Saturday, December 31, 2005

Uneven parallel

I finally wanted you gentle readers to see what all this porch fuss is about.

The pictures in the Thousand Words post pretty much says it all. Nonetheless if you didn’t catch the what’s wrong in the first picture let me lay it out for you.

All of the current porches are of the same style, construction and height. You’ll notice that the porch in the foreground is not parallel with the porch in the background. Because if the porches were parallel, you wouldn’t see the second porch---everything would line up evenly. Your eyes would travel straight across.

Obviously that is not the case.

The second picture let’s you know why the porch in the foreground it tilting. One of the support beams that are anchored to the building is not properly fixed to the vertical support that comes out of the ground. If the vertical support beam from the ground and the horizontal support beam coming out of the building fit properly it would form a nice tight “T”.

Obviously that is not the case.

The Porch People are working on scheduling a crew to start the actual work some time in January and February. They were caught a little flat footed when the building permit came in so early.

So God love you if you thought for even a second that I was taking poetic license in telling the porch tale of woe. Yes, folks they really are that bad.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Flashing Clock

**Cell phone ringing***


"Hello Woody, are you at home today?"

"No, I actually have to work. What's up?"

"ComEd is in the alley setting up a work area and I thought you might want to know about it."

I almost fainted in my cube.

After many months of chasing ComEd to come and put a protective housing around our taped and seemingly spliced together wires, the rubber finally met the road yesterday when the task was actually completed.

Naturally another neighbor called because the power was shut off for about a half an hour but the inconvenience was kept to a minimum.

This neighbor also commented about ComEd informing us about any work and the ensuing power outages, but I kindly reminded her that it was a minor miracle that the work was getting done at all after five years. Additionally she wants a major utility that has no way of internally tracking work requests to have the ability to inform the consumer about work that will affect their homes or businesses?

Yeah, right.

Nonetheless big props to ComEd for finally making the magic happen. I'm sure the call my alderman's staff made to one of their ComEd contacts didn't slow the process down either.

At least now we know that if our power goes out it won't be because of some bootleg ass taped up wires.

Friday, December 23, 2005


I’ve been perusing the Walgreens weekly sales paper looking for deals.

I planted basil seeds and tulip bulbs that I’ll force up sometime in the late winter when the Chicago weather makes me wish I lived somewhere else.

I’ve caught up reading all of my favorite blogs.

I’ve finished cleaning up from my Christmas party---finally washing and packing away the chaffing dishes as well as getting every last spot out of my white cotton embroidered Pottery Barn reindeer tablecloth.

Hint: Purex liquid detergent applied directly to the stains (satay sauce, meatball drippings, cocktail sauce) along with the regular amount in the wash water. Let the machine agitate for a few minutes and if possible stop the washer and let the object(s) soak for a good four hours. When you turn the machine back on and let it finish its cycle that bad boy will not have a stain on it---guaranteed.

I’ve vacuumed and swept.

I’m starting to plan my garden for the 2006 planting season. I know it’s early but I really do like to garden. Plus when you have no car you have to plan and execute things with military like precision.

I’ve spent time with my cat. I believe he wonders where I go everyday to keep him in kibble and squeaky toys.

I made a huge crock-pot of beef barley soup that I’m going to divide into smaller containers and put up in the freezer.

I’m figuring out bills and expenses for the next few weeks as payday coincides with New Years. And let’s face it, who wants to enter in a new year with no cash?

By the way, paying bills sucks.

I’m also trying to figure out what to wear to the Eve of the Eve. Classic Black or an icy light blue? Strapless or sequins? Decisions, decisions…

I mailed off the condo association’s refuse rebate form to our Alderman.

I’ve decided that I’m going to bake a white chocolate pound cake for a New Year’s Day brunch that I’ve been invited to.

I suppose this is what life is really like when condo and developer issues don’t dominate your every waking moment.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Giving Thanks

When I look back on this past year it’s difficult to believe that as an association we’ve been able to achieve so much in so short a time.

If you’ve been reading this blog you already know the stories. In a nutshell, we’ve turned this ship around and charted a course for (hopefully) smoother waters.

Our achievements are also a testament to the collective power of the group.

Seeing that this is the end of the year and the usual amount of pat on the back retrospectives abound, I only feel it fitting to give some shout outs to all of my neighbors who either served on the association board or who volunteered for maintenance duty.

I also want to give props to my neighbors who sat in monthly meeting after monthly meeting and took an active interest in the management of their home.

