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Sat May 09, 2015 at 06:00 AM PDT

SMHRB: Permits

by elsaf

This is the Saturday  Morning Home Repair Blog where the Dailykos community gets together to talk about all things construction and repair. Our genial and expert staff stand ready to aid you on your every problem.

I have idly wondered about getting a general contractor's license, even though my experience in construction is pretty thin. When I mentioned that in a comment a while back, I got schooled about the downside of being a contractor. You might wonder why I even thought of such a thing -- considering that I'm semi-retired and never worked in the business before I started buying houses to convert into rentals a few years ago.

Well, the answer is permits. Permits have been a pain in my backside. I'm not so naive to think that the permitting process would be smooth sailing if I had a license. It would still be a pain. But at least I would be able to deal with the city directly rather than having to push someone else who doesn't want to deal with permits to do it.

There were a lot of permits involved in my 2013 renovation of a brick bungalow in Metro Detroit:

1. Roof
2. Electrical work
3. Structural (taking out a wall and putting in a beam to support the load)
4. Plumbing (two inspections, rough and finished)
5. Mechanical
6. Rental permit

This is the beam we installed to support the second story after we took out a load-bearing wall -- before we brought it inside.
I didn't need a permit to replace the concrete driveway, but in a way, it would have been better if there had been a permit. More on that later.

The roof went smoothly. The electrical permit was a problem because they didn't seem to actually check anything during the inspection. The structural permit brought work to a halt on my project for nearly a week -- and it wasn't because we had done anything wrong. The plumbing inspections demonstrated why permits are needed. The mechanical inspection was my first clue that I'd made a disastrous mistake choosing my HVAC contractor. The rental permit, the only one I could deal with personally, cost me nearly two months rent.

The story of the HVAC guy deserves it's own diary, so I'm going to save that one. But the rest of them demonstrate both the up and down sides to the permitting process.

Permits are supposed to protect the homeowner from incompetent and dishonest contractors -- or so Mike Holmes tells us week after week on DIY channel. Sometimes they do that. Sometimes, like a lot of the time, they muck things up.

Starting with the electrical permit, there were two inspections: one for the rough work, before we closed in the walls. The second after the job was done. Neither presented scheduling problems because I use a service company for electrical work and they have an office staff that handles all permits. They know what they're doing and they know the people at the city building department, so permits seldom present any problems with them. However, after the house was finished, I had to call the electrician back twice because of things he missed while doing the job.

In one case, it wasn't his fault, because the HVAC guy cut some of the wires when he was running the wire for the thermostat -- after the electricians had finished. That left several circuits dead. The other case was a couple of grounded outlets that didn't have the ground wires connected. There were a lot of outlets in the house, so I wasn't particularly outraged that two outlets didn't get finished properly. What did bother me was that the finish inspector who supposedly checked their work missed both the dead circuits and the incomplete outlets. I'm not sure what he actually checked. We found the bad outlets and dead circuits in the rental inspection two months later.

------------

We took out the wall between the kitchen and the living room.
The structural permit was a big problem. Supposedly, the contractor does all the communication with the building department with this type of permit. In my city, at least, they don't want to talk to the homeowner. The problem, however, was that the crew that did the wall removal and installing the beam only had one member who was fluent in English -- the foreman. And the foreman only stopped by once or twice a day to check on things. So, when it was time to call for the structural inspection, there wasn't anyone on the crew who could make the call. So I stepped in. It was Monday morning and the beam was going to be finished by early afternoon. I called and talked to one of the clerks in the building inspector's office and was assured that the inspector would come by before the end of the day. They didn't challenge me for not being the contractor, but I suspect they thought I was his office staff.
The beam is in place and ready to be inspected.
Meanwhile, my drywall crew ("M" and his minions) were ready to cover up the exposed beam so they could get on to painting the next day.

