We Need to Support the Committee Structure at The Cloister


When we bought our Cloister home we were handed a huge folder of papers that accumulated starting at the time when this development was being built, the owners were the first purchasers of our current Cloister home, we were the second.

Things appeared to be done by homeowner/volunteers who contributed their efforts where needed and where they had an interest. Today The Cloister is very fortunate to have a wonderful group of committee volunteers but many have been doing what they do for a long time and I feel they can use the support of we newer residents.

I served on the HOA Board and was Chairperson of the committee to schedule the volunteer podiatrist who visits the clubhouse every second month and provides foot inspection and toenail trimming for $30 for a session. After several years I gave that job up to another volunteer and decided I would volunteer my efforts to publish a hopefully useful blog website of use to the community.

The last two Chairpersons of the “Grounds and Beautification” Committee were not very happy troopers. Neither stayed in that position after they realized the utter difficulty of changing anything or getting anything done that did not make some group of residents unhappy, I was told by both of them that neither could take any significant action without strict oversight by the elected board President who authorized all committees and selected the committee chairpersons and members. The Grounds and Beautification Committee is now merged with the ARMS (Architectural Review and Maintenance) committee. Maybe we need a resurrected Grounds and Beautification Committee consisting of several people who were willing to put in the effort and put up with the hassle because they will not be able to satisify everyone!!!!

See my previous post on The Cloister Committee structure: https://cloisterliving.wordpress.com/2011/12/27/cloister-home-owners-association-standing-committees-contribute-to-the-cloister-experience/

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14 thoughts on “We Need to Support the Committee Structure at The Cloister

  1. What we need are volunteers to help and serve on the various committees or areas that are not covered by the existing committee structure and perhaps chair a committee. But I definitely think that decision making must rest with our elected board of directors. John Eley may have suggested a good approach with Ad Hoc groups consisting of persons with common interests, for example the Book Review Group.

    • I think that Ad Hoc Committees are good at that point where owners feel that there are no appropriate official avenues for having seat and voice on key issues. They are not very good at moving the Cloister owners as a collective body toward real change when a majority wants change. That is why the Ad Hoc Committee on Plantings and Pets is stressing learning objectives and opportunities for interaction with the Board. Beyond that the committee cannot do much and it will have to leave it to others to move to a new mechanism such as special meetings which are allowed under the by-laws. In such meetings owners can have seat, voice and vote and the Cloister can function as a true self-governing entity.

      Of course nothing precludes the Board from establishing a committee that could function as a commission charged with examining the adequacy of the current Cloister governance system from the vantage point of modern theories of governance. A democratically minded Board could move in that direction of its own immediately.

      Finally I want to make it clear that the provisions in the by-laws for special meetings anticipated the use of such meetings when the Cloister owners were facing major decisions which would impact on all owners. Those persons who saw the need for this knew perfectly well that most decisions could be made by a small Board rather than by all the owners-most but not all.

  2. Over the early years I have lived here I attempted to contribute to the Cloister News only to find that a number of times my submission was censored out and never included in the newsletter, and noone said a thing to me, my submissions simply didn’t show up in the newsletter. The current HOA board was not involved and this is in no way a criticism of this HOA board nor is it a criticism of our great editor who has put up with more than I would ever do. The recent reaction by newer residents to recent events indicates to me that there is a serious problem with communication within our community.

    The list of committee members I posted on this blog last December is nearly a year old and was provided to me by Mr. Sangervesi. Yes, I am speaking out because this is my community and have watched over nearly ten years the structure and procedures that were initially set up gradually deteriorate as my friends and neighbors who purchased a unit at The Cloister, even before their unit was finished, age and die, and over time the traditions that worked in their time no longer work as well.

    The first owners set up a telephone network under the Telephone Committee with a Chairperson and six volunteers, each responsible to contact their assigned list of neighbors. This committee no longer exists. Ways to communicate change over the decades.

    If when I speak my truth to friends and neighbors and they decide to take offense, so be it. That’s all I have to say about the resentments of others right now. If you have questions, you are asking the wrong person for answers. I just live here, I served as a volunteer on a committee and I served on the board of directors and I attempted to contribute when I was on the Finance Committee. I’m simply calling it the way I see it.

    • Pete, I agree with you that communications is the main problem.
      Your idea of needing to have internet publishing of our newsletter is a good idea. The reality of changes is real, thus the fears of those who are losing a grasp on the old ways of communicating. Transitions are difficult for everyone, but perhaps most difficult for those who have more driving concerns as they age.
      So, I was inquiring about your stance to possibly give you an opportunity to respond with a clarification; hoping you meant to communicate that we can have the newsletter be in both modes in this transition time.
      I apologize for my ineptness in trying to get that clarity. I did not intend to upset you or cause a problem for anyone. We have here a prime example of how communications can go awry with unintended consequences.
      Finding a common ground is only done through communication based on the understanding of those with whom we communicate. Again, i apologize for addressing the issue of the newsletter and for my lack of clarity in my intent.

