When fireplaces are outlawed only outlaws will have fireplaces.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) has recently launched the latest salvo aimed at curbing individual freedoms and property right. This initiative, dubbed ‘Check Before You Burn’, is geared toward forcing people to refrain from using their wood burning fireplaces or other wood burning heaters in an effort to ‘improve wintertime air quality’.

Under this new program, the AQMD will issue no-burn advisories through the end of February for specific areas where ‘fine particulates are forecast to reach unhealthy levels’. For 2011 the no-burn prohibition is voluntary but starting in 2012 there will be a series of escalating fines from $50 to $500 or more if you light up during one of their advisory periods. They expect to see about 15 of these periods from November through February.

The AQMD claims that Southern California is home to about 1.4 million fireplaces or wood burning stoves. They claim that these spew 6 tons of soot into the air every day – 4 times the amount emitted by all the power plants in the southland. Really? But their spokes hole says people can avoid the problem just by switching to natural gas fireplaces.

But how about if you live in an area not served by natural gas? Say you live in the Temecula Valley Wine Country or up in the De Luz avocado groves, or the Meadowview area of Temecula? These areas are not all served by natural gas. Many rely on wood burning appliances to not just take the edge off a nippy winter eve, but to stay warm affordably. Electric heat isn’t cheap and many older residents or those on a fixed income will have to make tough choices.

Some of these homes have installed propane (bottled) gas to power certain appliances. But according to one resident I spoke to, their heating bill if they rely on propane alone can run to over $500/month during the winter. Simply burning a half cord of wood for $225 during the winter keeps the chill away and keeps their propane bill to under $200/month.

The AQMD knows this is a problem and have issued exemptions for areas over 3,000 feet elevation because they ‘recognize some mountain residents heat their homes that way’. How about recognizing that some residents below 3,000 do the same?

Is this a life changing event? Not for me. I’ve got four fireplaces in my house and they all burn gas. Goody goody for me. Will it severely impact a lot of people throughout our rural areas that can ill afford it? Probably not significantly if the no-burn events are held to no more than 15 random nights during the 4 month period. Maybe cost folks a few hundred extra bucks for heat, or a few hundred more for fines. Too bad for them.

But here’s my forecast – and I’ve been through this before so I’m not just whistling Dixie out my kazoo. Within 5 years, all wood burning devices will be banned. (When fireplaces are outlawed, only outlaws will have fireplaces).

Year one (2011) will be voluntary compliance with the no-burn. Year two (2012) the ban is no longer voluntary.

Year 3 (2013) will be more of the same – probably with a few more no-burn advisory days thrown in for good measure, or the particulate standards will be reduced to comply with some arbitrary ruling by the geniuses at the California Air Resources Board (CARB).

By year 4 (2014), based on the same specious studies that give us 6 tons of soot a day from fireplaces (did I mention that’s 4 times more than ALL the power plants in Southern California?), they will declare the project a resounding success but predicated on Californians need to be the leader in greenwashing reality, they will see the need to implement an outright ban on all woodburning devices. This will be voluntary in 2014 and there will be a call for increased state spending both to appoint a ‘smoke czar patrol’ to monitor the the state’s chimneys as well as to pay for people to switch to some alternate form of heat technology. By 2015 you’ll be subject to criminal prosecution if your chimney so much as farts during the winter.

Don’t believe me? I could direct you to several cities around the state and the country where that exact scenario has come to pass already. Meanwhile China continues to open a new coal-fired power plant every day. Arizona coal-fired plants will continue to provide electricity to Southern California. Our air will not be appreciably cleaner. But another of your simple pleasures, what you used to consider a right, will have been erased.

Aw, who cares? I’m heading for my little cabin in the woods. There’s plenty of down timber to cut up and not a neighbor around for miles to tattle if I stoke my fireplace. You can come drive by sometime if you get nostalgic for a whiff of pine smoke on a crisp winter morning.

Meanwhile if you want to learn if there’s a ‘no-burn’ advisory out tonight, here’s all you have to do:

• Check AQMD’s Check Before You Burn map at www.aqmd.gov to see if a voluntary no-burn advisory has been issued for their area. Residents may also zoom into a particular neighborhood on the map by entering an address or zip code;
• Sign up to receive electronic e-mail notices when a no-burn advisory is issued for their area. Visit www.airalerts.org to sign up; or
• Call AQMD’s 24-hour Check Before You Burn toll-free information line at (866) 966-3293.

Willingly giving up your privacy via FourSquare/Places/etc? Are you nuts?

From The Electronic Frontier Foundation :

“Locational privacy is the ability of an individual to move in public space with the expectation that under normal circumstances their location will not be systematically and secretly recorded for later use.”

privacyMany of us are justifiably concerned about the intrusion of government and other entities into our privacy. We sue cities over infringement by stoplight enforcement cameras. We worry about electronic swipe cards and FastTrack cards that chart our location and that our GPS cell phones can be monitored to disclose our location. We fret that Google will track our searches and that free WiFi locations will steal our identities and that the US Census will give the IRS omnipotence over our lives.

So I’m amazed at how willingly some of my friends are just giving up their privacy. I guess it’s the ‘cool technology’ part of it that sucks us in – as though we denizens of the internet have a shred of privacy left to begin with. I’m talking about those of you who are taking the Twitter compulsion to a whole new level with apps like FourSqare and FaceBook Places and Yelp and the host of other new programs that allow you, nay, encourage you, to let everybody know where you are anytime, anyplace complete with a map and photos.

I recently read a great blog on ActiveRain about a guy who organized a little impromptu after work gathering at a bar. He posted it on a couple of the check-in sites and as his friends showed up he noted who had arrived. He was amazed when at least half his friends were less than thrilled to have their whereabouts disclosed without their approval. One friend was righteously pissed off because he had told his wife he had to work a little late and was going to have ‘some splaining to do’ when he got home.

