Friday, December 31, 2010

Registry Top Ten of 2010

Here are the Top Ten registry of deeds events of 2010 in no particular order:

1. Electronic recording continues to become a major point of entry into the registry for new documents. From January to June, electronic recordings constituted 15% of our average daily recordings; from July to December, electronic recordings accounted for 23% of our daily recordings.

2. In June, contractors began construction of an elevator here at the Middlesex Superior Courthouse. The elevator, which is expected to be finished in the spring of 2011, will only service two floors but it will make the important parts of the building accessible to all.

3. Because of the ongoing financial crisis, the Commonwealth announced that groundbreaking for the new Lowell Judicial Center has been pushed back from 2011 to 2013 with an estimated completion date of 2015.

4.The total number of documents recorded for 2010 was down from 2009 by about 3%. For the entire year, the number of foreclosures was up 40% (which is bad) but starting in October, the numbers dropped consistently by more than 50% per month through December.

5. In December the legislature passed a complete revision of the state’s homestead law which will take effect in March 2011. The new law creates an automatic homestead exemption of $125,000, preserves the “declared” exemption of $500,000, and clarifies a number of ambiguities that existed in the old law.

6. The legislature also clarified the moment at which a document is deemed to be recorded in response to the “National Lumber” case from several years ago. National Lumber said a document was “on record” when it was physically received by the registry. The new law specifies that “on record” means the moment at which the registry assigns a book and page number to the document.

7. In July, the registry began using our new GIS app for recorded subdivision plans. This program, which will not be publicly available for at least a year, creates a Google-maps type of mashup that will show our recorded subdivision plans as interactive rectangles. Once finished, the user will zoom into a locus and see which, if any, subdivision plans include that area. Registry employees are currently plotting each plan in the program which is a time-consuming process.

8. A number of refinements and corrections have been made to the new version of the Mass Land Records website. While the old version is still the default setting, all major bugs were eliminated from the new version and the scanned images of all Middlesex North documents including pre-1855 documents and all grantor and grantee indexes.

9. After some basement flooding in the spring of 2009, we completely reconfigured our document and technology storage facilities in the basement of the courthouse so that all items are better protected from environmental damage and are more portable in the event we move to a new facility.

10. In December, the Lowell-based movie “The Fighter” was released to wide critical acclaim. Portions of the movie were filmed here at the Superior Courthouse during the summer of 2008.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Top Ten of 2009

Here's last year's Top Ten list. Check back tomorrow for our 2010 list.

As this very interesting year draws to a close amidst cold temperatures and heavy snow, here are some of the top events of 2009:

The state’s financial crisis caused mid-year cuts and a reduced budget for FY10, curbing our ability to implement new technology and registry-related applications.

Despite the slow overall real estate market, there was a surge in electronic recording this year. The total number of documents recorded annually since we implemented the system are as follows: In 2005 – 1057; in 2006 – 1871; in 2007 – 3491; in 2008 – 3956; and in 2009 – 8100.

Using existing equipment and our employees, we completed several scanning projects. The last of our older record books were disassembled and scanned replacing and improving the existing images of those documents which were derived from microfilm; all “county layout” plans were scanned; all registered land books back to book 183 were taken out of service after they were fully scanned.

The Middlesex South Satellite office was reorganized in March, then closed at the end of June, but immediately re-opened by the Secretary of State’s office which continues to operate the Satellite Office at the end of the year but announced that it will close permanently on January 22, 2010.

As soon as 16GB flash drives became affordable, we allowed customers to bring us their own drives and obtain a free copy our entire 1630-1975 PDF grantor/grantee index which was previously available only on in-house registry computers.

Since all books have been taken out of service and all document images are available online, the registry turned in the last of its coin operated photocopiers.

Hollywood occupied the courthouse for a few days this summer to film some scenes from “The Fighter”, the story of Lowell’s Micky Ward which stars acting heavyweights Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale and Amy Adams.

This fall, the registry made hand sanitizer and tissues available for staff and customers in an effort to minimize the impact of the H1N1 flu.

The Registered Land section was relocated from the rear of the building where it had been located for more than ten years to the former record hall which allowed us to consolidate all recording functions in one place. The former registered land office was transformed into a public closing area but was then pressed into service as the Middlesex South Satellite Office while that function was controlled by the Secretary of State’s office.

