Monday, July 16, 2018

The "public" meeting about the Maintenance Shed where only five members of the public were invited

Marinwood CSD Director sent out only five invitations to the public for a required public forum on the Marinwood CSD Maintenance Facility.  He describes it as an "update" in the posted agenda but it was a full presentation by Bill Hansell, Architect and Former CSD Board Member detailing the plans.

In 2017,  many people attended a presentation on the proposed maintenance shed.  The CSD was surprised that the public did not agree to their plan and hid the meeting in April 2018 in violation of Brown Act laws and the spirit of democracy.

Who does the Marinwood CSD board think they are?  Why does the CSD Manager hide such a major project from the public?  Bill Hansell, Architect was on the board when Eric Dreikosen was hired.  Is this Quid pro Quo?

Many questions need to be answered.  The Marinwood CSD has not even established a budget for this project but expects it to exceed $200,000 plus architects fees. A utilitarian prefab structure can be purchased for as little as $10,000 installed.

What is going on at the Marinwood CSD?

A Practical Garage saves time, space and money

This 30' x 70' x 12' prefab shed costs around $32,157. INSTALLED and is far more work friendly than the Marinwood CSD shed at ten times the price. Vehicle access is easy. It is more than adequate to house Marinwood CSD's Ford F250, 2 golf cart utility vehicles, a lawnmower and a tractor.  There is plenty of space for tools and a work area. Toxic emissions from vehicle traffic won't infiltrate the office as in the Marinwood CSD design.  There is no wasted space and it take up less room than the massive compound that Marinwood CSD proposes.  In fact, virtually EVERY MARIN COUNTY government agency uses this type of facility for its parks department.

Sunday, July 15, 2018



A WOLF prowling near a village one evening met a Dog. It happened to be a very lean and bony Dog, and Master Wolf would have turned up his nose at such meager fare had he not been more hungry than usual. So. he began to edge toward the Dog, while the Dog backed away.

"Let me remind your lordship," said the Dog, his words interrupted now and then as he dodged a snap of the Wolf's teeth, "how unpleasant it would be to eat me [49] now. Look at my ribs. I am nothing but skin and bone. But let me tell you something in private. In a few days my master will give a wedding feast for his only daughter. You can guess how fine and fat I will grow on the scraps from the table. Then is the time to eat me."

The Wolf could not help thinking how nice it would be to have a fine fat Dog to eat instead of the scrawny object before him. So he went away pulling in his belt and promising to return.

Some days later the Wolf came back for the promised feast. He found the Dog in his master's yard, and asked him to come out and be eaten.

"Sir," said the Dog, with a grin, "I shall be delighted to have you eat me. I'll be out as soon as the porter opens the door."

But the "porter" was a huge Dog whom the Wolf knew by painful experience to be very unkind toward wolves. So he decided not to wait and made off as fast as his legs could carry him.

Do not depend on the promises of those whose interest it is to deceive you.

Sunday Morning Music

Saturday, July 14, 2018

RWQCB boardmember thanks Marinwood Citizens for persisting for FULL CLEAN UP at Marinwood Plaza

Blue Man Group Tiny Desk Concert

Should Marinwood build a new Community room with shipping containers like this?

shigeru ban: onagawa temporary container housing + community center

Following the earthquake in march 2011, japanese practice shigeru ban architects conceived and implemented ‘onagawa temporary container housing’ along with a community center and atelier within the town of onagawa in the miyagi prefecture of japan. offering families privacy during the recovery, the firm initially embarked upon installing 1800 units of their 2 meter by 2 meter emergency partition system within 50 evacuation facilities. during the process, they learned about the state of the town of onagawa and their difficulties to provide temporary shelter due to the lack of flat land.

