POSSIBLE TOPICS: VOTETEXAS.GOV—Voter Information; These Outdated Car-Buying Tips Could Hurt You in Today’s Crazy Market; Houston extends time period for public feedback on redistricting; ‘Chronic party houses’ on Airbnb and Vrbo have become hot topics in Houston HOA disputes; Here’s how much Greg Abbott and Beto O’Rourke have raised in the race for Texas governor; The Cause of the Crime Wave Is Hiding in Plain Sight; Fond du Lac and Grand Portage Ojibwe Tribes File Suit Against EPA; European nations are asked to cut their use of natural gas 15 percent until next spring; EU signs new gas deal as fears grow over Russian supplies cutoff; Russia plans to annex territory it controls in Ukraine, a U.S. official says; More.
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- These Outdated Car-Buying Tips Could Hurt You in Today’s Crazy Market; Face it: In the red-hot car market of 2022, “negotiate up from invoice pricing” is going to get you laughed out of the showroom. By Tom McParland | JALOPNIK.COM | July 15, 2022, Friday 12:49PM
- If you’re trying to buy a car right now, you’re probably experiencing a world of frustration, between a lack of inventory and crazy–high prices. There are some helpful tips to navigate this market, but you should know that a lot of conventional wisdom no longer applies … And some common tips could actually hurt you when buying a car today. …
- Bad Tip #1: Focus On the “Invoice Price”: For the longest time, buyers and advice blogs were obsessed with the idea of knowing the “invoice price” on a new car. The invoice price is the amount the dealer pays the factory, usually about 5 to 8 percent below the MSRP. [E]ven if a buyer knows how much the dealer paid for the car, that number in and of itself doesn’t provide the buyer with any leverage to convince the dealer to discount the vehicle. …
- The dealers that have cars available to buy right now are usually the ones that add markups, hence why they have inventory sitting around. The dealers willing to sell at competitive prices are almost always pre-selling their inventory several months before the cars arrive. So if you have the luxury of time on your side, you’re more likely to get a better deal, but it’s going to take some hunting …
- Bad Tip #2: Tell the Salesperson Your “Out-The-Door Price” and Stick to Your Guns: I can’t tell you how many folks I’ve talked to who all say the same thing: “I just tell the salesperson the total price I’m willing to pay, and if they can’t get there, I walk.” On the surface, this sounds like solid advice, but this tactic involves some big assumptions that may or may not hold water.
- First, the “out-the-door price” strategy assumes you’ve correctly calculated a total transaction price that includes your local taxes and DMV fees. … Second, this tactic assumes that your target price is achievable for the market. Given today’s sky-high demand, that’s unlikely. Finally, this approach assumes that your dealer actually has the car you want in stock, and is willing to meet your target price. …
- Bad Tip #3: Say No to Extra Fees: This follows along with the “out-the-door price” approach. Most buyers know that the final sale price of a car will include a number of additional charges. Some of these are unavoidable, like sales tax and DMV/registration fees. Others, though, are pure profit generators for dealerships. While the Federal Trade Commission is proposing new rules to minimize these shenanigans, right now, many car buyers still find themselves getting hit with unexpected fees. …
- Bad Tip #4: Don’t Mention Your Trade Until the Last Minute: You’ve probably heard this one: “Don’t tell the dealer you want to trade in your current car until you’ve got a final price on the car you want to buy.” On the whole, it’s not terrible advice, and it comes from a valid concern that a dealer will offer you a strong price on your trade, but make up for it by removing any discounts on the new-car price (or vice-versa, a great discount and a lowball trade offer).
- Here in 2022, the situation is a little different. Dealers are desperate for used cars, and a lot of them are paying good money to boost their pre-owned inventory. I’ve seen a few instances where telling the dealer a trade might be on the table coaxed out a more competitive deal, or got a new-car customer moved to the front of the line for a factory order (because, again, if you really want a specific car with specific equipment, you’re putting in an order and waiting). I’ve also seen deals where the trade offer was so high, it offset the dealer markup on the new car, making the net deal worthwhile.
- If you’re afraid of getting a lowball offer on your trade, it’s trivially easy to get a bid from Carvana, Carmax or Vroom, and use that as leverage in your discussion with your local dealer.
- ANDREW: Also, wear a mask. Even if it’s not mandatory, it’ll give others peace of mind, which may give you an advantage in negotiations.
