Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Just in case you are not aware: In 2001 and 2003, under the former Bush administration, there were important tax cuts.
They will expire very soon. And a decision must be taken by Congress on either keeping the tax cuts, or eliminating them totally or partially.
The Obama administration is proposing keeping the tax cuts for families earning less than $250,000 a year.
On this website you can quickly calculate how their decision could affect you. There are 3 case scenarios:
1) All tax cuts remain.
2) All tax cuts expire and are not renewed.
3) Tax cuts remain only for the middle class (income of less than $250,000 per year).
Can I wish you to make less than $250,000 next year? Don't know yet.
Good Luck. And don't be afraid to become a millionaire!
Monday, July 26, 2010
We all know that on May 13, a bill was signed in law by Governor Charlie Crist and became effective as of July 1st, 2010.
The state will not keep the largest part of the fines. The cities will still get a substantial amount. And $ 13 will be given to the Trauma Center.
Before the bill South Florida cities would fine you $125, most of it for the cities to keep. But it was apparently illegal and the state came to the rescue with the Traffic Cameras Law. But at a price.
Is this funny or what!
Will that teach a lesson to the cities? You ask big daddy for help , and he'll keep most of the booty! Or should we call this story "Big Brother and Big Daddy's go hunting?"
On another note, with this reduced loot, does it make sense at this point for cities' commissioners to risk their political clout on traffic cameras?
Time to reconsider, because some people are really angry.
From the Orlando Sentinel - May 12, 2010|
Red-light camera backers blast AAA
Orlando and other proponents of red-light cameras are upset that the AAA Auto Club South is making a surprise, last-minute attempt to convince Gov. Charlie Crist to veto a bill that would allow the traffic-enforcement systems on state roads.
"It's more about the money than it is traffic safety," Kevin Bakewell, a vice president with AAA in Tampa, said of the bill awaiting Crist's signature.
Orlando officials argued Tuesday that the motorists' organization once backed the measure and has mischaracterized its true intent in a nine-page letter to Crist.
"We realize it's not perfect, but we've tried to get something done on this for 10 years," said Kathy Russell, an Orlando lobbyist who supported the bill.
Crist, who has indicated he supports the bill, has until Saturday to decide what to do. His spokesman, Sterling Ivey, said the governor has not seen the AAA letter yet and declined further comment.
Russell said the city is hoping Crist will sign off on the proposal.
"The governor is for the people," Russell said, "so he ought to be for the safety of the people."
Bakewell said it is unusual for his organization to seek a veto, but he said AAA's concerns during the session completed a couple of weeks ago were not addressed. Chief among the complaints:
Too much of the fine would go to the state's general fund and not for traffic enforcement or emergency rooms. Between $70 and $110 of the $158 ticket would go the state's daily operating budget, $13 would go to trauma centers and the remainder would go to cities and counties.
The state would not have to notify violators for 30 days that they had been filmed running a light. Bakewell contends the notice should be sent within seven days.
Studies should be conducted at each intersection before a camera is installed to be sure that adjustments to the traffic signals might not solve the problem more efficiently. No process has been set up for choosing red light locations.
At least 30 Florida cities already have cameras in place, and officials say they will install more if Crist approves the bill.
Apopka police Chief Charles Vavrek said he is confident Crist will side with the cameras: "I think that he recognizes that the public's safety far outweighs the concerns that AAA may have had."
Because there was no state law, cities and counties have not been able to place cameras on Florida-owned and maintained roads. Those roads typically have more traffic and potentially more red-light runners.
The bill would take effect July 1.
A House analysis of the bill (HB 325) estimates the state would bring in more than $29 million during the coming year as the cameras go up. That revenue would jump to almost $95 million a year by 2014. Local governments could get $10 million this year and next and almost $66 million by 2014.
