Saturday, January 31, 2015

Sherri Shephard abandoning her surrogate baby?

Sherri Shepherd's surrogate: Sherri acts like the baby is non-existent© Harry Pluviose/Retna Ltd. Sherri Shepherd's surrogate: Sherri acts like the baby is non-existent
Jessica Bartholomew, the surrogate hired by Sherri Shepherd and her then-husband Lamar Sally to carry their baby, is speaking out for the first time and claiming the former "View" host is abandoning her baby.
"I don't understand how she can do that and act like this baby is non-existent," Jessica tells "Inside Edition" in an exclusive sit-down. "It just blows my mind."
Jessica, 32, is a working mother with two daughters of her own. She works in data entry at a technology company in Pennsylvania, but decided to become a surrogate to help an infertile couple while making some extra money. She was reportedly paid $25,000.
According to Jessica, after being matched up with the celebrity couple through an agency, she claims to have signed a 23-page contract with Lamar and Sherri on Sept. 12, 2013, but she says she didn't first meet Sherri until the embryo was transferred into her uterus in November 2013. An egg donor (said to be "African-American, tall and athletic") was reportedly used.
Jessica tells the news source that during her pregnancy Sherri only called her two or three times to see how she was doing and what she was eating. Sherri did, however, show up for an important ultrasound 20 weeks into the pregnancy, according to Jessica.
It was soon after the ultrasound that Jessica says Sherri wanted nothing to do with the baby. Lamar reportedly informed Jessica that the couple was splitting up. Indeed, the couple filed for legal separation in May 2014 and noted that a baby born via surrogacy with an expectant due day of July.
Because there was no other mother present at the birth, Jessica's name was put on the birth certificate.
"I do get medical bills for [the baby]," Jessica says. "I am now listed as a non-custodial parent in California. I have a child support case coming against me."
The baby, named Lamar Jr., is living full-time with his father, Lamar who is suing Sherri for child support and demanding that she acknowledge Lamar Jr. as her son.
Sherri declined to comment to Inside Edition but she addressed the issue on "The Wendy Williams Show," saying, "I have a lot of lawyers and I'm in court right now and it's very public and very painful."

