February 20, 2023:
What the upcoming ballot measures really mean; don’t be fooled.
They mean LESS RIGHTS FOR YOU.
This report is lifted from the February 15, 2023 Board Meeting Highlights. On February 16, 2023, the day after my highlights were published, Jeff, the HOA president, wrote an email to eleven people stating that he and they needed “to offset the shit Vicki put out…We need to negate her somehow.”
Putting aside that despicable email unbefitting of anyone in authority who has a fiduciary duty to all members, it’s clear that he and they are concerned that they are losing the narrative on this one. The real reason is that he and they simply do not possess the more cogent arguments. He espouses the position that when all else fails, shoot the messenger.
Some members of the Board are conducting a Town Hall meeting on Wednesday, February 22, 2023, using incorrect information to sway you to vote for these poorly written ballot questions. Believe them at your own peril.
Here are the true facts and supporting evidence. The texts of the proposed amendments say what they say: they take away the members’ rights to assemble and make changes on their own (to override the Board). It’s that simple. If you vote for this, you are ceding your rights to the whims of the Board. Who in their right mind would knowingly do that?
“Voting Threshold: Dangerous Dilutions of Your Voice and Your Money,” and
“Sneaky Mailbox Maneuver: Don’t Be Fooled”
Part I. Voting Threshold: Dangerous Dilutions of Your Voice and Your Money
This is another community vote and it is a bundled and bungled mess asking you to vote for multiple issues on one item and then for the HOA to illegally seize your mailboxes for the other item. It’s an abomination. It is misleading, throwing in a carrot to you that you already have, and is a despicable display of manipulation. NO and NO.
The “Ballot Explanation” that is included with the ballot is manipulative and political; the third sentence urges passage when it should be neutral. It states, “The goal of this vote is to give the community more power in approving spending for alterations/ modifications/ improvements to common areas.” That’s not true and I will prove it to you below.
It also states that it comes from “Cascade Lakes Board of Directors” when in fact at least two board members never saw it in advance or had any opportunity whatsoever to give their input about it, and Arthur certainly never agreed to any of it. (They just pretend he’s not on the board and in fact rarely even respond to his emails.)
Pat: “This is to give the community residents more control over how we spend money…”
That’s not true either. Arthur proved it in the Board meeting and none of them understood what he was talking about and didn’t care. Here is the explanation:
The ballot question is essentially being presented thusly: Should the community voting threshold to impose a potentially costly amenity (such as clubhouse refresh, mailboxes, pickleball hardcourts), be reduced from the current 75% of the majority voting interests to 66 2/3%?
But is that really what the text of it says? DANGER: the way they wrote this disaster of a ballot initiative, it actually takes away the members’ right to assemble a quorum and bring something to a community vote on the members’ own initiative.
It states that combined amenity changes “as determined by the Board shall be combined as a single alteration, improvement or modification for the purpose of determining whether a vote of the Members is necessary.” That’s a direct quote from the text of the proposed amendment. Note the phrase “as determined by the Board.” So they get to decide, not you.
This gives the Board even more power over you and prevents you from deciding on changes on your own via a quorum which is your current right under the statute. It gives the Board control over whether or not something will be put to a vote, a right you currently have but won’t if this passes.
This clearly appears to have been orchestrated by the Gang of Five to wrest even more control over you and the decisions that you otherwise would have the right to make. This is nasty.
The statute 720.306 (1)(a) gives you the right to assemble and decide on changes yourselves “unless otherwise provided…in the [HOA’s] articles of incorporation or bylaws,” and this ballot measure does just that, it says, “as determined by the Board…for purposes of determining whether a vote of the Members is necessary.”
This changes the HOA’s Declaration which always supersedes both the Articles and the Bylaws if there is a conflict. It takes away your rights and it literally gives your rights to the four members of the Board who compromise a majority. And that’s outrageous.
Arthur: “All the changes should each be a stand alone vote. By putting them all together to sweeten the deal [is manipulative]. Section E, Exhibit A talks about the discretion of the board. This takes away the members’ rights by leaving it up to the Board. The community has the right. Before, they had this [right], and you took it out. So you took away their rights.”
Clearly none of them understood what he was saying and didn’t care. So for this reason alone, it’s a hard NO. Protect your rights; don’t give them away. Now on to the rest of it.
What about the items this ballot question is bundled with? Why are apples and oranges lumped together, forcing you to vote for an “all or none” plank of issues?
Let’s go over the first issue: reducing the threshold on community votes:
This was attempted back on March 14, 2019. The community voted on this exact issue and overwhelmingly defeated it. At that time, according to the official Minutes which I pulled off the HOA website, 420 households voted, 190 said yes, 230 said no.
It only garnered 45.2% of the total. The majority of the households rejected it then and should again reject it now. Nothing has changed. The arguments are the same. If most of you voted it down then, and for good reason, why should you change your vote now? I have not heard a compelling reason, and I have asked.
