Saturday, June 06, 2009

Some Defense of the CPCA

Three listserv contributors have come to the defense of the Executive Committee of the Cleveland Park Citizens Association. Longtime resident Margaret Lenzner suggests:

The suggestion that postponing the annual meeting "disenfranchises" anyone is ridiculous. In fact, the delay will fully and indisputably enfranchise all. Not only will there will be no question of whether a new member joined in time for a pre-meeting/vote deadline, but members won't be conflicted by the year-end school events so prominent on many calendars for June 6.

Jeff Davis says that he wants CPCA to use online polls to identify issues and assess neighborhood views, and to allow members to voice opinions (and, even, to vote?) without attending meetings. I agree that internet use can be a valuable tool, but it is no substitute for meetings. I hope that all members, new and old, will appreciate that attending meetings regularly, meeting other members in person, and becoming actively involved in person -- not just online -- is essential to building and maintaining a healthy community association. It isn't always easy, but it's worth it.

Meanwhile, Friendship Height resident Sue Hemberger argues:

A hostile takeover campaign of a voluntary association based on a single issue and with votes essentially buyable (pay the membership fee and you get a vote) is a crisis not so much because it threatens the current leadership but because it threatens the association as a whole. You can't tell whether the newcomers will stay and put in the hard work necessary to keep an organization like this alive or whether the goal is just to destroy/neutralize the organization as a power base for the "other side." That's why a kind of sweat equity requirement might be functional.

Advocates for a reinvigorated CPCA make a different argument:

Over and over the new members have said that their goal was to revitalize the CPCA by providing better communications with its members and more participation. We want to keep the effective members of the current leadership and tried to develop a joint slate in keeping with the precedents of uncontested elections with the CPCA. Because the CPCA now has over 500 members, it is ludicrous to think that a small minority could "destroy/neutralize the organization". Instead, the new members are making a major commitment to improve the organization.

For example, I volunteered to start a listserve to facilitate internal communication. This is not a casual commitment but one that I view as at least a five year effort. And not an easy effort at that. The executive committee of the CPCA wants me to shut down the listserve and stop all unsupervised internal discussions. The executive committee will not help me verify who is a member of the CPCA and so I have to use addresses and rely on the word of the people joining.

To use terms like "hostile takeover", "votes essentially buyable" and "destroy/neutralize" in one paragraph is more than mischaracterization, it is insulting our intelligence. I have put in lots of sweat equity over the years to improve Cleveland Park and for a person in Friendship Heights to say that I should have no right to vote in a Cleveland Park organization is more than annoying.

Many of the new members of the CPCA are more than ten-year residents of the neighborhood, some even have more tenure than the entrenched leadership of the organization! Should these variables matter in the lifeblood of the community and its community association?

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