Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Time for transparent public review of UNA

During my campaign I committed to doing my best to set in place a full and transparent administrative review of staffing, services, and communications.  I plan to bring this proposal to the next board meeting.

Over the UNA's 12 year history it has grown from a one man show appointed by UBC and housed in an office within UBC's institutional core.  Prior to the UNA residents living in Hampton Peace had a neighbourhood joint strata council chaired by UBC Properties Trust.  This seemed to work well for several years and, by all accounts would have continued working except for the changes brought about by opening of what came to be called Hawthorn Place.

Construction in Hawthorn Place began in the late 1990s with occupancy beginning in the winter of 2000/2001.  My family was part of the first wave of new residents.  There was no mechanism to work with us, problems with the developments arose, firetrucks and ambulances couldn't find us when an alarm went, UBCPT processes kept being broken.  So we formed a local residents' association: Hawthorn Lane Residents' Association.  Aside from lobbying UBCPT and UBC we organized the first Halloween event in Hawthorn Place (fireworks and a bonfire) and continued doing that until the Old Barn Community was built and took over that kind of programming.

In response to our lobbying and pressure on the university UBC fast-tracked the formation of the UNA but kept the Hampton Joint Strata Council (which later was expanded to try and replicate the Hampton model in the other local areas).  The UNA was formed with Jim Taylor as it's first appointed UBC Director and Chair in late 2002. And, as the say, the rest is history.

Today the UNA is operating one community centre with a second larger one one the way, a softball field and a soccer field.  We manage a multi-million dollar budget.  The one time all appointed board of directors now has five resident directors who are elected by the general membership and three directors appointed (2 by UBC, 1 by the AMS).  We have a management staff of an executive director, a business manager, an office administrator, a sustainability office, and engineer responsible for operations management, and a community centre manager.  We have a couple dozen part-time and ancillary staff involved in a variety of tasks.  We regularly hire consultants to prepare reports on aspects of our functions.  Yet, through all of this we have conducted no thorough, public, transparent review of our services and functions of the UNA to ensure that we are realistic, focussed, and actually are meeting the objectives we think we have or the purposes we have been established to fulfil.

I plan to bring to the UNA Board a proposal to initiate a series of public consultations to review UNA's staffing, services, and communications.  Are we providing staffing in areas that meet community interests and concerns?  How are we connecting with our fellow residents?  Can we shift from the current one-way communication model (where the UNA disseminates info out, but has no effective way to engage in dialogue or take info in)?  It is all well and good to hire some high paid consultants who have the UNA Board as their client.  That gives us some information. But, it doesn't matter how many consultant scan write a report that is no substitute for real, transparent, public engagement and dialogue.  Furthermore, relying upon consultants to write reports and provide recommendations simply allows Directors to escape responsibility for making their own decisions.  Ultimately, saying a consultant told us to do it is an abdication of our duties and responsibilities.

NOTE: this proposal will be brought to the October meeting of the Operations & Sustainability Standing Committee.

1 comment:

Charles Menzies said...

The following is the specific proposals being brought to the committee for consideration.
PROPOSAL: That the Board initiate a series of public consultations to review UNA's staffing, services, and communications that would address the above listed concerns and focus on the following guiding questions:
• What is the full extent of services actually provided by the UNA to members?
• What areas of service are (a) understaffed (b) inadequately dealt with, (c) performed at an outstanding/excellent level?
• Are we providing staffing in areas that meet community interests and concerns?
• Do we have redundancies in staffing that could be better allocated?
• Are some administrative/management positions surplus to the UNA’s service mandate?
• How are we connecting with our fellow residents?
• Can we shift from the current one-way communication model (where the UNA disseminates info out) to a more conversational or interactive model? Is this desirable?
• Do we have sufficient staffing resources in place to deliver the services that we say we are and/or want to?
• Such other questions as emerge through the course of a full, public, and transparent review.