Saturday, December 10, 2022

Condemned to Repeat

From the Community Notes section of the Baltimore Sun, March 9, 2007:

Columbia Association to hold open house

The Columbia Association, its president, Maggie J. Brown, senior staff and team members - and their accomplishments - will be celebrated at a Community Open House from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at the Loft of The Other Barn in the Oakland Mills Village Center. The event, originally scheduled last month, was postponed because of inclement weather. The open house is sponsored by Friends of CA. Refreshments will be served. Everyone is welcome, and admission is free.

Hmm…well, that’s interesting. The Columbia Association appears to be throwing a party for itself and the CA President. I wonder why? And who are “the Friends of CA”?

This article from The Washington Examiner appears to be connected:

Columbia leaders support CA President Maggie Brown, Washington Examiner, December 21, 2006

Columbia community leaders blasted five Columbia Association board members who want to renew President Maggie Brown’s contract for one year only.

"I think the position they’ve taken is unjust. It’s irresponsible. [Brown] has done an extraordinary job," said Sherman Howell, vice president of the African American Coalition of Howard County.

It’s an interesting article. It won’t take you long to read, either. Apparently there was a faction on the CA Board who intended to take action against the sitting CA President by limiting her contract to one year.


Residents, groups voice support for CA president,  Tyrone Richardson, Baltimore Sun, December 22, 2006

Community members were speaking out. It looks like that reception in March was a part of a pushback against the Board’s dissatisfaction with Ms.Brown. Did you go to that reception? Perhaps you were really tuned in to Columbia Association happenings during that time. What’s the backstory on all this?

I wasn’t tuned in,  not yet. So, even though that reception happened not more than five minutes from my house, I knew nothing about it. 

That’s the thing about community engagement. Over the years I’ve become more and more focused on local issues and events. But there was a time that I just lived here and that was it. There are plenty of people like that here in Columbia.

A small slice of residents are intensely interested in what’s going on. For the rest, the challenges of life are more than enough. Or perhaps no one has made the connection to invite them in yet. So it might be easy to miss the big picture. 

What is happening right now between the CA Board and CA President Lakey Boyd is nothing new. 

It appears to be, as they say, not a bug but a feature of our Columbia governance system. At the very least these behaviors are so ingrained that they might as well be an intentional part of the plan.

We know about Maggie Brown and Lakey Boyd because their stories made the newspaper. A big difference between the two is how social media has amplified the current controversy far beyond what was possible in 2006-7.  But disputes between CA Boards and Presidents have been frequent. These aren’t the only ones. We just don’t know all the gory details of all the others.

Phil Nelson left town under a cloud. Milton Matthews retired but was he really ready to retire? Or was he just worn out by the same sorts of issues that have plagued others in CA leadership?

I don’t know.

I’ve made my case already for doing away for this way of doing things. Everything I’ve learned since then has only confirmed it. I continue to see people say that it’s the people that are the problem and not the system. 

We just need a different board.
We just need to get rid of this board.
We just need to elect a better board.
We just need to educate and train the board.

It is entirely up to you whether you think certain members of the current board are fulfilling their responsibilities wisely. There are quirky personalities in the mix, to be sure. But, if the same dang thing keeps happening over and over, I think the argument that it’s “just this board” makes no sense.

Do we simply want to be mad about what’s happening now or do we want to fix this in a meaningful way?

If I could wave a magic wand over the specifics of the current controversy, I’d probably wish that we had some sort of truly effective mediation process that could assist Boyd and the Board in hashing out their differences and in establishing a healthier way of relating with one another. The current mood to paint one side as all bad and the other as all good may help stir up public attention but it isn’t in the best interest of Columbia as a whole. 

Why? Because it doesn’t actually mend what is broken. It doesn’t empower the people involved to do the hard work of negotiating and compromising. In the short term, that’s the only thing that would change the direction of this crisis in our CA leadership.

In the long term? We really might want to think of creating something better. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.