Thursday, October 02, 2008

Change We Can Believe In

Brother, I got me a dose of local politics tonight. We moved into this neighborhood that has a homeowner's association and they had a meeting tonight to decide whether or not to amend the HOA agreement to establish an "Architectural Committee" to make decisions about allowable colors of exterior paint on homes. I am naturally opposed unless there is an obvious problem in the neighborhood, which there isn't.

So I get there and after starting late, the president asks for a show of hands for people who intend to vote for the measure. He says we're close to getting this passed, so before we actually vote, he wants to see if there are enough votes to pass it.

Irregularity number one - I'm guessing if it looked unlikely to pass, they would put off the vote for another month to give themselves time to drum up more votes, which is what happened last month, from what I heard.

Irregularity number two - partisans in favor of the measure have spent the last month collecting so-called proxy votes, which they hand-delivered to the meeting. These votes were not sealed in boxes, so that all by itself invalidates the vote.

So with this show of hands, about half the people there indicate they aren't in favor of it. So he goes back and they count the proxy votes again. While they're doing that, I walk back and ask who is going to be on this committee. So he comes back out and introduces them. I ask, are any of these people professionally trained to make these decisions? Real estate agents, architects, graphic designers, interior designers, house painters? No, they aren't. They proceed to ridicule me for opposing such a reasonable measure. All they want is to stop people from painting their houses neon colors, they say. How can you possibly be against that? I say, fine, but I think it would be a good idea to have people on the committee who have the training to make reasonable decisions. The president laughs and says, there aren't schools that teach people about colors, then asks one of the ladies there did she go to school to learn about colors, and she laughs and says no, of course not. So I say, actually there are - real estate agents, architects, and designers all know what are and aren't good colors for exterior house paint, and their knowledge is current because that's what they do for a living every day. Another lady says, all we're talking about here is basic good taste, to which I say, taste is relative, what is bad taste to you may be good taste to me and who is to say who is right and wrong?

A professional who knows the market - that's who.

At this point the president closes the discussion and says we are voting on the measure as currently written. If I hadn't been there, there wouldn't have been a discussion at all.

Sooooo, if it passes, I'm going to introduce an amendment expanding the committee to five, two of whom will be people who either by education or profession are qualified to make reasonable judgments, such as a real estate agent, architect, interior designor, house painter, or graphic designer, and that all decisions of the committee must be unanimous. I am also considering introducing a measure calling for the removal of those who pushed this thing through for blatantly innappropriate conduct, the details of which would, if revealed in a court challenge, invalidate the measure and thus waste the money of the Homeowner's Association and possibly incur further legal costs due to countersuits.

I don't care about the fucking house paint. I'm not planning to paint my house anytime soon. What I object to is some doofus whose imagination is limited to eight shades of beige telling me I can't paint my house canary yellow or something. One of the potential committee members sat there the whole time giving me an eat shit look, hating me because I dared to challenge her pathetic grasp at authority, and this is the type of person we want sitting on a committee making decisions about other people's property?

Anyway, outside in the parking lot this elderly gentleman came up to me and said, young man, you're exactly right, I'm glad you spoke up. The vote was close enough that maybe I changed a few minds, or gave people the courage to buck the system and vote for themselves instead of what their neighbors will think of them.

The best part was on the way out, I held the door open for a woman who was so mad at me in the meeting she couldn't even look at me. I think my holding the door surprised her. She probably wouldn't have held it for me.

Change begins in your own backyard.

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