Sunday, July 25, 2010
The Looting of America - By Les Leopold
How Wall Street's Game of Fantasy Finance Destroyed Our Jobs, Pensions, and Prosperity—and What We Can Do About It
Want to get mad?
Derivatives, Hedge funds, Synthetic CDOs, Credit Default Swaps...
You know that something really wrong happened that almost destroyed our whole economy and drove us close to another Great Depression.
We know that Banks and Mortgages Companies screwed it up.
Most of the blame however was directed at irresponsible homeowners taking on more mortgage loans that they could handle.
But this is just a very little part of the whole story.
Put apart your partisan feelings.
This is not a political story.
But it will educate you about the whole scope of the mighty mess our country is trying to untangle.
From the horrendous jobless numbers, to the Trillions which have already replaced the Billions as the symbol of our disgrace, to the foreclosures and defaults, and the losses of pension funds, and people's savings, you will not end up with any solution to the crisis; but at least you will start to understand it.
I am a realtor, but in certain ways my life has been affected, as every normal citizen's life in this country. It's not only about the foreclosures, short sales and unending misery that I can touch with my hands every day at work. In fact, in Florida we might be in the epicenter of the perfect storm.
It's about a dream that we should all keep alive.
The first step might be understanding where we are.
Still in doubt? This is one more reason why not to like red-light traffic cameras.This is what I read from a report in Science News - (Science Daily.com)
Red-Light Cameras Increase Crashes, Florida Researchers Find
ScienceDaily (Mar. 12, 2008) — Rather than improving motorist safety, red-light cameras significantly increase crashes and are a ticket to higher auto insurance premiums, researchers at the University of South Florida College of Public Health conclude. The effective remedy to red-light running uses engineering solutions to improve intersection safety, which is particularly important to Florida’s elderly drivers, the researchers recommend.
“Instead, they increase crashes and injuries as drivers attempt to abruptly stop at camera intersections. If used in Florida, cameras could potentially create even worse outcomes due to the state’s high percent of elderly who are more likely to be injured or killed when a crash occurs.”
Red-light cameras photograph violators who are then sent tickets in the mail. Hillsborough County Commissioners unanimously agreed earlier this month to install the cameras at several major intersections in the county. The devices could be adopted by more cities and counties if Florida legislators pave the way by changing a state law this spring.
The USF report highlights trends in red-light running in Florida, summarizes major studies, and analyzes the automobile insurance industry’s financial interest in cameras. Among the findings:
- Traffic fatalities caused by red-light running are not increasing in Florida and account for less than 4 percent of the state’s yearly traffic deaths. In contrast, more than 22 percent of the state’s traffic fatalities occur at intersections for reasons other than red-light running.
- The injury rate from red-light running crashes has dropped by a third in less than a decade, indicating red-light running crashes have been continually declining in Florida without the use of cameras.
- Comprehensive studies from North Carolina, Virginia, and Ontario have all reported cameras are significantly associated with increases in crashes, as well as crashes involving injuries. The study by the Virginia Transportation Research Council also found that cameras were linked to increased crash costs.
- Some studies that conclude cameras reduced crashes or injuries contained major “research design flaws,” such as incomplete data or inadequate analyses, and were conducted by researchers with links to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The IIHS, funded by automobile insurance companies, is the leading advocate for red-light cameras. Insurers can profit from red-light cameras, since their revenues will increase when higher premiums are charged due to the crash and citation increase, the researchers say.
Langland-Orban said the findings have been known for some time. She cites a 2001 paper by the Office of the Majority Leader, U.S. House of Representatives, reporting that red-light cameras are “a hidden tax levied on motorists.”
The report concluded cameras are associated with increased crashes, the timings at yellow lights are often set too short to increase tickets for red-light running, and most research concluding cameras are effective was conducted by one researcher from the IIHS. Since then, studies independent of the automobile insurance industry continue to find cameras are associated with large increases in crashes.
Red-light running can be reduced by engineering improvements that address factors such as signal visibility and timings, wet roads and traffic flow, the USF researchers say.
