Facts are at times uncomfortable.
At others times, the realities of life are truly a puzzle.
What follows is arguably the single-most covered topic in the mainstream news media involving mobile or manufactured home living at this time. After the ubiquitous Drudge Report – one of the top news sites on the planet – linked Millie Francis’ story on the Bradenton Herald, the already well-covered controversy subsequently went global.
The facts and claims are increasingly known, but will be summarized herein for MHLivingNews readers.
Among the perplexing points include the following. With all the media attention, why have there been no reports of religious liberty, fair housing, resident home owner groups, or manufactured housing trade associations weighing in on this vexing case?
As the screen capture below reflects, 1/3 of a million results occur for this particular online search.
Scores of mainstream news sources have run variations of Millie Francis’ unusual tale. It includes the battle with her resident owned community’s (ROC) management company and their on-site manager, Janet Nowakowski. Francis claims that manager is in violation of community rules, while selectively enforcing others, including Millie’s problem. If so, why?
Legal opinions and other manufactured home industry professional have weighed in with their views.
Which begs these questions. Why is Francis’ painting of Our Lady of Guadalupe causing persecution? Why are the others akin to her circumstance apparently accepted by the resident owned community’s management? Is Francis’ interest in the cooperative ‘resident owned community’ she lives in somehow inferior to that of others who live there?
What mainstream media has often stressed is Francis’ determined “They’ll have to kill me first” statement, which is usually accompanied by a photo or video of her standing before her now iconic painting of Our Lady of Guadalupe. That painting is located on the street-facing side of her pre-HUD Code mobile home.
Management wants her commissioned artwork removed. Francis says, no way. State regulators or the legal system may end up making the decision.
Brian Gallagher, a manufactured home community operator in another part of the country pointed out to MHLivingNews that similar issues occur in conventional housing communities that have Home Owners Associations (HOAs).
Gallagher’s correct, this controversy is not unique to manufactured home community living.
That said, the matter is regrettably still subject to misunderstanding, especially by those who begin with a stereotypical image. Gallagher said that religious images are fairly common at the manufactured home communities he’s involved in. He said that is true year round, not just during the Christmas or other religious seasons. Gallagher hoped that if this same matter occurred in one of his communities, that they would equally – not selectively – apply their communities’ rules.
By contrast, the Bradenton Tropical Palms resident owned community’s management hired the law firm, Knox and Levine, to pressure Francis. They’ve demanded that she remove the painted image of the Madonna, the mother of Jesus, under her venerated image as Our Lady of Guadalupe (OLG).
Devout Catholics see Our Lady of Guadalupe as the patroness of the Americas and of the unborn. To understand the perspective that motivates Francis and millions like her, see the video posted below.
A Bradenton city official, Vicki White, told MHLivingNews that they are aware of the drama. White recommend that Francis contact a Fair Housing organization in the area. That mirrors other legal commentary shared on-and-off the record to MHProNews, previously reported at the link here. One example is shown below. But for whatever reason, Francis told MHLivingNews that she tried calling that same nonprofit organization several times, and never heard from the attorney there.
Part of the caustic elements in the evolution of this tale is that the entire affair was arguably sparked by the resident owned community’s own security company.
The Bradenton Tropical Palm’s security service would reportedly drive by Francis’ home at night, shining a light through her pre-HUD Code mobile home’s window. Some ‘stranger’ would also come by, said Francis, who would periodically peer into that same window of her home. That individual was apparently not spotted or stopped by security in that gated community.
So, as a result of those incidents, Francis reportedly asked for, and was given permission by that ROC to do what others at that property have done. Namely, architecturally remove and replace her front window.
A source close to Francis told MHLivingNews that this hullabaloo may be traced to something as simple as incomplete paperwork. If so, then why the threats of litigation and eviction over a powerful cultural and religious symbol?
As part of the Orlando Sentinel’s coverage of the topic, that media outlet produced a short video. It included the still-video-frame of a comically evil-looking, mustachioed manager posted below. Surely that isn’t the image that ROCs or others in the manufactured home industry professionals want?
Thoughtful operators like Gallagher hope not.
But if this is an issue of incomplete paper work, or worse, then where are the tangible efforts to intervene and bring this matter to a proper and happy resolution? Why not let Francis fill out and sign a few papers, and let her keep her artwork where it is, as others in the same community have been allowed to do?
More Facts Behind the Veil of the Media Narrative
It is noteworthy that the art has its own legal protection under Florida law. But that law may not necessarily protect the artwork exactly where it is currently located, which is Francis’ stated desire.
The media accounts metaphorically paint Francis as a tough, 85-year-old woman, who will die before she gives up that commissioned art work.
While Francis is indeed determined, she is also a heart patient. The stress over this issue might kill her. When MHLivingNews spoke with her in person, she had to pause and catch her breath. Tears came to her eyes, as Francis shared the unexpected developments of her circumstances.
