Authoritarianism in the HOA-Land Nation

“There are a lot of Americans who do not care for democracy. They do not mind [failing] to follow the Constitution, or that [it] poses a danger to democracy.[1]

The HOA legal structure and scheme is basically authoritarian in nature: strong central power, limited political freedoms, no accountability, and under the rule of man, not law. 

There are some people [authoritarian followers] for whom the system of checks and balances are bothersome and annoying, and dislike the noise and chaos of democracy”.[2]  

“People who score high in authoritarianism, when they feel threatened, look for strong leaders who promise to take whatever action necessary to protect them from outsiders and prevent the changes they fear.”[3]

The HOA is truly a totalitarian democracy.

“A totalitarian democracy . . . retains full power of . . .  the right of control over everything and everyone. Maintenance of such power, in the absence of full support of the citizenry, requires the forceful suppression of any dissenting element except what the government purposely permits or organizes.”[4]

The authoritarianism of HOA-Land [5] is masked by a thorough indoctrination[6] that the real estate subdivision is a democratic community because the members are allowed to vote, as meaningless as it is. It seems that the more predisposed to authoritarian control the more the member acts as a diehard, dogmatic, true-believer in the BOD.

In 2019  I conducted a limited study on authoritarian followers in HOAs following the stablished research procedures[7] to determine the extent of authoritarianism in the HOA  setting.[8]  I found that,

“High RWA followers can be found in HOA members. My concern focused on the blind, to me, acquiescence to whatever the BOD told the members what it wanted approved, especially when it involved amendments to the governing documents. When presented with hard, concrete evidence of violations of the law or governing documents, the majority of the members just gave the BOD a blank check.”

The above chart (responses to 30 questions)  shows the degree of authoritarianism based on percentages: the higher, the stronger the authoritarian presence. “3Q” reflects HOA responses to 3 strict “control” preference questions in the survey, as a BOD member or not. The middle 2 bars reflect all the results from all HOA respondents and the lower 2 reflect HOA members or not – the public. 

The prevalence of authoritarian followers is clearly indicated with respect to the HOA’s “enforcement” attitude. The authoritarian culture of HOA-Land contributes to the decline in American democracy. “[Authoritarians] seek to . . . rewrite social contracts, and, sometimes, to alter the rule of democracy so they never lose power. Alexander Hamilton warned against them.”[9]

This study on HOA-Land authoritarianism is consistent with research findings with respect to the general public and political leanings.[10]  “[Authoritarians] understand their role, which is to defend the leaders, however dishonest their statement, however great their corruption, and however disastrous their impact on ordinary people and institutions.”[11]

References


[1] Verdict” email from Justia.

[2] Anne Applebaum, Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism, Doubleday (2020).

[3] Amanda Taub, “The rise of American authoritarianism,” Vox (March 1, 2016).

[4] George K. Staropoli, “HOA political dynamics: totalitarian democracy,” The HOA-Land Nation Within America, StarMan Publishing (2019). J. L. Talmon quote.

[5] Authoritarianism: favoring complete obedience or subjection to authority as opposed to individual freedom..

[6] CAI’s effect on the BOD, the members — especially the loyal “followers” — and the public in general stems from 45 years of indoctrination by means of the CAI School of HOA Governance. See in general, Restructuring HOAs: “CAI School and member benefits” pt. 2 (2020).

[7] Bob Altemeyer, The Authoritarians, 2007.

[8] George K. Staropoli, “Preliminary HOA – public survey report,” HOA Constitutional Government (2019). Links to detailed report.

[9] Supra, n.2, p. 20.

[10] Supra, n. 3.

[11] Supra, n. 2., p. 25.

HOAs deny opposition free speech

This morning on CNN Michael Smerconish discussed the question of free speech with respect to disagreeing with a position.  In this highly sensitive environment too often a disagreement with a position evokes an angry demand to remove or not publish the statement. That is not free speech but, as Smerconish said, “my-speech.”  It is not asking for agreement but free speech – let the other person have his say. Let a dialogue ensue which is a must for a healthy democracy.

In the culture of the HOA-Land Nation, any opposition to, or criticism of, the HOA or its board of directors is too often met with angry condemnation, character assassination, ostracization, and the non-publishing of the opposition voice. Some HOAs give the appearance of concern but  only provide token  Q & A dialogues with no real exchange of the issues. This open opposition to free speech is endemic to the HOA-Land culture and reflects an undemocratic, authoritarian cult-like environment.

Problems with HOAs, as we are all aware of, cannot be resolved when member criticism and opposition is squelched as a matter of policy.  Until the members say, “enough is enough” and demand constitutional reforms the problems will continue unresolved.

Reorienting the HOA board and its followers

Mentoring: Reorienting HOA board – mission

Review of StarMan Group Mission

    • to establish the climate and culture of the HOA enabling the restoration of the lost constitutional principles of democratic government — individual rights, justice and fair play — for its members within the confines of a private contractual government, and
    • to remove the very strong external influences of the special interest vendors and lobbyists who are the primary causes of this deviation from the general societal norms and values.

