise of which Tom might approve.

Ammiano has risen through San Francisco politics from educator to Supervisor to Assemblymember having never actually held a private sector job. He’s been on the public dole his entire career. This is also the same district that gave us Nancy Pelosi, so we would not be remiss to flavor their political judgment with a grain or three of salt.

ammiano

(unretouched photo – can’t say the same for that face)

Ammiano’s main claim to fame in the assembly is his perennial bill to legalize marijuana in the state. If the general public outside San Francisco has heard of him at all, it’s probably for that. But that pales in comparison to some of the bills he routinely introduces. Just in this legislative session alone he has produced more than his share of clunker bills that should be relegated to the outhouse instead of the state house – for example:

  • Earlier this year landlords, apartment owners and Realtors united against a bill that would have extended a landlords  ‘pay or quit’ timeframe from 3 to 14 days. That means if you own a home or an apartment complex and somebody decides not to pay you, rather than tack a notice on their door telling them they have 3 days to pay up or leave, they would now have 2 weeks to live off you rent free – more if they contest the eviction. Why did he propose this? His ‘constituents’ are going through some hard times and just need some more time and a little understanding.

HELLO! We’re all going through some hard times. What about the hard times your landlord is going through? But it’s OK for him to carry your deadbeat constituents for 2 weeks, is that right? How about the small landlord who has a house rented and suddenly he’s in default because your constituent decided not to pay? That’s OK too? Well, as long as your constituents aren’t inconvenienced I guess. After some considerable pressure, he amended the bill to remove the most onerous language and it now simply says the eviction process can be halted at any time as long as they pay the rent owed and landlord attorney fees capped at $350. Property managers across the state are still against the measure.

  • Earlier this year Ammiano declared that ‘sports are a vital economic activity’ and proposed that the legislature create a ‘statewide sports authority’.
Yeah, we can’t get rid of the bloated, overpaid state committees and commissions and task forces currently driving our state into bankruptcy – we need a statewide sports authority. Dumb ass.
  • Ammiano has proposed a bill which would limit the number of charter schools in a given area to 10.

Let’s see – charter schools traditionally have a higher success rate, produce more college bound students, enjoy smaller class sizes and attract more motivated teachers. Yeah, let’s limit them and force those kids into Californian’s superbly under-performing and over-funded public school system where 60% to 70% of students in your constituency fail to graduate. That makes sense? Well, it makes sense I guess if your former colleagues in the teachers union helped get you elected, otherwise -ehhh, not so much.

  • Here’s a fun one. Ammiano has proposed a bill to let California counties ‘opt out’ of the federal Secure Communities Program. The SCP mandates that when people are booked into local jails their immigration status is checked to see if they are deportable. “We’ve got to improve the RIGHTS of the people who are the foundation of our society”, according to Ammiano.

That’s wrong on so many levels. Of course he has the backing of both Los Angeles and San Francisco counties, who prefer not to check anyway and would rather just let these people remain here to commit more crimes I guess. And of course our new Attorney General, also a strong supporter of illegal immigration, supports the bill. A spokeshole recently declared that some 25% of people brought to jail end up not being convicted of a crime but may end up being deported anyway because of their immigration status. Hmmm, perhaps nobody explained to the nimrod the definition of the term ‘illegal immigrant’. By definition they have broken the law and should be deported.

Just one of the many reasons California continues it’s downward trajectory – people unclear on the concept who are elected to positions of authority. Ammiano is one of those who has never held a private sector job, has never had the pressure of meeting a payroll or producing a product or service in a competitive marketplace. Among his notable accomplishments prior to getting elected to the Assembly was the expansion of diversity and sensitivity training to include gay and lesbian curriculum to the kindergarten level for San Francisco schools. Oh, and as a Supervisor one of his great contributions was permitting the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a charity group of drag queens, to close Castro Street for their Easter Parade. Attaboy Tom, way to focus on the important stuff.

Perhaps it’s no surprise that Ammiano’s first exposure outside his limited constituency, came in 2009 when he yelled ‘you lie’ at then Governor Arnold Schwartzenegger at a public event. He followed this up saying Arnie could “kiss my gay ass”. Apparently Arnie wasn’t interested and promptly vetoed a bill of Ammiano’s that had passed both houses of the legislature unanimously. His note to Ammiano explaining the veto is attached for your edification. If you read down the left side of the page you find an acrostic message from the then Gov. Statisticians put the odds of a message like that appearing randomly at over 2 billion to 1.

arnie fu

We should be saying that to more of Ammiano’s bills.