The registry tried to maximize our use of “new media” as a means of communicating with our customers, shifting our six-year old blog to the Blogger hosting service; we also created a fan page for the registry on Facebook; and began using our Twitter account regularly.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Top Ten of 2008

Another installment in our Top Ten retrospective:

At the end of each year, we search back through the previous twelve months and try to identify the ten most important events at the registry. Here’s what I came up with:

1. The Paperless Registry – On April 1, 2008, we closed off the Lower Record Hall to public access and thereby made all record books and indexes available only on our computer system.

2. Recession – The staggering economy continued to drag down home values while the number of foreclosure deeds filed in 2008 exceeded those filed in 2007 by 37%.

3. Budget Cuts – Lower than anticipated tax revenue resulted in mid-fiscal year cuts to the registry budget, greatly restricting our ability to add enhancements to our computer system.

4. Registry Scanning Center – The closing of the Lower Record Hall to public access allowed us to transform that area into a scanning center that locates our scanning equipment adjacent to the older record books that need to be cut apart and scanned to replace the existing electronic images that were derived from microfilm.

5. Expansion of Electronic Recording – The registries of deeds in Plymouth and Springfield commenced electronic recording, bringing to three the number of registries utilizing e-recording technology.

6. Middlesex North Satellite Office – With the completion of its renovated recording area, the Middlesex South Registry of Deeds activated its Middlesex North Satellite Office, allowing customers to record documents for Lowell in Cambridge.

7. Equipment Upgrades – At the end of the past fiscal year, we were able to purchase a replacement for our nine year old computer server and a new Kodak Archive Writer which allows us to produce archival microfilm directly from scanned document images.

8. Multiple Documents – After an Appeals Court decision invalidated the registry practice of charging multiple fees for documents that performed multiple functions, the state legislature amended M.G.L. c. 262, s. 38 to specifically allow the calculation of fees in that manner.

9. Judicial Center – The city of Lowell and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts reached an agreement by which the Commonwealth paid the city $3.8 million for a parcel of land in the Hamilton Canal redevelopment district that will be the site of the soon to be constructed Lowell Judicial Center.

10. MERS Project – When MERS – Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems Inc., came into existence in 1998, we decided to index documents from MERS only under that name and omit the name of the underlying lender. That helped our efficiency in processing the tens of thousands of mortgages that were recorded in the interim, but left us unsure as to the identity of the lenders who made the most problematic loans. This year we’ve gone back into all mortgages from MERS and added the name of the actual lender.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Top Ten of 2007

Here were the Top Ten events at the Middlesex North Registry of Deeds during 2007:

Here’s my list of the top ten events that effected the Middlesex North Registry of Deeds during 2007.

1. On August 20, 2007, we fully implemented our “scan and return” operation. From that day forward, all recorded documents were scanned at the time of recording and immediately returned to the customer.

2. The physical layout of the registry changed significantly, with all books and the traditional research tables removed from the Upper Record Hall, replaced by a joint Middlesex North – Middlesex South recording area and by tables available to the public for real estate closings. In addition, the Plan Room moved to an alcove off the Upper Record Hall and Customer Service moved into the former recording counter area.

3. All scanning efforts were devoted to improving the quality of our online documents. More than 1800 “new” books (the white plastic covered, 9 x 12 inch versions) have been rescanned. We also “borrowed” a book cutter from the Worcester Registry. We use this to cut the pages out of the old, large format record books to make rescanning them easier and more efficient.

4. The volume of documents being recorded continues to go down, except for foreclosures which continue to go up.

5. The Massachusetts Registers of Deeds Association finally adopts Document Formatting Standards which will take effect on January 1, 2008.

6. Work continued on our “Chain of Title” project in which we link together deeds that relate to the same parcel of land. We have completed Dracut and Chelmsford and are now working on Westford. When this is finished, you will (among other things) to trace back ownership of a property through time with just a click of the mouse.

7. The State Department authorized the Middlesex North Registry of Deeds to serve as an agent for the reception of US Passport applications.

8. Three new companies (Simplifile, Ingeo and LandData) joined eRX in electronic recording with this registry.

9. We have installed wireless internet service in the registry for public use (although we will not be turning it on until January 2008).

