Saturday, January 30, 2016

Radical Naiveté

adjective  rad·i·cal  \ˈra-di-kəl\
:  favoring extreme changes in existing views, habits, conditions, or institutions
:  advocating extreme measures to retain or restore a political state of affairs 

noun  na·ïve·té  \nä-ˌēv-ˈtā, -ˌē-və-; nä-ˈēv-ˌtā, -ˈē-və-; nī-\

:  deficient in worldly wisdom or informed judgment


Michael Alyania (sp), said that he moved to Radburn in 2008 and he noted that the current structure of government is not illegal according to the Courts. Many are complaining about the form of government in Radburn and Mr. Alyania (sp) reminded everyone that they are not forced to live here. The form of government is sound and legal and represents a spirit of volunteerism and not politics. Mr. Alyania (sp) commented that those who are complaining about the increased dues as a result of legal fees are the ones who sued the Association in the first place and have no reason to complain. He said that the Council should allow Radburn to deal with its own issues and should not be involved.

Michael Alyania (sp), referred to the comment that the sale of Daly Field is what has sparked this debate. He said that he has done research and has spoken to a lot of people to try to understand the circumstances leading to that decision. He learned that the decision of the Board of Trustees was not made in an open way, however, they felt that they were acting in the best interests of Radburn. Mistakes were made which they have admitted and everyone must remember that this group has governed itself for 80 years without incident and everyone needs to come together and decide how to govern going forward. 

Those comments above are mine. I own them. But I am going on record right here to say that I was wrong to suggest that people who aren't happy with the governance structure should move out of Radburn. That remark was insensitive, ill-informed, and insulting. If I could go back and withdraw that statement, I would. But since I cannot, I would like to ask those that were hurt by my words to please accept my sincere apology. 

Allow me to explain. 

My family and I had just moved to Radburn and I was convinced early on that anyone who questioned the sanctity and structure of a system of governance that has been in place for more than eighty years must simply be wrong. The supporters of the status quo, myself included, were radicals in the sense that we advocated for retaining our established system of governance without giving much thought to any sort of alternative solution. This included writing to the Fair Lawn council and speaking out at public work sessions to express our firm position. There I was, a new resident of eighteen months staunchly supporting and defending the "way it's always been" without having any significant experience of 'being' and 'living' in this community. It may have been radical naiveté, but I truly believed that this quixotic, apolitical structure was something that could never (or would never) be abused. It stood to reason in my mind that a system based not on politics, but solely on pure volunteerism by individuals who have been involved in various facets within the community, was an ideal concept not to be trifled with. So when it came time to speak up and be heard, I refused to hold back. 

As a result of being actively involved in the community (i.e. attending RCA meetings, volunteering for various events, speaking out in support of the BOT, etc.), I was asked by a trustee if I would be interested in submitting my name to be considered for the ballot. I felt honored to be presented with that opportunity and, after discussing it with my wife, agreed to submit my name. I made it onto the ballot that year but did not get elected. Two years later I was asked to run again for the 2012 election, which again I agreed to do, and was fortunate enough to be elected to the board that year.

My experience serving as a trustee was invigorating and rewarding at times, disappointing and frustrating at other times, and extremely educational. People's true colors have a way of shining through when there are dissenting view points and areas of conflict, and I learned a lot about the character, principles, and civic-minded philosophies of not only my fellow trustees, but also the manager, and even myself. I also came to the realization that there are two particular types of forces at play that determine the effectiveness of a board. The first force is political will, which consists of strength of character, can-do attitude, deference and willingness to seek compromise. When this is the predominant force, boards are very successful in achieving goals and attaining a favorable review by their stakeholders. The second type of force is self preservation, which consists of groupthink culture, dogmatic attitude, and unyielding hubris. When this is the predominant force, boards end up making many poor and/or dubious decisions, are typically unwilling to admit mistakes, and are reluctant to change their behavior. These types of boards tend to not have high satisfaction ratings among their stakeholders

If the force of political will is stronger than the force of self preservation, the board will be highly functional and the governance structure would be considered by many to be sound. However, if the force of self preservation is the dominant force, then eventually residents will become dissatisfied by the board's performance and will demand change. The issue with the Radburn structure is systemic. The process does not allow for the removal of trustees by unit-owner residents, either in a recall election or with open nominations of candidates. As a result, all residents are at the mercy of the system and can only hope that the board will eventually be comprised of people with strong character, conviction and political will.     

Suffice it to say that the three years I spent as a trustee, in addition to certain events that transpired between the board and myself after my term was over, had reshaped my opinions as to the efficacy and wisdom of the current system of governance. If Radburn is to change and evolve from within, it will take a board with significant political will to lead the way. Absent of that occurrence, it will only be a matter of time before the law mandates it.

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