Of course that’s just my opinion. I could be wrong.

The right of property is the guardian of every other right.

Briefing Report: The Value of Property Rights

“The Right of property is the guardian of every other Right, and to deprive the people of this, is to deprive them of their Liberty.” – Arthur Lee

The Bedrock of a Free & Prosperous Society

The institution of the right to private property is perhaps the single most important condition for a society in which freedom and prosperity is to flourish. This notion of private property can seem fairly straightforward, especially for people living in a free-market society such as the United States. As noted in the book Unleashing Capitalism:

One reason for its familiarity to us is that private property is a bedrock principle of market capitalism. Think of a growing economy as an award-winning Broadway show. Private property is like the stage crew, constantly working behind the scenes to make sure the show runs smoothly. Private property, while perhaps underappreciated, is vital to ensuring that the economy will grow and prosperity will rise over time.

Yet in our modern political age, the importance of private property rights has faded to the background and has at times been termed little more than a “philosophical exercise that has no practical implications.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Across the nation, and particularly in California, property rights are becoming ever more vulnerable to infringement by government control in several forms: excessive taxation, regulation, and the process of takings (i.e. eminent domain). This undermines property rights and thereby suffocates economic growth prolonging our economic woes.

The protection of private property is vital component necessary for the economic growth and prosperity that will play a key role in lifting California out of her perpetual economic malaise.

The Cornerstone of American Exceptionalism

“Property,” John Adams wrote, “is surely a right of mankind as real as liberty.”

America’s founding was shaped by the radical declaration that our right to private property was and is inherent and inalienable. This novel and revolutionary idea, embodied in our Founding documents, challenged the historical practice of man’s rights being determined, limited, and granted by the state. This reorientation of the grantor of rights – from our Creator rather than from those in authority – dramatically redefined who was sovereign while simultaneously placing chains on the powers of government. The state would now be the protector – rather than the arbiter – of man’s inherent and inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the fruits of his labors1.

The right to hold private property is a well-documented principle of the Founding Fathers. William Blackstone, whose Commentaries on the Laws of England shaped much of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, wrote that “the law of the land… postpone[s] even public necessity to the sacred and inviolable rights of private property.”

Thomas Jefferson stated: “all power is inherent in the people… they are entitled to freedom of person, freedom of religion, freedom of property, and freedom of press.” Thomas Paine, in Rights of Man, cites property, along with liberty, security, and resistance of oppression, as chief among inherent individual rights.

Such reasoning led to drafting the Fifth Amendment in the Bill of Rights, where it states, “No person shall be…deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” The need to protect private property rights, once so obvious to Jefferson and Adams, is now becoming lost in a tangle of intrusive government takings.

Governmental forces (excessive taxation, regulation, and strong eminent domain powers) make property rights less secure, increasing owner uncertainty. Greater uncertainty decreases the willingness to undertake capital investment and accumulation thereby reducing the productivity of labor and depressing wages. Greater uncertainty also curtails transactions transferring property to new owners who discover more valuable uses. Ultimately, economic growth stagnates. When government undermines private property rights, the economy suffers and this thwarts prosperity for the future2.

The Millstone of Eminent Domain

The clearest example of government infringement on private property rights is the use of eminent domain. Eminent domain is the power governments have to confiscate private property as long as it is for a legitimate “public use”. Whereas eminent domain was initially intended to ensure that public services (ie roads and highways) were available to the public, local and state governments often use eminent domain for any project that is considered economically beneficial. Public use, as a practical matter, has morphed into a more ambiguous “public benefit.”

The most jarring example of this morphed “public benefit” was the city of New London’s abuse of eminent domain and the Supreme Court’s ruling upholding the action in Kelo v. City of New London (2005). In Kelo, the Supreme Court held that held that the Constitution allows governments to seize private property and transfer it from one private land owner to another in the name of economic development. In other words, after the Kelo decision, governments can use their eminent domain power to take homes for potentially more profitable, higher-tax uses, powerful evidence, as Justice Clarence Thomas suggests, that something is seriously awry with the Supreme Court’s vision of the Constitution.