I waited until 5:30 and no inspector. I called again Tuesday morning. I waited until 5:30 (the city offices shut down at 4:30) and no inspector. I repeated this every day until Friday. On Friday morning, I'd had enough and let go some of my frustration on the clerk. M had to move his crew to another job because they hadn't been able to finish the living room drywall, because the beam couldn't be closed in until the inspector had signed off on it.

The inspector, when he finally showed up on Friday afternoon, said nobody had told him we needed an inspection. I'm not sure I entirely buy that, but it is what it is. The following Monday we finished the dry wall and Tuesday began painting.

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The plumbing inspection was the one that proved that permits can protect the homeowner -- even if it doesn't happen that way every time. I had been working with the same plumber for about five years at that point. Unfortunately, he was having significant health problems when this project was in progress. So his attendance on the job was sporadic and there were issues.

That hole in the wall is the plumbing access for the bathroom lavatory. It might have held us up like the beam did, but the plumbing inspector had already signed off on it before the beam problem came up.
When it came time for the finished plumbing inspection there was a laundry list of issues. Things like not tightening the drain on the bathtub so when you ran water it drained into the basement. The plumbing inspector, unlike the electrical inspector, did a thorough job and we managed to get all the issues cleaned up before the tenant moved in.
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The last inspection was for the rental permit. It's equivalent to a certificate of occupancy. Without it, I'm not supposed to let a tenant move in. This is the one and only inspection I'm expected to handle myself. And it's the one inspection that brought everything to a halt for almost two months.

When I finished the major work on this house in late October, I had spent a lot more money that I had planned to. (No surprise there. Renovations always cost more than you plan.) I was anxious to get a paying tenant in place as quickly as possible. I'm pretty good at marketing my houses and I seldom have one empty for more than a few weeks -- unless I'm working on it.

But when I went to the building department to schedule the final inspection, the earliest date they could give me was at the end of December. I had to have my house sitting empty for nearly two months before I could advertise it and rent it out.

The problem was that the city had laid off most of its inspectors in mid-autumn. They were using freelancers that they shared with the surrounding cities.

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The driveway -- I think it would have been better if a permit had been required. Three years earlier, I replaced the driveway on a house I was renovating. At that time, a permit was required. But sometime between then and 2013 they dropped the requirement.

Not that I have any issues with the cement work, mind you. M did it and it turned out just fine.

Here's why we replaced the driveway:

This was taken before I bought the house. It was even deeper than it looks here.
It was the kind of hole that damages vehicles if you hit it going too fast.
I knew when I saw the hole on my first visit to the house that I would have to replace the driveway. It had been replaced earlier from the house back to the garage. But from the house to the street, it was badly broken up.

Mysteriously, right after I bought the house someone came when I wasn't around and patched the hole in the picture -- very badly. Basically, they dumped some cement into the hole and didn't smooth it out, or even put enough in to fill it. The patch actually made things worse, since it didn't fill the hole and wasn't properly bonded to the cement underneath. It was a tripping hazard and more. It wasn't done by anyone who worked for me. I've never figured out who did it.

I got a violation from the city code enforcer about a week later. He was calling it a hazard and warned me that I would be fined if I didn't fix it right away. I called the number on the violation notice and got an answering machine. I left a message saying I intended to replace the whole driveway from the house to the street, but we needed to wait until most of the rest of the work was done because we needed the driveway for parking and bringing large materials close to the house.

We repeated this four times over the next six weeks. He would send me a violation and I would leave a message on his answering machine explaining that we would do it when we didn't have any more big deliveries coming.

Finally, I got the court summons, that said I would be fined for ignoring the violations. At that point, I got lucky and actually got the code enforcer on the phone. I explained the problem again. He said, "Oh! If I'd known you were renovating the place I never would have violated it."

I'd like to point out that the front window of the house was plastered with building permits. If he could see the hole and the bad patch, he could certainly see that the house was under renovation. And if he had bothered to play his phone messages, he would have heard me say so four times.

