Saturday May 31 2008
Looking behind the scenes: Easy to forget there’s more than one candidate
By: Jim Ruffalo
They recently held a Candidate Night at Lake of the Pines. No, there’s no mistake here. We beg our benevolent editors to leave “candidate” singular because despite three seats being up-for-grabs at the ongoing election, only one candidate’s name will be on the ballot. And just to give the process all the cachet of a Banana Republic election, that lone candidate is current board president Bridgitt Crawford. Two board members — Larry Couture and Mike Brown — tried to make matters a bit more democratic within the walled city. They were successful in getting a special board meeting called in order to point out the inequity of the process, but were stymied by a yet-to-be-released legal opinion authored by the Homeowners Association counsel. The learned counsel’s opinion, upon which recently arrived general manager Kathryn Henricksen used to move ahead with the election’s June 26th deadline, was shown to the board in executive session, but remains a so-called “privileged” document and, thus, is not allowed to be viewed by the very people being asked to vote. Kind of neat, no? You have a document which guides a rather inventive election process, only the electorate won’t be allowed to read it. Reminds me of that famed legal firm of Dewey, Scruem and Howe, which would author contracts wherein the opening clause forbade the reading of all subsequent clauses. Raul Castro, no doubt, probably is keeping close tabs on how Stalag, pardon me, Lake of the Pines is conducting this, in order to ensure an even higher voter approval rating in Cuba’s next election. According to Henricksen, the opinion led to a decision to depend upon write-in votes to make it an election that at least struggles ahead of Zimbabwe’s for fairness. On the other hand, no matter how many folks decide to try their hand at being a write-in, Crawford gets a huge advantage by being the only name on the ballot. In fairness to Henricksen, she hasn’t been on board all that long, and gives every indication that had she been around at the start of this fiasco, things would have been done properly. Meanwhile, she tried to put the best face on the situation, saying the counsel’s opinion “actually make our ballot more accessible,” explaining that it’s a much more democratic process when one does not have to go through the rigors of qualifying to get your name placed on the ballot. Oddly, recent state law changes pushed through by local state senator Sam Aanestad already removed those poll tax-like requirements from Homeowner Association elections. But when I asked her about the Crawford advantage, Henricksen seemed to rely upon her best administrative skills to agree, saying, “that statement probably is not untrue.” Let’s see: if I remember my algebra from a half-century ago, two negatives make a positive, don’t they? Assuredly, all of this could have been avoided, but that would have spoiled the planned election night celebration, wouldn’t it? At that special meeting, Crawford blurted out the painfully obvious by stating “this is all about me.” Absolutely correct, especially when she later admitted that she failed to take advantage of the normal LOP candidates recruiting committee, previously and successfully headed up by Tom Edwards. Instead, she insisted she did all she could to recruit. She said her efforts included some sort of story in the Lake of the Pines monthly mouthpiece newsletter, and a stand-up on the association’s very own Channel 7, which since the advent of Dish and Direct TV, has a viewership rating of about three, provided Crawford’s family happens to be home that night. After that special meeting, Crawford told me that she did not support the proposal to start over because she felt it best to see what the in-house counsel thought. Now that we have that secret opinion, maybe it should be relegated to the outhouse. Henricksen had a different take, pointing out that recent legislation made it impossible to start from scratch. Fortunately for the sake of democracy, a slate of three write-in candidates was hastily tossed together. Hoping the electorate does the write stuff are former board member and USAF Colonel Bill Hagin, U.S. Navy vet Max Kane, and Derrald Pick, who is half the team that put together MyLOP.com, the alternative source of news for the bulk of LOPland’s residents. It should be noted that the slate was hammered together in less than a week, a fact which certainly calls into question Crawford’s ability to round up the usual candidates in a much longer time span, and one in which a whole lot of Association resources were readily at her disposal. It’s only an opinion, but Crawford’s inability to do the job correctly ought to be taken into account when a voter makes his or her choices. And — by the way — “choices” is plural. Jim Ruffalo’s column runs Sundays in the Journal. He can be reached at email@example.com, or post a comment at AuburnJournal.com.