Tag: Consumer advocacy

CO homeowners helpless against rogue homeowner associations

The Moonridge Falls subdivision HOA in Grand Junction suddenly locked homeowners out of their own common space park this winter, nominally for safety, even though no accidents had occurred in the park and no one had ever been hurt in the park. The HOA effectively treated all homeowners as though they were trespassers in their own common space. Across the state, subdivisions that lock off commonly-owned amenities, like swimming pools or tennis courts — whether for safety or to eliminate vandalism — provide all homeowners keys to the locks on the amenities because the homeowners own the amenities and pay the substantial costs of maintaining them.

Homeowners in the Moonridge Falls subdivision in Grand Junction woke up last December 21 to find their homeowners association (HOA) had suddenly locked them out of their own common space park.

Residents couldn’t remember a time when the gates to the park had ever been locked. No one had been hurt in the park. No accidents had occurred in the park recently, not even a close call, but for some reason the HOA suddenly decided to lock the park and keep everyone out, even homeowners, as though it was a crime scene or a grave emergency had just occurred. The HOA put up a sign saying the park would stay locked as long as there was ice on the pond.

Yet long after the ice had melted, the locks remained, leading people to wonder what was really up, and what they could do about it.

Locked out of their own property

When they bought their homes, Moonridge homeowners paid extra for the right to access the subdivision’s heavily landscaped private park. They pay all of the park’s substantial maintenance costs through their annual dues, and the cost to maintain the park takes over 90% of their dues. And as legal owners of the common space, all homeowners all have an equal right to access it 24/7. The HOA had no more right to lock all homeowners out of their own park than they have to lock them out of their own homes.

But instead of balancing what might have been a legitimate safety concern with preserving homeowners’ rights to enjoy their own property — for example by offering all homeowners keys to the locks like other subdivisions do, the HOA took an action that treated all of its own homeowners like criminals.

Residents who had been using the park for breaks from endless Zoom meetings in the pandemic, or for outdoor respite nearby were now flat out of luck. They would now have to get in their cars and drive to a public park, even though they were paying for a very nice park right next their own homes.

Ignoring laws, infringing on homeowner rights

It turned out that the Moonridge Falls HOA was also ignoring laws and compromising homeowners’ rights in a lot more ways than just this, though.

  • The HOA cancelled its only homeowner meeting last year “because of covid,” refusing to even put on a virtual meeting, and depriving owners of their only chance to discuss the plan to deprive them of their common space for the entire winter, before it ever happened. State law requires HOAs hold at least one meeting a year.
  • The HOA had never registered with the State HOA office as has been required since 1992.
  • The HOA had never adopted policies for dealing with homeowner grievances, or for fining homeowners, even thought the law requires HOAs have such policies in place.
  • The HOA had no separate reserve fund.
  • The HOA had never given homeowners information about the state laws regulating HOAs, or about homeowner duties in regard to HOAs, as the law required.
  • The HOA held board meetings without making agendas available to homeowners. (The law says HOA boards must make agendas available to homeowners so people are aware of what their HOAs are up to.)
  • And the HOA had never adopted a policy regulating conflicts of interest by its board members. (The longtime board president, owner of a landscape maintenance company, had long given his own family’s company the contract for maintaining all of Moonridge Falls’ landscaping.)

Most homeowners never knew or paid attention to all the ways their HOA was violating their rights and ignoring state laws. But when the HOA suddenly locked off the park to everyone and blocked every attempt homeowners tried to address the move, the HOA crossed the line into being a dictator, and became worthy of more scrutiny.

Abusive HOAs have total control. Homeowners have little to no recourse.

So what can homeowners do with an HOA that abuses its decision-making power and infringes on their property rights?

Turns out, not much.

They can file a complaint against their HOA with Colorado’s HOA Information and Resources Center.  But the Resource Center can only collect complaints and compile them into an annual report. That’s it. The agency tells consumers up front on its website that it “does not have any investigative or enforcement capabilities to address your HOA complaint.”