To resolve the geographical location’s terrain, a proposal for a three-storey structural framework to allow the stacking of 20 foot shipping containers in a checkerboard fashion. this alternating arrangement allows for airy and open living spaces with built-in shelves and closets for storage, a missing element within the temporary houses issued by the government. since many areas share similar landscape characteristics, these buildings may be constructed in many disaster situations and continue to be used as a long term residential solution due to their excellent seismic performance. three variations are formed by the placement of units, forming a 19.8 square meter unit for 1 to 2 individuals, 29.7 m2 for 3 to 4 inhabitants and 39.6 square meter residences accommodating more than 4 dwellers.

Community center perimeter formed with shipping containers image © hiroyuki hirai

A community center and market are centrally located in the complex, offering a gathering space for community members. the center’s walls are formed with white shipping containers and are capped with a plywood gable roof. triangulated clerestory windows introduce natural daylight into the interior. the area for the food market is formed with a ring of containers and a tentsile roof protects from changing weather.

Gable roof of plywood encloses the space image © hiroyuki hirai
Editor's Note. I love the clean, simple design.  This could work for a community room or even the new maintenance shed.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

RWQCB PCE Cleanup hearing for Prosperity Cleaners on 4/11/2017

The California Regional Water Quality Control Board has a hearing to amend the Remediation Action Plan for Prosperity Cleaners in San Rafael, CA 94903. Representatives for Marinwood Plaza, Inc (discharger) the public and affected property owners speak.

Order of Presentation RWQCB - Ralph Lambert presents Staff comments Marinwood Plaza, LLC , Geologica Silveira Ranches Hanson Brigett, St Vincents (Catholic Charities) Clean Up Marinwood Plaza Now Committee, Board Question and Answers. Total time appx 2 hours

Why the poor pay $4,150 for a $1,500 sofa

Rental America: Why the poor pay $4,150 for a $1,500 sofa

No credit, no cash, no bank account? There’s still a place to go shopping, but it comes at a price.

October 16 at 7:56 PM

CULLMAN, Ala. — The love seat and sofa that Jamie Abbott can’t quite afford ended up in her double-wide trailer because of the day earlier this year when she and her family walked into a new store called Buddy’s. Abbott had no access to credit, no bank account and little cash, but here was a place that catered to exactly those kinds of customers. Anything could be hers. The possibilities — and the prices — were dizzying.
At Buddy’s, a used 32-gigabyte, early model iPad costs $1,439.28, paid over 72 weeks. An Acer laptop: $1,943.28, in 72 weekly installments. A Maytag washer and dryer: $1,999 over 100 weeks.
Abbott wanted a love seat-sofa combo, and she knew it might rip her budget. But this, she figured, was the cost of being out of options. “You don’t get something like that just to put more burden on yourself,” Abbott said.
Five years into a national economic recovery that has further strained the poor working class, an entire industry has grown around handing them a lifeline to the material rewards of middle-class life. Retailers in the post-Great Recession years have become even more likely to work with customers who don’t have the money upfront, instead offering a widening spectrum of payment plans that ultimately cost far more and add to the burdens of life on the economy’s fringes.
The poor today can shop online, paying in installments, or walk into traditional retailers such as Kmart that now offer in-store leasing. The most striking change in the world of low-income commerce has been the proliferation of rent-to-own stores such as Buddy’s Home Furnishings, which has been opening a new store every week, largely in the South.
In some ways, the business harkens back to the subprime boom of the early 2000s, when lenders handed out loans to low-income borrowers with little credit history. But while people in those days were charged perhaps an interest rate of 5 to 10 percent, at rental centers the poor find themselves paying effective annual interest rates of more than 100 percent. With business models such as “rent-to-own,” in which transactions are categorized as leases, stores like Buddy’s can avoid state usury laws and other regulations.
And yet low-income Americans increasingly have few other places to turn. “Congratulations, You are Pre-Approved,” Buddy’s says on its Web site, and the message plays to America’s bottom 40 percent. This is a group that makes less money than it did 20 years ago, a group increasingly likely to string together paychecks by holding multiple part-time jobs with variable hours.
It’s a group whose jobs, not so long ago, were more secure and better-paying; they could pay cash at Wal-Mart and had access to more affordable credit. But today, with the excesses of the subprime boom leading conventional banks to stay away from low-income borrowers, it can be their only option. Compared with pre-recession highs, the riskiest borrowers have been all but cut off from access to big loans, like mortgages, experts say.
“Basically, the market pulled back from all low-income borrowers instead of trying to figure out how to serve them,” said Michael Barr, a University of Michigan law professor and author of “No Slack: The Financial Lives of Low-Income Americans.”
Nobody wants to buy items for amounts two or three times what they’d cost at a retail store. But when Abbott did her shopping in February, she didn’t have the money to make even a small lump-sum payment for anything of decent quality, even on Craigslist. She couldn’t buy via a layaway plan; Wal-Mart offers that option only during the holiday season. Perhaps she could have saved up the money on her own, but whenever she has tried to do so, her stash has been wiped out to handle daily needs.
“Rent-to-own was basically all we could do,” Abbott, 33, said.
So Abbott and her husband walked into Buddy’s this past winter, hoping to replace the old sofa in their trailer, six years old, its wiring poking through the bottom, cutting gashes into the living room floor.
Their decision to spring for a new sofa set was, if anything, a bet on the most optimistic arc for their family. Donald was getting regular work, sometimes making $500 in a week, paid by the load to haul pureed chicken guts — used for pet food — to factories across the South. If he could keep up the pace, they’d be okay.
Inside Buddy’s, Abbott walked over to a brown Ashley Furniture model, something she and her husband agreed would fit the colors of their Buccaneer trailer. The love seat had a cup-holder console in the middle and the cushions were plush, and when they took turns testing the feel, they realized it could pivot like a rocking chair.
“I about died when I saw that,” Abbott said months later.
By the next day, the Abbotts had a remade living room, two companion pieces, both of the same blended material, 17 percent leather. The love seat and sofa retailed, together, for about $1,500. Abbott would pay for hers over two years, though she still had paying the option to pay monthly or weekly. The total price if paid weekly: $4,158.

