Friday, May 25, 2012

CA Board Recap: May 24, 2012 Board of Directors Meeting

Start Time: 7:37 pm
End Time: 9:59 pm

You read that time correctly. Despite having a very full plate between President’s Goals, Symphony Woods, and CA Town Halls, all three committee chairs stuck to the amount of time allotted and finished the meeting within two and a half hours. It was not without some discord (questionably related to the expediency of the meeting), but there were a number of us that noted after the meeting just how good it felt to stick to an agenda and not run off into the weeds on unrelated matters as they strike our fancy.

I also should mention that I was "elected" Chair of the Strategic Implementation Committee last night, which means I will be responsible for running that section of the agenda.  I look forward to the challenge of respecting the time of our Board members, while also making sure that each member has the opportunity to be heard on all issues discussed.  This is much harder than I thought it would be, but I'm learning as I go.

Symphony Woods Fountain

There were a number of parameters that our Wesco consultant group wanted to hear back on before creating additional drafts of the SW Fountain. You may recall that the Board reviewed two proposals a few months back and that there was a lack of enthusiasm for either, both within the Board and in the community at large.

The parameters Wesco sough clarification on were: Interactivity (yea or nay); Naturalistic or Modern; and Architectural feature or flat. One thing I’ve come to learn about this Board is that when they come to a fork in the road, they pick it up. While we chose to reconfirm our interest in an interactive fountain, the Board was disinclined to go with either Naturalistic/Modern or Feature/Flat. We straw voted in favor of hybrids, which I hope do not produce Dr.-Moreanu-like Fountain designs, but presume will give Wesco a good idea of where the Board is thinking in terms of design. The one thing we emphasized is that we would like this fountain to be innovative and create a “wow” factor with all those who see it.

Notably, Cy Paumier has also submitted design schematics and was present at last night’s meeting. Some Board members thought he should be permitted a chance to speak, either that night or worked in to some later agenda. It was my understanding, and Wesco confirmed, that Cy’s designs had been submitted to our consultants, who would incorporate those suggestions as they see fit. This was not satisfactory to those Board members who wanted to hear Cy speak.

I was disappointed that Cy chose not to speak during Resident Speak-out. For reasons I can’t quite figure out, some Board members feel that asking Cy to make his interests known at Resident Speak-out would be disrespectful. If so, we need to reexamine the very purpose of Resident Speak-out to ensure that we are not enabling a vehicle that is disrespectful to our residents.

Although mostly quiet, there were a number of Board members that did not think it would be appropriate to have Cy speak and felt that it would undermine our working relationship with Wesco. I agree. Wesco won the bid and has been doing a fantastic job working with the Board to create the best possible design based on all available inputs. We cannot ask them to serve two masters. If we continue to be dissatisfied with their proposals, we may have to look in a new direction, but up until that point, they are the ones driving the design process. I believe Mr. Paumier had the opportunity to submit a proposal during the RFP process and chose not to do so. His input as a resident and as a valued community member is still welcomed, but I don’t see what would merit a special presentation on a future Board agenda, which could only work to disrupt the process that we have engaged with Wesco.

I should emphasize that there were a number of Board members that were very frustrated with me last night, one of which left the meeting before it was adjourned. I regret that and had a hard time sleeping because of it. But I don’t doubt the decision underlying that frustration. There are an equal number of Board members that would have been upset if we had gone the other way. I’m just not sure any of them would have stormed out.

Town Halls

The External Relations Committee is evaluating the prospect of holding two town hall meetings over the next year to hear from residents about their perspective on a number of topics. New Board Member Regina Clay suggested that we hold an “open” Town Hall meeting that would give residents a chance to tell us what was on their mind. I really liked that. It was noted that we hold this every other week with “Resident Speak-out”, but I don’t think that serves the same purpose. Holding a meeting specifically designed to hear from residents is much different than including a mini-session at the beginning of our (formerly) four-hour meetings. Also, these town halls would be held out amongst the Village Centers, which hopefully will draw a group of people that may not otherwise be inclined to sit in our dark, ugly (sorry, it is), Board room.

Regina’s idea is just what we need and I hope the ERC sees it through. And if they do, I hope you will make time to be heard.

Strategic Issues

During one of the more confusing parts of the evening that felt more like a 4th grade Language Arts seminar at times, the Board discussed a series of “Strategic Issues” for CA to focus on over the next year (and many years to come). I have been serving on the ad hoc President’s Goals committee, which drafted a preliminary set of “Strategic Issues” noting the changing face of Columbia and CA’s role in it. We clearly had no idea what we were doing. Evidently, Strategic Issues are not designed to project action. They are merely intended to state the most important set of facts and implications that are facing the organization. “Cause and effect” as Jane Dembner described it.

Early on it was clear that when you turn a “Cause and action” sentence into a “Cause and effect” sentence, grammar and comprehension suffers. The staff had provided a noble effort towards redirecting the thrust of our proposed Strategic Issues, but it came off like a TBS dub-over of Die Hard (“Yippee-ki-yay, kemosabe”). Ed Coleman, noting that his committee’s time was running short, requested that Board members send in their suggestions and that Staff give another effort at rewording the Strategic Issues.

It is also worth noting that we approved the FY13 President’s Goals at last night’s meeting, which is an accomplishment in itself. Last year, we did not approve those Goals until past the deadline set in Phil Neslon’s contract, which had significant implications with compensation.

Welcome Regina!

I just wanted to note that the addition of Regina Clay has been a breath of fresh air for me personally and for the Board as a whole. She adds a much-needed perspective to our discussions and does not put up with Board members going down rabbit holes. I would say last night’s brevity was a mirage, but I think with this new Board, change is here to stay.

That’s all for today. I wish I could have said that the meeting was all positives, but there was significant strife that takes away from what would otherwise have been a great night. Many Board members have lamented that we don’t have enough time to discuss areas of disagreement informally after meetings. The one time we probably needed it most (and had plenty of time to do so), those members were gone before the smoke had cleared.

Have a great Friday doing what you love!