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2023 CA Board Election: Oakland Mills Candidates Q&A Responses

The Merriweather Post shared a list of questions with all candidates seeking to represent their villages on the CA Board. The questions consisted of three long responses of 500 words or less, which focused the candidate's overarching philosophy of serving on the board, as well as four shorter answers consisting of 150 words or less, which focused on topics that have recently garnered community attention. Candidates were also free to submit a statement covering any topic they desired of 750 words or less.


Here are links to all Q&A articles. Hickory Ridge, Long Reach, Oakland Mills, River Hill, Wilde Lake.


Below are the responses from the two candidates seeking to represent Oakland Mills: Karin Emery and Amy Brooks.


 

Amy Brooks

Long Form Questions

Q1. Amenities and Services: CA provides and has to balance the cost of a wide variety of amenities and services including Open Space, gyms, outdoor pools, tot-lots, after school services, villages, etc. How do you think those services and amenities should be prioritized? Do you support increased spending on any new or existing services CA provides or should provide? If so, how much would you invest and how would you fund those increases? Where would you reduce services to pay for expanded services and amenities?


As a representative of Oakland Mills and a member of the CA Board of Directors, I would want to hear from my immediate community and the wider Columbia community before taking any positions about funding or priorities. Throughout the years, CA has surveyed members and reached out to residents across Columbia. In addition to talking with folks, we need to look at data that has already been collected.


Board members are tasked with a very clearly defined mission: “Engage our diverse community, cultivate a unique sense of place, and enhance the quality of life.” As an HCPSS teacher at Oakland Mills High School, I know the importance of collective decision-making. Our school motto is: We are strongest together. With that philosophy in mind, I want to bring my values of inclusion and representational governance to my role as CA Board member. I want to facilitate an ongoing connection with all the residents of Columbia so that I am never speaking as an individual, but as an informed representative of my students, their families, and their neighbors.


In the CA Strategic Plan, the vision statement calls for the board to create and support solutions to meet the evolving needs of a dynamic and inclusive community. I believe we can only do this with ongoing feedback from residents. We should continue to expand ways for people to participate in the budget process in a meaningful way.


Q2. The Board’s Role: Explain your thoughts on the role of the CA Board (not CA as an organization but the board itself). Given the board’s finite time, what are the key decisions the board must make? How much time should the board spend on those key decisions vs. non-key issues? How will you approach differences with other board members? What mistakes do you think the board has made over the past year?


There are defined tasks any board must undertake within the scope of their duties. I will support the focus of tending to required agenda items that ensure the smooth operations of the Columbia Association. I respect the countless hours that hundreds of employees put into running this critical organization. I will strive to support their work and do what I can to be thoughtful and fair in any needed deliberation.

I always approach differences with others by focusing on understanding. There is no need to “win” when there are differing perspectives. Instead, I see these moments as opportunities to listen and learn where other people are coming from. It would be foolish of me to judge any perceived mistakes the board has made in the past because I am not privy to all of the information and understanding they had of the situation. Instead, I am excited to move forward as a member of an energizing organization with a dynamic board. I believe that if kind, thoughtful people dedicate themselves to making the Columbia Association the best it can be, we ALL benefit.


Q3. President and CEO: Due to the resignation of Lakey Boyd, CA is operating with an interim CEO and President and, if elected, you will help will choose the next president. Do you think Ms. Boyd’s departure – and associated legal fees toping over $100,000 and likely payout of several hundred thousand more – benefited the community? If so, how? What qualities will you look for in candidates for CEO and President? How will you approach the relationship between the board and future president differently than the board this past year?


I was extremely disappointed by the departure of CEO and President, Lakey Boyd. During her short tenure, she connected with hundreds of community members in schools, nonprofit organizations, and individuals who care about our community. I heard from people across our region about how she made an impression on them by simply showing up to their events to listen and learn about their work. I know as a teacher, I was pleased that she made it a point to visit our school and meet with my principal and me. She listened carefully as we shared some of the challenges we face as well as our hopes for our students. It was inspiring to then hear her vision and willingness to collaborate moving forward.


Like so many others, I was excited to see what a healthy, vibrant CA could do for our schools and beyond. CA programs serve thousands of people through programming, facilities, paths, and parks. Boyd was a leader who showed up and made connections. Her work was just beginning and I hope we can replicate that momentum with both the interim CEO and our permanent leader a year from now. As a board member, I plan to support the inclusive work of our staff and leaders. I know that accountability is needed within any organization, especially one this large, but I also know that can be achieved without hostility or secrecy. I will be a part of a culture shift that centers Rouse’s values of community engagement and collective problem-solving in every discussion we undertake. When we choose to work collaboratively on solutions that benefit residents, we will be doing our job as community representatives.


Short Form Questions

Q1. Land Use: Land use and development is a controversial topic within the community. What do you think CA's role in this topic should be (if any)? What actions should CA take on this topic?


Land use is a big issue and there are numerous outlets on a county level to debate this issue. From conversations I have had throughout the county- yes, even beyond Columbia- residents are grateful that the Columbia Association is tasked with preserving/maintaining open spaces, indoor and outdoor facilities, and encouraging people of all ages to get active.


