“Off the record, but these [other] state associations [in this email thread] have crossed the line with their blind loyalty and kiss a — to Clayton [Homes] and MHI. This is not healthy for the industry well-being and [the] future of the industry,” said one of several news tips received by MHProNews last week.
That comment was tied to the embarrassing-for-the-Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) and Clayton Homes viral video on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver entitled, “Mobile Homes.” MHLivingNews did a fact-check that posted said video and unpacked it’s points, hits and misses, in a report linked below.
HBO’s John Oliver on Last Week Tonight Mobile Homes Video, Manufactured Home Communities Fact Check – manufacturedhomelivingnews.com
” Mobile homes were perfected by humans, but invented by snails,” John Oliver on HBO’s Last Week Tonight, per Time. ” The homes of some the poorest people in America are being snapped up by some of the richest people in America.” Really?
That fact-check on MHLivingNews landed on page 1 of Google early Sunday morning. That’s relevant, but first the evidence of that factoid.
More of that email-thread between various state association executives may or may not be reported in the days ahead. But for this report, we’ll focus on a specific comment about a multi-year Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) member by an MHI affiliated state association executive.
Amy Bliss, of the Wisconsin Housing Alliance (WHA).
It should be noted that, per sources, MHI monitors those electronic transmissions among the MHEC execs, which is open to most industry trade association staff leaders. So that ‘monitoring’ by MHI – which sources say are periodically forwarded to Executive Committee members that include Berkshire Hathaway brands – may in various ways influence comments like the one that follows.
It would be somewhat akin to mom and dad monitoring their teenagers’ emails. Or more to the point, a stern boss overseeing all the messages his staff sent via email.
Here’s what Bliss said, following the screen capture of the email, with her photo added to the top left of her words as an illustration that was not in her original message. As is the custom here on MHProNews, we’ve turned her direct quote into bold and brown text so it pops.
From: Amy Bliss
Date: Wednesday, April 10, 2019
Subject: RE: [mhexecs] FW: How Private Investors Are Threatening the Fate of Manufactured Housing
I am very disappointed in two entities that are supposed to be in favor of manufactured housing. ROC USA and North Country Cooperative both added this John Oliver junk to their facebook page and ROC USA also tweeted it out as if they were sharing good news. This is such an insult to the people that have chosen manufactured housing to live in. If there were not investor owned communities, they would have no communities to “convert” to resident owned. Such a shame.
Amy Bliss, CAE
WI Housing Alliance and WI Recreational Vehicle Dealers Alliance
—If indeed comments like Bliss’ are monitored by MHI, then why didn’t the Arlington, VA based trade group come to the defense of a member being tagged by Bliss in such a manner? Normally, an association member would never know – and thus would never have had a chance to respond to on behalf of the themselves and/or the organization being disparaged. What does this incident say about not just Bliss, but MHI, or some others in MHEC?
Agree or disagree with ROC USA on this or that, but they have first amendment rights – even if Bliss doesn’t care for that protected speech. MHProNews, once that and other messages were provided by multiple parties, asked for comments from both Bliss and Paul Bradley, ROC USA President.
Bradley replied as follows, his photo is likewise added for illustration purposes, and as with Bliss, we turned his statement to MHProNews and Bliss bold and brown for clarity and emphasis, but his words are unedited.
“Hello Tony and Amy,
I am happy to talk directly anytime, Amy, but will respond at this late hour to the two of you here.
First, it probably goes without saying that I have no control over the independent press or a satirist like John Oliver. However, as Tony knows, I am always quick to point out that there are many good operators in the business.
John Oliver focused on the onslaught of aggressive new money in the sector. The examples of rent hikes cited were alarming and atypical but also real. I know one of the examples well. (In fact, I referred that one to Rick Robinson at MHI to handle when Time Magazine called recently.)
Oliver was making a point about the fate of residents in communities that experience significant rent increases and, as any good debater would, chose stories that best illustrated that point.
