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Don’t leave HOAs on the hook after foreclosures

Things are tense in Carson City as well-funded banker and realtor groups lobby lawmakers to eliminate the super priority lien statute which is critical for homeowners and the local housing market. Since 1992, the super priority lien statute has allowed HOAs to collect originally six, and now nine, months of unpaid assessments when the bank forecloses its lien on a delinquent owner.

This provision was largely non-controversial until a recent Nevada Supreme Court decision in SFR Investments Pool 1, LLC v. U.S. Bank, N.A informed lenders that the statute creates a true priority for HOA liens. Lenders who ignore HOA foreclosure notices can see their lien extinguished if they fail to satisfy the delinquent assessments before the HOA forecloses on a delinquent owner.

The bankers and realtors warn that if lawmakers do not eliminate the super priority lien, lenders may stop making mortgage loans in Nevada, or charge higher fees. What they do not tell Nevadans is that 21 other states have similar super priority lien statutes and lending has continued in those states unabated. They also are not telling Nevadans that Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and HUD all require lenders to pay HOA assessments to maintain the priority of their loans, and then reimburse the lenders for those payments.

To understand why eliminating the super priority lien is such a bad idea, it is important to know two things. First, until the Nevada Supreme Court informed lenders that ignoring a HOA foreclosure could extinguish their first security interest, lenders were content to allow HOA assessments to accumulate, knowing that when they did eventually foreclose, the lender would only have to pay the HOA nine months of assessments. The super priority lien is the only “motivational tool” HOAs have with the banks.

Second, about 42 percent of Nevada households (500,000+ homes) are part of a homeowner or condominium association. HOAs carry out their responsibilities to maintain roads, parks, and buildings by collecting assessments, just as government collects taxes to fund its responsibilities. HOA expenses do not stop when a homeowner stops paying assessments. By the time a lender forecloses, the nine months of assessments recoverable through the super priority lien is usually just a fraction of the total amount owed to the HOA. However, those nine months can be the difference that allows an HOA to avoid drastically increasing assessments or cutting services.

If the bankers and realtors succeed in eliminating the super priority lien, the entire burden of unpaid assessments will shift to those owners that do pay while banks continue to strategically delay foreclosure. Once again, the homeowners that have worked hard to play by the rules will end up paying the price. It is time to protect homeowners, not predatory lenders.

Who agrees with this opinion? The Community Association Institute Legislative Action Committee reached out to HOAs across the state, and in two days 69 Nevada HOAs representing 27,489 homes signed on to urge the Nevada Legislature to retain the super priority lien.

Norm Rosensteel and Donna Zanetti, Esq. are co-chairs of the Community Associations Institute (CAI) Legislative Action Committee representing the interests of homeowners, community associations, and business partners in Nevada.

Article source: http://www.rgj.com/story/opinion/voices/2015/05/26/leave-hoas-hook-foreclosures/27980307/

Chattanooga Lawyers Recommend these Steps for Avoiding Foreclosure

    CHATTANOOGA, TN, May 26, 2015 /24-7PressRelease/ — Foreclosures can be very scary. No one wants to lose their home and people would do anything to keep it in many cases. Luckily, there are some steps that you can take before your home is foreclosed on. The trick, however, is being proactive. You will want to start taking action as soon as possible so that you have enough time to stop it. The following are some tips that Chattanooga lawyers recommend.

Work with Your Lender

The first step you should take to avoid foreclosure is to work with the lender. You can start by speaking to the lender and explaining the situation. They may work with you to avoid foreclosure as well. They can give you options such as modifying your loan so you can make payments, put you in forbearance for a temporary amount of time, or have you work with a financial counselor. All of these can remedy your issue and allow you more time to get back on your feet. However, if that does not work and the lender will not work with you, you may have to fight the foreclosure.

Fight the Foreclosure

If the lender continues with proceedings, you can fight the foreclosure to prevent it from occurring. To start this process, you will want to file a written answer with the court. During this time, ask the lender to produce the promissory note that was signed. If they sent off the note and it cannot be found, this can push back the proceedings or may even stop them completely. Another option is attempting to sell the home before it is foreclosed on. If you cannot make payments, you should attempt to sell it in the market. If you are not ready to give that up yet, question the chain of title with the lender. This is to prove the ownership of the mortgage. If it appears to not be unclear and unambiguous, you may be able to avoid foreclosure. A last resort option with the lender would be to negotiate a deed in lieu of foreclosure. This is when you transfer the deed to the lender and have the option to completely walk away owing nothing.