In earlier papers I described the Cultural Dynamics[1] of and the domination of HOA-Land[2] by industry “stakeholders” who claim a special interest in your HOA controlled home. I maintained that the Community Associations Institute (CAI) dominates and heavily influences the decisions and functioning of boards (BODs) through its strong influence on state legislatures adopt biased and unjust laws detrimental to the members. CAI’s effect on the BOD, the members — especially the loyal “followers” — and the public in general stems from 45 years of indoctrination by means of the CAI School of HOA Governance.[3]

This series, “Restructuring the HOA Model of Governance,”[4] offers a plan, conforming to the principles of organizational development,[5] to return HOA-Land to democratic constitutional government and cease being a protected outlaw government functioning outside the Constitution and laws of the land. Having introduced my positions on the role of the BOD in its policymaking capacity and the heavy hand of CAI, I now address the need to reorient the BOD with its huge authoritarian[6] powers that would not be allowed under municipal governments.

“HOAs currently engage in many activities that would be prohibited if they were viewed by the courts as the equivalent of local governments.”[7]

I wrote, “The policy makers have failed to understand that the HOA CC&Rs have crossed over the line between purely property restrictions to establishing unregulated and authoritarian private governments.”

BOD reorientation

Addressing nonprofit organizations, eminent management consultant Peter F. Drucker wrote: “The first job of the leader is to think through and define the mission of the institution. . . . One of the most common mistakes is to make the statement [a series] of good intentions.[8] It has to be operational, otherwise it’s just good intentions. Using my prior example of a large-scale active adult HOA in Arizona, I contrast the mission, goal and values statements that illustrate an effective and productive community.

HOA vision statement: [HOA] is the premier active, age−restricted community in Arizona.

Restructured Vision Statement: To become the premier active, age-restricted community in Arizona.

HOA mission statement: [HOA] provides residents with a high−value community, with resort−style amenities, in which every person can choose to participate and live well, based on their needs and desires. This high standard will maximize our investments and promote our well−being in an active close−knit community.

Restructured Mission Statement: To provide residents with a high-value community with resort-style amenities to maximize our investments.

HOA values statement: In support of our Mission Statement, we hold to these values:

      • We foster relationships built on respect, trust, and effective communications.
      • We listen to understand.
      • We are open−minded, collaborative, and always look for ways to improve our community.
      • We believe in life−long learning and a desire for active well−
      • We are a forward−looking, fiscally−sound community
      • We encourage an environment of empowerment and personal responsibility.

Restructured Values: We believe in a community culture having high standards and principles of conduct and behavior.

These HOA views and attitudes came quite as a surprise considering that it is a $20,000,000 revenue operation, and one would expect it to do better than that. My impression is that they are a prime example of the BOD’s mistake of using lofty, high and mighty statements lacking focus and aimed to give the appearance of good intentions, as Drucker explained above. These HOA statements read very similar to CAI’s propaganda and its advice and training offered by its School of HOA Governance.

The time is well passed for the BOD to drop CAI as an advisor, as CAM and as its HOA attorney. It’s well passed the time for BOD’s to learn about the effective and healthy council-manager form of local government.[9] Not that public government is perfect but it is far better in upholding the principles of democratic government lost under the adhesive CC&Rs “constitution.”

(Part 2 of the Reorienting HOA BOD will discuss BOD failure to attract member commitment as volunteers).

 

Notes

[1] George K. Staropoli, HOA-Land Nation Within America, Part 1, “The Cultural Dynamics of HOA-Land” (2019) and High RWA followers can be found in HOA members. (2019).

[2]HOA-Land is a collection of fragmented independent principalities within America, known in general as HOAs, that are separate local private governments not subject to the constitution, and that collectively constitute a nation within the United States”, Defining HOA-LAND: what it is (2017).

[3] George K. Staropoli, Restructuring HOAs: “CAI School and member benefits” pt. 2 (2020) and CAI School faculty advice – managing HOAs (2020).

[4] George K. Staropoli, Restructuring the HOA model,(2019).

[5] See in general, “Organizational Development,” George K. Staropoli, (2019).

[6] Supra n. 1.

[7] Evan McKenzie, Privatopia: Homeowners Associations and the Rise of Residential Private Governments, Yale Univ. Press, 1994.

[8] Peter F. Drucker, Managing the Nonprofit Organization: Principles and Practices, HarperCollins (1990).

[9] See in general, Roger L. Kemp, “Forms of Governance,” Managing America’s Cities: A Handbook for Local Government Productivity, McFarland & Co., (2007). They are: Strong Mayor, Council-Manager, Town Meeting (direct or representative democracy), and Commission.

State legislators have placed HOAs above the law

There are strong parallels between the shameful conduct of our elected officials in Washington and that of “elected” HOA boards, each made possible by the strong support of irrational, dogmatic cult followers. In turbulent Washington with the upcoming impeachment of trump, Congressional Democrats and some Republicans are staunchly upholding a fundamental principal of democracy: no one is above the law!