At any rate, he dropped the enforcement action and I didn't have to pay a fine.

So, what's happening in your world this morning?

Discuss
The Grande Ballroom in Detroit wasn't destroyed in the 1967 riots, but images like this one of the city came to be because of that terrible week in July 1967. (Image used under Creative Commons license.)
I was 16 in the summer of 1967. I'd just got my driver's license. My boyfriend lived at the other end of the block. We lived in Grosse Pointe Woods, an affluent, all-white suburb on the edge of Detroit. My father worked just a few blocks from the area where the 1967 Detroit riots broke out. I was comfortable going into the city for shopping, museums and entertainment.

But the week of July 23, I heard gunfire in the distance as I lay in my safe, surburban bed. Detroit erupted in riots that have been ranked among the worst in U.S. history. For five days, the city was in insurrection. First the state police were called in. Then the National Guard. Then President Johnson sent in federal troops.

Tanks rolled through the streets of Detroit. Forty-three people died. Hundreds were injured. Thousands were arrested. Thousands of buildings were burned. Families were left homeless.

In the end, the greatest casualty of that week of rage was the city itself. Detroit, once the powerhouse of American prosperity, died a slow, agonizing death after the riots. The number of plans to stop the decline and turn the city around were without number. None succeeded.

Today, 48 years later, there are some tentative signs of life, but the most robust revitalization plan will never bring Detroit back to what it was.

The Detroit police touched off the riots. They had a reputation for brutality and racism. There were few minorities on the force and minorities bore the brunt of out-of-control behavior.

But it wasn't the police who bore the consequences of the rioting. It was everybody else.

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This is the Saturday  Morning Home Repair Blog where the Dailykos community gets together to talk about all things construction and repair. Our genial and expert staff stand ready to aid you on your every problem.

This is my first SMHRB diary, so I'm going to start by introducing myself.

Hi! I'm Elsa. My user name reflects the fact that my surname starts with an "F." My expertise comes from my efforts over the last seven years to rehab run-down houses and turn them into rentals. I'm decidedly over 60, and most of what I know about home repair I've learned recently.

I didn't start out to be a rehabber. I had a desk job for most of my adult life. I was a copy editor at a daily newspaper for the last 23 years as a wage slave. I got into rehabbing when my parents died (Dad in late 2007 and Mom in early 2008) and I came into a modest inheritance.

The date of my inheritance is significant. Think back to what was happening in late 2007 and early 2008 -- the great financial apocalypse. I was watching my 401k turning into guano; real estate prices were cratering; my own home equity evaporated overnight. In 2008 I was starting to shift my thinking from "what's happening now" to "retirement time is coming." In short, my financial prospects were terrifying.

Having a bit of cash on hand inspired me. Real estate prices were insanely low. Houses that were valued at $120k in mid 2007 were now selling for less than $20k. The stock market looked dodgy at best. So, I invested my inheritance in houses. Not all at once, mind you. One at a time. The houses I bought cost between $11K and $17k. In each case, I put $20k-30k into them and rented them out.

Fast forward to spring 2013. My employer laid off my entire department (the copy desk) and I was out of a job for the first time since I was 17. As soon as the initial shock wore off, and my abject terror at the prospect of never having a regular job again subsided, I was filled with the most exhilarating optimism I have ever experienced.

For the first time since becoming an adult my life was entirely my own.

I decided to invest a big chunk of my 401k in rehabbing another house. I hadn't bought a house for several years at that point. I started going on regular outings with my real estate agent in search of my next project.

At that point, the real estate market in my area had started a gradual recovery. In fact, existing home sales were booming in my community. I put in offers on no less than five houses -- only to lose in a bidding war each time.

Yeah, that's me.
Then, one fine late-July day, I was out riding my bicycle. I cruised past a sad-looking brick bungalow with a for sale sign and my fate was sealed.

