Privatize the profits, socialize the loss

Dateline: Sun 21 Sep 2008

On my first day back in Indy Saturday, over lunch and in talks with family and friends, the above phrase -- "privatize the profits, socialize the loss," was applied by several people to the nation's financial crisis.

Here is a quote from a letter to the editor of the Hendricks County Flyer, written by friend Nick Crews. Crews was responding to an earlier letter to the editor, which called him out as a Marxist for his opposition to now defunct 30-day law on campaign signs in Plainfield.

"....the kind of socialism we're facing now from the Bush administration is a different, more sinister sort. It's the kind where profits are privatized: put into the pockets of the privileged few we're going to bail out, and socializes all the liabilities and risk to the rest of us."

By the way, my original reporting on the Hendricks ordinance was incorrect. The law actually disallowed political signs until 30 days BEFORE an election. Crews and his wife Crystal had an Obama sign out since the primary. Hence he received a letter citing him by the city and asking for the sign's removal until that time period. He instead filed a lawsuit with the ACLU of Indiana and prevailed. Thanks to all the great reporters out there who followed up on this story and got the time-line correct. Because of the move, I was without a computer and unable to make the fix. But the word was spreading: Crews has had major coverage, from print, TV and radio.

Also, on the typos: for what it is worth my corneal transplant that was slated for Sept. 15 had to be delayed until Oct. 15 due to my move from Putnam to Indy. Delaying the transplant means that even with the view/increase text sign key at the max, type is still blurry. Please call me out if you see an error. Also, it is now convenient to blame the baby for everything, altho he is asleep right at the moment. Innocent lamb.

And, to paraphrase the English, God save the country.

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Moving day

Dateline: Wed 17 Sep 2008

First, if you've send an email over the past few weeks and not gotten an answer, it will come. But for now, moving back to Indy is a first priority.

Oh, and finding a house. People who don't know say, "It's a buyers' market," as if houses are just sitting there waiting to be snapped up. Yes and no. Savvy buyers have been honed by this foreclosure crisis to recognize that true rare bargain when it comes along; hence many of us are often competing for the same property, and not everyone will be a winner.

Second factor: Some of the homes that are delightful are still priced at what owners purchased them for two or three years ago. The unlucky homeowner is hoping at this point to at least break even. But from where many of us buyers sit, the home was not worth that price to begin with. Hence we are seeing the bubble, as visible as a Meridian Street manse. It looms over Indy's northside like a bloated dragon, threatening sellers' hopes of any profit.

Third: About three-quarters of what I've seen has been foreclosure. The polite term used on by agents is "corporate-owned." "That's a nice way of saying the bank has it," explained our agent Bob Chambers of Century 21. We might have bid on a "bank-owned" property on Illinois except that it's tiny size --- 1100 square feet -- did not match its property taxes: 6 grand a year. Absurd. Other foreclosed homes have similar red flags. One can see, just as one sees the dragon, the sinking ship of blocks of homes, going under...

Fourth: The darling little home we thought we were buying close enough for daily Mass at St. Thomas Aquinas turned out to have major termite damage. True, it was old, but the bugs had eaten a hole in the dining room floor and part of the sunroom woodwork. There was evidence of infestation in the basement as well as the attic. "They didn't jump (from basement to attic)" pointed out our home inspector. In other words, they were in the walls, too. So was the foundation affected? Some old-time Northside residents said no big deal; all the homes had a parade of termites thru. But at our age, the risk was too scary. Plus the house, upon inspection, had multiple other issues.

Hence we are undergoing a trial separation. Guy goes with one son, I go with the other. Our accumulated junk goes in garages and storage.

Broad Ripple Movers come today. That's another image-conscious firm. I've used them for years; highy recommend them. But they are on the near Southeast side, not in Broad Ripple. I guess years ago, they figured that Northsiders would relate to the Broad Ripple moniker.

And so we do, with all its complications in today's market....

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Plainfield blinks

Dateline: Wed 17 Sep 2008

Here is the latest from Nick Crews in Plainfield in Hendricks County, re: his legal challenge with the ACLU of a local ordinance prohibiting residents from putting up signs 30 days from an election:

"Mel Daniels, Plainfield's attorney, said that Plainfield will be having a board meeting on Monday night and will announce a 90 day moratorium on enforcement of the ordinance. During the 90 days the town will - we assume - come up with new language for the sign ordinance. This new wording, we're confident, will bring the law into conformity with residents' constitutional rights and existing case law."

Nick said all his info came from Ken Falk, head of the ACLU of Indiana.

Way to go. Looks like the ACLU already has secured victory; it's just a matter of ironing out the details now. Wonder if they have senior citizen rates for membership?

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Indiana Lawyer on details of signage lawsuit

Dateline: Wed 17 Sep 2008

Here is the story from reporter Michael W. Hoskins, written Wednesday in Indiana Lawyer. Lots of detail here about the history of such ordinances in Indiana, and how other municipalities have stepped down from enforcement when challenged at the federal level.

"The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana has filed a federal lawsuit challenging a Plainfield ordinance restricting political lawn signs.

"Filed this morning in the Southern District of Indiana, the case of Robert N. Crews v. Town of Plainfield seeks to have the local zoning ordinance declared unconstitutional and to stop town officials from enforcing it. Plaintiff Robert N. Crews sued after receiving a letter from the planning department Sept. 10 notifying him he couldn't have a political sign displayed in his front yard because of the rules.

"According to the town's 10-year-old local zoning ordinance, those signs can only be posted 30 days prior to the election and must be taken down within five days following the election.

"The sign was less than 16-square feet in area, wasn't placed in a right of way, and didn't hinder safety or traffic visibility, the suit says. While the suit doesn't mention by name the presidential candidate the sign supports, Crews confirmed it was in support of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama. He removed the sign and hasn't put it back on the lawn since then, but feels his own and his wife's First Amendment rights are being violated, and they want resolution as soon as possible prior to the Nov. 4 election.

"The ACLU of Indiana plans to ask the court to issue a preliminary injunction stopping Plainfield from enforcing the ordinance, according to legal director Ken Falk.

"This is the fourth suit of its kind the civil rights group has filed in the state, and so far three have been resolved in favor of those wanting to put the signs in their front yards.

"In past years, Noblesville and Valparaiso backed down from enforcing political sign restrictions and a proposed settlement in a Highland case is being finalized as the town steps down from enforcing its local ordinance, Falk said."

"It's beyond my comprehension why communities continue to think they can infringe on the First Amendment this way," Falk said. "Numerous cases across the country have struck down these ordinances as a violation, and it's clear that we're talking about a fundamental right of political free speech here, . This is the way all of us have the right to speak about and contribute to campaigns in a very public way."

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ACLU of Indiana, Nick Crews, file lawsuit re: Obama signs

Dateline: Mon 15 Sep 2008

Friend Nick Crews and his wife Crystal Crews were none too happy to receive a letter from Plainfield, where they reside, advising them that their Obama sign in the front yard had to come down until 30 days in advance of the election.

The town has an ordinance prohibiting political signs being in front yards during that time period, Crews learned. The family had Obama sign up since the primary.

The issue seemed to strike at the heart of free speech, they reasoned.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana agrees. Together, Crews and the rights organization have filed a lawsuit challenging Plainfield's law.

Jonathan Swain of the Obama campaign said he understands Hancock County also has such an ordinance in Greenfield.

This lawsuit has legs. It will be fascinating to see what develops. How can it be legal for Marion County -- and Putnam County for that matter -- to allow signs, and Hancock and Hendricks County to disallow them?

Makes no damn sense. Bad law.

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