But this is just the tip of the iceberg.

privacyI had a little fun with a friend of mine over the weekend (well, fun for me anyway). He’s new onto FourSquare and feels the need to let everybody know where he is, what he’s doing and map his every move and he posts the results to FaceBook. Saturday night he posted a map of where he and his wife were dining. Now ‘Bob” lives in a different city than I do but the same county – not that it matters, and I did not know where he lived. I jumped onto one of three sites I have that will give me people’s home addresses and looked him up. Two of these sites are Realtor-centric (i.e. title company or mls sites) the third is the public records tax database from the county recorder available to anyone. I use these although WhoWhere, 411.com and a host of others will give the average Joe much of the same info.

In less than 2 minutes I had Bob’s home address and posted a comment on his FaceBook update – “Bob. Thanks for letting us all know where you & Jenn are going to be for the next couple hours. Check your email.” On a private email I sent the following – “Bob, just pulled your home address from a public website . You know I’m too lazy to drive over to your house tonight but somebody else might be in the neighborhood and glad to know you’ll be gone for the next couple hours. Hope the TV is still there when you get home. Check out PleaseRobMe.com for more info.”

They didn’t cut their dinner short but they also didn’t order desert and they did call the babysitter three times. He was of mixed mind whether to thank me or be pissed at me. But I noticed he either didn’t go anywhere Sunday or at least he wasn’t posting a map of where and when he was.

privacyLike most people, they didn’t realize how easy it is for almost anybody to access your public information on-line and find your address in the blink of an eye. That’s childs play these days. But most people either don’t know or don’t think it will apply to them. I know I’m guilty too – posting when I travel to NAR or on vacation. I feel a little safer because I live in a gated, guarded community and my house is registered under a corporation – but I probably should think twice anyway.

Electronic media has forever changed the way we do business and the way we conduct our personal lives. As our personal privacy dwindles, we might want to think twice about abdicating the few remaining areas we can protect. After all, the IRS already knows where Bob & Jenn had dinner and what they ate and how much they drank. They know if they drank too much to be driving safely, if they went to a movie afterwards or dancing or had more drinks. If they wanted to they could track exactly the route they drove to and from their location, if they drove too fast, ran any stoplights, and, if they were in New York, they could use facial recognition software to track them walking down the street via the overhead mounted cameras.

Maybe with all that level of intrusion it’s just paranoid to worry about giving up my location to any thug with a laptop. Of course just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean they’re really not after me. I value my privacy please.

privacy


Understanding Stock Market Terms Today

Along with revising history to suit our needs, we are remaking the definitions of several commonly used terms:

CEO -Chief Embezzlement Officer.

CFO- Corporate Fraud Officer.

BULL MARKET – A random market movement causing an investor to mistake himself for a financial genius.

BEAR MARKET – A 6 to 18 month period when the kids get no allowance, the wife gets no jewelry, and the husband gets no sex.

VALUE INVESTING – The art of buying low and selling lower.

P/E RATIO – The percentage of investors wetting their pants as the market keeps crashing.

BROKER – What my broker has made me.

STANDARD & POOR – Your life in a nutshell.

STOCK ANALYST – Idiot who just downgraded your stock.

STOCK SPLIT – When your ex-wife and her lawyer split your assets equally between themselves.

FINANCIAL PLANNER – A guy whose phone has been disconnected.

MARKET CORRECTION – The day after you buy stocks.

CASH FLOW- The movement your money makes as it disappears down the toilet.

YAHOO – What you yell after selling it to some poor sucker for $240 per share.

WINDOWS – What you jump out of when you’re the sucker who bought Yahoo @ $240 per share.

INSTITUTIONAL INVESTOR – Past year investor who’s now locked up in a nuthouse.

PROFIT – An archaic word no longer in use.

Thanks to Mirela Monte of Myrtle Beach, SC for this gem.

And a couple famous (or should be) quotes of the day.

Lord, the money we spend on government, and it’s not one bit better than the government that we got for one-third the money twenty years ago! Will Rogers

Why does a slight tax increase cost you two hundred dollars and a substantial tax cut saves you thirty cents? Peg Bracken

If Thomas Jefferson thought taxation without representation was bad, he should see it with representation! Rush Limbaugh

At the Table or On the Manu.

You’ve heard me rant about this often enough – if we’re not at the table we’ll probably be on the menu. Well here’s a recent column from John Coupal, President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayer Association. His columns is entitled “waking a Sleeping Giant’ and is in reference to the recent manhandling of California Taxpayers at the hands of our elected leaders. John points out the very sentiment I frequently refer to. There was only one party absent from the table in Sacramento – and guess which party got screwed?

To enjoy the entire article, please follow the link at the bottom of the page.

In February, a political “deal” was reached regarding the state budget. Among the interests involved in the negotiations were the usual suspects: the Governor (no longer even pretending to advance limited government, free market policies), powerful labor interests and their democrat puppets in the Legislature and a handful of Republicans who, pressured by business interests, finally acquiesced to a deal that – more or less – left businesses alone while shafting working Californians.

Looks like everyone was at the table in these negotiations except taxpayers. After all, as recently pointed out by noted economist Ben Zycher commenting on the phony spending cap, the special interests are able to focus their political resources while the diffuse interests of taxpayers are far more difficult to marshal – even though, in the abstract, taxpayers are a powerful force.

http://www.hjta.org/california-commentary/waking-sleeping-giant

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.

Ken Calvert – In Our Corner Again.

I’m not sure how I missed the big announcement from NAR about these two bills. Let’s see – every time they want me to support some hunk-of-pork stimulus bill or additional spending bill, I always get the email encouraging me to contact my legislator to get it passed.

But here are two bills by Assembly member Ken Calvert, the long-time sponsor of the Banks Out of Real Estate Bill, and I hear nada? H.R. 1245 brings the $15,000 buyers tax credit back to the table. You might recall this was on the table at one point of the stimulus debate only to be canned in favor of the $8,000 first-timer-only bone we ended up with.

