Tag: wealthy

In This Pandemic, The Rich Are Making Out Like Bandits

Reprinted with permission from DCReport

Tens of millions of Americans are cashless, many desperate to feed their children. Meanwhile the richest Americans merrily float on a rapidly rising tide of money thanks mainly to Trump & Co.

My analysis of Federal Reserve data shows a record flow of greenbacks let the corporate rich pour trillions of dollars into their accounts as they fired tens of millions .

Read Now Show less

California’s Wealthy Lagging In Water Conservation

By Frank Shyong, Hailey Branson-Potts, and Matt Stevens , Los Angeles Times (TNS)

LOS ANGELES — There are few signs of California’s epic drought along a stretch of Maple Drive in Beverly Hills.

Deep-green front lawns stretch out, dotted with healthy trees and sculpted foliage. The only brown lawn in sight is at a home under construction.

As California gears up for the first mandatory water restrictions in its history, a long-standing class divide about water use is becoming increasingly apparent.

Beverly Hills and other affluent cities use far more water per capita than less wealthy communities, prompting some to cast them as villains in California’s water conservation effort.

Residents in communities such as La Canada Flintridge, Newport Beach, Malibu and Palos Verdes all used more than 150 gallons of water per capita per day in January. By contrast, working-class Santa Ana used just 38 gallons, and communities in southeastern L.A. County used less than 45.

Los Angeles water usage was 70 gallons per capita. But within the city, a recent UCLA study examining a decade of Department of Water and Power data showed that, on average, wealthier neighborhoods consume three times more water than less affluent ones.

With Governor Brown’s order requiring a 25 percent cut in water consumption, these upscale communities are scrambling to develop stricter laws that will work where years of voluntary standards have not. Many believe it’s going to take a change in culture as well as city rules to hit the goal.

“Some people — believe it or not — don’t know we are in a drought,” said George Murdoch, Newport Beach’s utilities general manager, whose city is beginning to fine chronic water wasters. “We have people that own a home here but aren’t around a lot, so they could miss a leak.”

Stephanie Pincetl, who worked on the UCLA water-use study, said wealthy Californians are “lacking a sense that we are all in this together.”

“The problem lies, in part, in the social isolation of the rich, the moral isolation of the rich,” Pincetl said.

Beverly Hills officials said that until now they have focused on educating, rather than penalizing, water wasters. The city is in the second stage of its emergency water conservation plan, which calls for voluntary limits on pavement washing, lawn watering, and the use of fountains that do not use recycled water, to reduce water consumption by ten percent.

But last Friday, water from fountains, sprinklers, and hoses seemed to flow freely throughout the city.

Across from City Hall at the Beverly Gardens Park, perfectly green hedges frame rows of blooming flowers, tended by columns of black sprinkler heads. A fountain balanced on the backs of four stone satyrs burbled pleasantly. Tourists posed for pictures in front of the iconic Beverly Hills sign, which overlooks a water feature the size of a racquetball court.

City officials plan to introduce a stricter plan at a council meeting this month; they say it will achieve the governor’s 25 percent reduction target. There is some debate over how much residents can change.

Kay Dangaard, a longtime Beverly Hills resident who recently moved to a condo just outside the city, said she’s seen much apathy about the drought.

“In this part of town, everyone is just too important to see outside themselves,” Dangaard said as she shopped at the Beverly Hills Whole Foods Market. “Where are these people going to go with all their money when the water is gone?”

Despite the bountifully lush landscaping, there are signs that Beverly Hills is beginning to get the message.

Marianna Dzierzbinska, 76, listed her water conservation tactics as she hefted strawberry cartons at the Whole Foods. She uses cold water that runs before the shower gets hot to water her plants. When her finicky wire terriers Alfie and Lily knock some food into their water and refuse to drink it, she collects the leftovers in a bucket.

She leaned in close to share her last strategy.

“When I don’t have guests, I don’t flush every single time,” Dzierzbinska whispered.