Friday, January 30, 2015

Sarah Palin as seen by Kathleen Parker

Syndicated columnsBy Syndicated columns 
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on January 30, 2015 at 12:51 PM, updated January 30, 2015 at 12:52 PM
By Kathleen Parker
WASHINGTON -- When Democrats were looking for evidence of a Republican war on women, they overlooked Exhibit A -- Sarah Palin.
This isn't to say that Palin was part of the war on women, though many Democrats would say so. Rather she was one of the war's most conspicuous victims -- fragged, you might say -- by her own troops.
kathleen parker.JPG
And yet, she's back again. And -- yet again -- she's assuming her default position of presidential tease. Yes, she's "seriously interested" in running for president. As evidence, she gave an utterly befuddling speech this past weekend in Iowa, where other likely candidates were gathered.
This time, Palin's critics include Republicans. What the heck was she talking about, they wondered. What has happened to Palin, they ask?
As if they shouldn't know. Palin, though no longer viable in a national race, may deserve more sympathy than scorn. Her incoherence, though not new, has worsened, and she shows signs of someone desperate for relevance. As to the Iowa speech, though her teleprompter apparently froze, a technological glitch can't be blamed for "This is to forego a conclusion."
But blame for her general collapse beginning in 2008 can be placed in large part upon her own party, which used her and cast her aside.
Not that long ago, Palin was a breathtakingly attractive politician of a rare sort. A governor who had challenged Big Oil -- and won -- she could wow a crowd like few others. Republican strategists desperate for a running mate for John McCain with some razzle-dazzle saw her as the game-changer.
It mattered little that they didn't know much about her. Whatever she might lack in intellectual heft, they apparently reckoned, she made up for in "hot-ness." Even McCain, a veteran of so many political wars and campaigns, was fooled by Palin's charms.
What Republicans didn't know about Palin, however, did hurt them. Despite her many talents, she was "clearly out of her league," as I wrote in September 2008, drawing a deluge of hate. What is accepted as conventional wisdom now was, by the way, just as obvious then as now.
If Republican strategists had viewed Palin in 2008 as someone with talent who needed nurturing and support, she might have been ready for a national ticket by 2016.
Let's be honest. Any man of Palin's comparable deficits, no matter his winning ways, would have been eliminated from consideration within minutes of opening his mouth. Although Palin acquitted herself well enough in her single debate with then-Sen. Joe Biden, simultaneously winking at her fans and signaling "You betcha" to her critics, the substance of her responses was flash-card deep.
This doesn't mean that Palin was incapable of becoming a formidable national politician. It only means that she wasn't ready. She needed to do what former Texas Gov. Rick Perry has done. Recognizing his mistakes in 2012, Perry has spent the past two years meeting with conservative scholars for briefings on economics, health care, budgets, tax policy and so on.
Palin apparently took a different route. She wrote a couple of books, became fluent in Twitter and dropped in and out of campaigns to endorse tea party candidates. Until Saturday, she seemed content to have become an anointer rather than the anointed. Her seriousness as public servant versus public personality, however, was reflected in her rambling, stream-of-consciousness speech.
If Republican strategists had viewed Palin in 2008 as someone with talent who needed nurturing and support, she might have been ready for a national ticket by 2016. But this possibility exposes the matter of her own judgment. One wonders why Palin would accept the invitation to become McCain's running mate given how ill-prepared she was, not to mention that she'd just had a baby. Then again, a woman like Sarah, always the brightest star in her orbit, couldn't resist the roar of the crowd.
What she didn't count on was the stress of constant travel, performance and cramming for speeches -- or the pain of separation from her family. Nor could she have anticipated that her own team ultimately would lose faith in her. Imagine being governor of a frontier state suddenly being placed before millions of armchair critics with fingers on the keyboard ready to fire and asked to perform without proper preparation, training or support. This is crazy-making on its face; devastating and crushing to the individual who finds herself alone on the ledge.
In the end, the story of Palin's rise and fall is a tragedy. And the author wasn't the media as accused but the Grand Old Party itself. Like worshipers of false gods throughout human history, Republicans handpicked the fair maiden Sarah and placed her on the altar of political expedience.
They sacrificed her.
Kathleen Parker's email address is
(c) 2015, Washington Post Writers Group

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Case against bullying - The Casey Heynes Story

 MEMPHIS TN (IFS) -- I decided to do a radio show on bullying.  It was an after thought to something I remember as a kid in the sixth grade.  I was not liked very much, and I was the wrong color.  And I was one of the smartest kids in the school for my grade at that time, and I was still a stupid, dumb looking guy.

It took several years for me to get interested in school sports and I finally decided to play football, just because the person who always bullied me played, and it was a controlled way to practice hitting him with the coaches watching.  But what happened, is that I got good, really good, fast at hitting harder and then I became the bully and started tormenting the person that use to beat me up.  The only practice exercise that I loved was the "meat grinder" and I never lost in the trenches at one-on-one.  Never!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Saints owner Tom Benson cuts ties with children, grandchildren

By Sam Galanis

The New Orleans Saints picked the perfect time to drop the ball.

While DeflateGate was dominating every sports headline this week, Saints and New Orleans Pelicans owner Tom Benson fired his grandaughter, Rita Benson LeBlanc, as owner and vice chairperson. He also cut ties with Benson LeBlanc, his daughter Renee LeBlanc and his grandson Ryan LeBlanc, sending them this letter.

It read:

Dear Renee, Rita and Ryan,

During the over 80 years of my life, I have built a rather large estate which was intended to mainly be for you all as my family.

Suddenly after I remarried you all became offensive and did not act in an appropriate manner and even had arguments among yourselves which created a very unpleasant family situation which I will not stand for. It made me very unhappy and uncomfortable.

This situation cannot continue at my age.