10. A company called National Deed Service aggressively markets it service of obtaining a homeowner a certified copy of the homeowner’s deed for $50, something the registry provides to the homeowner for free.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Blizzard Dec 27, 2010

Pictures around the Lowell Superior Courthouse, home of the Middlesex North Registry of Deeds, during the blizzard that hit our region on December 27, 2010.

Click on picture to enlarge

Registry Top Ten of 2006

In this the final week of 2010, we're republishing Top Ten lists from year's past. Today is 2006:

10 Seven new registers of deeds will soon take office across the state in the following districts: Berkshire Middle, Berkshire South, Franklin, Worcester North, Essex North, Nantucket and Bristol North. With much registry-related policy now being established by the Massachusetts Registers of Deeds Association, a turnover of a full one-third of that organization’s membership (there are 21 registries in the Commonwealth) will have a major impact across the state.

9. On December 23, 2006, the LowellDeeds Blog celebrated its 3rd birthday, making it one of the oldest blogs of any type in the area.

8. Statistics became an item of greater interest at the registry this year. For example, early next week we will add a chart to our website that shows thirty years worth of recording data and associated information such as the prime rate and unemployment stats in an historical context.

7. The Middlesex South Satellite Office moved from the rear of the Superior Courthouse to former Record Hall in the front of the building.

6. The electronic images of all pre-1855 documents (the old “Middlesex South” books) were digitized and have now been added to the registry’s website where they can be retrieved by book and page number.

5. The marginal reference data capture project was completed. Employees went through every existing record book to locate all marginal references. These were then entered into a database that will soon be imported into the registry’s primary computer system. With these references captured electronically, the last reason to retain printed books on the shelves was eliminated.

4. Two thousand record books that were created during 1999, 2000 and 2001 were taken out of circulation and placed into storage to allow us to recapture more of the Record Hall for work space. (We stopped making paper books entirely in November 2001).

3. The informal partnership between the registry and MassGIS (the state’s online mapping agency) advanced with Middlesex North participating in GIS Day at the statehouse on November 16 and with both agencies making significant progress in our efforts to integrate our documents with MassGIS’s maps and overhead photos.

2. The slide in the real estate market continued with our overall volume of documents recorded down by 17% from the amount recorded last year. The number of foreclosure deeds recorded this year (165) was a 300% increase from last year, but still not close to our historic high of 761 in 1992.

1. To reduce the risk of identity theft, registry employees redacted thousands of social security numbers from previously recorded documents.

Courthouse (and Registry) to open at noon

Because of the overnight blizzard, the Trial Court has ordered that the Middlesex Superior Courthouse here in Lowell - the home of the Middlesex North Registry of Deeds - remain closed until noon today. We are here at the registry and are ready to begin operations at noon.

Driving in this morning, the road conditions were not too bad within the city of Lowell; main streets were down to bare pavement although side streets were snow covered and slippery. Aside from a few snowplows, no one else was on the road this morning, which probably gave those plows plenty of space to clear the roads so well.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Registry Top Ten: 2005

At the end of each year, we present our top ten events at the Middlesex North Registry of Deeds for the past 365 days. For the coming week, we'll repeat our lists from year's past, with the 2010 list coming on December 31. Here were the big registry events of 2005:

As 2005 draws to a close, it’s time for us to review this year’s Top Ten registry events:

10. The procedures at our recording counter were revised, putting more of the responsibility for pre-recording quality control of documents on the customer through the use of a document checklist.

9. Concerns about identity theft and the security of sensitive personal information led the Registers of Deeds Association to establish a prohibition on the recording of documents that contain social security numbers. Thus far, this limitation does not apply to state and federal tax liens and releases.

8. Google Earth, Google Maps and other GIS applications became commonplace and irreplaceable as parts of everyday life. They offered a glimpse of the type of mapping/data integration that will become a core mission for registries of deeds during the next few years.

7. We established a type of free advertising section called “Our Customers” on our website. Real estate professionals with websites can request a short description of their businesses and links to their websites from a designated portion of

6. The total number of recorded land documents processed this year was slightly less than 88,000, a slight decrease from 2004 but further evidence that a slowdown in the real estate market is upon us.

