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Feather River Bulletin
Quincy, California
March 3, 2010     Feather River Bulletin
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March 3, 2010

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Feather River Bulletin .Wednesday, Mar. 3, 2010 7A Buried in debt, ana' are t to death II NAVIGATING FINANCIAL WATERS MARY SHELTERS Attorney at Law Many Americans now must decide between buying food for the month or paying their utility hills. Discretionary spending for clothing, enter- tainment, gifts and vacations was eliminated months ago. No one could have predicted the depth, breadth and length of what is now being called "The Great Recession." Across the nation, communi- ties like ours face severe financial hardships caused by the crash of financial markets that decimated savings and retirement accounts. Many have suffered from predatory lending, credit card rip-offs, credit counseling abuses and mortgage scams. All of these factors in conjunc- tion with the real estate mar- ket collapse have devastated local families who barely made it in a pre-reeession "normal" economy. Residents of our mountain communities have experi- enced record high unemploy- ment from job layoffs. Small businesses struggling to survive have reduced staff, and many have closed their doors altogether. Common wisdom tells us to have savings equal to six months of our total living ex- penses for a "rainy day." For those experiencing job layoffs or small business failures, s}x months' savings was depleted long ago. Before the start of the reces- sion, the consumer market- place was complex and com- plicated enough, particularly for unsuspecting low- to mod- erate-income oonsumers. Now, the smallest misstep can lead to financial ruin and a sense of hopelessness that paralyzes the individual. Consumers are especially vulnerable when they suffer from illness or disability, unexpected and uninsured medical expenses, income interruptions, divorce or the death of a spouse. Even a short-term drop in income or an emergency ex- pense can render one unable to meet financial obligations, making him the target of ag- gressive creditors, threatened foreclosures, repossessions, garnishments and utility shut-offs. Contributing to the misery of the average consumer has been the huge increase in the easy availability of credit over the past 25 years. Credit cards have been given to everyone regardless of his ability to pay. As of 2006, more than one billion credit cards were in circulation. Low-income, high school and college students and the mentally disabled were popular targets of lenders. Americans now find them- selves with higher debt loads and exorbitant interest rates, with over-the-limit and late fees quickly accumulating. Af- ter the collapse of the fmancial markets, banks slashed credit card limits to the current amount owed while raising in- terest rates regardless of a good credit history. This left many with no borrowing cush- ion to help them through the remainder of the recession. Those struggling with un- manageable debt, abusive creditor harassment and im- minent foreclosures or evic- tions are scared to death. They need to educate them- selves and evaluate their op- tions from credit counseling, debt management plans, debt settlement and debt negotia- tion, loan modification, reverse mortgages to bankruptcy. Over 1.5 million families file consumer bankruptcy cases each year and that number is growing rapidly because of the deep recession. While it is crucial to con- sider all alternatives, bank- ruptcy relief should not be viewed as a last resort. In some cases, bankruptcy alter- natives are not practical, and bankruptcy may be the only realistic option for relief from unmanageable debt. Many times consumers wipe out their savings, retire- ment accounts, and take out second mortgages to pay off credit card debt to avoid bank- ruptcy. Ultimately, they find themselves in a worse situa- tion, because they avoided bankruptcy as a viable option. Filing bankruptcy prior to taking out a second mortgage to pay offcredit card debt may enable families to stay in their homes because of the lower mortgage payments. Unfortunately, consumers used the equity in their homes like free money during the housing market bubble. It is, however, never a good idea to borrow on the equity in your home to pay off credit card debt or to borrow from or deplete your retirement accounts. Bankruptcy is not a wise choice for everyone facing severe financial challenges, such as consumers whose property, real or personal, is exempt from collection under state or federal law. They cannot be forced to pay be- cause they are "judgment proof." However, that status does not protect them from creditor harassment. In the short-term bankruptcy relief and the discharge of debts may become their best or only option to bring order and relief to their lives. Future columns will discuss debt relief options in detail, weighing the pros and cons of each. Columns will also dis- cuss ways to confirm whether agencies offering debt relief services are credible and not predatory. Mary K. Shelters is an Indian Valley resident practicing law in Plumas and Lassen counties. She taught contract law at California State Univer- sity, Dominquez Hills and has a Masters of Science in educa- tional psychology with an emphasis in counseling. She may be reached at 596,3004. On antlers, CALIFORNIA OUTDOORS CARBIE WILSON California Delrlent of Fish & Game Can I collect antlers from dead deer? Q: I found a four-point buck that the local game war- den confirmed was a cougar kill. Can I go back in a couple of weeks and get the antlers without getting in trouble? Angel S. A: Generally, it's OK to collect shed antlers (antlers dropped naturally each year in the late winter or early spring), but the antlers you are asking about are not sheds and are still attached to a recently kined deer. You may not possess antlers attached to a recently killed deer unless you have taken the deer under the authority of a sport hunting license and the appropriate tag during the deer season. According to Northern California Enforcement Chief Mike Carion, if the animal had been dead awhile, the season was over and the