Start Time: 7:40 pm
End Time: 9:35 pm
This was a short meeting, but only because it was almost entirely devoted to one agenda item -- the HOA legislation. When we left the conference room two weeks ago, it seemed like we had reached some form of consensus on the process. First, we would review the language of the proposed bill to correct the language and offer the Villages a "final copy" for them to make their determination on support from. Then, at a subsequent meeting, we would vote on whether we would be referring the bill on to the Delegation. That process feel apart quickly.
HOA Bill Process
I remain astonished that there are critics in the community, and Board members, that feel we are "rushing into this" and/or skipping steps. Last night, one Board member, after voting to quash the bill forever more, followed up on the unsuccessful vote with his concern that we had not adequately evaluated the language of the bill. There are the appearances of a strategy emerging in forestalling this bill repeatedly and then complaining that the Board has embarrassed itself with the process. The embarrassment is that this Board has had this legislation for three months and has yet to vote on it.
I think this bill is good for Columbia and good for the Columbia Association, but I also think it is "small". It doesn't do very much. It continues the resident protections that currently exist and separates CA for specific inclusion in all future bills. That's it. We can talk about lobbying costs all we want, but this is really about creating a legal firewall to protect against errant legislation. Yet, put in the context of changing Columbia as we know it, the benefits seem very small. The latter concern is further augmented by months of process and public hearings that, in their very existence, promote the big concern over the small change.
As I described it last night, we have an infected wound right now. We missed an opportunity to think of a roll-out communications strategy, allowing critics to define the parameters of this debate, and have been playing on their court ever since. That's fine. But all Board members, regardless of their position on the bill, should be pushing this matter to a vote. No more dawdling. The language of the bill will either be irrelevant (voted down) or left for final edit by the Delegation, so checking punctuation and spelling is of minimal utility.
I don't know why we do this to ourselves.
HOA Public Sentiment
I will never be someone who votes based on public sentiment alone. This Board has heard from about 30 people, many of them more than once, that "no one is in favor of this bill, everyone is against it, vote it down." We've been called fools, stupid, Columbia's Politburo, and lackeys of the Staff. This process has worked more to show the worst of Columbia than the best, with many residents stating after the fact that they were intimidated out of commenting due to the tenor of discussion.
I can take the nastiness. I suppose we asked for it when we volunteered to spend 7-8 hours a week to serve on the Board. Long ago, I realized that any position with a faux gold name-tag will be paired with criticism. (Treasure the security of those weakly tacked stickers). But I don't have to be persuaded by mass alone. I have a right to disagree and I do.
Board members have been repeatedly shamed for not attending all of the public hearings on this bill. I couldn't make all four. I have a job that requires a lot of my time, especially those hours between 8 and 6. Nevertheless, I am quite certain I could paraphrase every argument against this bill, with or without the insults. If the complaint was that I did not subject myself to hours of condescending instruction, that is correct. And as I've told my fellow Board members, if there is another meeting offered for public hearing on this bill, I will not be in attendance regardless of what my schedule provides. That is not intended as "disrespect" for the people who choose to speak, but rather my conclusion that we are well past the point of utility.
I make my votes on the Columbia Council based on my judgment and evaluation of what is best for Columbia. Public sentiment is very important to me (hence the existence of this biweekly post) as an additional input that can often direct my judgment on a given item. But to suppose that the correct answer is determined by the weighing of chits is something I cannot accept. I've heard those speaking against this bill say they haven't read the bill. I've heard them say it does things it does not do. I've heard them say we're trying to exempt ourselves from currently applicable provisions, which is also incorrect. In this context, the Board should think carefully before deciding that the matter has been decided by way of public vote.
That's all for today. Have a great Wednesday doing what you love! Safe Travels!