A Tale of Two Homes
By George Haab
There were two lovely homes in a mountain community called Emerald Lakes. Each was owned by families who used them as vacation homes and visited them at irregular intervals. Both homes had alarm systems. One kept his vital information, such as his up-to-date telephone and cell phone information up to date. The other moved several times, changing his numbers and failing to notify his alarm company. The homeowner who kept his information current also gave a trusted full time neighbor a duplicate house key.
One day during a time of extremely low temperatures several transformers blew. Each homeowner lost all power to his vacation home. The power company tried to call each homeowner. They reached the first homeowner and told him he would have to turn off his main breaker before it would be safe to restore power. The homeowner quickly called the trusted neighbor who went to the home and turned the breaker off. He then notified the power company and the power was restored. His furnace, powered by LP by controlled by an electric thermostat immediately went back on – before the house temperature dipped below freezing. But the second homeowner, the one who did not keep his contact information up to date, did not know his heat was off. Soon the temperature dipped very low and all the water in the house froze. The sink traps were split open, toilet tanks cracked, water pipes burst and the water heater was ruptured. Thousands of dollars worth of damage resulted.
The take away from these stories is obvious. Each of these scenarios has occurred many times throughout the Pocono region. Don’t be like the second homeowner. Keep your contact information current with your alarm company and all your suppliers. And think about giving a trusted neighbor a key. That neighbor can look in your home if the alarm goes off or if you’re notified of a power interruption. As the old saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
November 23, 2013 Monthly Open Board Meeting
by Buz Whelan
The November open meeting was called to order by President Alex Leslie at 9:30am sharp. After a fast approval of the October minutes, Leslie opened his comments with a cryptic statement regarding the September meeting, saying the comments made then were his own and that he was not speaking for the board. He apologized for any confusion this may have caused. He then went on to say that the recent seminar on committee/board relations and procedures had produced a recommendation for a Committee Chair Council, and the board was prepared to act on this. He also mentioned that the bog removal project for East and West Emerald Lakes had been completed.
Treasurer Earl Frank commenced his report by stating that the upcoming issue of the Emerald News will contain new information. Along with showing the actual dollars and variances from the budget items, readers will see the % of each major line item of expense by department to the total operating expense. A graphic chart will reflect expenses incurred by department through Oct. 31, 2013. This is intended to give members a better insight into the state of our finances.
Frank continued that our current year-to-date revenue of $960,000 exceeds budget expectations by $29,000. This is primarily due to increased collections on code violations of $15,000 and fees for rentals, resale certificates and permits by another $10,000. In addition to these monies, our attorney has collected $96,000 year-to-date as opposed to $51,000 for the same period last year. Our total operating expenses of $825,000, excluding depreciation, is under budget by $70,000 or 8%.
1. Administration costs are under budget by $25,000, with salaries and benefits under $17,000.
2. Public Safety is under budget by $6,000.
3. Maintenance is under budget by $37,000 due to a favorable variance in salaries and benefits of $18,000, $10,000 in lake maintenance and vehicle expenses of $8,000.
4. The Community Center is under budget by $33,000 due to favorable variances in salaries and benefits of $22,000 and related items in the maintenance of our outdoor pool by $10,000 and the heating cost by $5,000.
5. The Bar & Grill is over budget by $12,000. Revenue year-to-date is $38,000, while expense is $50,000 for a shortfall of $12,000. (editor’s note: this shortfall is an average of $2,000/mo for the first half year, down significantly from the $3,000/mo reported for the first three months)
Regarding the total annual budget, we expect to be under by 10% which should offset any reduction in dues collected.
Finally, our reserves balance is $389,000 and the new capital fund balance is $72,000. Road paving will eat up $224,000 of the reserves while compactor paving will reduce new capital by $65,000.
GM Allen Roth repeated the news that the bog removal had been completed in his Manager’s Report, and added that the removed material had been dried and stored and will be used as fertilizer. He also informed the room that the road paving project had been completed and that a punch list developed after completion had also been completely addressed. He stated that RFPs have been put out for the Pine Tree Lake dam valve and pipe repair, but that as of now only two firms have expressed interest.
In a sad addendum, Roth reported the recent death of Fred Spott, long time engineering consultant for Emerald Lakes and a friend of the association.
