Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Quail Hollow Community Association shows favortism

As I mentioned in a previous post, the Quail Hollow Community Association is now requiring homeowners who have cyclone fences in their back yards (just for the record, I don't have one, and fences of any kind have never been allowed in front yards) to remove that portion of the fence that extends from the sides of their houses. This late-breaking requirement came about over the past year for a neighborhood that got started over 40 years ago.

Not only is the timing bad - especially for a matter that bothered nobody for almost half a century - but I know of only one resident that received formal notification - a letter from the Association gang - about a cyclone fence. I've confirmed that at least one other resident with a cyclone fence never got such a letter, so it's anyone's guess as to which residents have been singled out for harassment.

No wonder the issue of favortism (scroll down to "Common themes" in this article) was spotlighted this year when those 1,000 homeowners protested the way Homeowners Associations (HOAs) are being run in Horry County, South Carolina. In fact, the issue of selective enforcement of regulations is a problem with HOA gangs all across the country.

As I discussed previously, HOAs are state-sanctioned racketeering. Lately, I've been pondering the notion that if people are intrinsically good, we need not have government, and if people are intrinsically bad (which I believe to be the case), we dare not have government. Meanwhile, just how well-organized and powerful these HOA gangs are is unbeknownst to most folks.

It's time to abolish HOAs. They've proven to be far more trouble than they're worth, including physical altercations at meetings expensive, time-consuming small claims actions over the imposition of ridiculous fees. It's a real hoot when South Carolina's corporate-controlled puppets - er I mean elected officials - wring their hands and suggest that homeowner discontent with HOAs might be addressed by "allowing" homeowners to sue HOAs in small claims court. Thanks, but no thanks.

The fox is guarding the hen house.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Can homeowners associations suddenly make dues mandatory?

Over a thousand homeowners coming together to protest the way HOAs are being run in Horry County, South Carolina really got my attention. Lately, the HOA in my neighborhood, Quail Hollow, in W. Columbia, SC, Lexington County, has been demanding membership dues of $50 per year, adding late fees for anyone who doesn't pay, and threatening to "eventually" put liens on the properties of folks who steadfastly refuse to hand over the moolah.

This would be understandable - and believeable - except for the fact that for about 35 years, membership and dues were voluntary. Members were clearly earmarked in the Quail Hollow directory, revealing that almost half of the families - 'bout 150 outta 325 or so - declined to join. Then the economy took a dive, and efforts to increase membership started getting more aggressive. Then, within the past couple of years, a scheme was devised by which everyone in the neighborhood was to vote on whether or not dues would be mandatory. The "referendum" - many folks, myself included, refused to participate - was followed by a declaration that "the majority" had spoken, and dues would henceforth be required. Then came announcements of late fees and threats of liens - plus attorney's fees - for anyone who didn't cooperate.

The lawyer I spoke with placed a great deal of weight on what the understanding was when property was purchased. He thought the Association's "voting" scheme sounded like a bluff designed to intimidate residents into handing over their money. He offered to research the issue and provide a written opinion for $600. That would be one Jackson each for 30 interested families, and I've started a list.

Point is, if something's a good deal, ya don't have to force folks to support it. Fact is, the Quail Hollow Community Association is anything but a "good deal." I targeted the gang's ineptitude and wastefulness in a previous post. Moreover, while the $50 per year may sound paltry, only a fool would believe the amount isn't likely to increase. If the gang can suddenly force residents to hand over membership dues, increasing the amount of those dues would be an ever present possibility, along with no telling (literally) what else. The $50 per year smacks of a ploy designed to sucker people into being bullied, with more in store.

As things now stand, it's anyone's guess as to who's gonna sue whom, for what, and when, if at all. In the meantime, I'm finding out plenty of disturbing things about HOAs. State government is involved, either actively or passively, folks are being forced to pay for services ordinarily covered by taxes, and there seems to be fertile ground for some sort of takeover at the federal level. Is there a hidden agenda to put neighborhoods under the direct control of a federal agency such as the Department of Homeland Security? No, I'm not trying to be an alarmist. Amidst daily assaults on constitutional rights, I simply think it's a valid question. And the fact that "Neighborhood Watch" signs have popped up all over Quail Hollow hasn't done anything to ease my concern. Neither has this year's publication of "In the Common Interest: Embracing the New American Community," by the politically-well-connected-Texan, John Corona. Talk about propaganda. Talk about bald-faced lies...

