One of the most oft cited benefits of living in the US has always been the right to own property. Having a roof over one’s head and being able to provide a safe and happy home for one’s family has been referred to as the American Dream. Imagine, a house in the middle of a yard, surrounded by a lush green lawn, fruit trees, flowers and room to play with the kids, grandkids and pets. It doesn’t get much better than that!
So when and how did the dream go so very wrong? When did it become such a nightmare? When did the homeowner stop being the architect of his property, the pilot of her own destiny, the author of his or her story? And when did she or he become the hunted and the target in this insane war in the neighborhood? What is happening in our residential developments is sounding the death knell for what some believe to have been a greatest experiment in freedom.
Bill Davis joins us On The Commons. Bill, an attorney in Texas, defends homeowners caught in the middle of the insanity that seems to have become very much part and parcel of “living the American Dream”. He knows and understands the legal structure of deed restricted developments but more importantly he also knows their limits. Join us as we discuss some of the torture tactics used to bully a homeowner and the far reaching consequences of the actions of these abuses. We also hear the incredible facts in one case that highlights what can happen when neighborhood thugs are given unfettered power to browbeat and bully a neighbor.
When trying to decipher the issues and problems with personal rights and private property rights, I often feel overwhelmed. There are just so many ways all our rights are stripped that trying to track them all is a bit like what I imagine drinking from a fire hydrant would feel like. At the very least you get soaked, breathing would be extremely difficult and it is questionable just how much you actually manage to drink. And that is exactly how I feel when dealing with these issues. The micromanagement from all levels of the real governments, their omnipotent NGOs and the lowly first rung petty dictators in your local HOA is unbelievable. There is no end to the rules, laws, regulations, ordinances, covenants designed to control almost every aspect of your life.
Tom DeWeese joins us On The Commons. Tom is the founder and president of the Virginia based American Policy Center and the editor of The DeWeese Report. He is an author, a speaker, an advocate, an activist and, with several decades of studying the master manipulators and the property robbers worldwide, a font of knowledge. He is passionate about what he does and with a well-organized and easy to follow narrative manages to fit in many missing pieces to the jigsaw puzzle the rest of us are trying to solve. He zooms his lens out and looks at the big picture and then easily slips the puzzle pieces in place, before zooming back in and bringing the picture into focus. I always learn so much when I spend some time listening to Tom. By the way, did I mention he is also a very nice person and fun to talk to? He is. You’ll want to tune in.
Claiming to be a 5th generation landowner, Philip Thompson said, “I will do whatever it takes to help preserve the countryside we call home”. The countryside he calls home is in Fauquier County, Virginia about an hour outside Washington DC. He inherited much of the land in the countryside he called home, then proceeded to place a large tract into a conservation easement managed by the Piedmont Environmental Council, (PEC). Much like the Declarations in residential associations, the easements restrict the use of the property. Much like a residential association, power is given to the administrator. And we all know that “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”(Lord Acton) regardless of who has it.
Dr. Bonner Cohen joins us On The Commons. Dr. Cohen is a senior fellow with the National Center for Public Policy Research. He also serves as senior policy analyst with the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow. He is an author, has spoken at conferences, and appears on TV and radio. Dr. Cohen, a friend of Martha Boneta, has been following the horrors and abuses taking place in Liberty Farms. He wrote an article about the latest round of lawsuits. We find just what Mr. Thompson meant when he said he would do “whatever it takes…” And for “before” and “after” pictures of what the farm looked like under the Thomas’s and the PEC’s stewardship, watch Farming in Fear.
We all dream of a safe, happy and healthy home in a safe, happy and healthy neighborhood. We all need and want the security that comes with a real “community” where we can raise our families, spend time with our friends and families and retire to when we want to shut the rest of the world out. Unfortunately that ideal of “home” seems to have been lost in a quagmire of a legal morass. whether in a residential association or out in the countryside. Gone are the days of a simple and peaceful life where neighbors were friends who looked out for each other. Sadly nowadays the people watching are not doing so to be helpful but instead looking for ways to destroy their neighbors and take their property away their property.