I whipped out my cell phone and called my agent, who, as it turned out, was in the area finishing up a showing. He arrived 10 minutes later. The asking price was just $10k -- a clue that this wasn't going to be a minor rehab job. I had recently bid on several houses of similar size and construction that ended up going for more than $50k. My agent called for the lock-box code, but we ended up having to wait for about a half hour before the listing agent got back to us. In that time, several other interested buyer groups showed up. A house that cheap generates a lot of interest.

We went through the house as part of the crowd of potential buyers. Apparently, the place had just gone on the market -- less than an hour before I cycled by.

The day I first laid eyes on the house. Yes, that's
my bicycle in the driveway.
The inside was horrifying. Several people went in and shuddered, then left immediately. I mean... it was nasty. There was a hole in the roof. You could stand in the living room and look up to see the sky. There were four inches of standing water in the basement. The place stank and there was exposed insulation handing down from the ruined ceilings. That tree you see at the left of the picture was actually a weed bush grown over 30-feet tall. It had caused the hole in the roof.

The house had been sitting empty, unheated, for five years, I found out by chatting up neighbors.

A couple of pictures:

A nasty little kitchen.
The living room of doom.





















To move the story along, I put in an offer and I got the house, though I paid quite a bit more than the asking price. It was still very, very cheap.

I closed in the first week of August and started demo the very next day.

The first thing that happened is we took down the overgrown bush that ruined the roof.

The guy with the chainsaw is my handyman/general contractor. I'm going to call him "M." M and I have been working together since the second house I rehabbed. I couldn't do what I do without him. But we are decidedly an odd couple. M is of the Tea Party persuasion. We tend to have hilarious political arguments when we're working together. I'm not sure he thinks it's as funny as I do, but it does keep things entertaining. M taught me to use power tools without hurting myself. At the end of the day, he's my employee and friend -- the kind of friend you can't resist setting off on another rant about Obama's evil plot to outlaw light bulbs.

When I rehab, I do what I can and what I can't I generally farm out to M. I've learned to respect my limitations. I'm not going to work on the roof. I'm not going to drywall a ceiling. If it's a big paint job, I'll hire M because it would take me four times as long to do it myself. Time is money.

The second day of the project was interior demo. I hired my sometimes helper "B." B is a musician who picks up extra cash doing odd jobs. When I can get him, I enjoy working with him. He's the anti-M -- liberal to the core. But I can't get him regularly. His health is iffy and if I say, "Come on over and give me a hand tomorrow," chances are about 50/50 that he'll actually show up. He's cheaper than M. I pay him $15 an hour when he's working. (That's my minimum wage. I even pay that to neighborhood children when I occasionally hire them.)

B helped me tear out the cabinets in the kitchen, and I tore out the disgusting carpet and pad in the living room. The hardwood underneath was unsurprisingly ruined. Five years of water falling on it from the hole in the roof was the culprit. I pulled down the ruined ceiling dry wall and called it a day. I was exhausted. (And so was B.)

For the next week, I entertained estimates and bids from a variety of specialty contractors. You could walk around the place now and actually see the problems that had to be fixed. My regular plumber gave me a "I'll do right by you," bid, and I couldn't tie him down any farther than that. Sadly, it was my last time hiring him because by the end when he finally presented his bill, I didn't think he'd done right by me.

M took on the roof. I got estimates from four companies, but M's price was the best -- by several thousand dollars.

The kitchen stripped down.
The scope of work was as follows:

New roof
Full re-pipe
New furnace
New hot water heater
Take out wall between kitchen and living room and install beam across opening
Repair plaster and drywall
New flooring in kitchen, living room and hall
Do "something" with the upstairs room
Refurbish stairs to upstairs
New cabinets and appliances in kitchen
New windows
New garage door
Paint throughout
New toilet in bathroom
New doors and storm doors front and side
Miscellaneous rewiring to bring it to code
New cement driveway from house to sidewalk

I wanted to keep my rehab cost under $50k and get it done in 30-45 days. From the list above, you're probably saying, "Right... and I can build the Taj Mahal on my lunch hour with pocket change." You're right. I was being wildly optimistic. It went over budget and WAY over time.

