Whither goest local government? Restrictive HOAs or responsible public government

The Goldwater Center for Constitutional Government issued a research report by its Director, Nick Dranias, that criticizes the current state of public local government, and proposes a new model for by means of a Local Liberty Charter. (See A New Charter for American Cities). These shortcomings include:

1. [the creation of numerous] special districts to engage in spending projects that would otherwise be unconstitutional under reforms enacted after the stagflation of the 1970s. . . .
2. Arizona’s local governments are functioning as if securing liberty were irrelevant to their mission. . . . If anything, the growth of local government has been a detriment to liberty.”
3. Local government bureaucracies are more intrusive, opaque and less accountable than ever, with public records request responsiveness in Arizona receiving a grade of “F” . . . .
4. Legitimate governments are meant to secure liberty. Local governments are no exception.
5. These principles of liberty [in state constitutions], however, are not reliably enforced at any level of government.
6. Our political system has led to a concentration of power at the local level that would be anathema elsewhere in government.
7. There are “too few checks on the abuse of local power” and that addressing this problem requires “systematic” reform.

All of the above criticisms of public local government apply equally well to private, contractual local HOA governments. Just extend “public local government” to that of an “indirect” delegation of legislative powers by means of a public-private governance partnership, otherwise known as the homeowners association.

The report does include a discussion of the very important and often misunderstood concept of factions and minority rights, and how our democratic principles was designed to deal with the problems of “majority rule.” I am reminded of the first inaugural speech in 1801 of that preeminent advocate of individual rights and freedoms, Thomas Jefferson, who said,

A wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits . . . . This is the sum of good government.

Jefferson understood the need for regulations to prevent one faction, HOA special interests and misguided boards of directors, from injuring another faction, the homeowner-members, and from trampling on the unalienable rights of the less powerful minority. And if indeed misguided statutes have been employed in this dominance by one faction, then it is the duty of government to establish justice by correcting the mistakes of the past, and intervening to right the wrongs.

However, I am skeptical of the proposed solution to the problems of local government by means of an activist judiciary to enforce justice and the equal application of the laws. The decisions and events related to the Maricopa Superior Court in Arizona that raise serious questions of the integrity of the court, as described in prior Commentaries on this website, do not engender warm-hearted support that the judiciary will not be influenced by current public policy and politics. (See HOAs and the integrity of the AZ Superior Court).

This report is lengthy, but must be read and discussed in order to understand the alternatives for a New America. More HOA private governments, or a return to the democratic governments answerable and accountable to the supreme law of the land, the Constitution.

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Published in: on March 20, 2009 at 9:31 am  Comments (1)  

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  1. […] its Director of the Center for Constitutional Government. The title asked the following question: Whither goest local government? Restrictive HOAs or responsible public government? A “follow-up” question that was not raised is: Disregarding the knee-jerk reaction by […]


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