Bourgeois Deviant

Friday, June 22, 2007

On Bloomberg '08

In between feeding and looking after my kid, I pay a mild attention to the news. What I have heard is a great hubbub about is the punditocracy's titillation over New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg's defecting from the Republicans and the potential that brings for his presidential prospects in the 2008 race. Initially I thought little of it. He'll just be another candidate, but without a party. Perhaps another H. Ross Perot but certainly not a Ralph Nader.

Then, during BFD's nap time, I blue skied this a bit more. I have an acquaintance who works within the city government and has known about the Bloomberg '08 potentiality as rumor for some time. As memory serves, she was all for it. That is what drove me to consider it further. And, though it is by no means an endorsement, I am all for it.

Allow me qualify my position. No candidate is ideal. Just consider Bloomberg relative to rest of the field of candidates. Firstly, he's done more for New York than Guilianni did. Rudy may have had to oversee the worst disaster in American history, but Bloomberg had to handle the aftermath and clean-up. In case you hadn't noticed, he's done quite well. I can't say I am pleased with all the things he has done (read: Brooklyn Rail Yards). Gentrification is inevitable as part of an evolving urban landscape. It comes and goes. But, when aided by government policy and backing, moneyed interests always seem to win out and the average city dweller gets shafted some way, some how. So, take this as one big reason Big Mike isn't going to get my rubber stamp.

Being a big business kind of guy, Bloomberg is bound to appeal to the pro-business Republicans. The Christian Right won't be greeting him with open arms, however. So, he effectively splits the GOP. Big Mike has done a great deal to green the Big Apple. His mandate to get all taxis to be hybrids in short order is grand and he's approved many green-space projects for the city. He's also done a great deal to lessen the carbon footprint of New York City by pursuing alternative energies like tidal energy, wind, and solar power. He openly acknowledges the fact of Global Warming. He'll garner a great number of progressive votes with theses notches in his political belt.

Lastly, the most attractive thing about Mike Bloomberg as a candidate for President of the United States is that he could independently finance his entire campaign. Dan Balz of the Washington Post speculated the other night on The News Hour that Bloomberg could spend $500 million of his own cash without breaking a sweat. This is an alluring fact in that it makes Big Mike truly an independent candidate. He would be beholden to no special interest group. Bias, be it progressive or conservative would potentially be solely at his whimsy and not at the behest of some fat cat lobby another candidate might owe the office to. That would be a refreshing change from the examples set in the present administration. (Remember Cheney's Energy Task Force?)

As Mayor, Mike Bloomberg has been a consummate populist. As a business man, he's been a hard nosed executive with a remarkable track record. But as a candidate for the most powerful office in the land, he's not without his faults, depending on where you're coming from. He's not charismatic. Frankly, he's a bit robotic from the times I have seen him speak. Charisma is integral to leadership, for the most part. So, strike one. Strike two will come from the social and religious conservatives. Big Mike has been seen waving the rainbow flag. Personally, its a point in his favor, but have you seen how many red states are out there? As to his actual preference, its been subject to speculation, but it will be an issue despite the fact that it shouldn't be.

At the very least, Bloomberg will make the race for the White House interesting. Like Sharpton in 2000 and 2004, he will be able to bring certain issues into the arena of discussion whereas other more politically entrenched candidates might not. Unlike Sharpton, he'll be a real threat to the candidates from the established parties and, hopefully, keep them somehow honest. Third party candidates have traditionally been a bit of a joke in modern American politics. Not since Teddy Roosevelt's Bull Moose party staged its upset has anyone mounted a credible threat aside from that of spoiler. Bloomberg is potentially more than spoiler material.

One can argue about national security experience and many other issues to disqualify Bloomberg from contention. However, he's been dealing with the biggest target city in the post 9/11 world. I'd say this is an endorsement of his viability hand over fist compared to Rudy Giuliani. Recall that just recently, reports about Rudy's national security strengths have shown him to be quite other than strong on national security.

At the end of the day, all this presents is another option. Bloomberg, like Obama, has accurately assessed that things are broken in this country and disparately need fixing. The two party system, it can be argued, is not serving this nation well. If it came down to certain candidates winning their party's nomination, Bloomberg might actually get my vote. That is, if he runs.

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Thursday, June 14, 2007


Cliptackular, brief interview w/ FDH in LA. Dig it.

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Thursday, June 07, 2007

Fear and Loathing in Real Estate

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Bearing that in mind, allow me to unfurl our tale thus far…

Last year, Mrs. Deviant got a big promotion from her dear Uncle E. This was and is a great thing. However, it meant moving to the Garden State. Leaving the five boroughs is certainly the yang to the promotion’s yin. C'est la guerre.