Justice Sandra Day O’Connor framed the problem very simply in her blistering dissenting opinion: “Under the banner of economic development, all private property is now vulnerable to being taken and transferred to another private owner, so long as it might be upgraded i.e., given to an owner who will use it in a way that the legislature deems more beneficial to the public in the process.” This decision went well beyond what the founders intended when they wrote the just compensation for public use clause.

While some political observers note that the power of eminent domain is rarely used in the Golden State, the Institute for Justice – a leading legal advocate against eminent domain abuse – has documented nearly 200 projects across the state that have threatened or used eminent domain for private gain. Within each of those projects, dozens, hundreds, if not thousands of homes, businesses, churches and farms have been impacted.

National polling confirms that the public is overwhelmingly opposed to the use of eminent domain for economic redevelopment. Some 87 percent responded that government shouldn’t have such power. Some 88 percent responded that property rights are just as important as freedom of speech and religion.

Regulatory Takings

Today, government imposition of regulatory regimes that signifi­cantly diminish the value and enjoyment of private property may present an even more common threat than abuse of eminent domain. Property owners are increasingly subjected to regulatory “takings” – where the use of their land is drastically restricted and, consequently, the overall value of the land diminishes.

The problem begins, therefore, with the growth of government regulations at the federal, state, and local levels of governance that deny owners the legitimate use of their property. A prime example can be seen in the advancement of the environmentalist movement. Just as the inflation of the 1970s moved people into higher tax brackets, so the environmentalism of the 1990s has given government new rationales for controlling the use of property. While there is little doubt that cleaner air or less traffic congestion are a positive end goal, when they are accomplished through heavy handed regulations, we may be sure that our liberties are also being restricted. Production and prosperity also tend to decline, and in the case of those people who bought land anticipating that they would be able to develop it – but now find that they have paid a high price to keep it idle – there is also manifest injustice3.

Leonard Gilroy of the Reason Foundation describes the infringement of property rights through land use regulation as follows:

…contemporary land use regulation often uses public policy to mandate the private provision of amenities that benefit the community-at-large. As the regulatory scheme influencing local land use has grown more prescriptive and restrictive, there has been an increasing curtailment of private property rights. Landowners in many communities nationwide have been restricted in their ability to use their land in the ways that they had intended when they purchased their property, dramatically reducing their property’s value and imposing an economic hardship on them.

If investors don’t know what they own, or can’t be sure of defending their property rights, then they either won’t invest or alternatively they will demand higher rates of return when they do. This idea applies to both tangible and intellectual rights. The net impact tends to be dual — lower levels of investment and higher interest rates, neither of which is conducive to faster economic growth.

Stimulating the Economy

Well-defined and enforced private property rights are the cornerstone of a free-market economy. The positive economic effects of private property are widespread and well documented. Secure property rights promote specialization and exchange, provide incentives for conservation and preservation of resources, and promote technological innovation, entrepreneurship, capital accumulation, and investment. In essence, secure property rights underlie economic growth.

This relationship is confirmed in The Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom. As demonstrated in the chart to the right, property rights and economic prosperity go hand in hand.

On average, GDP per capita is over 10 times higher in nations with the strongest property rights than in those with the weakest property rights.

One of the government’s primary roles is to ensure that people can own and make decisions regarding how they will use their property and ideas – which in turn spurs entrepreneurial growth. As such the same correlation between strong property rights and economic growth must pertain to state and local governments.

In a free market economy, one of the strongest incentives that drive entrepreneurs is the desire to please customers and thereby earn a profit. To flourish, entrepreneurs need an economic environment that encourages private property and free markets.

In a system where the government or some central planner owns the nation’s resources and decides how they are allocated, entrepreneurs do not profit from their successes; thus, there is a much smaller incentive for them to be creative. In a free market economy, entrepreneurs can use their property and ideas in ways they think are best, and they can benefit directly from their successes in the form of higher profits or salaries.

Simply put, private property is necessary for economic growth and prosperity.

Conclusion

Today Californians are besieged on all sides by government infringement on their right to own property and use it to its fullest extent. As government and bureaucracy continue to grow, federal state and local governments alike are wielding far-reaching environmentally based land use restrictions, “growth controls,” unreasonable zoning hurdles, facility permitting regimes, and, now, potentially, crippling carbon dioxide emission limits. Throw in the threat of eminent domain and tax policies which diminishe productivity and undermines the security of ownership, and it is easy to see why California’s economy continues to struggle.

