Friday, November 9, 2012

CA Board Recap: November 8, 2012 Board of Directors Meeting

Start Time: 7:35 pm
End Time: 11:12 pm

We really don't have too much to show for our four hours this week.  Some of that may be the result of the Board's experiment with "Work Sessions", which have lacked the structure of our regular Board meetings, but it also may just be the nature of what was discussed.

FY14 Budget Requests

The Board is preparing to review the fiscal year 2014 budget for additions, subtractions, and corrections.  Off the top, it looks like we will have additional money available from what was set aside for Symphony Woods, so the Board has the opportunity to look at different uses for those funds.

Representatives from the Village of Hickory Ridge presented a compelling plan for a park next to the Hickory Ridge Village Center that was projected to cost approximately $800,000.  This park included a circular half-mile pathway, three gazebos, and a bocce pit (obviously the focus of Board discussion).

I love the plan and am excited about working bocce into the next activities guide, but I was a little put off by the argument that Hickory Ridge "is due" in light of the amenities offered at other Villages.  This argument should be put in cement boots and dropped to the bottom of Lake Kitt.  In my two years on the Board, we have never passed anything because one Village "was due".  For all of our faults and foibles, we are very good at evaluating proposals based on merit alone.  This Board has also been sincerely collegial and cooperative when it comes to the aging infrastructure of our Villages and working to bring them up to par.  Saying Village A has nicer schtuff than Village B is a quick way to get me to tune out.  It is divisive, petty, and short-sighted.

As expected, we were barely off the starting block on the Hickory Ridge park before we were talking about bathrooms in Wilde Lake and amenities at Oakland Mills pools.  Notably, this was immediately after the Planning and Strategy Committee Chair said we would be talking about Board Requests at another meeting.

CA has a lot on its plate in terms of infrastructure maintenance and upgrades over the next five years.  I am hopeful that this project can be incorporated, and honestly believe it will be.  I just hope we can do this based on merit and not some never-ending discussion of who deserves what.

15 Year Capital Project Improvements Plan

CA President Phil Nelson is seeking policy guidance from the Board on our long term strategic goals for infrastructure improvements and augmentation of what CA offers.  In short, he wants the Board to evaluate when CA is and where Columbia is going in terms of demographics, market shifts, and lifestyle changes.  When you hear people say "CA is phasing out young families", it is very likely that this is the topic that they are speaking to (regardless of whether it is a reflection of anything we have voted on doing).

Do you all remember the game Pipe Dream?  It was a spacial intelligence video game in which you had to place pipe to get green goo from point A to point B without it spilling onto the game board.  You had a certain number of pipe pieces to use and were timed against the unfortunately timed release of the goo while you are still working.  Great game.

Board deliberation is a lot like Pipe Dream.  If there is no structure (pipes), the goo goes everywhere.  That's not the Board's fault, and, in fact, I would suggest that this would happen with any ten people asked to discuss a topic.  That's why designing an Agenda is an art, requiring conscientious evaluation of topics, what is being asked of the deliberating body, and reasonable time expectations.  If all three elements are not in balance, you can expect an unproductive three hours to fly by in a hurry.

This was an early step in the process and I think it was intended to be a free-for-all.  That's fine, but there are a number of Board members who retreat from this kind of spaghetti-on-the-wall deliberation, and did so last night.  I also can't say what, if anything, came from our discussion other than "We want to keep our stuff, make it better, and add new stuff."  There were some very interesting, radical, ideas that were tossed around, including getting out of the gym business all together.  (To paraphrase one of my young-parent friends who came across his 3 month old son 2 hours after a diaper had come loose in the crib - "[Goo] was everywhere.")  I will expect Phil to take this Round Robin and make something of it, but more importantly, I will hope for some additional structure for future deliberations based on what the Board presented last night. 

HOA Bill

We need a new rule that if an Agenda item has been around for more than a year, it gets a name placard and a seat at the Board table.  The HOA legislation has long out-lasted this requirement.

Unfortunately for all involved, this measure was framed by speeches from two Board members casting aspersions about whose failed leadership caused what to unravel and how horrible this entire process has been.  This stuff really doesn't move the ball and just hurts feelings.

At this point in time, the Board needs to put on its big-boy (or big-girl) pants and vote.  I stared, mouth agape, as one Board member suggested that we were not in a position to vote on this bill.  If we are not ready to vote on this bill, we will never be ready to vote on anything.

After spending almost 30 minutes talking about whether we agreed with the reasoning for the bill, and another 5 minutes discussing process, the External Relations Committee referred the legislation out of committee to the Board.  We informally agreed on a process that unfortunately will not have been memorialized other than scattered agreement amongst the Board - A) The Board accepts a proposed Draft as what will be proposed; B) The Board holds a second later vote to endorse the legislation for consideration by the General Assembly.  This process will allow Villages the opportunity to have final language that they can take to their counsel for review, while also providing some measure of forward movement on an issue that has long over-stayed its welcome.

I think every element of CA can use a good debriefing on this matter when it is finally put to some disposition.  Was our communications strategy forward-thinking and effective?  Were we adequately prepared for anticipated criticisms?  How do we define the Board's fiduciary obligations?  What represents a conflict?

I'm exhausted on this matter and I have spent all tolerance I may have had for those who wish to analyze this bill to death.  At heart, I think the Board has shown a shadow of cowardice in its constant retreat from controversy.  We've allowed a wound to fester and this is the consequence.

That's all for today.  Have a great Friday doing what you love!