Monday, October 31, 2005

Big Money, No Whammies

This just in---some much needed cash has just rolled into our coffers.

When our developer's girl friend sold her unit, the special assessment that we leavied for the porches was not paid upon closing. As a result, the new owner was now saddled with the debt of over $4,600.00.

Being a first time home owner and completely new to the process she was not happy when we introduced ourselves in one breath and asked her where the special assessment money was with the other. Nobody like to make a money grubbing first impression on a new neighbor but business is business.

Being the helpful neighbors that we are, we proceeded to advise her on how she should go about to get the special assessment money that was in escrow. While it took a little time, our new neighbor was finally successful in her efforts.

All of this started in late July. The money just got released last Wednesday. Seeing that our loan payments start tomorrow (11/1) this news couldn't of come at a better time.

Sunday, October 30, 2005


The lawn is showing signs of coming back from my fertilizer debacle. Sprigs of green are showing through the burned part. Never underestimate the restorative power of water.

No we don't have the permits for the porch yet. Our intake meeting with DCAP is on November 10th.

Our third foreclosure happens on Wednesday.


It's The Principle, People

One of my friends recently asked me why I didn’t sell my place and end this drama.

While it’s easiest to turn tail and run, not only can’t I sell but I’m not going to back down from my unethical developer.

Silly me to think it’s unreasonable to assume that the electric in a newly rehabbed condo is grounded and that the back porches aren’t a death trap. I’m such a goose.

Honestly, who in God’s name is going to buy into an association with major infrastructure problems, a low reserve, a special assessment (with another possibly on the way) in an emerging neighborhood? While I truly believe in the potential of this neighborhood other people don’t exactly get it---they’ll jump on the bandwagon later as soon as we get a Starbucks and a Target.

You know---kind of like all of these new “life long” White Sox fans that litter the Chicago landscape these days.

Everybody loves a winner but few are willing to stick around during the lean years.

Additionally, our developer was required by specific rules to construct our building up to code. There is no way that we should be going through this drama less than three years after the association was turned over. Not only do I believe that he’s clearly in the wrong but his irresponsibility and mismanagement is costing all of us money.

Even if I could sell I wouldn’t---it’s just the principle of the thing.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

My mother worked as the Program Director at a church run camp in rural south western Michigan for about five years.

As young children both my sister and I attended the camp which obviously heightened her interest in both their curriculum and activities. One look at the place and she found it lacking in both form and substance. Naturally being a doer instead of a complainer she pitched for and was later named Program Director.

Her title basically carried all of the responsibility of planning and executing the camp's religious instruction, sports, activities and social functions without getting the pay of the Executive Director. Might I add the Executive Director though a nice lady was a tad on the lazy side. My mother ever being the educator and deeply caring about children didn't so much care that she wasn't being fairly compensated but that kids had a safe environment to camp.

After turning around that little hole in the lake, how do you think they repaid her? After all those years of loyal service and progress what do you think the camp's board of director's did?

They gave her the bum's rush. Showed her the door. See ya' sister, nice knowin' you. Peace out!

Her contract wasn't renewed at our church's district convention. She was essentially told, "Thank you for taking the camp to a whole new level, protecting us from lawsuits and generally making the place a better experience for the campers and staff---now get the hell out."

Mama was not a political creature. Woe unto you if you were standing in the way of the welfare of the camp or a child. The ensuing carnage was enough to make Stephen King wince. This didn't happen often but when it did---yowsa!

This is not the way to win friends and influence people.

My mother cried when her father died, when our first house was sold out from underneath us and when those people betrayed her.

Other than those three instances, I can't really tell you when I saw her cry when I was a child.

I also tend to err on the side of right instead of being politically cautious. I apparently come by it naturally. It's nice to know that while I care deeply about many issues, that I won't be the ringmaster of the three ring circus known as politics.

For some reason, the American people tend to think that politicians shouldn't have a past and should (practically) be virgins.

I am neither.

Even though I wouldn't of voted for Senatorial Republican candidate Jack Ryan I think small minded people forced him out of the race simply because he wanted to have more than vanilla sex with his wife.

Let's tick off the list:
Curly Hair
Republican on the outside, John Holmes on the inside.

Where can I sign up for the Christian jubilee?

I mean if a rich, White man can't catch a break; what will the American public do when they find my stash of DVD’s?

But I digress---my point is that I'm not a political person.

All of this begs the question, will I manage to get re-elected to the board next month?

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Rosa Parks

As I wrote last week, I went ahead and officially lodged a fraud complaint with both the Attorney General's office of the State of Illinois and the City of Chicago's Department of Consumer Affairs. Quite frankly, I have a feeling I'm about to get a metaphorical middle finger in my (our) search for justice and more importantly, restitution.

From what I've been hearing, there are no specific laws governing shoddy developers. Or should I say there are no specific laws governing shoddy developers that have any muscle in them. As all of us have known for quite a while we may be shit out of luck in the short run. I do plan on getting copies to both U.S. Senators, my U.S. Congressman, my State Senator, State Representative, and Alderman.

If the laws don't address such important issues, perhaps it's time to get them changed.

