Sunday, May 08, 2011

BHCA Election a Distraction

Recently I have joined a couple of my neighbors, including Pat McDonough and Pat Amend, to canvass Beacon Hill for nomination signatures. It's that time of year again, as candidates for municipal offices are asking voters to put them on the ballot, through signatures. We were asking residents on behalf of City Councilors Ayanna Pressley and John Connolly, who are both running for re-election.

I like doing things like this because by talking to my neighbors, it provides quite a bit of insight into what they care about.

Except this year, the issues are being overriden by something else, and that's unfortunate. All attention right now is on the upcoming Beacon Hill Civic Association election, taking place at Monday's association annual meeting.

For those who are not close to what's happening on Beacon Hill right now, we're in the middle of a campaign season. Tomorrow night, at the civic association's annual meeting, members will elect officers and board members for the new term. In most cases, this happens with little fanfare. The new board members and officers are consulted in advance to preserve continuity for the organization. It's not the most democratic process, but it works. And the association, which is private and able to determine its own methods for elections (following bylaws, of course), is stronger because of it.

This year, Steve Young was nominated to be the new president of the association by what you could call the normal process. Rob Whitney, who like Steve is a current board member, followed a process prescribed in the association's by-laws to challenge Young. So now tomorrow's civic association annual meeting will feature an election for president. Either Young or Whitney will be picked.

In my recent conversations with neighbors, the board election is all anyone wants to talk about. They are not interested in trash or recycling or neighborhood schools. They are fascinated by the election not for the issues involved, but for the personalities of the candidates.

I like Steve and Rob very much, and I have had the privilege of serving with them on the civic association board for many years. I believe either could lead the organization and further its cause on behalf of the group's members. However, and I mean this with all due respect, I am not sure if I see a different course for the group, regardless of which one is elected.

One thing I have learned through my service on the board (which comes to an end at the annual meeting) is that organizations such as the civic association are directed by the members. The causes the board pressed most significantly over my eight years of tenure were the ones that neighbors cared about and advocated for strongly. The specific opinions or agendas of the board officers had little to do with it.

The ongoing campaign in the neighborhood has done little to advance discussion about neighborhood issues. Instead, the debate has come down to a gossipy discussion of personalities. Tomorrow's vote will not be an election so much as a popularity contest. And that's sad.

As it turns out, I cannot attend the meeting. I am flying to Atlanta this afternoon for four days of work meetings at a tech conference there. I do hope the proceedings at the meeting do not get out of hand. (The meeting is at 6 p.m. 5/16 at the Union Club on Park Street.)


1 comment:

ben said...

I do think that the two candidates' position pieces in the Beacon Hill Times presented a stark contrast.