File for Bankruptcy

Another option would be to file bankruptcy but this is not the best option for all people. You will want to do thorough research prior to filing bankruptcy. This option is the very last one you will want to try as it will stay on your record for some time. Before doing anything, however, you should speak to a local Chattanooga attorney to discuss your options and decide on the best path for you.

For more information visit www.chattanooga-bankruptcy-attorney.com.

Established in 1983, Clark Washington is now one of the leading bankruptcy filers in the Southeast. They have locations in Georgia, Florida and Tennessee. Clark Washington specializes in personal chapter seven and 13 bankruptcy. They offer honest, helpful legal advice to those experiencing financial hardships.

For more information, visit www.chattanooga-bankruptcy-attorney.com.

Source: Chattanooga Lawyers Recommend these Steps for Avoiding Foreclosure

Article source: http://www.military-technologies.net/2015/05/26/chattanooga-lawyers-recommend-these-steps-for-avoiding-foreclosure/

Debt Forgiveness Could Save This Woman’s Home, But Nation’s Housing Chief …

Sylvia Alvarez didn’t grasp the enormity of the crisis about to engulf her community until she returned to her office in Tampa, Florida, after a long weekend and found her voicemail filled with messages from distraught homeowners.

It was early 2008. The bottom had fallen out of both the housing market and the local economy, and record numbers of people had begun defaulting on their mortgages. Callers flooded the phone lines to the Housing Education Alliance, Alvarez’s housing counseling agency — not realizing the same forces that had wrecked their finances were also threatening to sink the agency they were now turning to for help.

“I was overwhelmed,” Alvarez said recently, recalling the twin challenges of trying to help people save their homes and also keep afloat her nonprofit, which was largely dependent on vanishing support from the mortgage industry. “I remember saying, ‘How in the hell are we going to do this?’”

Seven years later, the Housing Education Alliance has rebounded remarkably, after subsisting for years on a meager budget. The organization’s survival is a testament to the perseverance of Alvarez and her staff, who worked with little or no pay for years. The foreclosure rate in Tampa is the third highest in the country, but the situation is vastly improved from even two years ago.

But this otherwise feel-good story comes with a distressing coda. After years of working long hours at great personal sacrifice to save other people’s homes, Alvarez is now on the cusp of losing her own.

The specific problem that Alvarez faces is the same one that’s vexed hundreds of her clients — and many of her own staff — over the years: She is underwater on her mortgage, meaning she owes substantially more on her home than it is worth.

More than three years ago, with government prodding, the mortgage industry began offering some homeowners in this situation a form of assistance known as principal reduction. Big banks like JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America, under multibillion-dollar legal settlements with the Justice Department and other federal and state agencies, could claim credit by writing off some of the debt owed by people like Alvarez.

Debt forgiveness can yield benefits to everyone involved. The homeowner is no longer tempted to walk away, leaving a home to decay and lose more value. And the person, or family, isn’t subjected to the financial and emotional trauma of losing a home.

On paper, Alvarez would seem a perfect candidate. She fell into default in 2008, after her income as executive director of the Housing Education Alliance plummeted to $17,000 from $73,000 the year before, according to forms the nonprofit filed with the IRS.

After years of reduced income and struggling to make ends meet — “I ate a lot of Cheerios and Special K,” she says — Alvarez finally saw her salary rebound this year to its pre-crash level. And because of all the missed payments and accumulated fees and interest, Alvarez and her husband now owe $419,000 — over $100,000 more than the couple thinks the house is worth.

But Alvarez, like the majority of the 5 million or so borrowers who are underwater on their mortgages, is not eligible for principal reduction. That’s because her loan, like millions of others, is controlled by Fannie Mae, the mortgage giant that was put into conservatorship by the U.S. government after an epic bailout in 2008. Despite its status as a quasi-government entity, and despite supposed pressure from senior members of the Obama administration, Fannie Mae doesn’t permit debt forgiveness on its mortgages.

For years, administration officials blamed this on a career bureaucrat who’d ascended to the top of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, the group created to oversee Fannie and its cousin company, Freddie Mac. That official, Edward DeMarco, vigorously opposed principal forgiveness, arguing that offering such relief would pose a “moral hazard.” Writing off some people’s debt, he said, would likely encourage other people to stop paying their mortgages in order to take advantage of the same opportunity.

