Should activism signs be allowed in condo unit windows?
Freedom of Speech or suppression by condo rules?
George Floyd looks down at me every time I go out of the front lobby door. By now we’ve all seen the photograph I’m talking about. His hair looks to be freshly cut with a pretty boy goatee that is so thin it’s almost nonexistent. He’s gazing at the camera lens, and there’s a solid background behind him. Close to the image of Floyd on one sign is another one, a political promo about Bernie Sanders for President. Then there’s a third sign about defunding police.
The signs are ironic, considering the owner who has them neatly placed on her window sill is the equivalent of Amy Cooper, the woman who blatantly lied about a black birdwatcher attacking her while she almost choked out her dog. While apparently she’s a window activist, she’s also the same woman who believes “verbal assault” is someone telling her they don’t like her and “physical assault” is someone throwing water on a bush behind her — while she sits in front of their window sill with a tenant playing a guitar. (I wish I was making this up, but I am not.) I can’t quite tell whether these activist signs are propped in her window to convince herself she’s more woke than she actually is. Needless to say, we are not nor will we ever be friendly. But we have done what many neighbors worldwide do — we have learned to peacefully coexist no matter how we feel about each other.
Should political and activism signs be banned from condos?
Silence is golden for some neighbors and the best way to avoid altercations. Still though, her signs became an issue for a unit owner who wanted me to talk to her. When I received a complaint and query about our bylaws and window treatments, I was not even slightly surprised. Although I knew the complainer was a Trump supporter, the reasoning behind asking me to tell her to take down the signs was because of “worry that protesters would attack our building.” Keep in mind my neighborhood is flooded with “Black Lives Matter,” “$750 for taxes” and “No Hate” yard signs, so this concern was struggling to have merit in the first place.
While I’m wildly skeptical of this unit owner’s window signs as more trendy than legitimately fighting for a cause, I could be wrong. Have I asked her to take them down either way? No. Could I? Yes. If it presented a problem, other than a Trump-supporting owner not liking them, I would indeed. As of now, it doesn’t phase me much.
My hesitation to speak to her (or any owner) about political and/or activism signs has nothing to do with our NextDoor-level rivalry. I simply feel condo owners have a right to express themselves. What owners do inside of their living spaces — as long as it’s not illegal — is their business. The only time it should become the business of a condo board is when it affects communal areas.
Should condo board members be anti-politics?
Condo board members have an interesting responsibility to be Switzerland on many issues. If Amy Cooper Jr. needed a plumbing, repair and/or extermination job completed, I would not hesitate to assist. Refund on laundry repairs? Got it! Invite to all board meetings and the right to share her thoughts on owner-board decisions? Of course.
The condo board association does not need nor have to be friends with all of the unit owners. Would it help? Considerably. There are some unit owners who I beam (behind a face mask of course) at the site of. They hear my loud greeting of their names and usually see Bitmojis via text and emails. But if everybody in the building suddenly disliked me, I would not change my behavior when it comes to being the condo board president and handling responsibilities spelled out in the bylaws. I am fully in support of justice for George Floyd and did indeed vote for Bernie Sanders in the 2016 primaries. But having similar political and activist beliefs with someone clearly does not mean you two will be BFFs. She and I never have nor will we ever be friends or even associates.
But then there’s another question that has come up regarding those signs. Would I be as cavalier if those same signs said “MAGA” or “All Lives Matter” on them? In the diverse neighborhood that I live in, I think that that would be an absolutely idiotic move. But it didn’t make me bat an eye when I saw an owner’s car sticker of an American flag that said, “If this flag offends you, I’ll help you pack.” I rolled my eyes when I saw a promotional sign on his car about “no collusion” and “draining the swamp.” His car, his business. If he wants to roll around town with that sign on the side of it, that’s between him and the steel and aluminum holding it up.
Not playing favorites when it comes to neighborhood politics
As long as those stickers, banners and promotional signs are on the inside of a person’s unit or on their own property, I strongly believe that board members should let owners exercise their Freedom of Speech. If both parties know that they have the freedom to do so, have at it. It would be extremely biased of me to see a flood of “Black Lives Matter” and “No Hate” signs flooded throughout my neighborhood but then to tell a unit owner, “Take your sign/sticker down if it’s Republican.” I’m not going to do that.
If I could walk around with a Republican Election Judge sticker on my shirt in three straight elections, knowing full well I’m a long-time Democrat who is as adamant about people voting at all as I am about who they vote for, then I can deal with opposing party signs. Would I want to hang out with any Republican neighbors? Fuck no. But will I do everything within my power to make sure that all unit owners live in a safe, comfortable, clean and functional living environment — regardless of political affiliation? Absolutely.
Just as third-party property managers have a set of duties that is more focused on maintaining the building, condo boards can be fully functional and do the same. Board members are more likely to live on the property and know the tenants and owners, so there is a different level of camaraderie. But there is no rule that says all owners, board members and property managers must be politically aligned to peacefully coexist. And should my decision to hold off on asking owners to take down their political signs, activism signs and stickers ever become a sign of conflict, I’d be far more likely to ask everyone to take them down as opposed to picking and choosing who does. What you do inside of your unit — unless it physically affects the living space of another — is 100 percent your business.
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