Category Archives: Opinion

Two Sides to Rental Questions

Opinion

by Buz Whelan
house_with_a_for_rent_signAt the open meeting of the board on Saturday, April 26th landlord David Samad read aloud a letter he had written to the Emerald Lakes Board of Directors. In it he makes the case for rentals. He states that it is his belief that rental properties are important to the health of a community for a variety of reasons. This is in contrast to the position of several members of the Real Estate Committee who believe strict limitations, including establishing a minimum rental period, are needed to correct intolerable conditions that exist near some short-term rental properties.
So we have two very different positions, one that says we need rental properties and another that says we would be better off without them. How do we reconcile these oppositional attitudes?
The Real Estate Committee was re-established after repeated complaints by homeowners near rental properties, one in particular, that had become serious nuisances. I know personally several of the most vocal complainants, and I have found them to be reasonable people. If they tell me they have a situation that is ruining the quality of life in their area, I take them at their word. But I also have contrasting experience. I live two houses away from a short-term rental that has never once given me a problem. I live across the lake from another rather large short-term rental property that has only occasionally produced loud parties, mostly in the summer, and I can live with that. The tenants have also shot off fireworks every so often, usually around a summer holiday, but I remind myself that this is a fireworks state that out-of-staters are not used to. The temptation to take advantage of the opportunity is difficult to resist. I can live with that as well. So, while some properties produce nuisance periods, others rarely do.
If we are to accept what Mr. Samad’s research seems to have revealed, there is little we will be able to accomplish by attempting to regulate short-term rentals out of the community. Perhaps our efforts would be better served by better enforcement of various behavioral rules and regs we already have. Rather than waste a great deal of time and effort in a futile attempt to prevent short-term rentals, let us develop a forward-looking policy for maximizing the potential of these properties. Money shortage is a constant source of difficulty in maintaining our amenities, and therefore our quality of life. If we become a landlord-friendly community, we may be able to turn foreclosed and abandoned structures into revenue sources, while at the same time turning eyesores and squatter magnets into neighborhood assets. The vast majority of renters in this community are good citizens. Let’s send the message to landlords and potential landlords: investing in Emerald Lakes and renting to responsible tenants, whether long- or short-term, will be rewarding. And those who cannot follow our simple rules and be good neighbors will pay a price.
Editor’s note: The following is the letter sent by David Samad to the Board of Directors. It is reprinted with his permission.

 

David & Johanna Samad
April 15, 2014

To: ELA, Inc. Board of Directors:

Alex Leslie, President
Daniel Glasgow, Vice President
Carmen Brodnax, Exec. Secretary
Earl Frank. Treasurer
Millie Bishop, Director
Margaret Fitzgerald, Director
June Solla, Director

Re: Home Owners Rental Policies and Procedures in Emerald Lakes

Dear Directors of the Emerald Lakes Board,

The problems I have experienced as a property owner in Emerald Lakes whenever I rent my homes have pushed me to get proper legal advice. I am told that, in general, an owner of property is entitled to use his property in any way he desires, “provided he does not (1) violate any provision of the Federal or State Constitutions; or (2) create a nuisance; or (3) violate any covenant, restriction or easement; or (4) violate any laws of zoning or police regulations which are constitutional.” Parker v. Hough, 215 A.2d 667, 669 (Pa. 1966). I am also told that whenever a deed restriction or covenant limits the use of my real estate, the limitation is narrowly construed in my favor as the owner.

I also received specific information on renters and rentals that is based on a very recent court decision, which I believe is also very important to Emerald Lakes because of important similarities. The Holiday Pocono private community is run under a common set of restrictive covenants much like Emerald Lakes. And also like Emerald Lakes, because the Holiday Pocono development is located in the Poconos market, many of the homes there are second homes used as vacation properties by their owners. The most important similarity is that lots at Holiday Poconos must be used for ‘residential purposes’, just like the lots in Emerald Lakes. I am told that the meaning of that restriction was tested in state court quite recently.