There was an economic rationale as well, DeMarco argued. Under the conditions of the bailout, Fannie and Freddie are essentially required to turn over all their profits to the government — and supposedly, forgiving homeowner debt could mean eating into those profits. (As of this spring, the two groups have paid back roughly $40 billion more than they received during the bailout.)

DeMarco, who was then the acting director of the FHFA, hewed to this reasoning even after his own agency produced research showing that offering targeted principal reduction could actually save the companies money. He continued to make this argument even as housing activists protested in front of his own home.

In late 2013, the Senate confirmed former Rep. Mel Watt (D-N.C.) to replace DeMarco, fueling hopes that the housing companies would quickly reverse their position. But Watt hasn’t appeared any more receptive to debt forgiveness than his predecessor, and with the foreclosure crisis receding into the distance, the Obama administration has not seemed inclined to press the issue.

Through a spokesperson, Watt declined an interview request from The Huffington Post. Instead, an FHFA spokeswoman forwarded snippets of Watt’s comments on the subject to Congress. In one exchange from December, Watt sparred with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a vocal proponent of principal reduction.

“It has been six years since Congress created FHFA and in all that time your agency has never, not once permitted a family to reduce its principal mortgage through Fannie or Freddie,” Warren said.

Warren cited a Congressional Budget Office report from 2013 that determined a modest principal reduction plan could help 1.2 million borrowers and save Fannie and Freddie — and by extension taxpayers — $2.8 billion.

In response, Watt said he was looking for a “win-win” situation in which “responsible” borrowers might get assistance.

“We’re still studying the issue,” he told a House committee in January.

Kevin Stein is an associate director of the California Reinvestment Coalition, a group that has advocated for broad-based principal reduction. Stein said he is frustrated with Watt’s responses, but hasn’t given up hope. “Maybe the time to end the studies and make a decision is now,” he said.

In recent months, Alvarez has sought to offload her home through a short sale, in which Fannie would accept less than the amount owed on the mortgage and agree to release Alvarez from her financial obligation. Earlier this week, though, Fannie Mae rejected an offer from a prospective buyer that would have priced the house at about $253,000, according to Alvarez.

Alvarez said she isn’t sure what to do next.

“We have no sense of security,” she said. “Now I know exactly what our clients have gone though.”

Article source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/05/26/principal-recuction_n_7385180.html

What to do if you are facing a foreclosure

A significant number of Ontario households are facing a problem that they thought they would never encounter, a foreclosure or power of sale of their property. There are many reasons why people are in this situation, which could include marriage breakdown, illness or a loss of job. This can result in missed mortgage payments and the eventual foreclosure of their home.

The Bank of Canada has recently stated that Canadian household debt levels are now close to an all-time high. A number of organizations including the International Monetary Fund have stated that the Canadian housing market is probably in a bubble stage with the housing market is overvalued by as much as 30 per cent, with most of the bubble occurring in Vancouver and the GTA markets. The real estate market in Alberta is taking a nose dive due to falling oil prices and foreclosures will certainly increase in this market.

Many real estate professionals agree that the biggest risk to the Ontario real estate market is rising interest rates. At some point in the future, interest rates will rise and hopefully this article can help explain the foreclosure process. When a mortgage goes into default in Ontario, the mortgage holder can choose between to legal processes foreclosure or power of sale. Most mortgage holders in Ontario choose the power of sale process since it is faster.

There are some significant differences between a foreclosure and power of sale that homeowners should be aware of. A foreclosure means that the mortgage holder is taking title of your property you will no longer own it. If there is a large amount of equity in the property, the new owner will receive that equity. A foreclosure can take a long time to complete, sometimes a year or longer. The legal process in a foreclosure can involve multiple lawyers with multiple court appearances. Due to the number of lawyers and court appearances, a foreclosure can be very expensive.

In contrast, a power of sale can happen fairly quickly, usually within a few months from the initial default. Since the legal cost of a power of sale is much lower and the process is faster than a foreclosure, most Ontario lenders choose to use the power of sale legal process. In some cases, a power of sale happens so quickly that the homeowner has very little time to resolve this situation.