Because of the facts set out above and the heart break you have caused me I want no further contact with any of you and you will not be allowed to enter the Saint's facilities or games, the Basketball facilities or Pelicans games, the Benson Towers, the T.V. facilities or the automotive facilities in New Orleans and will have no right to give directions, orders or hire or fire any of the personnel,

Sincerely yours, your father and grandfather,

The 87-year-old Benson had been grooming Benson LeBlanc as his successor, but their relationship became tumultuous over the years. She was relieved of her duties Tuesday, per CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora, and Benson passed the torch to his wife, Gayle, on Wednesday.

Though La Canfora noted that the two sides of the family have clashed and made up in the past, Benson LeBlanc and Renee and Ryan LeBlanc filed a lawsuit against Benson. The Times-Picayune reported Thursday that the supporters of Benson LeBlanc are claiming that Benson’s wife does not have the business credentials to own football and basketball teams and that Benson’s deteriorating health has rendered him too incompetent to make such decisions.

Rita Benson LeBlanc out as Saints owner/ vice chairman

CBS Sports NFL Insider

Rita Benson LeBlanc, granddaughter of Saintsowner Tom Benson and a member of the team's ownership group, has cleaned out her office with the club and is not actively serving as the Saints Vice Chairman of the Board, according to numerous sources with knowledge of the situation. Benson LeBlanc has had a tumultuous relationship with her grandfather and with many key figures within the team's hierarchy, and was suspended by Tom Benson for three months in 2012.
She is listed among the ownership roster in the team's media guide, after only Tom Benson, and the team's website describes her as “the second-highest ranking executive overseeing management alongside” her grandfather. Benson LeBlanc has led the team's pursuit of hosting Super Bowls and her executive duties include overseeing the Saints sales, marketing and community affairs and she is one of the primary heirs to the team upon Benson's passing. Benson LeBlanc has clashed with coach Sean Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis at times and her absence from around the team's offices was noticed quickly.
A Saints spokesperson was contacted for comment on this story on Tuesday, and, after requesting additional time to prepare a statement on the matter on several occasions ultimately declined to comment on Wednesday night. It is unknown how long any discipline against her will last -- and several team sources noted that incidents like this have occurred previously with the sides eventually reuniting -- but NFL league officials are aware her absence from her usual Saints duties.
In the past Benson has talked about grooming Benson LeBlanc to take over the day-to-day operations of the Saints, but the succession plan for Benson has grown increasingly murky over the years. Things have come to a head again recently, sources said, and her future with the team could remain cloudy despite the fact her family will eventually assume control of the team. Benson LeBlanc has been one of the more public faces of Saints' ownership in New Orleans.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

31 Rolls of Undeveloped film from WWII

Baltimore judge has dismissed charges against man convicted of death of 16-year-old Phylicia Barnes

