Friday, January 25, 2013

CA Board Recap: January 24, 2013 Board of Directors Meeting

Start Time: 7:03 pm
End Time: 10:58 pm

Any neutral observer would say that last night was a good night for the Inner Arbor Plan and the Inner Arbor Development Trust.  The original plan for last night's agenda was to save Resident Speak-out regarding the Inner Arbor recommendations until after the presentation, but a number of Board members refused to allow this arrangement, prompting a set of people to talk about how they had not been informed about the Plan...immediately before they were going to be informed about the Plan.  Just about every resident that spoke about the substance of the Plan supported it.  Those that opposed focused more on the "process", which is only beginning.

Inner Arbor Plan and Development Trust

Sometimes I feel like the CA Board doesn't know how to handle success.  We have a Plan that was positively portrayed in the media, looks beautiful, has the full support of our County's elected leaders, and prompted at least 10 e-mails from residents (most of whom we had never heard from before), telling us how excited they were about the Plan.  Instead of celebrating that, Board members attacked the "process" (that had only just begun) and made accusations about what had been done behind closed doors.

Let's talk about transparency.  The Plan, and all of its elements, was presented last night.  It will be presented again next Thursday, January 31, at Slayton House.  The presentation will be available on the CA website.  There are three weeks between last night's meeting and the final vote.  Before the final vote, there will be an opportunity for additional Resident Speak-out about the Plan. 

This is a fully transparent process.  Nothing will be passed three weeks from now that would not have been fully available to the public in the interim.

However, transparency does not equate to public edit.  We, as a Board, would be doing a public disservice if we attempt to have a Plan the public loves (described by Michael McCall as a "concerto in three parks") open for Sim City demolition.  This is not just somebody's plan for a new kitchen.  It is a balanced system of parts, examined for flow, structure, and cohesion.  There is room for public feedback and incorporation, but we need to do so with respect for the expertise underlying the work.

CA President Phil Nelson did a brilliant job describing the Development Trust last night and why it was necessary.  In its current configuration, it would be made up of the CA President (ex officio), two CA Board Members, and two Columbia residents.  It was recommended, and I agree, that we add a fifth member (or allow the President to vote - my preferred approach) to prevent tie votes, but otherwise I think CA's interests will be protected.  The Trust is necessary to facilitate third-party funding via grants, bonds, sponsorships, or charitable gifts.  CA, as a 501(c)(4), is unable to accept these funding vehicles.  The Trust, as a 501(c)(3), would.  There is the added benefit that the Trust would let "park people do park things", but this is peripheral to the central concern that any large undertaking focused on the arts needs to be allowed to take grants.  Simple as that.

The Trust is integral to the Plan.  Without the Trust, CA will not be able to afford this Plan.  That is why these two elements are presented as one.  We may balk at the idea of creating an affiliate Trust, regardless of the safeguards in place to maintain oversight, but if we do, we also need to forgo the Inner Arbor Plan.

The public is being heard on this, and will continue to be heard as long as you all stay dedicated to the vision.  It was moving to hear the Inner Arbor Advocates flow into a single message as Resident Speak-Out went on last night.  Dream big.  Think big.  DREAM big.  THINK big.

I don't see how we can turn back now.

FY2014 Budget

After two and a half hours primarily focused on the Inner Arbor Plan, we turned to the FY14 Budget.  The central issue was the Aquatics Master Plan and whether underutilized pools like Talbott Springs should receive additional funding for amenities to bring more residents to that pool.

Let me premise this by saying that I wish we had not "Accepted and Filed" the Aquatics Master Plan.  I acknowledge that there were Aquatics Policy Statements that were passed by the Board, but for all the time we spent on the AMP, and all the time Staff spent on the AMP, we really should have just passed it.  Because we "Accepted and Filed", there is an ongoing debate about the legitimacy of a central policy document, which, as expected, has caused all sorts of problems.

I voted for, and the Board passed 6-2-1, an amendment to the Capital Budget that would take $75,000 out of Category III projects (miscellaneous Village improvements) to go toward placing additional amenities and improvements at Talbott Springs and Faulkner Ridge pools, with the caveat that this money would slide into FY2015 if the pools were found to require upgrades for ADA compliance.  I did so reluctantly.  As noted to me after the Board meeting, by passing this vote, we are rewarding stubbornness and rejecting the orderly implementation of the Aquatics Master Plan.  The Board, myself included, essentially said "If you ignore Board policy long enough, and are persistent enough, you will be rewarded." 

I voted in favor of this Motion because it was a compromise.  So long as we are keeping all 23 pools open, we need to direct resources to make them all viable.  We also need prudence.  $75,000, pendant on more pressing expenditures like ADA compliance, is prudent, regardless of the sponsor.  But let me say this, if this compromise is not reciprocated by the Board members who sought it, it will be my last.  As a Board, we need to listen to one another about what we are passionate about for this community.  We do not have the luxury of discounting the convictions of others because we don't get along with them.  That was the system in which I made my vote.  If it is not a system promoted by my other nine Board members, we may be having a lot of 6-4 votes.

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