Sunday, June 11, 2006

Problem solving at its finest...

No, the solution wasn't perfect, but it dealt with the problem and seemed to have broad support among interested members of the community.

Nevertheless, the Columbia Association board of directors -- showing yet again why most residents view them with equal parts apathy, bemusement and annoyance -- voted against doing something (best) and doing nothing (acceptable), deciding instead to take their ball and go home.

The Lake Elkhorn tot lot -- one of Columbia's more popular playgrounds -- has been closed by the Columbia Association, which plans to rip out the equipment and possibly relocate it.

The Columbia Association board made the surprising decision late Thursday night. For months, the board had been discussing building a barrier around the playground after a toddler who had been playing there drowned in the nearby lake in September.
Wait. It gets better (and I mean "better" in the sense that the story describes better how absurd their decision was).

CA estimated that to build a fence around the playground would cost anywhere from $12,200 to $36,400. Removing the playground "would be by far the most expensive" option, Chick Rhodehamel, CA's vice president for open space management, told the board, though he did not provide a cost estimate.

Great. Because a group of adults can't muster the maturity to come up with a real solution to a community problem, I'm paying to have a perfectly good (and still very new) playground removed and possibly relocated somewhere else. Do board members realize that they oversee other people's money, that bad financial decisions affect every resident of Columbia? Maybe the direct democracy thing ain't so bad after all.

More silliness:

But board member Pearl Atkinson-Stewart, who represents Owen Brown village, alerted the board Friday morning that her village has to give final approval. She said she supports constructing a smaller play area but was "a little annoyed" that the board took action before going through her village's architectural approval process.

"We cannot start pulling something down," Atkinson-Stewart said, explaining that the only reason she voted for the removal was so that she would have the opportunity to request that the board revisit the issue. "It's really unfair to my community."

Board Chairman Tom O'Connor conceded Friday that the board voted on a matter where it did not have ultimate authority.

"I admit, from my standpoint, I was a little sloppy. We were trying to move things along," he said, referring to the midnight hour when the board voted. "We moved a little to quickly ... to say that we're going to take it out."

So, it was bad enough that the vote took place past midnight, now we find out that in so doing the board failed to follow procedure and accordingly overstepped its bounds. Why am I not surprised?

Here is a particularly pathetic justification for the vote.
Board member Miles Coffman, who voted against the fence, said what concerned him is that CA cannot protect the children at the playground. He said he recently visited the tot lot and saw two mothers there who appeared distracted from their children because they were talking on cellular phones.

"I can't protect them from that," Coffman said.

If this playground isn't safe because mothers talk on their cell phones while watching their children, then no tot lot is safe and all must be torn down, right?

It's hard to divine the intentions of the entire group, but I think it's safe to say vindictiveness played a role in this vote for at least some of the members. The board has handled this situation poorly from the beginning, and residents haven't hesistated to call them on their missteps. And this is how they return the favor.

Let this be a lesson to you, would-be community activist. Don't push too hard for something you really believe in; you're just making things harder for our elected leaders who would rather let a problem fade away without having to do anything.

Tell The Sun how you feel here, and tell me how you feel in comments.


Anonymous said...

really, to be safe, we must fill in Lake Elkhorn and fence off the little stream and kids should be on leashes

Anonymous said...

Is joking appropriate? After all, someone did die.

Having spent from 6 on growing up on or near creeks and rivers, water safety was something that was addressed in my family through rules and training and we learned to respect its danger. Yet for those for whom water hazards are only a distant and occasional event, its not always forefront in their minds and, thus, the need for additional protections.

Anonymous said...

I don't think the joke was aimed at the child who past away. The joke was aimed at the ridiculous way CA has handled this situation. I'm embarrassed for the CA board members and embarrassed of them. Their attempt at damage control is ridiculous.

It was an accident. Accidents happen. Put some wood between the pillions, like the pavilion nearby on the lake and call it a day. STOP wasting time and money!!