The court found that “common sense dictates that the right to lease these vacation homes, especially on a short-term basis, is very important to all owners”. To relinquish the right to lease a home, the court said a deed covenant must state in a clear statement that the right to rent does not exist. The court found that the words ‘residential purposes’ must be interpreted to include occupancy by renters, and do not preclude rentals.

And the court said further that an association’s bylaws or the rules and regulations cannot contradict or override that meaning because deed covenants are more important legally than the bylaws or the rules. The court specifically refused to enforce such bylaws or rules which attempted to prohibit rentals because the bylaws or rules conflicted with the meaning of ‘residential use’ as determined by the court. This court decision should end the legal discussion on this point, and confirm that rentals are allowed here as well. Truth be told, not only are they allowed, rentals are actually essential to our future success here at Emerald Lakes.

The fact is that one fundamentally important issue about rentals in particular, and our future in general, has been missing in all our discussions. The problem is that the Association has never developed a winning vision and a strategy about the future of the community. Today we really do not know what our vision of the future is and we do not know how to make that future happen. One result is that our community will actually endanger its future if it chooses to attack vacation rentals and renters. Doing so is not only shortsighted and misguided; it also polarizes the community. We are in an emotionally driven state of affairs, where we have no other plan on the table other than to police perceived problems from so-called problem renters, and somehow drive the so-called problem renters out. In fact, doing so is just the opposite of what we should be doing in the best interest of the community.

Use of rentals to our advantage really is a fundamental strategic marketing issue. Properly qualified renters who are attracted to a successful, strategically driven community become the future owners in that community.

In stark contrast to that very successful strategy, any community that polarizes itself and mistakenly attacks rentals and renters, and fails to reinvest in itself, will eventually face continuing economic decline and failure.

There is compelling proof of the positive results of vision and reinvestment just down the road a bit, not far at all from Emerald Lakes. It is the Lake Naomi community. That community was started at about the same time as Emerald Lakes, and had similar lot prices and similar amenities at the beginning. Lake Naomi, however, has always chosen to be strategic about its future and it has reinvested in itself for decades: and it still has a wide range of house prices in the community. As a key part of Lake Naomi’s vision of the future, the community long ago decided that vacation rentals would be the key to a successful long-term marketing plan and the community’s continuing economic success.

We seem destined to do just the opposite here at Emerald Lakes, and if we do, we are making a fundamental, even fatal, error. Such a choice must be reversed. If we do not, we will continue to spiral down economically, with property values falling even more. We must wake up, and decide to market and fund the community so it attracts “qualified renters” as a matter of highest priority along with providing higher levels of service.

I have taken the time to do my homework carefully on these issues and I am prepared to work hard to be part of the solution in this situation. If necessary, though, I am also prepared to stand behind my words and do what is necessary to protect the future of my properties here and the future of Emerald Lakes generally. That said, I believe that the Board can quickly re-learn that its primary role is to be smart and strategic, and that continuing to act without a proper vision and strategy for the future is a formula for failure. Rentals are essential for us all to thrive here.
Sincerely,

 
David & Johanna Samad

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“I Abstain!” Is It Shirking Responsibility?

Opinion

by Buz Whelan

   QuestionMark[1]  There are occasions when a vote of abstention is appropriate and even mandatory. When minutes of a previous meeting are put up for approval, for example, a member who did not attend that meeting must abstain. When a complicated piece of business has been examined and discussed while a member is ill, that member may not feel qualified to vote in judgment. But when a vote to abstain is cast simply because the voting member does not wish to take a public stand, that is failing to perform one’s duty.

     At the July 21, 2013 meeting of the Finance and Planning Committee a discussion centered on the cost of credit card discounting to the association. Whenever a credit card is used in a transaction there is a discount fee which varies with the card and the merchant’s agreement with the clearing house. If you paid your annual dues with a credit card and the discount rate for that card was 3.5%, the association would receive only $965 rather than the full $1,000. At this meeting it was agreed by the committee members to pass a recommendation to the board that whenever a credit card is used to pay dues, the cost of the transaction should be borne by the payer. General Manager Allan Roth was present at the meeting and soon after began seeking a vendor who would cooperate in the charge back. Eventually, he found several and prepared a packet of detailed information along with a recommendation that the company best suited to association needs was Paylease.

