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.
Below are the responses from one of the two candidates seeking to represent River Hill: Dipper Wettstein. The other candidate, Eric Greenberg, did not respond to the questionnaire.
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?
Columbia Association provides an excellent range of amenities and services. We should prioritize amenities, services based on what the residents need and want. It is my understanding that CA residents value the paths, open space, and the outdoor pools the most. By providing services that people value, the association can benefit financially. Further, we will increase membership and Columbia can continue to be one of the best cities in Maryland, if not the country. CA residents pay their share to enjoy the amenities in Columbia, I would not want to increase fees for residents. Let's work together and continue to make Columbia a vibrant modern community, full of relevant and quality amenities and services.
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 CA Board should comprise of diverse set of individuals who can collaborate effectively to provide the CEO and senior staff with guidance that creates a more prosperous and inclusive community for everyone to live, work, and play. The most important decision this board will make is to hire the next CEO/President. The board should govern, not micromanage the association. One of the biggest disappointments of the current board is its failure to pass an ethics policy that was written by a subject matter expert.
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?
It's important for the Columbia Association to maintain transparency and open communication to ensure that their actions are in line with the expectations of the community. I don’t know the specifics of Ms. Boyd's resignation, since all discussions were held in many closed session meetings.
The undisclosed amount spent on legal fees and possible payout in this case does seem wasteful. Our CPRA fees are high, and it's not a good use of them to spend on lawyer fees and employee payouts. As a member of the community, it's important to hold the Columbia Association accountable for their actions and advocate for responsible use of our assessment dollars.
Moving forward, the next CA board should prioritize hiring an experienced leader and work
collaboratively to support the new executive and empower this individual to make Columbia a better place for everyone.
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 and development are indeed complex issues that can have significant impacts on the environment, local communities, and regional economies. Effective management of land use and development is crucial for the well-being of a community. As a governing body, the board can play a role in this by listening to the professional staff's assessment of such projects and engaging with stakeholders and community organizations to ensure that policies reflect community needs and values. It is important for CA to gather input from various stakeholders, including residents, businesses, and community organizations, to ensure that land use policies and regulations are inclusive and reflective of the community's needs. By doing so, CA can help facilitate sustainable development practices while mitigating the negative impacts of development on the environment and the community. CA's role in land use and development should prioritize collaboration, informed decision-making, and a commitment to sustainability and community well-being.
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's important for the board to reflect the diversity of Columbia and strive to make its committees and board as inclusive as possible. While the associations can help promote village elections, ultimately, the selection of board members comes down to people willing to serve and the election results. To make the process more inclusive, I suggest the creation of a Diversity and Inclusion committee. This committee could serve as a safe place for individuals from diverse backgrounds to begin their service to the community and work towards making it a better place for everyone, without leaving anyone behind. Rather than just being a critic, we should aim to be constructive and find solutions to the challenges we face. Promoting diversity and inclusion in the board and committees is crucial to creating a representative and responsive community.
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?
Restoring streams is a critical issue that all developments must address. While stormwater
management has come a long way since the development of Columbia by Rouse Co., it is essential to retrofit our stream systems with the latest techniques when necessary. Our lakes often serve as significant stormwater management areas, and removing debris through dredging is often necessary.
We need to encourage sustainable development practices and mitigate the negative impacts of development on the environment and community. CA and Howard County could provide resources and support to help property owners if necessary. The board approved the project based on guidance from staff and the watershed committee. If the guidance changes, I would vote to withdraw from the project, but only under the guidance of staff. The key to effective stormwater management is to slow the flow, and every effort counts.
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 evidence that any current board member, current or former CA staff and candidates are corrupt. The CA board needs to follow its audit committee’s recommendation and institute an Ethics Policy. In addition, non-attorney, non-subject matter experts should not be writing the ethics policy, attorneys should. It is deeply concerning that the current board has not approved an ethics policy.
Hello, Friends & Neighbors - I believe that each one of us has a role to play in protecting
and growing the strength and vibrancy of our villages. As your representative on the
Columbia Council, I will be a thoughtful, passionate, transparent advocate on behalf of
our communities, while promoting more fiscally sustainable and inclusive solutions that
better address the needs of River Hill residents. Born and raised in Columbia, I’ve lived
in River Hill for over 20 years and have worked for the last 26 years as a realtor, serving
the Howard County area. Always eager to serve our community, I have participated in
various boards and committees including as Chair and Vice Chair of the River Hill
Village Board, CA Aquatics, Sports & Fitness, founder and Chair of the River Hill
Watershed Committee and It all started on the River Hill RAC. I look forward to serving
[Note from The Merriweather Post: Mr. Greenberg was the only candidate for CA Board in a contested election that did not respond to The Merriweather Post's questions. This is consistent with the lack of candor, refusal to comment on matters of public interest to multiple news outlets (aside from local bloggers), and non-transparent approach to serving as board chair.]