A whiff of tyranny is in the air.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Homeowners associations amount to state-sanctioned racketeering

HOAs are a part of a state-supported racket intended to force homeowners to assume responsibilities and pay costs that should be borne by government. These bullying gangs - a problem all across Police State USA - are run by inept busybodies who delight in forcing homeowners to comply with inane interpretations of regulations, and equally inane - and never-ending - amendments to existing regulations. Membership dues - along with money obtained for cleverly promoted "donation projects" - are squandered on ill-advised "improvements," lining the coffers of those businesses "selected" to do the work. Government has a vested interest in expanding, not limiting, the control these neighborhood gangs have over the taxpaying public. No wonder tax breaks are granted to HOAs.

As residents along South Carolina's Grand Strand appeal to - yes, state legislators - for help, I've reflected on the unlikelihood of meaningful change. It's noteworthy that state legislators held statewide hearings on problems with HOAs three years ago, obviously to no avail, which should surprise nobody who's studied the matter. Reading about the government's relationship with HOAs, at least I realized what the underlying motivations were for a recent "voluntary donation project" cleverly promoted by the HOA gang in my neighborhood.

I thought it wuz kinda strange when the gang wanted homeowners to voluntarily make donations to pay for fancy new replacements for stop signs and street signs when these items, plus maintenance, had already been paid for via Lexington County taxes. Apparently, the HOA gang never thought of requesting the county to fulfill its obligation to replace delapidated signs. Instead, the HOA gang breezed right ahead with colorful flyers promoting ultra expensive, privately financed signs - touted as an "improvement" for the neighborhood - and pulled it off by suckering enough people to donate. Many residents - myself included - thought the idea was ridiculous and simply declined to participate. Seemed innocuous enough at the time. After all, donations were voluntary. What was the big deal?

Now that I've taken a closer look at HOAs and their relationship with government, I realize that it was a very big deal indeed. Lexington County was not only relieved of replacing signs, but Quail Hollow residents foolishly obligated themselves to maintain the new signs in the future. Real hoot when ya start payin' for stuff that's already been paid for. Worse yet, the new signs are an eyesore. The things are as hideous as they are humongous, combining stop signs and street signs in the gaudiest fashion imaginable. Oh, well. What's a measly $18,000 if it helps the tax-hungry, bloodsucking power structure of Lexington County? And just think how happy it made the business people who were selected to do the work. By what process such contracts are awarded, of course, is anyone's guess. To top the joke off, the Quail Hollow Community Association put the original street markers up for sale as "souveniers." Talk about a thigh-slapper.

The stop sign and street sign fiasco is a prime example of the cozy relationship twixt the power structure and so-called homeowners associations. Foxes will be guarding the hen house when state legislators tackle the HOAs problem, prodded by the MASSIVE crowd of irate homeowners who showed up at the 10/29/2014 meeting in Horry County. Expect a grand performance as legislators make a few cosmetic adjustments to the HOAs scam. Perhaps homeowners will be given permission to spend time, money and effort fighting HOAs in magistrates court, while the "people's representatives" feign unawareness of the nature of the racket. And depend on groups such as Realtor organizations - part of the problem from the outset - to take "leadership" roles as they consort with powerful political interests, tossing out a few more bones in an effort to placate an outraged public. Will Realtor groups finally get around to requiring sales people to present documents pertaining to HOAs prior to closing sales? Whoop Dee Doo. For decades, purchasers should have been advised of the details and risks of HOAs not only "prior to closing," but prior to signing sales contracts.

Hundreds of homeowners coming together - over a thousand according to several reports - to protest the dishonest, bullying tactics of homeowners associations is encouraging, and the massive turnout must have terrified the power structure. Hopefully, those folks will come to realize the dimensions of the HOAs scam, and will thereby make their displeasure known when elected officials (don't blame me - I quit voting long ago) refuse to make meaningful changes to one of the best government rackets money can buy. Otherwise...

