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In a campaign reminiscent of Rambo: First Blood, a Tallahassee military vet successfully waged his own private media war against the neighborhood rule-Nazis who run Tallahassee’s Southwood homeowners association. At least, that’s the way the story was being presented on Fox News with “PATRIOTISM UNDER FIRE” in bold letters across the screen. Oh, and in the Washington Post.

Many of Florida’s political class live in Southwood: lobbyists, legislative and state agency staffers, political consultants, and lawyers, so most are well versed in the art of media warfare. They should have known better than to let some crusty old vet wrap himself in Old Glory and gain the upper hand. 

But the fact is,  yesterday Southwood HOA capitulated, agreed to change the rules, and proved that either the HOA was wholly unprepared for a media war, or they don’t understand the dangers of the dreaded mailbox slippery slope.

Where will Southwood’s decline into gauche lawn decor end?

Apparently military vets (like me) can just wrap ourselves in the American flag and get away with breaking any rules we want. 

What’s next for Southwood? What if another military veteran decides he’s going to install a bass mailbox? Does that cross the line? What if the veteran really loves fishing?  What if he paints the little red flag into an American flag instead?

What’s wrong with the Southwood HOA that, not only did they cave to a military vet on a flag mailbox, but they would deny another military veteran (who loves fishing!) the right to install a bass mailbox – especially one with a tiny American flag?

Maybe they’ll change the rules to allow that too. After all, Southwood’s HOA isn’t really run by Nazis. And they’ve shown they aren’t really committed to maintaining standards. 

It won’t be long and Southwood will look like your average central Florida retirement trailer park. Good luck on the resale value of your homes, Southwood suckers. Glad I don’t live there. 
Homeowners association (HOA) rules are in place because people want to protect their neighborhood, and have all agreed to adopt a specific set of standards governing what is acceptable decor and what is not. 

Personally, I don’t care for HOA’s, and I live far from Southwood, so I have no dog in this fight. But if I lived in a place that had such rules in place, the HOA better enforce them, otherwise there’s no point in paying HOA fees in the first place.

Apparently our Southwood military veteran’s main problem was that he didn’t like the way he was asked to remove the flag from his mailbox, so he took to the media to get his way, and made absolutely certain every single reporter he spoke with new he was a military vet of 30 years:

He understands why the HOA would want to keep things uniform, “but I guess it’s the pettiness of it that bothers me,” he said.

Ackert said he and his neighbors occasionally have conflicts: a car stereo that’s too loud, or children who trample manicured grass. But they typically settle problems with a polite conversation and a handshake — not with a threatening form letter drafted by a lawyer.

Military vet or not, we gotta draw the line somewhere. Rules are rules, and this guy agreed to them when he bought the house. No amount of flag wrapping and patriotic shaming can excuse behavior that clearly violates agreed-upon rules. 

Southwood caved on this issue when they shouldn’t have. And if the HOA can’t expect a military vet of 30 years to follow the rules, how can Southwood hold anyone else accountable?


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