Friday, March 23, 2012

CA Board Recap: March 22, 2012 Board of Directors Meeting

Start Time: 7:30 pm
End Time: 10:59 pm

Although I can't say we have too much to show for this meeting, I was impressed and happy with the manner in which the agenda was followed in terms of time allocation and structuring our deliberation.  That has been my biggest concern and complaint throughout the past year.  We have a new agenda system in place and while it does not necessarily forbid those abuses that were moving our most important actions to 10:50 pm, it does give the Board Chair and other members more room to enforce the time parameters set (or at least I hope so).

CA Non-Profit Community Legislation

Those following the Board's progress from last Fall may recall the consideration of a bill that would establish separate legislation for the Columbia Association as seen before the State, thereby removing it from application of the Homeowners Association Act.  The impetus of this was that the number of amendments to the HOAA have multiplied over the last five years and CA has been burdened with significant lobbying costs to monitor and seek amendment to a number of these bills.  This is at great cost to CA residents and frustration to law-makers tasked with continually amending their legislation for an entity that does not fit well within the Act.

There was significant testimony from about five different residents all speaking out against the new legislation, but particularly the exclusion from the HOAA.  Their greatest concern/suspicion was that CA was looking to exclude itself from transparency laws that would diminish the rights of residents.

We then heard from our lobbyist in Annapolis, who set the story straight.  CA was established about 20 years before the HOAA was passed and, as such, was already governed by the vast majority of those transparency provisions included in the law.  In fact, it seems almost tacitly acknowledged by opponents that CA already has much greater transparency requirements of itself than may be imposed under State law.  The bigger concern that is oft repeated is the fear of "future Boards", presumed to be malicious thieves set on destroying Columbia, resident by resident.

I've gone back and forth on whether I support this new legislation, but after last night I find myself firmly in the position of moving forward with the new law.  Rather than weaken resident rights under State law, this legislation could potentially strengthen State oversight and resident recourse.  Let's say Resident A wants new transparency provisions to apply to CA, which were rejected at the Board level.  They can go to their State Senator/Delegate and seek amendment to the HOAA, which will take tremendous effort, coalition building, and universal applicability to pass OR they could go to their local delegation and seek amendment to the "CA Law", applicable only to CA.  There is the dual consideration that so long as CA is under the HOAA, we are subject to the whims of those who do not live in Howard County, have never visited Columbia, and do not much care about what may hurt our organization (nor would they be accountable for doing so).  If Columbia is going to be the "next big thing" as some hope and predict, we should disarm our potential foes while that is still an option.

With all of that said, I still believe CA should rise and fall on its own Charter and By-laws, but I appreciate that I may be in a minority on that count.  Future Boards have within their power the ability to dissolve CA and sell its parts, but yet transparency seems to be the one thing Board members and residents are interested in keeping out of their reach.  That is a sad commentary on this suspicion that exists between a so-called "watchdog group" and those who have run this organization.  The opportunity to serve and affect change from within are legion.  You have to wonder why those opportunities were never taken.

Columbia's 50th Anniversary

Believe it or not, Columbia is about to turn 50.  The Board is considering how CA will be involved in celebrating this event and what we need to get started now in order to have everything in place 4-5 years down the line.  I think everyone is a little wary about spending too much money, but at the same time, CA seems positioned to guide this celebration better than most other organizations or the County government.  The Board has asked Staff to design some proposals that will be considered by the Board this Fall.

The Dashboard

The Jason Voorhees of Columbia made another appearance last night.  We first considered whether creating a "quality improvement program" should remain a strategic objective of the Board and then looked at new inclusions for the Dashboard relating to usage of facilities, "market share" (i.e., how many Columbians have CA memberships), and customer satisfaction.

With the creation of the Dashboard (a "quality improvement program"), I really would have liked to see the strategic objective taken off the table.  It is a complete farce that past the creation of this program, we will retain an objective to create it.  (If that sentence did not make sense, you're with me).  But, yet again, the Board got lost in how certain words "feel" and whether removing the objective would suggest that CA is no longer concerned with quality improvement.  Obviously it doesn't, but that did not convey itself to a majority of the Board and the objective's fate was tabled for re-examination by the next Board in a few months.

That's all for today.  Have a great Friday doing what you love.  It's impossible not to.