Aa Call for Honest Intellectual Debate, & We’ll Rue the day we ignored The CAMPAIGN!

A Call for (more than one) Honest Intellectual Debate,
&
‘Yes, we’ll surely rue the day we ignored The CAMPAIGN!’

I.

In the least likely of places, I found a quote that, in my mind, describes the current state of affairs at both the top level of manufactured housing advocacy, lobbying, and leadership in Washington, DC; and, among landlease (nee manufactured home) community owners nationwide. Here’re the first two paragraphs from a book review, penned by Bruce Edward Walker, describing economist Thomas Sowell’s book Intellectuals and Society…

“Arguments about ideas are the bread and butter of the academic, journalism and think tank worlds. That is as it should be. Honest intellectual debate benefits any society where its practice is allowed. The key element is honesty.”

“Today, someone is always looking to take out the fastest gun, and in the battles over the hearts and minds of the public, many weapons are brought to bear. Unfortunately, and too often, among the artillery deployed by both sides in an argument are rhetorical deception, misleading statistics, and an air of authority, which can immediately bury facts in the Boot Hill of honest debate.” *1

Well, there you have it; the absence of honest intellectual debate, almost anywhere – anytime, characterizes HUD Code manufactured housing as a whole. Yes, 100+/- of us convene thrice yearly, to ruminate one business perspective, relative to challenges affecting our industry; we do so almost always, without any input from ‘the opposing side’ within our HUD Code family; but often with input from federal regulators. This absence of honest intellectual debate needs to end, if we hope to break free of the severe business malaise gripping us today! And frankly, this ain’t gonna happen when a few executive committee types, oft steeped in ‘political correctness’, from both sides of the industry caucus; unless, they’re charismatic, successful (in their own right) businessmen or women leaders who can debate to amenable resolution, then rally optimism and support to move everyone up and out of today’s ‘dead’ business environment. Such honest intellectual debate hasn’t occurred to date!

This absence of honest intellectual debate ‘hit home’ again, this past week, as I unsuccessfully attempted to organize a formal press conference at the upcoming Louisville Manufactured Home Show. It occurred to me, every member of the Print & Online Trade Media CONSORTIUM, plus The Journal’s publisher, would be in town for this resuscitated event. And with leaders and spokespersons, from national and state manufactured housing associations present as well, why not arrange for press interviews with them? An ideal opportunity for advocacy and trade bodies to ‘tell their story’, then lay out their respective programs for 2011! Well, the idea, following a flurry of email messages, never got off the ground.

Why? Let’s just say; the lack of an aggressive and inquiring trade press, during the past decade or so, has ‘aided and abetted’ the aforementioned absence of honest intellectual debate, giving some spokespersons comfort, when penning newsletters and monthly columns, little concern for consequences of possible ‘rhetorical deception, misleading statistics’, even their ‘air of authority’. For example; here’s one very telling response to the press conference request: “…the time for press conferences, briefings and other forms of intra – industry political forums has long ago passed.” Really? Who sez? He sez! That speaks volumes about one spokesperson’s view of communication.

Who’s to blame? On one hand, the decimated, but now slowly reemerging national trade press, needs to do a better job at being aggressive, inquisitive, and forthcoming, this time around. Hopefully we won’t have to resort to muckraking, but we should be quick to identify rhetorical deception and misleading statistics in material we quote, or clear for publication – and just as quick to comment on same, when observed in print and online elsewhere, especially in biased blast email messages. On the other hand, what’s so difficult, about setting aside an hour or two, during future national and regional trade gatherings, to encourage honest intellectual debate about the very matters that are restraining our ability to engage in the housing trade? Think about it; and if you agree our industry could stand more honest intellectual debate, let your state and national, elected and salaried, leaders know of ideas and challenges worthy of such attention!

Speaking of future national trade gatherings, there’s still a strong possibility LLCommunity owners/operators, from throughout the U.S., will gather in Florida during February for a third National State of the Asset Class (‘NSAC’) caucus. This time the dual focus might be 1) property owner self – financing of on – site sales of new and resale homes, and ramifications of methodology and compliance issues; and, 2) landlease community homesite rental rate avarice versus protecting homeowner’s housing value on – site; two timely topics worthy of honest intellectual debate. The question is, whether these heady topics can be adequately covered during a 1 ½ day caucus. What do you think? LLCommunity owners, ensure your invitation to NSAC – III caucus, by phoning (317) 346-7156, to have your contact information put on the 200 name NSAC caucus ‘Insider List’.

II.

I love when blog floggers (readers) correspond with me, and forward material supportive of what’s been posted, as well as inspiration for new directions to research and blog. Here’re a couple recent commentaries per postings about The CAMPAIGN…

“My comment. I wonder if the political and leadership powers that be (in the MHIndustry) are sleeping or living in denial. In the MHBusiness, we are the result today of decisions made 6 – 18 months ago, depending on the (industry segment) arena in which we try to succeed. Without action NOW, we are destined to decline for many more months and years. Perhaps we should, once again, offer the belly – windows to those executives. It is time to act!” NB commenting on woeful lack of national leadership attention to The CAMPAIGN – a regional image improvement, housing product showcase opportunity, generally in partnership between Big Box Retailers across the U.S. and exemplary local landlease community owners/operators and MHRetailers. For more information email ahaven@creativehavenmedia.com or phone (856) 702-6063.

Veteran home sales personnel trainer Grayson Schwepfinger, commenting on The CAMPAIGN made this wise suggestion, to ensure only exemplary LLCommunities and MHRetailers actively participate: “…prospects would be completely turned off, after viewing a TV commercial, then visiting a retailer whose location looked like a junkyard, with homes poorly displayed, dirty, and only partially set up. In order to overcome this problem, we developed copyrighted signage to be placed in front of the home sales location, and used in their advertising. Then we ended all commercials with this line: ‘To see quality homes, visit a retailer displaying this sign!’ Accomplished two things: Since we didn’t give permission to use this signage, to a retailer unless his/her location passed our scrutiny, they cleaned up their locations! And, retailers had to pay a monthly fee to the state association while the commercials were running. We enjoyed 90% participation among retailers in the TV station market areas involved in this promotion!”*2

III.

A couple weeks ago, in an earlier blog posting, we described – but didn’t name New Lions, picking up property portfolio leadership slack, as their predecessors have “retired…expired…forced from leadership roles, and…moving on to other interests outside manufactured housing and LLCommunity milieus.” Little did we expect one of the most popular, and increasingly high profile New Lions to depart so soon and abruptly. Greg O’Berry, successor to recently retired Barry McCabe, of Hometown America, resigned on 3 January 2011. Perhaps we should name the other New Lions in an upcoming blog posting…

***

George Allen, Realtor®, CPM®Emeritus, MHM
Consultant to the Factory – built Housing Industry &
The Landlease Community Real Estate Asset Class
Box # 47024, Indianapolis, IN. 46247 (317) 346-7156

End Notes.

1. Action Institute’s Religion & Liberty newsletter, p.9.
2. Contact Schwep via (610) 533-4969

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