Thursday, April 27, 2006

Let the sunshine, let the sunshine in…

Like a bunch of dirty hippies reveling in the age of Aquarius, Columbia voters charged to the polls Saturday demanding that light be shed on the inner workings of the ultra-secretive NSA Columbia Association. I understand candidates for CA’s Board of Directors need something to campaign on, but, really, the debate over open meetings strikes me as the worst strawman since Michael Jackson in the Wiz.

Is CA really secretive? I don’t know and nor do I care, because that’s not what this is about. This is about broader things – the charrette, individual politics – that have barely any relevance to CA.

With respect to closed meetings, does anyone ever bother asking why? Why would a member choose to close meetings in the first place? What is in it for them? What’s their incentive? If we’re all just lab monkeys pushing buttons for food (or electric shocks), what are they getting (or hoping to get) for pushing our buttons? Voted off the board? Endless criticism?

As far as I’m concerned, meetings are closed because they deal with contracts, personnel matters and other such things that will either come to light shortly or will never come to light for legal reasons.

However, if you can answer the above questions without using conspiracy theories, then we might just have to get together and sing…

Let the sunshine, let the sunshine in…

I think board chairman Tom O’Conner sums up pretty well why all this closed meetings stuff is a bit of a farce.

O'Connor added that improving the CA board's openness and its communication with residents are goals all members share.

"I think we all agree with that and we all strive for that," he said. "I think (Coyle and Kirsch's) opponents advocated that. That's like saying, 'I love Mom and apple pie.' "
I prefer Free Ponies, but Mom and apple pie aren’t bad.


Anonymous said...


I can understand your frustration regarding those who go on about openess. If you want to know the reasons why CA closes meetings, they are listed in the Maryland Homeowners Association act. I too believe that some meetings need to be closed and there are perfectly valid reasons to do so. I also concur that there are some in the Columbia community that are looking to go beyond what is reasonable. It is also important to recognize that (I believe) it takes a majority vote of the CA board to release information before any board member can talk about the specific reason for the closed meeting, or any events that took place during the meeting.

However...there appears to be a grey area in which CA closes meetings because the Homeowners Association Act says they can. I beleive that this does not always coincide with whether CA should. In other words, at times CA uses the HOA Act to "pull the curtain" when it could be in the best interest of the public to have an open discussion. I also believe that it is this kind of thinking that makes the CA board less leaders and more managers.

I believe the best case here is to have the CA board publically take a straw vote stating the closing a meeting is in the best interest of the Columbia residents. If the majority of the board affirms this, and then the CA board votes to go into a closed meeting, there is at least a public record stating that the peoples interests were at heart, and the board members should stand by thier votes.

Peace and Love my friend,


Hayduke said...

You make some really valid points. And I would agree that opening the process by which meetings are closed is probably a pretty good way of ensuring only those meetings that must be closed are closed.

You were also right that I’m frustrated by the openness debate, and sometimes I let my frustration get the better of me (gotta stop that). But closed meetings are always going to be something people not on the CA board can point to as a “problem” without really having to back up their claims. Of course closed meetings are secretive. That doesn’t make them inherently sinister.

Thanks for the comments!