Monday, April 28, 2014

CA Engagement Agenda

Yet again, less than 900 people made the decision for approximately 20,000 residents in elections for the Columbia Association Board of Directors.

Jeanne Ketley won in Town Center by 66 votes (plus 50 parcel votes automatically added to the winner's total). (Note: Earlier post had indicated Ms. Ketley won by 16, which had presumed the total included the 50 parcel votes.  I have since been told otherwise and have corrected accordingly.)

Alan Klein won in Harper's Choice by 17 votes (plus 73 parcel votes).

Gregg Schwind won Hickory Ridge by 42 votes (plus 85 parcel votes).

Despite margins that would barely fill a Starbucks, two of the successful candidates were quoted by Luke Lavoie in The Baltimore Sun as invoking mandates.

Gregg Schwind: "There are a lot of folks out there not satisfied with the current plan for Symphony Woods, and I don’t think we can just ignore that," he said. "If it means going back and reworking the plan, then I'm willing to do that."'

Alan Klein: "My campaign was about particular issues," he said. "What the election says to me is voters resonate with the issues."

Goodness.  Gracious.  Me.

These were close votes!  And even then, CA has a much bigger problem in that the falcon can no longer hear the falconer.  I think the falconer forgot he had a falcon.  Wouldn't it be amazing if one of these candidates humbly said "My village has nearly 10,000 residents and we only heard from about 300 of them.  I see it as my job over the next year to broaden our outreach and increase engagement."  And really, how can you engage more people if you're focused on a decision made over a year ago that you now suggest should be revisited.  Why would anyone want to engage with an organization for which no decisions are final, progress is forever stalled, and the loudest voices will be ignored if they don't stay loud forever?  I would respectfully suggest that you're examining a scratch in the presence of a mortal wound.

CA's currency in community affairs is democratic legitimacy.  I can't say that this currency is wholly accepted by the various stake-holders in Columbia, but it is the last leg to stand on other than saying "CA owns a lot of open space land, which makes it relevant."

IF CA were ever able to recapture its democratic legitimacy (i.e., this is a credible voice for community concerns/interest/aspirations/fears), it would stake out its position in community decision-making.  Having been unable to do so, it is ostracized, marginalized, and ignored.

Here are three modest proposals for taking on the Engagement Agenda and reinvigorating resident participation:

1) Vote 2.0 - CA needs to evaluate the legal and practical means by which votes for CA Board election may be cast via the Internet.  Consider this a Resident Request.  These elections are held in accordance with Village By-Laws, so it will be up to the Villages to decide how this is implemented. I can assure you that the Village Board member who spear-heads this initiative for their Village will earn the respect, admiration, and position in history that comes with such bold leadership.

2) Simulcast CA Board Meetings - The technology is available, at reasonable cost, to put every CA Board meeting online for residents to watch.  I made this motion twice during my two years on the Board and after the second time was told that something was "in the works".  I can't promise these meetings will get watched on a regular basis, but the important ones will. 

3) Put Residents on Notice - I would suggest that every CPRA Lien invoice include the following authority line: "YOUR LIEN WAS DETERMINED BY A TEN (10) MEMBER BOARD OF DIRECTORS ELECTED BY VILLAGE ELECTION HELD ON THE FOURTH SATURDAY IN APRIL.  PLEASE GO TO WWW.COLUMBIAASSOCIATION.COM TO LEARN MORE."  No one is more inspired to learn about what CA does than when they receive their lien statement.  Let's use that inspiration to a good end.

These are small adjustments that could make a huge difference.  I'm not suggesting we'll ever have turnout comparable to even mid-term elections, but I think we can get to 25%.  That is an embarrassingly low aspiration.

I learned from a good friend that one of the most important things we can do today is write a note to those who ran and lost to tell them how much we appreciated their candidacy and empathize with their disappointment.  Make sure to do that today.  

After that...brush your shoulders off and make Columbia Awesome.

UPDATE:  You can read a great retrospective by one of those candidates here.

Have a great Monday doing what you love!