Martha Boneta joins us On The Commons this week. Martha, an organic farmer followed her dream and her passion for growing good wholesome food to feed her family, friends and neighbors. She soon discovered that not all her neighbors were pure of heart. Over the past 10 years they have sought to take her farm away from her. They have been abusive, underhanded and plain obnoxious. Throughout it all, she has stood firm, fought back and inspired many people to step forward to “Stand with Martha”. No matter how bad things get,Martha always has a kind word and a radiant smile . Her story and her positive attitude in the face of adversity have attracted people to support her. Legislators so outraged by how the laws are being abused by government agencies and appointed commissions have carried bills for her to try to right so many wrongs. Movie and documentary producers followed her battle for years releasing an award winning documentary earlier in the year called “Farming in Fear”. Martha also has a website, In Martha’s own words, “Today will never come again. Be Humble. Be Compassion. Be Love. Be Light”.
From an early age, we give children coloring books and a box of crayons and teach them to “color inside the lines”. We also “help” them pick the right colors. Pink elephants? Oh my! Blue hair? You can’t do that! Here is a nice bright yellow crayon instead.
When my daughter was little I used to buy her un-coloring coloring books. These books consisted of stories with just a few lines, or part of a drawing and encouraged children to complete the picture and add to the story before coloring it. Looking back I wonder if those coloring books contributed to my daughter’s rebellious nature? I also whether we are training our children, from a very early age, to “conform to accepted norms”? If we won’t encourage our children to think outside the box, will they be able to do just that as adults or will they continue to stay safely within the lines?
Bill Davis, for whom boxes and lines just don’t exist, joins us On The Commons. From the day Bill, a Texas attorney, switched his practice to representing homeowners in HOAs, he has been busy with some of the most interesting cases. We talk to him about several of his cases, marvel at the incredible gall some “neighbors” have, listen to some of the crazy and whacky stuff that goes on in HOAs. Through it all we hear stories of real people, find humor and horror. Bill entertains us and instructs us. He explains the legal issues, talks about Texas law and points out the nuances. And by refusing to stay inside the lines drawn by the HOA industry, he manages to come up with some unique and creative strategies to protect his clients’ property and their rights. Be sure to tune in and listen to the show and if any of the cases Bill discusses sound a little too familiar, make sure your attorney also listens in.
The peeps are rebelling! Finally! No longer do homeowners believe that uniformity and conformity enhance property values. Nor do they believe that a homeowners associations creates “community”. They are tired of living in fear and refuse to be silenced any longer. With every negative story about HOAs that hit the media, hundreds and thousands of people have been commenting. Oh, I admit, a handful still repeat the inane sound bites like “you agreed”, “if you don’t like it, move”. Agreed to what? Being abused and losing your home? What idiot would do something like that? Move? Where to? Their comments make no more sense now than they ever did. By far most of the comments are pro homeowner and passionately anti HOA. Are you listening, CAI?
And did you ever think that an HOA could actually do some good?It’s ingenious! Keep reading and tune in to the show.
Nancy Hentschel joins us On The Commons this week. Nancy and her husband live in a large Homeowners association of single family homes in Texas. A few weeks ago they finally bought a couple of dinosaurs they fell in love with over a year ago. Once the dynamic dino duo took up residence in New Territory, something quite remarkable happened. Predictably they heard from the association but they also heard from their neighbors. As Nancy said, she met more of her neighbors than she had in all the years they have lived there. They not only came to the house but they wrote all over the internet. Some of the comments were short and to the point, “keep the dinos. Please, oh please”. “I think this is really cool, I wish they were my neighbors” and “Putting the neighbor in the neighborhood, one big claw at a time.” But there is more. Thanks to Nancy’s ingenuity and generosity, what started out as an expression of individuality, is doing some real good. The dinosaurs are moving around the neighborhood and checking out other front yards. For a $50 donation to any charity of their choice, all her New Territory neighbors can host the dynamic duo for 3 days before they move on to another yard. With approximately 5000 homes in New Territory, the dino walkabout can do some serious good. Cheers to the Hentschel’s, their “authentic community”, a neighborhood that refuses to be silenced and a couple of prehistoric creatures who have come back to show us the error of our ways. What fun!