Then, instead of raising capitol gains, Ken has introduced a bill H.R. 755, that would eliminate capitol gains on up to two investment properties. You may recall that NAR sent a ‘strongly worded statement’ to congress about Obama’s wish to mess with capitol gains. Considering our recent success rate, I suspect Congressmen are quaking in their loafers about NAR’s response.

Hmmmmm, let’s see – on the one hand we could have more taxes, no stimulus to housing, at least in our part of the country, along with a disincentive for lenders to lend and for investors to buy OR we could defeat the cram-down, incentivize home buyers across the board, new homes, first time homes, move-up homes, in every market, and encourage investors to mop up some of that inventory. That’s a tough choice, eh? Guess which side’s gonna win? Yeah, I think you’re probably right.

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

calvert

Dear Friends,

I’m sure that many of you have read about the various plans to help people whose homes are in or near foreclosure. I wholeheartedly support finding ways to help homeowners stay in their homes, and have hosted several local housing workshops to do just that, but I have significant concerns about plans that would provide benefits to delinquent mortgage borrowers at the expense of responsible home buyers in the future.

This week, the House will vote on H.R. 1106, also known as the “cram down” bill. The bill authorizes bankruptcy judges to “cram down” the principal of home mortgages which would make the housing situation worse by increasing the risk to lenders who issue loans. The result of the legislation would make it harder and more costly for people to buy, sell and refinance homes, as lenders will inevitably raise lending rates to account for their increased exposure to risk. At a time when our housing market needs stability, the “cram down” bill does exactly the opposite. While 3 million borrowers are 60 days or more delinquent on their mortgages, 52 million borrowers remain current in their payments. The Wall Street Journal Editorial, “Call Them Irresponsible,”
(03/03/09) provides excellent analysis of the cram down legislation and potential negative impacts.

Rather than forcing a costly fix with an uncertain outcome, I support proven methods of increasing demand in the housing market. That is why I introduced H.R. 1245, which would provide a $15,000 tax credit for buying a home. I have also introduced H.R. 755, which would eliminate the capital gains taxes on up to two investment houses purchased over the next three years. As Robert Samuelson wrote in the March 2, 2009 edition of The Washington Post,

“Somehow, we need to cut bloated inventories (13 months of supply for unsold new homes), curb falling prices and stimulate new construction. The hope is that once buying improves, it would feed on itself. People would join from the sidelines. [A $15,000 tax credit] would create 250,000 jobs and cost $40 billion — big money, but tiny compared with the hundreds of billions lavished on recovery programs.”

Where a reasonable loan modification can occur, every effort should be made by both the lender and the homeowner. However, we must not irrevocably change our banking and loan system for the benefit of a few and at the expense of the many.

I am sincerely hoping that the nimble hands of NAR are hovering in the background of this legislation and that we are ready to mobilize on his behalf. It would be nice to have a ‘Realtor win’ that’s of benefit to Realtors and homeowners alike. Oh, and that we realize we won without being told.

Just my $.02.

If you agree with Ken (or if you don’t), you can let him know by clicking right here: http://calvert.house.gov/ContactInformation.asp

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.

12th Man Spirit is What We Need Today

Everybody needs a little feel-good from time to time in these perilous times. So I’m reposting this blog from Alice Linehan talking about the 12th Man spirit needed to carry us through. Enjoy.

After posting Where have all the 12th Men Gone???? I had a really cool thing happen.

The Jackie Sherrill e-mailed me. A friend of mine knows him and passed on my post. It is not everyday that you get an e-mail from someone like Jackie Sherrill. I thought that was amazing but then what happened next blew me away.

I received a link to the blog post below. After reading the story over and over because tears were flowing it occurred to me we have got to get this story out. After asking Coach Sherrill and Snakeye for permission to share their story here it is.

I believe with all my heart that our country needs to come together and fight for freedom for ourselves and our children. It is time for regular folks to come down from the stands and take the position of the “12th Man”. The game ahead cannot be won by our military alone, we are being attacked from within.   My prayer is that  Americans will “Wake Up” and realize that too many have fought for our freedom and we must not allow that to be in vain. I believe sharing this story can start the “12th Man call for Freedom”. We need to get more than Aggie fans to join in we need all Americans to join the “12th Man Call for Freedom”. I need you to help me get the word out. Please feel free to repost, e-mail, contact the press. It is time for a change in America and it must come from you and me my friends. Do you have the guts and the courage to be the builders of the bonfire and the keepers of the flame.

Cookie is watching and I want him to be proud!!! Thank you Snakeye for placing the 12th Medallion exactly where it was suppose to go!! Thank you Coach Sherrill for your example of giving back just a little can make a huge difference.

The 12th Medallion

Posted by Snakeye

the 12th MedallionMy Old Man was at a Texas A&M Alumni barbeque back in August. He ended up bumping into Jackie Sherrill, the Aggies’ head football coach from 1982 to 1988. Ironically, he was the head coach of Mississippi State from 1991 until his retirement in 2003. I say “ironically” because in 2001/2002, I was stationed at Columbus AFB down yonder in ‘Sippi: only a 30 minute drive (or a 10 minute crotchrocket ride at that time in my life) from Starkville, the home of Mississippi State. I knew a few people that went there for college and was able to attend my fair share of Mississippi State football games.

More in-depth information on Coach Sherrill can be found here, but I’ll point out the highlights in relation to the topic at hand. The longstanding A&M “12th man” tradition started in 1922, when a majority of Texas A&M’s football team suffered injuries. During a post-season game, the coach called into the stands for the ex-players that had moved on from football; he needed their help to ensure the team had enough healthy players to field 11-strong. The school rallied behind this idea: to field players chosen from the student body, essentially creating a bond of ownership and pride in the football team school-wide. Though the concept of calling the crowd to play is somewhat gone today, Texas A&M still takes pride in her “12th man” spirit. Only it has changed over the years to imply the fans are the 12th man: the students embody that spirit that gives the team momentum when they need it most and help carry the team to victory.

