You won't see Republican bloggers writing about this!!! CP treats politicians equally, regardless of party and this time I relish in telling you about MD Delegate Tony McConkey who was just found guilty of violating state law for buying a woman's house out of foreclosure. But it gets worse....I will defer to The Capital (yes I have to mention the name) which writes that McConkey said that if he violated the Protection of Homeowners in Foreclosure Act, which he voted for in 2005 and again in 2008 when it was amended, then the law is wrong and harmful to people in foreclosure. McConkey went on to say the law was confusing!!!!
Aggghhhhh....it's like the child who murders his parents and asks for leniency because he is an orphan....sort of...or maybe like Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY)who says he didn't pay taxes on rental income from his Dominican villa because he didn't understand the finances. Note: Rangel chairs the House committee that writes US tax law and is a Democrat!!)
According to The Capital, the plaintiff's lawyer filed court papers claiming "the delegate has spent years perfecting various schemes to con susceptible and vulnerable consumers out of their homes." Hmmm...maybe that's why the law he violated was made so complicated---d'ya think?.
McConkey's lawyer is none other than Gregory M. Kline,publisher of the blog "The Conservative Refuge" which Kline describes as "A safe place for conservative Republicans in Anne Arundel County Maryland to share views, get inside information and plot our way out of the wilderness." A safe place indeed. Seems as if McConkey may be needing a refuge. Visit his blog and draw your own conclusions from his self-serving "About Me" profile.
When Kline unsuccessfully ran for delegate in 2006, this is what he said about McConkey:
"I want to congratulate my running mate Delegate Tony McConkey for being the top vote getter in the race. Despite the nasty attacks on him by cowards who hid in the shadows, the voters on Tuesday recognized what I have known for years, Tony is a principled conservative leader and we are privileged to have him as our Delegate. I was proud to team up with him during this campaign and am honored to call him my friend."
No doubt they honor each other. But I like the part about "cowards who hid in shadows".... indeed! BOOH!
Wikipedia says Kline "is the former President of the Young Republicans of Anne Arundel County and currently serves as counsel to the Anne Arundel County Republican Central Committee [CP notes: apparently not any more...]. Kline received his Juris Doctor degree in 1996 from Capital University, a fourth-tier U.S. law school according to U.S. News and World Report. Kline received his undergraduate degree in political science in 1993 from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County."
I like that--a "fourth tier law school".....Makes me shed a tear for him....By the way, McConkey was at the Republican National Convention and did not attend the hearing. I am sure he was in good company.
Stan Cox over at Grist sheds light on one barrier to people saving energy at home or adopting other eco-friendly practices:
Susana Tregobov dries clothes on a line behind her Maryland townhouse, saving energy and money. But now her homeowners association has ordered her to bring in the laundry. The crackdown came after a neighbor complained that the clothesline "makes our community look like Dundalk," a low-income part of Baltimore.
Tregobov and her husband plan to fight for their right to a clothesline, but the odds are against them. Although their state recently passed a law protecting homeowners' rights to erect solar panels for generating electricity, it is still legal in Maryland for communities to ban solar clothes-drying.
Twenty percent of Americans now live in homes subject to rules set by homeowner associations, or HOAs. These private imitation governments have sweeping powers to dictate almost any aspect of a member's property, from the size of the residence down to changes in trim color and the placement of a basketball hoop.
In the view of HOAs, people hand over control of such things when they buy their home, so they have no legitimate gripe. But a growing number of state and local governments are deciding that when HOAs ban eco-friendly practices, they violate the property rights of their members and damage everyone's right to a habitable planet.
This dovetails nicely with a point that Matt Yglesias, among others, has been making: namely, that overly restrictive zoning rules -- prohibitions against mixed-use development, density limits, and the like -- are a major impediment to shifting to a less carbon-intensive infrastructure. A denser, more transit-oriented development scheme would end up using less energy, reduce traffice congestion, and even improve public health by making walking and biking more attractive options, but getting to that point often means overcoming the NIMBY impulses of incumbent landowners. Similarly, homeowners associations that, out of a dubious sense of aesthetics, ban things like clothelines make it much less likely that people will do things like install rooftop solar panels, tend a backyard garden, etc., that would otherwise make sense both economically and environmentally.
Stanley said he wasn't too worried about big houses having to be a bit smaller. The market, he suggested, isn't going to want those big houses anyway, because they will be too expensive to heat and cool, and will be too big for the empty nesters and baby boomers who will be living in them.
"Bigger houses, many people think they are the next slums. They are too big, and people are having trouble selling them," he said.
