Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. The Less Government, the Better

 

I’ve been an HOA board member for about eight years now, and only became a member after we had a horrible issue with some residents trying to bully a young couple they didn’t like. Those of us who took over the board have followed an agenda aimed at leaving people alone, and since our covenants are minimal so it’s pretty easy. It got me to thinking, however, about the handful of residents who complain about their neighbors.

The most recent issue was someone complaining about their neighbor’s kids riding dirt bikes on the property. They didn’t like the noise and dust but it’s not an activity prohibited by the covenants. I told the woman complaining that she needed to contact the neighbors directly before we would even consider getting involved. She refused. Another neighbor talked to them and worked it out (keep in mind these are three- or five-acre tracts). The other thing we hear about often is someone not liking their neighbor’s yard clutter. We always tell them to find us where the activity is prohibited in the covenants (and, of course, it’s not).

The point is that we are the closest thing to a local government in our unincorporated community, and I’m sure to these neighborhood complainers it’s frustrating that we won’t do anything about their perceived problem. Yet to me, government (in this case, quasi-government) serves best by doing the least.

We made it clear to the residents (voters) that we felt this way when first elected, and make a point of telling them again every year. Wouldn’t it be great to hear that from political candidates? The Texas Legislature only meets every other year for 140 calendar days, and in every session, the clock runs out on all sorts of mischief. Would that we could enjoy that in our national government.

“If you see ten troubles coming down the road, you can be sure that nine will run into the ditch before they reach you.” — Calvin Coolidge

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There are 33 comments.

  1. PHenry Member

    I was on the HOA board for my condo, eventually was president. I joined partly for the same reason you did, partly because we didn’t have enough candidates running for the board to fill all the positions.

    Some of the complaints were so petty and downright weird that I got an understanding of how things in government get out of control. “I want something done” was a pretty standard mindset. If I don’t like it, the powers that be must fix it.

    One woman complained that the kids upstairs ran in their hallway. I asked, you mean late at night? No, they were in bed by 9, it was the running in the afternoon she wanted stopped. I tried to imagine me banging on the door to the family’s unit, and telling them “if you don’t stop your 4 and 5 year old’s from running at lunchtime you will be fined or evicted.” ( They own their unit…)

    Then another lady came to a meeting. Her upstairs neighbor, a middle aged man, was using his bathroom late at night! She didn’t like the sound of him walking to the bathroom, nor of him flushing the toilet ( our pipes whistled slightly when the toilet refilled)

    Really? “I’m sorry sir, but you are forbidden from using the toilet between 10 PM and 8 AM!”

    I always wondered what these complaining people would do if a similar complaint was made against them by their neighbors. My unspoken opinion was that these were people who should not be living in a multi family unit. If constant peace and quiet is what you want, get yourself some land and a single family home!

    • #1
    • January 27, 2020, at 7:06 AM PST
    • 11 likes
  2. Tex929rr Coolidge
    Tex929rr

    PHenry (View Comment)

    I always wondered what these complaining people would do if a similar complaint was made against them by their neighbors. My unspoken opinion was that these were people who should not be living in a multi family unit. If constant peace and quiet is what you want, get yourself some land and a single family home!

    And as you can see from my HOA, having some land and a home doesn’t keep people from complaining about, well, everything. We have 106 homes on 700 acres. The fascinating thing to me is that the hard core malcontents are virtually all 70+ years old. They should be enjoying the views and instead seethe about their neighbor’s barbecue grilles (I did not make that up). We have one 80 year old woman who drives around (in her Prius) and takes pictures and notes about things she doesn’t like.

     

    • #2
    • January 27, 2020, at 7:16 AM PST
    • 10 likes
  3. Mark Camp Member

    Tex929rr,

    Beware. I fear that those ambitious people who are presently out of power, and disagree with you on this…

    “The less government the better”

    …may set a logical trap for you.

    They will say,

    “In many of the disputes that come before it for a decision, the group currently in power (you and the other board members) must decide whether Less government is better, angering one party and pleasing the other, or More government is better, pleasing the first and angering the second. The case you mention is one such dispute.

    “Are you saying that…

    • Less government is better in every case, or
    • More government in better in some cases, and Less government is better in others

    …?”

    Whichever answer you give will gain you entry to the trap. They will have another question ready for you, depending on your answer, that will force you deeper into it.

    If you refuse to be lured into the debate, you will have entered their trap by your very refusal.

    How can you avoid this trap?