By the time Coach Sherrill had left the team in 1988, he accumulated a winning record of 52 wins, 28 losses and 1 tie. But where he really left his mark was in applying the 12th man concept to bolster the team: he composed his kickoff team of volunteer walk-ons, instead of the traditional recruited players. This became known as the “12th Man Kickoff Team,” or the “suicide squad” to outsiders. The 12th Man Kickoff Team was feared by the opposing teams. It gave the A&M students who participated a one shot chance for glory, and they tended to make a tackle at all costs with complete disregard to personal safety. The program was a success in that it held opponents to one of the lowest yards-per-return averages in the NCAA.

Now back to the point: while at the alumni barbeque, my Old Man and Jackie Sherrill were talking about the Aggies, college football, and life in general. My Dad briefly mentioned that I was about to embark on my 3rd overseas rotation. Jackie Sherrill gave my Dad a coin to give to me: the one pictured above… a piece of metal with a stamped angel on it, to watch over me and return me safely home.

He told my Dad to ensure he got it in my hands prior to the deployment and to pass onto me that he’s thinking of the troops and supports us, and to wish me good luck and Godspeed. He also informed my Dad that he only gives a limited amount of these coins out: up to this point he’d given out 11 of the coins to various military soldiers he’d met, and up to this point they had all made it safely back stateside to return the coin so another soldier could have the same protection bestowed upon him.

Coincidentally, the coin he gave my Old Man was the 12th coin – analogous to the “12th Man” legacy he revived with the Texas A&M football team. As I write this enroute back to the States, that coin has provided me with ample protection. Pending a major catastrophe, I’m set to see my lovely wife and new son in 48 hours or less.

Unfortunately, not everyone in my unit will get to enjoy the same reunion. A little under a month ago, our team took a casualty… one of the guys that I had become pretty good friends with throughout the deployment. Though I can’t get into too many details, we tried all we could to stabilize his wounds inflicted from enemy contact. He didn’t make it… and was pronounced “KIA” early in the morning on 6Jan09.

“Cookie” (as he was affectionately known) was the type that was friends with everyone. I spent many a night shooting the breeze with him, talking of family, finances, military service and this conflict. In fact, I had high-fived him with a “good luck” 2 hours prior to the incident on that fateful night.

Cookie was a down-to-earth dude that everyone liked. He’d seen plenty in his service, including more of the Middle East than most soldiers see… a fun-loving military professional. I know the unit and his friends sorely miss him; I miss him. I can only imagine how the family he left behind feels.

I think back that perhaps I should’ve passed the coin around. Who knows. Woulda, shoulda, coulda. Everyone did all they could that night. Regardless…

Mr. Sherrill: I thank you for the coin given to protect me. I regret to inform you that you won’t be getting the 12th coin back. I felt it fitting to slip it in Cookie’s flag-covered casket prior to it going back Stateside. Though it may not protect him anymore in the Earthly form, its angel is with Cookie with a watchful eye over him now. I assure you Cookie will carry on the 12th man spirit in this unit – just as the 12th man gives unspoken momentum to the Aggie football team.

Cookie: rest in peace my friend. Thank you for “keeping it real.” I’m so sorry you couldn’t make it back; I was looking forward to going sea fishing with you. I promise that you, and what you stood for, will not be forgotten.

Ex-Prez Wunderlich Talks About the Same Program

Let me begin by saying I like our NAR President Charles McMillan. I think he’s a good guy, he works hard for us and he truly believes in the Realtor Party. Having said that I must beg to differ with some of the recent utterings from the national office regarding Realtors ‘success’ with the recent stimulus bill.

In his most recent update, posted immediately before this one, he refers to the major gains by Realtors in the bill:

Dear Fellow REALTOR®,

For nearly four months, NAR has been working to deliver to you and to our nation a comprehensive plan to stabilize the housing market.

This week, we saw countless hours of hard work pay off “ in a MAJOR way “ when the federal government implemented NAR’s recommendations to stimulate housing with the signing of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009

  1. Lower interest rates for home mortgages;
  2. A greater ability to get financing through FHA, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in high-cost areas;
  3. A true tax credit incentive to buy a home NOW; and
  4. Foreclosure mitigation and short-sale standards.

As on wag summarized in response to another post of mine on the topic – ‘well, we didn’t get what was on the table but at least we didn’t lose what wasn’t on the table’. So lets’ look at these a little closer.

1. Did we really get lower interest rates? Or have interest rates actually been edging lower since the Fed reduced the prime to .025% last year? Where in the economic stimulus package does it mandate lower interest rates? And are interest rates even the problem right now? Interest rates are, and have been, pretty darn good for awhile now. Banks not loaning money is the problem, not  high interest rates. Sorry, Charles. That dog don’t hunt.

2. Greater ability to get FHA & GSE financing? Well, partly true I suppose. Actually nothing new or the result of the stimulus, but we did get the increased GSE limits extended at least through the end of this year. Of course as Paul Harvey might say, we need to see page 2. That’s the page that talks about Fannie & Freddie increasing mandatory fees and toughening credit score and down payment rules. For example, if an applicant doesn’t have 30% to put down, they pay higher fees. Got a 699 FICO but you can make a 25% down payment? You still get hit with a 1.5% ‘delivery fee’ at closing. If your FICO is between 700 – 720, you’ll still pay an extra 3/4 point. If you’re buying a condo and you don’t have 25% down payment, you’ll pay an extra 3/4 point regardless of your FICO. Does this sound like a ‘greater ability to get financing’ to you? Me neither.