One of the most important steps that lawmakers can take is to serve as strong advocates of property rights, and ensure that new laws do not further erode those rights.

By focusing on the importance of private property rights and providing greater protection of those rights, federal, state and municipal leaders will witness the economic growth they have long pursued through other means.

For more information on this report or other Local Government and Housing issues , contact Ryan Eisberg, Senate Republican Office of Policy at 916/651-1796.

Jesus Christ Superstar Starts Final Weekend Run

The Temecula Valley Players production of Jesus Christ Superstar enters the final weekend of it’s 3 week run this Thursday, April 21 at the Old Town Temecula Theater. Some of you old Hippies will not doubt remember the debut of this exciting piece of musical theater from your halcyon days. For the rest of you, JCS was first staged on Broadway in 1971 as the first rock opera. Staged by Andrew Lloyd Weber with lyrics by Tim Rice,  the piece roughly follows the last week of Jesus’ life – provided of course that Jesus had a good voice and was surrounded by lots of singing, dancing Apostles, priests and hookers.

jcs

The Temecula Valley Players version is true to the original production and brings together a diverse collection of some of our Valley’s most talented thespians. For Director Marc McCullough, staging this production has been a lifelong passion. Jason Call, who channels Ted Neely as Jesus, first played a minor part in the
production when he was 14. Now some 24 years later he has achieved his dream to bring the lead role to the stage. Several of the other players have also had an abiding fascination with this unique piece of theater and have eagerly endured months of rehearsals to fine tune the production.

The cast of nearly 50 people includes youngsters of 7 and 8 years old up to a couple ‘senior members’ of nearly 60. Many of the actors are what we refer to as
‘triple threats’, they are equally adept at singing, dancing and acting. I am actually the antithesis of a triple threat in that I can’t really sing or act and I certainly can’t dance, but I do have a certain presence. Thus the role of High Priest suits me fine as foil to the scheming Annas and the evil Caiaphas.

priests

If you haven’t had a chance to catch this local production, tickets for the final 5 performances are gong fast but a few seats remain available. For more information and showtimes visit: Jesus Christ Superstar.

What a difference 5 years makes. Temecula/Murrieta Condo prices 2006 – 2011

Inspired by a post of Mirela Monte’s showing what a difference the past 5 years have made to ocean front condos in Myrtle Beach SC, I decided to see what had transpired locally. I mean, we were the foreclosure capitol of the country for awhile back in 2008 & 2009 and our prices dropped about 45% – 55% throughout the region for single family homes. They’re still down but have been stable to slightly higher the past two years and properties are selling well the past 3 years. But I hadn’t really taken a look specifically at condo’s for awhile. I probably won’t do it again for awhile either – weak stomach.

arboretum interiorcondo pond

So here is a comparison of condo prices in several of our better known communities:

Location            Size    Br/Ba            Q1 2006 (73 sold)        Q1 2011 (93 sold)    %

Arboretum          730    1/1                     $235,000                     $70,000        -70%

Madison              854    1/1                     $220,000                     $68,000        -69%

Bucaneer Bay       961    2/2                    $295,000                   $104,000        -65%

Anchor Bay       1,016    2/2.5                  $305,000                   $105,000        -65%

Madison            1,159    2/2                     $285,000                     $90,000        -68%

Arboretum        1,246    2/2                    $314,977                    $135,000        -57%

Pelican Bay        1,387    3/2.5                 $337,900                   $128,000        -62%

Socorro            1,508    3/2.5                  $345,000                   $133,600        -61%

Arboretum        1,745    3/2.5                  $365,000                   $175,000        -52%

All I can tell you for sure is that a lot of first-timers lost a lot of money during the past 5 years. BUT, if you’re in a position to buy into one right now, your timing couldn’t be better. There’s almost nowhere for these prices to go but up. The problem right now is that investors have been scooping these up as fast as they can so the ratio of owner occupied properties has dropped so far most first timers can no longer get FHA financing in these developments. But for an investor is there any question? You can generate a positive cash flow from day one, hold onto it for 3 – 5 years and turn a tidy little profit.

Why would the building industry support additional taxes on housing?