© Courtesy of Baltimore Police DepartmentFile photo of Phylicia Barnes.BALTIMORE—A Baltimore judge has dismissed charges against the man accused in the late 2010 disappearance and death of 16-year-old Phylicia Barnes, setting free the only suspect in a case that drew national attention but has been criticized as flimsy.
Michael Maurice Johnson, 30, has been jailed since 2012 and was convicted of second-degree murder a year later for the teen's killing. Piecing together what they described as "circumstantial evidence," prosecutors alleged Johnson developed a questionable relationship with the teen — the younger half-sister of his longtime girlfriend — then killed her and dumped her body in the Susquehanna River.
Previously Judge Alfred J. Nance, who overturned Johnson's 2013 conviction, expressed "great concern" over the evidence in the case. On Tuesday Judge John Addison Howard, who declared a mistrial at a second trial last month, ruled prosecutors had presented insufficient evidence.
Howard's decision, delivered in a brief statement, led to Johnson's release from the Baltimore City Detention Center Tuesday evening.
"Michael Johnson has maintained his innocence from day one," said Katy O'Donnell, one of two attorneys from the public defender's office who represented Johnson. "We absolutely, firmly believe the court did the right thing and justice was done."
Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby said in a statement that Howard had "no jurisdiction to grant the acquittal" and vowed to seek an appeal.
The decision was the latest twist in a case that saw a conviction overturned, a key witness discredited and, just last month, a mistrial because of a prosecutorial error.
Phylicia's father, Russell Barnes, said the judicial system let his daughter down. He said the process seemed to be in Johnson's favor, and claimed evidence he felt was important was never admitted.
"In my mind, the city of Baltimore has let a child predator go," Barnes said. "We still want justice for Phylicia."
Johnson's mother, Rhonda Mullins, was present in the courtroom Tuesday and called the case a "nightmare" for her family. Mullins, a retired city police officer, said her son's acquittal was "wonderful news."
At Tuesday's hearing, Assistant State's Attorney Lisa Goldberg told the judge all available evidence pointed to Johnson.
"We don't have a motive," Goldberg told Howard. "We don't need a motive. ... There is no boogeyman out there who took Phylicia Barnes. The circumstances point back to the defendant."
Phylicia was an honors student and athlete in North Carolina, where she lived with her mother. She had reconnected with her half-sisters over Facebook, and began making visits to Baltimore. She hoped to attend Towson University to be closer to them.
It was on a trip to visit her sisters during Christmas break that Phylicia vanished on December 28, 2010.
Prosecutors during both trials told jurors they believed Johnson had developed an inappropriate relationship with Phylicia, whom he called "lil' sis." They pointed to hundreds of text messages exchanged in the six months before her disappearance, though the content of the messages was never disclosed.
At a party in June 2010, prosecutors said, he and the teenage girl went streaking then, along with Johnson's younger brother and Phylicia's sister Deena Barnes, retreated to a field where a fifth person filmed the four engaged in "naked touching." That video was played for jurors at both trials, with prosecutors theorizing that it represented a turn in the brother/sister-like relationship.
Meanwhile, Johnson's 10-year relationship with Deena Barnes had been crumbling, according to prosecutors. Johnson had said that on the morning of the girl's disappearance, he had gone to Deena's apartment to gather some belongings to move out, and later called out of work.
"We have a defendant who just per chance takes the day off from work," Goldberg said Tuesday. "We have all these things that make you go 'Hmm.'"
A neighbor said he saw Johnson struggling to move a plastic storage container out of the apartment, and prosecutors alleged Phylicia's body was inside. Goldberg claimed Johnson showed little interest upon hearing the news that the girl was missing.
Defense attorneys said Johnson was cooperative with police and offered to help in the search until he was asked to stay away. Cell phone GPS records that trace his movements did not show him traveling anywhere near the Susquehanna in Harford County, where the teen's body was found in April 2011.
Investigators also tapped Johnson's phone for two months, during which time he discussed the case and speculated about police tactics, as well as fleeing the country. But he did not admit to the crime.
Johnson was indicted by a grand jury on charges of first-degree murder in April 2012.
Two months later, a petty thief named James McCray contacted police from a jail in Charles County and told them Johnson had called him for help the day of Phylicia's disappearance, saying he had raped and strangled her. McCray said Johnson summoned him to the apartment, where he saw Phylicia's body.
McCray had previously come forward as a witness in other high profile cases across the region, and contacted Baltimore investigators with information only after Johnson had been charged. Prosecutors said McCray had key details that he could not have gleaned from public accounts.
McCray testified at the first trial. But the judge determined prosecutors failed to tell defense attorneys information raising doubts about McCray's credibility.
Nance ordered a new trial, saying the state had to prove its case "not by speculation or assumption, but by evidence."
Prosecutors opted not to present McCray as a witness in last month's trial.
During the second trial, prosecutors played a wiretapped phone call between Johnson and one of his brothers. Howard ordered part of the tape redacted, and after a recess prosecutors said they had properly edited it. But when it was played, jurors again heard the portion Howard had ordered removed.
Howard, who said he did not believe the mistake was intentional, ordered a mistrial on Dec. 22.
Five jurors interviewed after the mistrial told The Baltimore Sun they would have voted to acquit Johnson based on the state's case. "The evidence wasn't there at all, to me," said juror Audra Agnelly.
In court Tuesday, O'Donnell and fellow defense attorney Kaye Beehler said they believed the failure to redact the tapes was intentional. Beehler alleged the state made the error hoping to prompt a new trial because they sensed it was "going down the tubes."
Goldberg called that claim "ludicrous."
Beehler argued that prosecutors couldn't even prove a crime had taken place or, if it had, what state it had occurred in. The Susquehanna River flows through New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland.
"There was insufficient evidence of where she died, how she died, and what manner she died," Beehler said.
Howard called the prosecution's case against Johnson "unarguably circumstantial" and said while it was intriguing, it contained "no direct evidence" linking him to Phylicia' killing.
"There was 'no smoking gun' in this case," Howard wrote.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

