[an error occurred while processing this directive] ZEPHYR Magazine
                              T H E
                           Z E P H Y R
                  __     M A G A Z I N E
                 Issue #51                 1-9-87
            A weekly electronic magazine for users of 
                        THE ZEPHYR II BBS 
                    (Mesa, AZ - 602-894-6526)
                owned and operated by T. H. Smith
                    Editor - Gene B. Williams 
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                            (c) 1988

   It's about time - past time - for the new issue. However, 
thanks to Chris we have a very interesting conversation going 
on. If no one objects, I'll let it run for a while longer (or 
until interest dies down). 
   For the sake of efficiency, I've taken the main thread and 
have turned it into a summary. The messages were killed off. 
This both makes room for additional posts and makes it easier 
for newcomers to take part in what is going on.
   Fair warning. The discussion was beginning to fall into a 
name calling contest. That will not be allowed. 

                       AGE DISCRIMINATION

   The story began when Chris Mitchell gave us a brief rundown 
on a story in the Mesa Tribune, Sunday, January 3, 1988.
  "Roland Schirg and his wife, Clara, said they agree with the 
zoning ordinance that means they must move out of the Dreamland 
Villa community in an unincorporated area on Mesa's east side."

NOTE: Neighborhood Pro, who is just as his name implies, a 
professional in real estate, let us know that the reporter was 
in error - that this is not a case of a zoning ordinance but 
a deed restriction.

   The basic story was;
   The daughter of a relatively elderly couple, and her husband, 
ran into bad times. She was pregnant. The young couple moved in, 
temporarily, with her parents in their home in Dreamland Villa 
(located in East Mesa, roughly between Higley and Power, and 
between University and Adobe). 
   The husband took virtually every cent the young couple had and 
headed for California, supposedly to try to get back on his feet. 
Instead he decided that the marriage was over. 
   Meanwhile, the young woman had a child, and nowhere to go. 
   Dreamland Villa is a retirement community. The homes have 
deed restrictions attached which state that no one under 18 can 
live there for longer than 3 months. The new mother and her 
child had been there longer than this, in violation of the deed 
restriction. Consequently, the other people in Dreamland Villa 
asked them to leave, then later drew up a petition to force them 
to sell the house. 
   The Shirgs attempted to sell the home but couldn't find a buyer. 
The Dreamland Villa petitioners claimed that the reason was because 
they were asking an unreasonable amount for the home. The county 
was brought into it, and the Shirgs were given 30 days to vacate.

   The original question involved the legality of what is going 
on there. A few users began to pull out magic phrase, "it's 
   The fact is, it's neither illegal nor unconstitutional. From 
a legal stand, the Shirgs have violated the law (in a modest 
and totally uncriminal way). The right to discriminate on the 
basis of an arbitrary minimum age has even been upheld by the 
court system.
   Maybe this should be explained. (Please pay attention so we 
can get this point cleared up once and for all.)
   For something to be unconstitutional it has to violate a 
portion of the Constitution. 
  A good example is the right to vote. In 1870 the 15th 
Amendment went into effect, which says, "The right of a 
citizen of the United States to vote shall not be denied 
or abridged by the United States or any State on account of 
race, color, or previous condition of servitude."
   Up to that point it was perfectly legal and constitutional 
to deny the right of vote to a black, an Oriental or to 
anyone who was, or who had been indentured. After passage, 
it was still legal and constitutional to deny the right to 
vote to women. THAT didn't become unconstitutional until 
1920 (from the 19th Amendment). 
   There is virtually nothing in the Constitution about age, 
other than minimum ages for certain offices. Consequently, 
deed restrictions based on age are not unconstitutional; 
although it may come about one day in the future.
   So, yes it's legal. And no, it's not unconstitutional. 

   What we have, then, is a moral or ethical question. An 
act that is legal isn't ALWAYS ethical. That's why laws 
continue to change. An act that is presently within the 
bounds of the Constitution may, in the future, be declared 
as unconstitutional, usually by the adding of yet another 
amendment to the Constitution.

