There are homes in Fairfax County, VA that are too tall. That’s what the building inspectors who did a sample inspection discovered after a county resident filed a complaint that his neighbor’s roof was too tall. Seems that there were enough of the sample that came in over the county’s 35-foot-high maximum that the inspectors feel there might be thousands of homes over the limit in the county. The problem is that those homes were granted permits by the county already, some of them years ago.
In Fairfax, the excessive heights came to county planners’ attention this year when a homeowner complained that the roof of his neighbor’s house appeared too tall, said Jenkins, who oversees building permits. A sample inspection of homes under construction found multiple violations, he said, leading him to conclude that the problem is widespread. But he said it would be too expensive to measure the height of every mansion built in the county in recent years.
“We did enough sampling to understand there is a problem,” he said, citing “million-plus dollar homes with towering roofs.”
“The plans went through showing heights in excess of 35 feet, and they weren’t caught,” Jenkins added.
What’s really turned this into a controversy is that the county stopped issuing occupancy permits to builders who had submitted the plans and applications, had them approved by the county and built them according to those permits. Fairfax officials are now in a quandry over what to do about those homes.
Well, let me make this easy for those officials: the fact that the homes were given permits by the county and then built in accordance with those permits does not place any liability on the builder or homeowner for the county officials screwing up the inspections. In fact, it lifts any liability that might have accrued because the county is supposed to be the final arbiter of whether something is permissible or not. If the county hosed it and made the wrong decision, then the county gets to live with the consequences of that failure.
The County Board should pass an ordinance stating that any house currently occupied (in the legal occupancy sense) is granted an exemption to the height restriction and may remain as it is. No further height additions can be made but no alteration must be made to shorten it and any maintenance required to keep the house at its current level is allowed. Additionally, any house that had plans submitted, approved, permitted, and has already begun construction must be allowed to complete the construction with the height as shown on the plans submitted.
The onus to correct the mistakes of the county’s officials should not rest on the shoulders of residents who relied on the county to accurately assess their application.
The county should immediately state, explicitly, how they expect the roof height to be calculated and should take the steps necessary to guarantee that when they permit an application, the roof height is not in excess of the limit. Be up front with everyone that they’ll be checking on it and no permits will be issued if violations are found.
Do the right thing, Fairfax. It was your error in issuing permits without confirming all of the details were met. Own up to it, allow people who got permits to go their way, and make sure everyone knows the game’s going to be played differently in the future.
Update (8/8/2006) – Welcome, readers from Historic Vienna! May I also point you to this story about my stance on the Fairfax County Board’s decision on what to do now? Thanks!
The attack on the Seattle Jewish Federation office that killed 1 and wounded 5 more was clearly and admittedly done by a man who acted based on his objections to Israel’s actions in the middle east. This wasn’t some random drive-by shooting, it was an act of terrorism. That it was likely performed by someone acting alone does nothing to mitigate this fact. But the story wasn’t even an hour old and the MSM began injecting the term “mental illness” into its coverage. I caught that immediately when I heard the story and I felt, as I do now, that the reporters seemed to be reaching for any reason to not refer to this as terrorism.
Hugh Hewitt sums up perfectly my thoughts on the matter:
There is a continuum in the media’s coverage of terrorist incidents that runs from John Hinkley through Sirhan Sirhan and Oswald to McVeigh and the 19 of 9/11. Each was a political act, though in Hinkley’s case there wasn’t a “political” motive. But the “mental state” of a terrorist doesn’t help the public sort through the implications of a terrorist act. Any crime of violence done to avenge a political grievance is an act of terrorism. Haq’s murder of at least one employee of the Jewish Federation is an act of terrorism. What the public needs to know is the likelihood of other such acts being committed by similarly situated individuals. Introducing “mental illness” so early in the story is an invitation to say “lone whacko,” and leave it at that. Mistake number one.
