After two and a half hours of discussion on the final Reston Community Center (RCC) governance report Monday night, the RCC's long range planning committee essentially punted responsibility to the incoming board which will take office on Nov. 1.
The only thing the panel decided was to recommend hiring a consultant to study the cost and feasibility of moving to mail and electronic balloting, one of the recommendations where there seemed to be consensus. The committee seemed inclined not to support the idea of specific districts, expressed skepticism at the idea of an advisory board, but generally supported the idea of a two-thirds majority requirement for Capital Improvement Projects and changes to the special district's tax rate, even acknowledging that a skate park would now require six votes instead of five.
Despite finishing their work back in July, the 11-person special governance panel, comprised of RCC board members, Reston residents, Chamber members and business owners, did not complete their final report until a few weeks ago. Monday night was the first time that RCC members have had to discuss the recommendations publicly.
THE RECOMMENDATION to create five seats specific to different sections of the tax district created the biggest stir among members in attendance Monday night.
When board president Ruth Overton was on the special governance panel, she ultimately voted to endorse the idea of five regional seats and four at-large seats. Back in the summer, the special panel voted to endorse the change 10-1 saying it would be an important step in increasing participation in the preference poll process while making for a more diverse board. But Monday night, Overton seemed to step back from her previous vote. "I think we need to look at the ideas of districts rather than everybody at-large," Overton said. "I think that recommendation came as a bit of a compromise and a way to include businesses on the board, but I think there is something to be said for everyone being at-large, as it is today."
Overton explained her apparent flip-flop by saying that she felt board members should represent the entire community, not just "where you live."
Board member Beverly Cosham was also on the special governance panel, and she too voted for the recommendation earlier this year. And like Overton, Cosham seemed reluctant to embrace the recommendations that have emerged from a report they helped craft. "Some refinements are needed," Cosham said, "but, I don't think we have to change it completely."
Board member John Lovaas objected to Overton and Cosham's change of heart and said he liked the idea. "I disagree, I think it gets people to work out in their neighborhoods and it will get rid of slates," said Lovaas, who helped put together a slate in the most recent preference poll. "Besides, it is tossing a bone to people in West Market and the Town Center. They do have different interests than other people in the community."
"But do they have an interest in this center?" asked Cosham.
Jan Bradshaw, who was one of two incumbents to lose her seat in the preference poll, said dividing board members into districts, like the Reston Association board of directors, is an unnecessary step. "I don't think you have to divide it into districts to get different points of view," Bradshaw said. "We got that this year without having specific seats ... I want people running who are passionate about the RCC."
When it was suggested that a vote be taken on district representation, a vote that might have been defeated, outgoing member Marion Bonhomme-Knox convinced the committee not to act. "It would be a political mistake not to take these recommendations to the full board," Bonhomme-Knox said, adding that she felt the new board should take up the governance issue at its annual January retreat.
LOVAAS SAID HE didn't want to see a board with nine "Lake Anners," that it's important the center reaches out to the business community. "We need to reach out to North Point and Town Center."
Lovaas also criticized the board for the deliberate speed with which it acted on the report. "You finished in July, now it's November," Lovaas said. "At the pace we are going, it will take us to next summer ... We are not doing things in a timely manner."
The next full board meeting is scheduled for Nov. 3 and it will be the first with the three new members. With terms of the three outgoing members up on Oct. 31, the committee will pass the responsibility to act on the recommendations to the new board.
Overton said the issues being discussed are too important to rush action. "I think this is worth starting all over again," she said. "The whole climate has changed since the governance panel was first put together. We have a much nicer relationship with the Chamber, now."
RCC executive director Denny Kern agreed saying that there is a "sea change" with the Chamber and he was very confident that the Chamber's new chairman, Joe Watson, would help bridge the divide between the two organizations. "The last chairman [Linda Mallison] was the one stoking the fire."