During the committee chair reports, ad hoc Committee to Revise the Bylaws chair Buz Whelan reported that the singular task of developing a complete protocol for absentee voting was well underway. The committee’s goal is to present the finished product to the board in time for the February open meeting. Committee members have agreed to hold extra meetings, if necessary, in order to meet this self-imposed deadline.
Whelan also reported on the Property Management Committee in place of ailing chair Bob Leon. There was some discussion about the name of the committee, several board members maintaining that the bylaws specify that we have a Maintenance Committee, not a Property Management one. Whelan argued that we do, in fact, have a maintenance committee in that Property management performs all appropriate maintenance committee tasks. But the committee has also taken on those tasks of the moribund Architectural Review Committee, also specified by the bylaws. By working under the title of Property Management, but functioning as both ARC and Maintenance, the bylaw requirements are met. Whelan’s point was that it wasn’t about the name, but the function.
Moving on to committee work, the committee is working on a signage project, intended to bring community signage up to date. It was also mentioned that the one way signs on Emerald Blvd. are missing. A car was observed traveling the wrong way on this past Friday. The committee is also working on obtaining a surveillance system. One that has been researched would provide a 17 camera system with recording capability. Cost would be about $3,500.
Stephania Johnson, Events Committee chair reported on a full schedule of events for the coming year. Highlights include Santa for the kids, a New Year’s Eve party, a murder-mystery night for Valentine’s Day with a jilted lover theme, a St. Patrick’s Day bash with the Gallagher Dancers, a May comedy show, and a return to Cabaret ’35 in the early Fall. Watch the website and Emerald News for a more complete list with dates and details.
Earl Frank reported on a Finance & Planning Committee recommendation that the board consider requesting a special assessment from the membership. This would be $199/per property/per annum for a total of $398. According to calculations, at the current compliance rate, this would bring in approximately $550,000. The figure is meant to match the estimated cost of replacing the HVAC system in the Community Center (about $250,000) and repairing the Pine Tree Lake dam valve and leaking pipe (about $300,000). Membership approval would be required.
Under Old Business, Secretary Carmen Broadnax read the two resolutions, passed in October, on shifting the credit card discount burden to the member when paying dues, and raising the late fee on dues from 2.5% to 10%. This is the second reading. A third will be made next month to complete the public notice. The credit card charge of 3.5% on dues payment will be effective February 24, or in time for next year’s dues payments. Fourth quarter payments for 2013/2014 dues made on time (Feb 1, 2014) will be unaffected.
Under New Business, the board voted to accept the donation of Lot 4918, located on Clearview Drive opposite the skating pond. The area could be used as a small parking lot. The board also voted to approve Buz Whelan as Bylaw Committee chair and Sherri Ornitz as Rules and Regulations Committee Chair. Finally, the board authorized the establishment of a Committee Chair Council, with organizational details to be worked out later.
During the Public Comments section, member Buz Whelan thanked Flo Mauri for a well run seminar on committee to committee and committee/board communication and function. The Committee Chair Council is a result of that event. A round of applause was given to Ms. Mauri.
Whelan went on to comment on the special assessment suggestion calling it a “band-aid on a sucking chest wound.” We have serious problems with operational fund shortfalls. While some on Finance & Planning have pointed to our balanced budget and the fact that we are under in almost all areas, this is a fool’s paradise. In 2007 we had 17 full time employees. We now have 9. The beaches were both open 7 days a week. Now they alternate weekdays, with only one or the other open. The outdoor pool was open 7 days a week in season; now it is open 4. The Community Center was open 7 days a week; now it is open 3½. The compactor was open 5 days; now it operates 4. We had a Youth Activities Program with a full time Youth Activities Director; that has been completely eliminated. As for being currently under budget, for instance, we are $10,000 under in lake maintenance because we haven’t done any. We are living and operating on reduced services and deferred maintenance. There is a huge difference between having a balanced budget and having sufficient funds to properly maintain this community.
In welcoming new members to the community, 6 properties changed hands, one a foreclosure and 3 were purchases of Classic Quality Homes.