3. A true tax credit? Well, this one is correct. Last year you recall the $7,500 kinda tax credit that you got one time and then paid back over three years. Not so much a credit as an interest free loan that buyers ignored in droves. This year the credit was extended to $8,000 and if you stay in your home 5 years, you don’t have to pay it back. That’s pretty good. Of course it’s still only for first time homebuyers rather than trying to stimulate the full buy-side of the equations. And it’s certainly not the $15,000 carrot that was dangled so enticingly in front of our faces to get us to call our legislators to urge them to vote for the porkulus bill. Heck, it’s not even as good as what the home builders got included in the California budget bill which is a $10,000 credit for buyers of NEW homes – but I guess this is as close to a win as we can get on this one.

4. Foreclosure mitigation and short sale standards? Oh puhleeze. Short sale standards? In what alternative universe do these exist? Have ANY of you seen anything even approaching even modest short-sale cooperation? We can’t even get standards on REO’s and that’s a walk in the park compared to short sales.

Foreclosure mitigation? Hmmmm, that must be the continuing moratoria on deed sales. I guess if you get to live in your house rent free for an extra 90 days that’s a form of mitigation. He can’t be referring to the $275 Billion program announced by Obama last week encouraging banks to modify loans. That’s the one that’s aimed at Fannie & Freddie borrowers, of which there are virtually NONE in our region. That’s the one that makes it incumbent upon banks to modify loans that fall within a loan-to-value range of 80% to 105%. Yeah, that’s gonna be a BEEEG help for people in Southwest County, or California in general, with LTV’s of -150%.

So while I am busy looking for the silver lining, while I am focusing on the positives and the greatly improved sales figures over twelve months ago, a modicum of reality does need to be interjected into the debate. Lawrence Yun has already been neutered by his continuing Pollyanna pronouncements in the face of reality. NAR runs the risk of being totally marginalized if they continue to blow smoke up our nether regions as if those of us in the field don’t actually KNOW BETTER. If the four points enumerated by Charles McMillan above constitute a ‘big win’ for Realtors, then the sad fact is we got our asses handed to us on a platter and we’re trying to decide which condiment will make the dish most palatable.

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

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.

California’s Governor Speaks. WOOF!

schwartenegger

California’s Governor Schwarzenkennedy today issued the following profound statement  on the ‘historic’ budget package’.

steinbergHe was surrounded by his pals the Democratic Leaders of the House & Senatebass

and new BFF RINO Maldonadomaldanado

I think this gives us a much clearer picture of exactly what the Governor meant last month when he discussed the ‘four legged approach to balancing the budget.

“This four-legged approach will balance our budget, make government more efficient, and help stimulate our economy by putting people to work.” (Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, 1/7/09)

Governor Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on the Passage of Historic Budget Package that Solves California’s $42 Billion Deficit

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement in response to the passage of historic budget solutions by the legislature:

“I am extremely proud of the members of the legislature, both Republicans and Democrats, who had the courage to stand up and put the needs of Californians first. Rather than approaching this unprecedented crisis with gimmicks and temporary solutions, we took the difficult but responsible steps to address our entire $42 billion budget deficit and pass historic bipartisan reform measures. I am pleased that the legislature used my budget proposal as a blueprint for this budget and included each element of the four-legged stool: spending reductions, revenue increases, economic stimulus and government efficiency.

“This is a very difficult budget, but we have turned this crisis into an opportunity to make real, lasting reforms for California. Some special interests may not like this budget – but like I always say, what’s good for the people is not always good for special interests. I look forward to partnering with the people to make sure these bipartisan reform measures are passed to put an end to our budget roller coaster and get California moving forward again.”

Demonstrating yet again that he is a much better actor than statesman, a better panderer than leader, the Governator will hold a live webinar tomorrow afternoon to explain why he thinks adding more taxes to people who are already taxed higher than anyplace in the country is a good way to heighten people’s confidence in the state and get them to spend more when they have less to begin with. There will be plenty of mirrors and I’m sure there will be no lack of smoke blown up my nether regions. I know I’m looking forward to that little speech.

sacrtamento

He has been critical of Republicans, especially new Senate Minority Leader Dennis Hollingsworth, stating that if they think they can balance a budget without more taxes they are deficient in mathematical understanding. Jeez, Arnie – even your family members in the federal government understand this point – when you’re in a deep hole, STOP DIGGING. That doesn’t take a math wizz does it?

And when it comes to the ‘massive budget cuts’ they gave up for the cause, you need to understand that what the Gov & his Democrat cronies consider ‘spending cuts’ are actually just reductions to the massive increases demanded by liberals and their union puppet-masters. That’s why state spending has increased by more than 40% in the 5 years Schwartzy has been running the show. Say they spend $1.00 this year and demand $1.50 next year and it gets cut to only $1.40, they point to this as a substantial cut.

That’s why this budget contains REAL tax increases, illusory spending cuts, no real agenda for reforming the system that got us here to begin with and the very real possibility of Democrats wresting total control of the legislature through the implementation of an open primary system. Any Californian who does qualify for the extra $13 bucks a week Obama’s throwing you better save it because the new California taxes will swallow up that $13 plus another $30 – $40 per week. Nice. Thanks Boys.

Ahhhh the Golden State. Why is it Golden? Because we’re being p***ed on by our elected leaders, that’s why.

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

nuts
The opinions in this commentary are strictly Gene Wunderlich’s personal opinions. While any reasonable and/or rational individual should agree wholeheartedly, the opinions reflected herein may not necessarily be those of SRCAR/GADBLOG, ActiveRain, Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, The Valley Business Journal or any local or state government or other mental institution.

Change I Can Believe In

This is a re-post of a blog by Lane Bailey, a Realtor in Lilburn GA. As if there aren’t enough problems with the stimulus bill that Prz Obama will sign into law this week, Lane points out some mundane yet critical issues overlooked by both Democrats and the national media in their quest to get this bill passed – namely the resounding breakage of the promises we’ve heard for the past 2 years about CHANGE, HONESTY AND TRANSPARENCY.