Q2. Diversity: The disparity between the demographic mix on CA's board of directors and the

community at large has been criticized. What do you think of this line of criticism? Do you think CA should take any action to address this issue?


As mentioned earlier, the CA’s strategic plan calls on the board to engage with our “diverse community.” It makes sense that we should have people of all ages, income levels, sexual expressions, religions, cultures, and family structures representing our community on the board because they are all IN our community. While we are better when we have input from the people impacted by our systemic policies, it is even more powerful when those making the decisions are actually from a variety of backgrounds.


Clear expectations, deadlines, and training make running for a CA seat more welcoming to those who are considering this option. Potential candidates should be able to balance a personal life, family, and work with their service on the board. By making the time commitment of a board member more manageable, I believe we can appeal to a broader demographic of Columbia residents.


Q3. Stream Restoration: The Lake Elkhorn Stream Restoration Project was approved by the CA Board in January 2021 with the endorsement of CA's Watershed Advisory Committee and professional staff but the board seems to be reconsidering the project. Would you support an attempt to pull CA out of the contract currently in place with Wetland Studies and Services Inc. (WSSI) to perform the stream restoration regardless of potential legal costs this could create for the community? Do you believe CA’s residents should pay for stormwater management improvements on county-owned property or property owned by individuals? What actions should CA take to address the serious erosion problems throughout the watershed and cost of dredging Lake Elkhorn?


This is a complex project that will require many nuanced decisions. I believe that the next steps should be informed by experts and discussed with residents.


Q4. Corruption and Ethics: Vocal members of the community have accused board members and other members of the community of corruption. Do you believe any current board members, current of former CA staff, or candidates are corrupt (meaning they are acting for the financial benefit of themselves or a benefactor instead of the good of the community)? What policies should CA implement to mitigate the risks of corrupt board members?


As I have indicated in previous replies, I look forward to embodying Rouse’s call to be an inclusive member of this community. I do not see my role on the CA board of directors as punitive to past board members. Outside review committees are ideal for unbiased assessments of wrongdoing.


I will abide by ethics guidelines and legal counsel. I also plan to support fellow board members when they need to recuse themselves from a vote that may involve a conflict of interest. Finally, we need to have clear consequences when there has been a breach of trust or an ethics violation. Residents of Columbia deserve to have a board that is honest and transparent. I will carry myself in a professional manner that restores confidence in both our organization and our governance.


Statement
[Ms. Brooks did not provide an additional statement]

 

Karin Emery

Long Form Questions

Q1. Amenities and Services: CA provides and has to balance the cost of a wide variety of amenities and services including Open Space, gyms, outdoor pools, tot-lots, after school services, villages, etc. How do you think those services and amenities should be prioritized? Do you support increased spending on any new or existing services CA provides or should provide? If so, how much would you invest and how would you fund those increases? Where would you reduce services to pay for expanded services and amenities?


My top priorities are our pathways, pools, and open spaces. The Columbia Association (CA)performs regular satisfaction surveys of members and residents and the results are always positive. Consistently ranking at the top of those surveys are our pathways and our pools and I want to protect the paths and surrounding open spaces and ensure our pools are open and accessible. I don’t support an increase in the cap on assessments and believe we can work within the budget to manage amenities and services. I would like to see a more creative CA offer online subscription services for some of the more popular classes at the gyms, like Yoga and Cycling which could increase revenue.


Q2. The Board’s Role: Explain your thoughts on the role of the CA Board (not CA as an organization but the board itself). Given the board’s finite time, what are the key decisions the board must make? How much time should the board spend on those key decisions vs. non-key issues? How will you approach differences with other board members? What mistakes do you think the board has made over the past year?


The role of the board is to set strategy and policy, create and approve the budget. As a member of the board I want to make sure that we place a high value on the properties we own and lease. Anything dealing with open space should be reviewed by the board with input from the public before CA enters into any agreements. I look forward to working with the new board and building productive relationships.


Q3. President and CEO: Due to the resignation of Lakey Boyd, CA is operating with an interim CEO and President and, if elected, you will help will choose the next president. Do you think Ms. Boyd’s departure – and associated legal fees toping over $100,000 and likely payout of several hundred thousand more – benefited the community? If so, how? What qualities will you look for in candidates for CEO and President? How will you approach the relationship between the board and future president differently than the board this past year?


I have high hopes for the new board continuing to build a positive partnership with the interim President of CA, and eventually the new President. Dennis Mattey is working closely with the existing board and allowing staff to work with them as well. We need a transparent process where the board has complete information when it votes on transformative projects. I’m impressed with Dennis assigning staff to attend the Village Board meetings to learn more. We need to build into the new President’s job description the need for openness and transparency so that residents know that their assessments are being spent wisely and responsibly.


Short Form Questions

Q1. Land Use: Land use and development is a controversial topic within the community. What do you think CA's role in this topic should be (if any)? What actions should CA take on this topic?