   On the one side, there are obvious times when age restrictions 
must apply. I think it was Lloyd Pulley who first brought up the 
example of a 2-year-old voting or getting a driver's license. In 
our Constitution age *is* mentioned - by setting certain minimum 
age requirements to hold certain offices. The idea behind it was 
that someone older has more experience and is thus better able to 
handle the duties of that office. 
   The age limits set were arbitrary. Even the law makers no doubt 
realized what Chris (and others) have brought out - that there are 
50-year-olds who need to be spoonfed, and there are 10-year-olds 
who could be effective Presidents. What has happened is that certain 
general limits were set - arbitrarily - based on general tendencies. 
   The average 10-year-old is NOT capable of running this country. 
Nor is the average 21-year-old. The average 10-year-old can't 
safely handle a car.
   Limits were set because there had to be a drawing line.

   On the other side it can be pointed out that laws are meant 
(at least in theory) to protect the general populace. It would be 
unsafe to the general public to allow the average 10-year-old to 
take a car out into traffic, for example. 
   A deed restriction involving a minimum age has nothing to do 
with public safety. It has to do with personal comforts of one 
group versus another. 
   And there it can be pointed out that age restrictions are 
discrimination just as would be (and have been) restrictions 
against race, sex, creed, etc.
   We have in Dreamland Villa a group of retirees (basically) who 
are uncomfortable around young children. The deed restriction was 
put into effect because, as a group, they preferred to live "among 
their own kind."
   The effective point is again a drawing line. If an elderly 
person can restrict the young when the only issue is personal 
preferrence, can't someone else restrict a race because they are 
uncomfortable around blacks (for example)? 

   Then we go back to the first side. 
   The people of Dreamland Villa have rights, too. They have the 
right to live as they want. They paid good money for their homes 
and should be able to have some say in who their neighbors are.
   The second side counters with the same argument - where is 
the drawing line? I paid good money for my home. (Never mind 
how much, but a few of you have seen it and know what I mean.) 
Should I then have the right to say that my neighbor can't sell 
his house to a black family? Or a Jewish family? 
   As I said in an earlier post (one that was almost entirely 
ignored), when a black family moves into a neighborhood, the 
property values tend to go down. It used to be much worse. When 
the antidiscrimination laws first came into effect, a home could 
lose as much as half its value. In some parts of the country 
prejudice is so high that this is still true. 
   Having a child move in next door does nothing to property 
values. Having a black move in does. 
   More, it can be pointed out that having young children in the 
neighborhood does nothing for the crime rate, while having blacks 
move in tends (on a nationwide scale, and assuming you're good 
enough at twisting statistics) causes the crime rate to go up.

   Side One has said, "They made their bed, now let them lie 
in it." The idea is, justifiably, the Shirgs knowingly agreed 
to the deed restriction. (For that matter, they *still* agree 
to it and are simply asking for more time. Just read the quote 
   There is a valid contract, and one the family agreed to 
uphold. When someone signs a contract, with full knowledge of 
all terms and conditions, they should have no right to later 
object to those terms and conditions. 
   On the other side examples were pointed out where this is 
obviously not the case, nor should it be. 
   You sign a contract in which you are to be given all the 
conveniences of life for 5 years. At the end of that 5 years 
you become the property of the other person. He can sell you, 
beat you, kill you, dismember you piece by piece. You knew 
all that before you began. And you signed the contract knowing 
full well that 5 years later this guy would chain you up in 
the base and start clipping off the joints of your fingers for 
   Now obviously this is taking the example to an extreme. The 
people of Dreamland Villa aren't demanding that the mother and 
child be sacrificed on an altar - they just want them thrown 
out. But it remains a matter of degree. 
   Chris and I could sign a contract wherein he washes my car 
once a week for a year after which I turn over to him the deed 
for my house. It's perfectly legal. Stupid (on my part), but 
   The question is, is it ethical? Should such a thing be 
allowed to happen?
   There is one more point that should be made. It's another one 
I tried to get across earlier.
   At present, age discrimination, by law and by Constitution, 
works in one direction only. You can legally put in a deed 
restriction that doesn't allow residency for someone beneath a 
certain age. You CANNOT do so to restrict people *over* a 
certain age. 
   There are laws now that force an employer to ignore the 
question of maximum age while hiring employees. You cannot 
legally refuse to hire a person on the basis of race, creed, 
sex or maximum age (up to 65, I think it is). It's a good 
law, in my opinion. A necessary one (also in my opinion). It's 
also one-sided. 
   For a law to be just, it has to work in both (or all) directions. 
   Take another national problem. People are living to a greater 
age these days. There are more and more 70 and 80 and 90 year olds 
driving their vehicles on the road. As a general tendency, the 
older a person becomes, the less safe they are in handling a 
   A famous case involved a woman in Florida who drove her car 
over a bus stop full of people, killing 8 and hospitalizing 6 
more. She'd blanked out. Didn't even remember doing it. And it 
wasn't the first time it had happened. 
   In the same state a 92-year-old man had to be led to stand 
before the judge. He couldn't see well enough to get there on 
his own, nor could he hear anything the judge was saying. He 
couldn't even respond to questions because he couldn't understand 
even the words he was hearing. Yet he drove to the courthouse - and 
drove home afterwards, still holding a valid license. 
   Several times efforts have been made to require mandatory driving 
tests for all people over the age of 65. It makes sense and would 
be good for public safety. Yet each time the effort is defeated 
on the basis that it would be age discrimination. If mandatory 
testing is required, it has to be required for everyone or no one. 
   So you see, age discrimination works in one direction only, 
and irregardless of public safety.

