Friday, March 1, 2013

CA Board Recap: February 28, 2013 Board of Directions Meeting

Start time: 7:33 pm
End time: 9: 34 pm

As you may be able to tell from the times noted above, this was not a particularly controversial meeting.  That's good.  Similar to any living organism, organizations need a little rest every once in a while too.  Despite the overwhelming 8-2 majority in favor of the Inner Arbor Plan, there are wounds to heal amongst the 10 members of the Board and I think last night was a good step in that direction. 

Also, for all of the talk about community involvement, last night's brevity (I can call two hours brief, right?) is a glaring example of what we should be striving towards to bring more people to the fold.  If there is a cost/demand curve for CA Board Service, I am certain that the two-hour-meeting mark captures a much larger segment of the population than 3.5 hours.  We should make "efficient meetings" has high of a priority as any of our other efforts to engage the public and hear their thoughts.

Purchasing Policy

We had a first reading of edits to the Purchasing Policy recommended by the Audit Committee, primarily focused on single source purchasing.  The Columbia Association, being one of the largest corporations in the County (yes, it's a corporation) makes big waves when it changes the manner in which it does business.  Rest assured that no significant changes are being considered, or at least not any that will be noticeable to the public at large, but these decisions are worth the cognizance of the public.

This discussion prompted a request to revisit CA's Minority Business Enterprise and local preference policies.  I truly appreciate the manner in which Board Members presented their inquiries.  Rather than bust open the entire agenda with a drill down on a tangentially related subject, they asked the President to put these items on the Board Tracking Form (a catch-all for Board Requests) and have them addressed at a subsequent meeting.  The Management Team understands that their response to these types of inquires governs whether this mechanism for oversight is used in the future or they are subject to Pop Quiz after Pop Quiz on any given Thursday.

Village Contingency Fund Policy

Director of Community Services Michelle Miller has done a fantastic job collaborating with the Villages to address the Village Contingency Fund Policy, which has been a source of both ambiguity and frustration over the years.  This Fund operates like a collective Rainy Day fund for Villages that have an unexpected occurrence that upsets their balance sheets.  Due to the various sizes of our Villages, and therefore varying opportunities for income, the allocation of assessment share limits how much an individual Village may keep in reserves from year to year to prevent the circumstance of a "super-rich Village" (and you thought Columbia was super-left BEFORE).  The Contingency Fund backs up this arrangement, is paid into by all 10 Villages, and distributed by vote of the Contingency Fund committee, made up of Village Managers, Village Board Members, and a CA Board Member.

The Board was presented with proposed edits to this Policy as created by consensus vote of the Village Managers and each Village Board.  I can't speak for the rest of the Board, but after hearing that, and receiving feedback from my own Village Manager in favor of the edits, I did not need to hear any more deliberation.  This policy will come up for additional readings, but I expect that it will be passed through the next time it is on the Strategic Implementation Committee Agenda.

Planned Reduction of Maintained Open Space

Similar to my note about the Purchasing Policy above, CA has the opportunity to make big changes with efforts to reduce its carbon footprint.  As an organization, we have been diligent in this regard, thanks entirely to the creative, innovative, and persistent efforts of our Management Team.

Director of Open Space Management Dan D'amore made a presentation to the Board about efforts to reduce our maintenance of Open Space by approximately 40 acres (I hope I have this number right).  In doing so, we will significant reduce the amount of diesel fuel, exhaust, and debris caused by mowing, not to mention the reduced expense.

This is an interesting position for CA.  The most readily available answer to "Why do I pay CA?" is "Open Space".  For all the concerns/complaints about the use of the CPRA lien, it takes one tour of the area for your friend from out of town to say "Everything looks so nice here."  You see, in other cities, "Open Space" is a future gas station or Shop-Rite.  In Columbia, that is ours to keep.  BUT it is also ours to maintain and there are expectations wrapped up in that.  Our neighbors will rake their yard and leave the piled leaves on CA paths for our workers to collect.  They will fence in parts of their yard, proposing that anything outside of that fence, regardless of ownership, is for CA to mow.  These are the small ticky-tack things that you learn from Columbia Service.  Above all things, expectation is reality on maintenance of Open Space.

All the same, this is a tremendous opportunity to decrease what some may term "frivolous" carbon dioxide emissions and do so on the quick.  We received this presentation in the context of Community Outreach.  It was proposed that the plans for each Village should be taken to the Village Boards before implemented.  I didn't say anything at the time, but, with all the respect in the world for our Villages, I don't agree.  I really think we need to move forward on these reductions in concert with our outreach efforts.  Even the slightest review of what CA has done with watershed management shows that our folks know what they're doing when it comes to the outdoors.  The reductions are better termed "slivers and reforestation".  We're not leaving Tick-ville outside your backdoor.  Our responsibility to cut down on this mowing is significant and should not be ignored.  As these areas are left to grow, it will be easier for the individual Villages to see where the proposed reductions are taking place, and make themselves heard accordingly.  That's just my perspective and I look forward to hearing more at a subsequent meeting.

I have run out of time.  We also had a great discussion of the Watershed Management presentation put on by Rhoda Toback and Brian England, which sounds absolutely fantastic.  Unfortunately, the job-that-pays-me-money required me elsewhere that evening.  The CA Speaker Series is one of my favorite things going right now and I hope to see more events like this in the near future.

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