‘I’ve never seen a customer base or an economy like this’

A rent-to-own store provides a front-row seat to observe the bottom of the economy. It is here, at the Buddy’s in Cullman, where customers first gamble that they can handle the payments, even as the new weekly or monthly installments lessen their slack. And it is here where those gambles play out, as customers persist or falter in keeping up with what they owe.
Some persist. The Iraq war veteran who comes in — walking past the camouflage armchairs and bank of flat-screen TVs — with envelopes of cash. The hairdresser who says that if it’s a bad pay week, “I give Buddy’s what I have.” The 37-year-old grandmother who says that pretty much everything in her house comes from this store.
Most falter. At the Buddy’s in Cullman, some 75 percent of items are returned or repossessed within weeks of the transaction, store manager Angela Shutt says. And nationally, the percentage of returns has been gradually ticking upward — a sign of growing struggles for lower-income workers, said Joe Gazzo, the president of Buddy’s.
“I’ve never seen a customer base or an economy like this,” Gazzo said in a telephone interview from the company’s headquarters in Tampa. “You may have five people open an account in a day, but five people return in a day. You almost become like a Blockbuster.”
Buddy’s and its larger competitors, Aaron’s and Rent-A-Center, are criticized by some consumer advocates for predatory strategies. Items are labeled with a buy-at-once “cash price” and an installment price, the weekly payments given the largesttype size. In Cullman, Buddy’s employees pinfliers — “Own it faster for less!” — inside the doors at trailer parks and government housing complexes.
But those in the industry say they offer a legitimate service to an easy-to-overlook customer base. Customers who can’t make the payments face no penalty; because they start out as renters, not owners, they don’t face debts or credit damage if they make a return.
The Cullman store is one of Buddy’s best performers, and the five employees there empathize with their customers. Derek Bland, who drives around the county repossessing items from derelict renters, just left a job at Papa John’s. Brandy Day, one of the saleswomen, winces when talking about the jewelry that Buddy’s keeps near the register. “Take away a 42-inch TV from somebody, that’s one thing,” Day says. “But a wedding ring?”
Buddy’s rapid expansion was rooted in the economic crisis. As recently as 2007, Buddy’s — private, family-run — was essentially a Florida-based company. But as the first mortgages starting going bust, Buddy’s saw 6,000 products returned over several weeks, Gazzo said. The initial goal of expansion, Gazzo said, was less about domination than survival: Buddy’s wanted to get away from Florida, the epicenter of the real estate bubble.
The company found itself with a thriving strategy almost by accident. On a Web site for potential franchise owners, Buddy’s says that many customers who had access to subprime loans before the recession now are “unable to obtain traditional financing and therefore remain within the [rent-to-own] customer base.”
In 2008, Buddy’s had 80 stores. Now it has 204. By 2017 it wants to have 500. Gazzo said that company revenue is rising at double-digit levels annually, even as it contends with a new wave of rent-to-own Web sites.
“The industry as a whole is in the biggest fight we’ve had, because we have to compete with everybody,” Gazzo said. “And the customer doesn’t have as much money as they used to.”