Town Hall Meeting Draws a Crowd
by Buz Whelan
The Town Hall meeting held on Saturday, October 26th drew a full house. At a few minutes after 11am Dan Glasgow, a board director, began the meeting by explaining the water testing options and then handing out test kits and instructions to members who wanted them. Three levels of testing were offered. A package at $125 offered to test total coliform w/E. coli, nitrate and nitrite, pH, hardness, conductivity, lead, copper and iron. Another package at $85 included all but pH, hardness, conductivity and copper. A budget package at $30 tested only for total coliform w/E. coli. Anyone who missed the meeting but wishes testing done should contact Dan through the Emerald Lakes website or the admin office. You may also wish to contact the tester, Microbac Laboratories at (570)629-8900.
In the second part of the meeting Officer Dan Jones of the Pocono Mountain Regional Police made a presentation, complete with slides, on personal security and neighborhood watch practices. Jones is a large man with an even larger personality. He used both exhaustive statistics and a sense of humor to educate the attendees on local – Emerald Lakes – criminal activity. Among the 650 calls so far this year, 1 was for homicide, 1 arson, 1 rape/sexual assault, 2 robberies, 10 assaults (including attempted and threats of violence), 12 burglaries, 22 thefts, 1 act of fraud, 2 receiving stolen property, 17 acts of vandalism and 57 domestic disputes. He also noted that there were 141 false alarms and that an excess of 3 false alarms in a single year would result in a fine.
On the defensive side, Jones said that most crimes are committed by individuals ranging between 14 and 24 years of age, and further, that the peak time period is between 3 and 7pm. One of the ways to guard against a high crime rate is to provide supervised activities for young people, including Boy and Girl Scouting. Jones also said that ‘environmental design’ plays a role in vulnerability to crime. Such things as lighting, landscaping or structural impedimenta that give cover to burglars or, in the case of lighting, limit such cover, can be manipulated by the homeowner to decrease the attractive nature of his or her home to a criminal. He suggested that knowing one’s neighbors and familiarization with their vehicles helps in reporting suspected crime. Jones emphasized that anyone seeing what they suspect is criminal activity should report that to the police and never, ever confront a suspected perpetrator. He closed by saying he could be reached a email@example.com or (570)895-2400.
In the third installment of the meeting Fishing and Conservation Club representative Eric Bergstrom spoke on fishing and stocking. He discussed the problem of ice fishing. Emerald Lakes has a catch and release rule. Any fish caught, of any size, must be promptly released back into the lake from which it was taken. Many members, including this writer, have observed ice fisherman set up multiple holes, with flagging devices that alert the fisherman to a catch. The fish is then hauled in and placed in a bucket which leaves with the fisherman. Ice fishing is rarely done for sport and is mainly subsistence fishing. A spirited discussion ensued in which it was pointed out that much of this activity occurs on winter weekends when Public Safety is not on duty. Calls for assistance are often delayed until
the fishermen have left. It was proposed that large chest tags be issued to members only so that they could be easily identified at a distance. It was also widely suggested that ice fishing be banned altogether.
July 27, 2013 Monthly Open Board of Directors Meeting
By Buz Whelan
Yesterday’s open board meeting was one of the most contentious of the year. After several months of relatively serene and compact meetings, the room exploded on a number of issues.
President’s Comments and Treasurer’s Report
President Alex Leslie called the meeting to order at about 9:35 and the minutes of the previous meeting were approved without corrections. Mr. Leslie then gave an extremely brief President’s Comment thanking the year’s committee members and other volunteers for their efforts on behalf of the community. He then read the Treasurer’s Report for the absent Earl Frank, struggling somewhat with the wording of the report. Revenue is up by $11,000 and expenses are currently $32,000 under budget. Not counting the bar and grill, salaries and benefits are $11,000 under budget. It was not made clear what that position would be if B&G salaries and benefits were included. It was further noted that inventory purchases and the addition of a sous chef had caused the B&G expenses to balloon. In order to control expenses, a meeting between the chef/community center manager and the GM resulted in a hard look at the menu. It may be necessary to shrink the menu to control costs and reduce shrinkage. The assistant (sous chef) is being trained, according to the GM, to provide a backup for Chef Todd, now that he has additional managerial responsibilities and will, at some point, take vacation. Director Miller pointed out that the Snack Shack lost $1,100 in a single month, an unacceptable amount. Because of the problems with the Pine Tree Lake dam valve, a particular eye will be cast toward building up reserve monies. It was noted that the Finance and Planning Committee’s recommendation to increase the late fee to 15% has been adopted.
