Friday, June 17, 2016

Two and a half years have passed since I last posted anything on this blog but something happened today that has driven me back to the keyboard.  

I pulled out of the driveway this morning and was sitting at the stop sign at the intersection of Sweetbay and Narcissa, and here comes a shiny white car whipping around the corner from Narcissa to Sweetbay without even a pause at the other stop sign. 

On impulse, I leaned on my horn.  The driver, who had already passed me,  stopped, backed up, lowered her window and said: "What's the problem?"

"I guess you didn't see the stop sign?" I asked.

"Yes I saw it!" she retorted sharply. "There was no one there. I didn't interfere with anyone. I didn't interfere with you. Chill out!" she commanded.

"But you're supposed to stop," I said.

"Chill out!" she yelled again. And with a look of disgust, she sped on her way. She is, of course, not the only person who has ever run a stop sign in Portuguese Bend.'s the bad news. The last time I looked at the DMV instruction book, it said the law requires drivers to come to a COMPLETE STOP at all stop signs. Period.

So, no. I don't think I'll chill out.

Instead, I offer this suggestion to the snippy woman in the white car,  and everyone else who seems to think that it's OK to whip through stop signs if no one is around:

Alternately, we could just remove all the stop signs in Portuguese Bend.

Would that make everyone happier?

Saturday, January 11, 2014

A Few Thoughts About Transparency and Oversight

Happy New Year!

I seem to have fallen off the blogging horse. An entire year has gone by since my last post.  But maybe it's not too late to resuscitate this thing.

A few thoughts after the most recent board meeting...which provided ample evidence that democracy can be difficult.  (If this were a college exam, the essay question at this point might be: Two words that we hear a lot about these days are "transparency" and "oversight." Discuss.)

Prior to the January meeting, one of our residents asked for a copy of the check register for the last six months. And then the resident asked questions about checks that were written: amounts, recipients, missing checks. The questions were direct. At the meeting, the board provided answers and explanations, asked if there were more questions, there were none. The board was thanked. Everyone seemed happy, I thought.

I was wrong. At that point, a new resident commented that, based on his experience as a director of a much larger board, he believed that board members were elected to do a job and that members needed to trust those they elected to do a good job. (In other words, don't ask so many questions.)  Board Chair Bob Cumby said that he agreed, and that if members wanted to oversee every move the board made, then it didn't make much sense to have a board.

If I understood Bob Cumby correctly, what he wound up saying was that the members of the board work hard and do what they think is right and that if association members are not  happy with what the board is doing, or if they don't trust the incumbents,  members should vote them out of office.

It seemed clear to me that board members were offended by the questions that had been asked.

Time for  transparency

Long time resident Jeanne Smolley suggested that some transparency in board operations might be helpful. For instance: if the treasurer's report indicated "who got paid for what," it would clarify expenditures. Also helpful: copies of the treasurer's report available for those at the meeting. (The board stopped providing these months ago because they said, they printed them and no one took them. It was obvious at the meeting, however, that at least a few residents would appreciate having copies of these reports made available at each meeting.)

Now comes oversight 

Maybe it's not fair to compare the Portuguese Bend Board to Congress, or even the RPV City council. But they ARE all organizations of elected officials. There is some oversight with Congress and the city council. That's the job of the press...reporters for radio, tv, blogs, newspapers, magazines. The press has access to elected officials, so the electorate can learn what our representatives are doing. Reporters are able to ask elected officials questions.  And if elected officials don't want to answer: too bad. Reporters keep asking...or at least, they should if they are good reporters. And then they tell us, the electorate, who is doing what and where our tax money is being spent. (That's why the press is called the Fourth Estate.) They do this so we know who to vote for. A well-informed electorate is a basic necessity for democracy to work properly.

But there are no reporters asking questions of the Portuguese Bend Board members. There IS no press involved.  So how, then,  does our Portuguese Bend electorate get informed?

Members have to go to the monthly board meetings to know what is going on.

Unfortunately, few do.

Board members may view low attendance at board meetings as lack of interest on the part of residents.

  • But maybe it's that residents are tired after working all day, 
  • or they don't have a sitter, 
  • or they are working late, 
  • or they forgot. 
The important thing is that residents have no way of knowing what their elected representatives are doing except via direct attendance at board meetings... or rumor.

This is not the best way to get an informed electorate.

In the past there has been a newsletter. And for a while, there was a website.

At the moment, the only communication that residents have about board activities is by reading very brief minutes of meetings, which arrive via email a few hours before the next month after events have taken place.

Our board members are our friends and neighbors and they are giving of their time and brain power to make this community what it is. And we appreciate their efforts.

But should that preclude asking questions?

What do you think?

btw: the election is next month.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Thank You, Thank You, Thank You...

...To Lisa Gladstone and Dr. Milt Owens who provided a warm and inviting location for Saturday's informational meeting on the Zone 2 Draft Environmental Impact Report.