meat dried up, it would not be an issue.., but that is not the case here. Collecting antlers from a recent kill could lead to en- forcement issues because the antlers would not be tagged and would likely be attached to a "fresh" skullcap, which fallen is a violation, especially if outside of the deer season. If you were to find a deer skeleton (obviously aged) it would be OK to take the bones, including the head with antlers. Can I remove fallen tees from boating waterways? Q: I was traveling in my boat up Butte Creek (a public waterway) recently when I was prevented from con- tinuing due to a tree that had fallen across the creek. I am wondering if I would be legally allowed to cut the tree or its branches so that I could pass through with my boat. I consulted two different friends who thought I could but for different reasons. One thought I could cut the tree out because it was dis- rupting the environment and the other thought I could be- cause I would be unclogging a block in a running stream of water. Neither of their answers was persuasive so I figured I would ask somebody who would really know the laws. Tyler R. A: Although you may be traveling along a public waterway, removal of the tree blocking your passage is the responsibility of the landowner or the public agency managing the property that the creek flows through. According to Lieutenant John Laughlin, public water- ways allow boaters to float through public and private properties, but all vegetation is the property and responsi- bility of the landowners. trees an,! elect onic birdcalls If safe passage requires more than just pushing the vegetation to the side to allow you through, you'll need to contact the landowners to deal with it. Depending on the severity of the tree barrier and magni- tude of the removal project, the landowner may be re- quired to get a streambed ah teration agreement (FGC 1600) from the Department of Fish and Game. A tree should not consti- tute a fish passage blockage, but if it did, DFG should be contacted. Is it legal to use electrom'c birdcalls? Q: This is my first year wa- terfowl hunting and while I am a decent shot when I can get the birds to come in, I am a terrible caller. I can't seem to get them to respond. I've found some electronic callers online that look good and don't cost too much money. I'd like to try them, but since everyone I've hunted with this year uses only the traditional caUs, I wonder if these electronic calls are just new or if they might not be legal to use. What's the answer? Jake P. A: I'm afraid you're going to have to just pucker up and keep practicing with the regular old duck calls found in most sporting goods stores, Electronic or mechanically operated calling or sound reproducing devices are prohibited when taking migratory game birds (CCR, Title 14, Section 507[c]). , To improve your technique, you might want to check out the many demo videos or "how to" techniques pub- lished online. The Ducks Unlimited web- site, for example, is loaded with lots of tips, videos and suggestions. Also, watch.for duck calling seminars com- ing up in your area, such as those offered through Wilder: ness Unlimited, California Waterfowl or other hunt clubs and sporting goods stores. Carrie E. Wilson Carrie Wilson is a 20-year DFG veteran and an avid outdoor enthusiast, angler and hunter. She is a marine biologist with a strong back- ground of professional experi- ence working in both fisheries and wildlife management. An established and award- winning outdoor writer, Carrie enjoys tackling the tough questions from the public and will be regularly tapping into the expertise of DFG's game wardens and rnany fisheries, wildlife and marine biologists to best cover all the topics. While she can't personally answer everyone's questions she will select a few to answer in this column each week. Contact her at CalOut- THINK _ j Invest in PLUMAS COUNTY !i; ...... ooo00,. Nm'ls : 00.h00'Haircutsf/_ .Color 00DEAD Find me at my i '' new place , GORGEOUS By appointment (;P u Prepared? . , I  W'_-Nil]I I II,W-,l I(O]  I only ..... 530 283 9674 ., II check Out Our t PL00SNEW00:0000o00 FREE SEMINAR DAVID J. HE0000S00TT, ATTORNEY AT IaW He will discuss: Estate Planning Power of Attorney Advance Care Directives Wills & Trusts Probate And more ... Thursday, March 11 5:30pm Resource Center at Hwy 89 & 70 Information & Reservations: (530) 836-4625 NEWSMAKER California Maritime Academy student Charles Heinbockel, shown with his advisor Dr. Tim Lynch, recently became the first student to receive the $25,000 Teeson Scholarship in Maritime Studies. The 2007 Plumas Christian School graduate is receiving free room, board and tuition during the semester-long Williams College/Mystic Seaport Maritime Studies program in Connecticut. The program includes maritime history, maritime literature, marine policy and marine science courses. He'll also take an l 1-day voyage on a research vessel in the Gulf of Mexico. Photo courtesy CSUM newsletter Currents Beginning our 27th year in business! During the past 26 )tears, we are proud to have built more than 70 homes and 100 garages in Plumas County, not to mention the hundreds of remodels, additions and insurance repairs we've done as.well. With the change in the economy (specifically, fewer new housing starts), my business partner (and son) Donavon and I knew we had to change our business model. We're not going anywhere, and we still build new homes, garages and commercial buildings. So, in the past year we found there was a real need to assist homeowners in making their existing homes more efficient, attractive and valuable. We've helped lots and lots of people with all kinds of projects that might have only taken 15 minutes to several days or weeks to complete. And, if we couldn't do their job, we'd make sure to connect them with some- one who could. It's that kind of service and satisfaction that will help take us through our next 25 years!!! Need help REPLACING or REPAIRING: DooRs TRIM . WINDOWS , PLUMI00ING ROOFING ELECTRICAL If it's something we can't fix, we'll find somebody who can. EAT CONSTRUCTION SINCE 1984 General Building Contractor Calif. Lic. #453927 (530) 283-2035 FREE ADVICE FREE ESTIIqATES and WE WELCOIqE OWNER PARTICIPATION!