I'm not sitting on the back of the bus.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Bonus Plan

I've gone ahead a made multiple posts today for your weekend reading enjoyment. The next three days will be too packed with sports and working to even attempt to get anything uploaded.

Have an enjoyable weekend and root out evil developers wherever you find them.


I've Gone And Done It--Part III---The Friday Bonus

This is the last part of my letter to the Illinois Attorney General's Office and the Chicago Department of Consumer Services:

The City of Chicago and the State of Illinois use all means within their legally vested powers to hold XXXX financially and legally accountable for the damages he has caused the XXXX Condominium Association which may include:

Remove the outstanding judgment against the XXXX Condominium Association and have the debt transferred back to Mr. Knight.

Send a summons to XXXX Bank and XXXX Bank to discover any possible assets (including trusts) of Mr. XXXX and freeze them pending the possible outcome of pending litigation.

Put liens against any real property Mr. XXXX holds in the City of Chicago and Cook County.

Ban Mr. XXXX or any corporations or property development business he may have an interest in from doing business in the City of Chicago.

The XXXX Condominium Association is reimbursed $81,000 to repay the loan for the construction of our new porches and any future loans or costs associated with Mr. XXXX’s mismanagement or negligence.

All developers in the City of Chicago and the State of Illinois be bonded against latent defects in their developments up to $1,000,000.

I trust that the City’s knowledge about this nightmarish situation can bring about a much needed change.


The Woodlawn Wonder

Cc: Illinois Attorney General’s Office---Fraud Division
Senator Richard Durbin
Senator Barack Obama
Congressman Bobby Rush
State Representative Kwame Raoul
State Senator Barbara Flynn Currie
Alderman Leslie A. Hairston

I've Gone And Done It---Part II

Part two of my cover letter to the Illinois Attorney General's and the Department of Consumer Services for the City of Chicago:

Despite his questionable and deeply troubling development of our association, Mr. XXXX has demonstrated that he is not concerned with any of the current consequences that any municipality or corporation can bring against him.

In the section titled “Open Cases” the cases that the city has filed against him is staggering. If I were to venture a guess, I would suspect that a majority of them may concern either the management or development of a property. While I can’t begin to second guess Mr. XXXX’s state of mind, it may be safe to surmise that the reason these

cases are of little concern to him may be the financial penalties assigned aren’t enough motivation for him to do the right thing.

In short, up to this point, Mr. XXXX has little reason to fear the City of Chicago.

In the section titled “Judgment” a debt that Mr. XXXX incurred for non-management of a building 79th & Colfax became our responsibility when the our association was cited as a third party defendant. In addition to being our developer, Mr. XXXX was also our condominium president from 2002-2004 and the registered agent for the association from our inception until 2004. The paperwork I assembled will show that despite the fact that these legal proceedings had started prior to our association being formed, Mr. XXXX was in receipt of registered mail about this situation. He never once notified anyone on the board about this issue. Even though he was our registered agent, to the best of my knowledge he was never a paid employee of the XXXX Condominium Association.

The debt that started out at $2,550 in 2001 has now grown to almost $4,500. It would seem that Mr. XXXX did not act in the best interests and in a fiduciary manner concerning the welfare of the association.

Also note that the first page of the “Judgment” section is from the most recent bankruptcy filing of Mr. XXXX. I secured this information by going to the bankruptcy clerk’s office at the Dirksen Federal Building. The social security number cited on that document is XXX-XX-XXXX. If you look at what appears to be the social security number on the documents concerning the judgment for the Colfax building, you’ll see that the number is XXX-XX-XXXX.

It also appears that in the multiple bankruptcy filings that Mr. XXXX has filed over the past 10-15 years, several companies---including utilities---have come out with little more than a debt incurred by Mr. XXXX and no repayment.

From my personal dealing with XXXX and by the paperwork that I have gathered, it’s not difficult to see that he is well versed cutting corners and evading financial and legal responsibility. What continues to puzzles me is the following:

How can a man who has questionable business practices at best be allowed to call himself a developer?

What qualifications, if any, does the city of Chicago require for any person to call themselves a developer? If I can’t cut someone open with a scalpel and call myself a doctor, why can any individual just call themselves a developer?

Why are there no central resource to allow both the city and interested consumers to check on the accreditations or violations of developers

Why was Mr. XXXX allowed to apply for and receive construction permits despite the number of open violations on all three buildings?

Additionally, why didn’t the city follow up with its permit process by at least inspecting the building for which the permit was pulled?

Why didn’t the lack of occupancy permit set off a red flag?

How did permits get issued in 2001 when there were open violations in 2000?

Why aren’t engineering firms be held liable for the property reports that they issue? If CEO’s and CIO’s of large publicly traded companies have to sign off on the accuracy of their finances, why are engineering companies any less liable for the safety and habitability of someone’s home?

Why are there seemingly little protections for the consumer when purchasing a condominium in the city of Chicago and the State of Illinois? Why is the onus put on the consumer---in many cases a first time home buyer---to prove they didn’t know about latent defects? If there specific lemon laws for cars, why can’t there be one for homes?

