Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Juicy Details


Do you want all the juicy details about what’s going on at the CA Board? It looks like there are some folks who want to tell you all about it. They’re anxious to assert that they know everything. 

Beware people who think they know everything. Or tell you that they do.

What do I know about CA President Lakey Boyd? CA graciously granted me a Zoom interview with her early on and I wrote about it. I pay attention to her work (and that of the CA Board) for the blog. That’s it. 

What do I know about the CA Board? That’s a harder question. I’ll start with this quote from an earlier blog post. From “A Crisis of Face” :

Don't misunderstand me. I believe in Columbia and what it stands for. I believe in the Villages, where you will find community engagement and vibrancy happening all the time. But I'm not sure I believe in "CA." 

Panel member Candace Dodson Reed offered the following, "If all people had to go on was what they read in the newspaper and saw online, they would think that Columbia was a dysfunctional place where no one got along and people constantly argued about things."

There you have it: that's my "Face of CA." 

Seems timely, right? I wrote it in December of 2011. Over ten years ago. 

What do I think about the CA Board? I think the entire process is broken. Year after year we keep urging people to run, to vote, to get involved but it essentially makes no difference. Having run to represent Oakland Mills I have seen some of this up close. It can be very ugly. Yet we keep going through the motions expecting a different result.

There have been ongoing difficulties over the years between the Board and CA Presidents, as well as with their own village boards and even fellow members of the board. Some have been actively hostile to members of the community and (gasp!) local bloggers. Almost everyone I know has a horror story about a CA Board meeting.

I sometimes wonder if the Rouse Project came about as a last-ditch effort to right the ship, or, to use a different metaphor, to do something akin to adding chemicals to shock treat a swimming pool. “Well, we’ve tried everything else. Let’s throw a lot of money at it.” No matter what the reasoning, the end result wasn’t all that different from previous elections.

Maybe there was a golden age of the CA Board when all of this worked and made sense. I’ve lived here since 1999 and haven’t seen it. This is not to say that there haven’t been good people on the Board or that they haven’t done any good work. That would erase legitimately good people and the good work they have done through the years. But, honestly the whole dang thing just doesn’t work and hasn’t, for quite some time.

When former President Milton Matthews stepped down, I wrote:

Several things come to mind. Having seen how members of the CA Board and some community members treat the CA President, I can’t say that’s a job I’d want to have or recommend to anyone else. In addition, the financial model which has held CA together until very recently is challenged on a number of fronts. I’m not convinced that the Columbia Association as it exists today will survive the current pandemic challenges. Has the time come to discuss moving Columbia from an overgrown homeowners’ association to an incorporated city?

In some ways I have come to believe that the more we tinker with this Columbia Association thing, the worse it gets, as in the farm woman in James Thurber’s story:

One day something went wrong with the cream separator, and one of her hands came to her and said nobody on the farm could fix it. Should they send to town for a man? "No!"shouted my Aunt Kate. "I'll fix it myself!" Shouldering her way past a number of dairy workers, farm hands and members of her family, she grasped the cream separator and began monkeying with it. In a short time she had reduced it to even more pieces than it had been in when she took hold of it. She couldn't fix it. She was just making things worse. At length, she turned on the onlookers and bawled. "Why doesn't somebody take this goddam thing away from me?"

In response to my earlier post about the Fishbowl piece, one reader had this to say:

I would comment that maybe it’s time to really consider dissolving the corporations and making this town a real functional government run by elected officials who are accountable to the voters and not by the fiduciary responsibility of a corporation. We have over 100k people here. This structure and the nonsense village elections for CA reps are proving to be non reliable.

I find myself to be in complete agreement. I have raised this issue before. People who know far more than I do have explained that this would be extremely difficult and that it is unlikely to happen. Still, in my opinion, it makes more sense than what we have been doing. 

Would that mean that the Great Columbia Experiment is over? I don’t think so.

It would mean that this stage of it is over. Communities don’t stay frozen in their original form. It’s harder for us, I think, because so many can see (and feel) the origins in a personal way. They have not become shrouded in the mists of time, as it were. Change for many who were here for Columbia’s beginnings feels like a betrayal, a letting go of the most significant thing that ever happened to them. Yet I can’t help but think that every community must face this eventually.

Before I go, there’s one last thing I’d like you to think about. In my opinion,  it’s the thing that should be keeping us awake at night. The current Board is so dysfunctional that even if they do have a legitimate gripe with Ms. Boyd they’ve handled themselves so abysmally that nothing can get fixed. It would be like the Boy Who Cried Wolf. At this point, who would believe them?  That’s a problem. 

Instead of addressing challenges and true issues of concern we’re now engaged in a very public battle about power and reputation. Some folks must be tremendously concerned about the power involved because they’ve shown no scruples in trashing reputations. “When such gifted people start treating fellow community members as merely collateral damage, something has gone terribly, terribly wrong.” 

In closing:

1. Beware people who think they know everything, or tell you that they do.

 2. This thing is broken. It’s not a matter of “cleaning out the refrigerator.” We need to consider getting a whole new appliance.

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