While the Colorado Common Interest Ownership Act (CCIOA, pdf) regulates HOAs and was created to protect consumers from abusive HOAs, it contains no mechanism for enforcement — zero — effectively leaving it without any “teeth.” So Colorado homeowners who belong to HOAs are at the mercy of abusive boards, whose members often are poorly qualified, in experience, knowledge or temperament, to hold positions of power over their neighbors.

The sad reality is that Colorado law leaves HOA Boards free to grab homeowners’ land, violate their rights, break state and federal laws, impose petty rules on a whim and make people’s lives miserable without ever having to worry about any corrective or punitive action being taken.

The only recourse homeowners have to fight a bad HOA is to file a lawsuit — and that is time consuming, costs lots of money and may not even solve the problem.

HOA horror stories abound

Complaints about abusive HOAs abound in Colorado, and everywhere across the country. Petty, poorly thought-out and even cruel decisions by HOA boards are common:

Power-hungry HOA boards that escalate conflicts instead of working to resolve them can bankrupt entire subdivisions by insisting on facing down homeowners who fight back by suing.

So, what’s the answer?

There is no real good answer right now. But there are things you can try:

Some say the answer is to vote out your HOA board, but because of the ways abusive boards operate, that can be difficult.

As private governments, HOA boards have no oversight and can easily engage in election fraud, for example by having existing board members “count” the ballots, and proclaiming who the winners are without providing homeowners with vote tallies. Boards can effectively appoint the same people — or their family members — to positions of power over and over again for years, assuring the same people get to lord over subdivisions for years, or decades, where they can continue using their position to benefit themselves financially and make life hard for homeowners they don’t like.

How else can homeowners fight back?

  • Pay attention to what your HOA board is doing. Too many people ignore this until it is too late, because they don’t want to get involved.
  • Get familiar with the CCIOA, and insist that your HOA follow the law.
  • Insist that your HOA board be transparent in scheduling and holding all its meetings, and they make agendas for all of their meetings available to homeowners, so homeowners can see if their Board is doing — or planning on doing things — may infringe on their property rights or make life difficult.
  • Insist your HOA board members end contracts that have even the appearance of a conflict of interest.
  • Insist your HOA board adhere to state law how it conducts its elections, so everyone has a, equal chance to get a say on the board. The CCIOA requires ballots be counted by neutral third parties who have no interest in the outcome. It doesn’t allow existing board members or candidates to count ballots. Don’t be fooled by things like offers to “notarize” the results of an illegitimately-held election as a way to legitimize it. Notarizing is not required by state law, and has no effect on whether the election was legally held. Adhering to the law that details how to hold a fair election is required by the law.
  • Lobby your elected state legislators to put much-needed teeth into the CCIOA.

HOAs with bad reputations can drag down property values and make things harder for homeowners and realtor strying to sell homes in subdivisions with bad reputations.

Millions of people in Colorado live in over 8,000 homeowner associations. It’s time for Colorado’s legislators fix the mess they created for all these people by failing to include any enforcement in the Colorado Common Interest Ownership Act.

The HOA Resource Office must get the funding it needs to investigate and pursue complaints against HOAs and and issue corrective actions.

 

 

 

 

The hero of City Market 24 Road

David at City Market 24 Road

Meet David, the best employee at City Market 24 Road.

Have you ever gone into a City Market, asked a store employee for help finding a product, had the employee march you all around the store for ten minutes looking for it, call the store manager who is also clueless, and then the employee finally shrugs, gives up and admits he or she doesn’t have a clue?

That’s not David.

David never fails to impress. He knows exactly where everything is in the store, he knows all about food, how to use all of the products in the store and lots more.

