Howard County Blog

A Blog on what is going on in Howard County

Friday, April 20, 2007

Election Day

The election here in Kings Contrivance is at Amherst House from 5pm to 7pm on Friday, April 20th and 9am to 1pm on Saturday, April 21st.

As you probably saw no bloggers got endorsed by the Columbia Flier. I have a strong commitment to openness and transparency and so I have decided to post here my answers to the Fliers endorsement questionnaire:

1. Which Columbia Association programs would you like to see get higher priority? Lower priority? Started? Eliminated? What changes would you suggest and what would be their financial implications?

As stated on the CA website “The Columbia Association is a non-profit public benefit organization, created to nurture the Columbia vision and to enhance the quality of life for people living and working here.” To that end I believe the CA programs that should be a priority are ones that promote the Columbia vision of bringing people of diverse backgrounds together, preserving green-space, and promoting quality planning that has the infrastructure to meet the community’s needs. Pools, bike paths, tot lots, the gyms, the CA summer camps, the before and after school care, the classes at the Arts Center, the Columbia BikeAbout, the Columbia swim teams, and the Friday night movies at the Lakefront all bring people of diverse backgrounds together. The preservation of green-space through proper management and care of Columbia’s open spaces is also a priority of mine. With the proposed 10% to 20% increase in Columbia’s population CA must be planning ahead to make sure it has the infrastructure to serve this population. I will make a priority of examining what new pools, tot lots, gyms, and other facilities are needed to meet this population increase. If CA doesn’t ask these questions now and start to address these issues before the plan is approved, CA will find itself playing catch up without reserved land in the plan and with increased cost to lien-payers who will have to pick up the costs of paying for items that CA might have gotten developers to contribute to in exchange for easements on CA land.

I firmly believe that one of my main roles is to look out for the efficient use of lien-payers’ money. I have concerns about bonuses to senior staff, effective oversight of technology contracts, and whether CA is getting a fair value on easements they have given.

One new expense I will propose CA take on is building sheds at each of the swimming pools that have a swim team so that the swim teams have a place to store their gear. CA collects money for the swim teams, but the teams must store their gear in parents' homes. I have learned from the parents who currently run the KC Waves swim team that many parents, particularly those not living in single family homes, often do not have room to store this gear. Getting sheds built at the pools so that they can store their equipment at the pools will help allow any parent to run the swim team not just parents with storage space to store the teams gear. It will cost CA $500 to build a shed at each of the 14 CA pools with a swim team. This $7000 total is a much better use of CA money than large bonuses to senior staff. It should not take residents long drawn out bureaucratic navigating to get CA to take action to improve its services to make residents' lives easier and support the building of a strong community. Our swim teams are one of the great community building activities that CA supports.

2. What would you as a Columbia Council/board member do to make the Columbia Association a more open organization?

I am deeply committed to the Columbia Association being a more open transparent organization. I have proposed that CA create a searchable online database of board decisions on its website. I believe this will provide a clearer awareness of what are the CA policies set by the board, help clarify what policies the board has established for staff to implement, and make the board more accountable to voters by allowing anyone to easily find out how each board member voted on a particular issue.

My strong belief in the voters’ right to know about the proceedings of an organization that collects their money will make me a strong and consistent voice for keeping meetings open.

3. Do you believe your village needs a master plan to guide its redevelopment in the coming years? If so, how would you suggest such a plan be devised and implemented?

Yes, I am a strong advocate for quality planning before building is approved. I have a long track record on my blog and at public meetings advocating quality planning. The tough questions need to be asked when there is still time to fix a plan, not after construction has been approved. Piecemeal development rarely serves the community as well as quality comprehensive planning.

I have attended all of the charrette meetings and most of the Focus Group meetings on downtown redevelopment. I believe the first day of the charrette, when residents drew their vision for downtown on maps and presented them to the rest of the community that chose to attend, was a good way to start developing a master plan, but I believe that after the open mike session on the Monday of charrette week it became clear that the community was not getting listened to and the plan was not reflecting the community’s concerns. I believe that any master planning process must be done in an open way responsive to the community and it must involve careful planning to make sure the infrastructure will meet the community’s needs. Sloppy planning creates preventable frustrations, lost time, and the reduction of the quality of life in the community. If we can with a little pain in the short-term reduce a lot of sustained long-term pain we should.

4. Do you think the board/council does an adequate job representing the interests and concerns of residents to the CA president and staff? If not, what improvements would you suggest?

There seems to be a difference of opinion within the board/council on whether or not it is their function to represent the interests and concerns of residents. I strongly believe that one of my primary duties as someone the residents elect will be to represent their interests and concerns on the board. I will hold monthly listening sessions at the Bagel Bin in Kings Contrivance so that any resident can come by and talk to me about any issues they have. I will champion the needs of residents on the board and be proactive in making sure board decisions are implemented in a timely, financially efficient way as the board directed.

I have serious concerns about the clarity of the communication between the board and the President. To solve this I propose that CA create a searchable online database of all board decisions so the board, the President, staff, and the public knows what decisions the board has taken and what instructions the President and staff have received.

5. If there are any issues of particular importance that this questionnaire does not touch on, please outline them, and your prescription for dealing with them, here.

An over arching issue that CA faces is there seems to be a lack of understanding of mission and purpose in many recent CA decisions. CA needs to constantly judge its actions off of its purpose as stated on the CA website “The Columbia Association is a non-profit public benefit organization, created to nurture the Columbia vision and to enhance the quality of life for people living and working here.” I will consistently work to make sure that all CA actions are true to that mission. This will require working with other board members to judge if policies conform to this mission. It will also require better board control of CA policies and clearer directions to staff. I have mentioned my proposal for an online searchable database of board decisions in answering other questions, but I think it will be a very important component in making sure board members and staff are more accountable and clarifying communication between the board and staff.

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Anonymous Jessie N said...

Good for you, Evan! I'm happy to see that you posted your response to The Flier's candidate questioning.

I thought it just a bit odd that none of the bloggers were endorsed. My suspicion: The newspapers (mostly run by Boomers) feel a sense of unease about this new medium of self-expression and public dialogue. They are used to (I can't find the word that seems right: "dominating," "hoarding," "controlling"?) local journalism, and bloggers are starting to diffuse that hold.

I don't mean to be incendiary or condemning of the papers for how they've functioned in the past. I just think they are really missing the boat by not embracing and working *with* local bloggers to enhance the communication to the public. So, I'm happy to see you, Evan, as a blogger going around their roadblocks.

8:43 AM  
Anonymous jim adams said...

Well said, Evan.

8:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting that you are proposing building sheds at the CA pools. Hasn't that idea already been proposed and lobbied for by your opponent?

10:06 AM  
Blogger Evan said...

The parents of the KC Waves swim team have spent a year trying to get sheds. I think Columbia residents should get faster results than this. If elected I will work quickly to get CA to pay for the sheds. We are talking about $7000 out of a $56million dollar budget. Efficient response is important.

3:35 PM  
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