    The only way I can see is amend your assertion as follows. (Added text in italics):

    In some cases more government is better; in others The Less Government, The is Better. We who hold the power can be trusted to decide which is true on a case by case basis.

    But politics is a domain where I have no aptitude or knowledge at all, so there may be a better solution.

    • #3
    • January 27, 2020, at 7:28 AM PST
    • Like
  4. PHenry Member

    Tex929rr (View Comment):
    They should be enjoying the views and instead seethe about their neighbor’s barbecue grilles (I did not make that up). We have one 80 year old woman who drives around (in her Prius) and takes pictures and notes about things she doesn’t like.

    Yeah, I now live in a historic district. I can’t change even the slightest detail of my exterior’s appearance without a months long approval process. The guy next door put new shingles on his house. The originals from 50 years ago were no longer available so he went with something more modern. The difference was barely noticeable, but he didn’t get permission. They made him take down the whole installation and refit with what they ‘approved’. It looked better first time around. And don’t even start on windows, replace 100 year old inefficient wooden frame windows with a modern energy efficient window? Not on your life, buddy! 

    I understand that we want to preserve the character of our neighborhood, but once the door is opened, it becomes way out of control.

    • #4
    • January 27, 2020, at 7:40 AM PST
    • 8 likes
  5. Tex929rr Coolidge
    Tex929rr

    Over the 8 years, the malcontents have gone from running their own candidates to making passive-aggressive statements in the annual meeting. I think we have been re-elected by acclaim for 5 years straight. (Texas law says that for a contested election we have to have written ballots with homeowner names and retain them for 6 months). Their ability to present an argument on their own behalf is surprisingly limited, as they seem driven by inarticulate rage. I’m sure every year their lessened ability to influence things makes them more angry. I really feel sorry for them when I’m not feeling the schadenfreude.

    • #5
    • January 27, 2020, at 7:40 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  6. Kephalithos Member

    PHenry (View Comment): I understand that we want to preserve the character of our neighborhood, but once the door is opened, it becomes way out of control.

    Such regulations are almost always poorly written and ineptly enforced. Still, I’m glad they exist. Why? Because of this corollary to Conquest’s law:

    Every man is a conservative about the things he knows best. No man is a libertarian about the things he loves most.

    • #6
    • January 27, 2020, at 8:02 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  7. EODmom Coolidge

    PHenry (View Comment):

    Tex929rr (View Comment):
    They should be enjoying the views and instead seethe about their neighbor’s barbecue grilles (I did not make that up). We have one 80 year old woman who drives around (in her Prius) and takes pictures and notes about things she doesn’t like.

    Yeah, I now live in a historic district. I can’t change even the slightest detail of my exterior’s appearance without a months long approval process. The guy next door put new shingles on his house. The originals from 50 years ago were no longer available so he went with something more modern. The difference was barely noticeable, but he didn’t get permission. They made him take down the whole installation and refit with what they ‘approved’. It looked better first time around. And don’t even start on windows, replace 100 year old inefficient wooden frame windows with a modern energy efficient window? Not on your life, buddy!

    I understand that we want to preserve the character of our neighborhood, but once the door is opened, it becomes way out of control.

    And for some, there is no bone too small to miss out on fighting over it.

    • #7
    • January 27, 2020, at 8:05 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  8. PHenry Member

    Kephalithos (View Comment):
    Such regulations are almost always poorly written and ineptly enforced. Still, I’m glad they exist.

    Yes, my experience is that they are often necessary. Like when one resident decided to hang meats on the balcony to dry. For weeks. ( smell, flies, and meat juice dripping on the balconies below. ) Or when another was renting his two bedroom unit out to many individuals by the half day, so that 8 people could sleep there at night, and 8 more during the day ( I guess they worked nights? ) That one ended in a fire that took out half a building and put a dozen of their neighbors out of their homes for a year.

    So we are stuck with trusting someone to use discretion. Never a good practice when it comes to governing. All power corrupts, and all that.

    • #8
    • January 27, 2020, at 8:13 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  9. Kephalithos Member

    Tex929rr: The most recent issue was someone complaining about their neighbor’s kids riding dirt bikes on the property. They didn’t like the noise and dust, but it’s not an activity prohibited by the covenants. I told the woman complaining that she needed to contact the neighbors directly before we would even consider getting involved. She refused.

    This seems to confirm the old conservative saw — that as society grows more and more atomized, and people become unable (or unwilling) to handle conflicts themselves, they appeal more and more to distant authorities, as a child might appeal to a parent.