Much love to everyone who graciously donated extra time and/or supplies to the multitude of important but minor projects.

We really are rock stars.

Who in Pete’s name would of thought that we would made it (part way) through the fire?

Thursday, December 15, 2005

(Almost) Free Money

If you live in a condo development that has to pay for its own scavenger service (trash), the City of Chicago Department of Finance offers a program that will reimburse your association for a majority of your bill.

This period of reimbursement can either be for six months or a year and you have up to a year to apply for the previous period. All of the information can be found by clicking this link.

It's a great program but I've found few associations in my neck of the woods who know about its existence. Apparently someone must know as our applications for 2003 and 2004 were initially submitted in January of 2005 and we're just now getting the check for 2003. Go figure.

Even though it's a great program and I'm sure all interested parties read the instructions via the link in a through manner, here are a few things to remember:

1. You have to file a copy of you scavenger service agreement AND a detailed total of your trash bill for the period you're applying.

2. When your association is applying for the first time the application must have the previous year's trash bill (i.e. If you’re apply for 2005, you must also submit the 2004 bill) and a copy of a recycling certificate (check the instructions on the Finance Department’s website)

3. A governing board resolution must accompany the application authorizing the association’s application for the program. For example purposes a sample is included on the refuse rebate link.

4. When you get all of this together, it must be submitted to your alderman's office who in turn submits it to the city council. If I'm correct, they it needs to be approved for payment by the City's Finance Department; once that happens the checks are cut in the order of approval.

In short, don't hold your breath waiting for the cash to roll in. But make no mistake---unless the city scraps the program---the cash will eventually get to the association.

It's more annoyance than work but in the end a couple of hundred (or thousand) bucks may mean the difference between raising assessments or not raising assessments.

Just trying to share the knowledge---now go get your Benjamins!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005


Our condo association has received the building permit for the porches. I literally had to be picked up off the floor when I found out the news. The permit was issued yesterday. It took approximately 33 days from our application date.

If you remember correctly I thought the permit process would take at least three months.

This has to be a record for the City of Chicago's Department of Construction and Permits.

Additionally, the field service manager from Commonwealth Edison (the electric company) placed an order to get the metal housings for our tape wrapped electrical wires.

I'm not used to this much co-operation. Perhaps it's the association's early Christmas present.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Won't You Be My Neighbor

There she stands in all of her majestic red brick glory. A beautiful girl, no?

While you’ve read of the trials and tribulations of our association you also know, kind souls, that a great deal of work has been done to put us on the straight and narrow. As an association we’re about halfway through our journey. A large portion of our fate rests in the hands of the future owners of the foreclosed upon units.

We need good, honest to God resident owners. No investors or speculators, just people who understand the definition of community.

As we all know, good neighbors are the lifeblood of any population. While it’s my biased impression that I live around some dedicated and wonderful people, the future owners of the foreclosed upon units will hopefully integrate into our buzzing little hive.

Nonetheless, I need some help on this one.

I need you kids to spread the word about the units that are on the market. Refer people to this blog and most importantly to the links at the end of this post.

I have well documented the problems that the association is facing and has faced in terms of the porches and the electrical. Nonetheless we will have brand new porches before the summer of 2006 and we’re continuing the process on how to best approach our electrical situation. Both are significant undertakings so I’m sure all of you understand that it will take some time before each are resolved.

But to borrow a phrase from a famous print ad: “We’ve come a long way baby.”

My previous post was about the positive press the ‘hood got from the Chicago Tribune Real Estate Section. In another five years, people will be slapping themselves that they didn’t buy in sooner.

The units are prices at $176,900 for a two bedroom, one bath and $174,900 for the three bedroom one bath.

I haven’t seen the condition of the two bedroom unit but I can honestly say that the three bedroom property needs painting (three kids are rough on walls) and the carpets in the bedroom are trashed (I like hardwood floors throughout anyway). Someone will have to put some TLC into that unit but I think the effort will bring out a diamond in the rough.

Don’t forget---these foreclosed upon units were CHAC rentals you know.

More importantly the price on the three bedroom dropped from $198,000 to its current price. Methinks that means that the mortgage company wants to get out of the real estate business and back into the mortgage business.

A good price got better and I’ll garner that even a novice negotiator would be able to get them down several thousands of dollars more based on the condition of the unit. Due diligence from the realtor would be able to uncover the price reduction and a good home inspector would be able to provide evidence on the condition of the porches and the electrical.

