Tuesday, October 21, 2008

WPCNA Hosts City Hall

The October WPCNA general meeting marked another milestone in the rebirth of WPCNA as a viable and respected community resource.

Our guests for a meeting that cheerfully went overtime were White Plains Mayor Joseph Delfino and members of his administration, including the Commissioners of Budget, Finance, Planning, Public Works, Traffic and the City Assessor.

A "town hall" format was adopted, with Co-President Candyce Corcoran reading questions prepared in advance, getting detailed and informative answers from the Mayor and the Commissioners, and moderating follow-up from the floor.

The Mayor and staff addressed questions about housing violations, including illegal occupancy, impact of the current economic crisis on the City, flooding problems after heavy rains, tax certiorari claims, composting, recycling and DEC testing at the Gedney Recycling Yard, traffic problems, including speeding and parking commercial vehicles overnight in residential neighborhoods, garbage collection, and other quality of life issues.

The give and take was lively and respectful right up to the closing minutes, when the Mayor good-humoredly sparred with two hecklers.

In closing remarks, Mayor Delfino invited every neighborhood association to take part in the ongoing series of personal meetings with him and his staff on issues specific to their neighborhoods, as well as on city-wide issues.

Read the WPCNA thank you note to Mayor Delfino sent by Co-President Corcoran.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

What's New in the New By-Laws?

The new By-Laws, written almost single-handedly by Joel Rudikoff, reflect the structure and purpose of today's WPCNA. They are at once both easier to read and more specific.

Members Autonomous
Gone is the confusing reference to a WPCNA map, and gone, too, are restrictive definitions of neighborhood associations. Instead, the new By-Laws recognize the member associations as autonomous and self-defining in boundary, organization, and membership. They are what they are, and are not subject to interference from WPCNA.

Action Enabled
Replaced are the numeric voting and quorum requirements which made it virtually impossible to act as a body. The new requirements are simply stated as commonsensical percentages. For most purposes, a quorum consists of a simple majority of the active, dues-paid associations, and a majority vote allows the WPCNA to take action.

Modern and Specific
New in the By-Laws is voting by proxy (mail, email, fax), a Rules Committee to adjudicate questions about the By-Laws, and careful specifications of the duties of the Officers and Committees, including of the Membership Committee to which prospective new associations may apply.

Powerful But Circumspect
Most importantly, the new By-Laws make it clear that WPCNA is an apolitical congress which will take positions on civic and quality of life issues, but not against its members, not without its members' approval, and not without identifying members that dissent from the consensus.

Friday, May 30, 2008

National Night Out

This sounds like something the WPCNA would/should/could be interested in helping the neighborhoods participate in. http://www.nationaltownwatch.org/nno/

Monday, May 26, 2008

Marc Pollitzer

I know this may be a bit premature, however, as it will be Memorial Day and we remember those that serve, I would like to have the WPCNA consider a lasting memory of Marc Pollitzer. As soon as I heard of his premature passing, I immediately thought, how best to remember him?
The Marc Pollitzer Community Service Award. To be presented by the WPCNA annually to the citizen of White Plains that best exemplifies the ideals that Marc tried to impart on us all and that would make him proud; service to the neighborhood and to the City with dedication, humility, and leadership.
Not to be a monetary award as there is no price you can put on the spirit of volunteerism that he brought to his work, yet a prestigious award, in the form of a plaque presented at a formal dinner honoring the recipient and others, that should follow strict guidelines of application, review, and voting by representatives of the community.
--Patrick Sevcik President, Rosedale Residential Association

Sunday, April 13, 2008

WPCNA Reaches Out

Kenneth Matinale wrote WPCNA recently, saying "Your organization is weighted to represent those who live in houses outside of downtown WP. You have FIVE member groups named Gedney, yet my condo, Jefferson Place, did not fit into any." Ken goes on to say "Most WP residents live downtown in apartments, yet your meetings are held in a place that is barely in WP."

Who Does WPCNA Represent?
Ken is right that the WPCNA map, which was drawn many years ago, doesn't show a high density of neighborhood associations in downtown White Plains. That's because, Jefferson Place, Trump Towers et al. didn't exist then, and the map needs to be redrawn -- which can't be accomplished until WPCNA reworks its quorum rules. But the map isn't the whole story. The active associations which comprise WPCNA aren't determined by the map, but by who actually shows up to represent their neighborhoods.

WPCNA Wants You!
Ken could make WPNCA more representative by encouraging the Board of his almost three-hundred unit condo, Jefferson Place, to send a delegate to WPCNA meetings. Or by forming a Jefferson Place Association and representing it at WPCNA meetings. WPCNA would be glad to have him. In fact, we'd be glad to have him pro se. WPCNA meetings are open to all White Plains residents. Several people attend regularly who are not association delegates. They can't vote, but they can and do speak up for their neighborhoods.

WPCNA Meeting Location
As a student of history, I am amused at Ken's equation of a meeting location with quality of representation. Where WPCNA meets reflects consideratons of cost, convenience, accomodations, and availability. Coincidentally, one of our Officers -- V.P. Tony Spinelli -- is actively seeking to take WPCNA meetings "on the road" so delegates can get to know more about White Plains' neighborhoods. There would be no reason not to meet at Jefferson Place, if its Board could offer a large enough meeting room and parking at no cost to WPCNA.

For the Record
Jefferson Place, where Ken lives, currently falls in the Downtown Association, whose meetings we're told Ken attends.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Prescription for Change

Remember when everyone knew their neighbors by sight, if not by name, and communication meant chatting over the backyard fence? WPCNA does. That's when its By-Laws were written. Now as WPCNA seeks to attract new members by modifying its mission and methods for today's neighborhoods, it finds itself hamstrung by yesterday's rules.

Antediluvian Rules
The most irksome of these petrified rules are those on quorums. According to the By-Laws, "A quorum at meetings of the Representative Board shall consist of ten (10) member neighborhood associations." For practical purposes, that means a letter to the Mayor -- or a letter to the Editor -- expressing the Council's opinion gets tabled unless it can be adopted at a meeting attended by ten neighborhood associations in good standing.

The rule, which sets the bar too high for a quorum at regular meetings, can't be changed because "For the purpose of amending the Constitution, a quorum shall consist of 12 member associations." Ouch!

Hindsight Trumps Optimisim
At its inception, WPCNA defined its quorums numerically in the optimistic belief that it would soon seat delegates from qualified associations representing all or almost all of the 30 neighborhoods defined on its charter map. For various reasons, that never happened, and judged in hindsight, probably never will.

No Change, No Growth
Most years, WPCNA consists of from 10-15 qualified associations in good standing -- in toto. To grow, it needs to abandon its tail-fins and morph -- pardon the cliches -- into a more relevant and proactive organization. The 1950s-style town hall forum that attracted early WPCNA members needs more focus, more organization, and more results to attract new members. But we can't get there from here without modifying the By-Laws.

Let's Get Knocking!
This year we need to knock on every door -- literally if need be -- until we can turn out a dozen member associations and make the rules on quorums reflect reality. Joel Rudikoff has suggested that a quorum at meetings consist of half the members (50%), and a three-quarters (75%) quorum be required to amend the By-Laws. I second the motion and move we all get busy helping a dozen neighborhood associations become qualified members in good standing.