safety

KN, p. 129 “Christmas Shopping and Home Safety”

 

 

‘Tis the season for shopping, shopping and more shopping! Even with Black Friday, online stores, the Pandemic, and Cyber Monday thrown into the mix, the malls are still more crowded at this time of year than at any other.

 

Elbow to elbow, crowded.

Wait 30 minutes for a cold cup of coffee in the mall, crowded.

So much noise that you can’t hear the Muzak, crowded.

 

Unfortunately with the crowds, come a few pickpockets and pocketbook snatchers and package thieves. So, what can you do to cut down on the chances of getting robbed after you’ve slaved at your job to earn the Christmas money? Here are a few easy tips.

 

  • Gals, I know this is a tough one, but if you can…leave the pocketbook at home. If that can’t be worked out, take a pocketbook that can be worn with the strap across your body. Under no circumstances should you carry a pocketbook dangling from your hand while walking through the mall. At the very least, use a shoulder bag and rest the straps on your shoulder while holding onto it securely.

 

  • Guys, don’t put your wallet in your back pocket. That’s a pickpocket’s dream.

 

  • Don’t leave the cash register until you have put your cash and/or credit cards away. People behind you in a rush? Too bad. Give ‘em a big smile and let ‘em wait until you have put the money stuff away and your pocketbook is closed.

 

  • Try to do your shopping during the day – lunch hours are good and the stores are less crowded. If you are shopping after dark, go with a pal.

 

  • If you are buying lots of gifts and need to make trips to the car to unload packages, put them in the trunk. Bags in the backseat are an open invitation for a thief.

 

  • Use the restrooms in the stores where you are shopping (and have bought something). Much safer.

 

  • Stay off the cellphone in the parking lots. You need to stay alert to people that might be following you. If someone is following you, head straight back to the closest mall entrance and report the incident.

 

  • Park as close as possible to the well-lit entrances of the stores. If it’s after dark when you leave, ask a security guard to walk you to your car. Once you’re in the car, lock it right away and leave.

 

You’re done shopping and you’re home. What should you do to reduce the chances of getting burglarized?

 

  • Don’t put your Christmas tree in the front window for all to see. At least turn off the Christmas lights and close the curtains when you’re not home. Burglars case the neighborhoods this time of year for likely targets.

 

  • If you’re going skiing or to a beach for the holiday, cancel the paper and the mail. Either one of those piling up is a clear signal that nobody is home.

 

  • Contact the police department and let them know you’ll be away on vacation. Many towns have a neighborhood watch program and a patrol officer might check on the house while you’re gone.

 

  • Don’t hide spare keys under rocks, in flowerpots, or above door ledges.

 

  • Don’t post information about your trip on Facebook or Twitter or any other Social Media site until after you return. We’d love to see your photos of the trip, not the photos of the missing new TV and the burglarized house.

 

Above all, use common sense, stay safe, and enjoy the holidays!

 

*Photo by Patti Phillips

 

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KN, p. 178 “Is the builder dead yet?”

 

“What? Is somebody trying to kill the builder?” you ask.

They’ might be thinking about it. As in, more than one person is annoyed.

EmptyLotTreesDSC_1481

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.

 

EmptyLotBulldozerDSC_1474

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.

 

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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.

 

http://www.reporterherald.com/ci_20492538/homeowners-builder-bank-at-odds-lovelands-taft-farms

 

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.

 

2020 Update:

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

 

 

 

 

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KN, p. 265 “Election Integrity 2020”

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:

California
Colorado
District of Columbia
Hawaii
Nevada
New Jersey
Oregon
Utah
Vermont
Washington

 

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:

Indiana
Louisiana
Mississippi
New York
South Carolina
Tennessee
Texas

 

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.

https://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/article242174111.html

 

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.
https://www.fbi.gov/scams-and-safety/common-scams-and-crimes/election-crimes-and-security


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.

 

 

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