Friday, June 14, 2013

CA Board Recap: June 13, 2013 Board of Directors Meeting

Start Time: 7:30 p.m.
End Time: 9:58 p.m.

This was a well run meeting with interesting topics to fill our time.  I felt as if, for the most part, our time was well used. 

Strategic Goals
Although most in our community may not have seen them, the Columbia Association operates under six strategic goals:

1. Ensure value to Columbia Association (CA) Residents
2. Foster growth of the individuals
3. Support Columbia's Economic Environment
4. Commit to Environmental Sustainability
5. Ensure Organizational Sustainability
6. Build an Informed and Connected Community

These strategic goals are the foundation for the President's Goals, but have very little role in guiding the business of the CA Board.  As I noted last night, after my Board orientation two years ago, I never saw these goals again.

Last night we revisited those goals to see if they were in need of edit/updating.  The actual objective of our deliberation was a little unclear to me, since it was repeatedly stated that "we're not looking to vote on anything" and there was not a motion under consideration.  An open discussion is welcome and appreciated, but would seem to me to need just enough structure to allow the group to work towards an objective.

In the absence of that structure, you will have 5-6 Board members trading leadership quotes and talking (a lot) about horses (download the audio file).  The interest in being visionary forward-thinking leaders (or at least sounding like one) seemed to muddy the waters.  Don't get me wrong, it was encouraging to hear certain Board members agree that leadership involves some measure of courage and "seeing what everyone else cannot see", but the posturing became a bit much at times.

One of the best ideas I heard was narrowing and "slimming down" these goals into something useful on Board Meeting by Board Meeting basis.  I believe CA is in desperate need of Board self-governance (i.e., limitations of power) and the selection of defined strategic goals that will guide and filter future action is critical.

Review of CA's Business Model

CA President Phil Nelson had an opportunity to show why he is tasked with leading our organization last night, and he came through with flying colors.  He offered a well-thought out, comprehensive digest of where CA is and where it may need to be in the future.  This document touched on everything CA currently does and everything CA may need to consider doing into the future.  In short, it was a road-map for the next 10 years.  (You may find it in the attachments of this PDF.)

We ended up spending most of our time talking about Tot Lots, but that's ok.  Anne Brinker, one of the most dynamic new hires by Phil at CA, put together a breathtaking clip outlining the idea of making our Tot Lots into flexible "Meeting Places" that can be changed and diversified amongst communities to become multi-generational space; moving the discussion from what may be lost to what can be gained.  When a neighborhood's median age is 45, slides and swing-sets have diminished utility, but if that same space can be transformed into an exercise plot or a bocce pit (!!!) or an art space, the "meeting space" used when the neighborhood was full of toddlers and young professionals can now find use once again.  Most importantly, the chosen use will be flexible and non-permanent, opening opportunity after opportunity as the neighborhood changes.

President Nelson's document refers to the need to address "Generational Diversity."  Rather than have one target, CA needs to diversify to meet the generational diversity of our community.  With as many Tot Lots as we have throughout Columbia, there is room for diversification and flexibility without ever making it so that a child is without a place to play.

Again, this is just one component of an exciting Plan, but I hope Columbia Residents will get involved and make themselves heard.  I also hope the discussion focuses more on what may be gained than the fear of what will be lost.

Lionel Fultz Lounge

This issue seems to sum up all of my frustrations with CA operations and the interface between the Board and our Leadership Team.  We had two residents speak last night about their request to have a plaque installed in the "sitting area inside the Columbia Athletic Club" naming this area the "Lionel Fultz Lounge" with a plaque that states as much and includes the quote "Communication occurs when an utterance is understood."  According to the speakers, Mr. Fultz was a fixture at the gym and a community icon. 

Tom O'Connor spoke as a representative from the Health and Fitness Advisory Committee, which had considered the request and thought it would be appropriate to place the plaque.  When the Advisory Committee determined as much, CA Staff told them that they should take the request to the Board of Directors.

Digest that.

The placement of a the sitting area...of one of CA's zero cost (gym members were willing to raise the money for the plaque) was referred to the Board of Directors of a $63 million organization for deliberation and decision.  I cannot understand why CA leadership could not make this determination on their own.

The response was that "we get these requests all the time" and the Board does not have a policy on such matters.  Ok.  If Staff is uncomfortable making these decisions, based on recommendations from the Advisory Committee and the opportunity to discuss the propriety of such action with the staff at the Athletic Club, propose a policy.  But to refer this specific action for Board debate is silly and undermines all attempts to limit micromanagement into the "operations" of CA.  CA Leadership can, and should, expect any future protest of Board creep into "operational" matters to be met with the question "Like a plaque at the Athletic Club?"

Even more frustrating was that rather than vote it through last night, the Board put off a vote until the next Board meeting on June 27.  There is no doubt in anyone's mind that this plaque will be approved.  Maybe I'm a little sensitive to the contemporary value of memorializing a lost friend, but we've most likely created some resentment when none needed to exist.  If CA wants to create a policy for future remembrances, I'm all for it, but to punt this (even for two weeks) with no meaningful purpose in extension (i.e., there will be no need for future debate) is ridiculous.

Stepping Down from the Board

Effective July 1, I will be resigning from the Columbia Association Board of Directors.  I cannot serve on the Board while running for political office, nor would I want to cast any suspicion on future Board action due to my campaign.  This was a very difficult decision for me and one that, quite frankly, hurts deeply to have to accept.  These two years have been some of the most fulfilling of my life and have provided the inspiration to go on and do other things. 

The good news is that Tom O'Connor has agreed to fill my position and has been appointed by the Dorsey's Search Village Board.  He is a great leader and a great man.  I have no doubt that those things I care most about will be protected while he serves in my stead.

I also hope that one of my colleagues on the Board figures out a way to keep the conversation going.  I'm not saying anyone needs to sit down at 6 a.m. to write Board Recaps, but the community wants to know "What happened Thursday night?"  I'm disappointed that I will no longer be the person to tell them.

As I said yesterday, there will be sacrifices.  The key is making those sacrifices worthwhile.

Have a great Friday doing what you love.  Rock on.