A recent changing of the guard on the Oakland Mills Village Board has produced a curious effect. Meeting are running longer. And longer. And longer. I noticed that now they will be starting the meetings at seven pm instead of seven-thirty. This may be in an effort to prevent meetings from running so late into the evening, or it may be that they just want more time for meeting.
Oh. My. Goodness.
How I hate long meetings. I hate sitting that long. I hate the panic that sets in when you realize that people feel they have an endless amount of time to regale you with every facet of their point of view. I hate the frustration of realizing that nothing significant will be accomplished. I hate the almost certain outcome: that residents, especially younger ones, will give up and go home in the face of interminable meetings.
The vocal slice of Columbia that turned out this year to "take back Columbia" is doing more than just taking the reins of power. They are, quite literally, taking Columbia backwards. These are people who have plenty of time for meetings--no young children to care for, no PTA meetings, very often no career commitments. It is likely that for these people meetings are their children, their PTA, their career commitments, and, quite possibly, their social lives as well.
They're not paying attention to the fact that other people may have different needs and preferences. They don't care about generational differences. They're all about meetings. And if that drives other people away, all the more power for them.
When I was on the Board, we had one member who was our human clock. I will admit that I was afraid of him. He kept his eye on the time to make sure we accomplished something meaningful in the time allotted. If you had something to say it had better be pertinent to the topic at hand. He had no use for the touchy-feely concept that members should feel comfortable sharing whatever came into their heads.
It took me a while to realize that his single-minded focus provided a valuable framework for focusing our thoughts and getting things done. If people dithered on, the Board Chair could tilt her head in his direction and remind them we were running out of time. If a valuable discussion was underway, she could ask if we all were willing to take the extra time for that to happen. We all had to take responsibility.
It showed supreme respect for what each person in the room was donating to our community: time.
When I read Michael Cornell's account of the CA Board Meeting, I immediately asked him if there was a typo where he stated that Reg Avery made a motion at approximately 10:40 pm. It wasn't a typo.
Quick! I'd like a show of hands. How many of you would like to donate your time and efforts to Columbia if it means sitting in endless meetings?
I thought so. There has to be a better way.