Private Metropolis: explaining the demise of local public government

My repeated efforts to instill, to inculcate, a necessary broad  understanding  of democratic principles and government — and the part played by the HOA legal model of local government — in the demise of democracy in America[1] has been greatly assisted by the recent publication Private Metropolis.[2] (It was published at the same time as my amicus curiae filing with Arizona Supreme Court in Tarter[3]).

The opening introductory segment encompasses a wide description of special  governmental units. It is loaded with constitutional issues and controversies that says it all quite plainly: “quasi-governments,” “shadow local states,” “the municipality is no longer the privileged seat of governance,” and “special purpose local governments” (including homeowner associations with some 24% of the population as residents), that “became, in effect, shadow governments.” 

My 21 year long-term effort in the trenches  has been to introduce the broad level constitutional issues and democratic philosophy to the average American, who does not know and cannot understand the words of these learned political scientists. I have, for the most part, failed. Private Metropolis gives me additional support and the basis for continued efforts to educate the public at large who suffer the consequences of a  “not my job” attitude.

It is up to the homeowner advocates and HOA boards to embrace this reality and expose the arguments of supportive political scientists to the policy makers in your state, as well as educating the media  on its  continued silence on these issues.

Endnote


[1] See in general, Whither goest local government? Restrictive HOAs or responsible public government (2009); CAI’s early awareness of HOA constitutionality, public mini-government (2021); HOAs are another form of local government (2021).

[2]  Private Metropolis: the Eclipse of Local Democratic Government,  Dennis R. Judd, Evan McKenzie, Alba Alexander, Global and Community Series, Vol. 32, Univ. of Minneapolis Press (June 22, 2021).

[3] Pro Se Bendt amicus brief accepted by AZ Supreme Court.

In Kosor the NV appellate court upholds HOAs as public forums

In January of this year I posted the Nevada Supreme Court’s opinion on HOAs as public forums and the president as a limited-purpose public figure (NV supreme court upholds HOAs as public forums).  Last month on an appeal (Olympia v. Kosor, No. A-17-765257-C (Nev. Ct. App. 2021) from the remand, to  let the trial court hear the case on above issues, the appellate Court upheld the supreme courts findings and opinion.

The tremendous constitutional question of free political speech on issues of HOA governance was upheld. Finally! In doing so, the Court also held, citing several cases that [note 1],

  • [the HOA]  “is a quasi-government entity ‘paralleling in almost every case the powers, duties, and responsibilities of a municipal government.’”
  • the Nevada Supreme Court has found the [the HOA] Board to be in the nature of a quasi-government entity largely paralleling the powers, duties, and responsibilities of a municipal entity and its meetings similar in function to a governmental body.
  • homeowners’ associations open meetings are public forums as such associations play ’a critical role in making and enforcing rules affecting the daily lives of [community] residents.’”  
  • “the HOA meetings at which Kosor made certain of the statements at issue were ‘public forums’ … because the meetings were ‘open to all interested parties, and … a place where members could communicate their ideas. Further, the…meetings served a function similar to that of a governmental body.”
  • In deciding this Motion, this Court also concludes Plaintiffs at least constitute limited-purpose public figures.
  • The test for determining whether someone is a limited public figure includes examining whether a person’s role in a matter of public concern is voluntary and prominent.” [as is the case with HOA boards and presidents]
  • the issues Defendant raised involve efforts to encourage homeowner participation in and oversight of the governance of Southern Highlands, “an inherently political question of vital importance to each individual and to the community as a whole.”

. . . .

Your HOA cannot stop your free speech if you argue Kosor! Just be careful about making harsh, accusatory statements that violate elements of defamation that will  defeat your free speech.

NOTE 1. Damon v. Ocean Hills Journalism Club, 102 Cal. Rptr. 2d 205, 214 (2000); Cohen v. Kite Hill Cmty. Ass’n, 191 Cal. Rptr. 209, 214 (1983); Pegasus v. Reno Newspapers, Inc., 57 P.3d 82, 91 (2002).

