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Friday, May 8, 2009

GNW Annual Meeting of the Membership Report: My Notes...

Thursday evening, the 7th of May, my wife and I made the short trip down to the Lodge of the Great Northwest in Silver Creek to attend this year’s annual meeting of the membership. This is where everyone in good standing (people who have made their annual assessment payment) can come and receive a report on how the association has done over the last year. It also provides an opportunity, assuming a quorum has been reached, for election of vacated board of directors positions (we had two), and the voting of various things. I’ll tell you about the meeting and all, but first, just some observations written prior to the meeting.

On Wednesday, the day prior to the annual membership meeting, my wife and I assisted the election committee in validating ballots, sorting the proxies and counting the votes that had been received prior to the meeting. This was our first time helping in the ballot count and I can tell you up front that the election officer and the volunteers had things organized and well thought out. I always think of that goofy election official in the Florida recount fiasco years ago; the bespectacled gentleman holding up a ballot, looking at it cross-eyed, and I wondered if it really comes down to that in the counting room.Well, I’m happy to report that every ballot was reviewed and re-reviewed for accuracy, and when anyone saw anything even slightly out of place – even if it was obvious the intent, at least two people would look at the ballot to be sure. And even then, if anyone thought that the tiniest something might be cause for someone to later make any issue of a ballot, the matter was evaluated until put to rest. I guess the point I’m making is, this group did things with the utmost of integrity with no agenda to push toward a particular outcome.

I should also tell you that, like our San Antonio elections for mayor and city council, the lack of early voter turnout is truly disappointing. I have heard that when people don’t vote, it is a sign that they are happy with the way things are. I might buy that a little, but I think mostly, people are just lazy. What they also may not realize is that, based upon our proxy system, simply not voting is actually a vote against the agenda.

During the course of the vote counting, someone brought in a stack of ballots that had been hand-delivered to the office. Some motivated residents went door to door to ask people to vote – which by the way, if you are one of those people, thank you for interest in our association. But what it really says is, a bunch of people were too lazy to read the instructions, fill out the ballot and send it back in the pre-addressed, postage-paid envelope, but if someone would knock on their door and make them feel guilty, they’d be happy to vote as long as it didn’t require any additional effort. Hey, that’s your right. Live like you wanna live.

The final thing about the balloting is, in spite of the best efforts of the election committee to streamline and make the voting process as easy as possible, it is unduly complicated because of the requirements set forth by the State of Texas for HOAs and because our association has a litigious history that makes for a tight, specific, iron-clad, no-wiggle-room proxy vote to establish a quorum. It means we have in effect two ballots mailed out to each resident and those of us who don't take the time to understand the materials, don't. This has screwed me up in the past - and obviously, others as well.
The proxy is like a vote all by itself. You are voting that you want there to be a quorum of the association when you submit your proxy. If you don't submit your proxy, you are also voting; that you don't want there to be a quorum. But I suspect most people don't realize that. So when you don't return your proxy paper with your regular ballot, you basically have voted against whatever you marked on your ballot. I know, it is confusing.

The proxy comes in three varieties.

The first is the Limited Proxy. This means that you are directing the Election Officer to count you as present for the purposes of making the quorum (10 percent of the membership). Hello? If you took the time to submit your vote, shouldn’t that count?
I would think so, but apparently the lawyers disagree with me.

The second type is the Directed Proxy whereby you mark your vote on the election ballot, but if any new business comes up from the floor during the meeting, the person you gave your proxy to will vote on your behalf.
In this case, for the purposes of making the quorum, some other person who, hopefully is at the meeting will vote your proxy toward the quorum. So if you got cute and directed that Mickey Mouse hold your proxy, you just voted against the quorum, unless of course we happen to have a resident named M. Mouse, and he has paid his assessments and makes it to the meeting.

The third type is the General Proxy, and basically, that means that you are giving your quorum vote and vote on the ballot (in fact you don't need to worry about completing the election ballot) and for anything that might come up during the meeting to another person.

I know that sounds fairly easy (yea, right), but people don’t read the instructions and the result is, they will make a check mark on a directed or general proxy, but then won’t assign a name for who they are giving the proxy to. Or, they will write in a name but won’t check off whether it is a directed or general proxy.
Other times, they don’t select any proxy at all. Technically, if they don’t pick a proxy, the only way their vote can count is if they show up to the meeting. Which is another thing; people will send in their ballot then come and try to vote in person too. Nice try. You can certainly attend the meeting, but you can’t vote twice.