The Manager’s report focused on the dam valve problem. It is apparent that the outlet pipe is leaking, will at some future point fail altogether and must be replaced. The valve may also have to be replaced. (These exist because when Pine Tree Lake was established the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection ordered them installed with a requirement that 90,000 gallons per day be released downstream. The valve can be manipulated to control for this release.) It was pointed out that in 2008 an estimate of $250,000 was given to replace the valve. While a successful fix negated that necessity, it now may be required due to the leak. Surveys, plans and receiving the necessary construction approvals could take as much as 4 years, and the cost will almost certainly be above the previously received figure. The valve and outlet pipe are as much as 30 feet under lake level. The lake will have to be lowered and a temporary dam installed to protect the worksite. It is a major construction repair project.
The manager also reported that Chris Tarvin has been assigned to help with the website which remains only partially operational. He will also assist with other TOPS (the association’s software) tasks. Directors Margaret Fitzgerald and Joe Miller both objected to bringing in Tarvin saying we have a capable webmaster in member Bob Leon who has volunteered his services.
There is apparently no love lost between Director Millie Bishop and Director Joe Miller. Every time Miller spoke, whether about road maintenance, Snack Shack, employee matters, or vehicle purchase, Ms. Bishop rolled her eyes, shook her head and wore an expression of annoyance, impatience or contempt, your guess which.
Committee reports included a notice that the bylaws and energy committees would not meet again until September, after a new board is installed. Bylaw Chairperson June Solla complained that a Special Meeting was not called to allow for detailed explanation of the suggested changes, especially the one designating the next runner-up in the previous election as the automatic replacement should a board seat become vacant (currently the board names a successor to serve until the next Annual Meeting). Board Secretary Carmen Broadnax responded that Ms. Solla had not made her request for such a meeting in writing to the board, or in any other formal way. After a brief ‘back and forth’ it was agreed that an agenda item could be added, giving the chairperson an opportunity to explain the reason for the change to the membership at the Annual Meeting.
Maintenance and Road Repair
Under Old Business the manager reported that he is looking at used mowers and attachments to determine if we could save money without losing significant dependability by going that route.
The manager reported that he had prepared a map of primary, secondary and tertiary road sections, 5 in all, that would cost approximately $590,000 to repair. This would unfold over 3 or more years. Director Miller objected on several grounds. He pointed out that this had not gone through the maintenance committee. He also stated that he had seen a report that in 1986 a conflict of interest was found to exist between Fred Spot Engineering, currently the overseer of road maintenance and proposed contractor Waco, who has performed road repair for the association and is expected to do so in the future. The GM pointed out that this was 27 years ago and no such conflict is known to exist at this time. This exchange could be fairly described as heated. Director Miller went on to point out that recent work on Clearview Drive had deteriorated to the extent that a patch had to be made. Mr. Roth replied that this was temporary and that the paver was returning to redo approximately 25 feet of roadway under warranty. Miller said that labor and material would have been better spent repairing non-warranteed road defects.
Security Vehicle Purchase
A final recommendation on the purchase of a security vehicle was made by the GM. The board voted 3 to 2 to purchase a Ford Explorer from Ray Price Ford and equip it as a security vehicle (light bar, decals, etc). An umbrella amount of $35,000 was allocated, though the final cost is expected to be somewhat less. Voting for the purchase were Carmen Broadnax, Millie Bishop and Dan Glasgow. Voting in the negative were Joe Miller and Margaret Fitzgerald.
Under New Business, the GM reported that they are looking at a variety of solutions to the dehumidification problem in the Community Center. He also reported on several real estate issues, including a denial of Leisure Lane resident to purchase an adjacent lot (stating that it is needed for drainage and shouldn’t be altered) and a decision to purchase a property on Clearview Drive from repository for the amount of $800 and convert it into non-taxable Class 6.
Public Comments and Discussion
During Public Comments Anna Alicia, the Leisure Lane property owner cited above, requested that some sort of ditch be dug in the property adjacent to hers to ameliorate the flooding that often occurs, spilling over into her residential property. GM Allen Roth agreed to look into it.
Several residents of Seneca Court, a Ms. Shilinski and Beverly Divins, asked that their road be paved. They cited promises made by the Heuston board nine years ago that it would be paved within a year. They were even shown a schedule of paving, known to exist at that time. They produced estimates from a paving company that were considerably under those given by the association ($21,200 vs. $39,000, a difference of $17, 800). President Leslie stated that no new paving would be done this year, and that a request for a special assessment to pave all remaining unpaved roads (4.6 miles) was rejected by the membership at the 2005 Annual Meeting.
