Do The Right Thing
by Tommy Britt
From time to time I look at the issues we get involved in and wonder why anyone would subject themselves to this kind of work. I commonly tell acquaintances, if you want to be the most unpopular and popular person at the same time, volunteer for a deed compliance committee. I occasionally whine about this just to keep an even keel. I chose it. I volunteered for it. Heck, I even begged for it. Someone with letters behind their name could have a field day analyzing the psychosis that causes this.
The reason for this whine was quite unintentional. I was doing some deed restriction related internet surfing the other day and found a posting from several years ago from a neighbor who was running for an open seat on the DRCC. In essence, the sales pitch for why this person should be on the committee was our deed restrictions were a toothless tiger and with some few exceptions, we couldn’t enforce the document. Our candidate then got down in some tall legal weeds and started quoting Supreme Court cases and property rights word salad to the point that my eyes crossed and I lost my ability to focus. In the end the implication was that the document needed to be amended taking out about 80% of the provisions we are responsible for. In other words my neighbor was running for an office he wanted to essentially make obsolete. I know there is ample evidence that I can be simple minded from time to time, but to be honest, that argument never registered with me.
Except for the part about our erstwhile candidate being wrong about the document being a toothless tiger, I don’t doubt my neighbor’s sincerity. Nor do I deny the validity of the property rights word salad he tortured me with. I believe he believes all those things and does so with no malice. Good for him, but what my neighbor forgot to mention in his perfectly cubed world, was the human element; the innate desire that the vast majority of us are hardwired to want to do the right thing. It’s an intangible thing to be sure, but it exists. Granted, the DRCC doesn’t have a huge bank account nor a stable of lawyers to descend on violators with reams of legal paperwork forcing compliance but we do have the power of personal persuasion. We also have the ability to place liens of non-compliant properties. Occasionally we are able to use the City of Houston’s persuasive powers to get compliance.
To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure how I feel about having a super powerful deed compliance committee with stables of lawyers. When we have a property owner who insists that a magic current is drawn around their property and what they do is no one’s business, my first instinct is to desire the ability to call up a junk yard mean lawyer and bury them in paper work. They are want to live in a crowded urban area and live under the fantasy that what they do does not matter. I’m comforted by the idea that an overwhelming majority of property owners don’t agree with that notion.
And then there are the nice people who call one of the members of the DRCC after getting a letter pointing out a problem and work on resolving that issue without threatening letters. Usually the conversation ends with: “Thanks for pointing this out. I had no idea.” And just for the record, those folks are in the 98 percentile.
Why do they do that? Simple. They want to do the right thing. People don’t obey traffic laws because they are afraid of the police. Granted, there is always the threat of getting a ticket but the reason the vast majority obey traffic laws is they want to do the right thing. Sometime you have to point it out to them officially but voluntary compliance is the grease that makes the engine run.
So it goes with the DRCC. I occasionally obsess about the 2% and then I look at the ledger and realize that 98% just want to do the right thing.
Gosh, writing these articles is so therapeutic.