- Houston extends time period for public feedback on redistricting; By Sofia Gonzalez | COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM | 12:41 PM Jul 19, 2022 CDT, Updated 12:41 PM Jul 19, 2022 CDT
- The city of Houston has extended the time for public input—including comments, suggestions and alternate plans—on newly proposed City Council district boundaries to July 29 at 4:45 p.m.
- Previously, Houstonians had until July 20 to give written feedback on the maps, which are being redrawn as part of the decennial redistricting process. According to a July 18 press release from the city, all plans submitted must be in writing, be based on the data from the 2020 federal census, redistrict the entire city so an impact on minority groups can be assessed and conform to the city’s redistricting criteria.
- According to the city’s redistricting website, the criteria includes the maintenance of equal population numbers across the city’s 12 districts, easily identifiable geographic boundaries, not breaking up county voting precincts, the preservation of relations with incumbents and constituents, and avoiding the diminishing of voting power by demographic concentration or dilution.
- Proposals for where the public would like certain voting precincts and neighborhoods or locations to be placed within a district are allowed, the release said. The city has redistricting software available for the public located at 611 Walker St., Houston, on the sixth floor. Staff will be on-site to help lend a technical hand to anyone interested, the release said.
- ‘Chronic party houses’ on Airbnb and Vrbo have become hot topics in Houston HOA disputes; Diane Cowen, Staff writer | HOUSTONCHRONICLE.COM | July 19, 2022, Updated: July 19, 2022 8:42 p.m.
- A dispute over duck feeding and an accompanying fine of $250,000 may be the most recent neighborhood dispute the Houston area is talking about, but in most places, the hot topic is something entirely different: short-term rental homes that end up as chronic party houses. …
- Millions of people use short-term rentals such as those found on Vrbo.com or Airbnb.com as an alternative to hotels for business trips and family vacations. Some in Houston are even used by people with illnesses who come to the city for ongoing care in the Texas Medical Center.
- The ones that become problems, though, are those used as party houses. They are set up for entertaining and have rooms that can be cleared out for dance floors, plus backyards with swimming pools, party spaces and tall privacy fences.
- Eastwood residents Erin Overhouse Locke and Paulette Kukuk have both complained repeatedly about a nearby home that’s been rented out for noisy parties that line the streets with cars from partygoers. After the parties, the women said they often see beer bottles and plastic drink cups littering the lawn and sidewalk. …
- Those who inquire about the home on Vrbo, where it is listed as “Jungle Estate” receive an automated response asking for more information about a potential reservation, including whether a renter would need accommodations for “… DJ, dance floor, lights” as well as the number of guests who would be there overnight and non-overnight. …
- [Gregory S. Cagle, author of the book “Texas Homeowners Association Law” and a partner at the Cagle Pugh law firm, said the main role of an HOA is to collect dues and maintain a neighborhood’s common areas, such as landscaping. They also oversee rules about how owners take care of their property, signing off on the type of roof shingles, exterior paint colors and remodeling that might add new square footage to a home. He] noted that many HOAs or civic associations operate with deed restrictions or neighborhood rules from boilerplate documents, and many are decades old. So new issues such as one neighbor feeling his privacy is invaded by another neighbor’s security cameras or whole blocks of homes disturbed by a short-term rental house, wouldn’t be included in a document like that.
- Even as some boards change their documents to cover short-term rentals, he said it’s unclear on whether new rules could be applied retroactively to rental properties that already exist. …
- [Lawyer Richard Weaver] said that any HOA changing its rules about rental property has to be very specific about the time frame, since many properties rent for six months to a year. …
- MIKE: In my opinion, “short-term rentals” are 6-months. Using that term here for party houses is deceptive. These are “VERY short-term rentals”, and should be in a separate category — “less than 6-months” — altogether. FYI, the state of Texas has passed laws that supersede old HOA covenants for things like satellite dishes and solar panels. The state could do the same here and cure these old HOA covenants against “VERY short-term rentals”.
- ANDREW: I live next door (okay, next-next-next door) to a party rental house. I can hear the bass thumping through the walls sometimes. Drives me nuts. I’ll admit I’m biased against landlords, including short-term rentals, but you don’t have to be anti-capitalist to hate these party houses. Ban them and the platforms they’re on.