David works in the specialty cheese shop, but he also knows the rest of the store like the back of his hand. If you ever need a weird, obscure ingredient, like chopped gherkins, anchovy sauce or some kind of odd seasoning oil, David can take you right to it. If you are trying to figure out the difference between two different brands of garlic and herb spread, David not only knows all the differences, he knows which brand is better depending on whether you want to spread it on a cracker or crumble it into a salad or main dish. If want to make your beef Stroganoff really pop, David knows the secrets of how to do it.

David is a huge asset to City Market. He’s one of the reasons I shop at the 24 Road store more than any other store.

Before working at City Market, David managed the restaurant in the Doubletree Hotel on Horizon Drive for ten years, and before that, he was the manager of The Red Lobster, so the guy really knows food prep inside and out. He knows ingredients, he knows food.

Kroger Corporation, are you listening? You’re super-lucky to have this guy working for you, and if you read this, I want to nominate David to get a big, fat raise.

 

 

Beware local sales pitch for a free filet mignon dinner

Postcard mailed out locally that promotes a free meal in exchange for sitting through a financial services seminar.

Have you received a post card in the mail recently promising a free gourmet dinner, with your choice of filet mignon, poached salmon or grilled Portobello steak, at the Ocotillo Restaurant in exchange for sitting through an “informational seminar and insurance sales presentation”?

My first thought upon reading this post card was that given the high cost of the promotion — a sit-down filet mignon dinner at a really nice restaurant — that the company sponsoring this free dinner must be having a VERY hard time attracting customers on the merits of the company alone. I read the postcard thoroughly and squinted to read the mice type, which said “Securities and investment advisory services offered through Woodbury Financial Services.”

Then I looked into Woodbury Financial Services, and it was no wonder the person putting on this promo buried the company’s name in the mice type.

What to do if ICE comes knocking: Know your rights

On the same day Trump’s raids on immigrant families are scheduled to start (today), Trump issued a series of tweets that make his racism very clear:

“So interesting to see ‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly…… ….and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run. Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how……..it is done. These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough. I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!”

Trump and his administration are working to create terror in immigrant communities throughout the U.S. by directing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) carry out sweeping “family op” raids across the country on undocumented immigrant families who have been in the United States for years.

Mail order abortion pills now available in the U.S.

Need a safe abortion even though it’s hard to get one in or around Grand Junction?

Now there’s an answer, if you’re healthy and less than 9 weeks pregnant.

The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice announced that mail order abortion pills are now available in the U.S. through the Dutch website AidAccess.org.

AidAccess is a private initiative by a committed team of medical doctors and longterm abortion rights activists. The website is supported by a team of English and Spanish-speaking help-desk members. The goal of AidAccess.org is to assist women who don’t have access to locally available abortion services.

AidAccess was established a decade or so ago by Dr. Rebecca Gomperts, acting on the conviction that laws do not control whether or not abortions happen, the only thing laws can control is whether or not they happen safely.

Aid Access helps arrange for abortion pills to be shipped to patients around the world, and last October, as a result of growing requests and tightening abortion laws, the organization started arranging for the shipping of abortion pills to the United States.

Do you recognize this guy? Your anonymous tip could be worth money.

Surveillance camera photo of suspect who placed harassing classified ad in the Nickel

Another view of the suspect wanted on charges of harassment for placing a bogus classified ad in The Nickel.

Reposting from Mesa County CrimeStoppers Crime of the Week, 1/24/19

The Grand Junction Police Department needs your help to identify a male suspect that is wanted for harassment.

On Wednesday, January 2nd , an unknown male placed a malicious classified ad in “The Nickel” stating the victim’s house was “For Sale by Owner.” Security cameras capture a white male in his 50’s with a gray beard and last seen wearing a dark colored coat, blue jeans and a baseball cap. The surveillance photo of the suspect can be viewed at http://www.241stop.com.

If you know the identity or location of the suspect involved in this crime, please contact Crime Stoppers at (970) 241-7867. Information reported to Crime Stoppers that leads to an arrest can earn you up to $1,000 cash reward and you will remain completely anonymous. For more information, see us at http://www.241stop.com.

