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Oakmont News, Opinion & More

Moving Past Outrage in Oakmont

It is undeniable that people here in our community have done outrageous things over the past couple of years:

  • The leadership of the 2016 Oakmont Village Association (OVA) Board of DIrectors was responsible for ground being broken for the controversial $400,000 plus central pickleball courts, one day before a new Board was elected on a platform that opposed such construction, thus causing expense to all of us and tremendous hard feeling within Oakmont.
  • Various people made it extremely difficult for the 2017 Board to perform their duties by disrupting Board meetings. In the worst case, a severed rat’s head was left on the doorstep of the Board president with a threatening message – despicable and criminal.
  • The Oakmont Golf Club (OGC), in a misguided attempt to get OVA financial support, has waged a one-sided campaign for Oakmont support that some have characterized as equivalent to a time-share sales pitch, and I agree with that characterization.

I find all of these events to be worthy of outrage . . . but how useful is outrage?

Outrage is a useful motivator, an emotion that will get people involved. But what you do with your outrage is critical. If it makes you yell loudly at the person(s) causing it, or the social media equivalent, which is denigration of their character, name calling, or implications of dark conspiracies, then it is unlikely to serve a useful purpose. All the people committing the acts above (with the exception of the rat head incident which is borderline psychotic) probably thought they were acting in the best interests of Oakmont, but they were allowing their own outrage or ego or other motives to blind them to the damage they were causing.

I believe that Oakmont, and all of us as individuals, will be best served if we treat each other with civility and respect. This doesn’t necessarily mean trust, and it doesn’t mean we should forget acts that we found outrageous. Former directors who have violated our trust should certainly never be elected again. But progress toward common goals can only be made by people who are willing to talk respectfully and to listen to opposing viewpoints. This is how peace treaties are achieved, and it is how peace can be achieved in Oakmont. You will not get the other person to hear your point of view if you are yelling at him, much less get him to change his actions. The best way to swing perspectives and to effect positive change is to come up with reasonable and practical alternatives to whatever policy you disagree with, and then to present your alternatives respectfully to the decision makers, which in Oakmont is the OVA Board. Screaming your opposition on NextDoor or any other forum just isn’t useful, because it isn’t going to get you heard, except by a few other screamers who might agree with you.

Social media, such as NextDoor, offers a mostly uncensored forum for exchange of ideas. That’s great, and it can be very useful for seeking information on any topic and acting as a sounding board for new ideas. But it also offers a stage for people to vent, without having the constraints of face to face conversation. As a result, there is much venting, and the people who matter, i.e. the leaders who are often criticized harshly, have learned to simply ignore it. If we who post to social media expect to be taken seriously, then we must exercise restraint in how we express ourselves there. I don’t mean censorship, but each of us in posting should strive to be civil, reasonable and constructive, and to avoid exaggeration or claims that our suspicions are facts. If we can do that, then perhaps social media will be taken seriously; if not, it will continue to be simply an outlet for people to grouse to each other, without having any impact on decisions made by our Board for our community.

“The best way to swing perspectives and to effect positive change is to come up with reasonable and practical alternatives to whatever policy you disagree with, and then to present your alternatives respectfully to the decision makers, which in Oakmont is the OVA Board.”

Returning to my title, and applying it to the OGC issue: While I agree with the outrage at the way OGC has attempted to get funding from OVA, there is truth in their argument that the golf courses have value to owners in Oakmont, and also to their contention that outright failure of the OGC would be problematic for us all – although I do not agree that the only possible outcome of such failure is an Oakmont disaster. I can’t possibly cover all the complexities here, without totally getting off topic, but my bottom line is that we should be prudent in our reaction to their request. We should not advocate action to punish OGC that will also punish all of Oakmont. In short, we should move past outrage and seek alternatives that benefit both OGC and Oakmont, even if it means that our dues must go up by a modest amount. I am not suggesting and will not support any simple gifting of our dues money to OGC, but there are other ways that OVA might help OGC to the benefit of both. OVA rental of OGC facilities during the East Rec remodel is one very simple win-win example, but there are many others.

A format for the June 5 Berger meeting has finally been decided on (it will not be a debate), and a solicitation for community input has been disseminated (Click HERE). A panel representing OGC will answer submitted questions and discuss submitted suggestions for cooperation, in a format reminiscent of the Candidates’ Forum. I believe that there will also be an Open Forum during which OVA members may ask questions of the panel. The key point here is that the panel will not be delivering another sale pitch, but rather will be responding directly to Oakmont residents’ questions and suggestions. I will be submitting both questions and suggestions for cooperation for this event, and I strongly urge those of you who have serious questions or who have win-win ideas for OVA-OGC cooperation to organize your thoughts and compose them into a form that you can submit.

