Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Inside the "Disney for Adults" That Could Help Deliver Florida to Donald Trump | Mother Jones

Inside the "Disney for Adults" That Could Help Deliver Florida to Donald Trump | Mother Jones:

"The largest retirement community in the United States is home to 49 golf courses, dozens of restaurants, a college, an app, and three movie theaters spread across three counties in an area larger than Manhattan. Since the first trailers popped up in cattle country an hour north of Orlando, Florida, four decades ago, the Villages has swelled to a population of more than 114,000 people; almost all are over the age of 55, white, and drive around the community in golf carts that can be outfitted to resemble taxis, fire trucks, or tanks. Residents refer to the place as "Disney for adults." In addition to being one of the most quintessentially Florida places on Earth, the Villages is one of the most Republican places in Florida. For years its politics were dominated by H. Gary Morse, the late conservative megadonor who built the community and helped send Marco Rubio to the Senate six years ago and Mitt Romney to the nomination in 2012. On Tuesday night, voters there will go a long way toward determining who comes away with the state's 99 delegates. Rubio, who spoke to an overflow crowd at a rec center here on Sunday, is staking his political future on a strong showing. But lately, everything is turning up Trump."


The Villages is a monster retirement community in Florida that has a number of HOAs within it, but they all operate under the ultimate power of a special district that is about as undemocratic as any jurisdiction can be. I did a paper on it last year that will be a book chapter soon. But the interesting angle in this article is that a recent straw poll indicates The Villages is overwhelmingly pro-Trump. If the general election vote in Florida is close, what happens in The Villages could tilt the election to Der Drumpenfuhrer. Why is it Trump Country? "In many respects, the villages is a kind of Donald Trump Fantasyland, a world devoid of Muslims or almost any people of color, where the golf is always free and America has always been great."


Deborah Goonan said...

The biggest problem with Special Districts in Florida (Community Development Districts) is the fact that the original landowners / developers are allowed to rule them as kings during the first 6-10 years. During that time, bonds can be issued and more land annexed, subsidized heavily by homeowners. If the development flops, homeowners that bought in early are stuck with massive bond debt to repay.

Other special districts in Florida, such as the Water Mangement Districts, are governed by boards, whose members are appointed by the Governor rather than elected by the people. Once Rick Scott became Governor, he slashed funding to the Water Management Districts and reduced the regulatory authroity and jurisdiction of those districts. They now have very little power to enforce environmental standards for water quality and to monitor water use permits.

Deborah Goonan said...

I just read your paper, Evan. Very informative. I did not realize the differences between Multi Function Special Districts in FL vs. CA.

This last paragragph sums it up nicely:

"All these entities—cities, counties, and special districts-- are creatures of the state legislature and state constitutions. We need to understand why some legislatures see so much value in government by special district instead of by municipality. We need to ask whether state and local government have arrived at a place where it is necessary to give developers their own local governments in order to build infrastructure. And if we are going to create what are, for all practical purposes, city governments in which people cannot vote to choose their own community leadership, then we need to ask whether it is possible to have cities without citizens."

I would argue that HOAs, especially large-scale HOAs with multiple smaller associations under the umbrella of a master HOA, operate in essentially the same way. In these HOAs, just as in Ave Maria, Celebration, and The Villages, there will never be a true turnover of the Association to the homeowners. And even if there were, there will never be One Person One Vote as long as HOAs remain corporate entities, unless the federal legislature or judiciary - or both - take proactive action to mandate One Person One Vote as applicable to both MFSDs and Association-Governed Residential Communities.

It should be noted that it appears the trend in HOA Land is to build large scale developments in phases, probably intentionally to ensure developer control in perpetuity.

I used to live in a large scale FL HOA, in a subdivision that was divided in half (just prior to the real estate crash) -- the other half is a CDD (with a POA overlay). The CDD and HOA are about as tranparent as a brick wall. Few, if any, owners and residents have a clue about the similarities and differences between the Master HOA side of the subdivision and the CDD side.

To make matters worse, it's a golf community. Just like hundreds of others in the state of Florida. These communities are ticking time bombs for financial insolvency.

And if you think that all of the cost to pick up the pieces will fall to the unfortuante owners, think again. The severe social and economic impact of these failures will undoubtedly require public intervention and taxpayer dollars. That's my 2 cents.

Excellent paper, Evan. I plan to share it.

Tom Skiba said...

I commend to you John Oliver's take on Special Districts on his HBO show a couple of weeks ago.