John Palmisano volunteered that there should be tar and chipping of main thoroughfares to extend their life.
Two landlords complained that the $25 per rental fee was excessive since they already pay their dues in a timely fashion.
June Solla suggested that communication between the board and the membership needs to be improved, saying that signage should be provided at work sites (such as the basketball courts, currently) stating what was being done and when it would be finished. She also suggested that a program be started for trapping and neutering feral cats.
In a final public comment, Kathy Leslie-Whelan read an email from Bob Lauri, stating that he asked that it be read at the meeting. It said, “I was very disappointed to read Mrs. Bishop’s bio where she takes credit for the ice rink within the community. I happened to be present when Mr. Whelan presented the idea as well as accompanying both Mr. Whelan and former GM Mr. Werner to the site. Harry was also with us at the site. The only thing Ms. Bishop did concerning this matter was to take credit for it when she had nothing to do with it.”
Full disclosure: the following remarks were delivered during the Public Comments by the author of this article.
Buz Whelan rose to state that he had a number of what might seem to be unrelated issues, but that they could be tied together.
He started by calling attention to the fact that the $590,000 road paving program had not been presented to the Maintenance Committee. He pointed out that such an elaborate plan, with color-coded maps, set priorities, and detailed cost estimates had not just dropped out of the sky, but had to be prepared over a matter of months. He said that if this isn’t a Maintenance Committee program, we should not have a Maintenance Committee.
He went on to state that the upgrading of the junior secretarial position in the office from part to full-time, with all its financial implications, including the adding of additional pay, benefit package, vacation and sick time had not been vetted by the Finance and Planning Committee and had not even been publicly discussed at any Open Meeting. He cautioned that this was not a personnel decision to be decided in Executive Session. Firing or replacing an employee, promoting one or disciplining another are all personnel actions. Changing a position from part to full-time is a structural change that should have been passed through F&P and publicly finalized at an open meeting.
He then pointed out the three real estate decisions just made had not been presented to the Real Estate Committee.
Whelan then reminded the board that in July of 2012 as the TOPS software was being installed, two employees were designated as the co-webmasters, essentially dismissing previous webmaster Bob Leon. Using himself as an example, Whelan said, “If you want me to fly a new helicopter, it might take me 10 to 25 hours to familiarize myself with the flight characteristics, instrumentation and controls, to be ‘checked out.’ But I’m a helicopter pilot. It would take a non-pilot hundreds of hours to learn to fly the bird.” This is essentially the mistake that was made with the website. Instead of training Mr. Leon, an experienced webmaster, two employees with no such experience were installed. A year later, the website is still not fully operational. Did the board finally turn to Mr. Leon? No, they doubled down by promoting Nikki to full time as discussed. That still didn’t work out, so Chris Tarvin was recalled and given more hours to make the site work.
Finally, Mr. Whelan discussed the Emerald News. We have at least three experienced editors in the community: Denise Wilson, Lola Lauri and Buz Whelan. But in July 2012 the editorship was turned over to GM Allen Roth, a person with no editorial experience whatsoever. The latest edition of the paper is a prime example of the foolishness of that decision, with 3 pages devoted to the Emerald Grill menu, a puzzle page and on page 15 an ‘article’ titled “Wing Eating Contest 2013” under which appear 4 photos. What are the subjects of the photos? Who are these people? Who won the contest? How many wings did he eat? Did he have hot sauce, sweet sauce or no sauce at all? Who came in second and how many wings of what kind did he eat? And on and on. No details of the contest given whatsoever. This is embarrassing. And it’s also wasteful. We pay for this paper. Yet a menu that could be on one page is on three. Puzzle pages and pictures without explanations or captions all cost money. Is your money being spent wisely? And finally, where are the letters to the editor? Your board is telling you, “We don’t want your praise. We don’t want your suggestions. And we damn sure don’t want your criticism.”
What ties all these things together is a complete contempt by the board for its membership. They disregard the committee system established by our bylaws. They appoint employees to control association communications. And they tell you they do not want to hear from you. On Facebook, the Emerald Lakes version of a town square, robust discussion takes place. And just as the mayor and council members might visit the square and schmooze with the citizens, a few of your directors join in. We see Margaret Fitzgerald, Dan Glasgow and Joe Miller talking to us, explaining what’s going on as best they can. But the same directors who don’t ever visit the square are the ones who voted to take away communications and ban your letters. Think about that when you vote.
