Thursday, May 8, 2014

The Mish Mosh Drawer


Here it is, in all its glory. Our mish mosh drawer. Do you have one?

Maybe you call it a junk drawer. It's in the kitchen and it holds any manner of one of a kind items, gadgets, coupons, missing pieces, and more. The mish mosh drawer pictured above could be a carefully constructed photograph for an I-Spy challenge. But it's not. This is our mish mosh drawer in its natural habitat, with no alterations.

In Columbia, we have a living, breathing mish mosh drawer. It's called "Resident Speak-Out". It takes place at the beginning of CA Board meetings. If you haven't ever been to one, you are missing a quintessential Columbia experience. Residents may come and give the Board a piece of their mind on Columbia-related topics. Some nights there are only one or two; other nights the Resident Speak-Out threatens to obliterate the actual Board Meeting.

I have seen residents use their allotted time to talk about tennis facilities, senior citizen discounts, the widening of Route 29, the benefits of the Inner Arbor Plan for Symphony Woods, the arrogance and effrontery of one particular Board member, what a waste of money the Sister Cities program is, and much, much more. You stay within your time limit ( if you are polite) you answer reasonable questions from the Board ( if they are polite) and then you sit down.

Just making it through Resident Speak-out in order to get to the actual business part of the meeting must be a challenge some evenings. Remember those party games you played as a child where they blind-folded you, spun you round in circles, and then sent you off with a little push?

It's like that. Only no one gets a prize for winning and there's no cake and ice cream afterwards.

Tonight is the first CA Board Meeting of the year. The Agenda looks quite brief. But there is just one problem. One of the Board Members cannot be seated. Reg Avery from Oakland Mills is in violation of Columbia Association rules regarding conflict of interest. It is against the CA rules to be on the Board while actively pursuing other elected office. Mr. Avery is a candidate for County Council.

Now, he may apply for a waiver, and the CA Board might grant it, although I cannot imagine any circumstances under which this would not be conflict of interest. Oakland Mills deserves better than this, and so does CA.

So, back to the mish mosh drawer. Will anyone turn up for Resident Speak Out tonight to address this issue? And if so, will they encourage a balanced and reasoned approach that respects CA's own rules for governance? Or will they rant and accuse and threaten?

And: will the Board make their decision based on the former, or the latter?




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