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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Town Hall Meeting Report: My Commentary...

Just because of the fact that my wife and I are easily entertained, we made the short trip down to the Lodge of the Great Northwest to attend a Town Hall meeting presented by the GNWCIA.

The point of the meeting was two-fold; first we would all get to meet the two candidates running unopposed for the two open – or should I say, soon to be open seats on the board of directors for our association. The second item on the agenda was to receive a presentation on the proposed by-law amendments that will be on the ballot during our annual meeting.
Based on the less than capacity turnout for this Town Hall meeting, I’d say that we are in danger of not having a quorum for the annual HOA election. What this means is that, the vote for both directors and by-law amendments would be null and void, and the five remaining directors on the board would have to appoint two new directors to fill the vacancies. As a resident and voter, you should know that there is no guarantee that the remaining directors will automatically appoint the two candidates. This is especially true considering what I will politely call an underwhelming performance by the two candidates during their opportunity to address those people that were interested enough to show-up for the meeting. This is not to cast a stone at either of the candidates; the average person, myself included has a problem getting before a crowd and giving a political speech or oral resume before a mostly unknown crowd. But it was not as though it was a surprise. At minimum, I think both would have served themselves and the voters better had they at least had a few notes or even a statement to be read explaining who they are, their views on the association problems, and what they would do to help the board fix things. Instead, in the five minutes allotted for each to speak, we got a lot of uncertain jibber-jabber.

In fairness to both candidates, they interacted much better with the crowd after the formal presentation and I suspect they will do fine once elected (or appointed), and can be severed from the umbilical cord of a former board chairman who prompted their desire to be candidates in the first place.
Up next, Director Myrl Britten provided a solid presentation on the two proposed by law changes; the first would allow the assessment of fines for people who violate deed restrictions, the second would remove a cap of $300,000 for the association to have in reserve funds. I have discussed these by-laws in a previous post.

The usual suspect was prepared to debate both by-law changes (and any associated punctuation they might incur), and he came armed with a folder full of spreadsheets, old reports, hand-written notes, and one might presume, the dead sea scrolls. I could give you great entertainment in relaying the various arguments but A) you should really make an effort to see these things first hand, and 2) it was all the usual jibber-jabber we have heard time and time again. In the end, and I don’t wish to put words in the mouth of my friend, Joe Martinez, it would appear that he doesn’t necessarily oppose the changes to the by-laws, but the method by which the board is pursuing them.

Reasonable folks can disagree and there is always more than one way to skin a cat, provided it is legal. Mr. Martinez would like the approach of having people who want to change the association covenants go out door to door and gather support for changes by having people sign petitions. I say the reason you have an elected board is to let them represent the residents, and if they screw up, you vote them off the board, or I suppose, you remove them from the board, ahem.

More important to this discussion is the suggestion by Mr. Martinez that the board isn’t providing the residents with enough information. I laugh at this on two fronts: First, he makes this statement in a well publicized town hall meeting that is open to all the residents and frankly, anyone who felt like wandering in. There is no price of admission or checking of IDs etc. Nobody was discouraged admittance, yet, we had roughly more than a handful of people – most of who are the regulars at all the board meetings.

Secondly, the information is delivered to homes in the form of Passages, the local newspaper, and every homeowner receives a mailing containing the ballot. How much more information could be made available?

The truth of the matter is; I find that people are not interested. They aren’t interested because either they are tired of the constant bellyaching by a few people who aren’t so much against what the board does, but just how the board does it. And for the people who aren't tired of the bickering, I submit they must otherwise be happy enough with their lives in the GNW, because apparently attending town hall meetings or board meetings simply aren’t worth the hour or two that it takes to move away from the TV. And I can’t blame them.

I can tell you that I have never been to a City Council meeting downtown (though I have watched many, many times on TV). I can also tell you that I did not attend my first GNWCIA Board meeting until about two years ago, even though I have lived here for 10 years. In other words, I acknowledge to an extent being the pot calling the kettle "black"; I recognize that we have many people who did their time serving on committees, being involved and trying to participate, but they have lost the motivation. Likewise, I submit that some of you reading this (or not) will get the urge to one day come out and join the fun. Everyone in their own time.

So there you have it. Get involved if you want, vote if you want, move away if you want. I’m not going to second guess the interests of my fellow residents or attempt to tell them how they should proceed. But I will tell you this: I doubt we will have a quorum for the second year in a row, and frankly, that is pretty sad.

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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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