‘I don’t know how we’ll make it’

Abbott has spent eight months now with the sofa set, and some days, she can shrug off the costs. She’ll sink into the cushions just before her kids get out of school and say she wouldn’t trade the feeling “for a million bucks.” Normal families have sofas, she says, and you’ll do what it takes to feel normal.
But other days, like this one, a recent Thursday, the trade-offs felt more intense. It was a payday, and Donald called a toll-free number before sunrise to see how much was left on the family’s prepaid H&R Block debit card.
“Two hundred and thirty dollars,” he heard the automated voice say , and that number represented his latest weekly paycheck — the family’s total balance, and all they’d have for a week. Abbott and Donald smoked a cigarette in the bathroom and sorted through the grim math. It was less than they were used to, but sickness and an oversupply of drivers had left Donald with the shrunken paycheck.
Already, they’d taken out their last $1,500 in savings, putting two-thirds toward a new fuel pump for their sputtering Ford and one-third to Buddy’s for back payments. Some weeks, they couldn’t pay their cellphone bills. They hadn’t eaten out in two months.
They were perpetually behind with their Buddy’s installments and had taken to skipping one week and then catching up, with a $5 late fee rolled in. To make matters worse, those payment trips to Buddy’s put them eye to eye with more temptations. One week, they added a smartphone to their order. Another week, some Samsung speakers. And suddenly, the weekly payments to Buddy’s were $110.
And on weeks such as this, those payments had become unimaginable, especially with the $598.99 monthly mortgage payment on their trailer.
“I don’t know how we’ll make it,” Abbott said, and every solution came with a problem. Return the sofa? Sure, but she’d burn the money she’d already put into it and leave her living room with a hole. Find work? She’s tried, but neither Wal-Mart nor Jack’s nor the nursing home cafeteria have shown interest in an applicant with psoriasis and a ninth-grade education. Hope and wait? Maybe Donald could get more work driving his “gut truck” — say, two cross-state hauls in a day, rather than one — but that was up to his employer.
By midday that Thursday, $51 of the $230 had already vanished, used for gas and cigarettes, and Abbott headed to Wal-Mart looking to spend as little as possible on groceries. She grabbed a 12-pack of ramen, some hot-dog buns and bumped into a friend, Rachel Bryant, in the Halloween aisle.
“You look tired,” Bryant said.
“My sugar levels are out of whack,” Abbott said.
Bryant nodded and then Abbott went quiet, dabbing her eyes.
“I’ve held it in all day long,” she said, choking out the words.
She got out of Wal-Mart having spent just $11.18 and headed back to her car, still with several more hours before she had to pick up her kids, make dinner and think about how to stretch her money for another six days.
“We’ve always talked about the benefits and costs,” she said on the drive home. “Because with a family you can’t just say, ‘I want this, I’m going to get it.’ But growing up having the chair, the recliner, the love seat, the couch and everything, you just get used to the normal stuff. Sometimes it’s hard to break from the normal stuff and get to reality.”


Journalism in a Surveillance State. "How can we have a free press?"