     Approximately one week before the October 18th board work session, the packets of information were distributed to each director’s mailbox so that they would have time to prepare for the discussion and have any questions ready for the GM to answer. At that meeting, Mr. Roth made a comprehensive presentation, explaining how the new system would work and why he felt Paylease was our best choice. At the conclusion of his presentation a discussion period ensued, with the GM answering all the directors’ questions and concerns. When no further questions were forthcoming, it was decided that a resolution would be prepared for a vote at the next weekend’s open meeting. The meeting then moved on to the next topic.

     The following day, Saturday, October 19th the Finance and Planning Committee met in the same conference room. Present as observers were several board members including President Alex Leslie and Directors June Solla and Margaret Fitzgerald. By sheer coincidence, committee member  Walter O’Neill asked the GM what had become of the credit card recommendation. Mr. Roth repeated his presentation from the day before for the benefit of the committee members. He again took questions and, as at the previous day’s meeting, the topic was exhausted and the meeting moved on.

     We now come to the October 26th open meeting. Secretary Carmen Broadnax reads the resolution regarding the new credit card policy, the chair gets a second and a vote is called. Earl Frank, Millie Bishop, Carmen Broadnax and Dan Glasgow vote in the affirmative. It is now Director Margaret Fitzgerald’s turn. She says she is abstaining because she does not have enough information. The chair calls on Director June Solla who says she is abstaining for the same reason as Ms. Fitzgerald.

     To recap, a packet of information has been given to each of these directors. They attended two successive meeting in which the change was discussed in detail. They knew the vote was coming and had a week to seek out any additional information they felt they needed. And they abstained.

     The very next vote was to endorse a change order in the amount of $11,000 for additional work needed to resolve foundational problems discovered during road paving. Again, this issue had been previously discussed, again the vote was scheduled a week in advance and again both Ms. Fitzgerald and Ms. Solla abstained.

     This is an opinion piece. It is labeled as such, and it is my opinion that these directors have failed to perform their duty. Perhaps they have an explanation that I have yet to fathom. But when detailed information is provided and sufficient time elapses without any effort to obtain whatever clarification the directors feel they need, then they are not acting responsibly.

     We elect directors to make decisions. That’s what they are supposed to do. It is their main job. Anyone can make the easy decisions that have little effect on the way the association does business. It is when difficult decisions on complex issues must be made that we separate the strong performers from the weak ones. Here are two examples of very weak performance.

Gun Control: Can We All Just Get Along?

Opinion

by Buz Whelan

 

     The arguments on gun ownership and whether there should be new limits images[2]placed seem to be producing no movement on either side. Gun proponents, led by the NRA, resist any change in the status quo. The most extreme gun control advocates would allow only hunting weapons, controlled and licensed. And the arguments are beginning to appear to be irrelevant. Red state senators and congressmen and women know they cannot vote for any meaningful gun law and not expect a primary challenge. In most densely populated states where hunters are a small minority, gun laws are already strict by NRA standards. Realizing the futility of debate, I am nevertheless presenting my own view of the firearm landscape. What follows are my thoughts on the subject developed from a little research. I’ve divided this piece into three parts for easy digestion.

 

Part I: The Second Amendment

 

“A well established Militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

 

     Seems direct enough, does it not? But throughout the life of our republic, we second-amendment-flag[1]have disagreed on its precise meaning. Some feel it guarantees unrestricted gun ownership, while others point to the opening phrase. A careful reading of the entire Constitution reveals a certain economy of words. The entire purpose statement, called the Preamble, consists of only 51 words. Why, then, did the framers include the words “A well established Militia” in the statement? Why not just write, “The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed” and leave it at that? Why mention “Militia” at all?

 

     There were two important Supreme Court decisions on the Second Amendment during the 19th century. In the first, US v Cruikshank (1875), the court ruled that the Second Amendment “has no other effect than to restrict the powers of the national government.” This was reiterated in Presser v Illinois (1886) with the court stating that the Second Amendment “is a limitation only upon the power of Congress and the National government, and not upon that of the States.” These decisions state clearly that individual states and, by extension, such municipalities as New York City, Chicago, Washington, et. al., may impose whatever restrictions on gun ownership that they may deem necessary and prudent.