Calif. holds HOA elections as protected free speech public elections

Speaking of HOA members and public voting rights, “Why Are HOA Members Allowed A Public Vote?”[1], let’s look at the reverse side and ask, Why aren’t HOA elections equivalent to public elections?  This is another example of how successful constitutional challenges can lead to and bring about broad HOA reform legislation.

Many of us are aware of the treatment of dissenting and opposing voices with respect to BOD actions and elections. There are the threats by rogue BODs of harm, and of  slanderous and libelous statements aimed to discredit and injure the dissenter’s reputation. And then, in true attack the attackers,  there are the lawsuits by the BOD claiming that the dissenter’s speech was harmful and injured the reputation of the HOA and/or BOD members.

Anti-SLAPP

These lawsuits are referred to as Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation – SLAPP —  whose purpose is to silence the dissenting homeowner(s) by arguing that the HOA/BOD was defamed.[2]  In the name of justice, or the appearance of justice, many states have adopted anti-SLAPP statutes to protect the dissenters; in our case here, the homeowners. The common criteria to file an anti-slapp suit includes (my emphasis):

A moving party may file a special motion to dismiss [the HOA suit] under [the state’s] antiSLAPP statutes “if an [HOA] action is filed in retaliation to the exercise of free speech [homeowner dissent].” In considering a special motion to dismiss, a district court must undertake a two-prong analysis. First, the court must determine whether the moving party [homeowner] has, by a preponderance of the evidence, established that the action [anti-slapp motion] is based upon a good faith communication in furtherance of the right to free speech in direct connection with an issue of public concern.

Furthermore, 1)  the statement must be made without knowledge of falsehood or truth with respect to a public concern, 2) the statement must be made in a place open to the public or in a public forum, and 3) “aimed at procuring any governmental or electoral action, result or outcome.” WOW! No chance in hell to bring an anti-Slapp suit against an HOA.

HOA elections are public

However, as expected, the anti-slapp statutes vary from state to state with Arizona adopting the very strict government election requirement while California has held, over several court cases, that (my emphasis):

California courts have repeatedly held in the context of anti-SLAPP litigation that board meetings of a homeowners association “serve[] a function similar to that of a governmental body. As [the California] Supreme Court has recognized, owners of planned development units “‘comprise a little democratic subsociety.”‘ … A homeowners’ association board is in effect ‘a quasi-government entity paralleling in almost every case the powers, duties, and responsibilities of a municipal government.”[3]

The use of mail or internet – social media or websites open to the public —  have been held by the California courts to be “ a public forum.”   Nextdoor was held to be a public forum in spite of the fact it functions as a closed group, but its intent is clearly to be open to anyone.[4]

This is another important tool for homeowners and advocates to use in CA, and to lobby for the same return to justice anti-slapp laws in other states.

Notes

[1] George K. Staropoli, “Why are HOA members allowed a public vote?” HOA Constitutional Government (July 20, 2019).

[2] See in general, Colorado’s anti-Slapp statute, Colorado becomes 31st State.

[3] Quoted Appellant’s Opening Brief,  Kosor v. Olympia Companies, LLC, (Nev. SC NO.75669, Feb. 8, 2019). At this writing Kosor has not yet been accepted to be heard by the Nevada Supreme Court.

[4] Id, Part C, vii, printed page 33.  See Kronemyer v. Internet Movie Data Base, Inc., 59 Cal. Rptr. 3d 48 (2007).

HOA political dynamics: totalitarian democracy

HOA political dynamics: authoritarianism & totalitarian democracy

First, allow me to clarify some important concepts and definitions that I have employed to help in understanding my positions and views.

