In September of 2017 current OVA Board President Steve Spanier gave a talk at a Sunday Symposium on the topic of transpartisanship, a relatively new system of thought distinct from bipartisanship or nonpartisanship that attempts to move beyond bilateral opposing viewpoints on issues.  I covered this symposium for the Oakmont News and later interviewed Spanier to gain further understanding of the system of negotiation that he was espousing.

Following are some of the foundational elements of transpartisan negotiation, as covered in Spanier’s symposium presentation and in a follow-up interview I did with him for the Oakmont News article.

“Transpartisanship is all about dialogue, which is NOT intended to change someone’s mind about an issue, or to refute someone else’s position.”

“In a healthy democracy one negotiates with the opposing party, you don’t try to vanquish them.”

“What you can do is gain a greater understanding of what’s behind the problem.  What are the hopes and fears of the person you are talking to, what is their background and where are they coming from as a result?  You tend then not to consider them so much as ‘the other,’ just a fellow human being with different views.”

At times it does not appear that Spanier has carried these high-minded principles into his role as President of the Oakmont Board of Directors. The current debate over purchase of the Oakmont golf courses by OVA may have been the perfect laboratory to test his previously professed tenets.

However, at a recent committee meeting Spanier was heard to repeatedly refer to those opposed to his plan to buy the golf course as “the usual suspects” as separate from “the average reasonable Oakmonter.”  This literally creates a distinction, “the other,” and division between those who support his views and those who have asked the OVA Board to entertain a different vision in their deliberations on the OGC issue.

At the March 16 town hall, when asked if the board will share the options being discussed with the community, Spanier replied: “Generally speaking, while we are in the deliberation process we feel it would be inadvisable to share exactly the options that we are talking about with the community because people would go nuts on sources like Nextdoor and other places and say inappropriate, incorrect things.”

Even the title of his recent President’s Message (“Do You Feel Lucky, OVA? Well, Do You?”) is one of confrontation, us vs them.  The in-your-face line quoted was used by the rogue cop Dirty Harry (in the 1971 movie of the same name) over the barrel of a .44 Magnum, directed at his main rival, a psychopathic killer.

Is this really how Spanier wishes to frame the discussion around what is this board’s seeming rush to judgment and action involving purchase of the OGC by OVA?  Is this an appropriate way – even in jest – to refer to a decision that is fraught with financial risk and uncertainty? This should be a “we” discussion, not an “us vs. them” discussion. Many in the Oakmont community have not yet bought into Spanier’s vision of the future of Oakmont and are raising legitimate concerns that have yet to be addressed with the community.

It appears that lessons have not been learned from the discord our community has suffered over controversial plans and proposals in the recent past.  Marginalizing those who offer a different set of ideas, who are not necessarily “against” your views but “for” a different vision of Oakmont’s future, has not served us well and will likely not end well when it comes to the current issue.

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  1. Lyn Cramer on May 2, 2019 at 9:27 am

    Bravo! I’ve come to expect trenchant and insightful prose from Michael Connolly. The above does not disappoint. There’s much to like about confronting differences from the perspective of transpartisanship. After all, it advocates civil dialogue, respect and negotiations intended to result in agreements that leave no side a complete winner or loser. Compromise is the foundation upon which it rests.

    Regrettably, what looks good on paper does not often work out when confronting the reality of disagreements. Often there is no middle ground that leaves all sides somewhat satisfied. Buying one golf course, even if possible, but not the other might be acceptable to me, but I doubt many others. It’s all or nothing.

    At this point, I’d settle for a more civil process, one that broadens the outreach to the entire community, not just the minority who attend town halls and board meetings. The means to that end look simple enough. Hold a community plebiscite before making a decision that will–for good or ill–change this community forevermore and cost many millions of dollars.

    If the May 1 front page article in the Oakmont News is to be believed, that will not happen. Do I feel lucky about this community returning to the comparative tranquility it enjoyed in years past? No.

  2. Rick Feibusch on May 2, 2019 at 9:43 am

    The fix is in ~ no more , no less. These guys are taking this right out of the Trump playbook. Look at the leading headline in yesterday’s print Oakmont News. “Huge Crowd Urges Board To Keep Courses In Oakmont” ~ Their anointed embedded ‘professional’ journalists have turned to propaganda pundits. We are apparently are going to be given the choice of bending over and taking it or be forced to take expensive legal action to basically sue ourselves. Not a great choice.

    I wondered what that, what seemed unnecessary, YES promotion was all about. It was about scaring residents with unfounded fears about property value loss to build the numbers at this meeting to show massive support without having to properly explain the eventual costs to everyone to balance against the perceived advantages and taking a community-wide vote, while completely downplaying a buyout by another golf operator. Apparently, nothing has changed since the Wall Street Journal article other than the rhetoric and deceptive disclosure. THEY STILL HAVE NOT REPORTED WHAT THIS WILL COST OVER TIME. They can’t, they really don’t know.