This is way too much story to tell in one diary. It was an adventure like none other I've had in my life. It went on for three months. So, I'll be continuing the saga in coming diaries. But here's a spoiler. The result was spectacular.

Here's a taste:

You might want to scroll back up and look at how the kitchen started.

Until next time...

Discuss

Thu Apr 23, 2015 at 08:31 AM PDT

'The Cloud' and privacy

by elsaf

I had an interesting experience this morning. I think the Adobe Corporation is spying on me. Am I paranoid?

I'm working on a little personal publishing project that needed a couple of graphics. It was nothing complicated. Just a couple of diagrams that amounted to simple polygons with measurements noted to the side. (See illustration)

I don't have anything like Autocad (does anybody use that anymore?) or even Illustrator on my desktop. And the shapes function in my word processor wasn't going to do the job.

But I do have a subscription to Adobe Photoshop's cloud-based program. I wouldn't normally subscribe to software. I believe in owning. But Photoshop is very expensive, and I just can't afford to buy the CS suite. It's the photo editor I'm most proficient with. I'm really good with Photoshop. So, even though I could use something more consumer-, rather than pro-oriented, I like having Photoshop at my fingertips.

I bought the subscription after my ancient personal copy of Photoshop stopped working. (Yes, I paid for it once, about 15-20 years ago. But to keep it working you have to keep buying updates and $250-$300 a year got too expensive after a while.)

Anyway, last year, I got an offer from Adobe for the full version of Photoshop, with several other coordinating apps for about $10 a month. Even though I hate the idea of subscribing to software, I decided it was worth it just to be able to go back to using my favorite photo editor.

So, this morning, I was somewhat awkwardly using Photoshop for a task that would be much better done in something like Illustrator or some other vector graphic program. But, I'm really good with Photoshop, so I did accomplish what I needed to do.

Then, I hear my email notification. I've got a spam email from Adobe telling me I could make graphics for presentations very easily with another program they offer.

I don't get a steady stream of spam from Adobe. This can't have been a coincidence.

As I use their cloud-based version of Photoshop, they are not only keeping track of the fact I'm using it, they're looking over my shoulder to see what I'm doing with it.

This may make me give up Photoshop. I love it for photo editing. The price is at a level I can handle. But I don't think any corporation has a right to look over my shoulder when I'm doing personal projects.

Of course there's no practical harm from this example. I just put one of the diagrams I made this morning at the top of this diary. It's a pretty generic thing. I might even have found a useable version of what I needed with a Google image search. Nobody is going to come after me because I'm drawing the shapes of pieces in a knitting pattern that I'm writing.

But I can easily extrapolate this situation to something that could be extremely harmful. For example: What if rather than drawing the shapes of pieces of a cardigan, I was diagramming my brilliant invention that is going to replace fossil fuel, save the world, and make me billions of dollars? Could Adobe steal my idea, cut me out and make the billions for Adobe instead? Could they inform on me to BP or Exxon and see to it that I can never get my product to market?

"The cloud" is the enemy of intellectual property. As the major software providers move to the cloud model, we are being denied the ability to use a computer for anything we would like to keep to ourselves, even temporarily.

I can't disconnect from the Internet and use my Photoshop subscription in privacy. I always save my final drawing or photo to my own hard drive, not the cloud, but I am still compelled to have it on their server while I'm working on it.

Cloud storage seems to make sense (depending on how you look at it) for photo storage. I've lost precious digital photos because of hard drive failure. Photos are large files and over a lifetime of taking snapshots you're going to need more and more storage.

But at the same time, we can thank the existence of cloud storage for a lot of embarrassing personal photos (of celebrities and regular people) that have made it into the public space.