- Here’s how much Greg Abbott and Beto O’Rourke have raised in the race for Texas governor; Democratic gubernatorial candidate O’Rourke is taking on incumbent Abbott in the November general election. Both have raised millions of dollars so far. by By Carla Astudillo and Eric Lau | TEXASTRIBUNE.ORG | July 19, 2022, 8 hours ago
- MIKE: This is a very granular article. I’ll admit to doing some cherry-picking here …
- Beto O’Rourke outraised Greg Abbott by almost $4 million: O’Rourke received 724,082 donations compared to Abbott’s 202,352 donations. Abbott has roughly twice as much cash on hand than O’Rourke does.
Cash on hand
- A greater percentage of Greg Abbott’s total amount raised came from within Texas compared to Beto O’Rourke’s total: O’Rourke received 332,586 in-state donations totaling $24.4 million compared to 92,859 in-state donations worth $30.9 million for Abbott: Greg Abbott 83% vs. Beto O’Rourke 60%
- Almost half of the total money raised by Beto O’Rourke came from small-dollar donations: O’Rourke received 707,480 small-dollar donations totaling $19.5 million. Greg Abbott brought in 196,333 small-dollar donations worth $5.9 million. Small-dollar donations are worth $200 or less.
- Because Texas doesn’t have limits on contribution amounts, rich and powerful people can cut massive checks to campaigns.
- The Cause of the Crime Wave Is Hiding in Plain Sight; When the speed of repercussions drops, society loses a key deterrent against unlawful behavior. By Alec MacGillis | The Atlantic and ProPublica | July 19, 2022, 5 AM ET
- MIKE: I’ve heavily excerpted this for length and focus from a 6-page article and changed the viewpoint to 3rd
- … Criminologists have offered several explanations for the increase [in violent crime], including the rise in gun sales early in the pandemic, changes in police behavior following the protests over the murder of George Floyd, and the social disruptions caused by closures of schools and interruptions in social services. But many people who work in criminal justice are zeroing in on another possible factor—the extended shutdown of so much of the court system, the institution at the heart of public order.
- This could have led to more violence in a number of ways. Prosecutors confronted with a growing volume of cases decided not to take action against certain suspects, who went on to commit other crimes. Victims or witnesses became less willing to testify as time passed and their memories of events grew foggy, weakening cases against perpetrators. Suspects were denied substance-abuse treatment or other services that they would normally have accessed through the criminal-justice system, with dangerous consequences.
- Above all, experts say, the shutdowns undermined the promise that crimes would be promptly punished. The theory that “swift, certain, and fair” consequences deter crimes is credited to the late criminologist Mark Kleiman. The idea is that it’s the speed of repercussions, rather than their severity, that matters most. By putting the justice system on hold for so long, many jurisdictions weakened that effect. In some cases, people were left to seek street justice in the absence of institutional justice. As Reygan Cunningham, a senior partner at the California Partnership for Safe Communities, put it, closing courts sent “a message that there are no consequences, and there is no help.”
- Many courts around the country still aren’t operating at full capacity, and law-and-order types aren’t the only ones concerned. Defense attorneys and members of the progressive prosecutor movement are worried too. The Sixth Amendment guarantees defendants a speedy trial, but many have been sitting in jail for months on end. “A lot of the Constitution has been kind of glossed over,” Doug Wilber, a public defender in Albuquerque, told me. …
- [In] Wichita, Kansas, authorities had worried from early in the pandemic about the effect of closing courtrooms. …
- Violence had surged in the spring and early summer of 2020, as it had in so many other cities. Wichita police saw a sharp rise in drive-by shootings. And officials noticed something else, said then–police chief Gordon Ramsay: Many suspects arrested in the shootings were defiant, suggesting that nothing would come of the charges against them because the pandemic had shut down most of the court system. Defendants were, as a result, disinclined to take a plea deal. Why plead guilty to avoid a trial when no trials were happening anyway? …
- Albuquerque [NM] had struggled with court backlogs and jail overcrowding long before the pandemic. …
- In 2019, the district attorney’s office put out a glossy report that stressed the importance of accelerating the workings of the criminal-justice system. “Speed is the best deterrent,” the report stated. “Through continually improved processes to swiftly intervene by initiating cases quickly, we are seeing a sustained drop in crime.” Accompanying this was a graph showing a sharp decline in overall crime since 2017.
- But then came the pandemic and the courthouse closures. …
- For Adolfo Mendez, the chief of policy and planning for the district attorney’s office, the consequence of this falloff was plain. A person charged with a crime, he told me, “doesn’t see any consequence of it. They’re released back into the community.”