 

     In a later case, the court ruled on the National Firearms Act of 1934. This law, passed in response to public outrage over the carnage being wrecked by ‘Tommy guns’ (automatic weapons), authorized excise taxes to be placed on certain types of weapons (e.g., automatic weapons, parts for same, sawed-off shotguns), ordered the registration of these weapons, and forbid their transfer across state lines without special permit. In the case of US v Miller (1939), the court upheld the law, but did so in conjunction with Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution, which grants the power to congress “To raise and support armies” and further, “To provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions.”  The court seemed to be indicating that the right guaranteed by the Second Amendment was tied to having an available militia, not non-affiliated personal ownership.

 

     In its most recent ruling the court upheld the right of the individual in a narrow five to four decision. In the case of “District of Columbia v. Heller (2008)”, the majority ruled that the individual had a right to possess a firearm for traditionally lawful purposes such as self-defense. A complete ban on handguns and a requirement that guns in the home be disassembled or trigger-locked by the District was thus declared unconstitutional. The majority stated that the initial phrasing about militia stated a purpose but was not a limiting phrase. Writing a dissent, Justice Stevens examined historical evidence and concluded that the amendment protects militia-related interests.

 

     So, where are we now? The decisions indicate that individuals have a federal right to possess firearms, but that lower governments may impose reasonable limitations and restrictions on that right, and that ordering the registration of guns is constitutional.

 

Part II: Why I Need an Assault Rifle with Extended Ammunition Magazines

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     For me, at least, the silliest argument for assault rifles and magazines that hold more than ten rounds is protection from the United States government. Not only is oppression of the general population by our own government unlikely in the extreme, should such a thing ever come to pass, resistance by the people would be utterly futile. The idea that a ragtag bunch of civilians could in any way hamper a military operation is as realistic as Ralphie holding off Black Bart and his gang with a Red Ryder air rifle.

 

     When I returned from combat in Viet Nam my first assignment was as 443077-Royalty-Free-RF-Clip-Art-Illustration-Of-A-Cartoon-Running-Marine-Soldier[1]company commander of an infantry training unit in Fort Polk, Louisiana. Upwards of 90% of our graduating trainees would be going directly to the combat arena. All of us cadre, drill sergeants and officers, took our training responsibilities seriously. Nevertheless, we often found amusement in the ineptness of the trainees. And these were folks who already had 8 weeks of basic training before we saw them. It would take 9 weeks of intensive training with us, then a period of adjustment with their combat unit before they were competent soldiers. Civilians with Bushmasters? Ridiculous.

 

     In warning against the possibility of a government takeover, examples such as China, Russia and Nazi Germany are often cited.  But both the Russian and Chinese revolutions were essentially civil wars. In Russia, the Bolsheviks battled the Czarists, and both armies were heavily armed. In China it was the communists under Mao Tse-tung against the nationalists under Chang Kai-shek. Again, both armies were heavily armed. In neither case did an existing government suddenly make war on its citizens. The German example is even more ludicrous. Hitler was appointed chancellor by President von Hindenburg after the Nazis elected the most delegates to the Reichstag. There was no war against civilians. And if you watch newsreels from the era you will see huge crowds deliriously cheering their Fuhrer.  

 

      Here’s a last example. During Operation Desert Storm in 1991, the U.S. military and its allies faced Saddam Hussein’s ‘elite’ Republican Guard staffed by battle-tested veterans of the 8 year Iran-Iraq War. They lasted fewer than 100 hours against the coalition forces. Again, I point out the absurdity of civilians facing down the American military.

 

     And finally, let me point out the most obvious fact: the federal government is already in control. There is no imaginable reason for them to war on their own people.