At Bouchon, an upscale Thomas Keller restaurant in the heart of Beverly Hills that seats 120, general manager Justin Williams says the restaurant is doing all it can to help. Water is only available on request. He instructs his bartenders to scrape the ice for drinks, not scoop it. They use less water to wash dishes and keep the restaurant clean.

“Of course, we take every measure we can,” he said. “But we don’t have a lot of water usage we can cut.”

There are some early signs that Beverly Hills may be conserving more. According to state data, the city’s water use dropped from 226 gallons per capita per day in July to 144 in January. Water use is seasonal, however, so the true test will come this summer when temperatures rise.

But some residents aren’t sure how far they’re willing to go. Eric, an entertainment industry worker who did not want his full name used, said he tries to conserve water, making sure the faucet doesn’t run as he brushes his teeth or washes dishes. But there’s also his fountain and the whirlpool and the lemon and orange trees to consider.

Seated at a sidewalk table at Urth Caffe in Beverly Hills, he said he could probably conserve more.

“This is America. You gotta live it up a little bit, right?” he joked.

High water use by upscale cities is about more than lifestyle. These communities tend to have fewer apartments and less dense housing. The dwellings tend to be larger and include sprawling grounds in need of water.

The Santa Fe Irrigation District, which serves affluent communities in northern San Diego County, recorded the state’s highest residential per-capita water use during one month in 2014. The district recently began sending engineers to large properties to perform water savings checkups that identify areas of waste.

The resort communities that dot the Palm Springs area also use large amounts of water, needed to keep backyards and a plethora of golf courses verdant amid scorching desert heat.

In Orange County, resident Mike Bennett said some locals think twice about curtailing their landscaping because they are concerned about reducing their property values. Bennett said he thinks Newport Beach uses more water than other areas because of the way it was designed.

“It was designed for quality of life, with big, open spaces, compared to urban areas with smaller lots,” he said.

Newport Beach, like Beverly Hills, has seen a steady drop in water use over the last few months. Officials say they have limited lawn watering to four days a week in the spring and summer and that they slap water wasters with fines. The city says it’s prepared to increase restrictions, such as prohibiting the filling of swimming pools.

Some Newport Beach residents are even taking on the role of drought cop.

Glen Beliakoff, a 53-year-old professional dog walker, recently sprayed some water on the languishing, small strip of grass in front of his house.

A neighbor — a landscape architect with drought-tolerant landscaping and no grass in his yard — snapped a photo of Beliakoff, hose in hand, and sent it to the board of the local homeowners association.

Beliakoff was angry and embarrassed, but the shaming made him think. He would be willing to take out all of his grass if the state’s water situation doesn’t improve, and adds that he and his neighbors no longer hand-wash their cars. He follows drought news more closely, and he’s troubled by what he reads.

“It scares me big-time, especially if we don’t get a handle on it. It’s in the back of my head, always.”

Photo: Mark Boster via Los Angeles Times/TNS

Authorities Hunt For Couple Living Lavish Lifestyle While Collecting Food Stamps

By Brittany Shammas, Sun Sentinel

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Andrea and Colin Chisholm III fancied themselves Scottish aristocrats, insisting on being called Lord and Lady and leading a lavish lifestyle fitting of royals.

They owned a $1.2 million, 83-foot yacht that was docked in South Florida. They lived in waterfront homes in Minnesota and in Lighthouse Point, Fla., and had $3 million tucked away in various bank accounts.

He was the successful, wealthy executive of a Miami-based broadcasting business; she, the owner of a company that bred pedigree Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, including one that won an award at the Westminster dog show.

And all the while, for about a decade, the Chisholms collected food stamps, Medicaid and welfare. First they got it from the state of Minnesota, then Florida, then — for about a year — both, simultaneously.

When Andrea gave birth to a son in Palm Beach in 2007, Minnesota picked up the $22,000 tab. When the couple moved north after a little more than two years in the Sunshine State, Florida kept paying out their benefits.

“These rich folks ripped off the system,” said Hennepin County attorney Mike Freeman, who announced fraud charges against the couple on Friday. “And I will assure you that this office is going to do every darn thing we can do to make sure these people do hard time.”

