Is the Sky Really Falling?
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 email@example.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.