top of page

2023 CA Board Election: Wilde Lake 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 Wilde Lake: Bill Santos and Francis Uy.



 

Bill Santos

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?


For many residents, CA amenities and services play a big role in Columbia’s identity. I believe CA’s inventory of amenities should remain and be improved where they can. I do not see any expansion of facilities (buildings, tot-lots, etc…) for the foreseeable future. CA’s capital budget is not large enough to undertake such projects without significantly increasing the annual charge on residents. However, I strongly advocate for CA to reinvest and renovate their built assets to keep current with national standards, codes, and governmental regulations. In particular reinvesting in facilities to achieve greater energy efficiency and/or cause less harm to the environment will pay dividends down the road. I believe the current capital budget planning process takes a lot of these initiatives into account, and the funding will be accounted for in the yearly budget process. However, as we have seen in the last year, inflationary pressures are a concern and need to accounted for in each budget moving forward.


Conversely, I see an expansion of services provided from CA. In many ways, CA services are some of the last pieces to bring back following the pandemic shutdown. I think it is apparent to all that downtown arts and culture activities have lagged since the community opened. Traditionally this was done through a grant process. The Columbia Association needs to revise its arts grant process to ensure all arts organizations have an equal ability to apply for funding and a clearly communicated rubric must be used to evaluate all grant requests. As the region continues to recover from the pandemic, I believe the budget will have adequate means to fund these grants, as they had been funded prior to the pandemic.


CA needs to play a leadership role in bringing people together, outside, to celebrate. CA must also revise and update their master planning process. Most master plans are at least a decade old, and must be updated to provide a roadmap for the next ten years.


A few last observations on the budget and funding. Over the last year, inflationary pressures have been felt throughout the organization. On average, expenses have increased by an average of 12%, year-over-year. Conversely, revenue increases have been limited to 3% on lien assessments. FY24 is estimating an additional 8% increase in expenses. The simple reality here is that the operating costs are accelerating at three to four times the increase in revenue. CA’s current financial standing is very good, but there are clear warning signs ahead.


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 CA Board has traditionally been derived from the CA Charter: the hire and manage the President, to pass the budget, and to improve the lives of the people of Columbia. While the role of the board with respect to the President and budget are straightforward, improving the lives of the people of Columbia is poorly defined and lacking in execution. Although the charter reasonably addresses the “what” of the role, it is silent on the who, when, why and how; leaving it up to be interpreted by each board. The result has been, more often than not, ten individuals carrying out their own constituent service projects utilizing staff time and resources. This has resulted in a toxic and sometimes bullying environment for staff.


I believe it is time to clearly define the role of the CA Board as “To provide the corporation (staff) with the policies, plans, and tools to improve the lives of the people of Columbia.” In this way, the board sets policy, commissions plans to marry policy to a timeline, and approves expenditures to realize the policies and plans. Implementation is the responsibility of staff. Utilization and feedback is for the residents. This approach allows staff to focus on their job, provides a lens for the board to focus their efforts, and creates a garden to grow people.


With respect to key decisions, these largely follow the role of the board. The CA Board must set goals for the President, pass an annual budget, and review quarterly financial reports. Beyond these, the CA Board must make decisions with respect to move the Association into the future. These decisions include setting annual goals for the CA Board, but also include longer strategic plans and master plans focused on specific subjects.


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?


Through my personal observations and feedback from various sources, I conclude that CA staff morale is much lower than it was 8-months ago. Moreover, community opposition to the CA Board (not the entire association, but the board) is higher than I have ever known. Therefore, I find no benefit to Ms. Boyd’s departure. Although her differences with the board are known, I find it readily apparent that the corporation was in ascendency under her leadership. In the end, I believe the corporation will pay more for her absence (in both a financial and leadership sense) than it would have paid to seek mediation between her and the board.


With respect to the future President, I am looking for qualities of leadership. I look for a person that will judiciously delegate authority to the lowest possible level, but hold all accountable for the work performed. I am hopeful for a leader that is equally comfortable at a Chamber of Commerce meeting and a PTA meeting (and willing to go to both). I seek someone that can demonstrate effective oversight of social and capital projects, with the ability to extract measurable data from the results and explain the degree of success or failure. I look for someone to set a good example.