 

Part III: Making the Perfect the Enemy of the Good

 

     There are no perfect solutions to the problem of gun violence in America. There is no law proposed or extant that would have prevented all the terrible mass murders we have experienced or that would absolutely preclude the possibility that another will occur. But we also know this: doing nothing will not improve the odds. And yet that seems to be the argument that so many proponents of unrestricted gun ownership advance. To any suggested measure that would provide some increased restriction on the type of weapons available or place some limits on who may own guns, they say, “That wouldn’t stop all gun violence; that wouldn’t have prevented Sandy Hook or Aurora or Columbine.” Here, we’ll break down some of the suggested remedies and the arguments for and against them.

 

Proposal: That all sales and transfers of weapons be subject to a background check on the recipient.

 

     The counter argument goes that ‘criminals will still get guns; only legitimate buyers will be hampered.’ And it is true that some, even many, criminals will imagesCAVDSRC8find ways to obtain guns. It’s also true that legitimate buyers may have to expend some extra effort obtain guns, but is this really too much to ask? But will all criminals have the same ease of obtaining weapons that they have today? Certainly, mobsters will find a way. But are mobsters the problem? The massacres of the last generation have not been done by career criminals. They have been perpetrated by disaffected individuals with little or no criminal backgrounds. Petty criminals, the type that hold up gas stations and liquor stores, do not have the connections that the ‘made guy’ has. If background checks were universal, it would make it more difficult for anyone with a criminal record or a history of psychiatric problems to obtain a weapon. Not impossible; just more difficult. And for the kid who just wants a gun because it thinks it would be ‘cool,’ the increased difficulty would often be enough to discourage him.

 

 Proposal: That assault weapons and magazines holding more than 8 rounds be declared illegal.

 

     ‘There are already more than a million assault rifles in private hands. Further, an experienced shooter can change a magazine in seconds, so limiting the capacity would have little, if any effect. Banning the weapons and magazines would only affect legitimate sportsmen.’ But what ‘legitimate sportsman needs an assault rifle? These weapons will fire a round with every trigger pull. They can fire at a rate of over 100 rounds per minute. The one time when a shooter is vulnerable is when they are changing magazines. If this must be done every 8 shots there will be more and sooner opportunities to stop the shooter, either by return fire, tackling  the shooter, or for victims to run to safety. A ‘sportsman’ who needs more than 8 rapidly-delivered shots to fell his prey is not much of a sportsman. And as far as the number of weapons already in private hands, the same argument was made against restricting the sale of Tommy Guns, those fully automatic weapons favored by gangsters. But the National Firearms Act of 1934 was passed. It took years to make a difference, but how many Tommy Guns are around today?

 

     There’s one more argument that must be examined. Over and over I hear gun advocates say that Chicago has the strictest gun laws, but the highest gun violence rate. But the problem with the Chicago gun ordinances is the Indiana gun laws, just as the problem with New York City regulations is the lack of Virginia gun regulations. As long as individuals can game the system by simply crossing state lines, the big cities will continue to have the greatest gun crime rates. And loosely-regulated but sparsely populated states like Wyoming will be used as examples of how more guns per capita equal less crime. It’s a false statistic, but it isn’t going away.

 

In Summation I should make clear that I am not against all gun ownership. I believe hunters have a right to their shotguns and hunting rifles and private citizens have a right to firearms for their own defense. But we must have some sane regulations to reduce the number of gun deaths and the ferocity of individual events such as Aurora or Newtown. If we ban rapid-firing assault rifles and magazines over 8 or 10 rounds it will take a generation or more for their numbers to be significantly reduced, just as it did with Tommy guns. But it will be a start. If we make all weapons transactions subject to background checks and registration it will reduce the number of guns going into the wrong hands and aid law enforcement in solving  murders. That alone may have a deterring effect. We do it with cars. I can’t transfer my car to my wife without going through DMV. Why should guns be different? Has our government ever gone house to house to seize anything? If we do all this we still won’t eliminate all gun crime. People who shouldn’t, will still get guns and guns, and magazines that are banned will still find their way into criminal hands. But people still murder, steal and speed on the highways. Would it make any sense to drop laws against those things as well?

