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Friday, September 21, 2007

GNW CIA Meeting Report: My Notes... (be they ever so humble)

As I mentioned in the teaser last night (I stole that idea from the San Antonio Lightning Online Paper), a few of my neighbors joined my wife and I as well as quite a few other residents for meeting of the board of directors, Great Northwest Community Improvement Association. This was a general meeting but one main order of business was discussion of the budget. I'll get to that, but let me recap the events so you can get up to date.

As I have mentioned before, residents have the opportunity to sign up to speak before the board in one of two ways; either as a topic that is already on the agenda or as a topic that is not part of the agenda. For example, if you wanted to simply get up and tell the board you think they are doing a great job, that probably would not be part of the official agenda. If you wanted to speak on the topic of the budget, last night was a good night to sign up for the other section.

Prior to residents wishing to be heard, the GNWCIA was addressed by a Mr. Jeff Peterson from Rep Jose Menendez' office.

Mr. Peterson spoke of recent state bills and such that may be of interest. I would suggest you learn more by going to the web page or calling the office. In my opinion, Jose has been a great representative for this area and I continue to support him until I find something worth complaining about.

Moving along, to the citizens to be heard. I'd like to be very delicate about this. Though I confess to often attempting to approach the information I post with a sense of humor, I have been told that some readers (and at least one director) don't always appreciate my approach. Having said that...

Sweet Sainted Mother of Charles Nelson Reilly! The first resident was, well, quite a plum. This resident, apparently a retired person, who I had not recognized from previous meetings, apparently didn't know the crowd when he got up to make his speech. The audience was filled with previous board directors, residents who have had years of involvement and participation, and at least a lawsuit litigant or two. So it made the speaker's opening statement to the assembled crowd that "You all may be afraid to speak to the board, but I'm not" an awkward confession of his lack of situational awareness.

Though a microphone had been provided at the center of the room, the man felt compelled to wander around and speak without it - for a sentence or two before one lady and several others insisted that he please use the microphone. I think this took him off his game.

The man went on to complain that he wanted to apply for the position of Community Manager, but because he did not use the Internet or apparently read any newspapers, he felt he was not provided adequate information on the process. As a fellow resident, I certainly applaud his desire to speak before the board and make his complaints known, but his approach was simply way off.

The crowd seemed dumbfounded at his long winded yammering about how he should have been able to obtain all information necessary by simply asking a person at the counter in the office. Aside from the obvious legal issues someone might bring up from this approach (okay, it isn't obvious to me, but I am certain someone can make some sort of legal complaint), I think any resident would agree that our next Community Manager ought to at least make it a point of familiarizing themselves with the Official Community Newspaper (Passages) at the official GNW Web Page - both of which have been advertising details of this position for months now.

After almost ten minutes of rambling, and I use that description purposely, Chairman Lee Besing finally interrupted the resident and advised him that he had exceeded the 3 minutes alloted to speak, and could he either listen to a response to the complaint, or at least wrap it up so we could move on. The gentleman questioned the three minute rule and several people piped up that it was in the by-laws, hopefully a document our next Community Manager will become familiar with.

The resident did very kindly take his seat, but not before warning us all that he would be attending future meetings. Bravo to him and I hope he does. He seemed like a genuinely nice man to me; just a tad bit off kilter. I hope that isn't offensive.

Moving along... Another fine audience member, Mr. Robert Rodkey, a former board candidate approached to give a long winded and ill-advised admonishment to the board about arbitrarily raising the assessments for the next budget without first collecting the fees to see how much was in the kitty. Director Richard Garcia pointed out to Mr. Rodkey that in fact, no budget has been agreed upon and further, the purpose of the evening's meeting was to discuss the budget. I had to stop myself from giggling out loud when my wife gave me the eye, but it seemed to me that several people had come to the meeting armed for bear, but really hadn't fully thought out the chronology of events.

Members of the staff got up to give presentations - Acting CM/DRACO Jose Morlett, Temp Accountant Teresa Carpenter, and Maintenance Director, Fred Murphy.