Putting the Deviant flat on the market was initially quite daunting. Having the value of one’s home determined by a Realtor and the market place has odd effects on the self-esteem. In the first week, offers below the asking price came in. Dejection followed. The Realtor advised to ignore and persevere. This was done until the third week. Then magic started to happen. Bids were received in excess of our asking price. After a modest bidding war, the flat went for 74% over what we originally paid for it only two years ago.

Never doubt the surreality of New York real estate.

Back in March, we began looking for a new place to hang our hats. Specific requirements were laid out...

A home within 40 minutes of Manhattan by train,
A driveway with garage for protection from the rain,
Within the new territory bestowed by Uncle E.,
Within one mile of a train station for Bourgeois D.,
No vinyl siding on the house,
“Three bedrooms minimum” said the spouse,
A good school district for our sweet child,
More than one bathroom, lest bowels get wild,
A small yard so not much to mow,
Hoping beyond hope the taxes are low.

You get the picture and I’ll quit while I’m ahead.

A budget was set and looking at the map, Glen Ridge and Montclair jumped out as excellent geographic options. We inquired about some listings and solicited the services of a Realtor in the area. On our first outing, we found a home that met all but one of our requirements. It was everything we wanted and the price was, to take liberty with the vernacular, redonkulous.

Long story short, we learned the price was set to bait competition. The goal was achieved. We were one of 8 bidders and were fourth down on the list. This imparted a lesson. One must judge what the house is worth, then what you can or will pay. The two often don’t meet.

Strike one behind us and we’re on to the next, whatever and wherever that may be. To date, we’ve seen over 50 homes. In the midst of all that viewing, we stumbled across a quaint “For Sale By Owner.” We made contact and scheduled a viewing. It was just down the street from the house we had just lost a bid on and was lovely in every way. Remember, this was our first look.

We left the viewing enamored but a bit stunned at the asking price. All the same, we were thinking this was the one. It was at the very top of our range, but we figured we could bid under by a certain amount and not risk offense. After over a week of stalling, the seller agreed to our price. That week did not sit well with us and foreshadowed what was to come.

The key issue for the seller was to close as soon as possible as he did not want to lose any more money on retaining the home. We were the epitome of efficiency and retained an attorney, set a closing date, negotiated a contract and solicited the services of a home inspector. We’re not mentioning the difficulties we had during the contract negotiations. Let’s just say that the seller’s terms suggested a sharp detachment from reality.

It got to the point that all the shenanigans were getting a bit much. So much so in fact, that our attorney even said as much. In short, the seller declared he would not fix anything in order to complete the sale of the home. We decided to wait for the home inspection as we were still smitten by the property. Love is a fickle thing. The home inspection proved this. In addition to asbestos insulated pipes and the discovery of a poorly attempted cover up of a cracked foundation, the home inspector told us that the detached garage which was obviously leaning but touted by the seller to be structurally braced and sound was termite-ridden and required immediate demolition.

The deal was dead. Instead of trying to get the seller to give us a discount or remedy any of the issues, we just walked. We’d had enough. It was an expensive lesson, but worth it as it probably saved us from years of the house leeching our finances to the point of destitution.

Strike two and we’re on to the next, only a block and a half away as fate would have it. We spent the next Saturday looking at another seven homes. The sixth house grabbed us and we decided what the place was worth, what we would offer and then how much above all that we were willing to shell out should it get competitive. Our Realtor prepared two bids, one low, one above asking in the event of either situation. We felt good about our prospects.

As it turns out, our feeling was dead on and then way off in that order. Bids on the house were due by 5:00 p.m. As of that time, we were one of only two and the higher of the two as history will reflect. Then the seller was informed of a desperate last minute bid well after 9:00 p.m. that same night. Unfair. Right? Tell us about it.

The late bid came in at $14K over our bid. The seller gave us the opportunity to match and she would agree to go with us. We decided that the house simply wasn’t worth that inflated price despite it still being within our range. A very responsible strike three taken in the name of reason and moderation. But we’re not out. All the same, we loathe that seller nearly as much as the “For Sale By Owner.”

So, with our closing just weeks away, you can say we have the fear. There is a contingency to stay with family and we’re not too worried about that. However, the quest to find the right house at the right price in the right place grows ever more perilous with each passing week. All that can be hoped for is fate and the market to provide. The physics of karma in this situation would suggest that fate is not without a sense of humor.

Real estate is kind and too too cruel.
A place of our own will be oh so cool.

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