LeAnn Rimes, Eddie Cibrian’s Reality Show Canceled After 1 Season by VH1

“LeAnn & Eddie” ran for only eight episodes
LeAnn Rimes and Eddie Cibrian‘s VH1 reality show “LeAnn & Eddie” has been canceled after one season, a spokesperson for the network told TheWrap on Tuesday.
The short-lived series, which focused on the relationship between the country singer and her actor husband, ran for only eight episodes.
The couple met while Rimes was married to Dean Sheremet and Cibrian was married to Brandi Glanville, of “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” fame, and they found themselves frequently in the tabloids well before signing on for the unscripted series. But as the first trailer for “LeAnn & Eddie” showed back in June, the couple didn’t shy away from discussing Glanville on the series, or any of their other past controversies.
“LeAnn & Eddie” debuted on Thursday, July 17.
In addition to starring on the VH1 show, Cibrian and Rimes were also the unscripted series’ executive producers, with Gurney Productions producing.

Covington, Georgia, decided not to let a half-completed development sit empty

What to Do With a Dying Neighborhood

Covington, Georgia, decided not to let a half-completed development sit empty. But the city's solution has been both praised and vilified by observers.
City of Covington Planning and Zoning Department
COVINGTON, Ga.—There are hundreds of stories of failed subdivisions left empty by the housing bust, where homeowners are stuck staring into vacant lots of PVC pipes and weeds.

There are very few stories where a half-finished development has been saved from ruin.

The rescue of one such development, by the city in which it is located, is being heralded as a potential solution to some of the worst mistakes of the housing crisis. The local newspaper, the Covington Newspraised the project, writing that “a community has been brought back from the dead.”

That Covington, a city 35 miles east of Atlanta, did anything at all is unusual, said Ellen Dunham-Jones, an architect and urban-design professor at Georgia Tech who has a chapter on the subdivision, Walker’s Bend, in a forthcoming book, Retrofitting Sprawl.

“I really applaud them tremendously, since its pretty unusual: Cities just aren’t in the business of being developers,” she said. “In conservative districts, there’s a philosophical sense that the city as master developer smacks of socialism.”
But some residents say that the way the city intervened in this subdivision has just made life there worse—raising questions about whether or not government intervention in the housing market is a good thing, and about whether mixed-income housing can ever work.
* * *
The Walker's Bend subdivision was approved in 2003, as developers started building in Covington, a town of 13,000 in fast-growing Newton County. The development was to have 249 homes across 50 acres, a layout that would have made most urban planners cringe—big homes with attached garages smushed onto small lots, with lots of pavement and oddly-shaped yards.

Sales stalled in 2007 with only 50 homes sold and 79 built, though the roads and infrastructure had been installed for hundreds more. Developer Timber South went bankrupt, leaving eight different banks the titles to 160 empty lots and abandoned homes. A map of who owned what in Walker’s Bend at the time looks like a Monopoly board—there were lots owned by Bank of North Georgia, United Community Bank, The People’s Bank, and Enterprise Bank & Co.

Bank-owned lots in Walker's Bend (City of Covington Planning and Zoning Department)
Home values were in free fall. Banks started auctioning off the homes to investors, who in turn rented them out to anyone who would have them.
The crime problems started soon after that. Families who still lived in Walker's Bend were victims of daytime burglaries. Many of the homes were isolated, and residents felt unsafe coming home late at night.

In many places, the city would have shrugged and hoped that eventually, the market would come back, and the subdivision would be completed. But city planning director Randy Vinson didn’t want to wait.