- In Albuquerque, as elsewhere, the new constraints worried defense lawyers too. Wilber, the public defender, was concerned about the “dehumanizing” effect of defendants having to appear remotely, over Zoom, for their preliminary examinations or detention hearings. When defendants appeared on a video feed from jail, he feared, judges were more inclined to keep them there. “It’s human nature: It’s easy to remain with the default,” he told me. “They’re already sitting in jail, so why not just stay there?”
- Wilber also worried about how COVID restrictions limited defendants’ access to their lawyers, and that the backlogs were giving judges and prosecutors an excuse to push past due-process protections once cases finally did get to the front of the line, to keep things moving as fast as possible. “At first, it was about safety and public health,” he said of the backlog, “but from our angle, it started to feel like an excuse, an easy way to do away with a lot of protections.” …
- As the nationwide homicide rate continued to increase in 2021, Wichita managed to buck the trend: Homicides there declined that year, to 54, a drop of 9 percent from the year before. Countless factors probably contributed, but local officials are convinced that their ability to get the courts running played a role. …
- In an interview in late April, the district attorney, Nancy O’Malley … had little doubt that [Covid-related] court constraints had played a role in the rise in crime in Oakland [CA], which last year saw homicides jump to 134, its highest tally since 2006. The absence or delay of consequences for many offenders created the perception of a “lawless society,” she [said].
- In Seattle, the backlog of felony cases in the King County Superior Court stood at 4,800 in May, about 50 percent above pre-pandemic averages, after the court repeatedly suspended jury trials, including early this year, during the spread of the Omicron variant. Seattle has also experienced a sharp rise in violent crime. The number of shootings last year, both fatal and nonfatal, was up 78 percent over 2019.
- [T]he director of the county’s Department of Public Defense, Anita Khandelwal, … offered a contrary view: She said that the solution to the backlogs was not simply to try to push through as many cases as quickly as possible. Prosecutors, she said, should rethink whether it was really necessary to bring so many cases in the first place, and should divert more people accused of nonviolent crimes into alternative, community-based resolution programs.
- Back in Albuquerque, Mendez, in the district attorney’s office, said he could see the case for such rethinking, but legislators would have to take that on. For his office, the immediate challenge remained working through a backlog that now had prosecutors facing a typical caseload of 80 felonies each, up from 50 pre-pandemic. …
- ANDREW: First, I don’t believe in deterrents, I believe in removing motivators, & Adolfo Mendez has it wrong– charged but not convicted shouldn’t have consequences. But good point about Sixth Amendment rights, and judges still decide many prison alternatives. Closed courts mean no legal closure, just, unjust, or in between. But COVID is still real, though Zoom trials have status quo bias. Maybe defendants should be allowed to call in from home instead of pretrial detention.
- MIKE: I think deterrence can have value. There are people who don’t do bad things mainly because they don’t want to be caught and pay consequences; or at least, they want the odds to favor them not being caught if they do bad things. If being caught is unlikely to have consequences, they may factor that in as well.
- Fond du Lac and Grand Portage Ojibwe Tribes File Suit Against EPA; By Darren Thompson | NATIVENEWSONLINE.NET | July 18, 2022
- On July 14, the Fond du Lac and Grand Portage Bands of Lake Superior Chippewa filed a lawsuit in federal court against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), citing the Clean Water Act. The lawsuit argues that the EPA approved recommendations by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) to lower water quality standards, after tribes in Minnesota and the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe voiced against lowering the quality of water. …
- The Tribes contend that the new standards are less protective and pose a threat to Northern Minnesota’s waters, which threatens animal and plant life, including wild rice. The changes eliminate a numeric system for tracking pollutants and relies instead on a “narrative summary.” …
- [Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa’s Secretary and Treasure [sic] April McCormick] shared that in consultation with the MPCA that wild rice, and protecting it, wasn’t considered, but soybeans, hay, strawberries, and other plants that are considered commercial agricultural commodities were. …
- Last fall, Native News Online reported that Minnesota Governor Tim Walz and Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan, an enrolled citizen of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe, hosted a signing ceremony for Executive Order 19-24. The order codifies consultation with Minnesota’s Tribal governments and requires state agencies to develop and maintain ongoing consultation with the tribes on matter that have implications with tribes. …
- ANDREW: To me, the MN Exec Order means the tribes should have been consulted and even had veto rights. In general, lowering water quality standards is a bad idea. US standards are lower than a lot of the world. The public should push back against lower water quality, including supporting the tribes in this case.