In most cases, the home owner would like to stop the legal process and keep their home. The best way to stop a power of sale or foreclosure is to pay off any amount requested by the lender or their lawyers. The problem with this is that most homeowners do not have the cash to pay the lender. An alternative option may be to place a second mortgage on your property, this will allow the homeowner to pay off the existing mortgage holder or bring the mortgage back into good standing. Second mortgages have a higher level of risk and therefore the lender will charge a higher interest rate. Most second mortgages are “open”, meaning you can pay them off anytime you want.

The traditional big banks such as RBC or TD usually do not lend money to people in foreclosure or power of sale, therefore you should contact an Ontario mortgage broker that specializes in distressed mortgages and has access to private lenders. Private lenders can lend amounts from as little as a few thousand dollars up to millions of dollars. Most private lenders have geographic limits and specialize in areas such as residential or commercial properties. Private lenders base their lending decision on the equity in your property; they usually accept people with bad credit and little or no income.

If your property has little or no equity, your best option may be to give the keys to the lender’s lawyer and vacate the house.

In all cases, you should consult with a lawyer regarding your legal situation, you should ask for a real estate lawyer that specifically handles foreclosures and power of sales, a personal injury lawyer will not be of much use. If you do not know a real estate lawyer, you can ask your mortgage broker to recommend one.

Article source: http://www.mississauga.com/shopping-story/5592211-what-to-do-if-you-are-facing-a-foreclosure/

Mud, Plastic and Colorful Clutter at Berkeley’s MFA Show

At the Berkeley Art Center, the six graduating artists of UC Berkeley’s MFA program showcase the culmination of two years of artistic development and experimentation. Investigating studio habits, nearby mudflats and the Bay Area at large, their very different practices combine into a collective artistic accomplishment.

Lee Lavy presents a video performance simulating the subterranean effects of an earthquake in his own studio, resulting in a mass of soil and broken concrete. Leslie Dreyer’s work documents her activist interventions addressing the local foreclosure epidemic. Matt Smith Chavez, who refers to himself as an “imagemaker,” blends painting, photography and printmaking in an approach shifting between diagrams, abstraction and advertising.

Michelle Ott, opacity and accumulation, 2014. (Courtesy of Berkeley Art Museum)
Michelle Ott, Three Things at Once, 2015. (Courtesy of Berkeley Art Museum)

Photographer Michelle Ott proves even seasoned artists experience dramatic growth during graduate school. In Antarctica With/Without, a series she began in 1999, she photographs scenes around research stations in Antarctica, often cutting the prints to remove signs of people. Ott’s work in the MFA show takes her pre-existing interests into unexpected terrain.

From a distance, the photographs in her Redirected Objects series look empty, but slight variations in color reveal abstract forms and meticulous hand-cut patterns in the prints. The images are scans of everyday objects (a plastic cup) made nearly invisible by shining light above the scanner while capturing the image. As in her previous work, these photographs expose human culture through negation and obfuscation.

Of studying at a research university, Ott says, “Taking classes in other departments (in my case, in Geography and New Media Studies) allowed me to identify new contexts within which to place what I do in the studio.”

Sofie Ramos, everything (else) is excess, 2015. Photo: Peter Cavagnaro. (Courtesy Berkeley Art Museum)
Sofie Ramos, everything (else) is excess, 2015. Photo: Peter Cavagnaro. (Courtesy Berkeley Art Museum)

“I wanted to leave the range of comfort I had set up for myself,” she says, “and give attention to lines of thinking I hadn’t been following through on.”

Sofie Ramos’ work involves what she calls “sculptural painting installations.” She transforms spaces with complex arrangements of stacked materials and documents these metamorphoses via stop motion video. Her installations resemble Kurt Schwitters’ Merzbau or a set from The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, awash in a cartoonish palette.

Tanja Geis, Muddle of Littoral Artifacts, 2015. (Courtesy of Berkeley Art Center)
Tanja Geis, Muddle of Littoral Artifacts, 2015. (Courtesy of Berkeley Art Center)

Tanja Geis, another standout in the exhibition, made Littoral Daemon III (2015) with pigments sourced from the mud of San Francisco Bay. The drawing’s mirrored image looks organic, but the form comes from trash found in the mudflats near the Berkeley art studios. Actual objects from the Bay, cast ceramics and trash covered in clay form a hanging installation that throws captivating shadows on the gallery wall. A third piece, Sublittoral Watch (2015) is a dark and ethereal underwater video that confuses the laws of physics by flipping the viewer’s perspective.