As we move forward from this current board, I believe it is essential for the board to develop a means to mediate conflicts with staff. The greatest blunder of this current board was to not enter into mediation with Lakey Boyd. It was called for early in the year and ignored by board leadership. As the call for mediation grew louder, the board continued to ignore this powerful and essential tool. Moving forward, I believe it best to identify differences, find common ground, and enter into mediation to mitigate those issues that cannot be resolved.


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?


Save a few small parcels, most of the land CA owns is designated open space and can not be developed. CA’s traditional role in Land Use has been one of advocacy. With the coming revision to New Town Zoning at the County level, CA must create a clear justification for New Town Zoning and admit that some revisions are necessary. New Town Zoning is part of what defines Columbia, and I am opposed to completely replacing our unique zoning code. As a former member or the Howard County Planning Board and Howard County Board of Appeals, I have over a decade of practical experience in applying the land use laws that govern development in Columbia. I intend to use this knowledge and experience to defend the Columbia open space, and in general, New Town Zoning.


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?


First, it is clear that today the board has little diversity. It is an uncomfortable fact. However, I posit that if you polled the ten Village Board Chairs (a more diverse group and arguably one level of leadership below the CA Board), if they wished to be on the CA Board, I am certain it would be a unanimous no. Another data point to consider: in the past 23 years, there have only been three Wilde Lake Village Elections in which a person of color campaigned to be the Columbia Council Representative. Said another way, there have only been three times this century that a person of color has shown interest in the Wilde Lake Columbia Council position. That is a big part of the problem with CA Board diversity. We should all work towards improving awareness and access to all people; however, we must generate interest in the position.


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 Lake Elkhorn Stream Restoration Project is currently in the middle of a slow and lengthy review process. At this time, regulatory agencies have not weighed in and there is not sufficient information to make a determination. The CA Board should remain engaged with subject matter experts to ensure the stream restoration is evaluated properly. In addition, as information about this project becomes available, CA must clearly communicate this information to the public, especially those most impacted. I believe the grassroots watershed community has done a good service to keep this project visible. In the interim, CA should continue to ask, entice, persuade, and cajole residential and commercial land owners to slow the flow of water off their land.


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 do not believe any current board member is corrupt. However, this board has a lot of ethical challenges. I did not begin this board year concerned with ethics. I end this year with board ethics as my top concern. Back in November I championed a series of ethics recommendations for the board to adopt. Today we still struggle with adopting all the recommendations and we are woefully behind on implementing the recommendations we adopted. If elected, I will focus on adopting all recommendations from the Audit Committee and moving forward toward implementing these recommendations.


Statement

My name is Bill Santos and I ask to return as your Wilde Lake Columbia Council Representative. For those that don’t know me, I am a parent, husband, US Navy veteran, and

proud resident of Wilde Lake and Columbia. My family moved to Columbia in 1972. Once

established in Running Brook, I learned how to read and write at Running Brook Elementary

School. I learned how to swim at Running Brook Pool. I learned how to drive here. I fell in love

here. In short, I grew up in Columbia.


I think it is important to point out that as I was growing up, I was keenly aware that many people helped me during my teen years. I have worked hard to get where I am in life, but I know I am a product of the community, and for that I am deeply thankful.


When my wife and I settled down in Wilde Lake, I made a commitment to give back to this

community that has given me so much. So in the last twenty years, I have sought out the

chance to help others. From the Village Board to Swim Team Manager, County Planning Board to PTA I have served a leadership role and worked to improve the community.


As we sprint through this election season I ask for your vote. Village Elections are often

characterized as low turnout affairs, but I long ago realized that those who vote in Village

Elections take their decision seriously.


As a CA Board member I offer a pragmatic approach to our challenges. I believe the best

solutions begin with being respectful of, and listening to, all stakeholders. I also believe any

changes that may come must be done responsibly and honor Columbia’s heritage. I ask for your support to make that happen.


 

Francis Uy

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?


I'm a data-focused person. Most residents I've heard from are happy with CA's services (modulo a few maintenance requests), as am I, but self-selected anecdotes don't make good data. I would want to go over CA's surveys & other feedback to see what the broader populace says (adjusted for non-response bias if possible).


