Our frequent guest blogger, Deborah Goonan, alerted me to an excellent documentary which could ultimately go straight to the heart of the fight against the HOA disease. It’s produced by the Annenberg Foundation and reviews two of the most important U.S. Supreme Court decisions of the 20th Century, Baker v. Carr and Reynolds v. Simms, which were both decided in the early 60s.
The Court essentially ruled that the 14th Amendment, enacted 3 years after the civil war, should have made all citizens equal. But as the decades rolled on it became obvious that because of unequal state apportionment of legislative districts, people in rural counties had much more voting power than high density cities. The court essentially ruled that equal rights means equal voting power. It overturned 150 years of precedence and all legislatures had to reapportion their states so a roughly equal number of people resided in each voting district. There’s been frequent gerrymandering, of course, but that’s a story for another time.
There was another major milestone that happened about that same time. The country decided that blacks had just as much right to vote as whites. Congress enacted and the President signed the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and many southern laws which restricted black voting rights were overturned.
The amazing thing that should interest us…is that these two court decisions and the Civil Rights Act led immediately to the creation of the modern HOA movement which decided that by incorporating housing developments and then controlling them with HOA mini-governments, they were able to once again subvert the one person one vote principle. Actually, it was more perverse than that. Most HOAs allotted one vote per parcel owned. It was an arrogant refutation of three of the most important government decisions of the century.
“We’re private corporations. The Constitution allows us to handle our people in whichever way we want. You can’t tell us how to treat our ’employees’ and ‘investors.'”
But that could be the Achilles heel of the HOA movement. These are our homes we’re talking about. This is where we live, where we’re supposed to be able to find ultimate privacy, shelter against abusive government (HOA officers and property managers). But this is the one remaining bastion where the one person one vote principle falls apart. We get one vote per property owned. For example, the investor who owns 50 parcels out of a hundred home development (even if he doesn’t live in the community) may get 50% of the vote, so the neighborhood looks the way he wants it, regardless of the wishes of all the other neighbors. He may easily, and probably will get himself installed as lifetime president of the board.
One person one vote. Think about it folks. As you watch the 26 minute documentary linked below, ask how this might be applied in your own HOA.