If Americans are dumb enough - and cowardly enough - to tolerate tyranny, so be it.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Quail Hollow Community Association threatens homeowners

I was thrilled to read that along South Carolina's coast, folks from the Grand Strand are targeting state lawmakers with complaints about the way "homeowners associations" are being run. These folks have lots of company, not only in South Carolina, but all across the nation: "Over the past decade, a citizen movement has grown to curb the power of homeowner associations, which remain largely unregulated." As the economy spirals downward, expect a barrage of shenanigans aimed at making you hand over your hard-earned dollars to these gangs, along with the businesses involved when you're forced to alter your property to comply with inane, unceasing "amendments" to regulations. What it amounts to, as the above-referenced article points out, is state-sanctioned racketeering: "Homeowner associations first took off in the 1970s as local governments looked for a way to offload costly services, such as snow removal and road repair. Municipalities have encouraged their growth since through tax incentives and zoning laws." Raising taxes is risky political business. Better to quietly pass numerous costs along to homeowners. Note: My 11/6/14 blog post targets the cozy relationship twixt government and HOAs.   

My neighborhood - Quail Hollow, West Columbia, South Carolina, Lexington County - is a case in point.

Folks are sick and tired of being harassed by the Quail Hollow Complainers - er I mean Community - Association. I've lived in Quail Hollow for about 35 years, and supported the gang - with misgivings - for most of that time, even though dues were not mandatory. Several years ago, I decided that the Association is nothing more than a high-falutin' social club run by busybodied troublemakers, and to invest my money elsewhere. As things now stand, only about half of the neighborhood joins.

If any one thing confirmed the correctness of my decision, it was the installation of two traffic circles (roundabouts) along Ephrata Drive, unfailingly highlighted in the Association's newsletter, nary an objection raised. Not that there had been vehicle accidents to justify the undertaking. The roundabouts resulted from plain, old-fashioned stupidity on the part of not only the Association, but also Lexington County's political powers. What a wasteful, annoying, and dangerous mess the roundabouts turned out to be. Initially, the intersections were tampered with by adding obnoxious "all way" stops. But alas. That failed to produce accidents, so the next step was installing roundabouts.

County workers couldn't even install 'em correctly. Had to tear one out and start over (not to worry, what's an additional waste of taxpayer money?), and still wound up with something that poses an obstacle to emergency vehicles, school buses, and anyone who needs to negotiate the intersection with a trailer. Entering the roundabouts - visibility is poor, right-of-way iffy - is downright scary. County "leaders" who mandated this idiocy were not deterred by the fact that the intersections are way too small for such contraptions in the first place.

But the real punch line to the joke isn't the least bit funny. An unfortunate out-of-towner ran her car smack dab into a newly-installed roundabout one night, and it's rumored the car was totalled. Indeed, the driver was lucky her vehicle didn't explode. Not hard to understand. When ya start buildin' obstacles in the middle of a road, it doesn't take a genius to figute out what's probably gonna happen. Voila - at long last, the much sought after, serious accident finally occurred. For a long time thereafter, blinking lights and warning signs were placed around the roundabout, ringing the ol' cash register once again at taxpayer expense. And the Association? It wuz suddenly afflicted with a "roundabout silence" that spoke volumes. If asked, the Association will now say it had nothing to do with the roundabouts being built, which, of course, is technically correct. To say the roundabouts are a sore point in the neighborhood is an understatement.

Then there's the matter of homeowners' dogs that ran loose all over the neighborhood for years. Some had a nasty habit of runnin' into the street at you, teeth bared, then chargin' from behind the minute you turned your back. At least one person was severely bitten, yet all the Association ever did was timidly mention the problem in newsletters, and presumably contacted one homeowner directly, to no avail. Being wunna the residents who frequently walks the area for exercise, I finally filed numerous, formal complaints with Lexington County Animal Control to get the problem resolved. Kinda strange when a neighborhood association can't even deal with violations of leash laws.

