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Board of Directors tries to suppress freedom of speech in Shavano Ridge

Once again, the Shavano Ridge Board of Directors have attempted to drag our community one giant step closer to a totalitarian dictatorship by claiming that homeowners in Shavano Ridge have no right to exercise their first amendment rights to express themselves publicly. 

Most of you know that one of our residents, Lih-Lan Hu, is running for a position on the Shavano Ridge Board of Directors. Last Sunday and Monday, Lih-Lan distributed flyers throughout the neighborhood asking that residents consider her candidacy this Tuesday. The following day she received a notice from the management company by special courier stating that her flyer violates the neighborhood’s no soliciting policy as outlined in the By-laws and the CC&Rs. 

“…the protective covenants prohibit solicitation of any type within the subdivision.”  Shavano Ridge association manager  

An examination was made of both documents and no reference could be found in either that would substantiate this claim. The association manager was asked three times to point out where such information could be found in these documents, but she has not responded to these requests. A little further investigation reveled that our association manager’s claims were in direct opposition the United States Supreme Court rulings.

“…ordinances that prohibit door-to-door peddling or solicitation without distinguishing between commercial and noncommercial endeavors have been ruled unconstitutional when they prohibit religious or noncommercial door-to-door solicitation. The Court held that the ordinance violated the First Amendment as it applied to religious proselytizing, anonymous political speech, and the distribution of handbills.” Watchtower Bible & Tract Society of New York, Inc. v. Village of Stratton, 00-1737). U.S. Supreme Court, June 17, 2002

The definition of soliciting is simply the act of asking for something. It could be an opinion, the time of day, a favor, a thought, or some material possession. In this case, Lih-Lan asked that you consider her on election day. She did this in the most unobtrusive manner possible: leaving a flyer on the doorstep for homeowners to consider at their leisure. Campaigning for office is a practice dating back to the beginning of recorded time and a cherished tradition in this country. 

The Board of Directors, in an absolutely astounding display of perceived entitlement and duplicity, have been using the direct solicitation approach for 13 years. They went house to house, knocking on doors and asking for proxy ballots—they were soliciting. Evidently, the Board seems to believe this ban on soliciting only applies to homeowners who don’t support them. It is interesting to note, with this practice of collecting proxy ballots as pervasive as is has been in this community, that the association manager claims she has no knowledge of board members going door-to-door soliciting for proxy ballots. 

To the best of my knowledge, the Board of Directors or members of such have not been attempting to solicit to obtain proxies.” Shavano Ridge association manager 

Readers should judge for themselves, based on their own experience, whether that statement suggests a serious lapse of honesty and integrity exists within the Shavano Ridge management structure. 

What is really at issue here is not the act of soliciting, but the act of publicly expressing any opinion that is not shared by the Board of Directors. In the past, when homeowners have expressed opposing views, the Board of Directors have often dismissed those views as, “trash.” Differences of opinion threaten them and they are now trying to eliminate your ability to hear any opinion but their own. 

They have been very unhappy with homeowners who choose to express their discontent with Board policies by publishing their own newsletter when they were denied access to the neighborhood newsletter, “Out on the Ridge.” It appears , this publication is reserved for “Board approved” information only. 

What these homeowners are doing is following in the footsteps of American revolutionary Thomas Paine, who, with his numerous political pamphlets, waged a war of words against America’s oppressors establishing the tradition of written political discourse in this country—a tradition the British tried to stamp out in the colonies just as the Board of Directors are trying to stamp out in Shavano Ridge. 

These questionable levels of honesty and integrity and the flagrant disregard for the views of other residents, as well as the ideals established by the Constitution of this country, should have many Shavano Ridge residents wondering whether it is not long past time we made a change this election day.

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