Republicans urge people to abandon their First Amendment right to petition

Firestone, CO home explosion resulting from abandoned gas lines buried near home, April, 2017 (Photo: CBS)

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits government from “abridging the right of the people … to petition the Government for a redress of grievances,” but this isn’t stopping the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce and area oil and gas apologist Keira Bresnahan from trying to talk Mesa County residents into voluntarily giving up their right to even sign petitions to get issues on the ballot, where everyone can have a chance to consider them.

State Senator Ray Scott of Mesa County caught double-dipping

A Daily Sentinel article from May 24 details how Republican State Senator Ray Scott double-billed his legislative expense account and his campaign account for over $1,000 in Uber rides, and didn’t correct it until the Sentinel exposed it and questioned him about it. The Sentinel obtained information on Scott’s expenditures through a Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) request to the state.

Anti-Ray Scott billboard campaign starts May 11

 

Mesa County residents who are fed up with State Senator Ray Scott are running a campaign urging people not to re-elect him in 2018.

Constituents say they’re fed up with Scott’s narrow-minded fossil fuel boosterism, ignorance of climate science, sub-par spelling and grammar and inability to tell credible research from industry-backed studies designed to reach a specific conclusion. Scott’s constituents are also offended by his rudeness. Scott calls voters who disagree with him “idiots.”  In February, 2017, the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel threatened Scott with a defamation lawsuit after he called an opinion piece critical of him “fake news.” When a Mesa County resident commented on Scott’s Facebook page that the Sentinel was actually a conservative newspaper, Scott responded with this grammatically-challenged comeback: “Your [sic] a foolish Democrat, go cry somewhere else” and blocked the constituent from his page.

Sen. Ray Scott tanks bill to boost electric vehicle charging stations across the state

Colorado State Senator Ray Scott

Mesa County’s State Senator Ray Scott was the key “no” vote that killed a bill to encourage utility companies to build more infrastructure across the state for electric vehicles (EVs). The bill, SB18-216, would have permitted electric companies to build more EV charging stations and recoup the costs of the construction by charging fees to users. The bill would have expanded the use of clean-running electric vehicles in Colorado by making it easier for people to charge them when traveling across the state.

Tanking the bill was a goal of Americans for Prosperity (AFP), an astroturf front group funded by the billionaire Koch Brothers, owners of Koch Industries, a private conglomerate with holdings in oil and gas. 

The dangers of June Fellhauer’s 2018 talk by Caroline Leaf, promoted by District 51

WakeUp Ministries’ promotion of Caroline Leaf’s talk

Local self-styled Christian missionary June Fellhauer is back in 2018 and this time, her unregistered nonprofit Wake Up Ministries sponsored a talk at Two Rivers Convention Center on January 12 by  Dr. Caroline Leaf, another Christian missionary.

Caroline Leaf labels herself a “cognitive neuroscientist.” Her teachings are aimed at helping people “see the link between science and God as a tangible way of controlling their thoughts and emotions.”  Dr. Leaf’s talked are based on her own idea that “the mind controls the brain.” She teaches that thoughts are the sole controller of our physical and mental health, that “toxic thinking is the root cause disease” and that thoughts can change our DNA.

The problem is, most of Leaf’s teachings are debunked by science.

Local business owners want “a Chamber for the rest of us”

Shawn Carr, owner of G.J. Computer Center

Two small business owners in Grand Junction are fed up and ready to start a new organization that will do what they thought the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce was supposed to do: boost small local businesses and improve life in town for those struggling at the lower end of the income scale.

Shawn Carr, a technology specialist who owns GJ Computer Center, and Billy Jacobs, owner of XZRT Gaming on Orchard Mesa, say the Grand Junction Area Chamber falls far short of providing local small businesses what they really need.

To illustrate this, Shawn tells how he recently attended a Chamber event  billed as a way for businesses to promote themselves to other businesses. He brought a pocket full of business cards to the event, but when he got there found every booth but one represented a national or international conglomerate based outside of town. He ended up handing out only one business card, and walked away thinking it’s time someone did better than this.