5. The Registers of Deeds Association published a major revision to the Deed Indexing Standards of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to become effective January 1, 2006.

4. Besides turning two years old, the LowellDeeds Blog received an entirely new appearance in December that provides more functionality and permits greater reader involvement.

3. In the National Lumber case, the Massachusetts Appeals Court issued a decision of great significance to registries of deeds. While the Court did, in fact, literally interpret the registry of deeds statute (chapter 36), the interpretation was greatly at odds with the established and accepted practice. Many of the consequences of this case will not become fully apparent until well into 2005.

2. The Middlesex North Registry has devised a method of presenting pre-computer Grantor Indexes to the public as PDF documents on a multi-volume set of CDs. During the first quarter of 2006, all Grantor Indexes back into the 19th Century will be available in this format.

1. Electronic Recording became a daily event during 2005 with nearly 1,000 documents recorded in this manner. There are many details that must still be resolved, but the technology has proven to be useful and reliable.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Registry Holiday Schedule

With Christmas only 48 hours away, here's a recap of the registry's holiday schedule: There isn't one. We'll be open our normal hours on our normal days which means 8:30 am to 4:15 pm tomorrow (Christmas Eve) and on next Friday (New Year's Eve - December 31). By some legislative quirk, if a holiday such as Christmas or New Years falls on a Sunday, then the courthouse - and by extension the Registry of Deeds - would be closed on Monday. If the holiday falls on Saturday as is the case this year, then the building stays open on Friday (and Monday) and all employees receive a "floating holiday." Even though we will be open, many of our employees will take Christmas Eve day off, but even though only a reduced staff will be on hand, we will still be able to take care of all your recording needs.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Yahoo May Be Gone!

Do you remember the once mighty Yahoo?
Of course you do, everyone does.

OK, how about this one...Do you remember the once mighty search engine Alta Vista?
That’s probably a maybe, depending on your age.

Well, both Alta Vista and Yahoo may be on the way to extinction.
A long, long time ago Alta Vista was THE search engine to use. I loved it. Two years after its launch the company earned an amazing $50 million a year(big bucks for 1997). Alta Vista became so popular Yahoo bought it.
But Alta Vista was destined to fall and fall it did.
The first nail in Alta Vista’s coffin came just a year later (1998) with the advent of google. Google grew so fast that within a few years it buried the once mighty Alta Vista...

Yahoo hung on to the aligning company for its primary search engine.
But now, Yahoo itself is in trouble...

Wow, I remember when Yahoo was was THE Internet portal to use. Truthfully, we should be telling someone to “yahoo that” rather than “google that”. But it wasn’t meant to be.

Now Yahoo is “yesterday” and google is cool.

In 2000 Yahoo’s value peaked with sharing selling for $118 each. However currently Yahoo trades for around $15 a share.

In 2008 Microsoft made a generous offer to purchase Yahoo for (are you ready) $44.6 billion.
Yahoo foolishly turned Microsoft’s offer down. What were they thinking?

So here is the latest about the crumbling company...

Last week Yahoo laid off 4% of its entire workforce and now the company is closing three of its major divisions, including the once mighty Alta Vista search engine. The other two are delicious and Traffic API.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Future uses of Worcester Superior Court

The December 20, 2010 issue of Banker & Tradesman has an article (subscribers only)about the pending auction of the Worcester Superior Courthouse. Generations of lawyers from Greater Lowell are undoubtedly familiar with that building which sits high on a hill on Main Street in Worcester's Lincoln Square. Several years ago, the building became vacant when a new courthouse was constructed for all court activities and the Worcester Registry of Deeds moved into leased space in the former Worcester Galeria Mall.

The Division of Capital Asset Management, the state agency responsible for all state-owned property, will hold an auction on January 19, 2011 with a minimum bid of $100,000 for a building assessed at $4.1 million. City of Worcester planners hope that the successful bidder will choose one of three development strategies: (1) a small business incubator; (2) a museum or other cultural site; or (3) housing. Because of the intricacies of developing such a unique space, however, there is fear that the only option may be to raze the entire structure.

People in Lowell should watch the outcome of this auction and subsequent development very closely. When the new Judicial Center in Lowell is ultimately built, the current Superior Courthouse, set on one of the gateways into the city, will undergo the same process as the Worcester Courthouse now faces. Perhaps there are some lessons we can learn.