To allow any person or organization to operate above the law is to reject the US Constitution founded on representative democracy. In Washington there is the minority faction of Republicans and in HOA-Land[1] there is the a majority faction of homeowners who accept the conduct of the leadership, failing to recognize its wrongful and illegal conduct. By their active support, these authoritarian followers[2] are placing the leaders above the law. Cults exhibit a lack of any freedom of mind by their followers who blindly and irrationally submit to the will of the cult leader.

“What has this to do with state legislatures and HOAs,” you may ask. Plenty!

Over the years state legislatures, each and everyone, have by acts of commission and omission enacted special legislation — generally known as PUD, CID, HOA, POA, etc. Acts — for a special class of nonprofits that placed HOAs above the law. While granting and permitting broad de facto political governance over the residents of the HOA subdivision, HOA boards of directors, the directors themselves, the officers, and their attorneys and managers/firms are not subject to effective enforcement by the application of meaningful penalties.

There are none or hardly any provisions for the enforcement of the law that are substantial enough to serve as a serious detriment to continued HOA board violations of the law and their contractual obligations. This unconscionable state of affairs is the result of the failure to enact legislation to hold HOAs answerable to the law. It is the public policy set by the state legislatures, themselves, as found in their enacted laws to hold and place the HOA and its leadership above the law.

 

If Trump is not impeached and removed from office, there would be little hope that the state legislatures would feel compelled to honor their oaths to uphold the US Constitution and to hold HOA-Land to the laws of the land. The shameful conditions of HOA-Land statutes will continue with little fear of Congressional interference. Without the fear of enforcement – shared by HOA- boards — State legislatures would be given an enlarged “free ride” that violates the US Constitution.

 

Author’s note:  The public needs to stop being conned by “political correctness,” which is the real-world embodiment of Orwell’s Newspeak.

“Many can see the parallels and extensions of Orwell’s 1984 in the real 1984, and current world. In 1949 George Orwell published 1984 where the fictional Oceania (formerly known as England) is a totalitarian state that has instituted a new society designed for the survival of the country. . . . Thought Police (don’t speak out or question, or else); Doublethink, creating the ability of the people to hold and accept two contradictory thoughts at the same time; Newspeak, the official language, replacing English, that redefines words and concepts; Ministry of Truth, the agency of propaganda and historic revisionism; and the Ministry of Love, the agency of regulations and enforcement.”[3]

Political correctness is not ethical or moral correctness! It has been instituted in the US to support the government from attack or criticism. Its purpose is to intimidate the public, by social ostracization, from its right to free and open political free speech and discussion. And it has been very successful both in general and in regard to HOA members.

 

References

[1] Definition of HOA-LAND:  HOA-Land is a collection of fragmented independent principalities within America, known in general as “HOAs,” that are separate local private governments not subject to the constitution, and that collectively constitute a nation within the United States. For more see, Defining HOA-LAND: what it is. (George K. Staropoli, HOA Constitutional Government.)

[2] See in general, “HOA political dynamics: totalitarian democracy.” George K. Staropoli, HOA Constitutional Government.

[3] George Orwell’s 1984 is alive and well in HOA-Land, George K. Staropoli, HOA Constitutional Government.

The future form of HOA-Land

A little earlier I had commented that HOAs are here to stay, but face strong reforms. It was an appeal for all to get their voices heard and take the HOA-Public Attitude Survey. Allow me to clarify my position.

“HOA” has 2 common connotations: as a model of authoritarian private local government or as the real estate “package” of amenities, landscaping, and certain infrastructure. I have long maintained that the real estate package represents the end but the HOA government model is not the best means to achieve that end. And that state legislators have treated HOAs as independent principalities with their pro-HOA laws and support of de facto governments devoid of constitutional protections for HOA members.

The overwhelming reform legislation across the country presumes and accepts the validity of the governing documents and state laws. This is a loser position!

It implies the acceptance of the legitimacy of legal arguments supporting the governing documents and pro-HOA statutes. Advocates should be denying their validity and constitutionality; by failing to oppose these defensive arguments homeowners have put themselves in the weaker position of, Please sir, can I have some more justice? An example of reform legislation that challenges fundamental wrongs has been summarized in HOA Common Sense and the HOA-Land culture is presented in The HOA-Land Nation Within America .

Example: not only demanding the licensing HOA managers but holding them to the same statutes and rules   –  not CAI’s standards — as required of city/town manager; holding the BOD to the same standards as city/town councilmen. The constitutional arguments to use include: a violation of the equal protection of the law, holding the HOA as a state actor, or an unconstitutional special “franchise” of the state relating to these real estate “packages.” (“franchise: an authorization granted by a government or company to an individual or group enabling them to carry out specified commercial activities, e.g., providing a broadcasting service or acting as an agent for a company’s products.”

Advocates must not ignore these broad, constitutional arguments but educate themselves to understand them. I am urging advocates and homeowners to follow the path of the Founding Fathers who stopped toying with the Articles of Confederation as unworkable. Rather than continue to make the Articles work, they did away with them and created the Constitution of the United States.

HOA-Land will still be here but which form will it take? Spend another 30 years as before or go for fundamental reforms?