Welcome to Talladega Boulevard, where everyone’s a racing fan

first_imgBUY TICKETS: See the races at Talladega TALLADEGA, Ala. — A man dangles a rubber chicken from a fishing pole in the middle of Talladega Superspeedway’s famed Talladega Boulevard, trying to tap an empty can of Bud Light without knocking it over.“He’s been doing it all day,” another tailgater informs me with a laugh.Fishing for nothing more than attention and a good time, the man glances at me with a toothy grin and says:“Welcome to Talladega Boulevard.”• • •The Alabama temperatures are unseasonably cool and the damp air from the day’s rain mixes with the smell of campfires. Different tunes — from Luke Bryan’s “Huntin’, Fishin’ and Lovin’ Every Day” to J. Dash’s “Wop” — echo from the different tailgates set up on Talladega’s most famous strip.Friday’s dreary weather has left many in the Heart of Dixie seeking comfort indoors, but the 5:30 p.m. infield already is stirring outside for an approaching party.Some scenes are elaborate with real bars and bar stools set up. Some are makeshift, with chairs positioned comfortably around a campfire. And some are just downright crazy, like the one centered around an old school bus with “Nuthin’ Fancy” printed in large letters on the window.last_img read more

College senior athletes share their stories

first_imgSaint Mary’s hosted “Why We Play” on Wednesday, a event that gave three senior athletes the opportunity to share their stories about the sport they love.Senior Lisa Felix said she began to play soccer when she was only 6 years old because her brothers did, and she wanted to be just like them. However, she soon found her own interest in the game.“After many juice boxes and orange slices, I found myself falling in love with the family sport,” she said.When it came time to try out for her high school team, Felix said she felt more pressure within the sport. But she ended up making the varsity team right off the bat.“I didn’t want to let my family down,” she said. “I had a lot to prove my freshman year.”Even after four years of becoming close with her high school team, Felix said she was hesitant to join a new team at Saint Mary’s.“I was worried of really finding my niche,” she said. “I thought starting over was terrifying.”But those fears vanished quickly, she added, when the teammates realized they all shared one thing in common — a love for soccer.“Being a Saint Mary’s athlete will carry so much more than a winning or losing record,” she said.Senior Kathryn Marshall said when she was 16, she had hip surgery that forced her to stop running cross country for a long time.Editor’s note: Kathryn Marshall is a news writer for the Observer.Getting back in the game, Marshall said, was not easy.“I don’t know if you know this, but when you’re not in shape, running kind of stinks,” she said. “ … I had a big decision to make. Despite my injury, I still had a love for the sport.”  Marshall said she loved dynamic of the Saint Mary’s cross country team — a mixture of competitiveness and support.“You support each other,” she said. “But let’s be honest — on the straightaway, you aren’t going to let another Belle pass you.”Marshall said running with her team is more than just practice: It’s a breather from the worries of day-to-day life.“It’s a time and place to focus on something a little bit simpler — running,” she said.Senior Alexis Grady, a volleyball player, said for her, sports have always been a family affair. “I always had a full support system in the stands,” she said.Grady said she faced challenges during first two years at Saint Mary’s. She didn’t get as much playing time and ran into differences with her coach at times.“I wanted to quit,” she said. “My love for the game was dwindling.”But the former Belles volleyball coach left during the summer between Grady’s sophomore and junior year.And then, Grady said, a “small and mighty lady,” new head coach Denise Van De Walle, found the team and turned it around for the better. “The Belles were a new team. We had a new mindset,” Grady said. “She pushed us to be not only better players but better people.”Grady said she was proud of herself and her teammates, who were with her from the beginning to the end of her collegiate athletic career.“The sport has made me a better person,” she added. “The memories we have made, both good and bad — they will carry forever.”Tags: Belles, Belles sports, sports, why we playlast_img read more

As JoCo searches for new appraiser, commissioners see opportunity to improve transparency in setting home values

