Not A Poll, But An Opinion

By Jan Bergemann

Published December 13, 2004


"Survey" is just the fancy word for opinion poll, but if you already pre-select the people you want to respond to your survey, you automatically destroy the credibility of any honest result you try to get. Just remember the fancy survey of the Community Association Institute that was supposed to prove that Americans are happy with their associations? It turned out to be a farce, after we found out who had been selected to answer the poll.


Just an example about the credibility of statistics, if using a pre-selected group of people:
I live in a homeowners' association with about 280 homes. Now, depending on the result of the survey I would like to see, I just pre-select 80 owners and ask: "Are you happy with association living?" Most likely about 97% will answer: "YES!" -- if I've selected the right owners.
Then I send my survey to about 80 different neighbors and 98% will answer: "Will never move into another association again!" Any more questions?


So much for the value of statistics, if using pre-selected respondents. And using a fancy and expensive firm to conduct the survey definitely doesn't improve the overall result!

You can see the full result of the CALL (Community Association Leadership Lobby) by clicking the link below!


But the real fun parts were actually the conclusions of Donna Berger, an attorney in the law firm of Becker & Poliakoff and the mouthpiece of CALL.


It started out with the amazing statement that the survey showed that a lot more people than anticipated live in their condos year-round and never rented out their homes. Ms. Berger, please look at the group of people you contacted? And if that would really be the case, why should we amend our deed restrictions and disallow rentals? Just to annoy a tiny minority?


And on a little side-note: At the time you sent out the survey the snowbirds -- and we have plenty in our condo associations -- were not here yet. They are called snowbirds, because they only migrate to Florida in winter, and surely they are not in the habit of answering your surveys from up North. Have you ever realized that there are whole associations nearly empty over the summer months?


Then comes the big conclusion that over 90% are in support of strict enforcement of the rules. There has never been an argument! The main problems are selective enforcement, making up rules as boards go along and the number of abusive lawsuits, pushed by attorneys who will always get paid -- Win or Lose!


We hope that the creation of the Ombudsman's Office will bring back common sense in our communities and avoid these lawsuits that split up whole communities, make enemies out of neighbors and use up a lot of dues that would be better used for maintenance and beautification. Education by an unbiased source will surely help people to get a much better understanding of the whole situation.


And we're back at the old discussion that goes on over years: Let's make it very clear: Nobody should claim that they represent people who don't even know them. We have never claimed to represent all homeowners or condo-owners. We represent the people who are members of our organization or the groups we form alliances with -- and every owner willing to join the cause to help us finally enact consumer-friendly association laws.


Unlike the CAI and CALL, who claim to represent whole groups of people.  Funny, most of these people don't even know what CAI and CALL stand for. If CALL should ever become an organization run by owners, financed by owners and actually representing interests of the owners, then I will gladly say there are two organizations in Florida representing owners' interests. But as long as an organization is financed by an attorney firm, represents the interests of this attorney firm and has an attorney as spokesperson, I don't even consider that idea. And not even the most fancy, but flawed survey will change my mind!


CALL and CAI should be busy doing damage control. Their reputation has suffered and recent actions and statements sure haven't helped. Remember the big victory the Community Association Institute claimed when they convinced Governor Schwarzenegger to veto the foreclosure bill AB 2598? In Berger's e-mail praising the survey she talked about this achievement (quote): "Thankfully, more rational thinking prevailed and the California initiative was defeated." Three days later the CEO of CAI had to come up with explanations to justify the foreclosure of a home of a handicapped person for $123 in unpaid dues!
See my opinion at: http://www.ccfj.net/CAIPresrel.htm

Rational thinking? Please note that the foreclosure-protection bill AB 2598 found nearly unanimous approval by the California House and Senate. I guess these legislators are all irrational, considering Donna Berger's logic?


And sure, CALL has successes. They need some! Lots of money is being pumped into this PR machine! But it's done with profit in mind -- profits squeezed out of homeowners and condo-owners.  CALL isnít spending the money and using their resources out of the goodness of their hearts, they're doing it for profit! And everybody who thinks otherwise should take a closer look.


So let's stop the name-calling. We are not "disgruntled," "dissidents" or even worse! We are fighting for our right to have a nice home surrounded by a peaceful community. Isnít that something worth fighting for?


Attorneys should keep doing what they are supposed to do: Giving clients the legal representation they rightfully deserve -- for the huge amounts of money they are being charged! Attorneys shouldn't be the mouthpieces for people who don't even know them and have definitely no interest being presented by them!

Always remember: It's easy to criticize other people's proposals and call them irrational. But it's a lot more difficult to come up with feasible proposals to make things work! 


Don't forget:  Nearly all of the association laws of Florida were written by attorneys, who are members of the Community Association Institute. These same attorneys reap the benefits of the statutes and their total lack of easy enforceability.


It's time that we finally create statutes that guarantee the welfare of our citizens and not the welfare of some specialized attorneys!


Don't get me wrong.  Attorneys are necessary and are helpful in many aspects of life, especially if they are honest and ethical -- but they shouldn't be the only beneficiaries of the laws regulating our associations. 


Maybe I'm wrong? Then I would suggest that we rename our communities and call them LAWYERS' ASSOCIATIONS. Then every buyer would know what he/she is up against when signing on the dotted line?


We need more reforms with imperative easy enforcement! That is our GOAL!