Change I can Believe In – by Lane Bailey

At 11:00pm last night, the Congressional Conference Committee released the final draft of the Federal Stimulus Bill.  At 9:00am today, the House of Representatives began discussion on the bill.  The vote was early this afternoon.

Previously, the Democrat Leadership PROMISED 48 hours for the bill to be reviewed between release from the Conference Committee and final voting.  The 48 hours won’t be up until 11:00pm Saturday Night.  By that time, we the Taxpayers will have already sent Nancy Pelosi to Italy to meet the Pope.  In fact, as I write this… 18 hours after the release, Nancy Pelosi is getting ready to fly in a government flight (have we noticed that when executives need to travel they need to travel commercially… but not Congress).

That means that the Democrat’s Leadership missed their 48 hours by at least 33 hours!

The Senate will be voting either tonight or tomorrow on the bill… also under the 48 hour moratorium.  The vote will at least be closer there…

During the Presidential Campaign, PrezBO PROMISED that when given major legislation for signing, he would have a “5 Day Sunshine Period” between the bill being sent to the White House and signing.  The soonest that the bill could possibly sent to the President’s Desk is tonight… Friday.  Obama plans on signing this bill on Monday.  If the bill doesn’t pass until Saturday evening, it is very possible that the “5 Day Sunshine Period” might actually last less than 48 hours.

That means that the President will miss his 5 day period by at least 3 days!

For 2 years we have been hammered by the message of “Change“.  Obama has talked over and over about transparency and disclosure.  He has made beautiful speeches and delivered populist sound bites.  The speaker of the House and the Senate Majority Leader have backed up the President and promised the American people that the government wasn’t going to operate behind closed doors and out of the light…

And just to add the little icing flowers to the big beautiful cake…  when the stimulus bill was presented, it was done in an unsearchable format.  A reader couldn’t search the bill for key phrases…  It is well over 1000 pages.  Nancy Pelosi herself stated at the release that the language was often confusing and that Members of Congress needed to take their time to understand the language.

Is a week going to destroy the country?

I know that the arguement from Democrats will be that this needs to be done with great haste speed.  Time is of the essence.  But, is this not major legislation?  Is this not EXACTLY what Obama was talking about when he promised to hold bills for 5 days so that the American People could know what he was signing?

Remember, the Congressional Budget Office has stated that between 20-25% of the bill could be considered stimulus.  That means that 75-80% of the bill won’t do much to stimulate the economy.  That means that almost $600,000,000,000 of this money is being spent, not to stimulate the economy, but to put pet projects and long-term spending tracks in place. (and don’t forget that they have also told Congress that the stimulus package would actually hinder GDP growth and employment in the medium and long range)

I have heard that among the most popular terms one finds when reading the bill is “operation and maintenance.”  Operation and maintenance ISN’T stimulus.  It is regular spending.  It should be in a regular spending bill.

And finally…  We have already been told that this isn’t the last of it.  There is a new round of TARP spending coming… in addition to the second round of spending from the first batch of money.  There is talk of an increased federal budget to support the new programs introduced in this “emergency bill.”

We are being lied to by our politicians, and that last thing we can call that is “Change We Can Believe In.”

PEX Pipe – After 30 Years It’s OK to Use.

SACRAMENTO, Calif.--(Business Wire)--
In a unanimous vote, the California Building Standards Commission (CBSC) has
approved the addition of PEX plastic pipe and tubing to the California Plumbing
Code (CPC), allowing its use in hospitals, clinics, residential and commercial
construction throughout the state of California. The Commission`s approval took
place following certification of an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) on the use
of PEX, indicating that it meets the rigorous standards of the California
Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). 

PEX (cross-linked polyethylene) will be officially added to the CPC when the new
code is formally adopted on August 1, 2009. In the meantime, cities, counties
and other local jurisdictions may approve the use of PEX, effective immediately.

Read the whole article at: http://www.reuters.com/article/pressRelease/idUS227162+27-Jan-2009+BW20090127

If you’ve been in the business a decade or more, you may remember there was fairly widespread use of a product called polybutelene pipe – usually just called ‘plastic pipe’. There was even a item in our TDS dealing with polybutelene piping, most prevalent in manufactured homes.

Poly piping was not used as extensively in residential construction in California as it was in some other states because in California it has been the subject of extensive litigation dating back to its introduction in the early 70’s. Those initial lawsuits by groups like the Plumbers Union were initially filed because they were afraid the widespread use of these products would lead to job loss for plumbers.

By the mid-80’s it became apparent there were other problems with polybutelene pipe – chief among which was an unusually high failure rate under normal operating conditions, exacerbated by exposure to chlorine and other water additives. Hmmm, that’s not good. Turns out Californians may have been spared the worst of these problems for the wrong reasons. Widespread use of polybutelene pipe was widely outlawed in 1995 after numerous class action suites against the predominant manufacturer, Shell Oil.

About the same time there was another product called PEX, or cross-linked polyethylene pipe. It had gained popularity in Europe and started gaining ground in the US, especially in areas that required widespread replacement of the older polybutelene product.

PEX (or crosslinked polyethylene) is part of a water supply piping system that has several advantages over metal pipe (copper, iron, lead) or rigid plastic pipe (PVC, CPVC, ABS) systems. It is flexible, resistant to scale and chlorine, doesn’t corrode or develop pinholes, is faster to install than metal or rigid plastic, and has fewer connections and fittings.

PEX tubing is made from crosslinked HDPE (high density polyethylene) polymer. The HDPE is melted and continuously extruded into tube. The crosslinking of the HDPE is accomplished in one of three different methods.

