Category Archives: Municipal Abuse

Jason Helvenston

This show is a rebroadcast, but it is just as valid and timely today.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived – that is to have succeeded.”

Do you suppose Ralph was thinking about homeowner associations and the many petty municipal governments around with ridiculous rules, ordinances, and abusive enforcement mechanisms when he wrote that? His message seems to have fallen on deaf ears because these entities continue to make life miserable for their members and constituents.

Fortunately, more individuals are doing amazing things to make the world a better place, not for just one person but hundreds of people, despite their local governments.

Joining us On The Commons this week is Jason Helvenston. Jason and his wife, Jennifer, wanted to grow their food, but edible plants tend to require sun, and the sun happened to be in their front yard, so that’s where they planted their herbs and vegetables. However, the city council of Orlando, Florida, thought that grass would look normal, and so they did what petty governments do so well, they issued an ultimatum, “plant grass or else… we will fine you $500 a day!”. The Helverstons believe in protecting their right to plant whatever they want on their property, so they fought back, and they WON! You’ll have to listen to their story to realize that their garden is only the first step to opening our eyes and how they are making so many people “breathe easier.”


Caroline Douglas

Caroline Douglas

Who is responsible for ensuring our safety on the local roads? Who plans how many stop signs are used on the roads and makes sure pedestrians are safe? Who decides the speed limits and fines and collects the fines when a driver exceeds the speed limit? What happens to that money? If you have never really thought about this and, like me, just presumed everything was being handled responsibly, I believe it is time to rethink that trusting attitude. Maybe it is time for some adult supervision, or we may face a tragic situation.

We recently had an unfortunate and tragic situation in my homeowners’ association, which could and should have been avoided. My neighborhood is divided by a four-lane road with half of the homes on one side and the other half on the other side. The high school that all the kids go to is on the other side of that road, as are all the amenities like the pools and tennis courts. Several years ago, that road was widened from two to four lanes. Someone from the county board of supervisors visited one of our homeowner meetings to inform us that because the situation was too dangerous for a crossing guard, they had to take the crossing guard away, and the kids will have to cross themselves! Every suggestion to ensure the safety of the children was met with an equally stupid reason why that wouldn’t work. They all had to do with their own similarly stupid rules. Thank God we were incident-free for many years, but our lucky streak didn’t last forever. Recently a resident in his 50s was hit while he was crossing in the crosswalk and killed. The driver, a woman in her 30’s, I believe, apparently was not speeding, texting, or driving drunk, but she nonetheless hit and killed the pedestrian, and that is something she will have to live with for the rest of her life. 

Caroline Douglas joins us On The Commons to talk about this incident. As always, Caroline comes up with so many angles and possibilities that I hadn’t thought of or considered. I’m always grateful to her for being a willing guest and providing her knowledge and expertise to us all. Always a pleasure to have you on Caroline. 


Jan Bergemann


Have you ever wondered just where you fit into the grand scheme of our modern world?  Who makes all the decisions that affect you and your family?  How many strings are being pulled to determine the course of your life and the choices you think you are making? Think of all the layers of government authorized (or not) to adopt laws controlling almost every aspect of your life, where and how you live, what you eat, what you say and how you behave.  To help put it into perspective, imagine peeling back the layers of an onion and when you do, just like an onion, it will make you cry.

But then you console yourself with the thought that all those layers and layers are protecting you.  Are they?

Jan Bergemann joins us On The Commons.  Jan is the founder and president of the Florida based Cyber Citizens for Justice, CCFJ. Over the years Jan has worked with legislators, attorneys and homeowners trying to improve the status quo of owners in Florida’s approximately 4 million association controlled dwelling units.  It should have been simple if all those layers of governments were in fact working to protect you, wouldn’t it?  We’ll talk to Jan about Some of the major issues facing Floridians, we’ll touch on some of the stupidity that seems to be rampant in controlled America, we’ll find out just who (and how) those layers are really protecting and of course, it would not be a conversation with Jan without a trip back to Germany to compare issues on both sides of the Big Pond.  He might just have a few ideas worth thinking about.  


Peeling back the layers of an onion will make you cry.


Stewart Goodwin


Have you ever wondered where your food comes from? With a greater awareness and understanding of health issues and the role our food plays in how we feel, live and age, more people are concerned about the quality of the food they eat and feed their families.  People are willing to pay more for organically grown fruits and vegetables and free range eggs.  Don’t believe me?  Compare the prices, and the taste, the next time you are in the grocery store.  You’d think ensuring a good supply of healthy food would be a top priority for the government, wouldn’t you?   It doesn’t appear that way.

Stewart Goodwin joins us On The Commons this week.  Stewart is an author and the owner of the Elko Poultry Farm and Hatchery in Henrico County, Virginia.  The farm is in an area that is not built up and is zoned agricultural.  But apparently that concept is a little too simple and straightforward for local government types to comprehend.  The county officials, whose job it is to ensure compliance with the county codes and ordinances, seem to be somewhat confused and apparently can’t tell the difference between a chicken and a horse. So they are doing what they do best and that is to issue threats. And when this little war is all over, they may very well end up with egg on their faces.  We’ll be keeping up with Stewart and her ” girls” to see how she is doing.   I enjoyed “going to the Farm” where the only sounds I could hear were on the phone were Stewart’s roosters crowing to register their dissatisfaction with the county government.

Follow Stewart on Facebook as she fights to protect her property rights and our right to have healthy food.


Chuck Welsh


Now that mass produced homeowner associations have become the norm rather than an anomaly, we tend to just shrug our shoulders and accept them as a necessary evil.  But why do we have them in the first place?  And why, as time goes on, do we lose more rights in our own homes than we had even a decade ago? Why do HOAs come with a Declaration of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions?  Why not a Bill of Rights instead?  Or better yet, why not go back to the free form of ownership where the owner is the “king (or queen) of the castle?  Proponents of HOAs gasp and claim we’d end up with utter chaos.  But by stripping away basic, fundamental rights are we even thinking of how this increasingly restrictive form of ownership will affect future generations?  Or are we only concerned about increasing the tax coffers of local municipalities and feeding the insatiable HOA industry beast?

Chuck Welsh joins us On The Commons.  Chuck is a former developer with a lot of experience on the formation of associations.  He has some insights on what goes into turning several acres of raw land into a development where people will live and raise families.  We’ll talk to Chuck and try to get into a developer’s mind to understand what he sees when he looks at several acres of nothing but dirt, stones, trees and shrubs.  What is he thinking and what is he hoping to build?  Chuck was not involved with some of the more massive developments that are larger than some cities but more with the smaller ones.  The ones on a more human scale.  But why inflict a homeowners association on future owners?  Chuck believes that the clean water act of the late 70’s gave birth to retention ponds seen all over the place and their maintenance is ultimately responsible for HOA mandates across the country.  We also talk about property values and the future of homeownership.



Martha Boneta


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”.


Martha Boneta

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  To hear her full story and the unbelievable abuses she endured, tune in.