Covenants, conditions and restrictions of the Elected Ones

Yapping dogs. Cute babies. Obstinate retirees. I can better imagine the plight of a precinct-walking politician after a couple of hours spent this weekend as a solicitor in my neighborhood. I knocked on doors to chat with people and collect votes for our homeowners’ association.

For the most part, I enjoyed interrupting my neighbors’ busy lives on behalf of the Betterment of our Community. (At issue was the annexation of 59 new homes into our association, which can’t be done without the official homeownerly thumbs-up.) But if I had to spend every weekend knocking on doors until, like, November? Forget that.

This realization came Friday night. While many were enjoying happy hours at Silver Peak or Bully’s, I was on a dark street chasing an escapist black dog across neighboring lawns while a frightened preschooler cried.

“Shadow! SHAAAA-DOH!”

I had barely introduced myself to the friendly dog-owning mom when the furry canine whizzed out the door. Mom was unconcerned.

“He always comes back,” she said, as the dog zipped from bush to tree to sign, then behind a fence.

Her little girl was not so sure.

“Sha-DOW! SHAAA-DOHHH!” she screamed. I felt quite the home-wrecker. Though I couldn’t catch the dog, it was finally herded back home.

That night, I also crashed a rollicking baby shower, lobbied a wary naysaying homeowner through his window and was eyed suspiciously by kids whose parents weren’t home.

After one cold, windy hour on the streets, I’d procured six votes.

I was elected to our homeowners’ association board last year. It’s a lightweight gig for barely involved me, but others do a ton of work—like our treasurer, who’s turned her role into practically a full-time job and the dedicated volunteer who walks the ’hood with a clipboard ensuring our compliance with the association’s covenants, conditions and restrictions.

Board members are not paid. Our compensation comes from representing those who want to protect their property values by enforced subdivisional (subdivisive?) similitude—or, conversely, from being a voice for those who’d rather not see the neighborhood become a fascist regime where people are strung up in their cul de sacs for heinous infractions of the dreaded, mighty CC&Rs.

(Yes, it’s true. We did sign the CC&Rs when we bought our homes. But what choice, really, did we have other than buying a ranch in Palomino Valley? Funny paradox, isn’t it, that we freedom-loving Americans increasingly agree to live in communities where we can’t pick up a hammer without the approval of an architectural review committee.)

The past year has given me some insight into the realm of Elected Ones. It’s increasingly evident that most of us don’t know who runs our world and don’t care as long as everything’s generally OK. We are a busy bunch. It’s all we can do to pay our bills, keep track of our kids and wax our SUVs.

Of those who do care, a few won’t be pleased with the actions of the Elected Ones no matter what. Replaced all the dead trees and bushes in a stretch of landscaping? “Sure, but it took you guys long enough,” moan these armchair policy-makers. “What do you do with those dues we pay, anyway? I’m supposed to believe that it costs $45,000 a year to water the neighborhood’s ‘common areas’? And can’t you get a better deal on landscape maintenance?”

You get the idea.

To serve constituents well takes a special kind of person—intelligent enough to understand the issues, thick-skinned enough to deal with critics and savvy enough to smile when no one says thanks.

I’m thinking I prefer armchair policy-making, myself. It’s a lot easier.

And I don’t even have to deal with the media.