Finally, we should respectfully demand that OGC provide the information (mostly financial) that they have so far refused to provide, in order for Oakmont owners to evaluate the need and, perhaps, to begin to trust that the need is real and not just an attempt by privileged golfers to get us to support their pastime. We need to educate OGC, who are also our neighbors here in Oakmont, and our own Board, to the fact that those of us who would be paying the bill must have the key facts, and not just a few Board members who have signed non-disclosure agreements. Screaming about this on NextDoor is unlikely to accomplish this. In addition to submitting questions and suggestions for the June 5 event, communicating directly and respectfully to our Board members is our best chance of making progress, either by Emailing them directly, or by speaking at Board meeting Open Forums or fireside chats, or by asking to sit down and talk with them individually. The key in all of this is to move beyond your outrage in order to communicate civilly and with respect.

[NOTE:  a shorter version of this article is expected to be published as a guest editorial in the next issue of the Kenwood Press.]

 

 

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14 Comments

  1. Ray Haverson on May 5, 2018 at 8:48 am

    I have been told by an Attorney it is illegal for the ova to raise our dues and then give it to the O.G.C as the O.G.C. is a private business and that would be forcing the residents to donate. They need to have those who want to donate do it on a monthly pledge system and the O>G>C> can be responsible for collecting those pledges. We are not a cash cow.
    At this time the O>V>A> is looking for loans to repair all of our needs that money could help our needs not private business. The new golfers moving into Oakmont are mostly non-golfers and golf is a dying sport and by the way I do play.
    Perhaps the O.V.A. should operate like a Mobile Home Park as new people move in there dues would be higher the old residence that way the money would be for future improvements and maintenance on the old ones that they can use now.

  2. Julie on May 5, 2018 at 9:32 am

    The most prudent perspective I’ve seen on this subject. Thanks.

  3. Bruce Bon on May 5, 2018 at 11:08 am

    If you read the solicitation for suggestions, you will note that it includes “Please do not include any suggestion that involves a gift, donation or direct monthly subsidy from OVA to OGC.” So a direct handout is off the table, at least as far as the discussion on June 5.

    The solicitation describing what they are looking for as input is at http://oakmontvillage.com/article/ova-golf-club-informational-meeting/ . The Email address to which you may send questions and suggestions is askOVA@aokmontvillage.com . For the 3 suggestions I have sent in, I have included a description plus pros and cons, as I see them. My shortest is about 8 lines, and my longest is most of a page plus an annotated Google Maps aerial view. Also send questions, of course, especially about whatever information you may want that has not been provided by the OGC. I sent a set of financial questions, plus one asking about the value of the 2 pages of free publicity and advertising that the Oakmont News provides OGC in every issue.

    Ray — I suggest that you send your monthly pledge system in as one of the suggestions.

  4. Jeannette Luini on May 5, 2018 at 12:59 pm

    Bruce, I agree completely with your statement that the OGC must reveal the financial issues that are behind their request for a bailout from OVA. Without financial information, it is impossible to formulate “reasonable and practical alternatives” such as you suggest. Historically, when “reasonable and practical alternatives” have been proposed by residents, OVA’s directors have ignored the reasonable solutions presented. A case in point–the pickleball fiasco. Before successive BODs pursued pickleball courts on the putting green, many residents suggested that underutilized tennis courts be converted to pickleball. Why was the “reasonable and practical” solution ignored for so long?

    Respect is a two way street. Yes, residents must treat our board members with respect. On the other hand, our board members must learn when it is appropriate to call for a vote of the membership. There is a difference between what the majority prefers and what small vocal minorities demand from our BODs. How does the BOD know what the majority prefer? The “Voices of Oakmont” report should be used for planning and decision making until a new survey of similar scope and quality is undertaken.

    Davis Stirling makes it clear that no vote of the membership is required for the BOD to use existing reserve funds to “repair, restore, replace, and maintain” the components of the common areas Even though more than a million dollars was spent to remodel the WRC, no vote of the membership was required because there was sufficient money in the reserves to fund the project. It is the OBLIGATION of our directors to care for the common area facilities, and the membership cannot vote for them not to do what they are obligated to do. Of course, directors should encourage input from the community with respect to remodeling and repairs, but community involvement does not rise to the level of a vote.