- June 22, 2013 Board of Directors Monthly Open Meeting (emeraldlakesfreepress.com)
Gun Control: Can We All Just Get Along?
by Buz Whelan
The arguments on gun ownership and whether there should be new limits 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 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
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 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 find 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?
March 16, 2013 Board of Directors Open Meeting
by Buz Whelan
Emerald Lakes, Pennsylvania (ELFP) Saturday, March 16th was a busy day for the Emerald Lakes Association Board of Directors. At 9:30 am they met with the Finance and Planning Committee for the presentation of the budget for fiscal year 2013/2014. After a discussion period the directors present agreed to accept the budget as presented and bring it to a vote at the open meeting which would follow. Directors present were President Alex Leslie, Vice President Millie Bishop, Treasurer Earl Frank, Director Joe Miller and Director Dan Glasgow. Secretary Carmen Broadnax and Director Margaret Fitzgerald did not attend. Following the budget discussion it was decided that the next F&P meeting, to be held on Saturday, April 20th would have as the sole agenda item the consideration and arguments for an enhanced revenue stream. This would include several different approaches to dues escalation, possibly tied to the Consumer Price Index. The board-set deadline for the committee to decide on a recommendation had been April 20th, but in consideration of the fact that that is the next meeting date of F&P the board members said they would extend the deadline for a brief, but not indefinite, period to be decided.
At about 11:00 am the monthly open meeting was called to order by President Alex Leslie with all seven directors in attendance. Mr. Leslie said that there has been a good response to the committee survey sent to committee members, but that he would appreciate those who had not yet returned the survey to do so as soon as possible. He also said that the board is seeking volunteers for the Real Estate Committee, moribund since around September of 2008, with a special eye to establishing a subcommittee to work on problems involving rental properties. He restated his hope that this committee could be made up of residents, landlords and renters, so all sides of the questions could be fully represented and examined. The manager reported that the dues statement mailings had been completed. He also reported that the engineers are completing their road study report and will have recommendations on repair by type and location.
Treasurer Earl Frank reported that we are still on track to come in under budget by approximately 10% and went on to report figures on the cost of operating the bar and grill, by his count around $8,000. Director Joe Miller took exception to both the amount and the necessity of the report itself. Mr. Miller’s objection was based on the fact that the bar and grill, taken jointly, is but one of several amenities, and the only one to produce a revenue stream. If there is a report on them, where are the reports on the other amenities? How much did it cost to operate the indoor pool year-to-date, he asked. The matter was eventually left unresolved.
During committee reports, Sherry Ornitz reported that the Events Committee has 13 events scheduled, with 7 additional events being considered.
There was a discussion on finding new and creative ways of dealing with delinquent accounts. A proposal from a collection agency has been received and will be studied. The board may then hold a Q&A with a representative of the agency.
Under New Business the board voted to accept the budget as prepared by the General Manager and submitted to the board by the Finance and Planning Committee. Directors voted in the affirmative with a single director, Margaret Fitzgerald, voting to oppose. No reason was given for her opposition.
Director Miller raised an objection to the report by Fred Spot Engineering on Quality Assurance/Quality Control citing a lack of specificity on many key elements. Terming the report “a joke”, he made a motion to require the submitter to issue an addendum of sorts that would include the missing and needed data. Following the passage of the motion, Joe agreed to work directly with Spot to ensure they understood and fulfilled association requirements.
A study is proceeding to produce a plan to upgrade the insulation rating of the indoor pool area, possibly by replacing windows with solid wall, among other possibilities. The outdoor pool shell needs to be sandblasted and cracks filled and then resurfaced.
During public comments member Heidi Castro stated that she has observed members bringing personal alcoholic beverages into the Community Center to be consumed with a purchased meal or snack. She further stated that on at least one occasion the person bringing the beverage was underage. The GM will alert staff to this, and a sign will be posted forbidding importation of personal alcoholic beverages into the center. It is against both association rules and Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board regulations and is considered a major violation by the LCB.
Melanie Balzano suggested that employees wear identification badges that they might be easily located when needed, and to be visible as employees when entering employee-only spaces such as behind the bar.