A lot of things worth skipping but a few items to note:
  • Jose mentioned some new hires in the office - working out well
  • Ballot documents ready for review
    • Resident and former director/chair Mr. Joe Martinez astutely noted that the voting was to be done "secretly" and that by allowing a resident to review the ballots and proxies, private resident voting information was made available
    • Director Garcia who witnessed the review of ballots acknowledged that information that should have been secret was in fact available to the residents reviewing the documents
    • Director Guy Pucci suggested a change to the ballot and proxy documents to correct this problem
  • Ms. Carpenter mentioned several accounting related things
    • Director Pucci requested information on the use of the TOPS software and how it might be used for tracking GNW Security calls
  • Mr. Murphy discussed several items involving spending money.
  • Resurfacing of tennis courts - either asphalt which will crack again or a Rhino Court product that will last longer
    • Both very expensive
    • One resident questioned if the Rhino product was suitable for tennis courts
    • Another resident questioned how many people even use the tennis courts
    • Director Garcia suggested that the board put the cost to the residents to decide if it was worth the price to upgrade the tennis courts - ((If you play tennis, you better say something now))
  • Fences at pool to separate bathrooms from pool - this allows the restrooms to be used when the pool is closed
  • New sound system - wireless, about $3,500
    • Just a side note on the sound. I hope that the new system will be fully installed and tested by professionals. Nobody expects the members of the board nor the residents who speak to be professional orators accustomed to projecting their voices as though the meeting was a Broadway play. Yet, most often (unless it is just my wife and I who show) the audience is made up of several folks who may have hearing issues. To get the most of the meetings, I'd push for spending a few dollars on a solid system that would make the important things people have to say, audible to everyone.
  • New GNW signs - need to replace signs around the neighborhood
  • Power washer is up and running to help with graffiti
  • Lodge Painting inside and out - not cheap
Okay - it wasn't until 8:50 PM that we got to the budget. And I'm not going to say much about it. Before the discussion started, resident Mr. Ben Pucci (in case you didn't know, the father of Director Guy Pucci) gave a quick statement regarding how the board ought to proceed. I apologize for not catching it all but the gist was that the group should figure out how much money was coming in, stick to that as a budget and if anything, cut the budget.

Mr. Martinez also spoke citing the need for reductions in several areas.

Smartly, Mr. Besing opened the floor to comments from residents even if they had not signed up to speak specifically about the budget, but he felt there was too much important work to be done without hearing from those attending.

One lady,
Olivia Theriot, spoke of the need to keep in funding for the Parliamentarian. This created a stir from other residents who felt the board of directors should be the parliamentarians. Further, a gentleman stated his opposition to paying the money since now, the current board gets along with the residents who attend the meetings.

Kids, cover your ears.


In other words, what this gentleman was saying was that, we needed a parliamentarian because people in the audience - residents - could not be trusted to follow standard rules of good order and discipline if they didn't agree with the people they had voted into office as directors. That statement alone ought to put parliamentarian right up at the top of the list of things to fund!

Okay. I have to confess that my wife and a few neighbors left during the break and my neighbor Merle and I could only hold on until about 9:45PM or so before we left the budget discussions to the hardcore residents.

I urge you to go to the office and took a look at the information on the DRAFT budget proposals so you can learn more about it. It is only a DRAFT! Don't get your panties in a wad - make some suggestions if you don't agree with what you see. But as Chairman Besing was overheard saying, don't tell us to cut the budget, tell us exactly what items in the budget you want cut. Those are good words of wisdom.

So, I apologize for this being so long winded. There is a lot of information that is important to you as a resident. Please, plan on getting out to the next meeting.

Also, if you were at the meeting and I got it all wrong, please leave a comment or e-mail me so I can fix it!

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I love to observe the odd things happening around me as I go about my day. I especially like it when I can get a picture of people being themselves. Here, I attempt to report the various people and events I have encountered in my neighborhood, and my city. I'd also love to hear from you. Feel free to e-mail your experiences and photos of life in San Antonio.

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