Will it take a death of a person before someone on the governmental level responds to these loopholes? Mr. XXXX is fully aware that we cannot even begin to pay a law firm to pursue these matters civilly. Quite frankly we’re too busy making sure our porches don’t fall down and that we don’t burn to death in our sleep to even mount such a campaign. We only have so many financial resources and felt it best to address matters directly related to our health and safety prior to looking into litigation. Nonetheless, I believe in the power of government to protect us from individuals and entities that would egregiously take advantage of week or non-existent legislation.
How can where I eat (restaurant), nightclub entertainment, and smoking be so heavily regulated but who builds the place where I rest my head at night is not?


Now I’m not sure how this phenomenon started but all I can say is, “It’s about time!”

The University of Chicago has managed to recruit a cadre of super hot Brazilians. Words like “Thank God” and “Yowsa!” seem to escape my lips when the thought crosses my mind.

For those of you not in the know, The University of Chicago despite its super elite academic status cannot parlay that smarts into the looks department. Now granted, earlier this week I was complaining that I myself was falling down on the job. But trust me boys and girls, I clean up well---really well.

It’s different when you have something to work with and it just needs a little tweaking vs. managing to hit your face with the springboard as you dive into the gene pool.

Which, truth be told, isn’t that much of a deal breaker.

If you have something to work with---a personality, wit, a good sense of style, basic hygiene; all of that can compensate for not so stellar looks. I mean look at the late Duchess of Windsor or Eva Peron. Both weren’t winning any beauty pageants but made the most of what they had and worked it---hard. Both are now style and cultural icons.

It has been my experience that the U of C kids are 0 for 4 on most counts.

That’s why these friggin model hot Brazilian men stick out like sore thumbs.

They’re tall, they’re dark mysterious men of color, they’ve got great teeth, they’re beautiful and most of all they can hold an honest to God conversation. On top of that can you believe that they’re smart enough to get into U of C?

I mean I know all of those kids are gonna be my boss someday but at least I took comfort in the fact that I was socially superior. Now I’m not too sure if they keep on getting the hotties to come to Hyde Park.

My first encounter with the hot Brazilians was when I was hoping on the bus on a Friday evening a few weeks ago. We were both caught in the rainstorm but only one of us had their shirt on.

I hate when ridiculously hot bodied men come up to me in bus shelter and ask my permission to take their shirts off. The only thing I could think was…”Dear Penthouse, I never thought this would happen to me in a million years…”

That’s when I knew this bus ride was NOT going to suck. Plus he was impressed that I knew Brazilians spoke Portuguese, not Spanish.

I’m sure he would have been more impressed if my makeup had not been washed off in the rain.

45 minutes of wit and pleasant conversation made the usually torturous ride fly by in what seemed like seconds. Alas, he had to exit at 55th and Hyde Park Blvd. I continued on to Woodlawn.

Heavy sighs all the way around.

I've Gone And Done It---Part I

The gauntlet has been thrown down.

Today at lunch I officially lodged a complaint of fraud against my developer with the Illinois Attorney General’s office and the Department of Consumer Affairs for the City of Chicago. While I'm optimistic that this may help our situation, it may not. We'll just have to take it one step at a time.

Part I of the five page cover letter accompanying a three ring binder chock full of corroborating information reads like this:

Department of Consumer Services, City of Chicago
50 West Washington Street
Room #208
Chicago, IL 60602


Pursuant to our phone conversation, I am filing a fraud complaint against my condominium developer, XXXX. As the accompanying documentation will show, Mr. XXXX not only violated key procedural and safety regulations but he has little regard for any consequences that the city may bring.

Please also note that due to the volume of information, I have separated it into sections with the following section headers:

Porches Decs & Bylaws
Building Report Open Violations
Permits Judgment

Open Cases Electric Report

The first section is not titled but contains the original MLS listings and my purchase agreement.

As the MLS listings will show, the three buildings that comprise the Blackstone Condominium Association were marketed as a “new conversions.” If memory serves me correct, when I first saw many of the units in my building, they were torn down to the studs. The Property Report clearly makes mention of remodeling in Sect 2.02, the poor condition of the back porches in Sect 2.03 and that the existing electrical would be maintained (Sect 2.07). Unfortunately the property report and the final set of Declarations and Bylaws were never given to me prior to closing. I only obtained a set from a neighbor who closed six months after me.

The Declarations and Bylaws mention on one of its last pages that all open violations will be corrected. As you can see by the supporting documentation obtained in 2001, 2002 and 2005 that is not the case from the city’s point of view.

Additionally, Mr. XXXX only applied for what seems to be incomplete permits under the 6509 XXXX address. No mention is ever made of the 1501, 1503, 1507 & 1509 XXXX Street addresses. In my investigation, no certificate of occupancy was ever applied for.

As an association we are going into our third year after the initial turnover only to discover the true quality of the work that was done on our homes. The porch is close to crumbling and our non-grounded electrical system is an imminent threat to every resident’s health and safety.

With this incarnation of this current board, the first full board without Mr. XXXX as a member, we have been able to identify and are attempting to rectify these hazardous situations before someone gets hurt.

We have been able to secure a reputable porch contractor as well as financing to address the issue. We are simply awaiting construction permits from the city. While we would like to have this project done before the weather changes, the fact of the matter is that the current permit process can take up to four months. As an association we have made the condition of the porches known to our unit owners and residents---all we can do is cross our fingers and hope that the permits come in prior to the cold weather.

