From the Publisher: We’re All a Little Annoyed

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2007
Arnold G. York

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) has been very busy lately and done some very interesting things. In a 9-0 unanimous decision they just held that the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) can’t just hold college football players as indentured servants, serving their teams virtually for free, in the name of amateurism while everyone around them is making wads of money. The NCAA top football schools make millions each year. The NCAA itself is a billion-dollar-a-year business. All the top head football coaches rake in seven figures, like No. 1, Nick Sabin of Alabama, makeing $9.1 per year and No. 5 coach Jimbo Fisher of Texas A&M who makes $7.5 million. USC pays a paltry $4.6 million to its coach and poor UCLA’s head football coach barely subsists on $3.5 million. Need it be said the stadiums make money? Also the food concessionaires, the parking lots, the souvenir sellers, even the local neighbors who let you park on their lawns for $10 or $20. But a few years back when they slipped running back Reggie Bush of USC a few bucks to take care of his family, the NCAA was outraged that he had violated his amateur status, took away his trophies and jumped all over USC. It was hypocrisy wrapped in terminal greed. The old adage is that the justices of SCOTUS read the newspapers to which we can probably now add they may also watch college football on Saturdays. Probably even more important, they agreed unanimously not just on the football case but also on a case involving a religious dispute. I kind of get the feeling that they understand the necessity, wherever possible, to speak in a uniform voice, even if some of the justices may have to bite their lip a bit to do so. In a country currently torn apart by factionalism and politics, we desperately need a public institution that understands the enormous value of some consensus and its ability to lower the terrible acrimonious dialogue.

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The local real estate markets remain very hot but with the continuous rising prices we just saw an overall drop in the number of sales, ever so slightly, and some are wondering if the market has begun to crest. Malibu has always been its own child and may not follow suit, at least not initially, but if interest rates rise things could change. The median home price in LA County is currently $775,000 (half the homes are higher and half are lower). In the old days, we used to calculate that the maximum you could spend for housing was three to four times your income, so to buy a home for $775,000, you’d need a family income of between $194K to $258K, which is substantially more than most earn. Of course, on the Westside of LA, you’d be hard pressed to find any home at that median price of $775,000, and in Malibu it might get you a gardener’s cottage. This explains in part why the state legislature again has a bunch of bills being put in the hopper that might allow duplexes or even four-plexes in an R-1 (single-family) zoned area and also probably is going to crack down on rules that make it difficult to even build an additional dwelling unit (ADU, also called granny flat) in an R-1 district. In Malibu we often euphemistically call them guest cottages. It also explains why builders have bought up so many old rundown homes in many rundown areas and upgraded them. If you live in an old, somewhat declining neighborhood, you probably hate it and call it gentrification and are out protesting. If you’re a young buyer looking for a first home, gentrification is great because it puts affordable real estate on the market. If you’re a kid working in Malibu and want to rent a place close to work, you can pretty much forget it, unless you have some friends with a house. It also gives you some sense of the homeless situation. Most homeless people formerly lived in old, declining neighborhoods, perhaps in rooming houses or low cost hotels and motels. Those neighborhoods hardly exist anymore so there just aren’t a lot of options; besides, with rents at current levels, people need a first and last month’s rent plus security deposit to get into a place—meaning $3,000 or $4,000. They just don’t have the money so they’re living in RVs or cars or in tents.

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Lately, I’ve been hearing stories about a scam going on, usually victimizing old people where they are being conned on the phone to go out and buy gift cards that, once purchased, are as good as cash. The scammers are really very accomplished, and they know how to rope in a mark, often over a period of time creating anxiety about something terrible happening if you don’t act immediately. Next time you’re in the supermarket, ask the clerk about how often people come in and want to buy a bunch of gift cards. And beware.

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I walked through Legacy Park this morning and, sadly, still no water, no ducks, no geese, no birds, just a bunch of hardy pigeons and even they are getting a little bit annoyed.