Other obnoxious behavior from the Association includes attacking a homeowner over a small, decorative fence around a mailbox. The gang's mindless, Orwellian battle cry was "Regulations prohibit fences in front yards." The gang took similar action against property owners who dared to install quaint, wooden "corner" fences. Dangerous dogs? Relax. But put a picket fence around a mailbox, and the gang is up in arms. Speaking of mailboxes, the rules-obsessed Association has been known to violate federal law by having volunteers use mailboxes to distribute newsletters and announcements. And I'm appalled at the mess the Association has made in the neighborhood park. Used to be a couple of narrow little streams running across a dirt trail through the woods. Pretty. Easily negotiated. So the Association bombarded the trail with gravel - making it upleasant to walk on - and put canvas "linings" - topped with more gravel - into the streams. But water is pesky. Doesn't like being ordered around, and now we have bonafide eyesores, 'specially when the streams are dried up. And when there's water, one of the streams is now too wide to easily get across. The Association's next "project" will probably be an expensive bridge. Fact is, short of special events, hardly anyone uses the park. But that didn't prevent the illustrious Association from forking over big bucks to have not one, but two brightly colored metal seats installed, set in concrete. Never mind that there were already benches galore that go with the picnic tables. And then of course there's the glare from lightpoles, ruining the natural splendor of dusk and the glow of fireflies. Wow. Talk about wasting money.

In my case - and perhaps that of others - the Association's annual pig-pickin' is especially repulsive. Festivities revolve around factory-farmed, cruelty-laced "food" that I certainly don't wanna pay for or promote. Much less eat. Likewise for ice-cream socials that pander to the horrors of factory-farmed dairy products.

No well-informed person buys property in a neighborhood that has legal authority to set and collect association fees from homeowners. I got that advice from an attorney who specializes in homeowner associations. He said such groups usually wind up charging exorbitant membership dues, and contract with their business friends for unnecessary services.

As one might guess, the Association is not happy with that half of the 'hood that wants nothin' to do with 'em. Past several years, the Association has been threatening and cajoling residents into forking over membership dues. Easy to ignore until the Association's latest stunt, comprised of a loudly proclaimed "amendment," supposedly forcing dues-payin' membership on all residents. Thrown in for good measure, folks with back yard cyclone fences extending from the sides of their houses have been ordered to have that portion removed or replaced. No, there were no such requirements when the vast majority of folks bought their property. Meanwhile, the Association has filed intimidating paperwork at the Lexington County Courthouse, which may deter folks from buying property in Quail Hollow. Goodness knows, the roundabouts are reason enough to avoid the area, and now the Association is demanding not only membership dues, but also "late payment" penalties, complete with a promise to file liens against residents who refuse to acquiese. Apparently, an underlying objective is to acquire peoples' homes by quietly filing liens and arranging sales for a fraction of what properties are worth. Worse than a schoolyard bully.

What it boils down to, if something is a good deal, ya don't have to force folks to support it. A fellow who lives on my street summed the situation up quite well. He said there are two kinds of people: those who like to tell other people what to do, and those who like being told what to do. Neither of us are in either category.

There's a name for what's going on with homeowners associations and their friends in state legislatures. It's called tyranny, and it's incredibly encouraging that more than a thousand homeowners took a stand at last Wednesday's meeting in Horry County: "Those attending had a variety of complaints concerning homeowners groups including that association governing boards change rules at will, don't take homeowners' concerns seriously and are arbitrary in enforcing rules."

Stay tuned.

Update 11/2/2014 - VIDEO of irate homeowners  from along South Carolina's Grand Strand at last Wednesday's meeting in Horry County. Here's a link to April Baker's complete report

Update 11/3/2014 - As South Carolina wakes up to the horrors of homeowners associations, a TV station in Nevada presents the "HOA Hall of Shame" on their website.

Update 11/5/2014 - Folks all across the country are organizing opposition to HOAs. Found a GREAT website in Texas that tracks various actions in other states, including a link to an article about the meeting in Horry County.