PEX plumbing has been in use in Europe since about 1970, and was introduced in the U.S. around 1980. The use of PEX has been increasing ever since, replacing copper pipe in many applications, especially radiant heating systems installed in the slab under floors or walkways. Interest in PEX for hot and cold water plumbing has increased recently in the United States.

http://www.pexinfo.com/

But not in California. Continued pressure by the plumbers and various trade groups claimed everything from high failure rates to downright unhealthy results from the pipe. In 1998 an Environmental Impact Report was released by then Governor Wilson’s office showing no health or safety issues. However in typical California fashion, opposing groups claimed the main benefactor of such a report was a major contributor to Gov. Wilson. The plumbers union, major contributors to newly elected Gov. Davis, promptly had the report discredited and back it went to the scrap heap.

In speaking on that decision ;

Richard W. Church, executive director of the Plastic Pipe and Fittings Assn., Glen Ellyn, Ill., released the following statement regarding last week’s ruling by the California Second District Court of Appeals, reversing a lower court order placing PEX plastic pipe into the 2001 California Plumbing Code and ordering that all changes to state building codes be subjected to environmental review under the California Environmental Act:

“If anyone continues to wonder why California has a reputation as an anti-jobs, anti-business state, yesterday’s ruling by a California appeals court clearly illustrates why.

http://www.csemag.com/article/CA490541.html

However, subsequent lawsuits forced the Building Standards Commission, now full of Schwarzenegger appointees instead of Davis’ union lackeys, to re-look at the issue resulting in a new 300 page EIR issued just last month. The report concluded that PEX is safe and meets all building codes and will henceforth be included in the states plumbing code.

Church, still in office over at the Plastic Pipe and Fitting Ass’n., claims that their ability to use PEX will bring down the cost of building new homes. Ironically this comes at a time when we aren’t building any new homes, but maybe eventually…

Of course it is California. Something can always go sideways before we realize the benefit from this decision, delayed 30 years in the labyrinth we call our political process.

  • Final Environmental Impact Report for PEX (FEIR) (PDF)
    Approved by the California Building Standards Commission on Jan. 22, 2009.
    Effective Aug. 1, 2009. http://www.bsc.ca.gov/pex.htm

PEX Regulatory Action proposed for the California Building Standards Code, Part 5, Title 24.

  • PEX NOPA (Notice of Proposed Action) Second 45-Day comment period for the adoption of statewide regulations allowing the use of PEX with specified mitigation measures. For the NOPA and proposed express terms go to:  http://www.bsc.ca.gov/prpsd_chngs/pc_07_comment.htm

10% Participation Won’t Cut It In 2009!

You’ve all heard my rants before about how the real estate association, YOUR association, is only powerful for one reason – YOU. We are powerful as a grassroots organization and we have a great process in place that allows us to reach out and tap our representatives whenever our voice needs to be heard.

Unfortunately too many of you don’t use these tools. Not only do you not support your Realtor Action Fund through a measly $49 annual investment, you can’t even bring yourselves to exercise your right to free speech – FREE. It’s really pretty sorry and a sad commentary on the state of real estate professionalism today. Really. I’m re-posting this well written message from the NAR website because this guy summed it up perfectly as did the comment posted in response. Too many if us have simply become ‘list & sell’ Realtors who neither know nor care about the proud traditions of our industry or the amount of effort that goes into keeping our industry viable.

The connection between activism and results just doesn’t seem to be getting through to most of you. Maybe when your livelihood is taken away, maybe when every bank and insurance company can sell real estate, maybe when your reduced commissions are mandated by law and you are taxed at the time of every transaction you will wake up. Unfortunately by then it will be too late.

And what’s even worse is that those of you reading this aren’t even the people I’m aiming for. If you read this you probably get it and are one of the ones making a difference – unlike 90% of your counterparts who bring nothing to the party but just show up to eat and drink for free. Please feel free to pass this along to them – print it out and lay it on their desk, anonymouslyif you want. Imagine what we could accomplish if even 50% of our members took a professional interest in our industry and actually participated in the process.

Remember – as Pericles said in 500 BC – ‘Just because you don’t take an interest in politics doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you.’  Smart guy that Pericles.  

 

Voices of Real Estate

National Association of REALTORS® 2009 Leadership Team, on what NAR is doing for you.

« 330,000 Letters to Congress, Posted by Charles | Main | One Plus One Doesn’t Equal Three, Posted by Gary »

Ten Percent Participation Won’t Cut It in 2009, Posted by Steve

Back in college, the first thing I learned in Econ 101 is that economies are built on confidence. Like many, I am hopeful that those who lead us on the federal level will really come through in the days ahead. They can both stimulate our economy as well as help us all feel better about the economy. Unfortunately, what I have come to realize in the past year is that those who govern us do not always understand the industries they seek to help, the markets they hope to improve, or the businesses they are trying to assist. Our representatives, from the president to the Congress, need to hear from us if they are going to govern effectively and improve our economy and our country.

Yet, in the midst of our biggest economic challenge in the past 80 years less than 10% of our Realtor® members in 2008 have contacted their representatives to inform, discuss, and promote legislation that would stimulate and change the market for the benefit of everyone.

Is this lack of participation the fault of NAR?

Perhaps. Just as NAR emphasizes adherence to the Code of Ethics, maybe we should be equally emphasizing continual involvement in our political process. Clearly, our high school civics classes did not instill the importance of participating in the governmental process, or more of us would be…

None of us can walk away from our responsibility as citizens. I have learned over the past year that even though I am one voice, I can make a difference. I have seen the “light bulb” go on when my Congressman finally got why a $7,500 tax credit-which really isn’t a credit but rather a zero-interest loan-is not a sufficient stimulus for someone to buy a home in today’s market. I can only imagine the light bulbs that might go on if all one million Realtors® communicated with Washington!

Real estate influences nearly 20 percent of our GNP. No industry is better prepared to present to government officials effective programs that will stimulate this sector of our national economy than us.