    • #9
    • January 27, 2020, at 8:16 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  10. Slow on the uptake Thatcher

    Tex929rr: The Texas legislature only meets every other year for 140 calender days, and every session the clock runs out on all sorts of mischief.

    Used to be there were periodic attempts to change them to annual (or worse). Voters never bought into that idea: We liked them being limited, just as we liked keeping the pay low.

    I have a feeling that the odds on obtaining sufficient voter support for that idea increases as big cities grow bigger.

     

    • #10
    • January 27, 2020, at 8:24 AM PST
    • Like
  11. Tex929rr Coolidge
    Tex929rr

    Slow on the uptake (View Comment):

    Tex929rr: The Texas legislature only meets every other year for 140 calender days, and every session the clock runs out on all sorts of mischief.

    Used to be there were periodic attempts to change them to annual (or worse). Voters never bought into that idea: We liked them being limited, just as we liked keeping the pay low.

    I have a feeling that the odds on obtaining sufficient voter support for that idea increases as big cities grow bigger.

    No man’s life, liberty or property are safe while the legislature is in session.Judge Gideon J. Tucker

     

    • #11
    • January 27, 2020, at 8:47 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  12. The Reticulator Member

    Tex929rr: The most recent issue was someone complaining about their neighbor’s kids riding dirt bikes on the property. They didn’t like the noise and dust, but it’s not an activity prohibited by the covenants. I told the woman complaining that she needed to contact the neighbors directly before we would even consider getting involved. She refused. Another neighbor talked to them and worked it out (keep in mind these are 3 or 5 acre tracts).

    I like.

    • #12
    • January 27, 2020, at 8:52 AM PST
    • Like
  13. Tex929rr Coolidge
    Tex929rr

    Kephalithos (View Comment):

    This seems to confirm the old conservative saw — that as society grows more and more atomized, and people become unable (or unwilling) to handle conflicts themselves, they appeal more and more to distant authorities, as a child might appeal to a parent.

    One of them told us we should set up a web site where people could make anonymous complaints.

     

    • #13
    • January 27, 2020, at 9:09 AM PST
    • Like
  14. Kephalithos Member

    Tex929rr (View Comment):

    One of them told us we should set up a web site where people could make anonymous complaints.

    *Shudder*.

    • #14
    • January 27, 2020, at 9:28 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  15. Seawriter Member

    Tex929rr (View Comment):
    One of them told us we should set up a web site where people could make anonymous complaints.

    You should have. They can submit the complaints, and work out their frustrations. When they hit submit, the form clears and they see a message on the screen that their complaint will be processed with all the gravity it is due.

    Of course, that is all the page does: Erase the complaint and sends the complainer a comforting message. That is all the gravity it is due. And whoever files the complaint cannot do anything further unless they are willing to forgo anonymity. When they do ask, inform them that anonymous complaints cannot be discussed publicly to preserve the privacy of whomever submitted it.

    • #15
    • January 27, 2020, at 9:31 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  16. Pony Convertible Member

    PHenry (View Comment):
    One woman complained that the kids upstairs ran in their hallway.

    I moved into a new home when my kids were preschool age. The first day in the house, while we were trying to get situated and the kids were outside riding their Big Wheels, we had a neighbor knock on the door. He wasn’t coming over to welcome us to the neighborhood. He came over to insist that we not let our kids play outside. 

    • #16
    • January 27, 2020, at 9:38 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  17. PHenry Member

    Pony Convertible (View Comment):

    PHenry (View Comment):
    One woman complained that the kids upstairs ran in their hallway.

    I moved into a new home when my kids were preschool age. The first day in the house, while we were trying to get situated and the kids were outside riding their Big Wheels, we had a neighbor knock on the door. He wasn’t coming over to welcome us to the neighborhood. He came over to insist that we not let our kids play outside.

    What kind of a miserable scold does one have to be to hate seeing or hearing children have fun?

    • #17
    • January 27, 2020, at 9:43 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  18. Doctor Robert Member

    Tex929rr (View Comment):

    PHenry (View Comment)

    I always wondered what these complaining people would do if a similar complaint was made against them by their neighbors. My unspoken opinion was that these were people who should not be living in a multi family unit. If constant peace and quiet is what you want, get yourself some land and a single family home!