I've heard a few interesting ideas for additional revenue streams (e.g. online classes, healthcare partnerships, etc), but again I would want to see data before endorsing them.

Obviously CA needs to stay within its budget, and raising assessment rates isn't the right answer. Rising property values should already provide for some increased expenses.


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?


First I would ask how you define non-key issues. For example, a recent CA meeting discussed a proposed ethics policy. Is ethics key or non-key?


In general, the CA board should focus on long-term goals and big-picture policies. Ideally its members might have opportunities to work in cooperation with staff and learn from them, but operational control is the CEO's role, not the board's.


Board members should represent the will of their villages, and the board has a responsibility to verify that CA resources are being used properly for the benefit of Columbia residents.

Regarding disputes, I look for common ground and focus on consensus. I have had productive conversations with several incumbent board members, including my electoral opponent. We all live in Columbia, and we all want it to thrive.


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?


The disappointing fight between Ms Boyd and the board is one of the reasons why I decided to run for CA. I am not privy to all of the details, so I cannot say if her tenure was good or bad for Columbia.


In either case, the board needs to learn from this mistake, to ensure they and future CEOs have a firm, contractual agreement about what expectations and duties are or are not within their respective purviews.


The board and the staff are all on the same team. There is no good reason they can't cooperate to benefit the community.


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?


According to its Charter, CA's role in land use to operate and maintain properties "serving the general welfare of Columbia and the people thereof with regard to health, safety, education, culture, recreation, comfort and convenience". That's a broad mandate, and considering the amount of land CA owns or has influence over, it's a big responsibility.


When CA land is used by developers, CA has a duty to ensure such development benefits the people of Columbia, not just in terms of the use itself, but also associated costs and conditions. If a commercial venture on CA land generates income, CA should and must pursue an appropriate share of it, to help finance other operations.


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?


The criticism isn't wrong, per se. I have been that lone non-white person in a group many times, so I get it. That said, CA has no authority to interfere with village elections or their results. The primary action CA should take is to continue its ongoing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiatives.


It's not surprising CA voter demographics skew towards long-time homeowners, who tend to be older and whiter than the overall population. Our voter percentages are unfortunately low in general, and villages should always consider ways to increase participation, particularly among renters.


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?


Multiple groups of experts, including the Army Corps of Engineers and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, raised serious concerns about the value of the stream modification project. If the goal is to restore waterways, we should correct those deficiencies before moving forward.


If the goal is actually to save money on infrastructure maintenance by abusing an environmental tax loophole, proponents should say so outright, but I understand why they might be reluctant to do that.


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 don't have enough information to accuse or exculpate anyone, and that's part of the problem. A lot of CA's operation has been hidden from the public (and sometimes even the board). I would push for more transparency in CA's decision making.


Also, the citizenry as a whole should push for stricter disclosure of campaign funding - particularly from corporations and their contractors - in all levels of politics and quasi-politics, including CA.


Statement

Wow, some of these questions got so loaded and pointed, I wondered if I should wear body armor while answering them.


Nevertheless, thanks for encouraging people to pay more attention to CA.


2件のコメント


Nancy Alexander
Nancy Alexander
2023年4月06日

Francis, your observation about the need for body armor is right on point. The aggression, personal attacks and lack of fundamental cooperation is why i didn't run for WLVB chairperson for another term.

Real estate developers have some board members in their pockets, driving Columbia away from its ecological, humanitarian goals toward developers' financial advantage. All this highlights a 'tear down, build up and out grow' philosophy.

I urge voters to know who you are voting for and more importantly why.

Nancy Alexander

Wilde Lake resident since 1971.


いいね!
Michael Golibersuch
Michael Golibersuch
2023年4月06日
返信先

Can you please specify a personal attack in these questions?


I agree with Francis that the questions were pointed - this was by design to elicit thoughtful responses. To some extent I also agree with Francis that the questions were “loaded” but not by me - I simply highlighted assumptions/accusations that other people have made (including you, apparently) and invited the candidates to respond. The candidates were more than welcome to challenge the assumptions in the questions. This was all done to enable candidates to explicitly address issues and accusations that have been raised and did not stem from “aggression.”


I’ll also point out that I specifically included the question about “corruption” to allow candidates to address the type of…

いいね!
bottom of page