The researchers suggest local governments follow the state’s lead in designing roads and improving intersections to accommodate elderly drivers, which would ultimately benefit all drivers.
The report " Red-Light Running Cameras: Would Crashes, Injuries and Automobile Insurance Rates Increase If They Are Used in Florida?" was published in March 2008 in the Florida Public Health Review, the online journal of the college and the Florida Public Health Association. Etienne Pracht, PhD, and John Large, PhD, were the other authors of the USF public policy report.
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Saturday, July 24, 2010
Presenting the newest construction in Bal Harbour
ONE BAL HARBOUR.
10295 Collins Avenue
A symbol of the rich and famous, Bal Harbour Village on the Beach, North of Miami Beach and Surfside, next to Sunny Isles Beach, is one of the most coveted locations in South Florida.
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The 26 story luxury building proves that "Perfection is Singular." One Bal Harbour is one of the first new luxury towers to be built in Bal Harbour in years, and the first condominium/hotel offered on the island in decades.
Residents also have the option of enjoying the hotel's room service, luxurious spa, white glove concierge assistance and valet service.
One Bal Harbour's innovative Tower Estates and Grand Penthouses range from approximately 2,000 to 8,000 square feet and offer spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean, Intracoastal Waterway, Biscayne Bay and South Florida skylines.
Adjoining the residential tower, is the five star The Regent, a most prestigious, world class hotel.
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10,000 sq. ft. world class spa
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Wednesday, July 21, 2010
It looks like something is slowly happening. The hypocrisy of Red Light Cameras being used as Big Brother's new way of raising revenue might be finally exposed.
I keep hoping that people will finally understand the "rip off" factor of this outrageous scheme of skimming a little more from the battered citizen.
Here is some information from Texas:
Traffic cameras fall out of favor
DALLAS -- Public support for the use of red light cameras in Texas and across the country could be switching to yellow.
Maine, Mississippi and Montana banned red light cameras last year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Six others have considered similar proposals.
In Texas, voters forced College Station to take down its cameras last fall even though the program brought $1 million in revenue to the city, while opponents in Houston say they have enough petition signatures to put the cameras to a vote this fall. Camera opponents in the Texas Legislature say they plan again to try to pass a measure phasing out the cameras statewide.
"There is a backlash, for sure," state Rep. Solomon Ortiz Jr., D-Corpus Christi. "City budgeters are counting on these fines as a revenue stream and simply using the argument of safety as cover."
But cities using the red camera systems, which capture images, and sometimes video of drivers running red lights, insist they have reduced intersection accidents and saved lives.
"They've performed much better than I ever imagined," said Elizabeth Ramirez, chief traffic engineer for Dallas.
She said Dallas has seen declines in red-light accidents at nearly every one of its 59 camera-equipped intersections since the first wave launched in January 2007.
While camera critics dispute the safety data, the money generated has raised eyebrows as collections have pushed into the tens of millions.
With most Texas cities charging civil fines of between $75 and $100 per violation, collections across the state have reached more than $103 million since a revised red-light camera law took effect in 2007. State figures show Houston has collected the largest amount: about $24 million through May.
A 2007 state law requires cities to set aside half of all profits to help fund regional trauma care centers. Most cities use their share for traffic safety and enforcement efforts.
Houston police Sgt. Michael Muench, who oversees that city's red-light camera program, said his department has put its revenues into crash-scene investigation equipment, extra traffic patrols, radar guns and other traffic-related improvements.
An analysis of state figures and the vendor agreements of about a dozen Texas cities show the contracts cities have with camera vendors are the biggest factor in whether a city makes money. Cities rent the cameras from vendors under negotiated terms. Houston's $24 million in collections since 2007 is more than triple the total fines collected by Dallas, according to figures from the state comptroller's office. And in the last two years, Dallas' program has cost more to run than Houston's.