‘It has come to our attention that the California Building Industry Association (CBIA) has issued a Call to Action urging its members to tell the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) to reject a proposed rule that would prohibit private transfer fees.  The California Association of Realtors strongly supports the prohibition and urges you to ignore the Call to Action from the CBIA if you or any of your members receive it.  C.A.R. is currently drafting a letter outlining its position on the issue for the FHFA.’

You may recall a couple years back when CAR tried to get our legislature to pass a bill prohibiting private transfer fees. We were aligned against an odd coalition involving our some-time allies the Building Industry Association who were allied with a variety of environmental groups like the Sierra Club and others. Our bill was defeated but we did manage to get a corollary bill passed that at least required properties with private transfer taxes attached to them to at least disclose them to prospective buyers. Prior to that it was just one of those hidden items on page 57 of your title report that most people didn’t find out about until they went to sell their house.

SURPRISE!!! Here’s a bill for another $2,749 that you, Mr. Seller, or you, Mr. Buyer, or you Ms. Agent, get to pay..

Now you might be asking yourself – ‘Self, why would the building industry be in favor of an additional transfer tax on a home – especially a private transfer tax?’ Well according to the BIA, ‘private transfer taxes are used to finance a variety of environmental mitigation, community amenities and affordable housing requirements’. According to their website – if  the current FHFA proposal is enacted the following results may occur:

  • Property values could suffer (already have. Will suffer more in areas with additional taxes attached to the property)
  • Home sales transactions will become cumbersome (really? Having another tax on the property will make the transaction easier?)
  • Lending will be harder to obtain (and having another tax on the property will make it easier? Come on!)
  • Taxes and home owners association dues will increase (too late. You’ll just be one more tax)
  • Environmental conservation efforts will be stifled (no, environmental extremist agendas will be stifled)
  • The real estate market will suffer further (yep, another tax on housing will really help us climb out of this hole)
  • An individual’s ability to choose where they want to live will be inhibited (well yeah, they might choose not to live in an area with a transfer tax)
  • Community programming and quality of life will be compromised (yeah, a tax that has no direct benefit to the community will really compromise it)

Sounds pretty dire, doesn’t it? But don’t be fooled. There are areas of the country where private transfer taxes are needed and I’ve heard from fellow Realtors in some of those areas. But those areas are excluded from this legislation. Why? Because there’s a nexus between the funds being collected from the fees and where they are spent – which is right on the same project. For example, Condo developments that rely on these fees for maintenance and amenities upkeep are exempt as are a variety of other direct benefit uses.

But for California, and indeed much of the country, you need read no further than the first sentence in the BIA claim – ‘finance a variety of environmental mitigation.’ Translation ; it’s a way for developers to knuckle under to environmentalists demands without incurring any cost themselves by passing it along to future home purchasers.

Here’s the typical California scenario: A developer has an option on a tract of land where they would like to build new homes. An eco-mill (environmentalist group set up to find out about this kind of stuff, see – ambulance chasing lawyer) finds about about this developers plan and approaches the builder.

Eco-mill: “We don’t want anything built there because there are maybe endangered species or trees or we just want to preserve the wildlife there. If you move forward with your plans we will sue you from here to kingdom come and even though you might eventually prevail in court, you will spend a ton of money and ultimately it will drive your cost to build these homes up past the point where they are economically feasible.”

Developer: “Jeez, what can we do. There’s a need for houses in this area and we’ll be building a good affordable product that will be really good for young families?”

Eco-:mill “Well, maybe we can reach an accommodation – and it won’t cost you a dime.”

Developer: “That sounds delicious – what do we have to do?”

Eco-mill: “Just attach this private transfer tax to your homes. Every time that home gets resold for the next 30 or 50 years, that tax will be collected and we’ll rake in millions of dollars over the life of the property.”

Developer “And what will you do with the money?”

Eco-mill: “Oh don’t worry abut that.”

Developer: “But will you spend it in the area, maybe help build a new road or a park for the development, contribute to a school or help build a new fire station or something to benefit the residents who will be paying the tax?”

Eco-mill: “Are you friggin crazy? We are totally unregulated. We might spend part of it on new Prius’s for our members, and we might raise our own salaries and we’ll probably spend part of it to research other poor schmucks like you who are thinking about building somewhere else and we’ll no doubt spend part of it suing developers who don’t just fold up like a cheap card table when we threaten them.”

