15 April 2008

For Some in Wilde Lake, Diversity Stands in the Way of Getting Things Done

Last night, the Wilde Lake Community Association sponsored a Candidates Night for the upcoming Wilde Lake Village Board and Columbia Council Representative Elections. The event (based on past Wilde Lake Candidates Night standards) was well attended, with about forty residents and property owners in the audience. After opening statements of each of the candidates (including myself), a vigorous question and answer session ensued. Much of the discussion centered around the Wilde Lake Village Center. Other topics of discussion included the Plaza Tower in downtown and the recent Interfaith Center architectural decision.

At the end of the evening, a Wilde Lake resident asked about the mailer sent out to select people in the community that advocated for a “slate” of candidates. The question posed (and I’m paraphrasing here) was “Why should I vote for a particular slate of candidates, rather than vote for people based on their individual merits?” Wilde Lake Village Board Chairperson Vince Marando was first to answer the question and replied as follows (again, paraphrasing here) “I reached out to people of like mind because the only way to get things done is to have people who have the same opinion.”

As a statement of fact, the candidates running as a slate are Vince Marando, Mary Pivar, Lisa Mikkelsen, Phil Kirsch, and Elliott Simons. Lisa Mikkelsen was unable to attend the Candidates Night event. All five are Caucasian, with four of the five (Marando, Mikkelsen, Pivar, Kirsch) living within a few hundred yards of each other. A majority of slate candidates (Simons, Marando, Pivar) have lived in Columbia for more than thirty years. Phil Kirsch has been in Columbia for about twenty years and I believe Lisa Mikkelsen has been in Wilde Lake for a few years. Most are retired.

Given the racial, geographical, tenure and current occupational similarities of this group, it appears that Chairperson Marando has an additional requirement, a similarity between the ears.

In this time of great change in our Interfaith Center appearance, the continued Village Center concerns, and downtown development at Wilde Lake’s doorstep, it appears that Mr. Marando (and by extension, all other candidates that chose to sign on to the slate campaign), through the slate of candidates, seeks to limit ideas and input to the process. Certainly, residents are encouraged to speak out at meetings and contact elected representatives of the Village Board to voice their concerns, but Mr. Marando has implied that a single mindset should control the votes of the board.

I take the opposite view. Wilde Lake needs diversity in order to effectively address the current and future needs of the Village. By excluding differing viewpoints, the tools available to the Village Board will be diminished, and the solutions rendered will not fully address the needs of the community.

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