first_imgRising home values have translated into higher taxes for thousands of Johnson County homeowners in recent years.Like most Johnson County homeowners, Stephanie Berland hopes for the best when she sees the annual appraisal letter in her mailbox. After two years of fighting – and winning – a reduction in the amount she’d pay property taxes on, she thought perhaps this would be the year the county would value her home where she thought it should be, $370,000.But when March rolled around and it was envelope opening time again, there it was: $410,000.“It’s a broken record. I just keep coming back to this amount,” said Berland, who lives in Olathe.Frustration with ever-increasing property values has become a common bond for many Johnson Countians, especially those who live in places like Prairie Village, where increases above 10 percent were not uncommon this year.County commissioners say they get an earful about appraisals but have never been able to do much about them because elected officials cannot directly intervene in value setting. Some of them sent a message two years ago, though, by voting against the reappointment of Appraiser Paul Welcome.County Appraiser Paul Welcome will retire in June after nearly three decades with Johnson County.Welcome survived that 4-3 vote, but announced that he will retire June 15, before his four-year term is up. In naming his replacement, commissioners will have a rare chance to have more clout in the process.And they’re beginning to ask some questions. Commissioner Becky Fast, whose district includes northeast cities where values jumped the most this year, has been researching how value setting can be fairer to middle- and lower- range neighborhoods.Steve Klika wants to take another look at how commercial values are set. A state official’s visit to talk about the process was an eye-opener, he said. “We do enjoy some more flexibility than probably what we as commissioners thought we had.”The appraiser is one of the most powerful non-elected positions in county government. The values influence how high a tax rate should be and how much of a budget the county is capable of raising.Getting it wrong can have consequences. In Jackson County, for instance, schools missed out on a hefty revenue increase when the value of the Country Club Plaza was set too low in 2017. But a lot is riding on the Johnson County appraiser’s performance as well. A pending tax appeal on how the values of big box stores are set could set off an explosion in local budgets if the corporate owners get the lower valuation they want.Commissioners see opportunity to improve customer serviceCommissioner Steve Klika says he thinks there’s an opportunity to improve relations between homeowners and the appraiser’s office.In Johnson County, the complaint is often that values are too high and that appealing is frustrating.Although things have cooled down a bit this year, the high value increases of the previous couple of years have brought howls of protest from homeowners. Last year some 6,691 appealed their appraisals – more than twice as many as the number who did so in 2015. This year the appeals are down but still high at 5,939. About half of the appeals typically result in a downward adjustment.While Berland felt comfortable handling her appeal – she is a certified public accountant and her husband is a mathematician – appealing can be daunting for many people. Fast is concerned that the value spikes are disproportionally felt by people on fixed incomes and others who don’t have the resources and confidence to appeal. The appraiser’s office determines fair market value through computer analysis of other sales. To counter that, homeowners need evidence of what they consider a comparable sale, and perhaps some pictures of deterioration or damage that could bring the value down.Berland argued there were no good comparables for her home. But she said that even for her, the appeals process seems opaque and the county doesn’t provide enough evidence to back up its rulings.Making the appraiser’s office more customer friendly is one of Klika’s hopes in hiring a new appraiser. The office has had a reputation for being rude and unresponsive to citizens, he said. “I realize a tax collector is never a popular person but we’re supposed to be very much engaged with our citizens and we need to respond to them in a better way.”“We have to be a little bit more accommodating here, give folks the benefit of the doubt,” he said. “If they’re wrong, fine. If we’re wrong, fine, let’s change it.”First term commissioner Becky Fast said people in lower-cost neighborhoods may be getting hit with higher increases than those in more expensive neighborhoods.Fast said she’d like the next appraiser to also look closely at how the appraisal process can work against people with less-expensive homes. Someone living in a neighborhood of mansions might have a lower valuation increase because homes there are infrequently sold and there aren’t enough comparables, she said.Meanwhile living near newer homes with a lot of sales produces more to base a value on, Fast said. “So if you bought recently and a lot of homes have sold recently they can compare more easily than if you’re in a home that’s been there 20 or 30 years and they haven’t seen the inside and they have no idea what the repairs or upgrades are,” she said, adding that new homes also may have interior pictures to help set the value.In fact the appraiser’s map this year shows Mission Hills, with some of the lowest value increases, side-by-side with Prairie Village’s high increases.Research on regressive value-setting systems has been done in Cook County, Ill., and Fast hopes the appraisal candidates will be up to date. “To me it’s a science just like going to a doctor,” she said. “You want the doctor to know about the best technology and I think we want our appraiser to know about the best research and application of mathematical models to have an appraisal system that is fair.”Commercial property valuations under scrutiny as wellBig box stores like Target have pushed back on Johnson County’s approach to valuing commercial properties.It’s not just residential property owners who have been unhappy of late. Commercial property values also have been increasing.Charlotte O’Hara, a former state representative and former candidate for mayor of Overland Park, told commissioners recently that they should reconsider how commercial property is valued.Charlotte O’Hara, who ran for Overland Park mayor in 2017, is among those calling for changes to the way commercial property is valued.O’Hara said her three commercial buildings increased in value from 61-64 percent last year, even though they are 40 years old and have maintenance issues. But since they are commercial properties, she said, they were appraised based on how much income they should bring rather than on comparable sales.That figure is based on an assumption of what the lease rate should be, rather than the reality, she said, offering an analogy. “Basically, if I were employed as an accountant and make $150,000 a year and the IRS assumption was with my credentials and my experience I should make $225,000 a year, I’m going to be taxed at $225,000 a year. It doesn’t matter what I actually make. This is exactly what’s happening in our county.”O’Hara said the whole system needs to be examined. “Our appraisal system is horribly broken. It needs to be addressed at the state level. You need to take an active role in revising the methodology in obtaining equalization.”Klika said he’s open to the idea of basing commercial value on market rates. “I think she raises a very good point there,” he said. Commissioners, who have in the past thought their hands were tied in the appraisal methods, are going to have to find out how much flexibility they have, he said.“I don’t know if the process that they’ve been using is broken, but who says the rules of the game can’t change a bit?” Klika said. “Why can’t we be a little bit more transparent and customer friendly?”The commission won’t have the luxury of time to study up, though. Once they hire an interim appraiser, they have only six months to find a more permanent replacement who meets the state’s education and experience qualifications. That person would fill out the remainder of Welcome’s term and be up for reappointment in June of 2021. The commission has just begun interviewing candidates for the search firm.“I think we need an appraiser who’s actually going to take a look at the whole program, what the state law says, how are we responding to the state law and ok, commission, what flexibility do you have in the process?” Klika said.“It’s something we’ve got to deal with because this problem isn’t going to go away. It hasn’t gone away in the six years I’ve been on the commission.”last_img read more

