“What? Is somebody trying to kill the builder?” you ask.
‘They’ might be thinking about it. As in, more than one person is annoyed.
Here’s what is happening. When we moved in, the neighborhood was full of wooded lots. Even the properties with houses already there, had plenty of trees at the edges, along the fences, or next to the houses. Some were mature trees that had been left on the otherwise cleared lots before construction had begun. Property owners added flowering trees as time passed. Wildlife flourishes in this residential neighborhood of 1/4 and 1/3 acre lots. We’re not out in the country, but these are not zero-lot homes either.
Phases 1 and 2 of the larger housing development have long been completed. Phase 3 was finished three years ago, the original trees are beautiful, and the owners are adding new fruit/flowering trees each year.
Enter Phase 4. The original developer had a few lots left and found a builder to buy them. That builder wanted the lots cleared before finalizing the deal. That’s when we, the neighbors, discovered that some of the grassy/lightly-wooded areas between existing homes were actually unsold lots.
ALL of the trees from those lots are being cleared, lots of red dirt remains, and now mudslides into neighboring backyards are expected with the next heavy rain.
The developer in charge of the work told me on the phone that the lots are not wide enough to have left the trees in place. The one in the photos is 60 feet wide. Years ago, I lived in a house surrounded by maples and evergreens. That lot was 50×100. IMO, this guy simply did not want to take the time to leave a couple of trees to shade the house and protect the wildlife on the lot.
The neighbors to the left and right of the bulldozer photo were concerned enough to have the City Inspector come out to assess the situation. Note the dirt to the left appears to be in a pile that crosses the property line and would be the most likely to slide into the neighbor’s yard in the rain.
The builder’s solution was to place sand barrier ‘fencing’ on the property line. The bulldozer operator moved the dirt up against it.
Other lots have similar problems with soil grading and tree removal.
Heated conversations have been held. The neighborhood grapevine is operating at peak efficiency. Town council meetings are scheduled on the topic.
In case you doubt that neighbors and builders would actually get angry over something like this, read on.
Existing homeowners in Colorado were upset with new builders in the neighborhood who appeared to be putting in homes that did not conform to the look of the development, thereby lowering everyone’s property values. Building was delayed while plans were reviewed. Board members who were in charge of approving the designs (but didn’t) were removed from their positions and new people replaced them.
When developers with big money at stake and disgruntled homeowners with possible deflated property values are at odds, tempers can flare, injunctions can occur, and nothing good happens. If the builder complies with city ordinances, there is little recourse for the neighbors who don’t care for the look of the newer houses, or how the new homes will affect them.
City codes exist for a reason. Check yours out. You might be surprised at what is NOT included in some communities, such as: building setbacks, curbing pets, rules about garbage, home swimming pool regulations, livestock allowed in the city limits, etc.
We haven’t seen any bodies in the remaining woods yet, but it is still early in the process. Kidding. Tempers are high, but so far, everybody is at the yelling stage. Let’s hope that reason prevails and the builder corrects the problems he has created, and doesn’t produce any new ones.
The two houses built on the properties in the photos have flooding issues. One has a perpetual pond in the backyard from the water cascading down the slope, requiring special drains to keep the water away from the house. The builder was within city code requirements and took no responsibility for the flooding caused by his bulldozing method. Buyer beware.
*Photos by Patti Phillips
Almost every time the USA has had a Presidential election in the last few cycles, there have been concerns about voter fraud mentioned before, during, and after the elections. From both sides of the aisle. It’s important to note that after appropriate investigations by duly selected or elected officials, it has been determined that any discrepancies in the vote are rarely actual fraud, but rather caused by human error or mechanical malfunction. Despite the court cases that drag on after the elections, widespread voter fraud rarely happens. Frustrating to the opposition, but investigations show otherwise. Read this article to explain past occurrences.
In 2020, the voices of doom and gloom seem more strident. Is the Pandemic causing us to panic where no panic is warranted? We are, after all, in the middle of one of the most challenging periods in our recent history and want to make sure our wishes are known at the polls. Whether by paper ballot marked on the day of the election, or a mail-in ballot sent before the deadline, or early voting by machine/paper, or absentee ballots received after the actual Election Day, the American people must be able to exercise our inalienable right to vote.