Protect the integrity of the Village Centers, and advocate for the preservation of our open spaces. Specifically with respect to our paths, tot lots, streams and forests. We need to maintain the Uniqueness and Independence of Columbia.


Q2. Diversity: The disparity between the demographic mix on CA's board of directors and the

community at large has been criticized. What do you think of this line of criticism? Do you think CA should take any action to address this issue?


It is up to each Village who they elect to sit on the CA Board. The CA Board and CA adopted a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiative as part of the strategic five-year plan. It also included environmental sustainability. I look forward to building on these initiatives in the new strategic plan. I would love to have the public’s input as the new board works on this plan.


Q3. Stream Restoration: The Lake Elkhorn Stream Restoration Project was approved by the CA Board in January 2021 with the endorsement of CA's Watershed Advisory Committee and professional staff but the board seems to be reconsidering the project. Would you support an attempt to pull CA out of the contract currently in place with Wetland Studies and Services Inc. (WSSI) to perform the stream restoration regardless of potential legal costs this could create for the community? Do you believe CA’s residents should pay for stormwater management improvements on county-owned property or property owned by individuals? What actions should CA take to address the serious erosion problems throughout the watershed and cost of dredging Lake Elkhorn?


The board should seriously consider whether or not the proposed plan makes sense and if they had all of the information required when they made their initial decision. Our paths, streams and adjoining forests are some of the most beautiful and priceless amenities that are available to everyone. You don’t have to pay anything extra to walk on our path, to run through our woods or dip your toes in our streams. Nature is a key ingredient for a healthy and thriving community. I look forward to working with the new board as we determine what is best for Columbia.


Q4. Corruption and Ethics: Vocal members of the community have accused board members and other members of the community of corruption. Do you believe any current board members, current of former CA staff, or candidates are corrupt (meaning they are acting for the financial benefit of themselves or a benefactor instead of the good of the community)? What policies should CA implement to mitigate the risks of corrupt board members?


I have no information that anyone on the current CA board is corrupt.


Statement

My name is Karin Emery - I’m your neighbor on Thunder Hill Road – I’m running to be your representative from Oakland Mills on the Columbia Association (CA) Board of Directors - And I’m asking for your vote.


After serving on the Board for the past six years, Ginny Thomas has decided to step down. I want to thank her for her years of hard work and dedicated service to our community. I also want to thank her for encouraging me to run for her open seat.


As your elected representative, I will work hard to ensure that residents and the amenities that make our community such a wonderful place to live, are the number one priority in all my decision making.


With more than 100,000 residents now living in Columbia, representation on the CA Board has never been more important. Transparency of decision making by the board and CA is a critical element of our community’s future.


Developers and other corporate interests see Columbia as a place where they can make huge profits at the expense of our residents and have even made attempts to take over the CA Board to serve their own nefarious purposes.


CA staff is not obligated to inform residents when it makes changes to CA property or grants access to for profit organizations through contracts, licenses, and settlements. A CA Board made up of members beholden to these developers can ignore residents’ needs with impunity.


At stake is the protection of our 3600 acres of open spaces, including the paths, tot lots, streams, ponds and surrounding forest.


As a member of the board, I will ensure that before CA and the Board engage in any large, transformative projects, residents will be fully informed of these proposals and have the opportunity to speak up during public hearings.


When CA staff want to grant access to some of our downtown properties, such as the pavilion at Lake Kittamaqundi, I’ll be there to make sure residents are informed and that they are the main beneficiary.


I’m excited that Oakland Mills has been selected by the CA Board to be the pilot for how we reimagine our tot lots and surrounding spaces and I look forward to working with the Oakland Mills Community Association (OMCA) and our residents in the coming months as we all share our ideas and suggestions. This type of transparent activity can be a model for how we work going forward.


As I mentioned above, I live and grew up in the Village of Oakland Mills. Many of you already know me either because we went to OMHS together, I went to school with your kids, or we’re neighbors.


I’ve always been involved in the community in one way or another, as a volunteer soccer coach for SAC for many years and then serving for two years on the Wooded Ridge Townhouse Association.


I worked with neighbors on Thunder Hill Road to gather signatures for the speed humps that have helped to decrease traffic and make our street safer. Most recently I organized with neighbors on Thunder Hill Road to retain our street parking.


Professionally, I’m an IT Program Manager. I have experience managing multi-million-dollar budgets which I believe will serve me well as a member of the CA Board as we review and approve budgets. I’ve been in the position of hiring consultants as well to work on large initiatives and then managing the outcomes of those initiatives.


My strongest skill though is my ability to listen and understand. As your elected representative on the Board I’ll be reaching out regularly to get your thoughts on the work of CA and the board and to make sure I understand the issues that are most important to you.


[Note from The Merriweather Post: Above, Ms. Emery states that "CA staff is not obligated to inform residents when it makes changes to CA property or grants access to for profit organizations through contracts, licenses, and settlements." An easement is required to make a substantive change in the access to CA property. Only the Board of Directors can approve easements - CA's staff cannot make that decision. It is true that CA's staff can implement contracts in accordance with the usage outlined by the board of directors.]

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