20 March 2010

Lets Be Real

Standards.... we all have our standards. George wanted a woman with, "thick, lustrous hair" and I won't go out with a woman who has a cat. I won't drive an Asian car. Yes, I know they are made in Alabama now but I don't care. But the fact is, in a pinch it doesn't really matter.

And that's my point. A lot of us are in a pinch right now. The published unemployment number is a joke - 9.7% my ass. In a pinch, (like now) you do a few things. You stop unnecessary spending. You tighten the budget by adjusting the thermostat, the satellite package and the grocery list. You have a staycation. You do what you have to do until the storm passes. The last thing anyone needs is to have their situation made worse.
Being poor sucks in any country but especially in the US, which is so proud
of being the Richest Nation on Earth that it makes sure everyone lives up to
that whether they can afford to or not. Consider the case of Avondale, Arizona resident Christine Stevens, who has been in deep water (financially speaking) since
losing her bank job in January 2009. She decided to discontinue her electricity service and make do with solar panels – Arizona has no shortage of sunshine, after all – and using an ice box in lieu of a refrigerator.

But such frugality defies Avondale city codes, which require a refrigerator, heating and cooling system, and electricity enough for all. So Stevens' house was condemned, and Stevens kicked out. "We explained to her that the panels weren't enough to sustain a quality of life there," Avondale's code enforcement manager said. Stevens is back in her home now, after spending 11 nights sleeping in her car, but could still lose the property.

When you're worried about someone's quality of life, adding them to the
ranks of the homeless might not be the best way to improve it, but it's close
enough for government work. Sometimes more drastic measures are needed, like the
ones taken by city officials in Mountain View, California: they kicked an old lady
named Loretta Pangrac out of her house
, demolished it, and billed her almost $20,000 for their troubles.

Pangrac's roof was in bad shape and she couldn't afford to repair it, so the whole house was condemned as a dangerous "public nuisance" – even though Pangrac was the only member of the public actually endangered by it. To recoup their self-imposed costs, city officials placed a lien against the property. Even without the lien, it's doubtful Pangrac could sell the vacant lot for enough to buy another house. She suggested living in a trailer on her land, but of course that would violate city ordinances. Laws against trailers are commonplace, since citizens living in trailers because they can afford no better tarnish the reputation of the Richest Nation on Earth and the municipalities therein.

I want my neighbor to fix his siding and paint his house and all the things that make it a great neighborhood. But I know he isn't working at the moment and can ill afford these expenses right now. I'm not suggesting we rewrite these municipal laws. I'm just saying lets think before we enforce every last little thing. Bureaucrats never made anything better and apparently they have a communal inability to reason.

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