Have you heard the one about homeowner associations being democracy “up close and personal”? The story goes that members are expected to participate in meetings, voice their opinions and to be part of the “community” which includes being financially responsible for common expenses. So it only stands to reason that one should be entitled to an explanation of any increases. But what happens when a member asks a simple question about a dues increase?
On this show we will start at that point – a very small dues increase and when an explanation was asked for the name calling, finger pointing and suppressing information started. When a simple answer to a simple question is not forthcoming and creates such acrimony, something is wrong. So when a situation doesn’t pass the smell test it is prudent to dig a little deeper especially when your most valuable asset, your home, is at stake.
But that is easier said then done.
On the Commons with us this week we are joined by Janice Fontell. Janice is an accountant by trade and she bought into the notion of “carefree living” that her condo promised. She paid her dues and minded her own business. Join us as we follow her incredible journey into homeownership, her awakening and subsequent education into what HOA living really is all about. But that is only the beginning because she found herself learning all about the law and her way around court where she ultimately prevailed – in part 1. You will want to hear this part of her story. There is another case pending and we hope to catch up with Janice later on.
When I started producing the show 14 years ago, I wondered if I would have enough material to cover during the initial 6 month contract. I need not have worried because the HOA wars multiplied like rabbits, homeowners and attorneys on both sides of the battle fields wanted to tell their side of the story and legislators started scratching their heads wondering what to do about all the complaints they were getting from their constituents. I guess that was before the days when the polls decided everyone was madly in love with the idea of being abused and just loved living the kontrolled life.
In my quest several years ago to make sense of the assault on hearth and home in America, I met the gentleman we will be talking to on this show. Tom was fighting a much bigger battle in a much bigger arena and he was making a difference. People in power started listening to what he had to say and some even acted on his advice proving that a small, handful of thoughtful and committed people can change the world.
Joining us today On The Commons we have Tom DeWeese. Tom is the founder and President of the Virginia based American Policy Center. He has been an advocate for freedom, property and individual rights for the past quarter of a century. We talk to Tom about just a few of the successes he has had over the years, learn a little about the important points when initially starting on the road to righting the ills of the world and just how critical having a written plan can be. He is a dynamic speaker who is energetic and passionate about message. He is currently working on webinars you can sign up for on his website: www.americanpolicy.org Check it out, you’ll find lots of other good information there as well.
Black’s Law Dictionary defines property in part as “…that which belongs exclusively to one.” It goes on to say; “In the strict legal sense, an aggregate of rights which are guaranteed and protected by the government.”
Oh baby, have we strayed a long way from that concept. In this brave new world of controlled living we appear to have turned the notion of rights guaranteed and protected by the government on its head.
On this show we normally focus on those rights as they pertain to involuntary membership HOAs and enabling legislation nibbling away at what little is left. But perhaps enemy #1 is the very entity charged with protecting those “aggregate rights” Black’s Law Dictionary talks about.
Joining us On The Commons this week is Martha Boneta. Martha is a farmer in Fauquier County, Virginia where she tends to her animals and grows vegetables, produces honey and shares her passion for farming and her love of the land with anyone and everyone who is willing to listen. It is no surprise then to learn that when a friend asked if she could host her daughter’s 10th birthday on the farm that Martha willingly agreed. The birthday girl and 7 of her best friends enjoyed a day playing with animals, making soap and picking fresh vegetables. But apparently not everyone thought this was such a wonderful idea because Martha soon heard from the county government, you know, the ones charged with protecting her “aggregate rights”. And that was the start of a 2 year nightmare. Not one to back down, Martha put the issues on the skyline, got the Martha Boneta Bill signed into law and had a lullaby written for her. You can hear it here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cKli-sieOi0&sns=em To hear her full story and the unbelievable abuses she endured, tune in.