For some years, the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) has been providing their members and others with what amounts to a form letter comments system. It is pitched as an easy way to support MHI’s efforts on a particular topic. However, as MHProNews has uniquely reported to the industry previously and now, this astroturfing method is politely discouraged by federal regulators. A pointed, evidence-based comments letter about the looming regulatory threat that MHI and the Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (MHARR) both largely on paper agree upon is linked here. It will be posted later with its links and illustrations further below.
The $64-billion-dollar question for manufactured housing professionals, investors, advocates, and consumers may come to down to this. Will MHI, if needed, sue on behalf of the manufactured housing industry?
Ponder these two bullets:
- If MHI is willing to sue to protect the industry, then why hasn’t MHI openly said so?
- If MHI is unwilling to sue DOE, HUD, FHFA or others as needed to get the manufactured home industry and affordable housing seekers interests advanced and protected, then the comments letter linked here and what follows takes on an entirely clearer revelation about the sincerity of the leadership of the Arlington, VA based trade group.
That said, here is what the Regulations.gov has to say on this date, 11.26.2021, about what some call ‘astroturfing,’ or others say is essentially a form letter. The entire Regulations.gov Commenters Checklist is provided. Highlighting is added by MHProNews, but the text of the actual checklist is as posted on this date by Regulations.gov.
Tips for Submitting Effective Comments*
A comment can express simple support or dissent for a regulatory action. However, a constructive, information-rich comment that clearly communicates and supports its claims is more likely to have an impact on regulatory decision making.
These tips are meant to help the public submit comments that have an impact and help agency policy makers improve federal regulations.
- Read and understand the regulatory document you are commenting on
- Feel free to reach out to the agency with questions
- Be concise but support your claims
- Base your justification on sound reasoning, scientific evidence, and/or how you will be impacted
- Address trade-offs and opposing views in your comment
- There is no minimum or maximum length for an effective comment
- The comment process is not a vote – one well supported comment is often more influential than a thousand form letters
- Comment periods close at 11:59 eastern time on the date comments are due – begin work well before the deadline.
- Attempt to fully understand each issue; if you have questions or do not understand a part of the regulatory document, you may ask for help from the agency contact listed in the document.Note: Although the agency contact can answer your questions about the document’s meaning, official comments must be submitted through the comment form.
- Clearly identify the issues within the regulatory action on which you are commenting. If you are commenting on a particular word, phrase or sentence, provide the page number, column, and paragraph citation from the federal register document.
- If a rule raises many issues, do not feel obligated to comment on every one – select those issues that concern and affect you the most and/or you understand the best.
- Agencies often ask specific questions or raise issues in rulemaking proposals on subjects where they are actively looking for more information. While the agency will still accept comments on any part of the proposed regulation, please keep these questions and issues in mind while formulating your comment.
- Although agencies receive and appreciate all comments, constructive comments (either positive or negative) are the most likely to have an influence.
- If you disagree with a proposed action, suggest an alternative (including not regulating at all) and include an explanation and/or analysis of how the alternative might meet the same objective or be more effective.
- The comment process is not a vote. The government is attempting to formulate the best policy, so when crafting a comment it is important that you adequately explain the reasoning behind your position.
- Identify credentials and experience that may distinguish your comments from others. If you are commenting in an area in which you have relevant personal or professional experience (i.e., scientist, attorney, fisherman, businessman, etc.) say so.
- Agency reviewers look for sound science and reasoning in the comments they receive. When possible, support your comment with substantive data, facts, and/or expert opinions. You may also provide personal experience in your comment, as may be appropriate. By supporting your arguments well you are more likely to influence the agency decision making.
- Consider including examples of how the proposed rule would impact you negatively or positively.
- Comments on the economic effects of rules that include quantitative and qualitative data are especially helpful.
- Include the pros and cons and trade-offs of your position and explain them. Your position could consider other points of view, and respond to them with facts and sound reasoning,.
