Opinion

I have largely stayed out of OGC discussions of late, having said what I wanted to say, and also having observed that the OVA Board was not taking any of the more severe and unwise actions that many of us feared last summer.  But Steve Spanier’s decision to jump into the fray, and his strongly misleading President’s Message, demands my reply.

In this story of foolishness and potential disaster (Chicken Little), if you couldn’t guess it already, our esteemed OVA president is Chicken Little and the Oakmont Golf Club (OGC) is Foxy Loxy.  In a slight variation on the classic tale, Foxy Loxy actually threw the acorn that hit Chicken Little on the head, starting the sequence of events that, in the tale, ends up with Chicken Little’s flock of panic-stricken fowls (Oakmont) never being seen again (so dramatic the changes will be).

To shift to another metaphor, a year and a half ago OGC began to warn that their ship was in trouble and they would like OVA to help bail them out.  The story was mixed up and often conflicting (the ship is sinking NOW, the ship is OK but might sink if there is a storm, etc), but several messages prevailed:

  • The ship is in trouble, but you have no right to know how serious the trouble is.
  • If the ship sinks, you will sink with us.
  • Please climb aboard to help bail.

After considerable dithering, and attempts to show transparency while maintaining the secrecy demanded by OGC, the OVA Board failed to give OGC prompt and substantive assistance (prudence prevailed!).  So the new OGC Board (new captain of the ship, as the waves wash over the gunnels) has decided to be open, in order to appeal to all of Oakmont.  The messages have changed to:

  • The ship is sinking NOW, and we are putting the ship up for sale to prove it!
  • If the ship sinks, you will sink with us.
  • Since you didn’t climb aboard to help bail last year, you will now have to buy the ship, climb aboard and do all the bailing.

To be brutally honest, this whole thing is a bill of goods and I, for one, am not buying it!  Yes, the ship is sinking, and most likely it will sink whether or not OVA buys it.  Our best hope is that a benign buyer will rise to the challenge, with more of whatever it takes to make golf a success within Oakmont.  But if the ship sinks (i.e. golf is no longer a part of the Oakmont experience), Oakmont will most certainly not go down with the ship – UNLESS we have bought OGC first, mortgaging our future on its success!

Steve may now have no “material conflict of interest” (translation, suing him for a conflict of interest violation is unlikely to succeed), but this hardly makes him an objective advocate for our best interests.  In my view, he cannot escape his years-long dedication to OGC simply by resigning from the club – golf has significantly reshaped his world view.  This makes a strong ethical conflict of interest.  So please consider this, before deciding how much credence to give his opinions.

Quoting Steve, “We’re working very closely with the new OGC board, and will keep you informed throughout.”  So Chicken Little is working closely with Foxy Loxy, whose unspoken intent is to convert the flock into dinner.  Furthermore, while promising to keep us informed, we know that Chicken Little has also promised that only the Board, not the flock, will make the decision of what is best for the flock.  I don’t know about you, but this makes me very nervous about our future.  If Foxy Loxy gets his way, then those of us on fixed incomes will likely be forced to move because of the needed increases in dues, and the OVA we know and love will be transformed into yet another HOA brought to hard times and dissension by its golf course.  Oakmont as we now know it will cease to exist.

Steve’s contention, echoing OGC’s broken-record fear mongering over the past year, is that sale of OGC to anyone other than OVA will likely result in either “weeds” or “houses”.  This is misleading, at best.  Two Sonoma County golf courses have failed in recent years (Adobe Creek and Wikiup), and neither is the disaster frequently proclaimed by OGC proponents.  The former golf courses may not be as manicured as they were when operational, but they remain open space and photographs show nothing that anyone could fairly categorize as “weeds” or “blight”.  Furthermore, the fear that prices in these communities would fall dramatically has not become a reality – prices have gone up since golf course closure.  The sky is not falling, and those who tell you that it is have a vested interest in golf!

Also please consider that, as represented in the extensive Voices of Oakmont survey in 2015, p. 56, only 17% of Oakmont residents consider the golf courses as “very important” – the fact is that most of us didn’t move here because of the golf courses and would be little affected if they were replaced by other acceptable open-space uses.  Unlike desert communities, where the only significant attraction is golf, our location in the Valley of the Moon is premier, with or without golf, and all Oakmont surveys confirm this.

The OVA Board, and Steve in particular, diss NextDoor as a destructive platform for naysayers to spout vitriol.  But over the past year, posters on NextDoor have come up with dozens of ideas for converting golf course property to alternative uses.  Admittedly many of those ideas are probably impractical, but many of them deserve to be explored further, an exploration that has not even begun.  To quote Steve, “At the very least, OVA must have contingency plans for each possible outcome”.

