Archive for the ‘Housing’ category

Brad Pitt, Nanotechnology, and an Attorney Playing Himself on TV — Just Another Week on Dolan Media

12-10-07

First of all, there’s a new home for On the Record, the blog for Maryland’s Daily Record. Click here to read it and then click on the feed for your reader. It’s a widescreen blog with a great masthead and some useful new features….

To celebrate the new look, they’ve posted some good stuff lately. Like this post about a flamboyant Baltimore attorney who gets to play “essentially, himself” in the final season of HBO’s “The Wire.” And this one, about Baltimore being “the 46th safest drunken city” in a Men’s Health survey. There are a couple of excellent photos on this post about last week’s Pearl Harbor commemoration….

pitts-bourg.jpgNew Orleans City Business’ Ariella Cohen covers the Brad Pitt “Make It Right” plan to redevelop the Katrina’d Ninth Ward.

Rebuilding homes is Pitt’s top priority but replacing stores, banks and offices could be next, according to “Make it Right” Director Tom Darden.

“We went to members of the community and asked what they needed. They said, ‘We desperately need housing.’ But all of us here recognize the need for other development, too.”

Any commercial building would require funding and development partners, he said.

Homebuilding paves the way for retail development, experts often say.

“Retail follows rooftops,” said Rich Stone, vice president of the commercial real estate division of Latter & Blum Inc.

But in the low-income Lower Ninth Ward, even a relatively dense pre-storm population of 14,008 did not attract a full-service grocer. Instead, people relied on convenience stores, small, locally owned markets and gas stations. Shopping trips were done largely at Winn-Dixie or Wal-Mart in Chalmette.

(Photo by Frank Aymami, New Orleans City Business)

VLW, the blog of Virginia Lawyers’ Weekly, reports alumni are disappointed in the “hopeless” new College of William and Mary logo. Feathers were removed to terminate insensitive Native American associations, but the result is being compared to the logo for the trash conglomerate Waste Management

In an economic development move reported by The Journal Record, Oklahoma State University and OK state government have teamed to form the Oklahoma Nanotechnology Education Initiative to ensure the state will have enough trained nanotechnology technicians — people who can work with items fabricated on a molecular scale.

“First, we have to develop awareness and excitement among middle school and high school students about the enormous career opportunities this field will offer,” said (OSU-Okmulgee President Bob) Klabenes. “Then, we have to have sophisticated teaching facilities and labs so that students can have hands-on learning experiences with extremely complex equipment.”

Nanotechnology laboratories and classrooms will be in a new building on the OSU-Okmulgee campus. The facility will include atomic force microscopes, including specialized software for analyzing nanomaterials data, a scanning tunneling microscope and a fiber-optic spectrophotometer system.

So if your kid comes home from school one day and announces, “When I grow up, I want to be a nanotechnology technician!” remember you read it here first….

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Bush Administration Subprime Mortgage Freeze — A Virtual Symposium

12-06-07

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson’s idea for rescuing subprime borrowers from foreclosure was announced in a speech today:

The freeze would apply to adjustable-rate mortgages originated between Jan. 1, 2005, and July 31, 2007, which would reset between Jan. 1, 2008, and July 31, 2010. The program is designed to help those with two-year or three-year low teaser rates on their mortgages.

It would only affect borrowers living in their homes, not those who purchased housing for investment purposes. According to the source briefed on the plan, those who have a 3 percent equity stake or more in their property also would not be eligible for the freeze.

Under the reasoning of federal officials, those who currently have financial wherewithal to make their payments but would struggle to pay a higher reset rate could qualify for refinancing.

The Bush administration is expected to seek authority to enable state and local governments to use tax-exempt bonds to fund these refinancings, an idea floated by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson in a speech on Monday.

So what did everybody think? (more…)

Monday Morning Dolan News Fix

12-03-07

Sorry to have been such a quiet poster the past few days…been under the weather.

Here are a few stories from Dolan Media I wanted to get out of bed for.