- European nations are asked to cut their use of natural gas 15 percent until next spring; COM | July 20, 2022
- To avoid energy shortages that would stall economic growth and leave households cold in the winter as Russia weaponizes its gas exports, European countries should immediately start rationing use of the fuel, the European Commission said on Wednesday, and cut their use 15 percent until next spring.
- If the bloc’s 27 member countries agree to adopt the plan and the new legislation that goes with it, it would solidify the sense that Europe’s economy is on war footing because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The proposal would grant the Commission, the bloc’s executive arm, powers to force member nations to follow a strict plan of energy consumption cuts as of this summer.
- “Months before the war broke out, Russia kept gas supply intentionally as low as possible despite the high gas prices,” the Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, told the news media on Wednesday.
- “Russia is blackmailing us. Russia is using energy as a weapon,” she said.
- Public opinion is split over whether supporting Ukraine is worth the sacrifice, with some people saying they are ready to take a bigger hit to keep up resistance to Russia and others saying the war would hurt them more than they are willing to accept.
- Europeans, especially those living in the bloc’s wealthiest regions in the north and west, are among the world’s richest people on average, and are not accustomed to hardships like keeping houses cold in the winter.
- Still, European fatigue with the war may be overstated. A poll in Germany last week found that only 22 percent wanted their government to curb support to Ukraine to bring down energy prices; 70 percent of respondents said they wanted the German government to continue strongly backing Ukraine despite the economic fallout. …
- ANDREW: I don’t blame the EU for this move. There aren’t any gas sanctions (yet), but there’s so much animosity from other sanctions that it wouldn’t surprise me if Russia stopped trading gas with the EU. I still think sanctions should be lifted as a precursor to peace talks, but this move makes sense.
- EU signs new gas deal as fears grow over Russian supplies cutoff; By Silvia Amaro (@Silvia_Amaro) | cnbc.com | Published Mon, Jul 18 2022, 7:19 AM EDT, Updated Mon, Jul 18 202211:49 AM EDT
- The EU signed a new gas deal with Azerbaijan on Monday, as officials scramble to secure future supplies amid growing fears about a Russian cutoff.
- European officials have been preparing for a potential complete shutdown of gas supplies from Russia in the wake of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. Russia has for several years been Europe’s most important source of natural gas, but there’s now a firm push by Brussels to reverse this.
- European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Europe’s energy chief, Kadri Simson, were in Azerbaijan on Monday to finalize the deal. In a statement, the commission said Azerbaijan had committed to delivering at least 20 billion cubic meters to the EU annually by 2027.
- Azerbaijan was already on track to increase it deliveries to the region. …
- Russia has denied it is using gas as a weapon against the West, however supplies have fallen by more than 60% in recent weeks. In addition, the shutdown of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline — a crucial transit point of Russian gas to Germany and beyond — for maintenance work has added to concerns that Moscow could potentially end its supplies of gas to the bloc altogether.
- Azerbaijan, which borders Georgia, Turkey, Armenia, Russia, Iran and the Caspian Sea, started exporting natural gas to Europe via the Trans Adriatic Pipeline at the end of 2020. At the time, Azerbaijan said it planned to send 10 billion cubic meters of gas to Europe every year, mostly to Italy, but also to Greece and Bulgaria.
- The International Energy Agency noted in March that there could be a role for Azerbaijan to play as Europe looks to reduce its gas imports from Russia. …
- Russia plans to annex territory it controls in Ukraine, a U.S. official says; COM | July 20, 2022
- Russia is taking steps toward annexing parts of Ukraine it controls “in direct violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty,” a top U.S. national security official warned on Tuesday, including installing proxy officials expected to call “sham” votes on joining Russia and forcing residents to apply for Russian citizenship. …
- [John Kirby of the National Security Council] said at a White House press briefing] that there was “ample evidence in the intelligence and in the public domain” of Russia’s unfolding efforts, which include installing the ruble as the national currency in the areas it intends to annex, just as it did in Crimea. Areas that may be in Russia’s annexation plan, he said, include Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, and the provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk, which make up the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine.
- In 2014, Russian forces invaded Crimea and Mr. Putin annexed it after newly installed officials hastily organized a referendum on secession that was reported to have secured the support of 97 percent of voters, drawing international accusations of fraud. …
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