The final thing is, some people go through all the effort to mark the ballots, send it in but never sign it. How will we know that some homeless guy didn’t find your ballot in the street and vote for you?

I’m happy to report that as long as a person was in good standing (paid their dues) if the election committee found one of these errors, they made every effort to contact the resident and have the resident come in and fix it before the meeting. I will also tell you that of the people who were contacted (and there were many), only one person bothered to come down to the office and correct the paperwork. So in other words, numerous people made the effort to vote, but when it turned out they did it wrong, they just gave up and voted against the quorum by not voting properly.

On to the meeting.
I wish I could tell you that people from all nearly 5,000 of our residences turned out for the big meeting, requiring the association to have to rent out the AT&T Center for the event, but instead, a fairly small percentage of the membership made it. Granted, it was a larger crowd than the usual monthly board meetings. The annual meeting is more than just a place to tally up the votes, welcome new directors to the board and say goodbye to those leaving. The GNW office staff puts forth a tremendous effort to research the names of residents who have participated in volunteer events throughout the year so they can be recognized, create certificates and T-Shirts, decorate the lodge and arrange for catering (this year, a nice spread from Parties for Less owner and resident, Hilda Diaz). And what event would be complete without a thoroughly festive performance by the GNW Sounds?

Following the delicious spread of Chicken Cordon Bleu, residents set back and enjoyed the presentations.
Chairman Garcia presented the two candidates seeking election to the Board of Directors, Mark Martinez and Beatriz Dean.

Next, Ms. Camille Fiorello presented the scholarships to three very deserving students, each in the amount of $500.00
  • The Officer Oscar Perez Scholarship was presented to Sierra Vandendries
  • The Paul & Jay Laushey Memorial Scholarship was presented to Brian Christopher Bienhoff
  • The Camille Fiorello Perpetual Scholarship was presented to Danielle Nichole Ochs
There are a lot of people who volunteer in any number of capacities. You know, your board of directors are all unpaid volunteers and so are the people who make up the architectural control committee, the GNWatch, soccer and basketball coaches, people who organize groups like OWLS, Happenings, Kids Playgroups and such.

But of those volunteers, and we thank them all, there are some that deserve special recognition.
The board recognized Mike Yager and Bill McDonough as Volunteers of the Year for their tireless efforts in maintaining many of the public areas that do not fall under the auspices of our maintenance staff. I can tell you first hand that these two folks do so much for the community, and it is appreciated.The board also recognized Betty Hood and Judy Montville for being Neighbors of the Year. Betty is well known in her neighborhood for huge National Night Out events as well as going out of her way to organize and obtain complimentary items to support all of the many NNO block parties throughout the Great Northwest. Judy is well known in her neighborhood as well. She has been tackling the issue of stray and vicious animals in the Great Northwest, arranging meetings, working with the city Animal Care Services and the City Council staff to bring to light the negative impact of this problem on our area.

I am extremely humbled to report that I was recognized for the Inspiring Others to Serve Award. Thank you.
The Youth Service Award was presented to a much deserving young man, member of The GNW Sounds and other volunteer efforts, Daniel Flores.And for their non-stop efforts supporting the community and the association, Minda Tovar and Chief Roger Burton were awarded the Above and Beyond Award.

A slew of certificates were distributed to residents who had participated in association programs and activities throughout the year. Additionally, the staff recognized the Board of Directors and their spouses.

Sadly, as the hour became late and attendance dwindled, there was little point in having the Chairman present the Annual Report. Perhaps it can be presented at the next regular board meeting.

And that was it folks.


Oh. Okay, there was one other thing. I'm sorry to report that for the second year in a row, the residents of the Great Northwest Community Improvement Association were not able to obtain the quorum needed to adopt the agenda, elect the directors, vote on the proposed by-laws and other business.
The people of the Great Northwest have spoken, whether they all realize it or not.


Karen said...

Great post, Dave. I do have one correction, though. The Camille Fiorello Perpetual Scholarship went to Danielle Nichole Ochs. She's a great kid. I know and she'll honor the Association with her hard work when she goes to college.

Dave said...

Danielle Nichole Ochs it is! Corrected, and thanks for keeping me straight! My notes were somewhat questionable.

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