Vinson seems an anomaly in conservative Georgia—he drives a mini-Cooper, which he parks at the planning department in a sea of Ford pick-up trucks—and believes in the kind of walkable development that’s now becoming popular in many parts of the country. A compact-housing development he helped spearhead in Covington, called Clark's Grove, looks like something out of a quaint New England village—not the sprawl of Atlanta. He’s been criticized by some locals—in a letter to the local newspaper, one Covington resident called him a leader of a “den of wolves,” though the writer acknowledged that Vinson is “thought by some to be God’s answer for everything and by others as the worst thing that ever happened to Newton County.”

Vinson’s plan for Walker’s Bend was unusual—he wanted the city of Covington to spend $1 million to buy up the empty lots there. They’d create more green space and parks, and work with developers to put in some affordable housing, a senior center, and perhaps a business incubator. Rather than allow landlords who don’t screen tenants, or who fail to evict bad tenants, to run the development, the city figured it could control who owned property in a time of rampant speculation.

“We thought, we're going to have rental in here, its obvious, but we can’t let the vultures come in and pick it apart,” Vinson told me.

At the time, many cities just left similar projects to rot, said Dunham-Jones. Some didn't have the money Covington had—the city has generally had balanced budgets, even during the recession—others didn't have the expertise to get involved in buying and selling real estate. No one had any idea of how to do this type of intervention, and there was no guarantee the city would earn back any of the money it might invest in the area.

"It was a controversial idea—the city becoming master developer," Dunham-Jones said. "But I thought the planning director just did a really extraordinary job."
* * *
The city council wasn’t on board right away. There were questions about whether government should really get involved in buying and selling real estate, and in planning a neighborhood. Companies who had bought property in Walker’s Bend with plans to rent it out were angry that the city was working with other developers. Homeowners were skeptical that it would make any difference, and talk of low-income housing units made some residents nervous.

But the city council had approved the original Walker’s Bend development, and realized it had to do something to prevent it from devolving further, Vinson said. The final vote was four to two in favor of spending the money to buy the lots in the development.

“I think there was a little bit of guilt because they could see the way that it was headed, that it was kind of cheap and could end up being a dumpy place if they didn’t do something about it,” Vinson told me.

The first project completed after the city bought the lots was a rehab of eight townhomes that had fallen into disrepair. Weeds were growing out front and some of the homes had broken windows or missing appliances. The city used a HUD Neighborhood Stabilization grant to buy the properties, and partnered with Habitat for Humanity to rehab them and sell them to families for the same price they’d bought them for.
Overgrown weeds at the townhomes before
rehab (Covington Planning Department)
Some of the new homeowners included James and Heather Sorrows, and Daryl Harris, who were standing in back of their townhomes on a recent weekday, surveying the neighborhood. Sometimes, when they first moved into the development and there was empty land everywhere, the Sorrows and their neighbors would ride Go-Karts through the empty grass where houses were supposed to be.

The Sorrows paid $53,000 for their three-bedroom house, which was once marketed at twice that price. The rehabbed Habitat townhomes look like something you might find in the nicer areas of somewhere like Old Town in Alexandria, Virginia. They're all attached, but some have brick facades while others are painted pale yellow or deep blue. Each townhome has different features, including a porch or a balcony, and black shutters.

“I like it like this—with the trees,” Sorrows said, gesturing at his backyard, where fast-growing Georgia pines had sprouted up in empty lots.

But after the Habitat project, the city began planning new buildings in Walker's Bend. It sold a handful of lots to a tax-credit developer, which built 32 single-family homes that it rents out to low-income tenants. Next, the city worked with the housing authority to build a three-story apartment building with 28 units, ground-floor classroom space, and a computer lab for the county workforce-development agency, called the New Leaf Center. That apartment building is set aside for low-income residents. A 26-unit apartment building next door is just being completed for permanent, supportive housing for people with disabilities transitioning out of homelessness.
The low-income housing rentals built at Walker's Bend (Alana Semuels)
The low-income housing rentals are well-built and spacious, and on the day I visited, the neighborhood was quiet and calm. They look like single-family homes with individual driveways and dormer windows on some homes.