...To Jim Knight who provided background, information, explanations, ideas about and insight into the report.

...And to all our neighbors who turned out for the meeting and asked questions, provided information and expressed enthusiastic interest in our community and its future. More people showed up for the meeting than I've seen in the last two years at the monthly Board meetings!

More information, including important points to consider in the E.I.R., will be coming out of that meeting in the next day or two. Watch this space.

Until then, a reminder: Final written comments on the draft E.I.R. are due by 5 p.m. November 20. That is 10 days from now. If you have not already written to the City Council, start organizing your ideas now.

The document is here:  If you don't want to read the entire document, at least read the summary. When writing to the City Council about this, remember to relate your comments directly to specific points in the E.I.R.

Finally, there is a new communication tool only for residents of Portuguese Bend. Check it out  here:

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Confused About the E.I.R? Saturday Meeting Should Help

The Zone 2 Draft Environmental Impact Report has been available for some time. If you have not seen it, it's here:  It's huge and it's technical and for the average person (me), understanding all the jargon about geology and hydrology is a major challenge. 

So why bother? Well, if you live in Portuguese Bend, it affects you. So it really would be smart to have some understanding of what it says. You can make things a little easier on yourself by downloading the executive summary and plowing through that. But even that is a hard read.

The PBCA Board held a Town Meeting several weeks ago and fewer than two dozen residents showed up to hear a presentation by an RPV planner.  The RPV City Council heard citizen comments on the document last night.

But many people still have questions.

So this Saturday, November 10,  everyone  can get answers and hear ideas at a  3 p.m. meeting at 18 Cinnamon Lane where Lisa Gladstone has offered to host the event. 

Jim Knight, a Bend resident as well as former Planning Commissioner and incumbent RPV City Council member has agreed to lead the discussion. He really knows the ropes  and we're lucky to have him in our community.

All residents are welcome to attend and bring their ideas and ask questions. Those who already have written to the city regarding the document are asked to bring their letters to share. 

And Lisa has asked those who come to bring a lawn chair. We hope it will be crowded.

See you Saturday, I hope!

Monday, February 20, 2012

There's an OOPS In Our PBCA Election

At the January  PBCA Board Meeting, an association member announced that she had told a member of the nominating committee that she wanted to run for the Board in the upcoming election, but, she pointed out, her name was not on the ballot, which had arrived in most members' mailboxes that day, along with annual reports and an annual financial report.

The reason for the omission was not clear, but might have been related to the fact that the usual procedures for conducting an election were not followed this year. Ordinarily, the Board names a nominating committee in December and sends information about the upcoming election to all association members immediately afterward. This mailing normally includes information about dates for applying to run for office as well as forms to fill out and filing instructions for potential candidates.  Once the cut-off date has passed, ballots are compiled and mailed to all members well in advance of the February annual meeting, at which time all ballots are counted and election results are announced.

None of that happened this year. 

There was an announcement on the two community bulletin boards that the annual meeting would be delayed until March because of a problem with the annual financial report.

An announcement giving the names of nominating committee members was posted on the bulletin boards several weeks before the ballots arrived in the mail.  In fact, that notice was still up on the bulletin boards the day the ballots arrived.

In view of all this confusion, the board decided at the January meeting to have a "do over."

In response to my inquiries, an email from Board Chairman Bob Cumby, received last Friday said: "The repeat nominating/election process is in motion.  A community notice will go out as soon as the dates are set.  Tentative date for the Annual Meeting is April 17.  Nomination mailings will go out today or tomorrow."

If you have had second thoughts about running for the board, you now have a second chance.

If you have already voted--sorry; you get to vote again later.

If you have not voted yet--don't worry. That first ballot is no good anyway. Pitch it, but save the annual reports. 

Mark your calendar for April 17, tentatively, for the PBCA Annual Meeting and election.

Watch for new election information in your mailbox.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Does Anyone Know What's Going On Here?

The members of the Portuguese Bend Board of Directors are our neighbors, all of whom have volunteered to do the jobs in our community that need doing; additionally, they all have busy private lives, and they are trying hard to be of service to our community, and so, out of respect for that and a desire to "get along," I have bitten my tongue and remained silent. 

For too long.

Even though I have been to almost every board meeting for the last two years,  looking back, I realize that I have very little idea of what is going on, for a variety of reasons. 

First: it is hard to keep track of the players. Over the last couple of years three board members--Casey Porter, Mike Cooper and Tim Kelly...resigned. The remaining board members chose to replace them with Suzanne Black-Griffith, Joan McClellan and Bob Cumby. By and large, these replacements arrived unannounced and un-introduced until, at one meeting, a resident asked who was who and what was going on.