The state-run Healthcare Group Arizona was supposed to be a self-sufficient health insurance plan for small businesses. Instead, “it’s in financial meltdown,” according to a state rep quoted in Arizona Capitol Times.

And the Department of Insurance seems to agree with(Rep. Kirk) Adams’ assessment. Preliminary results from a report that will be finalized in February show Healthcare Group does not collect the data needed to predict health care trends and adjust its premiums accordingly, said Director Christina Urias.

If Healthcare Group was a private insurer, she told the panel Nov. 27, her department would have shut it down.

“In my view, this is a situation…very, very similar to an insolvent insurer operation because it’s relying on subsidies from the Legislature to keep itself going,” Urias said.

Even Kevin Nolan, deputy director of Healthcare Group, told the committee the program may be entering the beginning stages of what is known in the insurance world as a “death spiral,” in which recently increased premium costs drive healthy people from the system, leaving only those with serious illnesses.

Another state Rep. thinks the situation is salvageable — that restrictions on eligibility and on marketing the service could get the program “back on good footing.” The full story is available to subscribers….

If you’re on top of the global warming issue, you’ve doubtless heard the litany of environmentally-friendly sustainable sources of energy: Solar power, wind energy, geothermal…and now “wave parks.” The Daily Journal of Commerce in Portland surveys the seascape, and reports that Oregon’s bid to be the world’s leader in commercializing the technology faces a surge in competition from Nova Scotia, British Columbia and neighboring Washington state.

Oregon… is working to expand Oregon State University’s wave research to a national in-water wave energy research center where companies around the world can bring their technologies for testing. And the state already has two test devices in the water – Canada-based Finavera Renewables’ Aquabuoy and OSU’s wave energy buoy – with six more permit applications on file at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Finavera suffered a setback last month, however, when the Aquabuoy off the coast of Newport began leaking and sank to the ocean floor. And public perception of wave energy parks as threats to ocean life and fishers could set back the state, energy consultant Justin Klure said.

“Oregon needs to accelerate our efforts for community outreach and education,” Klure said, “so wave energy projects are seen as positive instead of a threat.”

Also on the water… If you’re in Baltimore today or tomorrow, you can catch a glimpse of a very cool-looking high-speed Navy ship, on display in the Inner Harbor as part of the Army-Navy game festivities.  Go to On the Record to see it….

Slow home sales in New Orleans have some owners resorting to auctions, writes Deon Roberts in New Orleans City Business. But it seems like the auctions are serving to illustrate that sellers and buyers remain far apart on what they think properties are worth.

(David) Gilmore, president of Sperry Van Ness/Gilmore Auction, said New Orleans-area home auctions are attracting fewer buyers than for commercial properties or lots. Also, many sellers have not been satisfied with residential auction bids, he said.

“There are still buyers in the market,” Gilmore said. “We had bidders at every one of our auctions for 12 different sales three weeks ago. But I’ll tell you, on the residential homes, there was a price differential between which the sellers were wiling to accept and the buyers are willing to give, and that tells you we have market issues.”

Of the 12 properties Gilmore’s firm featured three weeks ago, three homes did not sell because the sellers rejected the offers, he said. There was a 30 percent average difference in what the sellers wanted and the buyers offered.

What one word comes to mind when you think of New York? Did you say “politeness?”  Me too!  But apparently the Long Island Railroad has concerns about its passengers hogging seats with their bags and gabbing on the cell phone, so they’ve launched an anti-rudeness campaign, according to LI BizBlog….

Three thousand gallons of chicken fat from a Perdue poultry plant. An unlatched tanker. Twenty miles of Virginia highway. Yuk.  And a few auto accidents, according to the VLW Blog…. Talk about rude….

Friday Dolan Media on My Mind

11-16-07

Long Island Business News’ publisher John Kominicki uses the announcement of FTC fines against telemarketers that defy the Do-Not-Call list to illustrate the maxim No good deed goes unpunished:

To be honest, it’s the not-for-profits that bother me the most. My wife and I give to many causes, but we like to do it locally and as anonymously as possible. Our thanks is often a steady stream of calls asking for more.

