California Updates Forms for Challenging Traffic Tickets by Video

Police Officer Writing TicketOn September 1, 2015, the California Judicial Council updated forms for people who’ve received traffic tickets and want to show their faces in court without schlepping to the courthouse. As the relevant instruction sheet tells, “remote video proceedings” (RVP) are available in (1) those courts that choose to allow them and (2) “cases involving Vehicle Code infractions or local ordinances adopted under the Vehicle Code.” (Defendants are ineligible if their alleged traffic offenses involve drugs or alcohol or their cases are in Informal Juvenile and Traffic Court.)

It looks like ticket fighters might not be able to get their face time from the convenience of the home sofa, however. In a court that allows RVP and a case in which the judge has approved video appearance, the defendant must appear “at a remote location designated by the court.”

Of the forms—accessible at the Judicial Council page for traffic infraction forms—one (TR-505) is for those requesting arraignment and trial on the same day; the other (TR-510) is for people who want RVP for arraignment or trial on separate days.

To learn about the procedure for challenging a ticket through “two-way audiovisual communication” and the rights you give up with RVP, see TR-500-INFO (the aforementioned instruction sheet).

Looking for Development Director Job? Don’t Expect to Earn Over $40K!

Sheep dog covering her eyes with her paw

The 2015 GuideStar Nonprofit Compensation Report is out, and the results are, shall we say, depressing.

In organizations with a budget of $250,000 or less, the average salary for the top development position is $37,993. In the bigger-budget organizations, it goes up by a measly $10K or so, to $48,775.

Worse yet, there’s a significant gender gap. The female development directors earn less than the males, and there are fewer of them to begin with.

To put the typical development director’s income level into perspective, let’s consider whether this person can buy a home in the United States. The median home price right now is, according to Zillow, $180,800. As a general rule, a person can buy a home worth three times his or her income (using a mortgage loan). So your typical development director could buy a home worth $113,979. Good luck saving the extra $66,000-plus on an income that’s unlikely to exceed $50,000 per year! And that’s not even taking into account that in many urban areas of the U.S., a halfway decent home will cost you over a million dollars.

Or, let’s have a look at the U.S. poverty guidelines. For a family of four, the poverty line is $24,250. And not all development directors at small to mid-size organizations are actually making the average $37,993. In fact, the report shows, 10% of them are making around $18,512, and 25% of them are making  $25,150. That’s called poverty.

We all knew already that nonprofit fundraising was a serious labor of love, especially since it’s a job that often goes unappreciated by peers and the public. It involves, after all, that dirty word, “money.” And there never seems to be enough money to support every nonprofit in the United States.

However, every donor or foundation staffer who ever complained that nonprofits should be plowing almost every cent of their (oops, sorry, gotta use that word again) money into direct services to clients or their cause should consider that the development director’s salary is, technically, “overhead.” Yet pathetic salary is being paid to the person largely responsible for ensuring that the organization can keep its doors open.

Four Percent of U.S. Homes Being Sold to Foreign Buyers

home on lifeboatYou don’t have to live in the U.S., much less possess a green card or U.S. citizenship, in order to buy a home here — a fact that’s not lost on foreign investors.

In raw numbers, this 4% of purchases isn’t huge: it’s approximately 209,000 U.S. homes going to buyers who either reside outside the U.S. or have been living in the U.S. for less than two years‘ time. (These figures come from the National Association of Realtors, covering the year ending March, 2015, as reported in “As their economy slips, the Chinese are buying U.S. homes,” Associated Press,, September 19, 2015.)

Nevertheless, because the purchases are concentrated in certain areas of the U.S. (New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Irvine, California, Chicago, and parts of Arizona, Texas, Florida), the impact is catching the attention of real estate industry insiders and the media.

What might this buying trend mean for people buying or selling homes in the United States?

On the buying front, the news isn’t good: You’ve got increased competition in some already tight markets. What’s more, it’s coming from buyers who may be paying all cash: The very reason some of them are investing in U.S. real estate is because they’ve accumulated enough to need to park it somewhere. Investments in their own country (as in the case of China) may be going sour.

The only bright spot for home buyers is that, under current immigration law, buying a house doesn’t come with any right to actually settle in the U.S. permanently. So the competition isn’t likely to go too crazy, being limited to people who either already have a U.S. visa or who are willing to care for a house from afar, most likely by hiring a management company.

If you’re planning to sell your home, the news is better. More potential buyers! All-cash offers, likely with no financing contingencies! But before you lose your head and start heavily advertising your property in foreign-language newspapers, realize that selling to non-U.S. buyers comes with risks, too. Some of them face major government restrictions on transferring their funds from to the U.S. – and neither they nor you may know until your other prospective purchasers have moved on whether the deal is really going to go through.

As Patricia Wangsness, a Bellevue, Washington-based Realtor told me when I was preparing the book Selling Your House: Nolo’s Essential Guide, “We’ve had to develop a policy of not going into contract with an overseas buyer unless the earnest money deposit has cleared.” 

What about the significance of this purchasing trend for homeowners whose new neighbors may be from another country? It depends. In the case of those who will actually be living in the homes, you may have some interesting new neighbors. But in the case of those buying investment properties, you may have some homes sitting empty nearby – either because the owner plans to use it for a few months out of the year (six months is the maximum they could spend on the standard B-2 tourist visa) or because they don’t feel any urgency to bring in tenants.

Has Your Nonprofit Filled Out the 2015 Global NGO Online Technology Survey Yet?

pic2I just attended a webinar led by Heather Mansfield, expert and researcher extraordinaire in the field of utilizing mobile and social media to raise money and visibility for charitable organizations. Among the choice bits of info she provided were:

  • Social media has become a MAJOR force in online fundraising, with 95% of nonprofits having established a presence on Facebook, and a goodly number using Twitter and LinkedIn, as well. It’s no longer a question of, “Should we market our organization through social media?” but how to do it best.
  • Photos make a huge difference in whether your social media content catches readers’ interest. On Facebook, photos can produce up to 4X more engagement than links. But you’ll want to make sure they look good, and that you take steps in advance to properly format them. On Twitter, entries containing properly sized photos (800 x 400 pixels) get retweeted up to 3X more than tweets with cropped photos.
  • It’s possible to overdo your social media chatter. The biggest reason that people unlike a Facebook Page is because they perceive the organization to be sending out too many posts. A total of four to five Facebook posts per week (or even less) may be sufficient, while you’ll want to tweet or retweet once every one or two hours.

That’s just a taste, and Ms. Mansfield is not done gathering information. She is part of the first — that’s right, first — worldwide survey of nonprofit organizations regarding their use of social media and other online technology. More than 1,000 NGOs worldwide have already weighed in. Don’t miss your chance to complete the 2015 Global NGO Online Technology Survey!


In this difficult economy, don’t forget that many “job hunting” expenses may be deductible, assuming you’re looking for new work in the same line of business in which you’re presently employed.  Some deductible items are:

  • Resume production costs
  • Travel expenses
  • Placement agency fees

IRS has some good publications with more info:  Pubs 529, 463 and 4128.