There's a large clubhouse for the families in the rentals to share, with eight white columns out front and large bay windows, something you probably wouldn't find in many other low-income housing developments. There's a playground with a gazebo and picnic benches, and sidewalks lead through the development, encouraging walking.

I talked to a man named Jovan Reid, who lived in one unit with his aunt, and who praised the walk-in closets and new appliances in the units. His only complaint was the lack of parking in the neighborhood.

But residents outside the low-income rentals started to complain. It’s something you might hear anywhere a low-income housing development goes up. Sorrows, like many of the other early residents, has concerns about the direction the neighborhood is going.

“When they built that, that’s pretty much when the neighborhood . . .” he paused and made a diving gesture with his hand. Packs of kids now roam the subdivision and break into cars, litter, and generally create ruckus, he said.
“It was good here 'til you get all these kids destroying everything,” Sorrows told me. Sorrows says he had no problems with crime until the low-income housing units were built.

Sorrows isn’t angry that the city built low-income homes, per se, but is unhappy that crime has increased so much since they’ve been completed.
“I’m glad they were able to put more people in homes—that’s awesome,” he said. “But they ought to be more grateful—keep their kids from vandalizing other people.”
* * *
The problems that some people have with Walker’s Bend have to do with what they were promised when they moved in, versus what it turned out to be.
Felicia Brown is one of the few original homeowners still left in the development —many have been foreclosed on or have moved out.

When she bought her home in 2008, she was told the development would have a swimming pool and a playground. Instead, her home was surrounded by empty lots, which soon grew shrubs and trees. The crime started when investors snapped up the homes and began renting them. Brown’s car got robbed. The lights she put out to illuminate her walk kept getting broken. Her tires were slashed and when her neighbor across the street moved out, a victim of foreclosure, a bunch of kids started breaking in and stealing appliances.

"After four or five years, it started getting bad—it was a different environment,” she said. "It seems like they let in anybody."

Brown, who works for a trucking company, has a son in college. Her home value is so low that she knows she won’t be able to sell it anytime soon, so she’s forced to stay in the development. But sometimes, she doesn’t feel safe.

Unlike other residents I talked to, Brown doesn’t fault the city for building low-income housing in what was supposed to be her perfect suburb. Being surrounded by bushes was no good, either, she said—every day, she’d come home from work and wonder if someone was hiding in the weeds.
But the crime has made her worry, she said.

“I’m really not happy with the stuff that’s been going on lately,” she said.
Ginny Elliot is another resident who has been noticing changes in Walker’s Bend. She and her husband moved in to a single-family home as renters in early 2012, after they lost their home. They live across from a park, created by the city out of empty lots that were supposed to have been houses, but Elliot says the neighborhood kids trash it.

Their next-door neighbor was, for a time, a drug dealer, until she got arrested and moved out, she said. Elliot's bike was stolen from her front porch, as was her cordless phone. Her husband recently purchased a rug that sits on the couple’s front walkway that says, “Warning: There is Nothing Here Worth Dying For,” with a picture of a hand holding a gun.

Ginny Elliot at her home (Alana Semuels)
“It looks like Mayberry here, so people come, but they’re looking for an escape, rather than for a place to plant themselves,” she said.

Elliot and her husband had been considering buying their home from their landlords, who are putting it up for sale soon. But recent developments made them question whether the neighborhood is a place they want to continue to live, she said.
Other residents were unhappy about the recently completed apartments in the New Leaf Center because they look like a typical three-story, brick apartment building and aren't the single-family homes that were originally planned. People who live in homes next to the apartment building feel that they are being peered on from above by the tenants on the second and third floors. They also complain about the portable toilets and construction equipment resting in the field where the senior center might someday be.
* * *
I was initially surprised at the negative reaction I got from many of the families in the neighborhood about the building the city had helped facilitate. After all, urban planners hold up Walker’s Bend as an example of planning that worked. And weren’t the new buildings better than vacant lots, no matter who lived there?
John Collins, the owner of Potemkin Development, which built the affordable-housing units, said he wasn’t surprised that residents were grumbling. Walker’s Bend was the first time his company had built low-income units in a failed subdivision, he said. But residents are usually not happy when a low-income development is approved in their neighborhood.

