SMN morning reading: column on housing; alleged campaign improprieties in mayor race

A couple of things I wanted to point out in today’s Savannah Morning News.

Of first note, Charlie Harper — columnist, businessman, and editor of the right-leaning political blog Peach Pundit (a site I check almost daily) — has a great piece: Distressed homeowners need help.

Harper deals plainly and directly with Georgia’s housing woes. The state now trails only Nevada, Arizona, Florida, and Michigan in the number of homes with negative equity, i.e. underwater.

From that column:

Many of my Republican and Libertarian friends — and many presidential candidates — advocate a “let the market sort it out” approach, claiming the government can only do more harm. While that sounds ideologically consistent, it fails to appreciate the reality of the situation. The current “market” is a total and complete function of government action and inaction.

FHA, which is virtually the only way a purchaser can buy a home with less than 20 percent down, was responsible for 37 percent of all mortgages in 2009. Fannie Mae, which may end up needing a trillion of taxpayer funds to remain solvent, continues to underwrite just under half the country’s mortgage volume. The Federal Reserve owns over one trillion in the direct obligations outstanding from bonds backed by outstanding mortgages.

The government is involved in the sale side as well. With over half of the homes in Metro Atlanta and roughly one quarter nationwide worth less than what the owners owe on their mortgage, banks must sign off on the sales if there is a deficient balance.

Harper stops short of advocating specific policies, but, as he notes, it’s obvious that the government can do more to help the situation (especially through changes in refinancing rules).

On another note, Lesley Conn has an interesting piece: Felser, Jackson face last-minute campaign problems.

There is no response from Jackson, but apparently on November 14th her campaign accepted a $2500 donation from a Teamsters-affiliated group; that’s over the $1300 legal limit for a general election runoff. Jackson was not available for comment last night, but the article does quote her former campaign treasurer J.B. Blackburn, Jr. as saying that the date listed on the disclosure form was incorrect and that the check was pledged and received when that amount was legal.

It’s a tricky issue, however. Why the wrong date? And why would the Jackson campaign have the city attorney’s son as treasurer? That seems like a really bad decision to me. I know it’s a small town, but with the city having made some dubious legal decisions in recent years under Blackburn Sr., the Jackson campaign should have looked elsewhere.

Also, an ad for Jackson earlier in the campaign apparently listed someone as a supporter who had not made a public endorsement.

Felser’s campaign drew a complaint yesterday from Chef Joe Randall, who is pictured on a campaign flyer. Click here for the image.

Jeff’s website contains dozens of photos of him with various folks at public events, but I would agree that printed photos on campaign flyers should in most cases be used with the permission of others in the image.

The SMN piece also notes that at least one of the photos on the flyer was taken by a Savannah Morning News photographer and was used without permission.

It’s a hazy world of copyright infringement online, but clearly someone on the campaign should have checked on the photo rights.