Geis is eager to keep working with underwater video. And though graduation means the loss of her current studio, she will continue this project as a recipient of a one-year fellowship at the Headlands Center for the Arts. Geis and her Berkeley colleagues must now navigate the murky waters of the real world, where jobs, studios and, increasingly, homes are difficult to secure. But if this exhibition is any indication, they are well on their way.

Article source: http://ww2.kqed.org/arts/2015/05/25/mud-plastic-and-colorful-clutter-at-berkeleys-mfa-show/

Bullock warns of "foreclosure rescue" scammers that prey on Montanans

This is the first year that the POW/MIA group has created the Field of Glory. 

Article source: http://www.krtv.com/story/29151479/bullock-warns-of-foreclosure-rescue-scammers-that-prey-on-montanans

Lawmakers should heed warning on HOA foreclosure issue

As the Nevada Legislature wraps up this month, state lawmakers will be addressing several issues important to homeowners and the local housing market.

One of the most crucial, and perhaps most complex, deals with foreclosures by homeowner associations.

Groups representing HOAs are fighting any legislation that could threaten or eliminate the so-called super priority lien that allows HOAs to collect up to nine months of unpaid HOA assessments when a bank forecloses on a home in an HOA. Super priority liens also give HOAs the authority to foreclosure on delinquent homeowners and give associations first shot at collecting proceeds from the sale of a foreclosed home, ahead of the traditional first-lien position held by the mortgage lender.

This has been a contentious legal issue in recent years that has reached as far as the Nevada Supreme Court, pitting HOAs and companies that manage them against lenders and real estate investors.

The Nevada Association of Realtors is working with state lawmakers to clarify these issues and balance the needs of homeowners, HOAs, lenders and others. Like Sen. Scott Hammond, we support legislation that protects the interests of Nevada homeowners living in associations without wiping out the legal interests of federal entities that help homeowners secure mortgage loans.

This issue is being watched very closely by the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which regulates Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the 12 federal home loan banks. These government-sponsored enterprises provide more than $5.6 trillion in funding for the U.S. mortgage markets and financial institutions.

By some estimates, FHFA plays a key role in backing as many as 70 percent of all mortgages in the U.S. and here in Nevada.

Here’s what the FHFA had to say in a prepared statement issued last month reminding Nevada lawmakers why they should not pass any laws that could allow HOAs in Nevada to extinguish liens these government-backed entities place on homes facing foreclosure:

“(Federal) law precludes involuntary extinguishment of Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac liens while they are operating in conservatorships and preempts any state law that purports to allow holders of homeownership association (HOA) liens to extinguish a Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac lien, security interest, or other property interest.

“As noted in our December 22, 2014 statement on certain super priority liens, FHFA has an obligation to protect Fannie Mae’s and Freddie Mac’s rights, and will aggressively do so by bringing or supporting actions to contest HOA foreclosures that purport to extinguish enterprise property interests in a manner that contravenes federal law. Consequently, FHFA confirms that it has not consented, and will not consent in the future, to the foreclosure or other extinguishment of any Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac lien or other property interest in connection with HOA foreclosures of super priority liens.”

These are pretty strong words from a federal agency that has a huge impact on our housing market.

If lawmakers don’t heed these warnings, FHFA officials have suggested that lenders could seriously curtail or even stop making mortgage loans in Nevada.

David Stevens, president and CEO of the national Mortgage Bankers Association, has also warned states with super priority liens that can wipe out the interests of lenders and investors that their homebuyers could face higher loan fees, interest rates and down payments.

This would be disastrous, especially since our state’s housing market is just now recovering from the Great Recession and since stringent lending standards are still making it difficult for many would-be homeowners to obtain a mortgage.

I can tell you that our more than 14,000 Realtors throughout Nevada take such warnings very seriously. And we encourage legislators to do the same.

Kevin Sigstad, a longtime Realtorbased in Reno, is the 2015 president of the Nevada Association of Realtors (NVAR), a professional trade association with more than 14,000 members.