What to do about this?  Don’t just post your gripes to NextDoor – we know how much Chicken Little thinks of the noisy rabble that post on NextDoor.  First, get informed about the issues.  Then write your OVA Board or send Email with your opinions to golf@oakmontvillage.com.  Show up at Board meetings and at meetings of the Golf Club Committee (fourth Tuesday, 1:30 pm, large OVA conference room), and make your voice heard.  Tell them that you want not just to be heard, but to be part of the decision.  While they may have the power under the law, the OVA Board has no moral right to dramatically transform Oakmont, as would happen if OVA purchased OGC, without first asking our consent.

Spread the word(s):

11 comments

  1. Steven Moore

    All good points, Bruce.
    At this point, would the OVA even qualify for the loan to buy a failing business? Not if the plan is to run two golf courses! If the community is to buy in to this purchase, what are we going to do with this property? Paying asking price would be ridiculous. Just paying off the OGC debt would be reasonable. Regardless, it’s a tough sell to the community. While in theory the OVA could make the deal happen, it would be immoral to do so without the consent of the majority of residents. Right now, it looks like a BOD pipe dream at best.

  2. Anthony Schukle

    What a long winded comment! I feel lucky that we have people who are willing to serve on OVA Board and miscellaneous committees. It is a thankless job. They are constantly under attack for trying to do the right thing for us and our community. I want to THANK YOU Staying ahead of this issue is the best way to have a result that is best for our community. Tony

    1. Karen Donnelly

      I agree with you. He wants us to post our gripes on Nextdoor-does that mean only if we agree with his outlook? I for one admire Steve Spanier and those that serve on the board. It’s a thankless job and I know as my husband served many years at our previous location. It looks from the pictures that someone is at least maintaining the former course at Adobe Creek because those dry areas would normally look like high, dry grasses. We have relatives in Adobe Creek. Think I’ll get the scoop from her.

    2. Mr. Schukle – I’m not inclined to feel fortunate or to be grateful for just anyone running for and/or serving on the OVA Board. History tells us that many have sought positions, volunteer and/or paid, to take advantage of opportunities to commit self-serving acts that are detrimental to those they are supposed to be serving.

  3. Lyn Cramer

    Karen, I think a policy difference on a matter costing several millions of dollars is something more than a mere “gripe.” I share your opinion on one thing at least, board service is often thankless and I too appreciate the effort. None of that exempts board members from having their decisions questioned or opposed. While not all criticism is as polite as I might like, there seems to an effort to declare all dissent as illegitimate. On that, we differ.

  4. Sue Aiken

    I encourage everyone to take it upon themselves to attend meetings Bruce mentioned, read and research to be as well informed as possible. Do this before taking sides, calling people names, or assuming the worst.
    Perhaps we could begin by determining where there is agreement followed by really creative thinking based on real data. Also listening to voices from all demographic groups in oakmont. Can this be an opportunity for future of oakmont?

    1. Bruce Bon

      Thank you, Sue, and I agree with everything you said. I am hopeful that the GCC will be a forum for exactly the type of creative thinking and dialog you envisage, even while I fear that it may be as one-sided as have OVA-sponsored talks in the past. Committee meetings, in my experience, are civil and respectful of guests expressing opinions, so I expect no less from the GCC.

  5. Mike Baker

    After reading the questions, comments and grievances posted here and on ND regarding the potential sale of the Golf Course one question, to me at least, remains.
    Why does the OVA board think they can buy the Golf Course, hire a management company to run it and get a different result than the OGC has gotten ? The OGC has had a professional management company running the Golf Course for the past decade, at least, and look where they are today.
    What makes the OVA ownership so special that would change this.

  6. Anthony Schukle

    It seems to me and this my opinion only that Mr. Bon has a hidden agenda. What are your goals and what is the result you are looking for. I am not looking for a fairy tale answer.

  7. Bruce Bon

    Anthony — I can’t imagine being more open and sincere about my agenda, and you can read it through my posts on Oakmont Observer.

    The key element of my agenda for Oakmont is popular sovereignty, the idea that all OVA power comes from the member owners, and anything that goes against the will of the owners is wrong. Everything that I propose relative to Oakmont is derived from this principle, including such things as membership votes on the most important issues. The fate of OGC is not part of my core agenda, except that it will have a major impact on the future of Oakmont and, as such, any major action by OVA should be made only with the full approval by vote of the membership.

    A few of my Oakmont Observer posts over the past year, in case you missed them:

    https://oakmontobserver.com/moving-past-outrage-in-oakmont/

    https://oakmontobserver.com/ova-ogc-whats-wrong-with-the-process-how-to-make-it-right-part-1-whats-wrong-with-ogcs-campaign-for-ova-funding/ plus parts 2 and 3, linked from part 1

    https://oakmontobserver.com/visions-of-oakmont/

    https://oakmontobserver.com/who-should-decide-oakmonts-future/

    https://oakmontobserver.com/rebuttal-membership-votes-on-big-decisions/

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