I've never taken or allowed to be taken any nude photos of myself. Nobody wants that. Believe me.

But if I should develop a desire for nude personal photography, I ought to be able to indulge in it without fear that my photos are going to be on the bulletin board at the grocery store the next time I go shopping. The only way I can ever be sure of this is to make sure my photos are ONLY stored on media that I own and for which I can control access.

There's a whole type of laptop out there now that doesn't even have a hard drive. Just solid state memory holding the boot system. You can't use it without connecting to the Internet. I don't own a Chromebook, and as long as there are alternatives, I won't. When I boot up my laptop and start on the draft of my next great Pulitzer-Prize-winning novel, I want to be sure that nobody is reading it until I'm ready.

Stop looking over my shoulder, Internet!

 

Discuss

Wed Apr 15, 2015 at 06:44 AM PDT

Obamacare and me

by elsaf

The ACA is far from perfect. Like a lot of other people, I would like to see single payer, or "Medicare for all." The premiums on the Healthcare.gov policies are too high and the benefits far from as good as what I used to get through my (former) employer.

But make no mistake, the net result has been positive for me. I am better off today (especially today, Tax Day 2015) than I would be without it.

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Sat Dec 13, 2014 at 08:55 AM PST

Weirdest slam of Obama ever

by elsaf

OK, it wouldn't embed so here's the link:

USDA urges Americans to stop eating cookie-dough, as reported by Fox News

OK, I think they were joking with the "Only in Obama's America," but are they self-aware enough to know they are parodying themselves?

Poll

What's more toxic?

2%2 votes
11%9 votes
2%2 votes
83%68 votes

| 81 votes | Vote | Results

Discuss

Thu Nov 27, 2014 at 07:00 AM PST

Persimmon Pudding at Thanksgiving

by elsaf

This is a repost of a diary I wrote in 2012. I'm posting it again today, because it's so appropriate to the holiday.

This is the story of why my family has Persimmon Pudding and never Pumpkin Pie on Thanksgiving. It's more than that, of course, because all good stories are more than a just one thing.

This story encompasses elephant jokes told in Chinese and cats who walk on tables. It is a meditation on what is funny and what other cultures think is funny.

And it's a little snap shot of the life of my family some 30-plus years ago.

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Thu Nov 06, 2014 at 07:13 AM PST

Cat calls and Ronald Reagan

by elsaf

I have mixed feelings about that 10 Hours of Cat Calls video. Some of the behavior I saw in that clip disturbed me. Some of it looked pretty benign, to me -- YMMV. It got me thinking about my own experience, and one incident that shook me up more than a little bit.

I'm a woman in my 60s. I'm heavy set, gray-haired and few people's image of "beauty." That doesn't bother me. I am who I am, and I'm comfortable with myself. But my looks mean I don't have to deal with a lot of cat calls, wolf whistles or unwanted attention from men -- particularly young men.

I did have one disturbing experience, though. The year was 1980 and the scene was the Republican National Convention at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, when Ronald Reagan got the Republican nomination. What was I doing there? I was a college journalism student and signed on as an intern for one of the television teams covering the event.

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Disclaimer: I am solidly Pro-Choice. What I am attempting to do is help other Pro-Choice people understand the viewpoint of the opposition. I believe that it is difficult to change minds if you don't fully understand where the other person is coming from.

The battle over abortion has stubbornly remained stuck in a sort of calcified trench warfare over the past 40 years. Roe v Wade was supposed to make safe, medical abortion a matter to be decided between a woman and her doctor. Forty one years later, we're still fighting for that goal and it seems we're losing ground, faster and faster.

I'm often discouraged by the way a woman's right to control her own body is treated as an extreme, liberal idea. Like most pro-choice people, I would fight to my last breath to prevent any woman who finds abortion morally repugnant from being coerced into an abortion. To my mind, that should settle it. The only women who should consider having abortions are women who are not opposed to abortion. If the pro-life side took that attitude, there would be no problem.