This part of the ballot, if you vote for, actually means more power consolidated in fewer hands, and that’s never a good thing. Do you want fewer people determining whether or not the HOA will be dipping into your bank account?
Most Board members are pushing the community to vote to reduce the threshold. They are using their bully pulpit to campaign for one side of this issue. That is highly inappropriate. It also suggests that their position cannot stand on its own, cannot withstand simple scrutiny, and needs help to resuscitate it.
In the Fall 2022 News & Views, the official HOA magazine, even the property manager weighs in and pushes for the lower threshold. Again, this is highly inappropriate. The property manager represents all members, not just the ones who want the lower threshold, and should remain neutral on all community matters.
This is a political issue which is dependent on the votes of the members only, and not the Board, and not the property manager. The Board and the property manager have no business campaigning for one side of this issue when they are obliged to represent all members equally. To campaign for one position on this hotly debated issue is unethical in my opinion and shows weakness of the position.
In any event, this vote should be rejected because it places more power in the hands of an even smaller number of people. I will now explain how dangerous this proposition is, just like it was a mere four years ago when most of you voted it down at that time.
Please note that to change the governing documents, only 66 2/3% is required right now. To change or add an amenity, 75% is required. There is a difference. So this vote, if it gets 66 2/3% approval, will effectively change the amenity requirement from 75% to 66 2/3% for a future vote to change or add an amenity.
For any community vote to be effective, a majority of the households need to vote; that minimum number is 301 because there are 600 houses. Let’s say 301 houses vote. Right now, at 75% to change or add an amenity, that would be 225.75 houses that would have to vote in favor of changing or adding the amenity. If the percentage were reduced to 66 2/3, then only 200.66 homes would be needed.
At the lower threshold, this means that of the 600 houses, only 200.66 would be able to make these huge decisions that 2/3 of the community would be bound by. Said differently, approximately 200 of 600 is one third of the homes and that is all that would be needed to incur significant assessments to you personally for their pet projects.
If the percentage stays at 75%, then 225.75 houses would control your pocketbooks, and that is 37.625% of the homes controlling your purse strings.
It’s never a good thing to have less people in control of what will be taken from your bank account as opposed to more. More people required to agree means it’s harder for them to impose special assessments, and that’s good thing.
Lowering the threshold also means that the people who use and abuse the common area to harass and intimidate others will have more amenities in which to do so and you’re footing the bill. How does that sound to you?
The argument in favor of reducing the percentage is that without it, no upgrades will ever happen here. That’s not a convincing argument because there already is a precedent of the vote having been around 90% for the last clubhouse refresh which was done less than 10 years ago from what I’ve been told.
If it was doable then, it’s doable again. If something is really desirable to have, it will get the votes it needs.
For example, while there is great divide as to whether or not the clubhouse needs a refresh or the fitness center needs upgrading, whatever that means, it’s hard to argue that pickleball hard courts would not be beneficial for the community.
Pickleball hard courts is an important investment in the future of this community and should receive overwhelming support, even from nonplayers.
That should be a stand-alone issue which I will happily market. When this issue becomes ripe, I will go into detail as to why it is important to have this amenity. But it doesn’t change the dynamics or the math on the issue of the voting threshold.
So while it is important to vote down the reduction for the reasons stated herein, it is important to remember that when it comes to pickleball hardcourts, the HOA members should support this upgrade with enthusiasm and vigor as it is an extremely important investment.
The key to getting this particular upgrade is to market it properly, not to compromise other issues for this one issue. Keep the threshold where it is, at 75%, and then properly market the benefits of hard courts and the community will respond favorably. But don’t compromise other issues by putting your wallet in the hands of even fewer people.
And as far as the other common areas are concerned, such as the area in and around the clubhouse, some loud and aggressive residents use the common area to bully, harass, and intimidate people who don’t agree with them.
These loud bullies then make demands upon residents as to with whom residents can and cannot socialize under threat of ex-communication and further harassment. I respectfully suggest that until this behavior ceases, you should not subsidize it with your money. This behavior should not be rewarded with upgraded amenities that they enjoy at your expense.
But the bottom line is that the people pushing for this lower threshold want to make changes that the majority of the people don’t want. That’s what this is about.
Do you want 1/3 of the community forcing a special assessment on you? Or would you prefer that a greater percentage of people decide whether or not an assessment is going to be imposed? Doesn’t that sound fairer?
If you vote to lower the percentage to 66 2/3%, you are inviting a small minority of people to decide to impose a special assessment on you for something you don’t want and may never use, or for whatever reason, you don’t believe it enhances the value of your home which you’re not selling any time soon anyway.
Therefore, in the strongest terms, I urge you to vote NO; do not reduce the threshold from 75% to 66 2/3% because it is diluting your voice and it is allowing a smaller percent of the community to decide how much you have to dig into your wallet and your savings to subsidize what they want. It consolidates power in few people.