Second: It is often difficult to follow the board discussions. At the February board meeting, I thought perhaps I was going completely deaf until someone behind me called out, "Are we supposed to be able to hear you?" The response was something to the effect that the board was meeting and we were guests and guests would be heard from at the end of the meeting. The four board members in attendance did not make any attempt to raise their voices and thus, most of their discussion was unintelligible to many in the audience. 

Third:  The first part of every meeting is devoted to architectural committee business which always is confusing for a variety of reasons.  In the first place, the committe membership changes from month to month. Most recently it appears to consist of Bob Halderman, Gordon Leon, Mike Cooper and Kim Nelson, who hasn't been there since it was announced that she has returned to the group.  Additionally, the meeting consists of conversation about addresses, names, private conversations with builders and building progress, which are unfamiliar, at least to me. 

Fourth: The architectural meeting is followed by the regular board meeting, which begins with board members each reading a copy of the minutes silently and approving them. Copies of the minutes of both the architectural committee and the board are unavailable for audience members. Copies of architectural committee minutes never have been available. However, up until five meetings ago, a few copies of the board minutes and the financial report were available for the first few community members who showed up. Apparently, at the one meeting I missed, the board voted to discontinue this practice as a cost cutting measure. Two months ago, I asked if perhaps the secretary could email me a copy of the minutes. I was assured that she would. Nothing was forthcoming. It isn't clear to me why copies of the minutes could not be emailed to everyone in the community with one click of a computer key. If anyone knows why this is impossible, please enlighten me.

The same goes for the financial report. Minimal at best, because it has never included a check register to show who got what, it at least showed how much money was spent in various categories. Copies of it are no longer available either. Couldn't that be emailed to?

Fifth: There is little or no communication between the board and the community. In December, in anticipation of elections at the February general meeting, several people volunteered to be on the nominating committee. No announcement of the appointments, nor any announcement of board positions that would be open followed. 

Two days ago, a notice appeared on community bulletin boards telling residents that three positions are open on the board and anyone who wants to apply should contact Tim Kelly. Just how to do this is unclear.

And then today, an email message from Bob Cumby that is making the rounds, explained that the nominating committee has found people to fill the spots on the board. Evidently this happened BEFORE the general notice went up. I feel as if I came in on the middle of the movie and missed the most important clue as to who did what to whom.

The same bulletin board notice tells us that the General Meeting will be delayed a month because of the fire, which cut short the January board meeting, as well as a change in our Certified Public Accountant. Who knew? Does anyone know why that happened?

Does this mean we will have a February meeting of the board? Or nothing until March?

Another example of a communication problem involves the upcoming Palos Verdes Art Center Homes Tour in Portuguese Bend. At least one resident is up in arms because Jim York has applied for a Conditional Use Permit for his Event Center so that the Art Association can have a luncheon there for people who buy tickets for the tour.  Representatives of the Homes Tour approached the Board at least a year ago, and subsequently made a presentation at a Board meeting during which they explained how they proposed to conduct the tour in our community.  Several PBCA members went on last year's tour to get a better idea of how it worked, and reported back that they were very impressed with the organization of the event, security and the entire operation. At that time, the Board approved the request. 

But no one told the community members about the decision. Too bad.

No one told community members when the Board voted to raise the assessments five per cent for the coming year, either.

In the past we had a newsletter. 

Later, we had a web site. 

Then we had occasional emails.

Now, we have nothing. 

Does anyone care?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Holidays In the Bend Get Off To A Good Start With Caroling and a Party

An enthusiastic group of singers, some on foot and some on horseback, gathered at the huge eucalyptus tree by the Bean Field last Sunday night and set out to bring a little seasonal cheer to Portuguese Bend. 

Horses and their riders sported glowing red and green holiday lights, (battery operated of course),  while carolers carried flashlights,  candles and song books. The musical group wandered down Sweetbay, turned on Narcissa,  and wound up at Five Points before  the horses grew impatient and the singers grew chilly and winded. 

After the horses went home, carolers, riders and other residents gathered at Dottie and Howard Towle's home for some conversation accompanied by hot spiced cider, hot spiced wine, cookies, brownies and figgy pudding, compliments of Gigi Greene.

It was a terrific way to get reacquainted with neighbors not seen for a while, and to meet some folks who are new to the neighborhood. If you missed it, you missed out. 

Thanks to Howard and Dottie Towle, who opened their home for the evening, and Gigi, thanks to whom we now understand why all those singers have, for years, been demanding, "Give us some figgy pudding, right now." Everyone there had a great time.

BTW: The dessert was excellent and Gigi has been kind enough to share the source of the recipe, for anyone who wants to give it a try:

As for a repeat performance, the group probably could cover more of the Bend next year if some helpful resident would provide transportation for the singers: a tractor hauling hay, an open-back truck, or even a sleigh/wagon would work very well. The horses seem to manage very well on four legs.

Now, on to the Arty Party.