But the pro-life side simply can't possibly take that attitude, and therein lies the reason we can't put this argument to rest.

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Sat Sep 13, 2014 at 12:13 PM PDT

That time I got stopped by the police

by elsaf

It was the summer of 1962. I threw a slumber party in my parents' basement. I was 10 or 11 -- I don't remember whether it was before or after my birthday that year.

We lived in Grosse Pointe Woods, an upscale suburb just a little way from Lake St. Clair. After several hours of listening to my collection of 45s, talking about the boyfriends none of us had yet, eating pizza, drinking Coke and giggling, someone had the idea of riding our bikes down to the lake to watch the sun rise. It was about 3:30 a.m. and my parents were sound asleep. They wouldn't have let us step out of the house at that time of night if they'd had any idea what we were up to, but none of us had any fear of being out on the streets.

So, this little gaggle of 10 and 11-year-old girls took off on our bicycles and rode about a mile down to Lakeshore Drive, where there was a narrow strip of grass between the road and the lake. We sat down on the bank and the sun came up in all it's pearly pink glory. As it was getting light, we hopped back on our bikes and headed home.

Before we'd got more than a block from the lake, we were stopped by a police officer in his patrol car.

Nobody was shot. Nobody was frisked. Nobody was Tasered or handcuffed. Nobody was even hauled down to the station to have our parents called.

The officer said there had been a break-in in the area and he asked for our names, ages and home addresses. We told him what he wanted to know (polite little girls didn't refuse to give their names to the police in those days), he chuckled a little -- having decided that we didn't seem like a bunch of house breakers -- and sent us on our way.

Naturally, we were all white and none of us had any fear of police, because we'd been raised to believe the police were there to protect us.

I'm not sure that story would be anything like my memory today. My little story sounds a bit like a fairy tale. The idea of a group of 10- and 11-year-old girls out riding their bikes at 3:30 a.m. would make most parents turn pale today -- even in an upscale community like Grosse Pointe.

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Thu Sep 11, 2014 at 07:35 AM PDT

Detroit water: A glimmer of hope

by elsaf

Two days ago, a deal was reached on the future of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Authority that will allow the city's bankruptcy case go forward. Like most bankruptcy agreements, it involved a good measure of arm twisting and Hobson's choices. But it has the potential to benefit most of the people in southeastern Michigan who use water -- in other words, everybody.

The outline:

1. The system will now be governed by a regional authority, the Great Lakes Water Authority. The authority will have six members: 2 from the city of Detroit, 1 each from Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties, and one appointed by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. (Oakland and Macomb counties cover most of the Detroit suburbs. Wayne is mostly the city with a few downriver suburbs.)

2. The suburbs will be contributing $50 million a year to repair and rebuild the system for the next 40 years, a total of $2 billion. That will finance $500 to $800 million in system upgrades and repairs.

3. Water rate increases would be capped at 4% a year for the next 10 years.

4. The authority will provide up to $4.5 million a year to assist Detroiters living below the poverty line with water bills.

5. The Detroit Water and Sewer Department will continue to operate and maintain the system's pipes and plants within the city borders.

6. All union deals with Detroit water workers will stay in place, though 900 workers will transfer to the new GLWA.

Continue across the fold for a bit of detail.

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Mon Sep 08, 2014 at 12:21 PM PDT

I just signed up for Obamacare

by elsaf

I was laid off in April 2013. Since then, I've been struggling to pay for really expensive COBRA health insurance. That ends on October 31. I'm 63, so I have two more years to wait for Medicare.

So, beginning Nov. 1, 2014, I'll be diving into Obamacare.

I have yet to see how it's going to work for me financially, but one thing is certain, I'll be paying a lower premium.

Not everything I've learned going through the sign-up process is good, but it's not entirely bad either. Follow me across the Cheese Doodle of Democracy for some griping and some praise.

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