Developer: “Hmmm, well I don’t like that one bit but as long as you promise to leave us alone I guess we’ll just go along and get along.”

Eco-mill: “Thatta boy. Next.”

Think I’m making that up? That exact scenario plays out numerous times throughout our state – less now that developers are building fewer homes, but it was so prevalent during the boom days that whole eco-mills were set up around the product. There was even a Texas company on-line offering the opportunity to help you set up an individual private transfer tax on your own home so that after you sold it, any future sellers would have to send you a check.Yeah, really.

The scenario also happened right here in Temecula with a group that was threatening to stop a well known developer from building a big box store in South Temecula. In that case, because it was a  single store rather than a development with future resale, the settlement was for an upfront fee and the organization went away.

And that’s how it works.

So if you get an email from colleagues at the Building Industry asking to help defeat this FHFA proposal for a private transfer tax, pass on it. NAR has been fighting hard to get this provision included at a national level and at least 11 states have passed a similar measure prohibiting these private transfer taxes. States like California that have no political will (balls) to step up and take a stand against these eco-terrorists, will only benefit from the passage of this proposal.

Well, that’s just my opinion. I could be wrong.

Gov says drought is over – rates rise in celebration.

Governor: Drought is over.

What a great headline on the front page of our daily newspaper today. Accompanied by a photo of two goofs standing out in the snow with some 15′ long stick suspended from a ski pole measuring how heavy snow is. I don’t know – I guess it was meant to convince us the Gov. knows scientific stuff.

But the message was clear, our state reservoirs have reached such high levels after two years of rainy winters and plenty of snow up high that the drought declared in 2008 no longer exists. WhooHoo! The biggest reservoir in the system, Oroville Dam, is at 104% of its historical average, Shasta is at 111% of historical, our current snowpack is at 165% of normal. Even the Colorado River basins, Lake Mead,  Diamond Valley and others are filling up fast.

But wait – they remind us that conservation remains necessary because of the precarious condition of the Sacramento River Delta. Even though they’ve got all that water, a lot of it up north, doesn’t mean they will be releasing any more for us down south because it would still kill the little Delta Smelt – that 3 inch long good-for-nothing fish that gets sucked into pumps because it’s too stupid to swim away. Yeah, we still got that.

But even Southern California reserves are up – plenty of water for now. That means the 50%+ increases in price they’ve jacked onto us the past two years will stabilize? Maybe even drop a little since water is now plentiful? After all, the increases were to encourage conservation during the tough times and reduce our dependence on imported water.

And we’ve done that right?

Usage in San Diego County is down 20%, other areas are averaging between 15% and 43% reductions over the past 2 years. I mean, they beat us over the head with this. Gotta conserve. Low flow toilets, desert landscape, 5 minute showers,  if it’s yellow it’s mellow, if it’s brown flush it down, you name it, we’ve done it.  Heck I’m even drinking my whiskey neat because I don’t want to waste the water for mix or for ice.

We get that: Conservation = good. No conservation = expensive.

So now we get a break, right?

Yeah, I got your break right here, Pal. This is the part where you just have to appreciate the humor of the situation or you’re likely to go on a rampage with multiple dangerous weapons and a bad attitude. According to one water department spokehole, “all that water is a blessing and a bane.” A what? A bane you ignorant savages! Because now they have all this water but guess what? They’re not selling enough to cover their asses – I mean expenses. Honest to Jesus H, we’ll now be paying higher water bills because we’re not using enough. I believe judicious use of the ‘F’ word might be appropriate here.

Sounds like the oil companies. “Hey, they’re using too much gas, lets jack up the price to get them to conserve. Hey they’re not driving enough, we need to jack up the price to boost our profit. Hey, there’s a crisis in Libya, let’s jack up our price because we can. Hey, we don’t even need a good reason anymore, lets just jack up our price because….. Jackholes!

So we’ve got water flowing out the kazoo but we’re still scheduled for another 12.5% in rate hikes by 2012. It would appear that we’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t. If anybody can suggest a scenario out of this wherein the consumer actually wins a little, please feel free to suggest it.

Aw what the hell. It’s just California. Grab a little medicinal weed, go to the beach and forget about it.


CAR asks legislature to let the citizens decide.

