A few (modest) words in (guarded) support of Homeowners Associations...well, mine, anyway:
We live in a nice subdivision on the Northwest side; it's a little bit older than some, but it's still nice. No violence, no graffiti, no loud parties. The neighbors are friendly, but not overly so. It's the kind of place that people from other parts of town bring their kids to on Halloween night for trick or treating. And, with very few exceptions, I'm happy with our HOA. They do house decorating contests during the holidays and they keep the pool and park in good shape. You hardly ever see a house with runaway weeds in the front yard and people keep up the structure and appearance of their houses, walls, and fences. It's nice when everybody understands the concept of property values.
One thing that does drive me crazy about our neighborhood is that occasionally we'll get somebody from the extended Clampett family who moves in and thinks that it's OK to park a vehicle on the front yard. (It's expressly forbidden by the HOA and is also severely frowned upon by anybody who can do their twosies or beyond on the multiplication table without having to remove their shoes.) Every house in our subdivision has a two-car garage and two spaces in the driveway. That should be sufficient. But every now and then we get somebody who moves in, fills their garage with junk, and then parks on their yard, making a pleasant neighborhood look all ghetto.
Not long ago, a new family moved in down the street, next door to a friend of mine who is a retired captain with the Tucson Fire Department. The new family immediately started parking multiple cars on the front yard. My friend told the new people that it was against HOA rules (not to mention being a b-word move). The new guy's response? "Yeah, but they're Lexuses."
The thing is, you hardly ever hear anything positive about HOAs, although I would guess that the majority of the people who serve on them do so for the right reasons. It is human nature to complain and that's why what we mostly hear about HOAs are horror stories, like the one last week about the HOA that wanted to charge a woman $500 to make sure that the solar panels that were being installed by solar-panel professionals were being...you know, professionally installed.
That's just a case of when you give somebody a little power (rules-type, not solar), they run with it. It's like Hall Monitor Syndrome. I've just never understood why people with power can't just use that power in the manner in which it was intended to do the job that they're supposed to do (and then feel good that they did things the right way). Is that so hard?
Which brings me to the idea floating around City Hall, the one to have individual neighborhoods form self-taxing entities to pay for the installation of HAWK crosswalks and/or pay for maintenance on streets and sidewalks. I think that the question that should pop to everybody's mind is "Why should they have to?"
That's the City Council's job. It may sound boring and mundane, but the Council's job is to provide public safety (police and fire), build and maintain roads and streets, and maybe throw in a park or two. But people get elected to governing bodies and they want to do all kinds of crazy stuff. Unfortunately, the crazy stuff often takes time, energy, focus, and (most importantly) money away from the basic necessities.
Council members complain that the HAWK systems cost six figures to install and maintain. Then prioritize. You've got all the traffic data in the world. Put it to use. Then make the hard decisions.
Can you imagine if this idea were to catch on? Well, our square-mile quadrant has a few more people with well-paying jobs that allow us to eat broccoli florets, so we're willing to fork over a few extra bucks to see that our sheriff's deputies all look like Captain America. The poor broccoli cutlet-eating people a couple subdivisions over can have the Steve Rogerses from before the treatment.
It's no secret that money buys special privileges. Why do you think that Snyder Road will never go through? People with bucks don't care if you have to make a 30-minute detour to get to the far northeast side. They can put gates and walls around their neighborhoods and hire special security to keep the riffraff out. That's actually OK, but this self-taxing entity idea is vulgar.
If the city doesn't take in enough money to cover all the basic necessities, the council members should do what they can with what they have and then take their case to the people—to ALL the people—that they need more money to make their community the place everybody wants it to be. There are always going to be naysayers who think that "no new taxes" is a mantra to live by. But most people will do the right thing if they know that their money is going to be spent the right way.
I'm sure that for some Council members, that concept isn't sexy. But, do you know what's really not sexy? Having somebody else do your job for you. ■