They say that 70% of all communication is visual, and in the last few days there has been a lot of bro ha ha concerning our three top mayoral candidates, which is making it difficult to decide who to vote for. So I decided to cast my vote based on real estate. I drove around town and snapped photos of the three top candidates’ homes and explored their neighborhoods a bit to define the men and also see how supportive their neighbors are. If a candidate is a good neighbor, chances are he’ll make a good mayor. Why not use real estate to help us decide who we want running our fair city?

Ron and Nancy Natinsky live at 5501 Prestwick Lane, in a gated community called Cambridge Place in far north Dallas, just off Campbell and Preston. The homes in the ‘hood are all brick and stone built by quality builders such as Hawkins Wellwood, fairly similar,  range from 7 to 10 years of age, and run about 5,000 square feet more or less. Cambridge Place surrounds a park and borders Preston Trails Golf Course. The area consists of carefully planned, pleasant cul de sacs and narrow lots. The Natinsky’s lot, for example, is 33 feet wide by 158 deep. Translation: the Natinskys live in close proximity to the folks next door; probably not too much screaming goes on in the Natinsky household. Their home is 4463 square feet on one floor with four bedrooms, four and a half baths, was built in 2003 and is valued by DCAD at $774,000 for a $15,753 bill. I will bet the Natinskys will be fighting that valuation because a neighbor down the street has a slightly smaller home on the market for $675,000. (Ron: Call Tiffany Hamil Mackey.) The Natinskys belong to a Neighborhood Association and must obey the HOA rules — another good cooperative sign. The neighborhood is very attractive, the lawns are well-manicured and neat, and most of the neighbors have Ron Natinsky signs in their yards with the exception of one who is supporting Kunkle.  In the rare instance where the mayor would require police protection, this gated community would be a safety cinch, just like the Darias. Home condition: Good.

Oh dear. Ron Natinsky has a turret

Here are the Pentagon’s details of the Abbotabad (or is it Abbottabad?) compound where Osama was holed up. His digs were not too shabby — the home is valued at about a million. Note to self: when neighbors start burning their garbage and cover windows with walls, get suspicious.

According to The Smoking Gun, Bin Laden ignored his own rule book on hiding out — you don’t curl up in an affluent million dollar mansion, but go to apartments or sprawling suburban areas where the neighbors are less likely to be friendly, or nosy:

“It is preferable to live in apartments or houses “in newly developed areas where people do not know one another. Usually, in older quarters people know one another and strangers are easily identified, especially since these quarters have many informers.”

But such new construction did have a drawback, according to the manual: “In a newer apartment, avoid talking loud because prefabricated ceilings and walls…do not have the same thickness as those in old ones.”

Remember when the Wall Street Journal told us crime was so bad in Mexico that even the Mayor of Monterrey, Fernando Larrazabal had fled and re-located his family to the Dallas area? (I found out it was to Las Colinas, and y’all got mad at me. I also found out on a visit to La Paz, Mexico, in November that Sr. Larrazabal wanted to be closer to her family here in North Texas.)  Crime there is way out of control; the city is caught in a war between two drug cartels, the Gulf Cartel and the Zetas. A U.S. Federal ICE agent was recently murdered, and the violence could be spreading to the U.S.

I talked with my landscaper, who used to drive through Monterrey on the way home to see his parents in Mexico:  he told me he no longer drives through Mexico.

“It’s terrible,” he says. “My wife, she is afraid. They are killing people in Monterrey every day. EVERY day!”

It’s the drug cartels, he told me, and he blames the Mexican government for not wanting to accept any assistance from the U.S. There have been 350 killings in Monterrey this year, which is the third most populous city in Mexico with 3.7 million people. August 18 the body of the mayor of nearby Santiago,  Edelmiro Cavazos, was found on the outskirts of Monterrey, an industrial center with close U.S. business ties. Two doctoral students have been killed, guests at a Holiday Inn kidnapped, and the cartels killed two bodyguards right in front of a school. Many Americans and even some wealthier Mexican are out of there and ending up in Texas — so in a perverse way, this could be good for our property values.

I still recall the story of a rancher who was kidnapped and held hostage for over a year in a box, beaten, shot, barely fed, all to extort ransom money from his American-born wife. Guess where this happened: San Miguel D’Allende. On the show, the couple, who were both in real estate, said initially they were asked to keep quiet about the kidnapping for fear of the damage it would do the to real estate community.

I am preparing a story for you on a beautiful coastal area north of Baja, La Paz, on the sparkling Sea of Cortez, called Costa Baja. But first, I want to tell you about David Simmons. He is an American travel writer who wants to tell the whole world not to worry about safety in Mexico:

“The cartels do not target Americans,” Simmons said. “No.1, they shoot at themselves, then they shoot at (Mexican) cops. You hear about the occasional gringo getting caught in a crossfire, but you’re more likely to get robbed in Los Angeles.”

This is what we heard in La Paz. The bad stuff, the violence — and there is a lot of violence, with children being recruited to behead victims — is happening along the border and in Mexico City. In fact, the darling publicist at Costa Baja rollerblades on the boardwalk late at night in La Paz; her brother has been kidnapped twice in Mexico City. I know the Mayor of Monterrey, Mexico fled to Las Colinas, near us here in Dallas, but I was told by a Monterrey resident (who was looking to buy in La Paz) that had more to do with her family being in the area.

Simmons estimates that one million ex-pat Americans are living in Mexico, enjoying the lower cost of living and temperate climate. But he agrees the government of Mexico has to get serious and take a bite out of crime. I have to say, his solution is interesting: legalizing pot in the U.S. Can’t say I disagree, but I doubt it will ever happen.

Are you afraid to travel to Mexico? Would you buy a second home there?

All the squawking in this country about illegal immigration, I thought this might help influence your first, second and third home purchases: the safest cities in the U.S. have higher immigrant populations — and better ethnic food, all of which is very important when considering a second home purchase!

CQ Report Press, now owned by SAGE Publications, an independent publishing house founded by the publisher of the St. Petersburg (FLA) Times, Nelson Poynter, after whom The Poynter Institute, a journalistic think tank, is named, compiles the list. That the late Nelson Poynter started the Congressional Quarterly in 1945 gives me security as to the validity of the research. According to CQ’s research, these are the safest cities in the USA — and our own Fort Worth/Cow Town is one of them:

CITY FOREIGN BORN POPULATION
El Paso 26.1 %
Honolulu 25.3 %
New York 35.9 %
San Jose 40.5 %
San Diego 25.7 %
Austin 16.6 %
Portland 13.0 %
Los Angeles 40.9 %
Seattle 16.9 %
Fort Worth 16.3 %

Here are the highest crime cities in the US and the only one with high crime and a higher foreign-born population appears to be Houston.

CITY FOREIGN BORN POPULATION
Detroit 4.8 %
Baltimore 4.6 %
Memphis 4.0 %
Washington, DC 12.6 %
Atlanta 8.7 %
Indianapolis 4.6 %
Philadelphia 9.0 %
Milwaukee 7.7 %
Houston 26.4 %
Columbus 6.7 %

I wonder why Houston has higher crime than the other cities? This was not brought up much during the recent race for Texas governor, in which incumbent Rick Perry defeated Bill White, whom Houstonians love. If you have any ideas or thoughts, chime in.