It’s cheaper to keep a mortgage customer than get a new one

first_img ShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblr I spend a lot of time talking about going out and getting new business. Working with Realtors, courting first time home buyers, partnering with local housing non-profits, but I have not ever talked much about trying to retain the existing borrowers you already have.There’s a wide range of industry research that it’s five to seven times cheaper to keep an existing customer than go out and get a new customer. And if’s that truly the case perhaps Credit Unions should be thinking about how to hold on to the borrower’s they already have. MGIC, through their Lender Landscape product, has been studying this retention for a long time.What does their data say and what should it mean to Credit Unions? Read on….MGIC’s data, which is made up of origination and servicing data from a few Credit Unions and some of the largest bank and non-bank mortgage lenders show that all lenders retain only 18.1% of their customers who pay off the existing loan and get a new loan. The best in class is at 24.3% – not much difference. This means that only about 1 in 6 borrowers come back to their lender for a new loan whether it’s to refinance or purchase a new home.The Lender Landscape data also looks at the data by channel. If you just analyze the retail lending side, which is where most Credit Unions play, the industry average is still only 19.6% – not much of a difference.So about 4 of 5 borrowers is choosing another lender when they get their next loan. Why? continue reading »last_img read more

News Scan for Nov 18, 2014

first_imgECDC: Increased antibiotic resistance in Europe ‘truly alarming’Effective antimicrobial treatment options for certain infections in European countries continue to narrow, according to the newly released Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance in Europe 2013 report, issued yesterday by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).The report, compiled from European Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance Network (EARS-Net) data, presents resistance data from 30 countries for seven microorganisms: K pneumoniae, Escherichia coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Actinotobacter, Streptococcus pneumoniae, Staphylococcus aureus, and Enterococci.Among the most concerning findings is increasing resistance of K pneumoniae to carbapenems, which are among the last-line agents for multidrug-resistant Gram-negative bacteria. Carbapenem resistance remains relatively low in most countries, but in mean percentage for the population-weighted European Union (EU)/European Economic Area (EEA), the resistance of K pneumoniae increased significantly, from 4.6% in 2010 to 8.3% in 2013.Said European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Vytenis Andriukaitis in the ECDC release, “The near doubling of resistance in a certain bacteria in three years is truly alarming, and illustrates the need to tackle the issue from all directions.” He labeled antimicrobial resistance “one of the most pressing public health issues of our time.”Also of concern is that K pneumoniae showed resistance to polymyxin E (colistin), a backup drug for carbapenem-resistant K pneumoniae, for the first time, being observed in 5% of isolates. ECDC Director Marc Springer called this a “worrying development.” He added, “We are gradually returning to the ‘pre-antibiotic era,’ when bacterial diseases could not be treated and most patients would die from their infection because there was no effective treatment.”Good news came regarding methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). A significant decreasing trend was seen from 2010 to 2013, although it was not as large as the drop in the previous 4-year period, and the EU/EEA population-weighted mean MRSA percentage remained above 25% in 7 of the 30 reporting countries. Nov 17 ECDC press releaseECDC full report Saudi Arabia reports new MERS case, recoveries, and deathSaudi Arabia’s Ministry of Health (MOH) today reported a new MERS-CoV case and a recovery from the disease in separate cities in Al-Kharj governorate. The MOH also reported 1 recovery yesterday and 1 death on Nov 16 in previously confirmed patients.The case reported today involves an 84-year-old Saudi woman from Al-Kharj city who is hospitalized in critical condition. She is not a healthcare worker (HCW) and had no exposure to animals. The MOH reports that she had a preexisting medical condition and is investigating whether she had contact with suspected or confirmed MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus) patients.Today the MOH noted that a 32-year-old female expatriate from Riyadh has recovered from MERS. She is an HCW and had no preexisting disease. Yesterday the agency confirmed that a 33-year-old Saudi man from Riyadh had recovered from the disease. He had an underlying medical condition and is not an HCW.The patient whose death was reported on Nov 16 was a 57-year-old Saudi man from Riyadh. He was not an HCW and had a preexisting medical condition.The new case, recoveries, and death bring the Saudi MERS-CoV total to 806 cases. Fourteen cases are active, 449 people have recovered, and 343 people have died. Nov 18 Saudi MOH update Nov 17 Saudi MOH update Nov 16 Saudi MOH updatelast_img read more

