Community Needs Mending

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What this town needs is a good coffee shop. You know, a place where groups can meet, people play Scrabble by the fireplace, listen to folk singers and get wireless Internet. It oughta be someplace they greet you by name, run a tab and set out the homemade pastries with a flourish.

Oh. Wait. We do have such a place?

Oh. Wait. We did have such a place.

It’s gone now. Fireside Espresso shut down last week — like several dozen businesses in Payson in the past year.

Of course, every business has its own story — just like every divorce is a distinct tragedy. In the case of the Fireside, they’d actually increased business in the face of the recession, but not enough to overcome a too-high overhead. Same thing happened to the Main Street Grille, one of the defining restaurants in town until it shut down last fall.

Granted, life goes on. So Gerardo’s bought the coffee machines from the departing Fireside and picked up some workers to offer coffee and pastries starting at 7 a.m., giving the caffeine freaks already getting the shakes from the loss of the Fireside somewhere to go.

So can we extract a moral here?

Perhaps it merely underscores the difficulty of running a business: Even when you offer a wonderful product the community needs — the inexorable details of lease payments, overhead and square footage can overcome the most diligent and creative of efforts. That’s why any community must take special care to help, rather than hinder, the folks brave enough to venture into such a storm of risk.

And certainly, it drives home the need for each of us to maintain the beloved community by supporting those local businesses we need — and sometimes love. Maybe you can save some money by buying stuff in the Valley — and then come home to a community with dwindling choices and failing businesses.

What’s it worth to be greeted by name when you come through the shop door, to have a varied choice of restaurants, to have somewhere to go on a rainy morning? To have a place down the street where your kid can get a summer job? To have customers for your own business?

We each must weave the community of our hearts — with threads that include the neighbors, the family, the hiking trail, the creek, the gym, the coffee shop, the favorite restaurant, the fishing hole, the wind chime place and the hardware store with the guy who’ll spend 20 minutes finding the right washer.

The wool sweater of our community needs mending, but it’ll keep us warm when the wind blows and the rain comes at you sideways. Lord knows, it’s blowing now — we must keep up with our knitting.

Government ‘help’ picks pockets

You’ve heard the Ronald Reagan line about the scariest sentence in the English language: We’re from the government: We’re here to help.

So clever. So cynical. So true. We herewith offer one example to support the quip.

So, we all know now that real estate scamsters helped bring down the economy. Unscrupulous appraisers played a key role, manipulating value estimates to support the most ridiculous loans. Everyone figured that if the house was gonna be worth 20 percent more in a year, they get rich on even delusional deals.

We know how that particular Ponzi scheme turned out.

So the government promised to fix the system.

Hurrah! Now please read fine print. Yikes.

Here’s how the government “fixed” the problem with bad appraisals. The feds required lenders to set up a rotating pool of credentialed appraisers, with no direct relationship with the lender. That sounds reasonable. So now neither buyers, nor sellers, nor lenders can pick an appraiser. Instead, this middleman picks the appraiser.

Any certified appraiser can join the pool for a given area. As a result, Phoenix-based appraisers now dominate the appraiser pool in Payson, although they don’t know the first thing about the local market.

Hmm. That’s not so hot. Wait. It gets worse.

A local certified appraiser will charge you $300 to $350 for an appraisal — unless you contract for the report through the pool. If your lender picks the same guy out of the pool, it’ll cost you $575 — no price negotiations allowed. You can still probably get the middle man guy to offer a contract to a particular appraiser so long as he’s in the pool, but that doesn’t affect the price.

As a result, the government has created a cartel that has nearly doubled the cost of an appraisal — mostly by using appraisers who don’t understand the local market.

Cool. Thanks guys. Gee. Now do you think you could run the auto industry for us?

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