  1. The term “HOA” is commonly used in 2 different aspects. While commonly used to refer to the alleged community, in reality the “community” is a real estate “package” of homes, landscaping, amenities, and rules.
  2. “HOA” more aptly applies to the association itself, which is the de facto – in fact – political governing body of the subdivision or real estate “package.”
  3. “Government,” meaning political government, is defined in its general sense as “the person or group that controls and regulates the people within a territory.” Since your subdivision is a territory, that makes the HOA a truly political government.
  4. “Private government” is a de facto government as defined above not incorporated under municipal statutes but under nonprofit corporation statutes. As such, it is a functioning government unrecognized by the state as Cuba had been for years.
  5. “Quasi-government” simply means for all intents and purposes having all the attributes of a municipal government, except the names have been changed to mislead the innocent public.
  6. “HOA-Land” is my descriptive term for “the 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.”
  7. “Structured tribalism.” Tribalism is a term currently in vogue to describe divisiveness in America. “Structured tribalism” extends that view to describe the intentionally planned policy for the acceptance and control of HOA-Land.[1] It views the fragmented HOA-Land as distinct villages and clans.

While the CC&Rs and declarations contain abundant boiler plate, each is a separate legal agreement and as such  the HOA can be viewed as a village.  The conglomeration of master planned communities or HOAs developed by the same developer can be seen as a clan.  All stemming from the HOA “bible,” the 1964 Homes Association Handbook.[2]

In an earlier editorial on civic responsibility,[3] I questioned the allegiance, the loyalty, and the obligations of HOA members.  Was it to the US Constitution or to the HOA “constitution,” the governing documents?  I answered that it appeared to be the HOA first and foremost – secessionist — creating division within the country.

This was followed up by the editorials[4] where I examined the attitudes, beliefs, and values of the HOA members themselves.  I focused on the aspect of long-term indoctrination by the HOA School of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, my categorization. The question yet to be addressed was: What role did the members play themselves in terms of a predisposition to accept authoritarian, private governance?

By serendipity, or by destiny, I just received an email discussing authoritarianism and totalitarian democracy.[5] It argued that Americans were accepting authoritarian control, which seemed  to be a cause for the behavior of cult-like, dogmatic member acceptance of the HOA board’s (BOD) actions and attitudes.  It seems that the more predisposed to authoritarian control the more the member acted as a diehard, dogmatic, true-believer in the BOD.

“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.

“These “authoritarian followers,” as social science labels them, are also highly ethnocentric, thus frequently racist, nationalistic, deeply partisan, and threatened by “the other.” . . . Other testing shows these people are also highly defensive.”

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.[6] The authoritarian nature of HOA-Land is masked by a thorough indoctrination[7] that the real estate subdivision is a democratic community (although the HOA is not a municipal entity but a private nonprofit association)  because the members are allowed to vote, as meaningless as it is.

But the HOA is truly a totalitarian democracy.  To paraphrase the founder of fascism, Benito Mussolini, “All within the HOA, nothing outside the HOA, nothing against the HOA.”   The marketing and promotion of the HOA model of governance has been conducted in a very smooth manner: no negatives, “carefree living,” playing to the emotions and desires of the members, misleading statements to induce buying, and empty promises of “maintaining property values, ”etc.

Here’s are some of J. L. Talmon’s views of totalitarian democracy as found on Wikipedia (my emphasis):

“A totalitarian democratic state is said to maximize its control over the lives of its citizens by using the dual rationale of general will (i.e., “public good”) and majority rule. An argument can be made that in some circumstances it is actually the political, economic, and military élite who interpret the general will to suit their own interests.

“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

“It is [the member’s] duty and responsibility to aid his compatriots in realizing [this right of control]. Moreover, any public or private activities that do not forward this goal have no useful purpose. Citizens of a totalitarian democratic state, even when aware of their true powerlessness, may support their government.” 

Getting back to HOA-Land, it becomes disturbing that the application of authoritarianism and totalitarian democracy philosophy seems to fit quite well. Too well at that!  But these views of HOA-Land are a valuable enlightenment because it takes HOA-Land out of the hands of the propagandists, out of the shadows, out of the darkness of Plato’s cave.[8]  It reveals reality.