- January 26, 2013 Open Board Meeting (emeraldlakesfreepress.com)
- February 23, 2013 Open Board Meeting (emeraldlakesfreepress.com)
Aggressive Driving Class Offered
RED NECK, New Jersey (FNS) Fender University, New Jersey’s premier aggressive driving institution announced today that it will hold an extension class in Pennsylvania’s beautiful Pocono Mountains. The standard two week course, including both classroom and field work, will be compressed to 5 days. The cost is $250 per person, or $225 each for families of five or more. Located in New Jersey’s Pine Barrens, nicknamed the Appalachia of the Northeast, the school has graduated over 5,000 angry drivers. Fender President and Dean of Students Ben D. Dick boasts, “We are the best there is at what we do. More than 50% of all road rage incidents in New Jersey involve at least one FU graduate. You can’t argue with the numbers.” If you expect an easy, undemanding week of instruction, you don’t know Dick. Course work includes sign and signal recognition, variations on horn harassment, proper ways to use hand signals to express disdain or anger, tailgating techniques and rapid lane-changing. After 3 rigorous days of class work, students are paired with experienced instructors and taken to highways for hands-on roadwork. Bump-and-run tactics, intimidation through tailgating and near-miss sideswiping, lane jumping and best ways to cut off other drivers are emphasized and practiced until students are proficient in all types of aggressive driving.
For those who insist on the complete course conducted at the South Jersey campus, registration can be done on line at www.nutsodriving.com. The cost of the full deal is $500 per person and includes lunches and weeknight accommodation at a modestly-priced motel in the area. Also included is a tour of the area and visits to the known and suspected burial sites of some of New Jersey’s most admired men of respect. Extras not included in the tuition but available for separate purchase include fast food dinners, evening visitation by experienced and understanding professional companions and cable tv. Says recent graduate Allen Rench, “Anyone listening to Dick will know this: If you’re serious about aggressive driving, you have to say ‘FU.’”
The Year in Review
You know those boring, annoying annual family summaries that some people send along with their Christmas cards? Well, here’s our version all about the Emerald Lakes family, every bit as annoying, but perhaps a teensy less boring.
Merry Christmas, one and all. This is your dear cousin Emmy (as in Emerald Lakes, get it?). It’s the most wonderful time of the year and all, so I thought I would sit down and remind you of all the fun we have had this past year.
Our annual family reunion at the Pocono Mountain West High School went as well as could be expected; which is to say it was embarrassing. It started when one of the twins (who can tell them apart?) complained that having to put her ballots into two different boxes was really hard and she didn’t think that our family was smart enough to handle such stringent requirements. When we were done laughing, we got to vote, but nothing was passed. Nothing. After spending three years rewriting our bylaws so they don’t force the board to break the rules by requiring them to travel back in time each year to present a budget to the family in August that has to be passed in May, the very few folks that showed up said the new rules weren’t any good because they got cooties on them when some unsavory person touched them. Also, the extended family that can’t show up to vote weren’t there to vote that they can mail-in their votes, so the meanies that did show up made sure there won’t be mail-in votes so they’ll never be able to vote. Guess they showed who’s boss here.
There was a changing of the guard this year, with Lola Lollipop’s hubby, Bobby deciding to step away from the fighting at the table at the end of his term, and later, Red Sox Johnny C stepping down too. They were replaced by Dapper Dan G. and the talkative, but lovable, Margie F. We all look forward to seeing what kind of mark these two will leave on our fair family’s business dealings but, with the holidays, they haven’t had much of a chance to work. You know, between Labor Day and New Year’s, there is just no time to actually do anything.
There have been big doings at the Community Center this year. When the ratty carpeting became one big stain instead of hundreds of smaller stains, we finally got new tile flooring installed. There were fights, with some insisting that mold was a lovely shade for a carpet, but they got the new beige floor in just in time for the Haunted House folks to bleed all over it. They had crazy clowns chopping up bodies for the entertainment of parents who love to watch their kids pee in their pants. It’s a great service these folks provide; for the rest of the year when the kids get out of line one only has to say “the clowns won’t like that.” and the kids will walk straight and narrow without argument (although a few are still wetting the bed). Anyway, for the maybe twenty days a year when we actually have more than five people in the dining room, this floor is an investment that will probably go paying for itself indefinitely.