- If you are uploading more than one attachment to the comment web form, it is recommend that you use the following file titles:
- Attachment1_<insert title of document>
- Attachment2_<insert title of document>
- Attachment3_<insert title of document>
This standardized file naming convention will help agency reviewers distinguish your submitted attachments and aid in the comment review process.
- Keep a copy of your comment in a separate file – this practice helps ensure that you will not lose your comment if you have a problem submitting it using the Regulations.gov web form.
After submission, your comment will be processed by the agency and posted to Regulations.gov. At times, an agency may choose not to post a submitted comment. Reasons for not posting the comment can include:
- The comment is part of a mass submission campaign or is a duplicate.
- The comment is incomplete.
- The comment is not related to the regulation.
- The comment has been identified as spam.
- The comment contains Personally Identifiable Information (PII) data.
- The comment contains profanity or other inappropriate language.
- The submitter requested the comment not be posted.
Organizations often encourage their members to submit form letters designed to address issues common to their membership. Organizations including industry associations, labor unions, and conservation groups sometimes use form letters to voice their opposition or support of a proposed rulemaking. Many in the public mistakenly believe that their submitted form letter constitutes a “vote” regarding the issues concerning them. Although public support or opposition may help guide important public policies, agencies make determinations for a proposed action based on sound reasoning and scientific evidence rather than a majority of votes. A single, well-supported comment may carry more weight than a thousand form letters.
* Throughout this document, the term “Comment” is used in place of the more technically accurate term “Public Submission” in order to make the recommendations easier to read and understand.
Disclaimer: This document is intended to serve as a guide; it is not intended and should not be considered as legal advice. Please seek counsel from a lawyer if you have legal questions or concerns.##
More Information, Additional MHProNews Analysis and Commentary
As MHProNews has uniquely reported previously to industry members, this is different that calls or messages to a lawmaker or the White House. In some cases, elected officials take a running count, and duplicate calls or messages might be useful. Those cases are akin to an opinion poll, and may sway a lawmaker or other elected official.
But in comments letters, Regulations.gov says repeatedly. This is not a vote. One good letter might outweigh the impact of 1000 form letters.
Put differently, MHI is perhaps either naïve, posturing, or jerking several people’s chains by asking industry members for an Astroturf, ersatz (artificial), or largely duplicate messaging campaign. It may not take much time, but neither does it have – per Regulations.gov – much value.
In the next 24 hours, a specific comment latter that examines MHI, MHARR, and Next Step Network’s comments letter and related will be posted. Until then, that document is available at this link here.
The bottom line is this. It may all come down to the question – will MHI sue on behalf of the industry?
If MHI sues so on this demonstrably harmful DOE topic, will MHI also do so on Enhanced Preemption?
If MHI sues on the DOE topic, will they sue FHFA, and/or the GSEs, or others to get legally mandated lending support for manufactured home sales? If not, why not?
Why is Tiny House Hands Up suing with a nonprofit’s support, and MHI not doing the same principle for manufactured housing?
Sadly, the truth may be hiding in plain sight. MHProNews would applaud if MHI does what is right, but will continue to expose their apparent “deception and misdirection” campaign if they don’t do so. See the related reports to learn more.
Again, this page will be updated with the information in the letter linked here below within about 24 hours. Read the download, or check back soon. ## Updated with the first featured image and link below 11.28.2021.
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By L.A. “Tony” Kovach – for MHProNews.com.
Tony earned a journalism scholarship and earned numerous awards in history and in manufactured housing.
For example, he earned the prestigious Lottinville Award in history from the University of Oklahoma, where he studied history and business management. He’s a managing member and co-founder of LifeStyle Factory Homes, LLC, the parent company to MHProNews, and MHLivingNews.com.
This article reflects the LLC’s and/or the writer’s position, and may or may not reflect the views of sponsors or supporters.
Connect on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/latonykovach
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