What the future market really wants, he told the audience of business leaders, is smaller, more energy-efficient housing near public transit.
He said he hopes that Montgomery will be a leader. "Phoenix, it's horrible. Shanghai, that's Phoenix on quaaludes," he said, referring to unregulated sprawl. "This is unsustainable. We can't keep going on like this."
This phenomenon of suburban and exurban housing being abandoned and becoming havens of crime is already happening in some parts of the country; see also this piece by housing expert Christopher Leinberger. The two main causes are, as you would expect, the collapse of the housing market and the skyrocketing cost of gasoline in the last few years. I haven't seen any evidence that it's happening in Maryland, but with the just-mentioned factors driving demand for housing closer to mass transit, it's something to be aware of.
Via Adam, this analysis of Maryland's new law regarding foreclosures on homes argues that the legislation, which extends the time before which mortgage lenders may file for foreclosure on houses whose owners have defaulted, isn't all that radical:
This legislation does very substantially increase Maryland's FC timeline, but then MD had a shorter than national average timeline to begin with... According to Freddie Mac economists Amy Crews Cutts and William A. Merrill, the "statutory timeline" for MD under the old regime was 249 days from date of last payment made by the borrower (last paid installment or LPI) to the final confirmation of the foreclosure sale. The actual average timeline was 274 days. That compares to a national "statutory" average of 292 days and an actual average of 355 days.
I therefore really don't think it's worth getting up in arms over the MD law; I think it really just makes MD "typical" rather than relatively short. There are also a couple of other provisions in this law that I think are great ideas--and no doubt explain that unwieldy title. First, new recorded mortgages must contain the broker's name and license number, if the loan was originated by someone other than the actual mortgagee (that's the wholesale lender). This will help track FCs back to the originator of the loan, even if the loan changes hands several times afterwards.
Second, the law specifically does not "extinguish" a lease in a foreclosure: the new owner of the property has all rights vis-a-vis the tenants that the old owner did, but then again the tenants have all rights they had under the old owner. That seems perfectly fair to me, and it especially protects tentants "recruited" into a property by a desperate owner just before foreclosure.
I'm not an expert on housing policy, so anyone who is should leave a comment about what this law will mean for the mortgage crisis in Maryland.
I was listening to CSPAN, and hizzoner Martin O'Malley was on, and they were talking about the foreclosure crisis.
It got me thinking about the exposes in the Baltimore Sun about how the problems with Maryland law on ground rent, where there appear to be some unscrupulous operators who would use the provisions of the law to take a house for a few hundred bucks in missed payments, or charge excessive late fees.
Was this addressed as part of the mortgage reform, or by some other bill that was passed this session, or (as I expect) was it buried because the the ground rent parasites are politically connected?
How boring has the Takoma Park City Council been this year? So boring, Dear Readers, that when former mayor Kathy Porter showed up at the Feb. 4th meeting, the new mayor and council jumped onto the big council desk, scattered papers into the air, and screamed “OOOK OOOK OOOK!!!” while walking on their knuckles like chimpanzees. The former mayor frowned, though with a fond twinkle in her eye, and barked her familiar old admonishment, “Bad council! No cookie!”
The General Assembly is considering repealing a provision in the special session tax package that required homeowners to apply for a tax credit they had previously gotten automatically.
Prince George's County Council Chair David Harrington narrowly beats Rushern Baker to succeed the late Gwendolyn Britt in the state Senate. Harrington, you'll recall, was one of the handful of Prince George's Democrats who endorsed Michael Steele back in 2006.
Gov. O'Malley is backing a bill to require all new and renovated state buildings meet green building standards.
The 'beg-a-thon' for school construction money from the Board of Public Works begins.
Democratic leaders in the General Assembly are supporting a bill that would effectively boot state schools superintendent Nancy Grasmick from her job.
Hard on the heels of his Friday 25Jan joint guest appearance with Donna Edwards on Washington DC public radio station WAMU-FM, Mr. Wynn broadcasted a robocall to at least some of us in MD-04 -- I received it on my land-line phone in Prince George's County on the afternoon of Saturday 26Jan. In this call Mr. Wynn sought to rebut his critics' charges that his vote for the 2005 Bankruptcy Bill has hurt a lot of folks with home mortgages and debt problems. If you've heard him on this topic recently - e.g., in the aforementioned radio interview (live-blogged by Isaac Smith and commenters here) - the contents of this robocall don't really provide anything new. But here's a transcript, just for the record:
Hello, this is Congressman Albert Wynn. I understand that everyone is concerned about the foreclosure crisis and the economy. My opponent wants to play on your fear, and convince you that I'm to blame. That's nonsense. What she doesn't want you to know is that I'm working to solve the problem. First, I'm a cosponsor of a bill to help people restructure their loans. Second, I'm drafting a bill to protect the credit rating of people who've already lost their homes to foreclosure, and need a fresh start. And third, this week I joined Reverend Jesse Jackson and Civil Rights leaders in a meeting with the head of the Federal Housing Agency [sic*]. We demanded refinancing assistance for victims of predatory subprime loans. I'm Albert Wynn, and I just wanted you to know the facts. Thank you.