All in all a pretty strong position to start a potential negotiation.

Tough times don’t last---tough people and buildings do. This old girl has been around since 1909. Barring anything major, she’ll hopefully be around for quite a while to come.

Any building that can go through a neighborhood’s sharp decline, years of neglect and an urban rebirth deserves more quality people that will take care of her.

Boy oh boy if those walls could talk.

So tell your friends, co-workers and don't forget about the paper boy. Hell, if you want to be my neighbor take a look see for yourself.

Bonus good neighbor points will be given if you like to garden.

1501, #1
6511, #3

The Word Is Out

The Chicago Tribune did a nice little story on the 'hood in yesterday's Real Estate section.

Surprise, surprise---the south side is nice and affordable. Read what Ms. Almada wrote about Woodlawn and other south side neighborhoods here.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Gall, Yet Again

Our association had a visitor recently---our old maintenance man Mike.

He had been sent by our developer to collect what he claimed to be his snow blower. Unfortunately Mike couldn't gain access to the basement where the lawn equipment is stored, as we had changed all of the basement locks this summer.

Now whether our developer had sent Mike or he simply said that he was sent in order to throw off anyone who questioned him, I can't say. Mike doesn’t seem like a dishonest person and had plenty of time and opportunity to take whatever he wanted out of the basement prior to the locks being changed later in the summer.

That snow blower has been sitting in the basement for several years. With the recent spate of snow that Chicago's been having I can see why it's absence would be missed. Nonetheless why would anyone mix their personal or business belongings with those of a condo association that they developed?

I'm curious to know if our developer will try to approach one of us about this little quandary instead of sending people to trespass on our property.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Fan Mail

I'm not in the habit of posting letters that I receive, but this week has been a tad bit unusual in that respect. This little ditty came in yesterday:

Wow, what a fantastic job you are doing. I came across your blog while looking for some info; I was hoping to buy a new condo in the city. I read through the whole archive and I'm amazed at all the things I never even thought about asking or finding out. If it's any consolation from your horrible developer problems, you've helped at least one person to think critically and maybe look a little deeper into any condo development they may be interested in purchasing into. I wish you the best of luck with that developer and your association issues.

While I don't need a pat on the back to do what I'm doing, it's nice to get the love.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The Hearing

The wheels of justice grind slowly.

Today was the informal fact finding hearing between me, my developer and the City of Chicago’s Department of Consumer Services. All of the above parties plus my developer’s lawyer and an aide from my alderman’s office were in attendance.

The hearing lasted a little over an hour and I kept my talking points were the following subjects:

The poor condition and replacement of the porches.
The poor condition of the electrical system.
The fact that we as a condo association got stuck with a fine that was the result of our developer’s mismanagement.

I was direct, had supporting documentation and kept on message. The facts spoke for themselves. So much so that if I continued on, I would have been repeating myself which would have made me look disorganized.

My developer responded by confirming what he did and did not do with respect to the rehabilitation of the buildings. During his explanation, the hearing officer interrupted to establish several facts:

My developer did not and does not have developer’s license.
Very little, if any, demolition was done on the building.
My developer did not replace or pull any of the existing electrical wiring.
My developer did not replace any of the existing plumbing.
What my developer called a property report was actually a small portion of what constitutes a true property report.
A property report of any kind was never filed with the city.

My basic argument was the filing of the property report was key to triggering inspections. Many of the latent problems that we as an association are encountering today could have been corrected.

My developer countered with a whole bunch of talk about who was called at the city to come out and inspect the property for a certificate of occupancy and that it had been completed.

Unfortunately for him, he didn’t come with any documentation that could prove his claims. Perhaps he’ll unearth his paperwork and present it to the hearing officer at a later date.

She did seem miffed that documentation she had requested a few weeks ago from my developer had not been produced in enough time for the hearing. He offered the excuse that one of his business partners took care of those issues and that the paperwork was never given to him.

He also mentioned the same tired excuses that he did in the letter that he sent to the Attorney General’s Office----the building was the worst building on the block; he kept the prices low so that the units could be affordable; in some cases he spent his own money to address punch list items; he offered to buy our places back from us but none of us accepted; the reason why none of use accepted is that our property value is estimated to be somewhere in the low $200’s and the fact that we got stuck with a fine that was originally his was due to a dishonest employee.

Nothing was ever his fault. There was an excuse for every issue.