Monday, December 20, 2010

"The Fighter" at the Registry of Deeds

In August 2009 scenes for the Lowell based movie "The Fighter" were filmed at the Lowell Superior Courthouse, home of the Middlesex North Registry of Deeds. We took most of the pictures in this video on that day. During the first weekend of the film's nation-wide release it grossed $12.2 million, an impressive start.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Governor signs new homestead law

Governor Patrick signed into law a major revision of the Commonwealth's Homestead Law today. Passed by the legislature just two weeks ago, the new law clarifies many ambiguities about the existing statute and adds several new consumer friendly provisions. I've written about the new bill here and here. It will take effect 90 days from today.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Mass AG investigating MERS

Yesterday's Globe reported that Attorney General Martha Coakley, at the urging of Essex South Register of Deeds John O'Brien, has launched an investigation of Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems Inc for failure to pay required recording fees in Massachusetts. MERS came into existence in the late 1990s as a type of agent for the mortgage industry. The theory was because the underlying promissory notes to mortgages were being rapidly and frequently bought and sold by lenders and investors, the traditional practice of recording an assignment of mortgage at the registry of deeds with each trade of the note was inefficient. Under this new system, MERS would become the record owner of the mortgage as the agent for whichever entity held the note.

For many years this system seemed to work quite well. I don't ever remember anyone raising questions about its legality until the housing bubble burst just a few years ago. But now across the country courts are scrutinizing the basis of MERS and questioning the legitimacy of mortgages held by the company.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Five Techie Gifts

Its late you know...Are you still confused about what to buy for that special someone in your life, like I am? Well, here are five interesting techie gift suggestions...

How about a Bluetooth connected Rearview? This unique car mirror doubles as a caller ID, displaying the numbers of those calling you as they come in.

Or how about a Key Finder with Transmitter and Receiver. Can't find your keys? Just press the transmitter and the Keys(Receiver) give off a loud beeping sound.

Or how about an email notifier. Plug this gadget into a USB on your computer and whenever you get an email it flashes in three different colors.

Or how about a device that is a cellphone, watch, video camera and music play all in one. Yes, you wear it around your wrist and yes, it looks just like a watch...but wow, can it do more.

Or how about a cordless handheld portable scanner. Just swipe this device over a business card or newspaper snippet and you've got a digital copy. And its as small as a pen so it fits right in you shirt pocket.

Now with all this around...I can't figure out why I have to still run out shopping this wekkend.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

More on the new Homestead Law

Last month I wrote about the major changes to Massachusetts homestead law that were contained in Senate Bill 2406, then working its way through the legislature. Both houses of the legislature passed a final version of the bill and it now sits on the Governor's desk. My understanding he has until this Thursday to sign it. Once signed, the new law will take effect in 90 days.

Besides clarifying several long-standing ambiguities in the law which I wrote about last month, the new law contains a number of new, very consumer-friendly sections. In addition to creating an automatic homestead exemption for all homeowners in the amount of $125,000, the new bill also protects the proceeds of the sale of a home that was covered by a homestead. Here's what the bill says:

Section 8. (a) If a home that is subject to an estate of homestead is sold, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, taken or damaged by fire or other casualty, then the proceeds received on account of any such sale, taking or damage shall be entitled to the protection of this chapter during the following periods:

(1) in the event of a sale, whether voluntary or involuntary, or a taking, for a period ending on the date on which the person benefited by the homestead either acquires another home the person intends to occupy as a principal residence or 1 year after the date on which the sale or taking occurred, whichever first occurs; and

(2) in the event of a fire or other casualty, for a period ending on: ( i ) the date upon which the reconstruction or repair to the home is completed or the date on which the person benefited by the homestead acquires another home the person intends to occupy as a principal residence; or (ii) 2 years after the date of the fire or other casualty, whichever first occurs.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Lowell Superior Courthouse Elevator Dec 13, 2010

This morning I took a walk through the interior construction area of the new Lowell Superior Courthouse elevator. Significant changes have taken place since I last saw the area....
The entire accessible ramp is in, although it is currently in a rough state. Handrails have been installed on the walls the entire length of the ramp. And a new wall has been built dividing an old registry work space in half.