We were all very worried and excited when crazy Joanne found oil in the well, but after everyone in the world looked at all the wells around her place and found it nowhere else, I figure someone probably got mad at her for one of her late night, spirits-induced rants and just dumped a can of Valvoline’s finest directly into the pump. Which is a good thing, because we really don’t want all the wells around here tested. Word might get out and our property values could plummet. (I prefer bottled water anyway, don’t you?)
The fight against fun has continued throughout the year, with some of our family members taking their noise complaints to mom and dad at the board. They were mad because some people partied on Summer nights. Oooh. Partying in the Summer? We’ll put a stop to that! Since they don’t have any fun friends like that, they don’t think any of us should be allowed to have them over or laugh and dance to music. After listening to both sides, our esteemed Patriarch Al told us all that he didn’t see anything and couldn’t prove anything, so no one would be punished, but we can be sure that he will make sure the babysitters at Public Safety keep an eye on things over there. The Aunties were smirking, and I guess they are going to be looking for anything they can find to keep the noise down over there. In the meantime, Mean Old Millie (MOM) got her friends at Rules and Regs to pass a “no loitering” rule, just to make sure everyone is in bed before dark. Don’t get caught outside after dark, or you may get in big trouble! And while we’re at it, if you have something to say, you better say it here and not on a sign on your lawn, because they also passed a rule about signs. In fact, I am a little worried about my “Merry Christmas” sign. Technically, it’s against the rules, isn’t it? Oh, but wait, signs are okay if they say things that the Aunties like. It’s only bad if it personally offends them. You see, that’s the problem with the fight against fun; it’s only enforced against the family members that the older generation doesn’t like.
As for this blog, most of you know by now that crazy Uncle Buz and Lola Lollipop have been writing like crazy. MOM and Auntie Carmen got a bee in their bonnets and decided that they were talking waaaay too much about things they would rather forget and and that people were better off not knowing so, after trying enough times, they finally got a couple of the boys on the board to make a rule about the paper only telling their side of any story. Since Uncle Buz and Lola Lollipop just don’t ever know when to shut up, they decided that the board could keep its silly little paper, and they would finally step out of the dark ages and write to you all online. It seems to be working out pretty well, too, because they can talk everyday now, instead of waiting two whole months for the paper to be published.
Speaking of our little family’s online presence, let’s talk about the new website purchased with the TOPS system for more than $10,000. This little beauty is supposed to do everything. Billing, accounts, property records, newsletter, website, probably even the laundry, who knows? This amazing piece of electronic wizardry managed to … well, there is a website now. Many of us remember the good old days, when we used Cousin Leon’s website. Of course, it was free, and you get what you pay for, right? Leon’s website had lots of news and pictures, it was updated daily, and questions were answered promptly. It had an easy to read format for finding information on events, committees, and board actions. It even had contact numbers for the staff and the board. Yessir, cousin Bob did a bang-up job. So, of course, they fired him. Then they tried launching their brand new TOPS website. And the very first thing it did was publish all the names, addresses, home and work phone numbers and email addresses of every single member. Whoops. It’s been about five months since they launched the new website, and well, let’s just hope the other parts of the system work a little better than the website module. It should be working like they promised any day now.
We celebrate all the holidays here in Emerald Lakes, just not the way most families do. There’s Independence Day (no fireworks, of course, that would be fun), Veteran’s Day (there was a lovely memorial wreath put out for 5 minutes to commemorate the occasion, but it had to be taken in so it wouldn’t be stolen), and Halloween. Now on Halloween we don’t trick or treat; we trunk or treat. In theory it’s a great idea. Kids go to the Community Center parking lot and generous townfolk open their treat-filled trunks to the costumed kids. It’s supposed to be for two hours, but what happens is that the early arrivals just keep circling the lot endlessly, going back again and again and filling their greedy little bags until all the treats are gone. It generally takes about 20 minutes. And then there’s nothing left for the later arrivals. Oh well. But this year, we are doing Christmas right. Christmas caroling at the Main Entrance. (Just don’t stay too long, or you will get fined for loitering!) On December 22 from 1 to 3, Santa and Mrs. Claus will visit the Community Center and the children will perform in a play called “Help Santa Save Christmas”. You should all come so we can talk about the ones that don’t show up.
‘Till next year,
Merry Christmas from Aunt Emmy and the Emerald Lakes Free Press!
To Rent or Not to Rent
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.