The electrical system is a much different and more dangerous story. Per the enclosed report from master electrician XXXX, our electrical is not grounded. There is substantial, life threatening issues with the construction of the complete system throughout the association.

In the rehabilitation of a property that is over the 40% construction threshold, the City of Chicago Electrical code clearly states that all of the BX conduits must be removed and the electrical system must meet or exceed its current rules and guidelines. As Mr. XXXX’s report painstakingly details, these rules and guidelines weren’t even a factor in the rehabilitation of our buildings.

We now also know that our central air conditioning and heating units are running off of a separate illegal feed from Commonwealth Edison.
(It keeps on getting better, huh?)

Ms. XXXX these are merely the serious infrastructure issues that we currently know about. I fear what discoveries the future may bring.

I’m sure there are a couple of run-on’s, comma splices and tense changes but I’m sure you all get the drift. That was merely round one of my deliveries. Next week the elected officials get a copy then I need to start to cultivate a close personal relationship with our local news hounds.

Ding, ding---game on.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

From Bad To Worse

Per my request, this letter was sent to me to foward on to our Alderman about the condition of our Porches by our vendor The Porch People:

Re: Imminently hazardous Porch conditions

Dear Ms. XXXXXX, and members of the Board:

During our recent return to the building in preparation for the temporary stabilization of the porches, our Senior Field Superintendent accompanied by our Master Carpenter determined that the association’s three (3) porches are extremely dangerous, should not be used, and may not survive this upcoming winter.

Given the above, we will plead with the City of Chicago Department of Permits (DCAP) to consider “fast-tracking” this Permit Application. We can not, however, guarantee that they will be sympathetic, given the volume of applications they process. At the same time, we urge you to perhaps contact your Alderman for assistance.

If you have not done so already, we advise that the Board post notices that strongly suggest the porches be used only as an Emergency Exit.

I will advise you of our permit application intake take, as soon as it is assigned to us by DCAP.


Project Administrator

Who, in God's name, is taking me out for drinkies? I hope those permits come in soon.

My Cross

I feel bloated AND crabby.

Being active in one’s condo association, juggling multiple jobs, being domestic and managing a social life can be a bit much. As a result, my physical appearance can sometimes drop to the low point on my list of priorities. I figures as long as I bathe and don’t smell, the pretty part can happen anytime. It’s difficult trying to make sure that your home will still be standing when you’re waiting for your nail polish to dry.

This is the cross I bear.

I’m breaking out, my hair just has a mind of it’s own. I feel like I have that “I look like a troll feeling.” You know what I’m saying…

But things are looking up

You see when I’m sitting in my seat for game one of the World Series, it won’t matter what I look like, as people won’t be focused on my visage. They’ll be too busy looking at the game.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Rock Star---Part II

You would think that someone who won 3rd place in a city wide gardening contest would know how to properly put down fertilizer.

No such luck.

I found out that after you put down the Scott's Turf Building you need to water it after a 24 hour waiting period. It didn't say that on the bag---I swear. I followed the instructions to the letter but noticed that the grass was starting to burn so I called the respository of lawn knowledge---otherwise known as my sister---to ask what I did wrong.

She told me that if I caught it early enough all I needed to do was water the grass. If not, I was going to have a fun time reseeding the lawn.


Needless to say, I'm watering the lawn everyday for the next couple of days.

I also found out that I won 3rd place in the container garden category in Mayor Daley's Landscape Awards Program. Finally some recognition of my supreme gardening skills. Now if only I can crack the Chicago Tribune's Glorious Gardening Contest I would truly be a gardening rock star.

The Tribune's contest has gotten so competitive that I think you'd have to sacrifice your first born to even get a honorable mention.

The floral arts ain't for bitches.

Friday, October 14, 2005

The Judas Kiss

Why in God’s name would you ever give someone a stick to beat you with?

That’s the question I’m going to ask one of our board members when he attempts to explain why he would give detailed financial information to our developer.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Our developer’s daughter owns a unit in our association which she rents out. From the time I bought in until now, our developer pays the assessments and I would assume handles the rest of the day to day property management issues associated with the unit.

As most of you already know, we as a board had to get tough on late assessment payers as well as people who let large balances build. If you’re late with your monthly assessments you will be assessed a $25.00 late charge. If you’re more than 60 days late with your assessments, we refer you to our lawyer to place a lien on your unit.

No ifs ands or buts. Case closed. Done deal.

We’ve already filed liens against two people and when our developer’s daughter was over 60 days late with her assessments, we filed a lien against her as well.

Our developer was not happy.

He sputtered about suing and how we’re unfairly targeting his daughter because of personal animosities towards him. Now while I’m not a fan of our developer (It’s obvious by the title, huh?), we try to do things fair and square---by the book. Everyone gets treated the same. Because if we don’t treat everyone the same, a case can be made that two levels of ownership exist.

That would smell like a lawsuit.

Anyhoo, Mr. Developer eventually has his lawyer fire off a letter proclaiming the innocence of her client, how the unit’s assessments were never more than 45 days in arrears and that his repeated requests to find out the total assessments owed went unanswered.