Take a look...

Friday, December 10, 2010

US Chief Technology Officer in Lowell

Aneesh Chopra, the Chief Technology Officer of the United States, spoke yesterday at the Deshpande Foundation/UMass Lowell gathering. He said that people in the White House are closely watching this effort to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship; that there have been countless attempts to recreate the kind of creative synergy that characterized Silicon Valley and they are hopeful that if this experiment in Greater Lowell is successful, it can be duplicated around the world.

Chopra told an interesting story about the President's recent trip to India. That country has made enormous strides just recently in using technology (fiber optic cable and high speed internet primarily) to deliver better government services to people in the most remote regions. From one of the major Indian cities, Obama was hosting a virtual town hall meeting with people in a remote village. He asked for examples of how government technology has made their lives better.

One villager explained that each year he had to borrow money to buy seeds. The government provides access to low interest loans for farmers, but a prerequisite is establishing proof of ownership of land. This farmer needed a certified copy of his deed but was unable to obtain it within the time needed to apply for the loan. Instead, he had to borrow money from a loan shark at an exorbitant rate. This year, through the use of the new technology, the same farmer was able to establish his ownership electronically, and he received the low interest government loan.

Does that mean that registries of deeds in remote regions of India provide superior service than those in the US? I doubt it, but it's an interesting question to contemplate.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Merrimack Valley Sandbox

I spend the morning at the UMass Lowell Inn & Conference Center along with 300 others at the initial public event of the "Merrimack Valley Sandbox" which is a major initiative launched by the Deshpande Foundation (which also has provided $5 million in seed money) in partnership with UMass Lowell, Merrimack College, Middlesex Community College, and Northern Essex Community College. The objective is to promote innovation and entrepreneurship in the Merrimack Valley and to develop an approach that can serve as a worldwide model.

Desh Deshpande, who along with his spouse Jaishree, created the foundation that bears their name, explained that in the 1970s, "big ideas" came out of places like Bell Labs and IBM. The pressures of globalization, however, have deprived large US businesses of the money needed to promote research and development. Consequently, the "center of gravity" for innovation in American society has shifted to college campuses. This institute and the donated funds (which Deshpande expects to be matched by a like-sized grant by the community), are intended to help create the critical mass of ideas and effort needed for innovation to happen. The "sandbox" imagery is people talking to each other, exchanging ideas, getting excited about a project. This, according to Deshpande, is the key to innovation.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

30 Years Since Lennon's Death

Thirty years ago today Mark David Chapman shot Beatle John Lennon to death outside his Dakota apartment in New York City. The news of Lennon's murder was most prominently told to the country by sports announcer Howard Cosell on ABC's Monday Night Football.

Thirty years can dull a person's memory of an event and they certainly did mine. Until I researched Lennon's death this morning, I had completely forgotten that one of the contestants in "that" Monday night football game was the New England Patriots. On that now infamous night the Pats lost to the Dolphins in overtime 16 to 13.

Here is a brief summary of the game from wikipedia...

The Dolphins got revenge in a 16-13 overtime win at the Miami Orange Bowl. The Patriots clawed to a 13-6 lead in the fourth quarter, then the Dolphins forced overtime with a David Woodley throw to Nat Moore in the fourth, then Uwe von Schamann won it with a 23-yard field goal in the extra quarter.

Chapman fired five hollow point bullets at Lennon missing him once and hitting him four times. Two bullets hit Lennon in the left lung immediately adjacent to the aorta. After being hit the ex-Beatle staggered a few steps then fell to the ground and bled to death. When Lennon arrived at the Roosevelt Hospital he was pronounced "dead on arrival" at 11:15 PM.

The announcement itself of John Lennon's death by Cosell was somewhat surrounded by confusion and controversy.