Mail-in ballots have been attacked as problematic. In actual fact, some States have used mail-in ballots in previous elections without difficulty. Signatures are checked against those on file, bar codes on the envelopes are assigned to one person, checked, recorded, and votes are counted and verified.
The following nine States (and the District of Columbia) have already mailed ballots to all the registered voters:
District of Columbia
34 of the rest of the States will allow the registered voters to do mail-in voting because of Covid19, or no stated reason at all. Some States require people to request the mail-in ballot; some people automatically receive the application in the mail.
These seven States require some reason besides Covid19 in order to qualify for mail-in ballots:
If you don’t like the method your State employs to conduct elections, vote for changes in your election laws, or for a change in the people that make those decisions. Proposed changes to the election procedures are often contained in the Public Questions sections of the ballot.
According to opponents of the mail-in process, one of the biggest issues is the mail itself. We have endured attacks on the efficacy of our postal system to deliver absentee ballots in the time needed, but millions of ballots have already been delivered via the Post Office throughout the country without problem. Any errors can be corrected via the stated methods on the individual State election site. Most States are providing drop-in boxes for the ballots in strategic spots for those people choosing not to vote in person. For some reason, Texas has decided to limit the drop-off sites to one per county. I hope that changes, as it creates a hardship for many voters that don’t need yet another challenge in 2020.
There have been questions raised about ballot rejection, so remember to sign your ballot and fill in the boxes correctly. There are tracking systems in place to make sure that the ballot is received.
Does voter fraud ever happen? Rarely, but yes, and the incidents are investigated. In a famous case in the North Carolina Ninth Congressional District 2018 election, a professional campaign worker and his hired group allegedly illegally collected registered voters’ absentee ballots and tampered with them in various ways. There was enough of a disparity in the vote distribution that questions were raised and the vote was determined not to be valid. The election was overturned and a new vote held months later. A related case is still in the courts.
What about interference from foreign governments or other ‘bad actors?’ On October 6th, there was a joint video delivered to social media by the heads of four United States security agencies: the FBI, the NSA (National Security Administration), CISA (Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency), and NCSC (National Counterintelligence and Security Center). During the video they sought to reassure the public that they are basically pulling out all the stops to make sure that our national election is safe and secure from all attacks, domestic and foreign.
The video can be seen at fbi.org.
In the meantime, CISA director, Christopher Krebs, advises us as voters to:
Prepare (Choose our voting venue or method and follow Covid protocols)
Participate (VOTE, and perhaps even volunteer to help with the process)
Patience (be ready to wait a few days for the elections to be verified, since some entities have extended deadlines for receipt of mail-in ballots. In other words, if the winner of the Presidential race can’t be declared on Election Night, we should be patient. It may take an extra few days this year to get all the votes counted.)
Bottom line? Exercise your right to vote.
Every vote counts, at every single level of government.
“Do you want to be an FBI Agent? Part 1” highlighted the backgrounds of two former FBI Special Agents, their differing career paths, salary, and job aspects. Bucky and Chris Cox continued to chat, revealing more agency specifics and notes about a wide range of cases that the FBI oversees, in Part 2. Take a look:
FIELD OFFICE PERFORMANCE
Every field office undergoes performance reviews. The FBI is a statistic driven agency. Among other things, internal inspectors count the number of arrests and convictions at each office, looking for reasonable numbers of completed cases, and how efficiently they were concluded. But, the type of crimes is taken into consideration. While a specialist in bank robberies might clear 10-15 cases a year, white collar cases such as bank fraud, health care, or telemarketing can take longer to investigate and prosecute because of their complexity and the fact that they may be occurring in more than one State. Agents also have to prove that the suspect knowingly and willfully committed the crimes.
There are mandatory reports to be written after a case is completed. The standard rule applies: “If there is no paperwork, it didn’t happen.” Forms MUST be filled out so that people can be prosecuted and a decision can be made on what parts of the evidentiary findings can be more solidly prosecuted and whether the case will be tried in a federal or state court.