What a steaming load of shit.

While I expected the usual smoke and mirror from this guy, what I didn’t expect was for one of our board members to e-mail him the detailed figures that I sent to the board and two other unit owners who wanted to know the totals.

We are not the CIA---we’re not in the secret business. Our developer could have gotten the assessment totals at any time if he had simply asked the treasurer. You know---the person whose duty it is to keep tally of the money.

That would have been too simple, right?

Instead he tries to do an end run around the board and everyone who sees through his shit by communicating with his chosen one who also happens to sit on the board. While I have a ton of opinions to express about that relationship, it’s best I stick with the issue at hand.

Bottom Line: It was wrong to communicate anything to our developer without running it by the board first.

When I wear my condo board hat, I run everything---and I mean EVERYTHING---by the board prior to proceeding. Trust me, I have a folder full of e-mails and communications on everything from changing our registered agent to finding a porch contractor tucked away in a couple of e-mail accounts.

I believe in the sanctity of paper trails.

Despite the fact that this person made a serious error in judgment, my e-mail proves nothing. In fact our developer’s lawyer misunderstood the notation of having a balance to mean the account had extra money---an overage if you will. When in fact this unit owed us $54.00 from July and was then assessed a $25.00 late fee on top of that. Both August and September’s regular and special assessments were late and that unit went out to collections.

Just like everyone else.

Additionally, we need to stand together when dealing with our developer. If he had or has any questions regarding finances he should have been referred to the treasurer. We are fighting for our financial lives and trying to bring light to the fact that this man is beyond unethical. He has literally put our lives at risk. I shouldn’t have to sit down and explain that to this person. Our contact with his should be civil, matter of fact and to the point.

The fact that this board member passed this information into his hands simply adds fuel to suspicions that I’ve had for a long time.

Me’ thinks we have a rat in the woodpile.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

London Bridge Redux

Okay---I don’t think our porches are falling down. They ARE falling down.

Our vendors The Porch People came out on Monday to assess the porches for reinforcement until the permits came through. When they arrived and started looking at the condition of the porches, they gave me a sort of dumbfounded look.

A kind of “I-can’t-believe-anyone-hasn’t-gotten-seriously-hurt-or-killed-yet” kind of look.

Because we had a language barrier, they found a way to make me understand:

One of the gentlemen put his hand on a banister and simply pulled a piece off without even flexing a muscle. The chunk of wood he pulled out crumbled in his hands.

I almost started to cry.

Don’t Take It Personally

Leave it to me to stir up a hornet’s nest.

My communication about the cracks that have developed in our maintenance schedule was not received with open arms by everyone. Some people took it very personally; others simply thought the overall tone of the message was a bit too harsh.

I can only respond by saying, “Don’t shoot the messenger.”

Before I get my rant on, let me say this---I know at times I ain’t exactly no prize pig in the poke. In short, I know I can be a pain in the ass. I’m not perfect nor am I in the running to be Ms. South Side Condo Savior 2005. Nonetheless, I feel strongly not only about the sanctity of my home, but its appearance and business practices.

I simply don’t understand anyone who doesn’t feel the same.

It mystifies me why you wouldn’t want to take pride where you live. Why you wouldn’t want to make sure that as a condo association that everything is not only running in working order but in the best shape it could possibly be? I figure that all of us have to take most of the crap that the world dishes out eight hours a day, five days a week; we need a haven to recharge and relax. Why would you not want to put a little work into the crib?

Obviously not everyone shares my sentiment.

There are several things that bug me with this whole association maintenance thing:

Not everyone helps.
All of the unit owners benefit from the work of a few. I’m pretty sure that’s chapping a few people’s hides.

Some people, who do help, do so reluctantly and piss & moan about it the whole time.
Some of my neighbors are under the impression that I like to spend my personal time taking care of association maintenance. This is about as far from the truth as you could get. Just because I like to garden doesn’t mean I like doing it for everybody. Nonetheless, I know that if I want a nice looking outside, time has to be devoted to maintenance. Quid pro quo. Just ‘cause I don’t heavily sigh and roll my eyes about it does not mean that I like to spend my time towards the cause.

Not everyone has the same level of quality control.
Hallways not cleaned properly, dirt and cobwebs still in corners, grass clippings all over the sidewalk and lawn, perimeters not edges or clipped---in short half assed work.

Who’s the lucky individual who gets to hear about all of this? Until last week it was me.

But the biggest issue that just friggin pisses me off to no end is that everyone would feel the need to come to me at one point or another with the wailing and the gnashing of the teeth but didn’t have the stones to confront each other.

What, I ask you, is that all about?

So obviously, I’m left to be the bad guy (girl) and crack the whip.

When you think about it, it’s an ingenious strategy. It’s as if our developer put a curse on all of us; letting pettiness break the bonds of solidarity so we can’t reach our common goal of holding him responsible for his actions.

Unfortunately it may have not won me any allies in the upcoming pissing match that we call condo board elections. While I plan on running again, that doesn’t mean that I’ll get elected.