 

Step One: Control Your Own Guns

Opinion

Lola Lauri

 

bth_gun_safety[1]    According to the Pocono Record, 14 guns were stolen from a Long Pond home last week.  They were subsequently recovered when a woman the thief had threatened reported him to the police.  Also, WNEP reports that a drug ring in the area was busted and, in the course of the investigation, many guns were taken into evidence. Just last month, one of our Long Pond neighbors was arrested at Newark Airport because he “forgot” about the loaded gun in his bag. And two years ago we had a Halloween party here in Emerald Lakes that ended in gunfire, injuring teenagers and terrifying residents.

 

Newtown may have awakened many to the dangers of guns in our communities, but it shouldn’t take a mass shooting to remind us all of how to be responsible gun owners. That tragedy and others like it, bring this issue to the forefront of our minds and hearts, and all too often they polarize our discussions, making it nearly impossible to find common ground. But we are, quite literally, sharing common ground here in Emerald Lakes, and we must do everything we can to make that ground safer for all. No matter where your opinion falls on the gun control debate, we should all be able to agree that proper care and storage of the guns that we and our neighbors own is the first step to keeping our families safe. I certainly don’t claim to be an expert, but there are very simple things that I have learned from reading and from the gun safety courses that I have taken that it seems many of our neighbors have forgotten. Too many excuses and instances of lazy gun ownership end up with weapons falling into the hands of those who would use them to do harm.

 

One very important consideration to remember is that child-proof does not always equal theft-proof, and nothing is fool-proof. No discussion about gun safety should overlook the simple fact that statistically you are more likely to be injured by a gun if there is a gun in your home.  Choosing not to have a gun is the safest choice of all.  However, I understand that statistics are simply not enough comfort for some, and not possible for others.  If you must have guns in your home, you must find the absolute safest way to store them that meets the needs of your household.

 

Collectors should choose the best cabinets they can afford. (Hint: if you can afford a collection, you can afford the best cabinets to display them.) Tempered glass, keypad locks, steel bars and reinforced wood are features that add to the safety of your collection in a way that still allows for their display.  Some of these features include methods of ensuring that your guns cannot be removed even if the glass is broken. Guns should be stored unloaded, with ammunition put away in a separate storage place. For hunters who don’t need to display their guns, heavy-duty gun safes, hidden and bolted to the structure of the house provide security that is both child-proof and theft-proof.

 

In the case of guns kept for home defense, owners must weigh the dangers of the weapon with the desire for quick access. A gun in the bedside table or a rifle behind the door not only pose dangers to children or other family members, but are also easily found and taken by burglars. They then become a danger to everyone.  When you are not home, these guns are defending no one, and the dangers are multiplied.  One habit that it will pay to cultivate is to store a home defense weapon in a gun safe in the bedroom.  Open the safe when you are at home or in bed and place your house keys and/or car keys in the safe with the door open.  This way, you will never forget to lock them away before leaving home.  Of course, this does not keep your children safe from discovery and misuse of your gun, and there is always the possibility of an intruder getting to your gun before you do.  Many safes are designed for quick access, and the added safety is well worth the few extra seconds it takes to get into it.  Whatever you do, do NOT underestimate the ingenuity of young children and teenagers to ferret out any hiding spot you may use.  (I have personally seen a toddler reach the top of a cabinet using the drawers to climb.)

 

If gun owners want to begin to curb the attacks and anger that come their way every time there is a tragedy, they must police their own behaviors and take the first step.  Assess the safety and practices of gun ownership in your own homes.  Be the model gun owner that you would want everyone to be.  Had those 14 guns stolen last week not been recovered by police, they would have been added to the growing number of guns in our community that are obtained illegally and often used to harm others.  While no one wants to blame a burglary victim for harm done by another, imagine the guilt you would feel if, due to your careless handling of your own guns, they were stolen and used to injure a member of your family or a neighbor.  Hundreds of thousands of guns are stolen in the US every year, but proper safety precautions and storage could greatly reduce this number and, in turn, increase the safety of our community.

Curious Decisions, Curious Reports

Opinion

By Buz Whelan

I write this in the first person because I want to take full ownership. I speak only forspeech1[1] myself, and, of course, everyone who agrees with me. This is a subjective piece, my take on certain actions and decisions by the Emerald Lakes Association Board of Directors, and if that makes you angry or uncomfortable stop reading now.

