Friday, September 09, 2005

End the Corruption Now

Going by the courthouse today?

Do a little digging and find out which city councilman, while serving in elected office, was cited for repeatedly violating the city building codes by performing "skilled" electrical, HVAC, and assorted other building trades duties without even applying for, much less receiving the proper permits?

Ask around. See if the city didn't resort to litigation to have it stopped and see if there's not a consent decree on file somewhere to resolve the matter.

Then dig a little deeper and find out for whom the city councilman was performing some of this work. Could it have been yet another veteran city councilman? And while we're at it, how many council members own rental properties in this city that were renovated, repaired or subdivided into multiple rental units without the acquisition of the proper permits?

Let's just put it all on the table.

Let's demand that every elected official in the City of New Albany list all of their and their family's commercial interests, employments, real estate interests, etc. so that the public can judge whether their votes are in the public interest or in their own or their families' interests.

Did you ever wonder why some council members so vigorously oppose the idea of an ordinance enforcement officer? Are they enriching themselves by seeing to it that the building codes and the other city ordinances aren't enforced?

There's certainly nothing wrong with owning property or having business interests. Our mayor owns a dry cleaning store. But if the mayor suddenly directs that, for example, all police officers must have their uniforms done at his place, that would be a clear conflict.

And if a city council member opposes the enforcement of health and safety ordinances while operating outside those ordinances, the public has the right to know that, too.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Redacted News From the Future

The following is a piece of fiction created for your entertainment.

xxxxxxxxxxxx – With the probability of a federal indictment on racketeering charges pending, xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx city councilman Xxxxx Xxxxx resigned today without admitting any wrongdoing.

In a carefully orchestrated press conference, and accompanied by his lawyer, xxxxx said he was resigning in order to spare the city from “farther distractions” and declared he would clear his name.

The first-term councilman was arrested in the course of an FBI undercover investigation designated as “Operation Charlie McCarthy.”

The federal investigation focused on allegations that Xxxxx and other elected officials used the power of their offices, their political contacts, and bribes to enrich themselves.

Russell Xxxxxxxxx, Special Agent in Charge in the Xxxxxxxxxx FBI office, said undercover agents videotaped Xxxxx coaching the agents on how to obtain xxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxx vouchers to pay rent, despite the fact that Xxxxx believed the agents were capable of working and earning wages to make the rent payments.

The evidence of fraud allegedly was obtained through confidential informants and included a tape showing Xxxxx urging undercover agents to submit affidavits claiming they were unable to find work or to otherwise support themselves, said Xxxxxxxxx. According to reliable sources who have seen the tape, Xxxxx told the agents he would submit rent bills and late charge fees totaling $600 a month for the rental units owned by Xxxxx. The proceeds were then given to Xxxxx, who owns several rental properties in the city.

Xxxxx County Xxxxxxxxxx Party officials rushed to distance themselves from the scandal engulfing the councilman.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Mortimer Learns From His Elders

Took a moment away from the family to drop in on a local watering hole (no, not a progressive one with craft beers) recently and picked up a new technique for making a living.

At first, it sounded like a pretty foolish idea. It's based on the junkyard idea that a modern automobile is worth much more in its component parts than as a whole. Let's say a car goes into a lake. Body damage is minimal, but the electrical system and the interior are totaled.

With the right set of wrenches in hand, a capable mechanic can disassemble the remaining parts and shop them on, say, eBay, or simply park the wreck in a yard. Of course, if you have absolutely no mechanical skills, you can alway hire someone to do it for you.

I tried to imagine how that would work in my industry. Could I cut my paperbacks into two, and still sell each half for the full price? Could I separate my hardcovers into three pieces, and sell the thirds for the publisher's suggested retail price?

Of course, my inventory would no longer consist of anything that could reasonably be called a book. But, so far as I know, there is no inspection or regulation of just what constitutes a book. If I can find someone to pay the price, it must be good, right?

I wonder if anyone ever thought about doing that with a house? You could take a three-bedroom house and chop it into three apartments. Keep your work quiet (or pay off an inspector) and you wouldn't even have to go before the board of zoning appeals to get approval. So far as I know, the building inspectors don't have search warrant powers, so once you've finished, you wouldn't have to worry about a subsequent surprise inspection by the building commission staff.

You could troll for unfortunates (maybe in the bars?) and desperate folks (women on the run from abusive husbands?), newly divorced people who only need a way station, and assorted transients, ex-felons, etc. Once these folks become dependent on you (or your "kindness" in allowing them to pay when they can - don't forget the late fee income), you'd be pretty much set.

Of course, you wouldn't want to live nearby, but then all you'd have to do is find a pocket where the neighbors won't complain.

But what would you do when the neighbors complain? How could you see to it that the "gummint" stays off your back?

And what would you do when those new tenants complain, or what if they come up short because they lost their money drinking, gambling, smoking, or lost their job?

What would a slumlord do? How could he game the system so it's a no-lose situation?

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

It's New Albany, Not New York

Over the next several days, we're going to try to examine the situation with rental properties in New Albany with a series of what we hope are provocative questions.

To get us started, here's Question 1:

Given to the normal rental rate for, say, a 700 s.f. 1-bedroom apartment in Southern Indiana, or even in Metro Louisville as a whole, what drives a rental market that makes landlords think $400 a month is a fair rental rate for a 180 s.f. room in a house designed for single-family residents?

Please feel free to offer your own insights to make this week's postings an interactive discussion.