Article source: http://www.rgj.com/story/opinion/voices/2015/05/21/lawmakers-heed-warning-hoa-foreclosure-issue/27744681/

Petula Dvorak: On Memorial Day, widow of Navy vet longs for the home she …

American flag

American flag

The moon shines below a large American flag flying atop an MRL Crane Service crane that is parked in the parking lot as part of Veterans Day celebrations Tuesday morning at Hy-Vee in Grand Island. (Independent/Barrett Stinson)



Posted: Monday, May 25, 2015 12:00 am
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Updated: 12:09 am, Mon May 25, 2015.

Petula Dvorak: On Memorial Day, widow of Navy vet longs for the home she bought 37 years ago

By PETULA DVORAK

TulsaWorld.com

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0 comments

WASHINGTON — They moved into their low-slung Florida home on Memorial Day, 37 years ago.

And the first thing Joe did was dig a hole for a flagpole, right near the carport. He was a Navy veteran, survivor of the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the rock Mary Morgan Kleiss needed to bring order to the chaos in her life, which included work as a cocktail waitress, two young children and a one-armed former husband.

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This Memorial Day, Mary can’t help but cry over that house. She’s 74, sitting outside her daughter’s condo building in Alexandria, Virginia, and living in chaos. Again.

For 30 years, Joe, Mary and their kids — then grandkids — lived in that three-bedroom house in Port Charlotte. As an Army brat born at the old Walter Reed Army Medical Center who moved dozens of times as a child, that house was her sanctuary, the most stability she had known her whole life.

When Hurricane Charley devastated the area in 2004, Mary’s children came back home to live with her, in a neighborhood filled with FEMA trailers. And when Mary’s ex-husband fell on hard times, they let him park his small travel trailer on their land, where he lived out his days.

She was always housing everyone else with that piece of stability she had.

But then Joe got sick, and died in 2006, and she lost her job as a medical office receptionist when she was 67. She missed her mortgage payments in June and July 2007, and says she couldn’t catch up after that.

She tried to get a loan modification, she says. She fought and fought, but the bank foreclosed on the house, and she moved out on Memorial Day, exactly 30 years after Joe dug the flagpole hole.

Despite the perception that younger Americans with eyes bigger than their wallets made up most of the mortgage debt crisis, senior citizens like Mary were among the folks who lost their homes.

More than 1.5 million older Americans lost their homes as a result of the mortgage crisis, according to a 2012 study by AARP, and 3.5 million more were underwater on their loans.

Often, military veterans’ widows like Mary, whose veteran benefits are thin and who were unable to have their own stable careers that would give them pensions, are the ones getting kicked out.

The bank foreclosed on Mary’s home, and it sold for $42,000 in 2010. It was resold for about $56,000 the next year.

“I used to drive by my home every few days or so until my neighbor across the street said that the present owners were getting scared and asked her to tell me to stop,” she said.

Today, the house is back on the market, for $259,000.

For seven years, Mary bounced between apartments, extra rooms in her children’s homes and a senior citizen complex. So that’s how she ended up here in Alexandria at 74, living in a spare room in her daughter’s condo, showing up with all the possessions she could fit into Joe’s old Ford truck.

Mary emailed me because remembering those FEMA trailers gave her an idea and she couldn’t find a way to put a classified ad in The Washington Post. She’s looking to buy a travel trailer.

The Port Charlotte Sun, the newspaper that still publishes her weekly recipe column (she gets paid $25 a week and has never missed one), Mary told me, “has classified ads. How does anyone buy or sell anything here?”

I asked her if she tried Craigslist.

“Oh, I don’t trust that,” she said.

With a trailer, she could return to Florida and find a place to park her self-contained home at a campground. It might cost $5,000 or $6,000, although getting a loan to buy one after a foreclosure is proving tough.

“If I can buy a little trailer, no one can take that from me. No one can foreclose on that, right?” she asked.

Now she just has to find the right one. And somehow find the cash.

Paula Dvorak is a columnist for The Washington Post.

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Article source: http://www.tulsaworld.com/opinion/petula-dvorak-on-memorial-day-widow-of-navy-vet-longs/article_e349ec96-43da-5579-96c1-508c6f1b5e22.html

PETULA DVORAK: Widow of vet longs for home she lost

Communities

Remembrance and celebration Memorial day has serious, lighter sides

Article source: http://www.sunherald.com/2015/05/23/6242267/petula-dvorak-widow-of-vet-longs.html

Police chief: How dare ‘shoddy’ bar owner paint Hopatcong as drug haven?