The first area of concern here is communications. I write of the Emerald News and the Emerald Lakes Association official website, such as it is. We had a functioning website. It had up-to-date information on events, meetings, schedules and the like. Want to see a current Emerald Grill menu? It was there. Want to know when the Maintenance Committee is having its next meeting or when the community center is open? It was there. What happened at the last board meeting? Check that website. And so on.

Then the association got new software that included a website. So, the old website, that worked quite well, was shut down. Its capable webmaster, Bob Leon, was fired. Employees would manage the new website. That was late July 2012. How’s that working out so far? Seven months later we are still being told that the website, the official website, is a work in progress

Then there’s the Emerald News. Remember when the Emerald News was a monthly paper with up to 24 pages of news and information? Remember when you could read about the most recent board meeting? Remember when actual news of Emerald Lakes, things like shootings, house fires, power outages and home invasions were reported? Remember when there were articles like where to buy the cheapest gas for your car or LP for your home were published? Remember when there was humor along with the serious reporting, things like “Whirled Gnus” and “From the ‘Net?” Remember those things?

Check out the current version of the association paper. That’s what happens when the board fires experienced journalists, takes over the paper, appoints the GM editor-in-chief, and makes sure only good news gets printed. Now we get a 12-page Emerald News that hits the stands on Feb. 8th, but uses almost a full page to advertise the Superbowl Party on February 3rd and the Valentine’s Day Dinner, for which you must sign up and pay by Feb 7th.  You could have read about the December board meeting here within 24 hours of its occurrence. But it didn’t make the Feb 8th Emerald News. No news, no fun. Good move, firing those editors and taking the paper over.

The board authorized a budget of $1,500 for the newly resurrected Events Committee. The cost of each event would be deducted from that total. I asked the board if an event made money, brought in more than its cost by, say, $1,000 would that be added back into their budget. A quick ‘No’ was followed by directors exchanging curious glances. It was apparent that this possibility had not been considered. After some discussion it was agreed, I believe, that the budget would be restored up to the original $1,500 but not beyond.

My final comment is on the monthly Treasurer’s Report, a standard agenda item at these monthly meetings. Along with the overall statistics, we are regularly informed of the cost of the Emerald Bar & Grill year-to-date. Now, up through the 2007/2008 fiscal year that unit had a hefty line item allotment of $40,000. That allowed its managers and the treasurer to brag that at an annual cost of as much as $38,000, the bar and grill were $2,000 under budget. Beginning with fiscal year 2008/2009 we began cost saving measures. We closed the amenity down on the slowest nights. From seven nights a week, we went to three. We replaced a mediocre cook with a chef. We hired new staff and a community center manager to oversee the process. We purchased a point-of-sale system that accurately tracked sales and inventory and cut shrinkage by more than 80%. Yet now we are singling this amenity out for its cost, currently $4,000 year-to-date. Why?

A Saturday night visit will reveal to the observer a full bingo room with players having soft and mixed drinks at their places. Around the room you will see plates of finger foods such as quesadillas, wings, French fries and others. You will observe couples and families dotting the main dining room. You will see an SRO crowd at the bar. And, in the pool, you will see a lonely swimmer or two doing laps under the watchful gaze of a lifeguard. We are never told how much it has cost year-to-date to maintain the water temperature, the air temperature, the board-of-health-mandated purification chemicals, or the salary of that bored lifeguard. Why is the only amenity that produces a revenue stream singled out for scrutiny? I favor, without reservation, keeping the indoor pool open. It is a valuable amenity. But if cost per member served is your criterion, the Emerald Bar and Grill is the single most cost effective amenity we have.

(Editor’s note:  If you have any comments, questions, or observations about these issues, we encourage you to leave your comments here, but also, PLEASE let the board know how you feel by attending a monthly open meeting or by sending them a letter.)