Follow-up phone calls between MHLivingNews and the valiant senior revealed she had to go to her heart cardiologist just days ago, apparently due to her distress.
Mediation? Arbitration? Litigation?
A possible mediator for Francis has stepped forward. That party spoke to MHLivingNews at length, off-the-record. While trained in mediation, he is not an attorney. It remains to be seen if he can find a compromise with the Knox and Levine law firm.
Otherwise, the case will head to arbitration or the courts. There is a report that Knox and Levine are willing to give Francis about two weeks more time to prepare a response with the Dept. of Business and Professional Regulation, Division of Florida Condominiums, Timeshares and Mobile Homes. There are indications that the attorneys and the community’s management are sensitive to all of the media hype.
Where are the Manufactured Home Industry’s Non-Profits?
At the time Millie Francis spoke to the Daily Business News on MHProNews, she was unaware of any activity by any nonprofit, faith-based, or fair housing organization working on her behalf. Francis stressed that she tried several times by phone to reach a local fair housing attorney that works for a non-profit. But for whatever reasons, that attorney has not called her.
There’s no known indications that circumstance has changed as of the time this report is being published. The volunteer who is trying to help Francis said he is seeking a delay with the proceedings with the state organization noted above. That initial hearing is now only 3 days off.
Where are resident and/or post-production manufactured home trade groups such as:
· ROC USA
· Prosperity Now
· Florida Manufactured Housing Association (FMHA)
· Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI)
on this issue, which has focused global attention on manufactured home living since the Drudge Report linked a news story up?
Perhaps the most in-depth report – and one of the highest ranked among some of this morning’s Google searches – is the one posted on MHProNews. It is found at the link here, and in the related references below the byline.
MHProNews provided the Drudge Report with a document containing pages of evidence about Millie Francis’ Our Lady of Guadalupe case. That was sent to the Drudge team prior to their publication of their report linked here.
Within hours of the email shown in the screen capture below, Francis’ narrative was linked up by news media maven Drudge.
A similar document as the one sent to the Drudge team was sent to the Bradenton Tropical Palms. That is linked here as a download. Their law firm was also contacted for comments, and has not responded. The various parties involved or impacted certainly ought to know how badly this issue looks. So, why haven’t they taken a bite of humble pie, and quietly resolved this issue with Millie Francis?
For reasons made clear in the in-depth report found on MHProNews – which included third-party, expert legal commentary – this trade media editorially believes that the Bradenton Tropical Palms is harming Millie Francis’ civil and religious rights. They and their attorneys are also arguably negatively impacting the interests of not only Francis, but that of the entire manufactured home industry and its millions of homeowners too.
Millions of manufactured and mobile home owners live in a land-lease. While this case should not be considered as representative of the treatment most residents receive, how do outsiders looking-in perceived this controversy? How can that be anything other than an unjust, negative reflection on our much needed part of the affordable housing profession?
Sense of Urgency?
There ought to be some urgency for the industry’s post-production associations and non-profits to step in and help resolve this matter in a favorable fashion.
Francis’ health is an obvious issue. Her rights are purportedly being violated, according to some legal experts. Plus, these troubling headlines and related reports will likely continue for weeks or months, if the matter is not happily resolved.
The matter has been ongoing for some 9 months already. However this case is wrapped up, it will likely continue to forge a either a good or problematic stereotype about manufactured home land-lease communities.
This is happening at the very time that the growing affordable housing crisis would demand the opposite sort of image than the one being portrayed.
As the meme from the Orlando Sentinel exemplifies, this controversy could make resident owned and other manufactured home communities in general look like a monster to those who don’t dig deeply into the facts. Management at this Florida property – right or wrong – appears to be picking on an 85-year-old heart patient, a devout Catholic Christian who felt inspired to honor Our Lady of Guadalupe. Ouch.
Angels? Geckos? Dolphins? Those are all apparently okay.
But the Catholic patroness of the unborn and of the Americas? That’s apparently a no-no at the Bradenton Tropical Palms in Florida.
An affordable housing crisis grows. The National Association of Realtors and others favorably spotlighted in 2018 manufactured homes as the most affordable type of permanent home ownership in America. Nevertheless, due in no small measure to a stream of incidents – including this one – the opportunity for improving the misunderstandings about manufactured home living are instead being allowed to fester.
The case truly should not be seen as the norm. It’s not. But what about MHVille’s so-called non-profit leaders? Where’s your leadership on resolving this top-headline issue?
“We Provide, You Decide.” © ## (Lifestyle news, commentary, and analysis.)
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Soheyla Kovach co-founder of MHLivingNews, on left,
with son Tamas (pronounced like Tah Mash), and publisher L. A. ‘Tony’ Kovach, on the right.