If they can find them. Officials in Minnesota say they believe Andrea Lynne Chisholm, 54, and Colin A.J. Chisholm, III, 62, have left the country and headed “someplace warm.”

The Lord and Lady have been on the run for about six weeks.

In Florida, the Department of Children and Families is still reviewing the case.

If evidence of fraud is turned up here, another investigation could be launched, according to Ashley Carr, a spokeswoman for Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater.

In all, the Chisholms fraudulently took $167,420 in benefits from Minnesota, according to a criminal complaint filed in Hennepin County. About $60,000 of it went toward massages at a spa.

The story the duo told benefit workers to reel in that money is more than a little different than the life they were actually leading.

In public assistance paperwork filled out between 2004 and 2012, they claimed they had to live with Andrea Chisholm’s mom in Minneapolis. They said they had no jobs, no cars and, at one point, just $80 cash to their names, the criminal complaint said.

Meanwhile, Colin Chisholm was telling potential investors in TCN Networks, a satellite television company he owned, that he had assets totaling $97 million.

“He’s a con artist,” said Virginia Mance Chisholm of North Carolina, who was married to him for more than 20 years and helped investigators in Minnesota build their case. “This is what he did for a living.”

In 2004, at same time the Chisholms were beginning to apply for benefits in Minnesota, the couple were also negotiating the purchase of $1.2 million, Fort Lauderdale-based 1963 yacht called the “Wishing Star.”

Colin Chisholm told the yacht’s owner, Richard Ross of Stuart, that he controlled about $30 million in network television advertising on CNBC. Ross and the Chisholms agreed to a down payment of $220,000, monthly payments of $7,500 and a lump sum payment of $157,000, due in March 2005.

The Chisholms took over the yacht in January 2005. They renamed it the “Andrea Aras” and docked it at the luxury marina at Turnberry Isle in Aventura.

“It’s outrageous,” Freeman said. “You hear of people getting public assistance when they’re having a hard time in their lives and getting it back together. And then you see this.”

For a few months, the couple made their monthly payments. Then they stopped and the Coast Guard seized the yacht — or, as Andrea Chisholm later claimed to a lawyer, “stole” it.

By that time, the royal couple were renting a waterfront home in Lighthouse Point.

They staged a mighty battle to get the boat back, but after a trial in federal court, the judge sided with Ross. He wrote that Colin Chisholm’s testimony was “almost entirely lacking in credibility…at best, evasive, and at worst, perjurious.”

Ross wasn’t surprised by news that the Chisholms are now wanted for fraud. He said the couple were sneaky and sophisticated, and had him fooled in the beginning.

They had butlers and chauffeurs who drove guests to the yacht in limousines, Ross said. The “Lord and Lady” thing, he said, was “hysterical.”

“I mean, they’re criminals,” Ross said. “They would make believe that they had all this money. They were selling some scam.”

The Chisholms left Florida for Minnesota in 2008. They moved into a luxury, $1.6 million house on Lake Minnetonka with Andrea Chisholm’s elderly grandmother, Eloise Heidecker, who she gained power of attorney over.

The pair funneled money from their businesses through her bank accounts, hiding it from authorities, according to the Minnesota complaint. The Chisholms used cash to pay their $2,750 monthly rent.

The several hundred thousand dollars in Heidecker’s bank account “included transactions that would not be expected for an elderly woman with an Alzheimer’s diagnosis,” the criminal complaint said.

That includes $23,000 in charges for airfare, hotels in New York City, California and Florida, cell phone payments, and fine dining — all in just in one month.

Mance Chisholm said her ex-husband was a convincing salesman, had “delusions of grandeur” and always wanted to live large.

If he had worked as hard at selling something legitimate, he “really would be a millionaire now,” she said.

“He could sell ice cream to a snowman,” Mance Chisholm said. “He could have been the best used car salesman in the world. He could sell you anything.”

Photo: “kaje_yomama” via Flickr