30 January 2008

Inflated Expectations

In the lead-up to General Growth Properties regional vice president Greg Hamm’s first public meeting with the CA Board of directors, the following was posted on the Chicago-based Baltimore Sun's website Explore Howard (23JAN08):

Although officials of the Chicago-based General Growth are working with a team of planners and architects to create a 30-year master plan for the redevelopment of downtown Columbia, Hamm will not make any specific presentation to the board on the emerging plan, according to CA officials.

However, the board is interested in learning from Hamm how the two organizations can work together on planning downtown’s future, said Barbara Russell, the board’s chairwoman, who represents Oakland Mills.

“The whole board wants to talk to General Growth about downtown and any plans they have that would involve (CA) land,” Russell said.

It is also important to note a similar press release was on the CA website, but has since been removed.

In reading June Arney’s report today (Hamm visits association board meeting – Members would have liked more information but appreciate first appearance by Columbia manager), I was puzzled by the following quote from CA Board member Phil Kirsch (WL):

"I thought it went all right for the first meeting," said Philip W. Kirsch, vice chairman of the board. "We were happy to see him. It would have been nice if he would have come with a few more details of what he wanted to talk with us about."

I am uncertain what details board member Kirsch was referencing. Although I arrived a little late, I attended the board meeting last week. Even after my arrival, it was clear that there had been a discussion of a watershed plan (Full Disclosure Notice: I am a member of the CA Watershed Resident Advisory Committee). This topic, at least in my mind, does reflect the expectations of the press release that preceded the meeting, considering that a good portion of the land that CA owns in downtown is under water.

With regard to detail, it seems that scheduling handcuffed any further discussion of watershed issues. Later that same night, the CA Board of Directors was scheduled to approve the Watershed Residents Advisory Committee charter. They were also scheduled to discuss two different letters (here and here) welcoming Mr. Hamm to Columbia.

I also find it interesting that during the Q&A portion of the discussion with Greg Hamm, no CA Board member specifically asked for more detail on downtown.

The inflated expectations of the evening spilled over to others present at the meeting. The Alliance for a Better Columbia President Alex Hekimian was quoted as saying:

"I think people were expecting more information than they got," he said. "There have been a lot of private meetings, and those people have gotten a lot more information than was available in public sessions. That's troubling. If the information was good enough for the private groups, why isn't it good enough for the public session?"

I always get concerned when Mr. Hekimian speaks in generalities. I am not sure which “people” he is talking about. I cannot understand how he (or the aforementioned “people”) could get confused by “Hamm will not make any specific presentation to the board on the emerging plan, according to CA officials.”

I am also uncertain as to how Mr. Hekimian can quantify what information was disseminated at the so-called private meetings. How many of these private meetings did Mr. Hekimian attend? If he has been to these meetings, why has he chosen to remain silent all these weeks?

In summary, I am concerned that “CA officials” state in a press release before the meeting that “no specific presentation” was to be made and CA Board Chair Barbara Russell (OM) states that the discussion will focus on how the two organizations can work together. Then after the meeting the Vice-Chair (Kirsch – WL) states that there was not enough detail. This is followed up by an officer of a local watchdog group stating that there was an expectation of more information, and an assertion that information was purposely kept from the meeting. If I were to give in to my cynical side, I would call that sandbagging.

1 comment:

Jessie N said...

As to your last sentence in this post and my knowledge that you are a Gen Xer, being cynical comes with the package: the peer personality of Gen Xers. We each experience and express said trait in our own ways and with varying degrees of cynical-ness. But, methinks, you wouldn't be doing your big picture generational function if you didn't point out BS when you see it. :)