Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Changing Directions on the UNA

For the past 2 & 3/4 years I've been the UNA Secretary and Chair of the Governance Standing Committee.

The first year was quite exhilarating. I felt the positive benefits of a shared political vision amongst the resident directors.  While we would disagree on the finer details we did share a common vision that improvements in governance were needed. Over time the reality of UBC's overwhelming presence in the affairs of UNA governance has lead to growing differences of perspective, both on the place of the UNA within UBC's domain and the particular issues that the UNA should focus upon. These differences in perspective have been intensified with the change over in resident directors. I find myself no longer able to support the majority direction of the Board.  Consequently I am stepping down as the Secretary of the UNA.

My engagement with community advocacy predates the existence of the UNA.  As one of the first residents in Hawthorn Lane renting from UBC Properties Trust we came upon a series of issues that UBC's unique form of governance seemed unable to adequately respond to.  So we organized the Hawthorn Lane Residents Association.  In cooperation lies strength.

Our association was part of the catalyst that brought the UNA into existence. UBC has always realized that the local governance issue is one that needs to be treated with some degree of community engagement, but at each step of the way has resisted a full resolution.  Part steps make sense to the primarily hierarchically organized command style governance model of the university administration.  It is my view, and the view of many others, that the best way to rule a community is through self-governance.

This is the view that I have long subscribed to.

I appreciate that in fact I am a member of a minority within my own community.  There are others who value direct self rule, but many more seem to find the current form of tutelage preferable to self rule.  It is important to have a minority voice on this Board.  However, I can not in good conscience continue as an executive member of the UNA.  To do so would imply, rightly or wrongly, that I support the general direction that the UNA is taking.  To continue would ultimately be a violation of my  own sense of what is right and proper.

I take issue with the way some have used UNA structures to essentially create a political party within the UNA.  I find it inappropriate for self-appointed community leaders to enjoy junkets at the general tax payer's expense. We have an obligation to contribute to our society without expecting to be rewarded for it.  I find it offensive to observe Committees of the UNA, ostensibly set up to engage the entire community, focus on one sub-sect and then not regularly report to the Board on their activities.  These types of activities offends my sense of civic mindedness.  I know that I am not alone, even if we are a minority, in being upset by such practices. But ultimately these are not my primary concerns.

My primary concern is my heartfelt belief that we have civic duty to advocate for our collective future as a self governed community.  We must attend to the details of day-to-day operations, but we must also look to our community's future.  It is inconceivable that a community of our size and scale would still, in the 21st century, be managed like a late 19th century company town.  I had hoped that my colleagues would share with me the desire to address the democratic deficit.  But on this point we do not see eye to eye.

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