    I also was quite dismayed to learn that Mr. Spanier is not only an avid golfer (even though he symbolically quit the OGC), but also is in real estate as a “senior specialist.” This guy needs to recuse himself and not continue as a promoting President for the OGC buyout. The major entities that will benefit from a buyout will be the golfers and real estate interests that are attempting to bring Oakmont upmarket, raise costs and home values, to attract those “wealthy Silicon Valley retirees” at the expense of everyone presently living in Oakmont. A pathetic situation indeed. You now have only one choice; shut up or start building a legal fund to fight it. Or you can do what Mr. Medarious allegedly suggested at a meeting: “get a reverse mortgage or move.” Nice guys ~ And I voted for Mr. Spanier because he seemed so reasonable…

  3. Kathy on May 2, 2019 at 11:57 am

    The article has much to recommend it however I have to take issue with the use of a cartoon featuring a threatening gun in Spanier’s hand. It undermines the whole point of being transpartisan. I understand it illustrates a point and yet it is just too combative. Those who are not in agreement with the board are often criticized for being over the top. Why give that perception more material to work with?

    • Michael Connolly on May 2, 2019 at 1:30 pm

      Kathy, the graphic was a comment on Spanier using a Dirty Harry reference, nothing more. He chose a confrontational title using a quote from this violent movie for his President’s Message. We are merely making a comment on that choice.

  4. Julie M Cade on May 2, 2019 at 12:33 pm

    Face it. The OGC and real estate agents pushed Spanier’s candidacy because his allegiance is to them and to himself. Many uninvolved and unsuspecting people thought he was “a nice guy” and voted for him. He Teflon-ed himself with lip service and use of corporate mumbo-jumbo concepts but when you scrape off the coating, you see the real person: petty, controlling and self-serving. He’s a real estate agent and golfer and that’s as deep as it goes. He hates opposition and social media because he cannot control either.

    1. At the candidates’ forum, he gave a nasty public performance review of the writers of the Oakmont News, showing his lack of class, lack of compassion, and lack of awareness of facts.
    2. He tried to implement a new policy to block anyone who had donated to a legal fund regarding the OVA-OGC from serving on a committee.
    3. Once it looked like there was opposition to a bail-out of the OGC, he ceremoniously resigned his OGC membership so he could jump in, under-cutting Kendrick, who’d been working the problem. Spanier has been quoted as saying “things weren’t getting done”, under Kendrick’s leadership. Instead, things weren’t getting done the way he and his golf and real estate friends wanted.

    No matter what happens with the OGC, Spanier needs to be recalled. If he truly believed all the lofty-sounding things he claims to be, he would resign from the board before any golf course decision is made. Instead, perhaps he’d rather take Oakmont down the legal channel, costing all the residents he claims to care for more money and wasted time and contributing to the ongoing schism here.

    • Mike Olliffe on May 3, 2019 at 4:08 am

      Hi Julie – can you offer advice on how to start the recall?
      I think this needs to be done sooner rather than later.

  5. Lyn Cramer on May 2, 2019 at 1:02 pm


    If you are saying that beneath the velvet-lined gloves Spanier likes to wear are a set of brass knuckles, I agree.

  6. James Foreman on May 2, 2019 at 9:20 pm

    Thanks Michael for this post! I am pretty sure Steve will not read it, but I actually hope that he does.

    While living in Oakmont I got to know Steve well and even met with him many times to specifically have a dialogue about how to promote “Transpartisan Principles” in Oakmont and beyond. In 2017 I encouraged Steve to get involved in the Oakmont Forum, during the early stages of dialogue, and he came to a few meetings to discuss ideas and promote the principles he said the community needed.

    My first indication that he was truly needing to “teach what he needed to learn most” was when he said he would not be involved with group due to the “horrible, partisan…” things that some in the meetings had expressed through social media or other means. He was not willing to dialogue with others he disagreed with unless they apologized or were willing to admit that they had hurt others in the community.

    I continued to support Steve during his candidacy, but the shock of his hurtful comments about the Oakmont News team showed a side I did not know existed. He has since made numerous judgmental and unfounded accusations of others in the Oakmont community. At the same time he has been completely happy and willing to work with those on the current OVA Board who have been divisive and partisan through social media, as well as direct actions and in personal communications.

    In the end I think he is a well meaning person who truly does want to help others and be of service. He set the standards himself by promoting and using Transpartisanship as his guiding belief system. He should therefor not be surprised when the people he regularly attacks and points fingers at challenge him on those very principles he espouses.

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