OCBA Held 3-Hour Meeting; Changed By-Laws

Sundae Horn
Justin's head and one of his slides. Contributors are now empowered!
Justin's head and one of his slides. Contributors are now empowered!

And they wonder why more people don't attend.

Just kidding! It was a great meeting! At 2 hours, 29 minutes in, two board members killed two cockroaches (one each). This was a good hour after a contributor released an errant spider to the wild. Someone remind the Community Center board to have the place exterminated. (Full disclosure: I'm on the Community Center board.)

Ocracoke Civic and Business Association has been going through some changes. And they finally decided that it was time to emerge, butterfly-like, from their winter/spring chrysalis of by-laws re-writing and marketing/branding and budgeting, and spread their wings for all the membership to see and vote on. 

The first hour and then some was taken up by the branding presentation (please read the other article about that.)

Next on the agenda was by-laws. 

There are new by-laws, passed by in-person voting at last night's meeting (with a few amendments for clarification after lengthy discussion.) A few highlights of the new by-laws are that the people who "join" OCBA by paying business or civic dues are no longer (and never really should have been) called "members." We are "contributors." It's a legalese thing. 

The old by-laws didn't require monthly public meetings, they had just become a habit. The new by-laws likewise do not require monthly meetings. An annual meeting is required, and if you weren't there last night, you missed it. Mark your calendars for next June. 

The board members can and will hold public meetings for the contributorship when they want to. They plan to hold quarterly meetings, and to have those meetings be presentations so that they have "value-added" and aren't just "administrivia." They are hoping that OCBA will operate more efficiently this way, with the elected board members making decisions rather than a committee of the whole (or whoever shows up) having long discussions (like we did last night!) 

Contributors can also attend OCBA board meetings, and the board promised to make it known when they are having meetings. How? Check your email.

The new by-laws allow voting to take place online by email correspondence. The board hopes that this will encourage more contributors to exercise their right to have a voice in the decision-making. It was, explained board member Justin LeBlanc, "a fundamental problem that a small percentage of the contributorship is at any meeting. We want to give people who aren't here a voice."

Do they deserve it? Should showing up be a requirement for having your say? Discussion ensued. About 10% of the contributorship was at the meeting. Time will tell if MailChimp elicits a better response from contributors. Do people even check their email? 

We also voted in a new slate of board members: Rudy Austin, Sharon Brodisch, Wayne Clark, John Giagu, Martha Garrish, Ashley Harrell, Justin LeBlanc, Chip Stevens, and Melinda Sutton. Sharon, John, and Melinda are new to the board. Welcome! Connie Leinbach is stepping down. Per the new by-laws, the board members will vote for officers from among themselves. They didn't do that last night. 

Current treasurer Wayne Clark presented a list of income and expenses for the fiscal year ending June 30th, and introduced a budget for 2017-18. It includes a bonus $10,000 to develop additional shoulder season events to bring people to the island, and $7800 to hire an administrative assistant. There are also plans to create an office space for the travel and tourism director. Everything else that OCBA has paid for they will still pay for (4th of July, Fig Festival, Pirate Jamboree, Christmas decorations, etc.), with the possible exception of the little grants they gave out when asked.

Back in the days of monthly meetings and the old by-laws, pretty much anybody representing a good cause could come and ask for some money at a meeting. If it was $499 or less, it could be voted on right there and then by whoever was present. If it was for $500 or more, then the request was tabled for a month. These grants paid for Boy Scout camping gear, SIDCO diving donations, Ocracoke School art programs, prom decorations, and sending Ocracoke kids to special conferences or camps, and other small, but important community needs. There is also an annual OCBA scholarship of $500 awarded to a graduating senior at Ocracoke School. The new budget has a line item of $1000 for those donations, which includes the scholarship. The board feels that requests for donations like these should go through the Occupancy Tax board, which is where most of the OCBA money comes from anyway. Wayne opined that he doesn't like to spend Other People's Money. (Irony alert: almost all of OCBA's $250,000 budget is OPM in the form of occupancy tax grants, donations, or contributor dues.) There was some dissent (some funding needs come up throughout the year, not just when the OT board give out money in April), and a suggestion to raise that line item to $3000, which started a discussion re: where is the CIVIC in Ocracoke Civic and Business Association? 

And if meetings will now only be quarterly and be presentations, and voting will be done through email, when will we discuss things? Will we get to see minutes of board meetings and contributor meetings we don't attend?

(At about this time in the proceedings, my husband texted me: "If I'm still a voting member, can I make a motion to adjourn?" Sadly, no. Go ahead and eat without me, Rob.)

Ocracoke's county commissioner, Tom Pahl, noted that "for a long time the civic and business association has been moving toward a business association." He feels that the monthly meetings offered important lines of communication that people relied on. The reports from the NPS Rangers, from county manager Bill Rich, from the commissioner, from Rudy about the ferries – all these were valuable, Tom said. "You're cutting out the civic side in OCBA," he continued. He also hoped for more transparency from the board (what have they been up to since December? Hours and hours and hours of by-laws discussion, said Chip.) "It's worth noting that a substantial portion of your funds is from public money, and for that reason alone, transparency is necessary," Tom said.

Wayne suggested that Tom hold Town Hall meetings in his capacity as commissioner. "That may be option," Tom replied.  

After that, we also discussed 4th of July and Fig Festival, as presented by Martha Garrish, who is the board member assigned to coordinate with the 4th of July and Fig Festival event coordinator. (Full disclosure: that's me.) All is proceeding nicely. Same with Pirate Jamboree. Whew!

Thank the god of small favors there was no new business. 

I don't know what time we officially adjourned. I just know I put my chair away, chatted briefly with someone who gave me good 4th of July feedback, and got home at 10:15pm, where I found my supper waiting for me. And it was still hot. 




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