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Behind HOA 'Irony' Gates
Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Neatly ordered living in a cage of wrought irony
All across the city’s northern tier there dwells a strange tribe – they’re variously called conservatives, Republican or just plain rich people – whose members oppose big government, heavy taxes and socialistic infringements on property rights.  But then, what do they turn around and do?  They move into hotsy-totsy enclaves and set up their own extra governments with their own extra taxes and their own extra limits on property rights.

San Antonio Express-News
Neatly ordered living in a cage of wrought irony

Let’s see if I have this right:

All across the city’s northern tier there dwells a strange tribe – they’re variously called conservatives, Republican or just plain rich people – whose members oppose big government, heavy taxes and socialistic infringements on property rights.

But then, what do they turn around and do?

They move into hotsy-totsy enclaves and set up their own extra governments with their own extra taxes and their own extra limits on property rights.

The governments, taxes and petty interference the rest of us live with aren’t enough for these folks.  They want more, more, more. 

They’re greedy, if you ask me. 

Consider, for example, the case of Janet Ahmad, who posted signs in the front yard of her new $212,000 house to air a grievance with her builder, Booth & Booth Ltd, alias Prestige Homes. 

In most neighborhoods, people have a right to freedom of speech and of the press, even if the press is just a hand-painted yard sign. 

But Ahmad’s house is located in the autonomous gated garrison of Bluffview Greens, which has a mandatory homeowners association to defend the battlements and maintain a suitable level of hotsy–totsiness.

The Bluffview Greens deed restrictions make the yard signs a no-no, so Booth & Booth took her and husband Mohammad Ahmad to district court last week and won a temporary injunction against further infraction of the subdivision’s niceness code.

I’ve been crusading against gated subdivision for years but I’ve been guilty of paying too little attention to the mandatory associations and deed restrictions that are even more pervasive on the far North Side.

There are deed restrictions that tell you what colors and materials you may use on you house, how big it has to be, how much you have to pay for it and what you can use your property for.

The rules tend to be more narrowly drawn and less flexibly applied than the city’s zoning code, or even the special rules governing historic districts.  Many subdivisions’ deed restrictions even forbid the benign weekend tradition of garage sales.

The North Siders may espouse the virtues of free enterprise with their lips, but in their hearts they’re thinking, “Eek! Capitalism! The sky is falling, the sky is falling!”

The subdivisions with walls and gates tend to have the most draconian rules and the most burdensome taxes, which are politely called “fees.”

The resident of these enclaves grouse about spending a few pennies in city tax dollars for “frills” such as public art, but they willingly pay hundreds of dollars a year to maintain their own frills – their status gates, their Prestige walls, their liveried footmen (also called “security guards”), their member-only amenities.

The unifying thread in the gates and deed restrictions is a pathological pursuit of order, at all costs.  Everything has to be just so.  Everything has to be nice.

A hand-painted protest sign in a front yard risks smudging the subdivision’s gloss of niceness.

Allow that first crack in the social order, and next thing you know, kids from a mile away will storm the gates and start selling Girl Scout cookies door to door.

Of course, the Ahmad’s chose to live where they do.  It’s fair to suppose that they, like their neighbors, desired the luxury of paying more for less freedom.

N
obody forced them to move there.  They could have chosen to live somewhere else.   Such as, for example, the United States of America.

Mick Greenberg, San Antonio Express-News
October 22, 1997
 
 
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Reckless Endangerment
BY: GRETCHEN MORGENSON
and JOSHUA ROSNER

Outsized Ambition, Greed and
Corruption Led to
Economic Armageddon


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