There is also a continuum in the amount of organization that surrounds a terrorist, and those with the most organization are state actors, like Lenin and Saddam. The 19 of 9/11 had a lot of organization, and the London bombers of 7/11/05 had enough to kill scores. We don’t know if Haq had any, or even if there were people in his life suspicious of his direction who did not act on it. We don’t know if there was a particular “trigger” or a long thought out plan. If Haq acted alone there will be a temptation to again declare “lone whacko” and leave it at that. Mistake number two.
Cold-blooded killers working in a highly organized network are much more of a threat than voice-hearing lone whackos. But as yesterday proved, the latter can savage a small group and through them a community and a country. It isn’t enough for the vaunted MSM to declare “lone whacko” and move back to the churlishness of the Israelis.
We need to find out a great deal about Ha[q]. Quickly.
We are finding out more as the days progress. I do hope that the media isn’t going to simply accept at face value the carefully-worded statement of the Islamic Center up there that they “disassociate” Haq’s actions from their teachings. I know if some rabid, bible-thumping Christian had done the same to a Planned Parenthood office the media would be digging at his local church pretty heavily. Let’s see if they can bring themselves to be consistent.
In writing that previous post I got a chuckle when I noticed an advertisement on the right-hand side of the page containing the story. This is what you get when you allow the computers to simply pick a word out of the story and merge it with some marketing text:
(Click on it to see the full image.)
I’m sure the Kossacks and New York Times would love to get this product!
The House voted 230-180 to approve a measure to raise the minimum wage but only after a provision was added to make permanent tax cuts on inheritance taxes on multimillion-dollar estates, so the reporting goes. I would like to state quite clearly that I haven’t had the opportunity to actually read the bill passed, so I’m accepting on faith that it’s being reported correctly. (Man, what was I thinking?)
The bill would raise the minimum wage from $5.15/hour to $7.25/hour, a 41% increase. Not too bad, even if it’s been a long time since it’s been raised. This would raise the yearly pay on a minimum-wage, full-time job from $10,712 to $15,080. That figure might not win any prizes here, near DC, but it’s way above the current poverty level. (I might add that the cost of living out here in DC is also why even the traditional minimum-wage jobs in fast-food restaurants pay far more than the minimum wage. Other parts of the country, however…)
As regards the inheritance tax, our reliably-liberal media would have you believe that those damn Republicans are trying to get more of their fellow millionaires’ money moved into a safe, tax-free harbor by enacting yet another new tax cut. Wrong. The tax cut is already in place and has been for a few years. The existing tax cut will reduce the estate tax on estates larger than $1 million in value gradually to zero in 2010. In 2011, however, that tax cut sunsets and suddenly estate tax is back to 55%. Does that make any sense whatsoever?
What the Republicans did was to add language to make the cuts permanent and raise the exemption from the estate tax from the 1st $1 million of an estate to the 1st $5 million. Couples’ estates get up to $10 million before estate taxes hit. And lest you think those cuts are only for the super-rich, let me point out that the average single-family home in this part of northern Virginia hit a value of $680,000 to $700,000 this year. What that means is that almost every owner of a single-family home in this area is pretty close to that $1 million cut-off when you take into account just their house, let alone any other assets they might have. This tax affects quite a number of the so-called “average joes” out here.
The story also raises the point – as did I in the title of this post – that the Republicans are somehow doing something wrong by including this language in with the minimum wage legislation. Why is that? Senator Reid calls it “[b]lackmailing working families” but I call it compromising. The long-lost art of actually coming to agreements is all a matter of compromising – getting what you want by giving someone else what they want. So I would have to ask the Senator and others that feel as he does, how valuable is the minimum wage increase to them? Do they want it badly enough to give the Republicans what they want in return?
Apparently, they did. And that’s OK. Make noises to cover this unpleasant truth all you like but arbitrarily raising the minimum wage is a lose-lose proposition for business owners. They get to pay out $5000 more per year per employee while also having to pay more payroll taxes as a result. In any voluntary pay raise, the employer may reasonably expect the employee to respond with more production or better attitude on the job. Not so with this legislation – the employee simply expects the employer to cough up more cash because that’s the law. No work or promise of work by the employee is involved. So the shop owner who has 5 minimum wage employees to whom he paid $1030 last week will pay $1450 this week. That’s $420 more expense with no return on that expense. Additional payroll taxes will be due at the end of the month, too.
