Once an item hits the mainstream media, or even trade media, it can begin to shape a narrative that may help or harm that operation. In as much as people – potential consumers of manufactured homes – begin or continue to form opinions based upon headlines and news accounts, the prudent business professional must weigh several factors in arriving at a decision on an issue that could shape or harden opinions.
Impressions formed by public officials, investors, and the home seeking population might last for months – or years.
Last December, the Daily Business News on MHProNews curated such a controversial topic out of Florida. It involves a senior Hispanic woman and her decision to say no to community management, who cited the guidelines for living, insisting that she remove an image of the Virgin Mary of Guadalupe from the street facing front end of her single section home.
That December 2018 report, which included an on-the-record legal view on an aspect of the matter, is found at the linked test/box below.
By the letter of the agreement, the community may be correct.
But are they making the right decision?
That will be briefly explored in this update on the ongoing incident, via this report and analysis. Because this thorny case has once more hit the mainstream media.
The MHC Saga of Millie Francis
Christmas 2018 and Epiphany 2019 may well be in the rearview mirror on the calendar. But for Hispanic senior Millie Francis those celebrations no doubt live on in her heart and mind as part of what forms her intractable stance on this matter.
Community management was previously contacted by MHProNews, and opted not to say more than what is already in the main media.
A video of Francis explaining her view is posted below.
Here is a synopsis – via pull quotes – of what the latest report said, per the Brandenton Herald. Note that this story has drawn national attention, not only from Catholic media, but local, regional, and national mainstream media – plus here on MHProNews.
- A legal battle is brewing over a portrait of the Virgin Mary an 85-year-old devout Catholic woman had commissioned to replace a window on her Bradenton mobile home.
- Attorneys representing Bradenton Tropical Palms’ board of directors have filed paperwork announcing that Millie Francis “has been sued in this proceeding,” with the Department of Business and Professional Regulation Division of Florida Condominiums, Timeshares and Mobile Homes.
- The suit included a demand for arbitration, a process where an arbitrator’s ruling would be legally binding in order to keep it out of an actual courtroom.
- The issue with Francis went public in early November when property management demanded she remove the painting, which depicts Mary as Our Lady of Guadalupe, and Francis declaring, “They’ll have to kill me first.”
- At the heart of the issue is whether the management of Tropical Palms is singling out Francis specifically for the subject matter of the painting. Management insists that the demand to remove the painting have nothing to do with religion and that Francis simply didn’t follow through on park rules pertaining to the replacement of her front window.
- However, attorneys acknowledge in the documents that Francis submitted the forms, “but with no request for an overall change in appearance or design.”
- Management insists Francis was required to submit additional requests to do the painting itself. Francis is not be targeted because of her religious beliefs, the lawyers said.
- “This is pointed out solely to rebut the fact that (Francis) has attempted to turn the enforcement matter into an alleged discriminatory action by the board, when in fact, that allegation could not be further from the truth,” the documents state.
- Francis isn’t buying that argument, noting that if the painting was of flowers she doubts this would have become an issue at all.
- “It’s anti-Catholic and I don’t care what anybody says,” Francis said. “I’m sorry, but that’s what it is. I wasn’t late putting it up. That’s not the issue. It’s me and the painting.”
Pink Flamingoes and The Virgin Mary – What to Do?
“Some years ago, in a suburb outside of the Houston metro, I did a consulting project with a manufactured home community owner who had a solid 4 star property. That owner had serious backing from a billionaire. He wanted to change the image of his property, to set it apart from that of the industry at large. His community was nearly new. But it had been struggling for occupancy for years. Despite the quality of the property, and large sums invested in marketing and other move-in incentives, the location was less than optimal in various ways,” said manufactured home industry veteran consultant and publisher, L. A. ‘Tony’ Kovach.
“As part of his marketing theme for the land-lease community, the owner stressed that the property ‘had no pink flamingoes.’ For him, it was a metaphorical way of setting himself apart from those manufactured home communities that had loose standards that made a place look cheap. With sidewalks, a large community park with picnic tables, flowers, trees, playground, swimming pool and more, tawdry pink flamingoes was the opposite of the image he had in mind,” Kovach said.
“We had been successfully testing a variety of unique, even unusual, marketing outreaches. They were getting traction at a price less costly and more profitable than other efforts they had previously made. But one day a resident, in violation of the guidelines for living, put two pink flamingoes on the street side facing of her home. As I recall,” Tony Kovach said, “the owner wrestled with the issue personally, for all the reasons a community operation can imagine. As much as he hated it, he decided to let those pink flamingoes stay. We obviously had to drop that ‘no pink flamingoes’ mantra from the marketing message.”
“The marketing campaign had no noticeable impact from that change,” said Kovach. “You could debate his choice either way, for all the reasons an attorney or portfolio operation knows. But that resident was happy, even though he as an owner was personally irked by the entire episode. That was pink flamingoes. In this case in Florida with a senior Hispanic woman named Millie Francis, who is by all accounts, a serious practicing Catholic Christian. The woman believes God Almighty wants her to fight this fight on behalf of the Virgin Mother of the Lord Jesus, manifest in the powerful cultural and religious symbolism of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Is this matter really that hard to figure out?”
It is slowly approaching a year since the Millie Francis story has made headlines in local, regional, and even national news. It frankly adds to the negative image of the entire community sector, and by extension, the industry at large.
Sometimes in business, one finds a way to forgo a right in order to achieve a higher good. How long before those property owner/management in Florida realizes that they have cost themselves, and untold others in the industry, in a fight that even if they win, it’s been costly in the eye of public opinion?
Think about the various interest groups that this ongoing imbroglio may offend.
- Per Wikipedia, here in the U.S., “Christians represent 73.7%of the total population, 48.9% identifying as Protestants, 23.0% as Catholics…”
- “The number of Americans ages 65 and older is projected to more than double from 46 million today to over 98 million by 2060,” according to the Population Reference Bureau (PRB).
- 50.8 percent of the population is female, says the Census Bureau.
- 17 percent of the population is Hispanic, says Wikipedia, and they are by many accounts, among the fastest growing minority populations.
- While the 2010 Census puts the white-only population at some 63.7 percent, that’s shifting. Would other minority groups identify with this Hispanic lady’s plight?
- “In 2016, 36.6 percentof household heads rented their home, close to the 1965 number of 37 percent, according to a new report by the Pew Research Center based on data from the Census Bureau,” per a report last year from CNBC.
- Potential downsizers, up-sizers, first time buyers, etc.
How does an incident like this encourage or discourage groups – like the above – from considering the manufactured home lifestyle? If you were not an industry professional, how would it influence you?
Is there anyone that in some form or fashion that this incident may not offend?
Your professional thoughts?
That’s this Saturday morning’s manufactured home “Industry News, Tips, and Views Pros Can Use,” © where “We Provide, You Decide.” © ## (News, analysis, and commentary.)
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