Once he was finished, I countered that due to the four foreclosures in our building that the true value of our homes has yet to be firmly and consistently established, Furthermore I had neighbors attempt to sell their two bedroom at the $160 price point and had no luck as the electrical system was a major deterrent to potential home buyers.

Additionally, I told the hearing officer how we’ve turned our fortunes around as an association by establishing standard bookkeeping practices as well as saving money by doing our own maintenance.

My developer jumped in by stating that because he wanted to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest that he largely told the board that we could do whatever we wanted to do in our governing. That he would stay out of the way.

The hearing office seems puzzled by this and asked him why he remained condo board president for two years if he was to “stay out of the way?”

He replied, “Because the original officers were re-elected.”

Who can argue with that logic?

Our hearing officer is a seemingly nice lady---but a seemingly nice lady with a massive poker face. There was really no reading her. I have no idea how she will “take this under advisement.”

I’m concerned that the building’s issues will be given the brush off once again---only time will tell.

My fingers are crossed.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

I Was Right The First Time

The word has come down from on high---the State of Illinois is closing my complaint against my developer. To quote directly from the letter dated November 22nd, "We are doing so because we have exhaused all efforts available to us on your behalf."

In other words, as I previously stated, there are no protections against disreputable condo developers in the State of Illinois.

Witchy Poo For Mayor

Coming back from my much needed R-n-R I have many tales to tell of Gotham.

I met and reconnected with friends I hadn't seen in quite a while.
I sat at the bar at the Waldorf-Astoria while NASCAR was setting up for its convention and end of the year banquet. That was too surreal.
I saw the Christmas tree lighting at Rockefeller Center.
I made an interesting brand new friend while taking a sip at the Peninsula Bar.
The Mandarin Oriental is the bomb.
I saw a relatively new friend who feels like an old friend. We had a lovely day together.

Yet reality reared its ugly head when I got back home.

I've never made a secret about my blog to my neighbors. I've told or mentioned it to most, if not all of the people I talk to on a regular basis. They know it's my voice and my voice alone. What I write isn't endorsed or sanctioned by our board. No big whoop---In fact, I've gotten alot of positive reaction about my writing from my neighbors.

Obviously that had to come to an end.

Ladies and gentlemen, boy and girls, someone in cyberspace has taken exception to what I write and took enough time to register with blogger in order to leave a comment. The writer called himself (or herself) AttorneyAtLaw. Their original comments in black text along with my responses in red are below:

This is in response to the Woodlawn 2faced Witch (excuse me, Wonder).
Yowsa, a new name.

It is funny how you act polite when speaking to one in person but then rip them on your website. We’ve spoken? Actually it’s not a website but a blog.

We call that 2faced.
Who’s we? Didn't abbreviations like 2faced go out with 2legit to quit?

You must not have a real job (Actually I have two. I write about one of them here) since you have so much free time on your hands to discuss other people's personal business on your wack website. Is that the best way to resolve your condo association issues?
A massive amount of teamwork by some dedicated owners has helped us resolve some of these issues. I write about it here.

Just because you don't understand people's issues does not give you the right to rip them on your website like your shit does not stink, like you are perfect, like you are god.
From what I understand there is only one God but he (or she) takes on many different names. As for understanding people’s issues, Attorney what specifically are you referring to? It seems like you haven't read all of the blog as I speak very matter of factly about my shit stinking right here.

The statements you make are opinions not facts
Which ones? Once again be specific. You don’t seem to make very convincing arguments for a lawyer.

Opinions come a dime a dozen, everyone has one. If you really want to help people with similar issues as yours you should try obtaining positive results then inform.
That’s exactly what I’m doing. I wouldn’t wish this drama on my worst enemy.

Anyone can sit back and complain about their problems. Smart, successful people resolve their problems by actions and not by bitching.
You must not have read the blog all of the way through. I write about positive changes here and here.

By the way, I strongly suggest you remove any personal information and any statements you have made that slander or defame a person's character from your website within 48 hours unless you want to suffer the legal ramnifications.
By the way you spelled ramifications incorrectly.

It is against the law to make an individual's personal information available to the public without their consent What information? I name very few people on my blog so if you have an issue you need to name the individual in question and then we can get down to brass tacks about what is and isn't public and private information. and it is also illegal to slander or defame a person's character.
Whom am I allegedly slandering and defaming?

If you are unaware of this then check the law. You have been notified.

There you have it ladies and gentlemen, I've been notified.