Houston pays a flat monthly fee of $3,000 per camera, plus bonuses if a camera catches a high number of violations. Dallas pays its vendor $3,800 per camera per month. Houston, which has 70 cameras, uses American Traffic Solutions Inc., of Arizona. Dallas has 59 cameras and uses Dallas-based Affiliated Computer Services.
Paul Kubosh, a Houston traffic attorney who has led the Houston petition drive to repeal the cameras, accuses the city of "selling the streets to the highest bidder. It's a voter revolt."
Associated Press – July 6, 2010
Henry B. Nathan is a Florida Realtor at United Realty Group Inc.
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Let's talk about Traffic Cameras industry's contributions to elected officers' campaigns. I don't know if this is the case or will ever be the case with our Hallandale commissioners. But I tend to think that it, the way politics are conducted in this country, I wouldn't be surprised that one day it could be a factor. That would be an unacceptable, and regrettable reason, in additional to what we already know about the traffic cameras as revenue generator and a tax in disguise.
There is one more argument.Many experts are now affirming that these red light cameras could actually increase accidents.
Read on the following excerpt from an article published on Boston.com (affiliated to the Boston Globe) – Nov.13, 2009
Governor Deval Patrick is advancing a plan to make Massachusetts the 25th state to let cameras play traffic officer at red lights, an enforcement measure that many police chiefs and mayors have been seeking for years.
The administration’s push has set off a debate that is already unfolding in other states: whether the cameras are there to improve driver safety or whether they represent a new source of revenue for cash-strapped governments. The way Patrick introduced the measure, in a budget bill, has some detractors saying that it is a money grab.
……a newspaper investigation in Chicago showed that city leaders often place the cameras where they are likely to make money, rather than where they are likely to reduce accidents. And federal government studies say that cameras have actually increased some types of crashes, as drivers are tempted to stop short or speed up to avoid being photographed.
,,.. “By putting it in the budget, they’re admitting it’s about money and not about safety,’’ said Ivan Sever, state chapter coordinator of the National Motorists Association, an advocacy group that opposes the cameras. “That’s not right.’’
Sever said the for-profit companies involved in installing the cameras have been pushing cities to use them as revenue generators as part of their business model. And he points out that studies have shown the cameras actually increase rear-end crashes, perhaps because drivers stop suddenly when they notice the warning signs, only to get hit from behind.
But there are questions about both the money and the effectiveness involved in camera enforcement. Investigations by the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune found that the vast majority of tickets were issued to drivers who failed to stop completely before making a right turn at a red light, a traffic violation that rarely leads to a crash. The Tribune report found that local officials were posting the cameras where they were likely to generate cash, rather than where the most serious crashes were occurring.
And although some cameras have generated $60,000 a month, the city of Dallas had to pull more than a fourth of its cameras because they were not earning enough fines to meet operating costs, according to the Dallas Morning News.
Members of the industry that sells the cameras and their relatives have given thousands of dollars to elected officials at the state level.
Michael Cohen, a spokesman for Lieutenant Governor Timothy P. Murray’s political fund, which has received at least $1,225 in contributions from industry employees since 2005, said the donations have not influenced his support. He has supported the technology for years, dating back to his time as mayor of Worcester.
Senator Steven A. Baddour, the Methuen Democrat who is cochairman of the Legislature’s transportation committee, received a $500 contribution from an account executive at Redflex Traffic Systems last year. He said he supports allowing the cameras but would like to reduce the maximum fine from $100. He said that police chiefs in his district support it and that he had never heard of the Redflex employee.
Treasurer Timothy P. Cahill has received more than $4,000 from an industry official at Affiliated Computer Services and his spouse since 2005. Though Cahill has no direct role in the decision on whether to allow the cameras, spokeswoman Alison Mitchell said “he is absolutely opposed to it.’’
“He feels that it’s a back-door way to raise revenue,’’ Mitchell said.