Let that be a warning to you: Give a dollar over the phone to the vets, Civil War widows or public television and you will be hounded without mercy.

The typical call goes something like this:

“Hello, Mister … Kernacko? No, wait … Kamikoko?

“It’s Kominicki.”

“Yes, I’m calling on behalf of Channel 437. Last year, Mr. Kackinocki, you pledged $250 and we sent you the fabulous three-DVD set Judy Garland: The Demerol Years.”

“Yes, I remember that. But I already sent you $250 this year – just last month, I believe.”

“Oh yes, Mr. Kimchinicki, but you know the cost of providing wonderful, commercial-free programming like ours goes up and up and we’re wondering if you’d be willing to send us an additional $500.”

“Didn’t Ray Kroc’s widow just leave you, like, $700 billion?”

“Thank you, Mr. Komatahari. We’ll charge the credit card we have on file, and as our way of saying thank you, we’re going to send you the new Yanni CD.”

“Yanni has a new CD?”

“Thank you again for supporting Channel 437. We’ll be sure to call next year.”

Meanwhile, New Orleans City Business‘ publisher Mark Singletary warns the Orleans Parish school system, faced with a massive post-Katrina reconstruction project to “be on the lookout for the infamous New Orleans ‘consultants.’ These ‘consultants,’ woven into the fabric of nearly every New Orleans public contract, have long stifled progress and promoted corruption.” Singletary urges that the new schools to “conform to community standards–hopefully another community’s standards….”

Minnesota Lawyer Blog is following a highly politicized controversy over U.S. Attorney Rachel Paulose, with the most recent posts here and here. Blogger Marc Cohen’s view is Paulose’s youth and inexperience has left her vulnerable to cagey veteran prosecutors who know how to play the media to make their boss look bad. The Paulose case has become a national story, with the young prosecutor seen by the NY Times as a symbol of ex-A.G. Alberto Gonzalez’ reign….

In Portland, according to DJC, some 257 architects and designers entered the Courtyard Housing Design Competition, which is what it sounds like. To enter, you draw a design for housing that includes a courtyard. Courtyard housing is “a style deemed more attractive to families with children than stacked condos without open spaces would be.” The winners were announced Wednesday night….

The University of Idaho’s Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival was honored yesterday by President Bush, reports the IBR. The festival was one of seven winners of the National Medal of Arts. Among this year’s other honorees: Legendary jazz guitarist Les Paul. The festival goes back to 1967 and has featured jazz legends as well as a student jazz competition….

Is this normal? Next Tuesday, the University of Colorado’s Presidential Search Committee will hold a meeting in Colorado Springs, according to CSBJ blog, to find out what kind of president residents want after the incumbent retires next spring….

Today, Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens celebrates his 87th birthday, reports Kimberly Atkins in DC Dicta, making him the second-oldest person to serve on the nation’s highest court. Click here to see who was older….

The Circle of Life On Dolan Media

10-29-07

If it helps the state of Louisiana to give a tax break for shopping, for movie tickets, and for theatrical productions, our blogger in New Orleans, Deon Roberts wants to know why not give a tax break to the real drivers of the Crescent City’s post-Katrina recovery — the people who decided to come back and have kids. Like, say, Deon Roberts, a new daddy:

According to an Oct. 17 report by the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center, the population of the six-parish metro area is at 86 percent of the pre-K figure. The population as of September is 450,830 compared with 524,317 in July 2005.

Without people, there is no economy: There is nobody to make goods and nobody to sell goods. That is Economics 101.

Having children is not cheap, especially in the New Orleans area, where many parents send their children to costly private schools to avoid the public school system. So a tax break for us new parents would be helpful.