If I don’t get re-elected, I’ll have to follow my own advice and not take it personally.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Rock Star

I'm a big fan of Scott's lawn and garden care products.

Since our days are cooler I thought it might be a good idea to fertilize the lawn with the good old turf builder. Quite frankly it performed miracles on our lawn this spring so I thought it might be a good idea to lay some down before the weather turned.

Alas we gave back the fertilizer spreader that we borrowed so we had to purchase a new one.

My neighbors went off to purchase one for the association and left it to me to put it together. This was going to be a bit perplexing. After all a close group of friends restricted me from going to the hardware store as it always turned into a disaster waiting to happen. I mean if the nice man at the hardware store said I needed to buy something to stop whatever minor fix-it issue was going on, who was I to disagree?

It started to run into some serious cash. Needless to say I had to have an escort to the hardware store for the next couple of years.

But I'm now proud to say that now I can go and buy filters for the furnace and potting soil without getting into trouble. I still fancy myself not very mechanically inclined. I wistfully look at the easier fix-it projects with envy. I'm not very handy but I'm getting there.

When I first moved to Chicago I couldn't even hang a picture. My sister had to talk me through how to start a gas powered lawn mower this spring.

Today my inner rock star came out when I actually read the directions and put together the fertilizer spreader all on my own, like a big girl.

God---I'm so money.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

The E-Mail

Here is the unedited original post I sent to my fellow board members about the utility budget bills I wrote about earlier.

"With winter coming and hurricane damage to the oil infrastructure in the Gulf of Mexico, utility experts are predicting a sharp rise in electric and natural gas prices. In some cases people are saying that natural gas prices will jump as high as 71%. Obviously both our electric and gas bills may significantly increase but there may be a way to combat this upcoming fiscal crisis.
I investigated the possibility of the association going on the budget plan for both ComEd and People's Energy so at least we'll know how much our bills will be and there will be no surprises. If we went on the budget plan our electric bill would be $149.00 and our gas bill would be $451.00.

It may not be in our best interests to go on the plan for gas until another month has passed or our bill starts approaching the $451.00 mark. Nonetheless, we may be able to see some savings by going on budget for electric sooner rather than later.


Let that roll around in your heads for a while. If you're a registered Blogspot member you can post your comments. If you're not a registered Blogspot member you can e-mail me from my profile page. Was I clear? Did I get my point across? Or did my Mother and the State of Illinois waste money sending me to college?

An Aside

In case you're wondering why in God's name would I be posting at three in the morning the answer is simple, I'm at my real job. I'm in downtown Chicago on marathon Sunday and over a long holiday weekend (Columbus Day on Monday) doing user testing as we're getting rid of Microsoft NT and switching over to Microsoft Active Directory.

Obviously the friggin tools that are running the show are about an hour (or two) behind.

Mind you I still have to get home via public transportation through about 50,000 marathoners, 1 million spectators and a city full of freaks that the weekend usually brings.

The red line at four in the morning, words cannot express how thrilled I am right now.

Critical Thinking

One of the big things I’ve learned about condominium associations this past year is that you always have to project into the future. Unless your association is sitting on oil reserves, it is always in the group’s best interest to anticipate any potential financial issues that may creep up and bite you in the ass later.

I know---“No shit Sherlock.” This isn’t exactly Nobel laureate economic theory I just gave you, right?

Nonetheless, I ran an idea up the flagpole to my fellow board members and as I could have predicted, one member was resistant to change.

It’s no secret that everybody’s utility bills are going to be a mother this winter. Hurricane Katrina along with the normal gouging of those rat bastard power brokers (literally) means that my mortgage and our association gas and electric bills will pretty much look the same.

I thought a good way to combat this would be to get on the budget plan for both Peoples Energy (gas) and ComEd (electric). While it won’t lower our bill, at least we’ll know what we’ll be paying every month.

The budget plans allows you to pay the same amount for your bill every month for a certain period of time. Depending on the utility, you may be issued a refund check if you paid too much or have a credit on your bill. Or if you underpaid, you have to remit the difference at the end of your budget period.

Personally speaking, my budget bill will be $116.00 a month starting November 1st. For that amount of cash, I’m going to have the thermostat down to 65 degrees (Don’t ask what I normally have it on) and I’ll be wear the cat around my neck like a stole.

Cruella DeVille might have had the right idea.

The consistency in our billing will help us avoid any surprises during the winter months and it will also allow us to get more money in the bank. So if and when we choose to get off the budget plan early, we will be able to pay off any balance we may have on our respective bills. As any right thinking person could surmise from the usage chart listed on our bill, the amount of energy we use isn’t likely to go up, only the cost of the units of energy. Therefore if we know---and trust me we do----that the cost of the units of energy is about to skyrocket, why in the good Lord’s name aren’t we willing to do everything we can not to screw the pooch?

Once again you’re saying “No shit Sherlock.” Is there a point?

Why yes cats and kittens there is a point.

I guess whatever communications skills I thought I had are completely lost on one person on our board. This person replied back that they didn’t see the need for addressing these concerns at this point because (and I’m giving you direct quotes):

” You need to review the gas bill for a year to determine if the budget
plan in advisable (sic) . Right now I would say no . we are only paying for heated water”


“Also the electric is not an issue . It has been pretty manageable.”