    And as you can see from my HOA, having some land and a home doesn’t keep people from complaining about, well, everything. We have 106 homes on 700 acres. The fascinating thing to me is that the hard core malcontents are virtually all 70+ years old. They should be enjoying the views and instead seethe about their neighbor’s barbecue grilles (I did not make that up). We have one 80 year old woman who drives around (in her Prius) and takes pictures and notes about things she doesn’t like.

     

    Too much time, too little to do, take things too much to heart. My osteoporosis ladies are the same way, don’t you dare suggest something they don’t like. This is where Joe Biden is heading, and soon.

    • #18
    • January 27, 2020, at 9:50 AM PST
    • 1 like
  19. The Reticulator Member

    PHenry (View Comment):

    Pony Convertible (View Comment):

    PHenry (View Comment):
    One woman complained that the kids upstairs ran in their hallway.

    I moved into a new home when my kids were preschool age. The first day in the house, while we were trying to get situated and the kids were outside riding their Big Wheels, we had a neighbor knock on the door. He wasn’t coming over to welcome us to the neighborhood. He came over to insist that we not let our kids play outside.

    What kind of a miserable scold does one have to be to hate seeing or hearing children have fun?

    It’s so rare to hear kids play outside these days, that I like hearing it when the neighbors have grandkids over playing in their big yards. Makes me feel a bit younger.

    • #19
    • January 27, 2020, at 9:55 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  20. Bill Nelson Member

    Tex929rr (View Comment):

    Over the 8 years, the malcontents have gone from running their own candidates to making passive-aggressive statements in the annual meeting. I think we have been re-elected by acclaim for 5 years straight. (Texas law says that for a contested election we have to have written ballots with homeowner names and retain them for 6 months). Their ability to present an argument on their own behalf is surprisingly limited, as they seem driven by inarticulate rage. I’m sure every year their lessened ability to influence things makes them more angry. I really feel sorry for them when I’m not feeling the schadenfreude.

    Get off my lawn!

    • #20
    • January 27, 2020, at 10:25 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  21. Full Size Tabby Member

    Kephalithos (View Comment):

    Tex929rr: The most recent issue was someone complaining about their neighbor’s kids riding dirt bikes on the property. They didn’t like the noise and dust, but it’s not an activity prohibited by the covenants. I told the woman complaining that she needed to contact the neighbors directly before we would even consider getting involved. She refused.

    This seems to confirm the old conservative saw — that as society grows more and more atomized, and people become unable (or unwilling) to handle conflicts themselves, they appeal more and more to distant authorities, as a child might appeal to a parent.

    And government (particularly school) and other authorities are teaching the citizenry that they should go to a distant authority rather than try to address the issue themselves. Students are told that if another student does something you don’t like, tell a teacher – don’t try to address it yourself or you will be accused of bullying. Employees are told that if another employee offends you, you should report the matter to human resources.

    When our neighbor left a damaged car on the street in front of our house for an extended time (new houses on narrow 50 foot wide lots) we were not going to get the HOA involved because we knew from talking to the neighbor that they were busy trying to find the medical cause for the daughter to have lost consciousness while driving that caused the car to be damaged. 

    • #21
    • January 27, 2020, at 10:25 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  22. PHenry Member

    Full Size Tabby (View Comment):
     we knew from talking to the neighbor

    This is really the key to the issue. So few of us even know our neighbors, let alone care one bit what they might be going through.

    • #22
    • January 27, 2020, at 10:35 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  23. Full Size Tabby Member

    Our son and daughter-in-law are trying to figure out who prompted the previously dormant HOA in their area of 4 – 6 acre lots to become active very recently. Suddenly the management company sent almost every owner in the area one or more violation notices, many of them for conditions that had existed for years. Calls to the management company resulted in the impression that the management company was doing this on its own initiative. Our son and daughter-in-law is not even sure there is a currently active Board of Directors. And the management company is based in Austin, and mostly works with the ritzy neighborhoods of Austin rather than the more casual properties of our son’s neighborhood southwest of San Antonio.

    • #23
    • January 27, 2020, at 10:38 AM PST
    • Like
  24. PHenry Member

    Full Size Tabby (View Comment):
    Our son and daughter-in-law is not even sure there is a currently active Board of Directors.

    I never experienced it, but I was told that if a BOD isn’t elected, then the management company becomes de facto BOD. Based on my management company, the turnover is large and each new manager has their own pet projects and methods to ‘clean up’ the neighborhood. The only thing worse than an elected BOD for your HOA is an active and empowered management company. I tell my friends when they buy a new place under an HOA “Get involved, join the board, and do your part. If you don’t, somebody with a more ‘activist’ motivation will. ” 

    • #24
    • January 27, 2020, at 10:55 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  25. Full Size Tabby Member

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    PHenry (View Comment):

    Pony Convertible (View Comment):

    PHenry (View Comment):
    One woman complained that the kids upstairs ran in their hallway.