If you think this is a 9 to 5 profession, it’s not. There are many wakeup calls in the middle of the night because an agent is on duty 24/7. FBI agents may be called to other States or even to other countries beyond the home base if the case takes them there. If you are counting on a permanent posting in one city, look elsewhere for a career.
When applying to attend the Academy, you won’t be able to hide anything in your background and will have absolutely no secrets from your employers. Because of Robert Hansen, an FBI agent who was a spy for the Russians on and off from 1979 until 2001, there are now polygraphs administered at the beginning of the application process as well as several times during a career in order to avoid further infiltrations by a foreign agent. Your personnel file is available to the Defense Attorney that represents the suspects (defendants) in the cases you work on, so if you have Lack of Candor (you lied or covered up a mistake during your career) in your file, you can be discredited on the stand in court. Agent credibility is essential for successful prosecution of the case.
The FBI’s Wide Variety of Cases
After 24 hours, kidnappings that cross state lines come under FBI jurisdiction – use of the telephone or email can make it an interstate crime. The FBI is called in (usually by the police) because of their expertise, resources, ability to negotiate, and quick access to required warrants. The FBI can’t tell families whether to pay any ransom or not, but there is surveillance on the payout if that choice is made.
FYI – In general, international kidnappings are handled by negotiators working for the big companies whose employees have been snatched.
If the FBI is the lead agency, the teams will arrive after First Responders have secured the scene. If the mail is involved, then Postal Inspectors will work the case as well, but if not, then the Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) unit and an Evidence Response Team (ERT) will be involved. There is some negotiation between the different agency teams so that no duplication of effort occurs.
DEATH ON THE JOB
People see agents depicted as tough and resilient, but let’s face it, field work can be dangerous. Chasing and apprehending fugitives sometimes includes guns and shooting. Bank robberies and other crimes can involve hostages and lethal force.
DUPLICATE DRUG INVESTIGATIONS
It doesn’t often happen, but various other government agency investigations might target the same or overlapping drug cartels. Blue on blue conflict can be very risky, so big cities have de-confliction rooms. Before a big bust, someone checks a database for scheduled buys, so that law enforcement agencies aren’t tripping over each other at the scene.
COURT OF PUBLIC OPINION
For people doing the day-to-day work, it’s not about the politics, but agents are cast in the same light as Senior Management. That can happen even if the agents personally might have nothing to do with what’s unfolding in Washington, DC or elsewhere in the world. The FBI played no part in the Rodney King events, but after the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles, a big bank case came up. A juror on that case said, “If the LAPD can lie, so can the FBI” and that works both ways.
WHITE COLLAR CRIME
White-collar crime refers to fraud perpetrated because of a desire for financial gain. Some scams have cost companies/investors billions of dollars and wiped out entire life savings. Among others, the FBI has investigated cases involving money laundering, securities and commodities fraud, bank fraud and embezzlement, election law violations, telemarketing fraud, and health care fraud. They have worked with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the IRS, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the Treasury Department to catch the worst offenders.
Corporate Fraud is a serious threat to the economy and the FBI concentrates on cases that involve accounting schemes designed to deceive everyone about the true financial condition of a company. Agents specializing in white collar crime look for bogus accounting entries, and fake/illegal trades rigged to protect the trader or avoid regulation. They keep an eye out for insider trading, misuse of corporate property, and tax fraud.
LOVE IN THE BUREAU
Relationships have been known to begin within the agency, because not many people outside law enforcement understand/accept the demands of the job. For FBI couples that marry, if both spouses are street agents, the relationship is not an issue. But, if one or the other reaches management level, one can’t supervise the other. If a slot opens up where a spouse is posted, the other can apply, but there is no guarantee that the married applicant will get it.
WRITE ALL ABOUT IT?
Everyone must sign a non-disclosure agreement because they can never talk about classified cases. There is a special unit that handles whether or not an agent can write about something – all manuscripts must go through pre-publication review. The only cases that can be written about are those closed cases which are part of the public record. Also, former agents are not allowed to write about investigative techniques or their sources.
Besides being a top investigator, AN AGENT IS:
Ready to sign up?
Many thanks to Bucky and Chris Cox for generously sharing their time and knowledge about the details of the job of Special Agent in the FBI. 🙂
*Photo credits: official photos from the FBI