.....*He presumably meant Federal Housing Administration, judging from this WaPo article Isaac linked to here.
Mr. Wynn's disingenuous claims of innocence in this matter have been dealt with in a number of blog posts, including an excellent response by Andrew Kujan. With respect to information on the general nastiness of the 2005 Bankruptcy Bill, so much detailed criticism has been posted - both contemporaneously with the 2005 Congressional deliberations, and in the months and years subsequent to that - that the effort of delving into that information feels like trying to sip water from a fire hose at full blast. To see that Mr. Wynn ignored all the prescient criticism of the bill in 2005 makes his vote even more shameful. Presumably he has invested his thirty pieces of silver wisely.
Some discussion of recent campaign mailers comes after the jump, as well as some comments on Friday's WAMU interview.
The Senate will vote again on domestic surveillance legislation, as well as retroactive immunity for telecoms that assisted the government tapping people's phones without a warrant. Christy Hardin Smith has the details. And despite Sen. Barbara Mikulski's poor record on this matter, give her a call (202.224.4654) and see if she'll see reason.
The Post notes, as Andy did, Al Wynn's vulnerability when it comes to the housing and foreclosure crisis.
In John Sarbanes' first reelection bid, BRAC-related growth will be, unsurprisingly, a big issue.
The prisoner who killed a Washington County prison guard in 2006 will get life without parole.
Building on the excellent overview of Al
Wynn's Lies Part 1: The Bankruptcy Bill and the Foreclosure Crisis posted
at this blog by Andrew
Kujan: Albert Wynn's website
claims: "The new test will continue to allow those with "special
circumstances,"such as a sudden loss of income or extraordinary
medical expense, to continue to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy." Wiggle words
like "special," "sudden" and "extraordinary" can't hide the fact that low-income
working people, single mothers, minorities and the elderly are out of luck with
the Bankruptcy Law Albert Wynn supported. CBS
and the AP reported: "Those who fought the bill's passage said the change
will fall especially hard on low-income working people, single mothers, minorities
and the elderly and would remove a safety net for those who have lost their
jobs or face crushing medical bills."
Apropos of Andy's post from yesterday, it's worth noting that lots of states are having fiscal problems right now, owing directly to the collapse of the housing market. Taxes on house sales and associated fees make up an enormous part of state budgets, Maryland included; so when house sales start to go kaput, state houses around the country feel the pinch.
It's also worth noting that every state, with the exception of Vermont, is required to pass balanced budgets; meaning that, unlike the federal government, states can't really immunize themselves from the business cycle without dipping into rainy-day funds; and those don't last forever, as Martin O'Malley realized last year. It also means that policies to protect people during economic downturns -- health care, for example -- are harder to sustain at the state level: Ezra Klein had a great discussion of this problem last year in the Washington Monthly.
In an odd coincidence, the Post did a report on a shift in Montgomery County's strategy for supporting their homeless population on the same day that Governor O'Malley's one-issue-per-day media train got to the home foreclosure crisis. Unfortunately, there's not much in the plan about people already in bad home loans, except a slowing of the foreclosure process a little to give people more breathing room. On the other hand, he does propose some good ideas for reforming the industry for the future. I'm no expert on this, though, so any of you out there with more knowledge on the topic should feel free to school me in the comments.
It's a familiar and was once a welcoming place for visitors and residents in Annapolis, but now the beleauguered Market House stands partially empty and with a jury-rigged HVAC system it's a testament to the incompetence of our local government. Now Annapolis Politics reports that our City Council will soon have a special closed session to discuss a legal issue to do with the Market House. See here.
Thought the state's budget problems were solved? Think again:
With a slowing economy, Maryland legislative analysts are projecting another shortfall in the state budget by fiscal 2010 -- though the gap is far smaller than the one that prompted Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) to call a special session this fall.
In 2010, the projected hole in the state's $15 billion general fund is $237 million. It is projected to grow to $263 million the following year, analysts told the Spending Affordability Committee yesterday.
