Building a coalition to help governments find logical solutions
“Fish Hooks” McCarthy was an aide to New York Governor Al Smith who was known for bending the rules in his favor. He was famous for saying the same prayer every morning at St. Patrick’s Cathedral: “O, Lord, give me health and strength. We’ll steal the rest.”
When I was a kid, I had a best friend named Jerome. He once said to my mom after she told us we couldn’t swim in our backyard pool during the summer, “Mrs. Curtis, what good are the rules if we’re not going to follow them?”
When it comes to regulating the New Economy, local governments are finding it challenging to create rules that compel compliance. And the New Economy—whether you call it the Sharing Economy, the On-Demand Economy, the Gig Economy, or the Peer-to-Peer Economy—has scooped up vacation rentals and vacation rental managers by including them in their rules.
But if rules are created that can’t accomplish compliance, how can we expect people to follow them?
That’s why I strongly urge vacation rental managers to help their local governments in crafting regulations. After all, you’re a professional manager in this long-established industry.
Likewise, I strongly urge local policy makers to work closely with professional managers. The policy-makers will learn the industry from you, and will create effective regulations that comport with existing local regulations.
Often, I hear people ask, “Why would a city create a rule where the issue is different for the neighboring house?” For instance, the vacation rental noise regulations may begin at 9:00 p.m., but a neighboring resident may not have to worry about the noise rules until 10:00 p.m.
What is my response to people who pose such questions? Get involved.
If the rules don’t make sense, it may be because local governments do not fully understand how rules can be easily broken. Policy makers have a lot on their plate, and they depend on stakeholders to help them understand what does—and doesn’t—make sense.
Sometimes I hear vacation rental managers say, “My town wants vacation rentals to only rent a handful of days per year.”
What do I say when I hear that? Get organized.
An organized group of vacation rental managers who build a coalition or alliance can achieve so much more than someone acting alone. You can put together a story based on all your combined experiences and help the local government find the solutions they seek.
Sometimes I hear vacation rental managers say, “Our town is so buried in this issue they can’t see straight.”
What do I say to that? Get a professional.
A professional will serve as an ombudsman for the local government and the alliance of vacation rental managers. Typically, this might be a local lawyer who works closely with the town on land use issues, or a registered lobbyist, or some other type of consultant.
This professional can do something the vacation rental manager may not be able to do: dedicate real time to the issue, walking the halls of government and working with policy makers to find a solution to address their concerns—or to identify a solution that may already exist in current regulations.
The community of vacation rental managers has a lot of friends in the Monterrey County area. When towns in Monterrey County, California, began to create regulations governing the vacation rental industry, some managers were quick to act. They got an organized alliance together, called the big industry stakeholders for help, and rallied supporters to various city council meetings.
Now, it’s easy to play Monday morning quarterback and look back at things that happened five and six years ago, but I wonder: What would have happened if our initial decision for the Monterey County Vacation Rental Alliance had been to suggest they hire a professional?
Would that professional have fully understood the political dynamics going into the discussion? Would a professional have understood best practices when discussing with a Monterey County policy maker the merits of local rules? Lastly, would a professional have known the technical aspects of creating regulations so they could use that know-how to help redirect conversations when they got bogged down in the mire of public discourse.
My answer to all of these is, YES!
Let’s be fair, who would have known how all these conversations were going to go? It’s easy and cheap to play Monday morning quarterback like a couple of guys at the office debating in front of a vending machine. But we also need to learn from our experiences, and I believe that our experiences have taught us that vacation rental managers need to be involved, to get organized, and—in the right circumstances—to hire professional help.
How do you hire a professional?
One shocking way to get started: consider asking your local council member. Oftentimes professional lobbyists, land use lawyers and consultants work regularly with city councils. Sometimes a council member may offer a short list of suggestions for the issues you face. More often they won’t offer suggestions, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.
You can also suggest to the local policy maker that the town bring in an experienced consultant to help find a solution.
Or, just ask other vacation rental managers who have faced these debates.
A professional who understands the changing tides of the New Economy, the demands of traveling families, and the statistical impact of vacation rental activity on a town’s economy can help a local policy maker understand the benefits to the community.
Professionals can help a community comprehend the variety of innovations and technologies that can help them address their concerns. This allows officials more time to focus on growing a successful regulation rather than discussing one.
The right professional will understand what rules do and don’t work, so a community can create regulations that achieve compliance.
At the end of the day, that’s what we’re all hoping for: the creation of local regulations that achieve compliance rather than driving the activity underground. As we all know, it is the underground activity that is more likely to create noise, parking, and trash issues. It’s the underground activity that is less likely to pay their local taxes, and it is the underground activity that is more likely to create bad experiences for travelers.
Let’s create good rules that work rather than bad ones that don’t.
Oh, yeah, and that summer my mom told us to not swim in the pool … we swam all the time when she was gone.