C.A.R. today sent a letter to Gov. Jerry Brown and members of the California Legislature asking them to place the Governor’s budget framework on the June ballot.  The Governor’s budget framework calls for a $26 billion solution – half in the form of budget cuts and half in the form of revenue from the extension of existing taxes.

C.A.R. has not taken a position in support of tax extensions, but is only in support of putting the tax extensions on the June ballot to let California voters decide.

For more information, contact Christopher Carlisle, C.A.R.’s legislative advocate at (916) 492-5200.

I don’t know if I agree with today’s move by CAR – but they didn’t ask me. However, it appears to be in line with recent polls showing the majority of Californians appear to prefer having a voice in this latest budget skirmish. 61% believe the issue of  Gov. Browns tax & cut budget should be decided by a vote of the people. Even 56% of Republicans believe this should be the case although 61% of Republicans also say they would vote
against the tax measure. A majority of voters also indicate they would not vote for any new or increased taxes – but the survey didn’t drill right down to whether the majority would vote to extend the currently increased taxes for another 5 years.

While I am not in favor of the tax increase that was foisted on us two years ago and is now scheduled to expire, if the few Republicans who have not backed themselves into a corner with the No New Tax pledge can negotiate some meaningful cuts – not just the lame-ass cuts proposed by the Governor, it’s worth bringing to a vote of the people. Without the current taxes being extended, there will be foul nastiness ahead for our state. The few real cuts that have been proposed as well as any future cuts, would be to programs that probably should not be cut. The retirement boondoggle, entitlements and growing employment at the state level will not be impacted. Education, police and parks will be.

Whats worse, if the current tax structure is not extended for another 5 years, in addition to the worthless and superficial cuts that may occur, we would likely face a slew of new taxes disguised as fees, levies and outright thievery from our cities and counties. Many of those taxes would also be aimed at independent contractors, small business owners and other housing related areas. I mean, face it folks, our state is broke and should be declared bankrupt if such a thing were allowed and if we had any politicians with enough balls to do it. Unfortunately it’s not and we don’t.

Further, if the tax extension is placed on a special ballot I believe it would pass. It would be supported by massive spending by the  public employee unions, teachers, nurses, etc, as well as the vast entitlement population who live on the public dole. California has reached a tipping point where we have more takers than  givers, people who rely on the system for their income whether it’s direct payroll, retirement or welfare. When that dynamic exists in a state without the political will to address it, the result will inevitably result in those voters making sure their nest continues to be lined as long as the rest of us can pay for it.

Of even greater concern, and something I believe is another inevitability, taxes will get placed on the ballot with the promise of real and substantial cuts to programs and entitlements. The taxes will get passed but the cuts will not occur. We already saw what happened a few years ago when Arnold worked up the machismo to try to tackle a few state employment issues. He was sued under the table  and no jobs were lost. Even the few cost reductions that might have been realized by the imposition of a few months of furlough days was largely negated by the lawsuits necessary to defend the governors right to impose them.

So we’ll get our existing higher taxes extended another five years, the $12 Billion in cuts will not materialize, there will be a call for more ‘fees’ on services and any other way to wring the last few bucks out of the business class and the paying populace and next year we’ll be right back here trying to figure out why we’re another $25 Billion in the crapper.

Ahhh California.

On the upside, it is almost 80 today and the sun is shining beautifully. Had a great lunch with my Congressional Rep on an outdoor patio and it’s almost time to pour a cold one. What? Me worry?

Update: CA State Bar v. Michael T. Pines. SHARK ATTACK!

Last October I wrote about a local attorney by the name of Michael T. Pines who was making quite a name for himself in local real estate circles. (Another Real Estate Scam to beware of.) Counselor Pines was making the evening news by advising clients who had been foreclosed on and evicted to break back into their former homes under the theory that since the debt had been satisfied through foreclosure, they could now own their former home free and clear.

To say this hadn’t worked would be an understatement. Clients who actually followed his advice were summarily re-evicted if they were lucky and arrested if they were not. After all, the homes were now the property of the bank and in some cases had already been resold so charges of breaking and entering and other minor misdeeds were alleged.