Well once again, maybe it’s me. Perhaps I don’t make myself clear or get my point across very well. I’ll let you all be the judge---I’ll post my original e-mail.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Both Barrels

With my apologies to Reginald Martinez Jackson I know I'm not the straw that stirs the drink in our condo association. While you good folks are getting my point of view in this blog, I want to make crystal clear that this is very much a team effort.

This team effort also extends to the maintenance of our building.

As I've mentioned, we simply don't have enough money to pay anyone to cut our grass and clean our hallways like we did in the past. Frankly, I considered it throwing money out the window as we have able bodied, healthy people in our association. Trust me, I don't like carving time out to cut the grass but it's got to be done.

Our choices are either pay someone to do the maintenance and raise assessments or get off our asses and do it ourselves. We opted for the later.

So starting in May, I asked for volunteers and came up with a maintenance schedule for the summer. To date, our association has saved approximately $2,700 by not having to pay our former maintenance guy.

That ain't chump change.

Nonetheless, people being people you know there were going to be a few bumps in the road. First off, not everyone participates which means 8 unit owners do the work that benefits all 18 unit owners. That's a fact that I'm sure isn't lost on any of the owners who actually do the work. Secondly, people will start to slack off. I'm not talking "Oops, I missed that cobweb in the corner" but rather I'll just blow off my week because I forgot.

Mind you, when I solicit volunteers I ask if there are any scheduling conflicts, vacations---any of that jazz that I should take into consideration. I rarely get any response. The silence is deafening.

I figure that we're all adults and we can adjust our schedules according to accommodate a bi-weekly indoor and outdoor maintenance schedule.

No such luck.

The straw that broke the camel's back came this week when one of my neighbors attempted to dress me down about the hallways not being cleaned. All the shit that people have said individually and collectively have been saying to me just exploded in the form of an e-mail yesterday.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Our ongoing effort to save money by doing our own maintenance has largely been a success.

The downside is that I seem to have become the single source of everything maintenance regarding our building. While I don't mind serving as a liaison in terms of the schedule, the hand holding I have been doing officially stops now.

When I become the person that hears the complaints, sends the reminders, checks the supplies and does the schedule; that's a little bit too much. Effective immediately I will no longer issue reminders to individuals about their maintenance commitments. Nor will I remind people to replenish what they use up whether it's gas for the lawn mower or paper towels to clean the glass.

More importantly, I practically begged for feedback prior to and after the fall maintenance schedule was released. I asked if anyone had any problems with the weeks that they were scheduled and if so to get back to me ASAP. Naturally when I didn't hear back from anyone, I assume that all was well. Unfortunately this did not turn out to be the case.

Our indoor maintenance which is only being done every other week to begin with, now has to be delayed another week because the person on the rotation this week is out of town and didn't find a replacement. To add further insult, I'm the person who gets hit with 1,000 questions when the indoor maintenance hasn't been done or why the grass gets too long.

It is not my responsibility to make sure that adults honor the commitments that they make or at least find a workaround when there is a conflict. In the future, if anyone has a question about why something wasn't done or wasn't done to their satisfaction, they need to personally take it up with the individual listed on the maintenance schedule.

Lastly, I am not the person you go to at the last minute concerned that you need someone to take your bi-weekly maintenance shift. With rare exception, everyone who is participating has their e-mail address listed above. Cut and paste it in your address book or exchange phone numbers so you can have a back up in case of a conflict.

Right now we are continuing the fight for our financial lives. The money that we save will help us continue to pay our association bills in a timely fashion and save money. It’s frustrating enough that little under half of the unit owners do all of the maintenance work to everyone's benefit. I know people are getting burned out but if the maintenance schedule doesn't continue to work at least through 2006 one of three things will happen:

Our lawn and building will look like our neighbor's buildings down the street.
We will hire someone to come in and maintain our building
That action will push our regular assessments higher

We all have a choice.

That wasn’t the most subtle way of getting my point across but it unfortunately had to be said. Everyone had to be reminded that if one person shirks on their word, then what’s to stop the others from doing the same. Next thing you know our lawn and hallways will look like ass.

I may live on the south side but I refuse to live in a ghetto.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

It's Electric

Money pit my ass. Death trap would be too harsh yet hazard would be too soft.

Our suspicions were recently confirmed about our electrical infrastructure. Frankly, in a word, it’s dangerous. Honest to God, could possible burn the place down to the foundation dangerous.

So much for shits and giggles, eh?

Just to give you a brief rundown of the issues, take a gander below:

“The grounding system for the entire condominium association, according to my test equipment, is nonexistent. At no point in the building did my test equipment indicate that there was a required .0250 Ohms continuity.
The wiring methods throughout the building include such practices such as:
(1) grounding the neutral terminal of devices
(2) running circuits through walls without conduit
(3) devices installed in the walls without the benefit of a junction box
(4) junction boxes unsupported
(5) junction boxes containing splices buried behind finished wall (not accessible)
(6) extension rings not added to boxes in set in the wall in excess of 1 1/4 inches
(7) using the stab feature on receptacles thereby causing the device to be part of the circuit,
(8) slaving appliance circuits and appliance receptacles from GFCI receptacles
(9) GFCI receptacles not functioning as a result of improper grounding practices and wiring methods,
(10) the BX conduit system was not removed prior to new construction,
(11) The addition of BX was used extensively during new construction in excess of those amounts allowed for fishing in walls which are inaccessible.
(12) keyless porcelain fixtures with exposed lamps were installed in all closet
All of these items mentioned above are somewhat life-threatening, and all are violations of The National Electrical Code, The Chicago Electrical Code and The National Fire Protection Agencies rules for safe installation of electrical apparatus.”