    It is when an expensive “discretionary new facility” is proposed that the authority of the BOD should yield to a vote of the membership. Although OVAs governing documents place no limit on our directors with respect to capital expenditures, the governing documents of newer HOAs in California place a limit on annual capital expenditures that can be made at the discretion of the BOD.

    Real Estate Code 279221 specifies that a vote of the membership is required when (2) Incurring aggregate expenditures for capital improvements to the common area in any fiscal year in excess of 5% of the budgeted gross expenses of the Association for that fiscal year.

    IMO our directors should voluntarily abide by the standard specified in Real Estate Code 2792.21 until such time as our governing documents are rewritten and brought up to date, There will be a lot less friction and turmoil in Oakmont when the membership is called upon to vote on expensive discretionary new facilities.

    https://govt.westlaw.com/calregs/Document/I9F39F430D49311DEBC02831C6D6C108E?viewType=FullText&originationContext=documenttoc&transitionType=CategoryPageItem&contextData=(sc.Default)

  5. Gerry Gwynn on May 5, 2018 at 1:45 pm

    Spanier’s statement in the 5/4/18 Oakmont Bulletin does NOT indicate any Open Forum at all.

    Quite the opposite: Residents are required to submit any questions by 5/20 to Spanier et al. Then a new Committee recently set up by Spanier et al. will CULL through the questions and decide which will be ignored and which actually posed to the OGC reps.

    Note very clearly that the Spanier-OGC team has still NOT released any financial or ownership info re OGC and still NOT released any legal justification whatsoever why tax-exempt OVA could ever legally provide financial support to the private owners of the commercial for-profit OGC.

    So residents still have NO DATA whatsoever for formulating any questions about legality, OGC ownership, and OGC financials. Guess these subjects remain absolutely off limits for OVA residents. It must be none of our business.

    Given these conditions, I think there’s a very low probability that the scheduled 6/5 meeting will prove any more “informational” to the OVA community than the first two OGC promotional dog-and-pony shows.

    • jim Golway on May 18, 2018 at 9:09 pm

      “dog-and-pony shows” Is exactly what when on during the 2013- 2016 boards who continually dished out crap regarding the pickleball development – “Oh we can’t talk about cost until we get a permit’ said Noel Lyons, co-chair of the PB ad-hoc committee. And board members all nodded and agreed! (ridiculous). And so they continued voting to proceed without knowing or caring to know the estimated cost. Will this OGC bail out be Deja Vue all over again? We will see. Sorry Bruce if I sound angry, ( I know you want us all to make nice and, ah, discuss). But I am ‘outraged’ at the stupidity of our previously elected leaders because I know the damage it did to our village and to some very well-meaning people. We’ll see what happens this time.

      • Bruce Bon on May 18, 2018 at 9:34 pm

        Jim – in short, in my opinion:

        1. Your outrage is justified.
        2. We should use our outrage to make us cautious, in order to avoid such problems going forward — in particular, demand information before commitment and do what we can to make sure the BOD listens to OVA members (this has to be other avenues in addition to bitching on NextDoor or here).
        3. We should NOT let outrage blind us to reality. We should NOT let outrage cause us to make the wrong decisions, which will be damaging to our future.

        I am inclined to believe that there is not enough time to apply due process in order to provide any form of support to OGC in this budget cycle, i.e. for 2019, but I am open to seeing how the June 5 event goes — if dog-and-pony again, my position will harden, and I will be inclined to oppose support even in 2020.

        • jim Golway on May 19, 2018 at 9:38 am

          I agree Bruce. Outrage is a great motivator but it often clouds one’s objective judgment.

          One thing of interest is that I spoke to a friend who works for Kemper (at the club) shortly after the first TH. I asked what has changed now, then a few years ago – has maintenance costs risen? Has play dropped significantly? She said, “Nothing has really changed. It’s just that the new OGC board decided it was time to push for financial assistance from the OVA – like at other golf course communities.”

          That’s why I think the OGC board is not going to be needlessly transparent – like Robinson said, “We are not asking for a bailout.”

  6. Bruce Bon on May 5, 2018 at 4:47 pm

    Jeannette — I agree with at least most of what you had to say. You are right that respect is a 2-way street, but I honestly think that this board, and Steve Spanier in particular, are trying hard to win our respect. We should give the wheels a little time to turn, and, in the meantime, communicate our opinions to the board civilly and with respect — my main message.