Turns out Mr. Pines himself was in foreclosure on some homes he owned and lost his own law office building to foreclosure (he didn’t try to break into his own building). At that time a judge had also slapped him with a $16,000 fine for filing frivolous lawsuits and for wasting his time and not acting in the best interest of his clients.  He also had a couple restraining orders against him for civil harassment after a trial and had been cited for contempt at least once.

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Today attorneys for the State Bar of California asked a judge to suspend the law license of Mr. Pines. According to the state bar, Pines behavior had become ‘so
egregious’ that it filed to have his license suspended on an interim basis while it seeks a permanent removal. Jeez, that’s like watching sharks attack another shark – gruesome yet exciting, and as rare in legal circles as it is in nature.

Chief Trial Counsel James Towery was quoted in a written statement as saying “To remove a lawyer from active practice before formal charges are filed is a drastic remedy. In this case, that remedy is justified by the established misconduct of Michael T. Pines, who has shown complete disrespect for the law, the courts and especially the best interest of his clients.” Duh.

Never to be outdone, Pines has filed his own lawsuit against the state bar. “I’m sure the charges are going to be thrown out,” says Pines. “They’re going to be really embarrassed when they find out the truth.”

Hmm, attorneys vs. attorney. I’m guessing the truth might be a rare commodity in this v enue. Of course that’s just my opinion, I could be wrong.

Meanwhile people who have already suffered through a legal foreclosure in Southern California will not have the opportunity to be further victimized by this predator – at least until he teaches the state bar a lesson and gets his dorsal fin back.

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The opinions in this commentary are strictly Gene Wunderlich’s personal opinions. While any reasonable and/or rational indivdual should agree wholeheartedly, the opinons reflected herein may not necessarily be those of the Southwest Riverside County AOR, or any local or state government or other mental institution.

Realtors Discover Content – Can Control Be Regained?

Friday’s Wall Street Journal contained an interesting article entitled ‘The Airlines Discover ‘Content”.

The article begins, “Air travelers are asked to pay for everything nowadays. So goes a common complaint, though the natural rejoinder is that passengers always paid for everything. Today a traveler who doesn’t want a blanket and pillow doesn’t have to subsidize those who do. One who travels light doesn’t have to subsidize his fellow traveler who can’t leave home without the entire contents of his closet.”

The article goes on to quote Delta CEO Richard Anderson. “The industry has to evolve to a model of other industries where people pay us for our content rather than us paying them to take our content.” (italics mine).

That’s what’s behind current pricing wars among airlines trying to reach their customers more directly and has lead to recent blackouts by some airlines on sites like Orbitz and Expedia. Some airlines, most notably American, are also at war with the giant on-line reservation booking system Sabre.

And it’s not just to save the $3 buck commission on flight legs. The airlines are coming to realize that after years of giving their content away, or even worse, paying others to take it and profit from it, that it’s time to take back control of their own data and use it to better serve their customers and increase their own profitability at the same time.

As I re-read the article, I started substituting ‘Realtor Associations’ for ‘airlines’ and found that the article provided an equally compelling read. For years now at every local, state and national meeting I’ve attended there is much debate about how we as Realtors have lost control of our own data, our content. We gladly pay others to take our data and do with it pretty much as they want.

The listing you worked so hard to obtain you pay a fee to list on the mls. That mls will then take your data and sell it to numerous outlets that re-publish it. They use your data as a bargaining chip to join other regional or statewide mls’s, all without your approval and with no compensation to you. Some organizations will even use your data to generate leads and then charge you to get the information your data provided to begin with. Do you have any idea how many places have access to your listing information right now? How many newspapers, search engines, statewide and national aggregators and others are paying somebody else for the content YOU generated?

As the article notes – “Content, in the digital age, is what attracts eyeballs and, in turn, transactions, which in turn leaves a growing pile of data about who a customer is and what he or she might like to buy in the future. They want to bypass the electronic middleman and have a more direct relationship with shoppers.” Airlines or real estate?

The trend in real estate is for ever larger regional, statewide and national aggregations of mls data – your data. But at the same time Realtors are bemoaning the fact that for that greater exposure they have lost all control of the content they generate.

Maybe the airlines are onto something.

Maybe bigger isn’t necessarily better or more  cost-effective when it comes to the value of your content.

Maybe it’s time to retake control of our content before it’s too late and we’ve been disintermediated right out of the transaction.

Maybe I should just shut up and let you figure it out for yourself. Yeah, that’s probably best.