Monday, September 29, 2014

SC trooper who shot unarmed motorist lied about what happened

"The police are taught to view the public as threats against whom the use of violence is the safest course for the police officers." - Former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury Dr. Paul Craig Roberts

The South Carolina Highway Patrol is a disgrace and has been for decades. Nary a year goes by that the state's gang of glorified revenue agents doesn't make headlines for some form of misconduct, everything from dealing cocaine and marijuana to the possession of child porn. Wow.

The Patrol's latest claim to fame is Lance Corporal Sean Groubert gunning down a cooperative, unarmed motorist - Levar Jones - who was suspected of not wearing a seatbelt. At one point, Groubert fires at the motorist as the hapless fellow moves backwards with his hands up. At least four shots were fired, and partial video of the incident was released Wednesday. Then late Friday, the SC Dept. of Public Safety got around to releasing video and audio associated with the rest of the story. The additional video evidence - released after a Freedom of Information request - revealed that trooper Groubert lied - apparently to his supervisor - about what had happened.

Yes, the state's gang of glorified revenue agents will lie. And you can bet there's a scandal when news items are released late on Fridays.

There are similarities twixt Groubert's attack and the attack of officer Darren Wilson on Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Both officers white, both victims black. Witnesses say an unarmed Michael Brown had his hands up when he was shot; dash cam video proves that was the case when Jones was shot at.

Amerika's thug goon cops are trained to shoot to kill, and once they start firing they apparently go berserk, under some misguided notion that they have to kill. In both the Brown and Jones cases, multiple shots rang out. Brown was killed; somehow, Jones managed to survive.

In the attack on Jones, considering the "shoot to kill" training, the fact that multiple shots were fired, and the fact that Jones was moving backwards - I don't see how he kept from falling - with his hands up evidences more than mere assault. This was a case of attempted murder.

But trooper Groubert wasn't charged with attempted murder. This lying police state thug was turned loose on a $75,000 bond, charged with assault.

And the inevitable, inane declarations by Groubert's attorney have started. Groubert is "not guilty." He was "justified" in shooting Jones. His client is "looking forward" to his day in court. I just love it when thugs like Groubert get caught red-handed on video and then these police state goons and their pompous attorneys start blabbering that we didn't see what we saw. Unfortunately, Groubert will probably be acquitted by one of this cop-coddling society's cowardly juries.

All concerned are lucky that the attack on Jones wasn't worse. Jones, of course, could have been more seriously wounded or killed. Gas tanks could have exploded, bystanders could have been shot. Groubert's antics bear similarities to high speed police pursuits which endanger everyone on the road. The Patrol is notorious for such behavior, just this month chasing a former cop - Howard Henry "Hank" Smith - at speeds in excess of 110 mph as the maniac fired at his pursuers through the back window of his truck. Interestingly enough, Smith was charged with attempted murder. In both cases, the SC Highway Patrol exhibited typical disregard for the public's safety.

Egregious misconduct - any form of thuggery imaginable - by so-called law enforcement personnel is rampant all across the country amidst efforts to militarize police forces. Nobody can be blamed for wondering if the government has a secret agenda aimed at making folks cower down before this corrupt power structure. Whatever. Former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury Dr. Paul Craig Roberts has rightly concluded that "Clearly, the American police are an enormous danger to the public." (Quotes from 8/21/2014 article, "Ferguson: No Justice in the American Police State").

Next thing ya know, South Carolina's Highway Patrol troopers will be wearing bracelets that read "I am Sean Groubert."

Update 10/3/2014 - Now it's revealed that Jones was handcuffed for hours after the shooting - including being handcuffed to a gurney at the hospital until close to midnight. Talk about police state thuggery... 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Like a good MUGGER, State Farm is there...

I've created a separate blog for State Farm. Here are a few excerpts:

Bad faith efforts to declare "total loss" are a nightmare. And forget about state insurance commissions coming to your rescue. Leading consumer advocate Fight Bad Faith Insurance Companies has yet to hear of a single case where a state insurance commission directed an insurance company to do the right thing.