    Gerry — I am afraid that you are part of the outrage problem that I was addressing. You often speak with such anger that, even when you are right, people don’t listen. You are correct that the June 5 event could be another dog-and-pony show, but you should wait to judge what actually happens. It really depends on how the panel representing OGC responds — honestly and openly, or with arrogance and continuing to withhold key information. I am hoping that they have gotten the message that the latter approach will get them antipathy, but only the event will tell. Also, your concerns will have a lot more chance of being heard by those who matter if (1) you don’t accuse unless/until you know and (2) you respectfully communicate directly to board members. Yelling about it here or on NextDoor just won’t get you anywhere.

  7. Gerry Gwynn on May 5, 2018 at 8:14 pm

    Bruce,

    Rather than maligning me, wouldn’t it have been easier for you to just admit that you have no basis for your claim/belief about an “Open Forum” being scheduled for the June meeting with the OGC?

    You continue to make many statements that have no basis at all fact.

    Yet when anyone points that out, you don’t correct or amend your statements.

    Instead you attack those persons and malign them claiming they should be ignored because — you claim — they are speaking in anger or outrage.

    If you disagree with others’ opinions, just say so. You have no idea if they are outraged, anger, or utterly disgusted. Why pretend that you do?

    And please strive for some accuracy in your own statements. Chronic dysinformation/misinformation is a problem.

  8. Gerry Gwynn on May 5, 2018 at 8:43 pm

    Bruce,

    Certainly you will recall from the first two dog-and-pony shows staged by OGC that OGC wholly rejected any labeling of their demand for OVA money as being “a bailout” or a “a subsidy” (BG/OGC President).

    Instead OGC’s position was that we at OVA were just being asked to finally pay them for “services rendered” to OVA by OGC’s very existence, e.g., water drainage.

    So the fact that Spanier has chosen to exclude “a direct monthly subsidy from OVA to OGC” is notable only in that: (1) the sought for financial transfer will likely, as before, not be allowed to be called a bailout or subsidy because OGC rejects that language, and (2) said financial transfer is instead likely to be labeled as recurring monthly payments by OVA to OGC for “services rendered” by OGC to OVA.

    It is under this same vague “for services rendered” doublespeak that OVA is currently financially supporting OGC’s promotional materials in the Oakmont News and currently financially supporting OGC’s outdoor bathrooms to the tune of many thousands of OVA dollars each year.

    Obviously, vague and unspecified “for services rendered” is not considered an adequate description of “consideration” in any business agreement or contract. It can’t be measured, monitored for performance, etc.
    (P.S. All business agreements/contracts involve an exchange of “consideration” between the parties.)

  9. Bruce Bon on May 6, 2018 at 7:05 am

    OK, I don’t want this forum to become a public personal feud, but a few points must be made:

    1. The most maligning thing I said to Gerry was charging her with speaking from anger. Anger is not that hard to discern, even in the written word, and her 2 replies just prove my point.

    2. I was personally involved in coming up with the format for the June 5 event, because I thought a debate would be more divisive than helpful, so I speak from knowledge, not suspicion. I know that the intent is to have OGC proponents on the panel respond to questions and proposals that have been selected without bias toward supporting OGC. I also know that an Open Forum was planned when I was involved. Charges contrary to these assertions are made without knowledge.

    3. The reason for using the Candidates’ Forum as a model for this event is to assure that it will be civil and will provide as much information to the community as possible. Candidates’ Forums have worked very well, because they are very structured to be fair, because that structure is honored by both candidates and audience, and because the questions posed to the candidates are fairly chosen to represent the issues of interest to the community. They are dependent for their success on the evenhandedness of question selection, so that stage is definitely crucial for the upcoming meeting.

    The June 5 event will be something of a test, both of the OVA BOD’s willingness to be evenhanded by assuring that hard questions are asked, and of OGC’s willingness to justify their need for financial cooperation and to answer other questions openly. The Open Forum portion of the meeting will be an opportunity for us to ask follow-up questions, as well as to tell them how they did in meeting those expectations (hopefully calmly and with respect).

    • Robert Latchaw on May 6, 2018 at 3:26 pm

      Where is it stated that there is an Open Forum at the June 5 meeting where any question can be asked? All I have seen is that questions will be pre-screened and censored.

  10. Bruce Bon on May 6, 2018 at 4:58 pm

    Short answer — nowhere. I have some inside knowledge, because I was involved in coming up with the format. But it might also have changed in the week or so since then. It is really in the hands of the BOD, but I don’t see any indication that they have dropped the Open Forum part of the meeting. Feel free to send a query to Steve Spanier, himself.

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