Tuesday, August 14, 2018
News Roundup

Homeowner's association orders Florida veteran to remove American flag from mailbox

There is a woman who rides around John Ackert's Tallahassee subdivision in a golf cart, noting all the ways her neighbors' homes don't measure up to the standards set by the Southwood Residential Community Association.

Ackert is trying very hard to not detest her.

The 82-year-old retired Navy commander said he once received an official-sounding letter saying he had to take military and Special Olympics stickers off his front door, or face exile from the community's tennis courts and swimming pool. He removed the stickers with minimum grumbling.

But a letter two weeks ago made Ackert and some of his neighbors see red. It was about the American flag.

Well, technically, it was about a vinyl mailbox covered with a picture of the American flag. Ackert put it on his mailbox a month after moving into the Southwood community in 2013 and replaced it whenever the Florida sun baked out the colors.

Recently, he said, the homeowner's association wrote to him, saying the flag mailbox violated the community covenant and had to go. If he did nothing, the letter said, the association would fine him and could ultimately place a lien on his home.

"They said my flag mailbox 'devalues the aesthetic value of the homes in the neighborhood,'"Ackert told The Washington Post, citing the line from the letter that he says irks him the most.

Ackert didn't remove the mailbox covering. And he's gearing up for a fight with the homeowner's association, which he has accused of bullying him.

The mailbox, he said, "represented the American flag and something that I hold dearly."

Jerome Simpson, the manager of the community association, told The Washington Post that conversations with Ackert were ongoing and the association would have no comment beyond an emailed statement.

"The community honors all those actively serving in the military and the veterans who have made sacrifices for our freedom," the statement said. "Many homes in Southwood proudly fly the American flag. In keeping with the Florida Statue, the community allows residents to display two portable flags (one American flag and one U.S. military flag), plus two additional flags on a freestanding 20-foot flagpole (one American flag and one U.S. military flag)."

The two sides plan to meet to discuss the mailbox, Ackert said.

Ackert, who spends most of his week golfing and tending to his yard, never expected to find himself at odds with his homeowner's association.

"If there's anybody that has respect for rules and regulations, it's someone who put on a uniform for 30 years," he said.

He was drafted for Vietnam, then decided to make a career of military service.

He specialized in transportation logistics, making sure property and personnel got where they needed to go.

His Navy career helped him see the world and meet his wife. She was a Japanese secretary who frequently brought papers to a Yokohama office where Ackert was stationed. They were married in Scranton, Pa., and had a son when Ackert was 55.

He wanted to spend as much time near his son as he could. So when the younger Ackert enrolled at Florida State University, his parents left Hawaii and bought a house nearby in Tallahassee.

They picked the Southwood subdivision because of its neat yards and high standards. Ackert said he appreciates an HOA that encourages neighbors to take as much pride in their homes as he does.

"The community covenants were designed, I think, to provide a diverse community and maintain a very high standard," he said. "They try to keep the atmosphere family friendly."

But the letter about the mailbox got under his skin.

At their Hawaii home, he had a large flagpole in the front yard, where he flew "the biggest flag I could find." He knew he couldn't do that in Southwood, but never thought twice about the mailbox covering, even if it stood out in the sea of black mailboxes in the subdivision.

He understands why the association would want to keep things uniform, "but I guess it's the pettiness of it that bothers me."

Ackert said he and his neighbors occasionally have conflicts: a car stereo that's too loud, or children who trample manicured grass. But they typically settle problems with a polite conversation and a handshake - not with a threatening form letter drafted by a lawyer.

Comments
Shooter in Clearwater stand your ground appears before judge

Shooter in Clearwater stand your ground appears before judge

LARGO — Michael Drejka, the man accused of killing Markeis McGlockton in a shooting that reignited a debate over Florida’s stand your ground law, appeared for the first time before a judge this afternoon.He was appointed a public defender and his bai...
Updated: 14 minutes ago
Dungy: Jameis Winston must be a leader for Bucs, all the time

Dungy: Jameis Winston must be a leader for Bucs, all the time

Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston will miss the first three games of this season while he's suspended, and former Tampa Bay coach Tony Dungy said his focus is what Winston can do to turn his current situation into a positive moving forward."I look at i...
Updated: 15 minutes ago
Seniors outlive their safe driving age by 7 to 10 years, AAA says

Seniors outlive their safe driving age by 7 to 10 years, AAA says

Senior citizens should be talking more about safe driving and may need to plan for "driving retirement," according to a report released by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety."With seniors outliving their ability to drive safely by an average of se...
Updated: 25 minutes ago

Zillow analysis shows more than six million homes missing from U.S. market

It’s no secret that it’s hard to find housing market. But why?Real estate analytics company Zillow said it’s because of the lack of construction after the housing market crashed.Between 1985 and 2000, there were 3.9 permits issued for single-family h...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Dungy on NFL and protests during anthem: Listen to why it matters to players

Dungy on NFL and protests during anthem: Listen to why it matters to players

Tony Dungy says the issue of NFL players protesting during the national anthem has been a divisive topic, but he hopes both sides can come together by listening to why players care enough to choose to protest."We really have to understand what these ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
State Vacuum and ‘Bernie Apestein’ may be waving goodbye to longtime location

State Vacuum and ‘Bernie Apestein’ may be waving goodbye to longtime location

For nearly 40 years, while wearing an eclectic mix of fashion, a mechanical gorilla has stood outside State Vacuum of Tampa, waving a hello to Kennedy Boulevard motorists.His name is Bernie Apestein. "That gorilla has been a mainstay" said David Epst...
Updated: 1 hour ago
‘Pill spill’: Hillsborough officials announce details of opioid lawsuit

‘Pill spill’: Hillsborough officials announce details of opioid lawsuit

TAMPA — Attorney Mike Moore has a legal analogy for the lawsuit Hillsborough County filed Tuesday against 14 drug makers and distributors.When oil giant BP’s rig blew up in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, killing 11 people and spilling millions of gallon...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Judge denies stand your ground claim by Hillsborough sheriff’s son

Judge denies stand your ground claim by Hillsborough sheriff’s son

TAMPA — George Zachary Chronister may have feared embarrassment when he used a knife to slash and stab another man during a 2017 brawl.But he wasn’t in fear for his life and well-being, a judge ruled Tuesday.Hillsborough Circuit Judge Christopher Nas...
Updated: 1 hour ago
State launches investigation, assesses $800,000 in damages against SunPass contractor

State launches investigation, assesses $800,000 in damages against SunPass contractor

After months of inaction, Florida Department of Transportation officials announced today that they are assessing nearly $800,000 in damages against the SunPass contractor responsible for the state’s tolling chaos now in its third month.At Gov. Rick S...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Ernest Hooper: Goody Goody stars in latest documentary by Tampa’s video historian

Ernest Hooper: Goody Goody stars in latest documentary by Tampa’s video historian

I don’t know if she can outrace a giant boulder, navigate perilous pitfalls to capture a hidden idol or beat back Nazi soldiers intent on evil.I’m not even sure if she can deftly handle a whip, or fit a fedora over her salt-and-pepper hair.Yet in man...
Updated: 2 hours ago