   Okay, okay. So I editorialized a bit. But in my opinion that's 
really the key to the whole thing. 
   Minimum age restrictions are legal and constitutional.
   Maximum age restrictions are not.
   The Shirgs definitely signed the contract and understood and 
agreed to the minimum age deed restriction. This restriction is 
perfectly legal. 
   That doesn't make it right.
   Here's what we have:
   Dreamland Villa is a retirement community, designed so that 
the relatively elderly can be with their own kind and live in 
peace and quiet. A deed restriction exists which clearly states 
that anyone under 18 cannot stay there for a period longer than 
3 months. All this is legal.
   The Shirg family knew, understood and still agrees to that 
condition. Unfortunately they find themselves in a sticky 
situation in which they must now vacate within 30 days. In a 
very real sense, they are about to have their home taken away 
from them, possibly without recompense, because their daughter 
had a baby, because they care too much for her and child to 
turn her into the street, and because they haven't had the time 
to find other living arrangements. 
   As Neighborhood Pro can tell you, it isn't always easy to 
sell a house. (Or ask Bob E.shtmlan, for that matter. He knows, 
too.) Just about the only way you can get out in 3 months or 
less is to almost literally give the house away.
   On the other hand, and as was pointed out, if the Shirgs could 
buy a motorhome, they could have set up the daughter and child 
in an apartment for a few months. 
   In my opinion, none of this is all that important. 
   What IS important is, where is that drawing line? And why is 
in one direction only?
   If laws are made to protect the public, how can a ruling such 
as this be in effect while a 92-year-old man can't have his 
license pulled? 
   If a 10-year-old isn't allowed to drive because he *may* not 
be safe, why is it illegal to test the elderly who are often 
decidely unsafe?
   Personally I think the issue at hand goes far beyond even 
age discrimination. It takes us into side fields of laws in 
effect that protect the few at the expense of the many. 


   I'd like to thank Chris - almost everyone, really - for making 
this sad affair come to light. There has been a nice exchange of 
ideas. Until just recently it showed that people can disagree and 
still not resort to the stupidity of name calling. 
   And once again that same reminder - if you can't post without 
calling a name, you're not really qualified to post.
   It's fine to disagree. But those with some smarts will have 
something more concrete to add other than, "You're a pinhead." 
Maybe those who find this necessary should watch Archie Bunker 
for a while?
   Zephyr Magazine has been around for some 5 years now. NEVER has 
it become a war board. It won't now. 
   Next time? 
   I have a piece of fiction in mind. One appropriate to the 
present issue. 

Zephyr Magazine is © Gene Williams. All rights reserved.