State Farm's agent called me an idiot and admitted to grabbing my sign. The police initially told me I would have to get a permit to picket, but finally agreed that it was my constitutional right to stand on public property and hold up a sign. Passing motorists started giving "thumbs up" signals along with friendly beeps and waves.

...my car is readily repairable with no lingering safety issues. Mechanical repairs (close to half of the entire bill) have been completed, and my car handles as well as it ever did. Legitimate repair costs do not equal or exceed 75% of the "actual cash value" eventually set by State Farm, even with the extra expense of the new OEM parts. There's no justifiable reason for State Farm to refuse to complete the repairs.

Nobody can be faulted for speculating as to why State Farm exhibits such a keen interest in taking possession of my car. Companies bullying owners into turning over their vehicles by threatening to ruin the title is hardly unheard of. After taking possession of a vehicle they've "totalled," companies have been known to "forget" that the law requires them to record "salvage" on the title. Then they sell the "clean titled" vehicle for more money than they could have gotten if "salvage" had been disclosed. Not long ago, State Farm was fined for not stamping "salvage" onto the titles of thousands of vehicles they had "totalled." The "good neighbor" sold the vehicles with clean titles, raking in enormous, illegal profits.

My car is a bright red 2000 MR2 Spyder, sporting a nice, clean title. It's been meticulously maintained, has always been housed in a garage, and it's been parked in the shade when I'm out and about. It's loaded with desirable options including a beautiful, black leather interior (smells like new 'cause I'm a non-smoker), and has been driven only about 63,000 miles. At 30,000 miles, the engine was completely rebuilt and a new exhaust system was installed (both items via a Toyota manufacturing defect, which took $8,500 outta my pocket). This makes my car exceptionally desirable, because there's reason to believe that the defect in my engine was permanently corrected (Toyota continues to stonewall). Not many MR2 Spyders were produced, and they were no longer manufactured in the U.S. after 2005. The cars have become collectibles, values have increased, and it's very difficult to find an MR2 Spyder for sale that's in top notch condition like mine.

Is anyone surprised that State Farm wants my car?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Hooray for KFYR-TV for firing "AJ"

The Twitter children are throwing a #tantrum. Talk shows are catering to the bad guy. But I couldn't be more pleased with KFYR-TV for firing a foul-mouthed employee named A.J. Clemente. He was given an opportunity to become co-anchor for the news, and he showed his appreciation by displaying obscene, inexcusable behavior the moment he got on the air.

"F...ing s...," he exclaimed in reaction to some people's names that he found difficult to pronounce. He ignored not only the likelihood of being on the air, but also the presence of his female co-anchor. Of course, we've "evolved" into an enlightened culture where politeness to women no longer counts. But at least we may justifiably speculate regarding Clemente's attitude toward people of Asian descent. His co-worker made a gallant effort to proceed with the program, whereupon the cordially introduced Mr. Clemente bumbled and fumbled, erasing any doubts as to whether he had even the remotest qualifications for the job.

Clemente was fired. Amen.

But alas. Its unheard of for folks to be disciplined for uttering four-letter filth, and the  story made headlines. Talk shows rushed to feature Clemente as a guest, and the Twitter children came to his aid by hurling obscenity-laced tweets at KFYR-TV. Spoiled, ill-bred brats getting back at anyone who dares to challenge their mind-numbing contempt for fundamental decency.

"See?" they gloated (I'll delete the obscenities). "Our poor little mistreated 'AJ' is now a movie star. He's appearing on national TV. He's pointing out that the broadcast started a few seconds early, his co-anchor didn't have her earpiece on, and... We'll teach you, KFYR-TV. Hire him back immediately."

I just love it when folks like those at KFYR-TV refuse to be intimidated.

Hastily conducted polls showed that approximately 85% of those questioned took Clemente's side: The "kid" (now there's a thigh-slapper) was just a rookie. He was nervous (poor thing). He meant well (!). We all make mistakes (quick, pass the Kleenex). And after all, gutter-speak is the norm these days. Well, they sure got that last one right.

I'm so proud of KFYR-TV. Posted my sentiments on their Facebook page, "Liked" the station, and sent a very approving e-mail to their general manager. Best news I've had in a long time.