XCel will raise your gas rates every year for the next three years unless you say something NOW!

This is really short notice, but if money is tight in your household you need to know that the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) is holding a meeting tonight at the Mesa County Public Library to solicit public comments on a proposal by Xcel Energy (pdf) to raise natural gas rates by $139 million over the next three years.

The public comment hearing is today, November 2, at the Mesa County Central Library, 443 N. 6th St., in Grand Junction starting at 4 p.m. and continuing until 7 p.m. You can drop in any time during those hours, or submit comments by snailmail or email. 

Tipton and Gardner vote to end consumers’ right to sue when big banks steal from them

CO Senator Cory Gardner voted for a measure that will let big banks fleece consumers and get away with it

Why is the stock market zooming up so high?

Because the Trump administration is gutting consumer protections, most notably against the big banks, so the banks can more freely commit fraud and fleece customers like you and me without being held accountable.

Republicans just voted to end consumer protection rules that ban banks from forcing people into arbitration after banks defraud them. The rule strips Americans of their right to go to court to get justice against fraudulent activity, theft and other wrongdoing by big banks.

Republican Colorado State Senator Ray Scott can’t even fix a typo

Ray Scott

Denver Post: State Senator Ray Scott (R- Mesa County) cast a “spiteful, obstructionist vote” against fixing an error in a bill passed in Spring, 2017 that is costing western slope transportation districts crucial funds needed to operate

Governor Hickenlooper called a special session in early October so legislators could fix a mistake in Senate Bill 17-267, passed last spring, that is costing public entities across the state millions of dollars in lost pot tax revenues.

Legislators passed the bill with an error in it that keeps voter-approved special districts across the state from collecting marijuana sales taxes to fund their services. Many of the affected districts, like the Denver Regional Transportation District, the Denver Zoo, the Denver Botanic Gardens and Museum of Nature and Science are on the front range, but western slope entities are losing critical funding as well. Western slope districts losing funds because of the error include the Gunnison Valley Regional Transportation Authority, the Summit Combined Housing Authority, the Roaring Fork Regional Transportation Authority, the San Miguel Regional Transportation Authority and the Edwards Metropolitan District.

At a special session convened to address the problem during the first week of October, a bill to fix the error that originated in the Democratic-controlled House passed by a 37-25 vote, mostly along party lines. Our very own Rep. Dan Thurlow (R-Mesa County), was the only Republican House Representative who voted for the fix. In arguing to pass it, Thurlow said, “We’re here. We spent the money [for the special session]…I think we should just go ahead and fix it.”

More Social Media Insight Into CO State Senator Ray Scott’s Attitude Toward Constituents

Colorado State Senator Ray Scott

Mesa County resident Claudette Konola ran against Ray Scott for the State Senate District 7 seat in 2014, to keep him from running unopposed. We’ve already seen some of Scott’s contemptuous Facebook and email responses to citizens who disagree with his views. Following are tweets Claudette Konola received from Ray Scott between 2014 and 2016, starting around the time she announced she would be running against him, and ending just after the 2016 election. The tweets are all verbatim. All spelling and grammatical errors are in the originals.

Tipton Votes to Block Consumers’ Right to Sue Big Banks

House Rep. Scott Tipton (R) sided with big banks in a vote that ends Americans’ right to sue big banks that defraud or abuse them.

Pay attention! One of your elected officials voted to take away your  right to access the court system.

Your House Representative, Scott Tipton (R-CO), voted today to block Americans from suing big banks that defraud or abuse them. Tipton voted to  repeal the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) rule that keeps banks from forcing customers to give up their right to access the courts whenever they sign a contract to open a bank account. The banks seek to force customers into arbitration as the only way to deal with disputes. Arbitration typically results in fewer decisions in customers’ favor and in lower payouts. Rep. Tipton’s vote sided with the big banks.