Friday, September 04, 2009

John Chelen Tosses Hat into CPCA Ring

As posted on the Cleveland Park Listserv:

My name is John Chelen and I'm running for President of the Cleveland Park Citizens' Association.

I have watched with alarm as our community has been torn apart, to some extent by personality issues, but even more so by what I've come to learn are misconceptions about what's good for our neighborhood.

Several neighbors approached me and asked me to run. But before agreeing, I wanted to get to the heart of what's really going on. I've met with dozens of people with different points of view and admittedly still don't have all the answers. However, I've seen enough to know that CPCA might come apart if we don't find a way back to the fundamental values that have inspired us throughout the years. Without a unified CPCA, we all lose.

Cleveland Park faces different challenges than those we thought about even two years ago. I think we all agree that it's time for CPCA to change, time to better reflect the variety in our community, and time to modernize the way the association is run and communicates.

What's exciting is that there's now a shared conviction that CPCA can make a difference. However, recent posts on the listservs have been discouraging. It's time to stop the factual errors, exaggerations, name-calling, and platitudes and begin to address our concerns. I think we can overcome our differences in the spirit of One Neighborhood. It's time to start a process of renewal.

We can't afford to accept simplistic answers to complex issues, nor can we afford leaders who think it's their way or the highway. Today's challenges can best be met with an open mind, in an inclusive, rather than divisive, manner. That's what I hope I can offer to you as your President.

We've put together a diverse team that represents the best of what Cleveland Park has to offer - people with experience and passion who look beyond their own personal short-term interests for greater long-term community benefit. I've asked these people to run with me and they've agreed. But I've also asked them to give me one last chance to reach out to you. If you're interested in joining our team, either by running for office, chairing a committee, or just pitching in, please contact me. I'll do my best to meet with each and every one of you, and then pick from the best and announce our Unity Team on September 8.

Here's a little info about me: I've lived in Cleveland Park for 30 years and have a long history of civic involvement. Professionally I'm a high-tech lawyer. I've helped develop advanced software for federal agencies and social networking and communications models underlying systems you may be using today. I have also incorporated many non-profits and developed model bylaws that effectively enable small groups to work together. Recently I helped organize my immediate neighbors to get essential street improvements that required resolution of competing ideas and cutting through city red tape.

I think we can all agree that Cleveland Park is a wonderful place to live. We have a unique combination of apartment, townhouse and single family residences, with walking access to stores, restaurants, entertainment, schools, parks, and public transit. There is a diversity of ages, ethnic backgrounds, and income levels. Keeping Cleveland Park a great place to live is everyone's goal. That requires maintaining a delicate balance among competing interests.

So, here are my goals:

Keep Cleveland Park safe and cordial, so that our neighborhood is enjoyable for everyone -- families, singles, couples, and empty-nesters.

Keep Cleveland Park dynamic and vibrant, harmonizing the need for neighborhood-serving shops, including restaurants and entertainment, while preserving our quiet spaces.

Restore Cleveland Park's historic reputation for civil discussion and inclusiveness, encourage more members to participate, and ensure that CPCA is open and welcoming to the entire community.

Revise CPCA bylaws to increase transparency and modernize the decision-making process.

Make sure that CPCA benefits us all, not just one interest group or perspective.

In the coming weeks you'll hear more from me and our other candidates who will run on the "Unity" slate with me. We'll focus on the issues many of you have raised, look at both sides, and describe how we think we can solve them, as a community.

In closing, I promise I'll serve as an advocate for all our interests and work for consensus solutions to both our current issues and the unpredictable challenges that, no doubt, will arise in the coming year. I'll work to make Cleveland Park better than it's ever been.

I look forward to your help and your vote.

John Chelen

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