Come on, Realtors®! Let us help lead the way out of this economic mess and into a future that gives every American hope. Commit to getting involved. We’ll be sending out a new Call For Action next week. Either check the Realtor® Action Center or be ready to respond when it arrives in your email inbox.

It is, after all, a part of your business, not to mention part of being a good citizen. – Steve Brown, 2009 VP & Liaison to Committees

Posted on January 9, 2009 02:31 PM | Permanent Link

Comments

Steve,

Boy, do I feel your frustration! Somehow the connection between activism and results doesn’t seem to be getting through. Moreover, the mentality remains…”list & sell”. As I’ve said in mosty of my Smart Growth presentations, “Most Realtors are very good at listing and selling homes…..but they haven’t a clue as to how that house got there in the first place!” Once that nexus is made, it’s amazing how participation increases. Unfortunately, too many of our members see what they do as a vocation, not a profession.

It’s also amazing how powerful participation can be. In a conversation with Barney at the MYM maybe three or four years ago, he said, “When I hear from 4 or 5 people on an issue it gets my attention. When I hear from a dozen, it’s a movement!” Somehow we need to get a cadre of people out there – RPIC – at the local association level to carry that message first to the DRs, then the membership at large.

Have a happy, healthy & prosperous New Year.

Posted by: David Wluka | January 12, 2009 11:05 AM

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 SRCAR, ActiveRain, The Valley Business Journal or any local or state government or other mental institution. 

 

Governor Delivers State of the State – short but missing the point

I imagine you were all glued to the tube this morning or, like me, linked in via webcast to hear our Governor deliver his ‘State of the State’ speech. No? Am I the only one with no life here and a jones for politics?

Well, you didn’t miss much. Really. It was over and done in about 10 minutes. At a time when our state faces some of the gravest challenges to our economy, jobs, HOUSING, etc., the Governator spoke for just over 10 minutes. Didn’t have much to say anyway.

After spending the first couple minutes sucking up to President-elect Obama, Arnold proceeded to let us know what we were in for:

I will not give the traditional State of the State address today, because the reality is that our state is incapacitated until we resolve the budget crisis. The truth is that California is in a state of emergency. Addressing this emergency is the first and greatest thing we must do for the people. The 42 billion dollar deficit is a rock upon our chest and we cannot breathe until we get it off. It doesn’t make any sense to talk about education, infrastructure, water, health care reform and all these things when we have this huge budget deficit.

Hmmm, well can’t disagree with him there except that IMHO he missed a golden opportunity to put some pressure on the people who are standing between our state and a functional resolution – namely the Democratic lackeys to the states major unions. It’s no mystery how we got here, why our budget growth has outstripped our revenue growth by tenfold during the past 5 years and why we can’t address the core issues. Both houses of our legislature have been controlled by Democrats for more than 2 decades and the excess spending that occurred during our last two housing booms and our dot.com boom has become institutionalized with most Democrats owing their careers to the unions that bought their seats.

Here’s what the Governor did address:

Our citizens do not believe that we in government are in touch with their needs. These needs are not unreasonable. At the end of the day, most people do not require a great deal from their government.

They expect the fundamentals.

They want to live in safety.

They want a good education for their children.

They want jobs.

They want to breathe clean air.

They want water when they turn on the faucet and electricity when they turn on the switch.

And they want these things delivered efficiently and economically.

That’s all true, isn’t it? MOST people do not require a great deal. However SOME people do. And given the rampant race to socialize and the bail-out mentality at the federal level, MORE people are demanding MORE. And at our state level, maybe most people don’t REQUIRE a great deal, but that hasn’t stopped our legislature from GIVING them more. The culture of entitlement is alive and well in Sacramento and their largesse is well appreciated in certain circles.

But let’s look at his comments more closely – they want to live in safety. Hmmm – isn’t most public safety provided by our LOCAL police forces? Aside from the CHP and the massive amount of money funneled into the states most lucrative union the Prison Guards, what is the cost to the state for safety?

A good education? Absolutely. But as a state we spend more on education alone that most states spend on their entire budget. The Teachers Union owns large voting blocks of our legislature. Yet our state consistently ranks in the lower 3rd on national test scores. The amount of money we are throwing at this problem doesn’t seem to help much.

Jobs? Oh yes, please. We want jobs. But is it the states job to create jobs? I mean aside from creating more bureaus to oversee the committees who study the groups that work with the commissions – does the state actually create jobs? Howzabout reducing taxes so companies quit leaving California? How about eliminating red tape and whacked-out environmental requirements so companies can start-up here, or expand their operations? Private enterprise creates jobs – not government.

Clean air. Oh Brother. The government’s in the clean air business? Along with keeping mylar balloons and plastic grocery sacks out of my hands – they enact legislation aimed at driving even more industries out of California to comply with some pipe dreams Jerry Brown has.

Water and electricity? I’m sorry. Aren’t those services provided by private utilities? Again, isn’t it the government whose actions have endangered the Sacramento Delta water shed, cut our water allocation 85% this year to preserve the Delta Smelt, prohibited off-shore oil exploration, prohibited cross-state transport of LNG, administratively eliminated development of nuclear energy while making it cost prohibitive to develop wind or solar energy even though they claim that’s what they want?

So out of all the basic services he described this morning, the majority aren’t even things provided by the state, should not be messed with by the state, or wherein the state is only giving us marginal bang for our bucks. Nothing there that would justify a $148 Billion dollar budget. NOTHING that should require you and I to pay more taxes to make up a $42 Billion shortfall caused not by us, but by the legislature. But we will have that dubious honor anyway unless I miss my guess. And I rarely miss guesses like this.

Anyway, if you would like to see the whole script of the Governors remarks this morning, here’s a link. It’s only about 4 double spaced paged so it’s a short read with no pictures: http://www.sacbee.com/static/weblogs/capitolalertlatest/018621.html

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 SRCAR, ActiveRain, The Valley Business Journal or any local or state government or other mental institution.