Saturday, January 26, 2013

Bonanza Column 269 - IVGID Trustees Need to Slow Down

If there is one theme in the early reports about the new IVGID Board of Trustees, it is “slow down.” The new Trustees (three of the five on the Board) were no sooner sworn in than the Board embarked on a four-hour meeting to consider such matters as the search for a new General Manager, the e-Learning Café’s proposal to the Library Board, and Board meeting locations and frequency. The Board packet for this meeting totaled 171 pages and covered a lot of ground. One assumes that the Trustees, particularly the newly-elected three, pored over this packet and studied it carefully to be able to deliberate on all this in just four hours.
Two of the three new Trustees ran on almost identical platforms of cost-cutting and “efficiencies.” As I’ve discussed before, interpretation of election results is at best an inexact art. Except in the case of a landslide, everyone is able to read in the tea leaves of vote counts anything they want to, but objective conclusions are difficult. In my view, the best course for a newly elected official to take is to consider his or her election a limited endorsement (at best) of whatever views they put forth in their campaign, and tread cautiously with a finger on the public pulse.
According to the 2010 census, the population of Incline Village/Crystal Bay is 8,777. Of these there were, in the 2012 election, 5,566 registered voters (Washoe County Registrar of Voters), or 63% of the total population. The three who were elected, Mssrs. Smith, Devine, and Hammerel, received 47.75%, 39.5%, and 39.3% of the vote respectively. This means that 50 to 60% of the electorate did not endorse the three who were elected. I’m not saying that means their positions were wrong, just that they do not necessarily reflect the views of over half of those who voted.
Based on this it would be a mistake for the Board (and I’m speaking here about Trustees Smith and Hammerel in particular) to think their only job is to cut costs and create “efficiencies.” Yes, these are high priorities for governments at all levels, and every decision taken should include an analysis of fiscal impact, but as any executive will tell you, cost is only half of the financial picture – the other half is benefit, whether financial (return on investment, ROI), or environmental or social – and it is the cost/benefit ratio that should guide decisions.
The Trustees need to remember that they are stewards of the District’s resources. A steward manages property and affairs on behalf of someone else. Stewardship is an ethic that embodies responsible planning and management of resources, and is generally understood to include returning the resources in improved shape, and where stewardship of financial resources is concerned, growing the resource wherever possible.
This point about stewardship is an important distinction because Trustees are not the same as representatives. The IVGID Trustees are elected by the whole village to be the stewards of the District, not necessarily to do what is popular. At the same time, they have to be responsive to the “owners” of the resources, and where there is no clear downside should probably act in alignment with vox populi. However, it’s important that they have a good read on what that voice of the people is telling them. In the case of the eLearning Café and the Library Board, while the Café’s founder asserted that the majority of the community is in favor of her proposal, there is scant evidence to support this assertion and there is definite opposition. For the Board to have endorsed the idea without a clear sounding of the community was precipitous at best.
This brings us to the matter of the new GM, a decision that will have a major impact on the direction of IVGID in the future. I can’t see how the Board can make this decision without a clear indication from the residents about what we want the character of the community to be. When Bill Horn announced his impending retirement, the work of Incline 2020 went from interesting and important to crucial. Hopefully the Board will take this work into account and not base its decision on generic hiring parameters.

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