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.

Catch-22
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.