    I moved into a new home when my kids were preschool age. The first day in the house, while we were trying to get situated and the kids were outside riding their Big Wheels, we had a neighbor knock on the door. He wasn’t coming over to welcome us to the neighborhood. He came over to insist that we not let our kids play outside.

    What kind of a miserable scold does one have to be to hate seeing or hearing children have fun?

    It’s so rare to hear kids play outside these days, that I like hearing it when the neighbors have grandkids over playing in their big yards. Makes me feel a bit younger.

    I have known people who do not like to see or hear children playing on the sidewalk or running across the front or back yards. Our previous house was among several that backed onto a small creek. No fences. But the owner of one house was fanatical about his lawn, and all the children in the area knew to jump across the creek to go around his yard. 

    For our new house (we are recently retired) we intentionally chose a neighborhood with a high proportion of young families because we like seeing children propelling various scooters, bikes, etc. up and down the sidewalks. The neighborhood Facebook group does sometimes contain reminders that as a consequence we adults need to be careful about the speed with which we drive our cars through the neighborhood. [Being newly retired I can also enjoy watching their parents driving off to work while I sit on the front porch drinking my morning tea.]

    • #25
    • January 27, 2020, at 10:58 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  26. The Reticulator Member

    Full Size Tabby (View Comment):
    For our new house (we are recently retired) we intentionally chose a neighborhood with a high proportion of young families because we like seeing children propelling various scooters, bikes, etc. up and down the sidewalks.

    It’s not always easy to find a neighborhood that has sidewalks.

     

    • #26
    • January 27, 2020, at 11:21 AM PST
    • Like
  27. Tex929rr Coolidge
    Tex929rr

    Our younger firefighters all have kids now and it makes the department events way more enjoyable. The thing is, there are restrictive communities to which these old codgers could move. I wish they would.

    • #27
    • January 27, 2020, at 12:21 PM PST
    • Like
  28. Tex929rr Coolidge
    Tex929rr

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    Tex929rr (View Comment):
    One of them told us we should set up a web site where people could make anonymous complaints.

    You should have. They can submit the complaints, and work out their frustrations. When they hit submit, the form clears and they see a message on the screen that their complaint will be processed with all the gravity it is due.

    Of course, that is all the page does: Erase the complaint and sends the complainer a comforting message. That is all the gravity it is due. And whoever files the complaint cannot do anything further unless they are willing to forgo anonymity. When they do ask, inform them that anonymous complaints cannot be discussed publicly to preserve the privacy of whomever submitted it.

    That’s Machiavellian.

    • #28
    • January 27, 2020, at 12:23 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  29. Seawriter Member

    Tex929rr (View Comment):

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    Tex929rr (View Comment):
    One of them told us we should set up a web site where people could make anonymous complaints.

    You should have. They can submit the complaints, and work out their frustrations. When they hit submit, the form clears and they see a message on the screen that their complaint will be processed with all the gravity it is due.

    Of course, that is all the page does: Erase the complaint and sends the complainer a comforting message. That is all the gravity it is due. And whoever files the complaint cannot do anything further unless they are willing to forgo anonymity. When they do ask, inform them that anonymous complaints cannot be discussed publicly to preserve the privacy of whomever submitted it.

    That’s Machiavellian.

    But so much fun.

    • #29
    • January 27, 2020, at 12:33 PM PST
    • 1 like
  30. Full Size Tabby Member

    Tex929rr (View Comment):

    Our younger firefighters all have kids now and it makes the department events way more enjoyable. The thing is, there are restrictive communities to which these old codgers could move. I wish they would.

    I think if I disliked the noise of children I would recognize that I should move to a development that was for adults only. 

    Totally unrelated to the OP, but relevant to the active children, we had a funny episode at church a few weeks ago. A prayer vigil to pray for the community was scheduled with a nice contemplative environment in the chapel. But, the organizers forgot that for two hours in the afternoon the children’s activities would be going on directly above the chapel. And the children’s activities are noisy (the most common description was “a herd of elephants.”). The organizers were all concerned about the noise. But I pointed out that the noise was a reminder that part of the community for which we are praying is the children around town.

    • #30
    • January 27, 2020, at 1:22 PM PST
    • 5 likes