Commentary: Engagement

Improved citizen engagement with the Columbia Association Board was one of my goals as a candidate for CA Board, “so that decisions by the Board reflect the best minds of our well-educated populace.” This should be a goal that all CA Board members can support. The fact that just 4.8% of individuals 18 and over voted in the three villages with contested elections illustrates how much work we have to do to improve participation.  As a public service, following are suggestions Columbians made on facebook and in blogs to improve engagement and increase voter participation.

Ongoing Engagement

Crowd

  • Need to better educate voters, including younger generations, and encourage participation in leadership roles. What can we do to make the process relevant to today’s world? Villages have had success with e-newsletters and social media outreach.
  • We need to find new ways of reaching out to the people who are going to be living 25 and 30 years from now in the housing, neighborhoods and amenities we are planning and building today.
  • Post videos of meetings along with PDFs of slides and allow comments via the Internet.
  • Simulcast CA Board Meetings – The technology is available, at reasonable cost, to put every CA Board meeting online for residents to watch.
  • Put Residents on Notice – Every CPRA Lien invoice include the following authority line: “YOUR LIEN WAS DETERMINED BY A TEN (10) MEMBER BOARD OF DIRECTORS ELECTED BY VILLAGE ELECTION HELD ON THE FOURTH SATURDAY IN APRIL.  PLEASE GO TO WWW.COLUMBIAASSOCIATION.COM TO LEARN MORE.”
  • Create village-wide contact/email lists that are effective.  The opt-in to be on the list could also serve to notify people about village-related news.
  • Perhaps we have to take the issues to the people. Not village by village — but villages together. Thousands of people go to the facilities — and lots of others are enjoying the open space — or a big event. Perhaps if forums and elections occurred where the people are we could get them more engaged.

Effective Elections

  • “Vote Columbia” community gatherings, held in the Village Centers in April, one week before Election Day . . . .  I think such events – ideally – should launch a week of reflection and discussion of relevant CA and village issues.
  • Early/extended voting periods.  I recommend formally opening the polls at the aforementioned “Vote Columbia” event….and then either keeping them open for a full week, or at least for the kick-off event as well as Thursday and Friday in addition to Election Day Saturday.
  • Hold village elections on Election Day. While the CA/village elections obviously wouldn’t happen at the schools and voting polls for legislative elections, perhaps the energy and focus around “voting season” would bring forth more voters.
  • The differing rules for voting in each village are confusing, folks are not provided a convenient way to vote, and we exclude people from the out-parcels who want to participate.
  • Design changes with the mail-in ballots. I think they can resemble junk mail. . . consider how to make them more eye-catching, more likely to be opened and read, and acted upon by the recipients.
  • Evaluate the legal and practical means by which votes for CA Board election may be cast via the Internet.  These elections are held in accordance with Village By-Laws, so it will be up to the Villages to decide how this is implemented.
  • CA should pass a resolution to only vote their corporate shares if a quorum is not reached – there is a false sense of achievement when a few vote margin becomes many more.
  • Hold a drawing as an incentive where a particular ballot receives a discount on a CA program or service.  Nothing too extravagant of course, but enough to encourage more residents to take more of an interest in village elections.

What do you think, Columbia? Do any of these ideas resonate? Do you have other suggestions you’d like to add?

Advertisements

Published by

Harry Schwarz

Nicknamed “The Professor” by his colleagues, Harry is a native Marylander who moved to Columbia in 2001. Harry’s wife, Cathy, is a Columbia acupuncturist and the family includes two college-age children, a dog and a cat. Harry is a partner with BearsolutionsLLC, assisting charter school authorizers to provide effective financial oversight. He is underemployed at this time and welcomes conversation about how he might help you.

3 thoughts on “Commentary: Engagement”

  1. I think the drawing would be illegal. Most governmental election agencies worldwide reject online balloting for very legitimate security reasons. Also it would be helpful to create a Task Force to study engagement and election best practices and issues. There was recently a Presidential Commission on this an Montgomery and several of its incorporated areas, including Takoma Park have also done this.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s