Friday, April 26, 2013

CA Board Recap: April 25, 2013 Board of Directors Meeting

Start Time: 7:30 p.m.
End Time: 8:50 p.m. (Followed by a Closed Meeting to 11:00 p.m.)

The last meeting of the year is normally for house-keeping matters that need to be wrapped up at the end of the term.  We have a number of reports we need to review and file that lay out everything the Board, by way of its various committees, has done over the previous 12 months.  It offers a good opportunity for reflection and planning, but also a breather from the intensity of moving to a vote.

Inner Arbor Board Update

When preparing this Agenda, the Board Operations Committee considered having a representative of the Inner Arbor Trust Board make a 20-40 minute presentation every month on the status of the new entity and its progress in developing Symphony Woods.  I was a little hesitant to this idea, primarily because I saw it as a "pinata session" for any Board member that does not support the Plan and wants to find road-blocks to slow down its implementation.  It is unfortunate that I even have to think that way after the Board so overwhelmingly supported the Plan at passage, but such is the nature of CA Board politics.

What I did not expect was the strong, bold, and vocal support the Inner Arbor Board received from the rest of the Board.  This not being an action item, I had decided in advance of the meeting that I would remain silent for this portion of the Agenda.  There was no purpose in getting into the mud for a report.  But what was remarkable was that many other Board members, including those who had mostly remained quiet on this issue in the past (making their opinions known only with their vote), went to the mat for the IA Board and this Plan, so much so that even one of the two Board members who had vocally opposed the entire process began to acknowledge some understanding and agreement.

There was episodic discussion of whether the two Inner Arbor Board members who also serve on the CA Board will have a conflict of interest for votes that relate to Symphony Woods.  That's been my concern for some time.  However, identifying and resolving a conflict of interest isprimarily the responsibility of the individual Board member who has that conflict.  We set a very dangerous precedent by excluding Board members on conflict of interest grounds unilaterally by Board decision.  You can very easily see how this could be abused by a less benevolent Board to shut down minority views or shift a vote.  I think Ed and Gregg have unquestionable integrity and will be happy to defer to them as to where they see a conflict in their votes.

The best thing about last night was that it seemed to set the parameters as to how the CA Board was going to interact with the Inner Arbor Board into the future.  There was general acceptance that the new entity was independent and needed to be allowed to make its own decisions.  There was also general acceptance from representatives of the Inner Arbor Board that they would not be using that independence to change the fundamental understanding of what this Board would be when it was proposed in January.  As I said last night, we need to allow the new entity to get on its feet and gain some strength so that we may have a cooperative, but firm negotiation process on matters relating to the easement.  I am more confident now than ever before that this Board not only will allow that to happen, but looks forward to the opportunities presented by this new partner.

Inner Arbor Communications Policy

There appears to have been a hiccup in the Agenda that was not detected until we were all sitting around the Board table last night in the inclusion of a topic relating to an "Inner Arbor Communications Policy."  In essence, this proposal would govern how we communicate progress on the Inner Arbor to the public.

We really did not get too far on this topic and my understanding is that it will be referred to the next Board for disposition.  Unfortunately, it is Agenda topics like this that end up miring the Board down in endless process.  We need to vote on a process about how to discuss a process to implement a process.  Much of this I blame on the Board's inability to get a handle on what exactly the "External Relations Committee" is supposed to do.  Both of the past two ERC Chairs have done their best in trying to thread the needle between being effective and not stepping on the Public Relations duties of Columbia Association Staff, but it is a near impossible task.

President's Goals

Another brief item on the Agenda was to refer the President's Goals to the next Board for approval.  The committee asked to draft the President's Goals has done a great job at being specific enough to ensure progress, while vague enough to allow for flexibility.  After two years, I am still not comfortable with the President's evaluation process.  There was a proposal later in the meeting to blend Board and President Goals into the future, which I think could be a very productive change.  As it stands, we ask the President to accomplish a certain number of items, but then put a tiger (i.e., the political process of the CA Board) between him and his goal.  That's not any knock on the Board, but I don't think any of us would like the whims of a political body to decide whether we are successful at our jobs.

If we could somehow align motivations, so that the Board and the Management Team are not working at cross-purposes, I think we would have a much more productive working relationship and would be much more likely to self-correct on items that are not feasible.  I hate having to evaluate the President on items that I know, 12 months after the objective was drafted, are no longer possible.  However, due to the nature of things, these goals are drafted and are essentially ignored by all but the President for six months at a time, with one opportunity to check and see if things are still on the right track.  That doesn't seem like a very good way to lead.

Reflections on One Term

I feel like the last two years have gone by so fast, while at the same time can't remember what it was like not to serve on the Columbia Association Board.  I've seen the ultimate highs and the lowest of lows.  I've been inspired to fervent action and frustrated to depressed paralysis.  The one thing I've learned, and need to improve on, is that emotion gets you nowhere.  That's not to say there isn't room for excitement or anger, but those things need to be put on pause for the three and a half hours between the gavel strikes.  Not for the other Board members, but for me.  It's just not healthy to let so much of your person get wrapped up into your position.  If you're not careful, the position can eat you alive so that there is no longer a difference between the two.  Votes are votes.  You win some and you lose some.  But that's business.  That's work.  It is fun and fulfilling work, but its not worth risking personal emotions to get it accomplished.  I don't think I will ever be able to extricate the two, and I think that is actually an asset that makes me a better, more zealous, Board member, but I need to try my best to only spend that fuel when absolutely necessary.

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