 

References

[1]In short, CAI has been setting itself up as the national private authority, a sort of Board of National HOA Governors,”  CAI manifesto: CAI’s plan for HOA-Land in America, 2016.

[2] See my 2006,  Analysis of The Homes Association Handbook.

[3] Civic responsibility vs. HOA member responsibility.

[4] HOA social dynamics.

[5] Verdict” email from Justia.

[6] “Authoritarian” can be defined as “a form of government characterized by strong central power and limited political freedoms. Individual freedoms are subordinate to the state and there is no constitutional accountability and rule of law under an authoritarian regime.” Wikipedia.

[7] Supra n. 2.

[8]In the Allegory of the Cave, Plato distinguishes between people who mistake sensory knowledge for the truth and people who really do see the truth.” (See Philosophyzer).

Political free speech both without and within the HOA

I recently came across a post by a Massachusetts law firm , MEEB, that basically summarized my arguments and positions on unconstitutional HOA governments.  In particular, alleged waivers of constitutional rights and the prohibition against private contractual government  HOAs from restricting political public speech.  That applies to both in the public domain and within the HOA community domain.

In its 2012 post, “Court Decisions May Make it Harder to Restrict Free Speech Rights,” decisions in 3 court cases (VT and MA) are reviewed. In essence, these decisions challenge “an assumption long held and widely recognized by courts in many jurisdictions that the freedom of speech guaranteed in the U.S. Constitutions does not apply in condominium communities.”  The reason offered, as I’ve mentioned many times, “citizens, a community association is not a governmental entity, so its rules are not subject to the same strict constitutional tests.

In contrast to Twin Rivers,  in Mazdabrook “the court noted [political speech] ‘lies at the core’ of our constitutional free speech protectionsPolitical signs advancing a resident’s candidacy are not by their nature incompatible with a private development. They do not conflict with the purpose of the development.”  And the court concluded “that the sign policy in question violates the free speech clause of the State Constitution.”

 In regard to the alleged waiver of fundamental rights (my emphasis),

The New Jersey court expressed serious concerns about whether and how condominium owners can  voluntarily waive their constitutional rights. Such waivers, the court said, “must be knowing, intelligent, and voluntary…. [and] at the very least, [they] must be clear.  Mazdabrook’s rules did not specifically require Khan to waive his free speech rights, the court noted. Rather, “he was asked…to waive the right to post signs before getting board approval, without any idea about what standards would govern the approval process. That cannot constitute a knowing, intelligent, voluntary waiver of constitutional rights.”

 Mazdabrook’s rules did not specifically require Khan to waive his free speech rights, the court noted. Rather, “he was asked…to waive the right to post signs before getting board approval, without any idea about what standards would govern the approval process. That cannot constitute a knowing, intelligent, voluntary waiver of constitutional rights.”

In the Preu (MA) decision, the court addressed state actions by the HOA,

The court found that a law suit filed to enforce a community association’s rights under the state condominium statute constituted a “state action” that could subject association regulations to a constitutional test.

 The constitutional test would require strict scrutiny, which requires a necessary and compelling reason to restrict fundamental rights. Lesser loss of rights, say under state laws, would be subject to a lessor test, but more than the broader “a government’s general interest” that can easily be extended beyond justifiable logic.

In addition to the above rulings, California’s SB 1265 that states the HOA is a quasi-government faces a test in the legislature tomorrow. Let’s hope it passes.  The sponsor, Senator Wieckowski,  also managed to have SB 407 passed last year that broader prohibits restrictions on free speech regarding meeting rooms, assemblies, use of common areas, etc.

“It is the intent of the Legislature to ensure that members and residents of common interest developments have the ability to exercise their rights under law to peacefully assemble and freely communicate with one another and with others with respect to common interest development living or for social, political, or educational purposes.” (New Civ. Code 4515(a).

Now members can even make use of the ‘house organ,’ the monthly online or hardcopy communication provided to the membership for equal access to the membership for campaigning or publicizing opposing views.