JLL’s English chairman Stephen to leave

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Rockspring buys four multi-let estates for £27m

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New Zealand joint venture delivers outsized motorboat

first_imgThe motorboat was shrink-wrapped and cradled on a special mafi trailer before being loaded on to a vessel at Savannah port, Georgia.Upon arrival in New Zealand, TNL GAC Pindar made arrangements to complete the final leg of the transport – by road from Auckland port to the city’s dry stack at Westhaven Marina.The vessel had to be stored in port temporarily as New Zealand state regulations dictate how and when over-dimensional cargoes can travel by road. TNL GAC Pindar liaised with the local port authority and stevedores to waive the additional storage fees. It also negotiated all the required Customs clearance and taxation procedures.Richard Thorpe, manager of TNL GAC Pindar Australasia stated the vessel was successfully delivered: “By combining the specialist experience of GAC Pindar and the local knowledge of TNL International here in Auckland, the motorboat was in safe hands throughout.”www.gacpindar.comwww.tnlgacpindar.co.nzlast_img read more

Build a world with kindness and compassion

first_imgI just went over your article and I don’t even know where to start (“Children need boundaries to grow”, May 4). I am a single parent and have two boys, aged 5 and 16. My kids don’t have boundaries. Raising children with love, which includes discipline and boundaries, is never easy. It requires parents to be able to be very thoughtful and to act with discernment including when to be loving and speak in a loving tone but to also know when they need to be firm and set firm and non-negotiable limits with their children. If you have not grown up with parents who parented you with love and discipline, this task of parenting can be even more difficult to undertake. In addition, having to raise children, especially boys, as a single mother really can complicate this already daunting task. But, it can be done. I know many single mothers who have raised their sons to become exemplary men in the world. A very close to home and good example is Nelson Mandela whose father died at a young age and his mother, with the help of his uncle, raised him to become an icon for many people. I believe one of the most important things to do as a single mother is to find your strength within. You are strong “by nature”, and this example of courage and strength are seen by your children. They need you to believe in yourself and your abilities as a mother and homemaker. Children internalise what they see on a day to day basis. Regularly give them your time and attention, take an interest in them and let them know with actions and words that they are loved. However, love also includes setting limits, so I would advise you to review your approach to discipline. Are you too soft and nag or beg them to do chores and tasks? Do you follow up on what you expected from them? Do you give in to their every demand? Or are you shouting and screaming at them or insulting them, or even hitting them? These approaches are shown not to work, especially with teenagers. Discipline is not punishment, instead it encompasses highly positive elements such as learning, teaching, guiding and socialising our children to become well-adjusted individuals. Firmness in setting clear, consistent boundaries is vital. With your children having all the power (permissive parenting) or the other extreme, where you have all the power with harsh and punitive measures (autocratic parenting), makes a “‘difficult” child even more rebellious. The aim is a more democratic style of parenting, where you and your children share the power age appropriately. With this style, boundaries are clear, fair and firm and the children are left feeling secure contained and happy. Limits and rules, which are consistent and are adhered to at all times by all involved, are essential aspects of a self-disciplined and organised life. As we go through life, even as adults, we need the security of boundaries, whether it is knowing our role at work, how we drive our cars and how we manage our relationships and money. We all need predictability to make us feel safe and securely balanced. I would like to know if you can help me. My son, who is 14 years old, has a habit of always sitting on his own in his room after school. He hardly talks and that worries me. He gets angry very quickly. When children go through the developmental phase of adolescence it can be challenging for them to deal with the sudden explosion of cognitive and emotional changes linked to brain development and hormonal shifts. Many parents worry about their children who are changing and becoming either more outgoing or more withdrawn and isolated, or both. Often these are linked to the teenagers’ need for socialising with friends but sometimes many of them may fear this push to engage with others, as well as