Did we have an open and respectful discussion?

Although I wholeheartedly agree with the suggestions in the post entitled “A Successive Strata Council: My Vision for a Healthy Huntly Wynd” and the subsequent comments made, it’s implementation does not only reside by a( new) Council, it also resides by the owners to demand open and respectful discussion at meetings such as a Community
Gathering, SGM or AGM.

Take for example our recent Community Gathering meeting. A community gathering is a platform for conversation where we exchange opinions , concerns and comments regardless if others agree with it or not.

Although the meeting had an overall positive outcome in the end and we are moving forward, the process was loosely managed and dominated by some. The model of last year’s July 25 meeting was somewhat adopted with numbers given for each who wished to speak but did not include a time limit of 2 minutes each. On July 25 we proved that it was possible to have an open and respectful discussion. After each person spoke without any judgements or interruptions, the floor was opened for further discussions.

Without a similar structure, precious time for other important issues at the community gathering that I was promised would be items for discussion never materialized. Our property management firm, which I understand is of concern to a significant amount of owners was left for another council to review. Surely, if we want open discussion, then comments of all owners present (good, bad or indifferent) should be heard and are part of the overall outcome of a consensus, are they not? Owners should not have to feel awkward when expressing their opinions for fear of ridicule. Owners should be encouraged to speak up without being ridiculed and/or snubbed. After all, asking for everyone’s input would be well in line with building a concensus and unless owners demand it there is none nor do we foster it.

We have indeed gone through a very tumultuous time and this interim Council has shown to be approachable, responsive and has worked to deliver improved communications. Chapeau to that. And although it is a good step in the right direction, in addition to the governance of our community, it would behove a new Council to include and facilitate a platform at meetings whereby every owner has the opportunity to voice their comments and opinions in a respectful setting.

Let’s promote and contribute to dialogue (sometimes with different perspectives and opinions) that is essential to progress, which we so embraced and which was so apparent at the July 25th meeting of last year. That was open and respectful discussion at it’s best and we owe it to ourselves to demand it again.

Contributed by: Harma – Unit 35

A Successive Strata Council: My Vision for a Healthy Huntly Wynd

The Strata Property Act of British Columbia states that the strata council’s role is to “exercise the powers and perform the duties of the strata corporation. Its role is to:

  • act as the managing body for the strata corporation;
  • make daily decisions that enable the strata corporation to operate smoothly; and
  • operate within any restrictions created by the Act, Regulations, bylaws, or a majority vote of the owners.

I believe recent events can serve as a teachable moment for us all and help us to build a platform for positive change in our governance model. I would like to share my vision of how future strata councils could be structured – a vision that welcomes your feedback, views and opinions.

To begin, I believe that limited communication from the top down and an apparent unwillingness to listen to the will of our community has been the primary cause of dissension in our recent past. Personal agendas were suspected and served to create an atmosphere of mistrust. But, all this could be avoided by forming a strata council that is inclusive and responsive to the community it serves. Here is the writer’s vision of how such a council could be structured and operated:

Strata council must be sensitive to the community

To be responsive, a strata council must embrace and promote two-way communication between itself and the owners it serves. This can be accomplished by:

  • Being ever present, visible and approachable by owners throughout the community;
  • Conducting town hall meetings (minimum two or more if needed) each fiscal year to gather, hear and respond to community feedback;
  • Ensuring that minutes of Strata Council meetings provide reasonable detail (while abiding by the requirements under the Freedom of Information and Privacy Protection Act or FOIPP of British Columbia);
  • Posting newsworthy bulletins and alerts on a timely basis; and
  • Circulating a Community Updater that focuses on socio-economic issues within the community on a regular (perhaps quarterly) basis.

A strata council must provide unbiased leadership

With only a single objective in mind – community growth and improvement for the benefit of all -every member of a strata council must set aside all personal agendas during their term on council. Sharing their vision with fellow council members and with the community to invite input and debate should be encouraged. Strata corporations that value the opinions of owners and respects the democratic process are the ones that thrive and benefit from proactive community participation.

A strata council must be open and transparent

Strata councils can easily overlook two essential facts: they have no money of their own, and they function at the will of the owners they serve. Every dollar they spend is that of the owners and they must manage it as such.  It is not their money! They must be open, clear and communicative about how every dollar is being spent by:

  • making financial statements available to those whose money is being collected and spent;
  • publicizing the Corporation’s contracts, and related information, with outside suppliers (redacting only that information that may be required under FOIPP legislation); and
  • opening Strata Council meetings to all owners except for in-camera sessions.

A strata council would encourage community participation

Strata council bears a great deal of responsibility in that its members are charged with the overall health and governance of the strata corporation. They are also making decisions that impact the value of what is likely each individual owner’s most valuable asset, including their own. However, the task at hand need not be an onerous one if structured in a manner that has been successful in the past and could be once again.

Not all owners have the time or willingness to commit to a two-year term to serve as a member of a strata council. Be that as it may, many would like to serve their community in a lesser, but still significantly influential, capacity. And, they can do just that by serving on committees that could help lighten the load for strata councils.

In the past, Huntly Wynd operated with some very successful standing committees of council. These standing committees enhanced community participation, assisted the strata council of the day with the management of their assigned portfolios, and provided a real sense of community pride and spirit. So, why not resurrect them?

Proposed standing committees based on our development might include:

  • Standing Committee on Finance/Insurance;
  • Standing Committee on Bylaws, Rules and Management Support;
  • Standing Committee on Landscaping and Gardens;
  • Standing Committee on Waterscapes;
  • Standing Committee on Infrastructure and Common Assets;
  • Standing Committee on Security and Emergency Planning; and
  • Standing Committee on Social Planning and Events.

All Standing Committees would be working committees that meet quarterly (or more frequently if required). They would have a member of the strata council appointed to serve as an ex-officio liaison. They would function as advisory committees for the strata council within a democratic environment, have clearly defined mandates, virtual budgets and terms of reference. Members of a standing committee would elect an individual from amongst themselves to serve as committee chair for a specific term. And, the standing committees would provide regular updates and reports to the community via the Strata Council.

Within our community, we have lawyers, accountants, actuaries, insurance specialists, engineers, contractors, doctors, nurses, teachers, business people and a host of other people with special talents and unique experiences. We are a community of individuals and families fortunate to have a broad spectrum of expertise and skills that could easily populate these committees if people are willing to contribute in a very meaningful but less demanding way.

Summary

This vision of a successive strata council is mine alone, which some may share in whole or in part and others may reject it in its entirety. I acknowledge it may be in need of adjustments here and there. But, having witnessed councils that have functioned well over the past eleven years of my residency at Huntly Wynd and others not so much, I felt it an appropriate time to share a different perspective and approach on the governance structure of our strata corporation.

I’m not claiming the foregoing to be new or unique ideas in their entirety – just ones worth consideration and comment. I hope those who read this post and are eligible to run for election to the strata council at the February 2018 AGM will reflect on the content of this post and seriously consider putting your name forward for election. Working together as a community, I believe we can rejuvenate community participation, community spirit and put real pride back into Huntly Wynd. People like to be part of a winning team. The opportunity for you to help build and be part of that team is quickly approaching and it is my hope you will collaborate with me in doing so.

In closing, I would like to thank all those who have stepped forward to serve the Huntly Wynd community at various times in the past, with special appreciation to Renee Watters, Robert Bazaluk and d’Arcy Dagg for stepping up in the midst of a difficult period. Thank you all for your service!

 

Contributed by: Rob Sleath – Unit 75