Civic Leaders

-- or More Community Associations Institute?


An Opinion By Jan Bergemann
Published May 25, 2005


As usual, the Community Associations Institute is looking to improve its image by using so-called civic leaders to come to the rescue of a battered reputation. As we could read in Monday's article in the Sun Sentinel headlined "Homeowner leaders fight consumer group on home, condo owner laws", they are now asking their faithful board members to carry the flag and try to influence the legislators, who finally realize what the CAI really is -- A trade organization claiming to represent homeowners' interest!


This has happened all over the nation and is nothing new. From California to Florida the Community Associations Institute is trying to create organizations claiming to represent the interests of the owners, which is actually far from the truth. The owners normally don't even know these people who claim to represent them. 


For many years the Community Associations Institute -- actually a trade organization of service providers profiting from these associations -- claims to represent the interest of associations and owners.  But now starts the real problem. These self-appointed civic leaders are claiming to represent the same owners the CAI is already claiming to represent. The explanation is really easy: They count the same associations!  Add CALL -- Community Association Leadership Lobby -- a lobbying tool created by the law firm of Becker & Poliakoff. They are claiming to represent the same people as well.  Gee, these people are really well represented -- and most of them don't even know it!  The reason for this confusing concept?  Behind the scenes we find all the same people, just wearing a different dress -- or name?


The explanation is real easy: All of them are counting the same associations and owners, totally forgetting that you can only represent somebody who asked you to do so. In this case, most of the people counted in for support of their claims don't even know these organizations exist.


Let's take a closer look: Named so far are Robert Schulbaum, ALLIANCE OF DELRAY RESIDENTIAL ASSOCIATIONS, and Richard Spears.


Robert Schulbaum is a well-known CAI supporter, who should first look out for the welfare of the people he is claiming to represent. Associations and owners in his area have more problems than a homeless dog has fleas. He should be interested in serious reforms, if he really wants to be a civic leader. His quote: "Cyber Citizens activists unfairly characterize association leaders as tyrants" is taking our claim out of contents. Yes, there are some tyrants -- and some seem to be in his district! And instead of him telling people "to move if they don't like it" -- the old industry slogan -- we feel that there should be restrictions and enforcement to avoid owners suffering from these tyrants. 


I think enough has been said already about Richard Spears and OCHA. Richard Spears has been a long-time CAI executive and his operating methods have been more than dubious.

Just read the articles: An Industry Side-Kick?  What is OCHA?  and Another OCHA letter?


Some just suspect that Spears wants revenge for not getting his greatest wish of the last session, re-establishing again liens and foreclosures to Florida Statutes 720. According to the Tallahassee rumor mill Richard Spears was the one calling in some chips and pushing the infamous sentence:
"A fine shall not become a lien against a parcel unless it is imposed for violations of use restrictions on the land."

See article: HB 1593 Puts Florida Back Into The Middle Ages


Even if he is a member of the Florida Commission on Ethics, Spears obviously still loves kangaroo courts -- and has fun kicking families out of their homes for small amounts of unpaid dues.


Spearsí claims to represent the interests of the homeowners are in my opinion a little farfetched -- with a record like this!


CCFJ, Inc. is a grassroots organization trying to reform association law and create safeguards for the owners.  We are fighting for full disclosure before purchase, better education of board members and owners, easier enforcement of the governing rules and laws, easier-to-understand governing documents and accountability of the people in charge. Too much to ask for?


Somebody willing to fight these goals has a hard time to state that he/she is a civic leader. A civic leader protects the welfare of the people and would not fight consumer-friendly organizations.


As long as all of these "civic leaders" and the lobbying groups and trade organizations are unwilling to come up with their own suggestions, any further discussion is useless. So far, they have been fighting any proposal made without having suggestions of their own to remedy the many problems that exist.  


Real civic leaders should be at the forefront of the fight for consumer-friendly reforms -- not blowing the horn of the service providers.