Oh, and do you really think that shop owner is just going to eat that expense? That $420 has to come from somewhere and that somewhere is likely to be your pocket. His prices will go up. Which means you won’t be able to afford as much of his stuff which means you won’t be buying as much which lowers his income, etc., etc., etc. If he doesn’t want to raise his prices because he wants to keep his income up, his alternative is to reduce his payroll expense by dropping an employee or 2. If he lets go of 1 employee that will almost recover his expenses to where they were. Of course, that means he only has 4 people to do the work he had 5 doing last week.
Gets complicated looking at both sides, doesn’t it?
I can understand that minimum wage earners would want to see this increase. Hey, I like to see increases in my pay, too. I just think that the market is a better method of getting those increases. Recall what I said before about the fast-food businesses out here. The typical McDonald’s employee out here is making $8/hour and he also gets benefits like insurance, 401K, etc. He’s not making $5.15/hour with no bene’s. Why? Because the idiot business owner who tries to keep paying people minimum wage won’t have anyone take the job. (That, or will only attract people whose work is so poor no one else will hire them.) The minimum wage laws are a non-issue here because the market has worked to raise the pay to acceptable levels on its own.
Of course, not everywhere in the US has our unemployment rate, I grant you, and the market forces don’t work like this where demand for employees is lower than demand for jobs. It would take longer to get that pay scale up than to simply pass a law mandating it. I just think that, in the long run, the market forces are a better way to go.
And in governance, compromise is the definitely the way to go.
I read this story this morning about the US providing funds to the Lebanese Army and I certainly hope someone’s thinking about it more deeply that it appears. The Lebanese have publicly stated that they were prepared to join up with Hezbollah and fight the Israelis – who are, I’d like to point out, our allies – should Israel launch a significant ground assault. How, exactly, are we making sure that the stuff our money buys doesn’t become ordnance the Israelis have to dodge?
Even if the money we send doesn’t buy bullets directly, by providing funds to buy “some very basic issues, such as providing spare parts and maintenance and other kinds of things for trucks and personnel carriers and other vehicles,” as State Department spokesman Tom Casey said, it will free up money the Lebanese would have had to spend on those items. That freed up cash will absolutely go toward war materiel.
I am very leery of this approach given Lebanon’s stated position on fighting Israel alongside of Hezbollah and I hope the State Department doesn’t do something that’s going to bite our friends in the butt.
Hezbollah fired a new kind of rocket into Isreal yesterday, according to their own statement. The weapons were fired at the city of Afula, about 10 miles south of Haifa. While the Hez are calling it the “Khaibar-1” the Israelis are reporting that it’s just a renamed Fajr-5 rocket developed by Iran.
The rockets might have been impressive but they weren’t accurate. All reports indicate that they landed fairly harmlessly in fields outside the town. Less well reported was the fact that after lobbing 5 of these rockets into Israel, the Israeli Air Force blew the launcher off the map.
Well, that didn’t take long.
Tour de France winner Floyd Landis tested positive for the male sex hormone testosterone, according to a statement Thursday by his Phonak racing team.
The statement, published on the team’s Web site, comes a day after cycling’s world governing body revealed that an unidentified rider had failed a drug test during the Tour.
The team said it had notified the International Cycling Union (UCI), the governing body for the sport, that Landis had “an unusual level of testosterone/epitestosterone ratio” after stage 17 of the race last Thursday. Landis won the Tour de France last Sunday in Paris.
The Phonak statement says the team management and Landis are both “totally surprised,” and Landis will ask for an analysis of his backup “B” sample “to prove either that this result is coming from a natural process or that this is resulting from a mistake.”
Swiss-based Phonak says Landis has been suspended by his team pending the results.
