Monday, April 29, 2019

Guest Post: Jim Smith on Columbia Elections

Saturday evening I posted:

Well it wouldn’t be a Columbia Election Day if it didn’t end with me being mightily pissed off.

Sunday morning Jim Smith Of Harper’s Choice said it much better. (You may remember Mr. Smith from a post I wrote last summer about grass-cutting.) It warmed my heart to see someone else pondering what feels like the death knell of Columbia Village Elections. I asked him if I could share it and he graciously consented.


We had an election yesterday in Harper’s Choice. We had 4 people running for 3 open seats. Not enough people voted, which means there was not a quorum, so the results were invalid. This is not the first time this has happened. In the next few weeks we have to figure out how to rectify this particular issue, but the whole thing seems like a big mess to me. There is so much going on in Harper’s Choice these days, it is odd to me that not enough people would vote but I have a theory. 

I think most folks have no idea that they are even part of the village association. Most people pay CA each year with no thought to what village they are in. They care about CA business, but when it comes to the individual villages people do not realize they exist, or what they do. I think the whole pay structure is the reason for this. Each year folks see CA on their bills, and they don’t know that a large portion of that fee goes to the villages. Most people don’t realize that they are in fact not members of CA but are members of their village association. If more people did know that, I can’t see why they wouldn’t vote. We make it so easy. You can do it by mail in, online, or in person. 

Harper’s Choice has several redevelopments on the horizon, a potential fire station and police station, and so much other stuff going on, yet we only received 217 ballots from over 3,000 residences. It is hard to not be discouraged by this. I honestly do not think people don’t care; I think they just don’t realize what the village associations do in relation to CA.

It is also very hard to educate people in the town about how the town works. This place is a complex nightmare of associations ruling over other associations with yet more associations in the form of condos and townhomes. I have been on the board of Harper’s Choice for 3 years now, and I only recently understood the whole situation. Besides understanding this mess, getting this information out to people who are already inundated with nation and state wide politics is not only daunting, it is impossible. People have too much information to deal with, and the town politics fall to the wayside with anything lower than CA. 

This is not a new problem, and it will continue to be a problem unless fundamental changes are made in this town. I won’t pretend to have the answers, but I do know that hosting elections year after that are invalid takes a toll on people. The people running in the elections get frustrated, the incumbents get frustrated, and the poor village managers who have to help sort the whole thing out get frustrated.

These village associations matter. The villages manage the town while CA is busy rebuilding gyms and cleaning pools. The villages do all the leg work to make the town look great while CA gets all the credit. The system is very screwed up and broken. 

For the past several years we hosted an election that culminated in an invalid election. There has to be a better way.


I’d like to thank Jim Smith for allowing me to run his thoughtful Facebook post as a Guest Post on Village Green/Town². He also deserves thanks for starting a great conversation on this topic. Head over to Celebrating Columbia Maryland and its Future to read the many responses.
Add your own. 

There’s some good stuff there. Food for thought. 

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