Thursday, October 29, 2009

More warning signs on the economy , lamenting Halloween and a celebration at Chain, Cohn and Stiles law firm

 * ... A NEW  CHILL IN HOME SALES: In this dour market we're all looking for signs of hope that the economy is on the rebound, but it can be misleading (and reckless) to latch onto a headline and jump to conclusions. Take some recent housing statistics, for example, which showed improving sales and stabilizing prices, leading some to decry the rebound under way. The real truth always rests in the details, and as the New York Times noted recently, we may be looking at a new chill in home sales, not a rebound. Why? Here's a salient passage from the Times): (you can read the entire piece here):

 "Artificially low interest rates and a government tax credit are luring buyers, but both those inducements are scheduled to end. Defaults and distress sales are rising in the middle and upper price ranges. And millions of people have lost so much equity that they are locked into their homes for years, a modern variation of the Victorian debtor’s prison that is freezing a large swath of the market.
 "... The only hot sector of the real estate market has been foreclosures. Investors and first-time buyers have been competing for these, often creating bidding wars. But with the economy still weak, many analysts expect more foreclosures."

 Locally some 70 percent of our home sales come in the "distressed" category, so while that's a good thing in terms  of moving inventory, the larger threat (as the Times notes) is coming in the mid-to higher-end homes where folks with excellent credit are now getting into trouble because of job losses or simply being upside down in their mortgages. As the story noted, in California defaults are "beginning to migrate from the subprime inland areas to the more exclusive coastal region" in cities like Santa Barbara (defaults up 25 percent) and San Luis Obispo (defaults rose 46  percent). The truth is always in the details and we need to pay attention to it.

 * ... CHAINLAW CELEBRATES 75 YEARS: I stopped by the recent celebration of the 75th anniversary of the founding of the law firm of Chain, Cohn and Stiles, the plaintiff's "slip and fall" law firm formerly known as Chain-Younger. Dave Cohn, a principal in the firm and a personal friend, held the event in the outdoor, shaded annex  next to the downtown Bank of America building where the firm is headquartered. The event was catered by Lisa Borda of Bord A Petite and among those attending were Carla Musser of Chevron, former Cal State Bakersfield development officer Mike Chertok, Colleen McGauley and Teresa Fahsbender of CASA and Jim and Beverly Camp of the Camp farming families. Conspicuously absent from the soiree was Milt Younger, Cohn's uncle who was one of the founders and driving forces behind Chain-Younger for decades, who left the firm and has continued law practice with his old partner Tim Lemucchi.

 * ... SWINE FLU UPDATE: I noted here recently that the folks over at Preferred Family Physicians on Truxtun Extension had seen a spike in swine flu cases, up to as many as 20 a day. (previous post here) Dr. Raj Patel, who owns the place along with Dr. John Heidrick, told me Thursday the numbers had now declined significantly. "We don't know why but it's quite a relief," he said. "This week we've had two or three cases a day, much better than last week." Patel said it was puzzling why he had seen such a dramatic change but warned "we shouldn't celebrate" or let our guard down. Like other medical providers across town, Preferred Family has yet to receive more shipments of the swine flu vaccine.

 * ... A SCROOGE'S TAKE ON HALLOWEEN: Accepting my own Scrooge-like tendencies, I have to wonder if I am alone in dreading Halloween and the carnival-like atmosphere it creates in Bakersfield. In many neighborhoods Halloween is marked by hundreds - seems  like thousands - of strangers showing up at your door, some pushing strollers with infants and holding a sack hoping for a large Snickers. It's a never-ending stream of total strangers who leave a trail of candy wrappers up and down the street until the supply runs out. When the Californian posted a question about Halloween and out of neighborhood kids on Facebook Thursday (the question was: Should parents be driving their kids to different neighborhoods to trick or treat?), a couple of responses that caught my eye. (go to the Facebook link here) Enough said.

 "NO. Leave the van and baby in strollers (who obviously can't eat candy) and accept the neighborhood you live in."

 "The bus loads of kids is why I don't give out candy anymore. I want to see my neighborhood kids, interact with them and their parents. When I see a bus or van unload of 10 plus kids I turn off my lights."

 "Children don't get to decide which family or neighborhood they are born or live. If the neighborhood is unsafe, then by all means, visit a SAFE neighborhood. All children deserve a fun and safe night of trick-or-treating."


Anonymous said...

In "many" neighborhods? It all depends on where you live, I guess, but maybe you're overreaching in your description. Zillions of kids don't run about in our neighborhood, which is a pretty nice one, although it's clear that some of the large groups with little children are from out of the area. Things pretty much shut down by 8 p.m. Guess you're a Seven or Haggin "Oakser" or some similar neighborhood. In that case, maybe you're actually luckier than the rest to live in such a lovely neighborhood, although housing prices are putrid, as we're often, endlessly, repetitively, nauseatingly reminded day after day after day by certain sources. Turn off your lights and quit handing out the big bars. Or give Dum-Dums and rock-hard gum drops from the 99-Cent Store. Encourage your neighbors to be cranks, too. The poorer people, imported at Halloween and Christmas to your high-end neighborhood (not that there's anything wrong with being high-end, as Seinfeld might say; we all aspire to it) to stare in wonder at the grandeur and drawn by the hope of getting a king-sized Butterfinger will eventually get the idea.

Anonymous said...

Bah Humbug. I love Halloween. I miss the days when in Atlanta the Hollomans had hanging skeletons in the carport and Mrs. Holloman dressed as a witch would hand out Kool Aid from a smokey cauldron as weel as Rice Krispy bars. The streets were teaming with kids and we were'nt concerned about pedofiles or razor blades in the treats. The costumes didn't come in a box from Walmart and actually showed some imagination. I live in a neighborhood that doesn't get too much Halloween traffic, but I still hang a flickering sign that says "Bates Motel--Vacancy". And we pipe scary music out the window. I miss the days when it wasn't all about the candy.

Anonymous said...

Based on the last comment, you have turned Halloween into class warfare. Excellent! the economy is old news. Don't bury the lead. Put this up above the fold. extend this through the holidays, suggesting the "oaksers" somehow get three drumsticks on their turkeys. Jerry! this is big.

Anonymous said...

Class warfare has nothing to do with adults pushing infants coming to your house. My parents used to live in the Oaks and I remember growing up all the adults going from house to house. I don't have a problem with the kids (NOBODY comes to my neighborhood) but a lot of this is just out of hand and I don't blame the "oaksers" for getting sick of it.

Anonymous said...

We take the noblesse oblige route - we never had so little in our lives that our parents drove us to a rich neighborhood to get candy. I'm glad I can afford to give out candy one night of the year, and see happy faces. Yes, there are teenagers...there always will be. The little ones who say "thank you", or "may I have a piece for my baby brother", or the parents who lovingly smile and say "thank you" make it all worthwhile. I'm sorry for those who only see this one night as a scourage on their privacy.

Anonymous said...

Six pounds of Costco candy: $30. Sweet little faces at my door for the past two hours: priceless.