“The haves complain about the have-nots moving in next to them,” he told me. “It goes with the territory.”

The alternative to low-income housing would have been worse, he said.
“Do you really want a PVC farm in there—nothing but open homes and weeds?” he said, referring to the ubiquitous coils of orange pipe often found in failed subdivisions that have infrastructure like roads and electricity but no homes.
Some academics have recently raised doubts about whether mixed-income housing can really work to economically integrate neighborhoods.

A paperpublished last year found that the idea that lower-income residents would find connections by living near middle-class homeowners does not always play out.

“Disputes around whether residents should have the right to occupy public space are raced, gendered, and classed,” wrote the authors, James C. Fraser, Robert J. Chaskin, and Joshua Theodore Bazuin. “For example, studies find that market-rate residents tend to identify young African-American men as a threat simply because they are exerting a right to convene and converse in public space.”
These tensions are exactly the type I heard about from middle-income homeowners—both black and white—in Walker’s Bend.
* * *
Vinson, the city planner, defends the low-income units that were built, arguing that because of the way the income limits are controlled, 75 percent of residents of Covington could qualify to live in the homes built with Neighborhood Stabilization funds (some of the homes must go to low-income families, the rest can go to families earning up to 120 percent of area-median income).

“If you look at the folks coming and going from brick bungalows or New Leaf Center, they don’t look any different or act any different from any other resident in that neighborhood,” he said.

Besides, the city’s plan didn’t only include low-income housing. It’s just that the other parts of the plan haven’t yet materialized. That’s because when a city steps in to save a subdivision, it has to depend on a host of government-funding programs that may or may not come through.

One aspect that should happen eventually is the construction of 60 units of senior housing at the entrance of the subdivision. A developer had submitted an application for a tax credit to build the housing, but did not receive it. It plans to reapply this year, which could lead to construction by mid-2016.

The last aspect, which Vinson had really hoped would tie the neighborhood together, was a plan for dozens of market-rate, single-family cottages. The homes, as designed, are lovely, with porches and the highest-energy efficiency. The city secured funding from the state to help buyers with $15,000 in downpayment assistance, found builders interested in constructing the homes, and even recruited potential buyers, who went through a 16-week home-buying program to help them manage their finances.

But home values were so low at the time that Vinson realized the potential homeowners would never be able to get a loan because the homes would cost $70,000 but be appraised at $40,000. The project was shelved until home values in the area start to rebound.

That’s part of why Vinson still sees the project as unfinished.
“I’m nervous that if it just stopped here, it would not be seen as a success,” he said.
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The city will have made a profit on the development when it’s completed. It earned back the first half of its million-dollar investment from Neighborhood Stabilization money. The second half will come when it sells the land for the senior housing. But the city will still own 45 lots, which it estimates it can sell eventually, earning a total profit on the project of $500,000 or so.

But even without the financials, Vinson does believe that the city is better off for stepping in to save Walker’s Bend.

“We hand-selected our landlords,” he told me. “There are landlords out there that could definitely bring down the value of the neighborhood because of the way they handle things—we found landlords who run very tight programs.”
Dunham-Jones, the architecture professor, says it’s too soon to make any final pronouncement on Walker’s Bend. Residents need to wait until the market picks up so that builders are willing to build market-rate, single-family homes to make the neighborhood more mixed-income.

“I do think that the concerns that its just going to become this ghetto of subdivised housing are legitimate concerns,” she said. “But the structure is in place to allow the market to play itself out—it's certainly too soon to really tell.”
A two-bedroom home in Covington could now sell for about $85,400, according to Zillow, still 26 percent down from the peak in 2008. But it’s up 50 percent from a low less than two years ago. What’s more, Covington home values generally are helped by the development, and by fewer foreclosed lots on the books, Dunham-Jones said.

“It just depends on how you are defining success,” she said. “Are you judging success according to the homeowner who bought a house in a subdivision that sadly, went bankrupt, or are you judging it on a community finding ways to meet the needs of your low-income residents?”