Perhaps the state could grant the break on our income tax returns. Perhaps new parents could be allowed to pay half what they would normally pay in state income taxes for, say, five years. Or maybe parishes could freeze property tax assessments for new parents until their children turn 18. There could be a requirement that families who use the break must stay in the state for a certain number of years.

Deon might seem like an interested party, but he’s not driving a very hard bargain. He says he’s in Louisiana to stay, regardless….

Long Island is another place that’s trying to hang onto its up-and-comers…. Housing prices are the culprit in LI losing “the war for talent….”

DC Dicta’s Kimberly Atkins reports that two young attorneys — both tabbed last month by Lawyers USA as Up & Coming Lawyers — faced off before the U.S. Supreme Court today, one of them wearing coattails in a nod to tradition….

Atkins also notes the passing of the much-admired law prof Dr. Clark Byse, the model for Professor Kingsfield in Scott Turow’s “The Paper Chase.” Byse taught at Harvard, Columbia and Boston U., where Atkins was one of his students….

Meanwhile, the New Orleans World Trade Center plays host this week to a delegation from South Africa, looking to establish trade ties and “a steppingstone to conduct business in Africa.” Actor Louis Gossett, Jr. is one of the panelists….

In Idaho, worries that anti-immigration politics will hurt small business….

In Minnesota, even the undead are entitled to justice….

Martin Frankel, the man who conned $200 million from seven life insurance agencies, used some of that money for jewelry. The insurance commissioners of Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Tennessee tried selling some of his swag on eBay…a diamond necklace, some diamond earrings, a sapphire-and-diamond ring and a diamond-encrusted Cartier watch….

Only the Cartier watch sold, for $3,000…. It had been appraised at $4,000….

Countrywide Punched

10-12-07

You don’t want ACORN after you. They are relentless. They are the heir of Saul Alinsky, the most pragmatic and successful radical organizer of the 20th century.

ACORN’s been howling about subprime lenders — “predatory” lenders, “loan sharks” — for years. Now, even Alan Greenspan might have to tip his cap to them. They saw what he didn’t.

Countrywide, according to the New York Times, “is increasingly at the center of the mortgage storm that began this year.” How do they know? Because several hundred people organized by ACORN — it stands for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now — protested outside Countrywide offices in eight cities Thursday, including Boston, New York, Baltimore and San Jose.

There are lots of subprime lenders. Countrywide (NYSE:CFC) is one of the biggest, to be sure, but why is it the whipping boy all of a sudden?

Could it be because they’re asking for it? Last week, they let the Wall Street Journal listen in to an employee pep talk that is part of a new PR campaign titled “Protect Our House.” (Link is to the Ventura County Star, a free site.)

No, they don’t mean your house, or some poor customer’s house. They mean the company and its “demoralized employees.”

Leading the counterattack is Andrew “Drew” Gissinger III, a former offensive lineman for the San Diego Chargers football team who serves as executive managing director, residential lending, at Countrywide.

“Let’s call it like it is: As I mentioned earlier, it’s gotten to the point where our integrity is being attacked. Now it’s personal,” says the transcript of a talk made last week by Gissinger, “… and we’re not going to take it!”

The transcript, prepared from a phone call with 250 “opinion leaders” at Countrywide on Sept. 26, offers a peek inside one of the biggest crisis-management efforts under way in an American corporation. Along with Gissinger on the call was Jason Schechter from WPP Group’s Burson-Marsteller, a public-relations firm with a long history of crisis management.

“We wanted to assure you that my firm and I have brought companies through the worst type of publicity,” Schechter said, according to the transcript. He added that a six-person Burson team was ensconced at Countrywide’s Calabasas headquarters, and about 25 people overall were working on the campaign.

Rick Simon, a Countrywide spokesman, said the transcript was sent to employees Friday. It says that employees are expected to sign a pledge to “demonstrate their commitment to our efforts,” and Simon says about 11,000 have signed. Each employee who signs up receives the Protect Our House wristband made of green rubber. “We believe there’s a great story about the strength of the business,” says Simon.

Now ACORN’s saying: “Game on.”