Yoko Ono begged the hospital not to report that Lennon was dead until she had informed their son, Sean, who was at home at the time. Not knowing of this request, it so happened that a reporter from ABC's New York affiliate, Alan Weiss, was in Roosevelt Hospital following a motorcycle accident, and confirmed that Lennon was dead. He called ABC News, who relayed the news to Roone Arledge, the executive producer of ABC's nationally-televised Monday Night Football. The confirmation was overheard by Howard Cosell, Don Meredith and Frank Gifford, who were calling a game between the Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots. In a brief conversation amongst themselves during a timeout, Cosell expressed apprehension over reporting Lennon's death on-air, but Gifford convinced him it was the right thing to do. Coming out of the commercial, after a brief set-up by Gifford, Cosell made the announcement: (wkikipedia)
Below is Cosell's sad announcement to the world.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Pearl Harbor Day

Sixty-nine years ago today, naval and air forces of Japan attacked the US Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor. Achieving complete surprise, the Japanese sank four US battleships, damaged four more, killed 2402 US service members and wounded 1282. On the USS Arizona alone, 1177 of the crew of 1400 died when a Japanese bomb penetrated into a powder magazine and caused a catastrophic explosion.

Earlier today I attended the Remembrance Ceremony held by the Greater Lowell Veterans' Council at the Lowell Memorial Auditorium. The event featured speeches, patriotic songs, a wreath laying and a "water ceremony" during which everyone in attendance walked to the banks of the nearby Concord River and cast flowers into the water in recognition of those who died at sea.

Especially since September 11, 2001, ceremonies recognizing Pearl Harbor have taken on a new significance to me. Both December 7 and September 11 are reminders that whatever price we pay as a nation for being ever-vigilant is well worth the cost.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Judicial oversight of foreclosures

A story in today's Globe reports that Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin will attempt to revive previously filed legislation that would alter the way that foreclosures are handled in Massachusetts. Under the current practice, the only judicial involvement in the process occurs at the very beginning, and that's just to ascertain whether any party in interest is entitled to the benefits of the Service Members Civil Relief Act (which provides added protections against foreclosure to those serving on active duty in the US military). Since so few of our citizens are in the military, those cases typically end with a default judgment in favor of the lender. From that point on, the foreclosure is an entirely private affair completely under the control of the lender.

The current system may have worked well in an age when almost all mortgages were granted and serviced by local lending institutions, it falls short in protecting the rights of homeowners under the current evolution of the lending industry - a nationwide, one-size-fits-all model, where individual mortgages are just another commodity to be acquired or disposed of with profit the sole motivator and not some family's house. The shoddy practices of the lending industry both in granting all of the ill-conceived mortgages that gave rise to the housing bubble and the disastrous course those same entities have embarked upon in trying to foreclose on those mortgages, make it abundantly clear that someone needs to be looking out for the interests of the homeowner, and that someone is most appropriately the courts.

Friday, December 03, 2010

City of Lowell contemplates Receivership Program

This past Tuesday I attended a meeting of the Lowell City Council's Housing Subcommittee. The members of the subcommittee viewed a presentation on the city administration's plans to institute a receivership program for homes that are in the foreclosure process and that have either been abandoned or are not being kept up to the necessary standards. I'm still researching the legal foundation for this type of receivership, but as I understand it, the city would petition the Housing Court to have a receiver appointed for the property. That person would then take control of the property, make all necessary repairs and then sell it. Moneys expended by the receiver would constitute a "super lien" on the property that would take priority over other encumbrances, including the first mortgage.

Receivership is a drastic step, but these abandoned homes are like anchors that are dragging down the value of the homes of everyone else in the vicinity. For that reason alone, drastic steps are needed. Hopefully the city will continue to move forward with this effort.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

November recording statistics

The positive trends in recording statistics continued in November. The number of foreclosure deeds recorded declined 50% and orders of notice dropped 61% when compared to November 2009. For those same two months, the number of mortgages recorded increased by 43%, a sure sign that a refinancing boomlet is underway, although it's centered in the towns of the district and has largely bypassed the city of Lowell. The number of deeds recorded is down 15% which is not good news but it's understandable. Ever since the expiration of the Federal home buyer tax credit, things have slowed and, if homeowners believe a recovery in values is underway, however slight, they will be more willing to defer placing homes on the market until that market strengthens a bit more.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Lowell Superior Courthouse Elevator Progress

The elevator at the Lowell Superior Courthouse is beginning to look a lot like, well and elevator. As you can see in the pictures below, the shaft is topped with a four-sided, pointed roof giving the structure a sleek look. At this time I am not sure of the estimated completion date, but I'd bet snow is going to fly before it is done.