Who Do Your Candidates Really Represent?
By Joe Holtzman
Wendy Bucknum has announced her candidacy for the Mission Viejo City Council in the November election. Bucknum’s fundraiser will not be held in Mission Viejo, but rather in San Juan Capistrano at the Marbella Country Club. The organization that connects Bucknum with her campaign financiers is the Virginia-based “Community Associations Institute”. Her fundraiser invitation lists four hosts and “Community Industry Association Friends.” One look at Bucknum’s donor list and the crony capitalism is clear; these outsiders want their lobbyist on Mission Viejo’s council.
To understand Bucknum’s job as a professional lobbyist in the housing industry, it’s important to understand who/what she lobbies for. She is employed by “Professional Community Management” (PCM), a huge management company that works with Home Owners Associations (HOAs). Their website describes their work with developers and builders; “We provide developers and builders [with] the peace of mind of having a single point of contact...”
Bucknum’s employer PCM is a force in the Community Associations Institute (CAI), which is defined as “an influential trade association and special interest group with about 60 chapters in the United States.” Research indicates that the CAI lobbies the legislatures of states that have large numbers of HOAs, to promote legislation beneficial to them and to oppose laws harmful to them.
An HOA is defined as “a corporation formed by a real estate developer for the purpose of marketing, managing, and selling of homes and lots in a residential subdivision. It grants the developer privileged voting rights in governing the association, while allowing the developer to exit financial and legal responsibility of the organization, typically by transferring ownership of the association to the homeowners after selling off a predetermined number of lots. Membership in the homeowners association by a residential buyer is typically a condition of purchase; a buyer isn't given an option to reject it.” 
The CAI sells services to HOA lawyers and community managers affiliated with the fastest growing form of housing, “Common-interest developments” (CIDs). These are defined as planned-unit developments with a combination of single-family homes, condominiums and cooperative apartments. In other words, higher density projects than traditional single-family home developments. CIDs provide a form of “self-governance” through HOAs. One of the biggest objections to high-density development in our city is the increased traffic it generates. Packing more people into less space also results in parking issues, impacts to views and in some cases, blight.
As the number of CIDs and HOAs grows, so too dues the need for professional property managers who specialize in this field, including legislation governing housing and development. Enter Wendy Bucknum.
In fact, as noted in the following quote, “Since CAI was founded in 1973, the people that build and service CIDs have been a significant force in interest group politics in many states. According to Evan McKenzie they are dominated by lawyers and property managers that have shaped legislative and judicial policy-making to prevent meaningful regulation of CID activity, and keep the discourse on such matters largely private.”
The problem with Bucknum’s campaign is who is funding her campaign. When she ran in 2012, she said she couldn’t afford to run on her own money. She is again running on other people’s money in 2014, and her donors don’t live in Mission Viejo. For her April 30 fundraiser, her party hosts and guests are her employer’s housing industry contacts. When Bucknum and incumbent Councilman Frank Ury ran for city council as a slate in 2012, they solicited donations as a tag team. From feedback gathered from area business owners, they targeted city contractors as well as association members in Bucknum’s lobbyist industry.
In addition to Bucknum running as a council candidate, Frank Ury is running for a seat on the OC Board of Supervisors. Ury’s voting record was published in this newspaper, documenting his support for growing government, increasing fees and voting to give himself lifetime medical benefits for his part-time council service
Before you vote in November, ask yourself “Who do these candidates really represent?” A look at their donors and their voting record while serving in a public office will answer that question.
Joe Holtzman, an Industrial Engineering and Manufacturing/Distribution Executive with McDonnell Douglas and Ford Motor Company, is a 31-year resident of Mission Viejo.
Questions? Comments? The CCS wants to hear from you! Contact Mission Viejo Contributing Editor Steve Magdziak at: (949) 441-0499.