I recently attended both a homeowners’ association meeting and a town hall meeting sponsored by the homeowners’ association. I went to see for myself what was rumored in letters to the editor of our small-town newspapers concerning the association and behavior and actions during its meetings.
I went expecting bad behavior, shouting matches, and tyranny as described in said letters. Instead, I witnessed civil meetings where the governing board was willing to listen to both the pros and cons of the issue before making a judgment.
The governing board was not a group of people wishing to abuse power, as some of my neighbors feared, but a well-run panel of people who sincerely love the area we live in and want the best for our neighborhood. Their meetings were run in a way that allowed residents to be heard.
Although the topics were considered hot buttons, most people present wanted, most of all, to be allowed to explain their viewpoints and offer suggestions. While some accusations were made, the board members addressed those accusations and openly declared their intention to work at their elected capacity with as much integrity as they could bring to the job.
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What impressed me was board members’ willingness to hear the pros and cons of the issues discussed, even if the cons weren’t always fair. It is very hard to hear anti sentiments to a controversial proposal reasonably and without trying to jump into a counter attack. It can be difficult to sit and listen to one person take the floor and talk for several minutes and air rumors, lies, and false accusations without wanting to immediately deny the first lie and discredit the opinion. It was good to watch the members of the board not only listen to the persons airing the rumors, but actually take notes so when that person was finished, they could address each accusation with explanations and truth for all in the room to hear.
I realized during these meetings that civility works when people are willing to participate in civility. It became apparent to me that the board members and the residents in attendance all wanted what was fair for the entire homeowners’ association. It is hard to resolve every single issue that is brought to the table.
It is eye-opening to witness fair negotiation between leaders and residents who are willing to try to stick to facts and then make decisions using due process. I was happy to see the decision on one controversial proposal postponed until further investigation had been done and then the proposal rewritten to include clearly fair methods of implementation.
The sad part was the absence of people my age attending the meetings. I think the next step for the older people is dragging their children and grandchildren to some of these meetings to start preparing them to take over these responsibilities in a few years. I realized that government “by the people” is accomplished by people participating, not avoiding.
It is time to start attending local meetings and being willing to learn about how they work and how things are run, instead of always letting someone else do it.