Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Neighborhood Association IV: Still Crazy after All these Months


A pretty blonde in a bikini and stilletto heels steps over the ropes and enters the ring. She circles slowly, holding over her head a white sign reading "ROUND..."

...Who knows what round this is at this point, huh?

Last night (11/19) the Original Highlands Neighborhood Association (OHNA) held its November meeting and elections for six of the twelve Board of Directors. Roommate came with me this time; I was glad to have a witness. A full three-quarters of the meeting progressed with civility and sanity. Impressive.

The elections appeared to go off without a hitch. There were 9 candidates for the 6 open seats. Each stood up and spoke for 15-30 seconds about how much they loved their neighborhood and wanted to serve for the greater good. They seemed to come from all walks of life, all segments of our fairly diverse neighborhood. I engaged in the process, did my best to make democracy work for me. But to tell the truth, the process felt palpably inauthentic.

Let's face it, folks. For Lord only knows how long this neighborhood-- or at least the OHNA-- has been a hotbed of controversy surrounding one issue and one issue only: the Historic Preservation District. Only ONE of the nine candidates said anything about his or her position on the issue, and he was not elected to fill an open seat. One of the ringleaders of the anti-district movement ran but kept his mouth shut about the issue. Unless you knew he'd been one of the most-- if not the most-- aggressive campaigners on his side of the issue, he would have just come off as another concerned citizen/business owner. I applaud the man who came straight out and declared his horse in this race. At least he was giving us fair warning: a vote for him was a vote for a voice of anti-district on the Board. The rest of them... who knows???

Both the candidates and the OHNA are at fault for this. Yes, it was a democratic election. But would we stand for a government election where we were just given names and bios for the candidates? The election came down to who seemed the most likeable, who had a job that you admired, who gave you a good vibe. I suppose every one of us should take some of the blame-- somebody should have stood up at the meeting and said it was impossible to make an "informed" vote without information. Maybe it should have been me. Mea culpa, too.

The poo hit the windmill when the litter tzar of the neighborhood stood up and gave some details about clean-ups and then implored the incoming Board to review the OHNA Neighborhood Plan. He said, basically, that it was an important document with specific suggestions and that they should look into starting to implementing those suggestions ASAP.

Commence to poo-flinging.

Who drew up this document? It was done in secret! It's a farce! (repeat this last sentence at least ten times) Who is this 'they' of which you speak? Who paid for it? Where did the money come from? Don't you claim to represent the community!... be quiet... sit down.. closed doors... mismanaged... no one wants this... elite minority... the black helicopters are coming for all of us...

Okay, I made up that last little bit. This time, both sides threw the poo. And it wasn't quite as bad as August's meeting. But I left rattled. Call me sensitive, but the level of hostility shown by those who oppose the plan is just plain discomforting.

Keep in mind: this is different from the Historic Preservation District; this is a wide-sweeping plan for the neighborhood in general. I've read it. You should too. It's here.

Roommate said he left his first meeting feeling pretty hopeful about the neighborhood association, despite the outburst. He said that he felt as though the majority of the people were just shaking their heads in disbelief at the insanity. I felt less optimistic. I can't help but feel that we'll get nothing productive done as long as the inmates have such a presence in (and may now be in charge of-- who knows?) the asylum.

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