How to Find a Lost Pet

Lola Lauri

When your pet goes missing, it is important to move fast to increase the chances of having it returned to your family safely. Campa_lost_dog_standing_behind_a_box_wanting_to_be_found_royalty_free_080711-221551-579037[1] KCS, on Long Pond road, has a program they call “Rescue Rover” (click Here to learn more).  When you enroll your pet in this program, they keep records, notify local veterinarians and shelters, supply flyers, publicity and identification tags, to help in the search.  Facebook has helped reunite so many of our neighbors with their furry friends, but this program may be even more effective and organized then you are able to be in such a stressful situation.

Camp KCS also provides boarding and other services, and I have found them to be a wonderful resource for pet care.

For more information on finding your pet, click on the links below:

http://www.petfinder.com/dogs/lost-and-found-dogs/find-lost-dog/

http://www.missingpet.net/

 

Who We are NOT

Opinion

Lola Lauri

We got a letter this weekend, from the ELA Inc. board, and we have decided to just give them what they want, so they can sleep better at night and stop wasting money on this “non-problem”.  But what are they so worried about?   Here’s my take on what happened:

Since the ELA board just won’t play nice

They shelled out your cash for legal advice

On how to shut down the EL Free Press

That seeks to shed light on their ongoing mess.

It seems the lawyer said don’t overreach

We live in a land that values free speech.

The best you can do is send them a note,

And try to scare them. So they took a vote.

Then GM Roth got a paper and pen,

And asked us to say that we’re us and not them.

But just to be clearer, right on this spot

We’re gonna say ALL of the things that we’re not:

Read the rest of this entry

Violence in HOA’s

Opinion

Lola Lauri

From an article in the Seattle Times:

Who would want to subject themselves to such friction by being part of a homeowners’ board? Some are genuinely drawn by the opportunity to volunteer, McKenzie said. But others relish the chance to wield influence over the neighborhood.

“Associations are seen as the bad guys,” Feingold said. “They’ve got a rap for being overreaching and overbearing. In America, we have `My home is my castle.’ You’re really challenging that proposition.”

Read the whole article here.  Also, another HOA tragedy, here

We have had members threaten violence at the annual meeting, and at the monthly open meetings.  Most times they are simply asked to leave and escorted out.  I have often expressed my concerns over our Association not taking these things seriously enough.  Let’s not wait for a tragedy here before we take action when someone threatens violence in our community.

To Rent or Not to Rent

Opinion

Lola Lauri

Many of our residents are suffering from the noise and bad behavior of the tenants at a few local homes.  There are parties and noise and traffic.  There are septic failures that threaten our waterways.  Every resident is entitled to the quiet enjoyment of his or her home, and that is not happening because of a few careless homeowners.  Advertisements for these homes online suggest that they are great for “groups” and in some cases they claim to sleep up to 18 people.  Reports of people standing on the docks and cursing and shouting loudly have shocked the attendees at the last board meeting. A number of residents have banded together to address the board and insist on help for these conditions, and they deserve relief immediately.  No one should have to live with constant noise and discomfort. (To read their letter click here.)

At first glance, it seems that the obvious solution is to disallow rentals completely within our community.  I have heard this suggestion more than once, but I believe it is too soon to take such a drastic measure that will impact the ability of all homeowners to rent their homes. Before punishing all homeowners for the actions of a few, I believe the community needs to look at the issue of enforcement.

Read the rest of this entry

On HOA’s and Talking to the Media

Opinion

Lola Lauri

Our board has had a long-standing policy of not commenting on issues brought up in the news, on Facebook, on ELFP.  With Joe Miller, John Cress, and new board member Daniel Glasgow, we are seeing a slow change in that policy.  We have always believed that the board should aggressively seek to explain its position on controversial issues and explain why certain steps were taken to resolve those issues.

The following is from an article, published by Habitat Magazine, that explains the importance of communicating with the press and with its members through various forums:

Should your board talk to reporters when they call? Read the rest of this entry

Reform PA Charter Schools

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thoughts on education by Grant Wiggins

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Reclaim Reform

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Americas Education Watch

A child is like a butterfly in the wind. Some can fly higher than others, but each one flies the best it can. Why compare one against the other? Each one is different. Each one is special. Each one is beautiful.

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