He pointed to resident ownership as a way to mitigate such increases by removing MHCs from the speculative real estate market, and we agree that it is. This was hardly an attack on the homeowners who suffered these hardships — that’s something we would never condone.
In terms of our sharing it, I am not going to miss an opportunity share the ROC USA story with our followers when we appear on national TV. I certainly understand the piece is embarrassing to some operators who subscribe to a certain school of thought when it comes to homeowners and MHC ownership.
I know the three of us actually care about the homeowner experience for both business and basic humanity reasons, and many others do, too. I believe we all wish it was universal.
Thank you. Happy to talk anytime. Paul”
Given several days to respond to Bradley or MHProNews, Bliss said nada in the way of a follow up to this publication. If she did so privately to Bradley, he has not so indicated. From an editorial perspective, Bradley’s reply above – especially give the circumstances – could fairly be described as ‘classy.’
Part of a Pattern?
By contrast, Bliss – per sources in the George F. (F?) Allen camp – has supposedly called for a “boycott” of this site last year that Bliss concurred with. When asked about that claim by MHProNews, Bliss neither confirmed nor denied that allegation lodged by members of Allen’s following. The reason that is relevant will be made clear.
It is this. One is left with an impression of Bliss as someone that – at least among her state association peers – wants only the MHI party line. That’s what seemingly sparked the tips – outrage – like the one comment noted at the top. That comment was not the only one…
That apparent desire for only the MHI party line by Bliss is seemingly true even with respect to another MHI member – i.e. Bradley/ROC USA. A source with knowledge indicated that ROC USA is a member of the WHA – led by Bliss – not just MHI.
If so, Bliss arguably ‘back stabbed’ a dues paying member of her WHA trade group and a dues payer to MHI. How does that impact that member’s business interests? Why did none of the MHEC Execs openly chide her for that in that email thread? Why did some feel the need to send that and other messages to MHProNews to expose what some other execs are doing to one or more dues paying members?
Because there was another dues paying member of MHI that was likewise mentioned between the state execs.
Given the influence that state association executives have with numbers of people in this industry, will Bliss step up and at a minimum, publicly apologize? If not, what remedial steps should be taken?
Or what about the group messages – which are supposed to be used by the MHExecs to discuss issues faced by members, such as zoning, legal, or legislative issues. That list’s use presumably ought not include slamming members of the industry’s trade groups by those they pay dues too.
Even More Important?
Perhaps as or more important, what has Bliss, other execs, MHI, or others done to respond in a constructive way to the John Oliver video on “Mobile Homes?” That HBO/Oliver video, when properly understood, disparages specific larger MHI members. Has Bliss taken any of them to task, given it was logically their purported behavior that fueled Oliver’s sharp satirical commentary? ROC USA might benefit from Oliver’s video, but they are not the focus of HBO’s sharp satirical attack.
If any state execs took MHI to task in a public way, that has not yet been provided to MHProNews. That said, several are disgusted enough to share with MHProNews what was shared.
- Time will tell if Bliss has the chutzpah to stand up to the powers-that-be in a manner even modestly analogous to what she did with ROC USA and North Country.
- The industry will also see if Bliss – or any state exec – asks the powers-that-be to behave in ways that might avoid such harmful and embarrassing mainstream media commentary, satirical or otherwise.
Finally, as the articles linked below the byline make clear, Warren Buffett’s ‘follow the money-trail’ leads one to a reasonable conclusion that he has helped fund MHAction through ‘dark money’ channels. Will Bliss and her state association colleagues hold Buffett, the Berkshire brands, and others accountable for business practices that harm the image of an already struggling industry?
Other reports that correct the record, debunk, and/or jujitsu key concerns on that issue are linked from the report below the byline and notices. That’s manufactured home “Industry News, Tips, and Views Pros Can Use.” © where “We Provide, You Decide.” © ## (News, analysis, and commentary.)
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