If the second sample confirms the initial finding, he will be fired from the team, Phonak said.
As well he should be, if the 2nd test confirms the finding. Given the track record the various labs have in getting this kind of thing right with Lance Armstrong, I think I’ll wait for the 2nd test to be complete before I give these allegations too much credit.
To be honest, when I read about Maryland Senatorial candidate Michael Steele’s comments earlier this week I wasn’t sure how to respond. His comment about being a Republican in Maryland was an impediment to getting elected is nothing but the truth although phrased a bit – shall we say – roughly. The reference to having a scarlet letter (an ‘R’, this time) certainly brought the point home. The trouble is the audience he chose to speak to was a group of reliably liberal, reliably Democratic journalists. Would it be possible to make such comments to such a group and not have them report it in the worst possible light?
And what kind of dimness does it take to think that simply asking those present to keep the identity of the speaker of these comments confidential would actually do the job?
Then there’s the comments about the President and his policies. There’s no way a rational person could spin those comments into a positive commentary on the President. As for the flat-out, blatant statement that he’d prefer the President not show up to campaign on his behalf… Well, there’s just no way to take that nicely.
Paul Mirengoff at Power Line lives in Maryland and his take on it reflects, I believe, the consensus on Steele’s statements:
There have always been, and always will be, Republican politicians who feel the need to assure liberal journalists that they don’t really buy into the party’s conservative message. I’ll give Steele the benefit of the doubt and assume that this unsavory dynamic was not at work here. Indeed, the Steele campaign has claimed that the candidate had many nice things to say about President Bush during the course of the lunch. Nonetheless, I can’t help but view Steele less favorably than I did before this unfortunate incident.
Steele’s attempts to tap-dance his way out of the mess he created are simply giving the press more targets to aim for. The Washington Post lovingly reports the Maryland Democrats’ reactions to Steele’s attempts at damage control. While I have no doubt that Steele’s claim that the press purposely omitted the positive comments he made at the original briefing, I think Steele was naive in the extreme to not have expected that activity the moment he opened his mouth.
As a Virginian, Steele isn’t on my ballot but I have to say that if he were, I wouldn’t be expecting a Republican victory in November now.
Utterly amazing that a construction worker driving a backhoe would notice, buried in the mud and damp earth of a bog in Ireland, a 20-page book that had lay hidden there for over 1000 years.
DUBLIN, Ireland (AP) – Irish archaeologists Tuesday heralded the discovery of an ancient book of psalms by a construction worker who spotted something while driving the shovel of his backhoe into a bog.
The approximately 20-page book has been dated to the years 800-1000. Trinity College manuscripts expert Bernard Meehan said it was the first discovery of an Irish early medieval document in two centuries.
“This is really a miracle find,” said Pat Wallace, director of the National Museum of Ireland, which has the book stored in refrigeration and facing years of painstaking analysis before being put on public display.
“There’s two sets of odds that make this discovery really way out. First of all, it’s unlikely that something this fragile could survive buried in a bog at all, and then for it to be unearthed and spotted before it was destroyed is incalculably more amazing.”
I should say it is. This is a tremendous find. The book was open to a page written in Latin describing Psalm 83. The scientists have so far only examined that page, noting in detail the number of lines, the number of letters per line, and the composition of the book itself. This will be painstaking work taken over the course of months. Hopefully, there will be status reports along the way so we can all share in the find.
The game of Monopoly is coming up to the 21st century and going plastic. Makers of the game in England are replacing the familiar wads of colored cash with Visa-branded debit cards. Players will enter an amount on the keypad of a cardswipe device and then swipe their cards to make payments.
“We started looking at what Monopoly would look like if we designed it today,” said Chris Weatherhead, a Britain.-based spokesman for Hasbro Inc., which makes the best-selling board game. “We noticed consumers are using debit cards, carrying around cash a lot less.”
British players might not be the only ones switching to plastic. Officials at Pawtucket-based Hasbro say they’re considering a similar change for American versions.
The times, they are a’changin’….