HOPATCONG — There isn’t a drug problem in and around Pavinci Italian Grill, Hopatcong Police Chief Robert Brennan said.

And there isn’t a drug problem in and around Patrick’s Pub, he said.

So when Castaways Tavern owner Paul Bogensberger blamed what he described as longstanding issues with patrons buying and selling drugs on Hopatcong itself, Brennan took umbrage.

“How are he paint the town like this?” Brennan said by phone Friday, a day after police announced 13 arrests for alleged drug offenses at Castaways. The arrests didn’t include any Castaways staff members or owners. “The problem with the drugs being at his bar isn’t Hopatcong. It’s that his bar is poorly staffed and managed.

“You invite 20somethings in there at $1 per draft, and you have one person managing the bar … the bartender can’t keep up with what’s going on.”

Bogensberger, commenting on arrests police say were the result of a month-and-a-half-long investigation, said Thursday he was glad police came into his bar and “cleaned the place out” — interviewing patrons one by one and finding the alleged drug dealers and purchasers among them.

All 13 arrested were charged with some combination of possession of marijuana, possession of cocaine or distribution of cocaine. Authorities seized $900 in cash, two vehicles, 72 bags of cocaine, and various quantities of marijuana.

But Bogensberger said he’d also been after police for years, trying to get help dealing with the drug use and sales at his bar. Asked why they’ve been such a problem, he told NJ Advance Media: “It’s because I’m in Hopatcong. It’s not Mendham.”

“There’s a lot of houses in foreclosure,” Bogensberger said. “People are out of work. This is poor town. We don’t have have any money to spend on education. But I’m happy as hell that they’re taking care of the drugs.”

Brennan said that’s not fair to Hopatcong, and amounts to Bogensberger shirking responsibility — “he can just kick someone out of the bar. Get a couple of extra bouncers or staff.”

For one, Brennan said, Hopatcong may not be the state’s richest town — “but there’s foreclosures all over the state. It isn’t the town, or because the people are poor or uneducated. It’s because he runs a shoddy establishment.”

But Brennan also said Hopatcong is more inclined to publicize its drug arrests than some neighboring towns — leaving an impression there’s more drug activity than in the others. The town’s police department, for instance, has a very active Facebook profile through which Lt. Thomas Kmetz publishes press releases about arrests several times a week and actively engages his Facebook followers.

The statistics paint a varied picture of area towns.

FBI’s Uniform Crime Report data for 2012 shows 108 drug arrests in Hopatcong, a community of about 15,000 people that year. By contrast, Jefferson, with a population of more than 21,000, had 41 arrests. Byram, with a population of about 8,000, had 61 arrests. Sparta, with a population of about 18,000, had 60 arrests.

And the affluent Mendham Borough, home to Gov. Chris Christie, with fewer than 5,000 people in town? Just 24 arrests.

Hopatcong’s had problems with drugs at its bars before — in 2013, the River Styx Grill shut down and was put up for sale after its owner was arrested on drug distribution charges. He later admitted supplying heroin to five others for distribution in Morris and Sussex counties.

But Brennan stressed most drug activity there centered around the owner — and an operation that stretched into Morris County, among the most affluent counties in the nation.

“It appeared the bar was a drug den, but it really wasn’t. That never really got off the ground. The bar itself, historically, was not the problem,” he said.

Bogensberger and Brennan do agree on one thing — the bar owner said the $1 draft nights, which bring in large crowds of young patrons, are going to have to stop

But the two tell different tales about an investigation into the bar’s liquor practices. Hopatcong police had said in a news release this week state authorities were charging the bar for having “less-than-premium alcohol in bottles that were labeled premium alcohol” — bottles of Jim Beam whiskey without actual Jim Beam.

Bogensberger denied that, and said he’d been in touch with the state Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control, which told him it had no concerns about Jim Beam at the bar. But Brennan said Friday the bar was facing several violations from the ABC, though he declined to specify which.

A call to state authorities seeking clarification on that investigation has not yet been returned.

“I don’t want to air anyone’s dirty laundry,” Brennan said.

Louis C. Hochman may be reached at lhochman@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @LouisCHochman. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

Article source: http://www.nj.com/sussex-county/index.ssf/2015/05/police_chief_how_dare_shoddy_bar_owner_paint_hopat.html