This appears to be one more aspect of what the subprime mortgage crisis -- or "Big Shitpile," as the blogger Atrios has been calling it -- has wrought. States, of course, are heavily dependent on property taxes for revenue, and up until about a year ago, a frighteningly large number of people thought housing prices were going to go up forever. So when housing prices eventually did come down, you had all these mortgages, being bought and sold on the financial markets on the premise that housing prices would indeed go up forever, suddenly go to rot. So now we have the credit markets freezing up, possibly causing a recession; and states, meanwhile, will likely see their revenues fall not just in property taxes, but in sales and income taxes as well. And states, unlike the federal government, cannot run deficits, so we will likely see, as the article states, some more budget cuts in the future. Fortunately, we probably won't need another special session to deal with it.
During the special session, we often heard that tax increases would lead to a massive flight of people from Maryland to states with lower taxes and fewer regulations. Ryan Avent, who's a great writer on transportation and urban development issues, provides a great rejoinder to that line of thinking:
Anyway, there has been quite a bit of research done on these topics by some serious scholars, including Ed Glaeser, who’s a brilliant but right-leaning Harvard economist. As it turns out, tax rates have very little to do with domestic migration patterns; housing costs are the principle motivating factor pushing domestic migrants out of the northeast and into the sunbelt. And housing costs are lower in the sunbelt because housing regulations there are more lax, which is a polite way of saying that cities in Georgia and Texas are much more willing to build suburbs miles and miles out into the wilderness. The downside of that, as we’ll all come to see clearly in the next decade, is that such growth requires heavy dependence on carbon-spewing automobiles and on underpriced water. It’s going to be really fun watching all these millions of new southerners trying to adjust to a low carbon lifestyle and/or failing and suffering through crippling droughts.
Because we're a bunch of well-heeled gentry liberals who don't care about traditional middle class concerns, here's Donna Edwards on the subprime mortgage crisis, and Al Wynn's role in exacerbating it:
Moving on the second part of Gov. O'Malley's tax plan (see my take on his income tax proposal here), we have the following changes:
Increase the sales tax from 5% to 6%
Expand the sales tax to include various services, including health club memberships, massages, tanning salons, saunas, steam baths, and real estate management services
Increase the car titling tax (amount not yet released)
Double the cigarette tax to fund an expansion of Medicaid
Cut the property tax by 3 cents
Like most liberals, I tend to be leery of regressive taxes, although done properly, e.g., taking the revenue from a carbon tax to offset payroll taxes, they can be beneficial. In this case, I would note that food and medicine would still be exempt, and that the proposed expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit would help offset the effect of the sales tax on low-income families. The proposed rate would also be comparable to other sales taxes in the region. Compare:
Of the tobacco-for-Medicaid proposal, I'm unenthusiastic. For some reason, a lot of Democrats are enamored with using tobacco taxes to fund this or that health care initiative (SCHIP, for example), even though it's not a very reliable funding source, not to mention a little unseemly. (Do we really want to promote health care for the poor by depending on other people's unhealthy lifestyles?) This is one idea that, I suspect, will end up on the cutting room floor -- it'll be tough enough just to balance the books, let alone consider new spending.
But here's the thing that gets my goat: O'Malley wants to cut the property tax, but impose a sales tax on property management -- that would be the "renter" part of the smoking, tanning, renting gym member with $700,000+ income whose taxes would go up, in O'Malley's formulation. Now, I understand that O'Malley is proposing the property tax cut to curry favor with middle-income voters, to offset the other tax increases, to help people out during the subprime mortgage crisis, etc. But I'm one of those cranks who believes we really shouldn't be subsidizing housing they way we do now, and a tax cut for owners, combined with a tax hike for renters, doesn't sit well with me. It may be that the overall effect still makes renting cheaper than owning, but I'm still unsettled.
Howard County Executive Ken Ulman is declaring war on McMansions, calling for new development rules that emphasize energy conservation, environmentally-friendly building materials, and less sprawl.
The housing bust comes to Maryland: Gov. O'Malley intends to provide $111 million in private-sector money to aid homeowners who face foreclosure.
Montgomery County's tortured effort to adopt a reality-based sex education program appears to be coming to an end: The school board approved a final set of revisions to the curriculum, now allowing teachers to say, for example, that homosexuality is not -- repeat, not -- a mental illness (I can't believe I had to write that).
Environmental Defense and the Sierra Club are asking the Department of Transportation to withdraw its support for the Intercounty Connector, citing environmental and health risks.