The rest of this part of this ballot question should not be lumped together with this issue because they are separate and unrelated, but it is lumped together. Lumping issues together is another reason this is a hard NO on this question. It is also in my opinion an inappropriate attempt to manipulate the membership and I will briefly explain why.
This includes the question of reducing the board’s spending ability to a lower percentage of the budget but more importantly asks you to agree that there can be no elimination of amenities without your vote.
That sounds fair, right? Well, guess what: it’s already in the Covenants, Article VII, Section E. It says that the common areas may not be “altered, modified or improved…” without your vote except for those items under the Board’s spending threshold.
Some people are saying that it doesn’t say they can’t “eliminate” an amenity and that’s why they want you to vote for this and they’ve included it to sweeten the pot on what they really want. Nonsense. Eliminating an amenity would obviously alter it. It would alter it into nonexistence.
So to further fool, deceive, and manipulate you, they’re including something you like but already have. So adding it to “sweeten” the deal on the 75-66 2/3 issue is really dishonest in my opinion. Don’t be fooled by this blatant manipulation.
If they were really concerned about your opinion, they would have split up all these separate issues for separate determination and not included something you already have, to wit, the ability to decide as a community before any amenity is eliminated. Don’t be fooled.
However, the most ominous part of this ballot initiative, as I said in the beginning, and as Arthur stated in the board meeting, is that it takes away your right to lawfully assemble and vote on an amenity and gives that exclusive right to a majority on the Board. This is an egregious power grab and it’s despicable.
Part II. Sneaky Mailbox Maneuver: Don’t Be Fooled
This is really sneaky. If the HOA takes ownership of the mailboxes, then the Board gets to decide on replacing them because then it’s considered “repair and maintenance.” They may then assess at least $330 per unit just for the mailboxes to pay for new mailboxes you don’t want. The $330 was quoted back in late 2019 when this issue was raised.
Any argument from certain Board members telling you that this will not result in a special assessment when they go to buy new mailboxes is, in my opinion, completely dishonest. Factor in the inflation and general rise in the cost of goods, and you better break into your piggybanks for this one.
This is why the Long-Range Planning Committee Chairperson specifically stated that the assessment he was referring to at the recent town halls did not include mailboxes.
They will claim that the mailboxes can’t be “repaired or replaced” and new ones have to be ordered and that is where the assessment comes in. They will claim it’s not an upgrade, but a replacement which is a Board decision, not a community vote, hence an assessment.
But that’s not all this dangerous ballot statement says. It says:
“The forgoing notwithstanding, each Owner shall be responsible for the daily routine cleaning and upkeep of the mailbox servicing their Lot.”
This new proposal, while it gives your mailbox to the community in terms of ownership, still specifically requires you to maintain your mailbox, so under this ballot measure, if you approve it, you are personally obliged to maintain community property, i.e., property that you no longer own! Now you’re an indentured servant to the HOA to clean their property.
And if you don’t maintain this common property (the HOA’s mailbox attached to your specific lot number) to the overlords’ satisfaction, they can issue a violation notice to you, fine you, and suspend you from common areas. That’s the insanity of this ballot measure.
Arthur tried to point this out. Harvey repeatedly interrupted Arthur. Jeff failed to control the meeting.
Arthur: “Don’t interrupt me. You cannot take personal property away and you cannot force a member to clean common area. It is misleading to say it will not increase the maintenance fees, because the community is taking on an obligation.”
Jeff: “You don’t have to clean your mailboxes. It’s not about taking over the mailboxes.”
That’s blatantly not true. The text of the proposal says you do have to clean them (see above for the actual text). And if you don’t clean it, that violation notice will find its way into the HOA’s mailbox located in front of your Lot with your house number on it. And it is directly about taking over the mailboxes.
This is an example of a Board member lying to you. And if he’s not lying to you, then he’s confused at best. And he’s the gang leader of the Gang of Five.
Arthur: “You don’t have to take over mailboxes. Just say it in the By Laws that the community will do it.”
There was some silly back and forth.
Richard: “I’d like to call the question.” Another member of the Gang of Five reverted to Robert’s Rules, which they specifically outlawed and replaced with Pat’s Rules of Order.
At that point, there was loud clapping.
Vicki: “Stop clapping. Jeff, control your crowd.” And believe me, it is his “crowd” of about a dozen people at best. At that point both Jeff and Harvey woke up and told them not to clap.
The motion was passed 6-1 (Arthur opposed). You will be getting this ballot in the mail shortly. For the rest of the argument against this (you’ll be paying for your neighbor’s failure to upkeep through your increased maintenance dues and it’s completely contrary to federal postal regulations, among the main reasons), see my dedicated Mailboxes page.
I strongly urge you to vote NO and NO and not let the Gang of Five and their minions exercise even more dominion and control over your assets while you clean them for the HOA.
Vote wisely. Thank you.
Your faithful scribe, Vicki Roberts