Well if that isn’t enough to just make you want to kick up your heels, I don’t know what will?

The above passage was taken from a professionally prepared report by a master electrician. We only found him when our board President was going through some old papers and ran across a letter that a former neighbor of ours wrote regarding electrical issues in her unit. She used him to evaluate her electrical and once we found her she gave us his phone number.

As I stated earlier, we strongly suspected that we had electrical problems but because the system was so completely fucked up, no electrician save this one would even begin to document the various issues.

They seemed too afraid that they would miss something and be held liable for any injuries or property damage. In retrospect, I can’t say that I blame them but it left us a jam trying to get a handle on the issues.

So when this master electrician came and thoroughly checked roughly around 10-12 units in our association then gave us the report I felt myself tearing up. What you read above is only the cover letter of a six page detailed report citing everything he could find in our individual units.

His revelations are staggering.

So much so that as an association we may be looking at anywhere between $50,000 to $500,000 to fix the various problems. Of course that’s not just electrical work but replacing the drywall as well once the old BX wire has been ripped out of our walls.

Obviously it would not behoove me to paint anytime soon. Isn’t that just the luck? As soon as I find the perfect color of taupey lavender to go on the walls, I find out that they may burn down.

My sense of timing has never been good anyway.

And as if that weren’t enough, to get competitive bids from other electricians we have to invite city inspectors to come on in and inspect our electrical. For those of you not familiar with the cash strapped City of Chicago’s motto these days it’s fine ‘em, fine ‘em, fine ‘em. It doesn’t matter that we didn’t cause the problem; we will have the city inspectors so far up our collective asses that we’ll be speaking legalese from now until the end of 2006.

The thought makes me shudder.

Unfortunately there is no way around having the city come and give us the business. This is gonna be so bad, I’d rather go and get a---ahem---“yearly woman exam.”

At least the doctor gives you a head’s up before she puts the “duck bill” inside of you and opens you up like the jaws of life.

I doubt I can say the same about the city inspectors.

Right now I just have to trust in God and lay this at his (or her) feet. There’s nothing else any of us can do.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Taking It

Posting these somewhat humorous but true stories serves as a kind of therapy for me it also lets me map out a workable plan to have my developer take financial responsibility for the problems he has caused.

In short even though I have to pull the bitch card, I'm not gonna get done like one. Not by this guy.

I don't like to unearth the ball busting, hard(er) driving, take no prisoners aspect of my personality. It's hard to rein her in and add a touch of PMS and its like throwing kerosene on a fire.

In lieu of a brutal hellish flame up I do a slow burn on the way to short fuse land. Actually, eventually there is a brutal hellish flame up---it just happens to be my temper. When I start to get irritated, I find it's best to sequester myself in the crib until I can build a bridge and get over myself.

Last week a friend commented that some of my posts were not as amusing to him as some of the other previous posts. I replied, "Well sometimes my life isn't very funny."

The next entry is one of those that are less for your amusement than to provide an accurate timeline of our building's serious problems. Additionally, this blog also serves as a cautionary tale for those of you who are about to dip your toe in the Chicagoland real estate market. While this is happening on the south side of the city, it obviously can happen anywhere.

More importantly I'm not taking shit off my bootleg developer. I may fail but at least I'm gonna try.

Nobody puts baby in the corner.

Hiding In Plain Sight

In our fluid society what is one of the most important commodities on the planet?

Capital? Water? Access to good champagne?

While all of those are near the top of the list, I must suggest that information and access to information is about the most important things in these tumultuous times. I mean what good is it to know about an accident on Michigan Avenue when you’re sitting right in the middle of the pile up?

My mother always said if you know that the pothole is in the middle of the road, are you gonna go through it and bust an axle or steer around?

Repeat after me: information, information, information.

Moreover, let me go on to add a few caveats; the information must be timely AND valid. Those are key factors.

Since I’m in my Foxy Brown meets Cleopatra Jones extra super sleuth mode and can’t go into details of the metaphorical beat downs that our association is gonna unleash on people; I can on the other hand give you a heads up on finding good information that may help you track someone down.

If someone owns a piece of property in the County of Cook, has filed bankruptcy in the Northern District of Illinois or has been a plaintiff or defendant in a court case you can unearth a treasurer trove of factual information about them for free.

You simply have to make a small time commitment and have an assload worth of quarters for copies.

If you look to your right, I’ve provided helpful links to several governmental agencies that can help you hone your Shaft like skills. That and a Huggy Bear like snitch are both a good start to help you stay in the know.

Trust me, Inch High Private Eye ain’t got nothin’ on me.