many developing all other kinds of insecurities which become particularly pronounced during this phase in their lives. However, I am concerned that you say he “never talks” and “gets angry quickly”. I wonder that perhaps he has/is going through an experience that may be overwhelming for him and frightens him but he is too afraid to share this with anyone for fear of being judged. So he withdraws into his room for safety. I would suggest that you sit with him (with nobody else around) or take him out somewhere quiet like the beach, and let him know that you are concerned out of love for him. Respectfully explore what could be bothering him. Reassure him that you love him and will not judge him or think bad of him, whatever he shares with you. Let him know that problems carried alone get heavier and heavier, until it feels that the person cannot go on anymore and they feel isolated from the world. Let him know he is not alone, you are there for him, and others too but you need him to know he can talk to you or a professional helping people with emotional problems such as a trained psychologist or counsellor. Keep the communication lines open with him at all times, even if he ignores you or does not want to talk to you. Just keep on reminding him you are there to listen, no matter what. One day, he may surprise you and just come out with it, whatever “it” may be.I just want to compliment you on your articles – it’s really crucial for people to know these things about human nature. I can honestly say I learn a lot from your articles. Thank you! We all need to know and learn about the most important factors that keep us as individuals and families and communities intact, our hearts and minds. Freud, the “father” of psychoanalysis, said 95 to 97 percent of our actions are motivated by unconscious processes. When we don’t know our minds and emotions we are more prone to acting out and hurting ourselves and others, and are often more thoughtless instead of making well-considered choices and actions, with not just ourselves in mind but also whoever else it will impact on. If our inner world makes more sense to us, we can be with ourselves and others in ways that are respectful, kind and compassionate. A world without kindness and compassion is a very sad one indeed. * This column will appear every two weeks. Carin-Lee Masters is a clinical psychologist in private practice. While she cannot enter into correspondence with individual readers, she will try to answer as many queries as possible through this column or refer you to organisations that can assist. You can write to her at helpmecarin@inl.co.za or send a WhatsApp message or SMS to 082 264 7774. Provide sufficient information about your difficulty.last_img read more

Tallahassee veteran ordered to remove American flag from mailbox

first_img SHARE Published: August 4, 2017 6:37 PM EDT Do you see a typo or an error? Let us know. Tallahassee veteran ordered to remove American flag from mailbox TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) There’s a dispute brewing over a patriotic mailbox wrap in Tallahassee. The homeowners association says it’s not allowed.The Southwood Residential Community Association sent a letter to the veteran who put up the wrap, asking him to remove it or face penalties. However, the veteran said he’s not backing down without a fight.“It’s not in consonance with their aesthetic values here in Southwood,” said retired U.S. Navy Officer, John Ackert.Ackert received the notice last week.“As the holiday season comes to a close, please remove the American flag mailbox wrap. Decoration may be displayed 30 days prior and must be taken down 15 days after,” Ackert continues. “That’s been there for four years. It was put there 30 days after I moved into this house.”Now, Ackert is standing up for what he believes in. He wrote an appeal and hopes the SRCA changes its mind.“I view this as a form of bullying to be honest. And I think people should stand up to bullying of any form, and particularly this,” Ackert said.Neighbors in Southwood said the patriotism is refreshing, and the letter was a bit harsh.“The man’s a veteran, he served the country. It’s just a mailbox with a flag, I don’t think it’s right. He owns the house, he can at least have that,” said neighbor, Mike Patel.Residents receive a binder full of rules and standards before moving into Southwood. Many said they’re not surprised by the H.O.A.’s actions.“They do things like this all the time. I think it’s ridiculous. What’s wrong with being patriotic in the country you live in?” said neighbor, Mike Stephenson.The letter said Ackert has 15 days to remove the wrap, or face a fine. He is appealing the request.On Thursday, the Southwood Residential Community Association responded to Ackert’s appeal, saying they will present it to the Covenants Committee for a decision on August 8.We reached out to the SRCA on this issue. They say they are investigating it, but they have no comment at this time.last_img read more