      My questions to you and any others are not questions to any authority other than the authority of each homeowner to engage in productive discussion. Can we have a civil conversation and share ideas regarding the organization of our homeowner’s association? I am not suggesting you or any of us have all the answers.

      How do we as a community of homeowners support “our” committees if we do not have clearly established and understood descriptions, procedures and policies?
      How do we educate ourselves and others to the governing role of an established condominium? How do we do that in a way that doesn’t seem to pit homeowner against board or each other? (There will always be some who see that duality and make it a point of contention.)
      That is not a question for “just” the board to consider. It is a question that needs to be discussed by concerned homeowners and board members ARE concerned homeowners. What such a discussion MIGHT lead to is an education of all homeowners in an understanding of the importance and weight of the board members task.
      What are some acceptable/productive ideas we who “just live here” can contribute?
      The problem is getting together and learning just what the board members roles are in our lives. Can we actually face each other with ideas and possibilities and have the fortitude to stand in person to express and discuss our lack of understanding that WE HAVE JOINED A COMMUNITY, not just moved to a address?

  3. Pete and all who contribute here:
    I have offered my services as editor (26-year career) to help to update and re-design the homeowner’s manual. But have not gotten anything but a bit of a nod from John Sangervesi
    that he would “welcome” my help.
    I moved here in 2008 and when I found who to ask, asked for and received the 2006 version of the homeowner’s manual along with a note that it was being updated.
    It is now almost 2013 and I have not seen an update. The 2006 version really is a mess
    as far as layout and delineation of information is concerned.

    My take is that that particular item needs to be a 5″ x 7″ loose leaf notebook to allow dated page updates rather than complete re-publishing, giving individual homeowners one place to preserve and update info while keeping some semblance of order as the board members change (and age).
    The newsletter is fine for announcing and explaining a given “rule/regulation” that is being newly
    presented, but it doesn’t serve the purpose for individual record keeping.

    Your list of committees and duties—where did you get that? Does it seem that John Sangervesi
    is pretty much driving all committees? Does that list reflect what the president of the board has always headed up? If committees are to be homeowners, how is Charles a committee member?
    He could be a consultant to a committee, but a member?

    What do you think of my suggestions? And, how do you think we might get some of our
    ideas across to the board and to the homeowners as a whole?

    Pete: I am not sure where your statements re: internet access to the newsletter came from,
    but it is circulating (at least by word of mouth) and some people are unhappy with its contents–feel you have disparaged them. What I heard via the grapevine was poorly stated, but I do believe you meant to be stirring the pot to get the newsletter online, while not necessarily having
    in not printed also. Am I correct? Just a heads up for what might seem to be a negative reception by some who took offense.

    • Your assessment of the Owners Manual is right on. As a policy communication it fails in almost all respects. It appears that no one responsible for it knows how to write policy and provide guidance based on it.
      I concur with you idea of the Manual in loose leaf form.
      I am aware of at least one other retired editor who could help out on this.
      Please try again with the Board.

      • Thank you, John, for your reply. I have been waiting for someone
        to contact me—not a productive stance to take. Your affirmation and encouragement is helpful. (Editors communicate through design and manipulation of content while not changing intent of message. It is easier to do that than to talk for me. But, I will try again.

  4. Pete
    Thanks for raising the issue of Committees at the Cloister. It is clear that under current practices the committees which are to function as independent entities serving the owners as a whole have become extensions of the Board. We need active independent broadly representative committees. We certainly need a communications committee with people who understand how to communicate with a diverse citizenry. We probably need a separate beautification committee that can play a role in making sure that trimming of shrubs and trees is accomplished in a way that the natural beauty is accomplished.

    • I moved here in 2003, at the time individuals, under the supervision of Mr. Geldrich were the commitees. As far as I know they were not on the board. They were mostly ignored by the residents. I had one tell me that the people that were her neighbors did as they pleased and ignored the Commitee, she was a long time resident compared to me. Later there were at least 3 Commitees named trying to get the residents to comply with the by-laws covering trees, shrubs and flowers, all resigned in frustration.

      Sorry Mr. Eely I think this would probably be true of whoever took on the job. One thing you can say for the present Board and “Commitee” they are not being ignored. Have you noticed the truck loads of trimmed shrubs and bushes? You may not always agree with them but they are getting some things done.

      • The story you just told is very valuable. I think that you point to a major problem. We have an active board that wants to get things done to repair and undo the damage produced by owners who did not comply the rules and perhaps by past Boards who allowed this to happen, ( I cannot speak from experience here have no experience with this since I was not a resident here until April 2012.) .The current Board deserves credit for its effort. At the same time we have continued the alienation of the owners from the Board because this Board is doing a lot behind closed doors, or at least appears to be doing things that way (and that is what counts). Are we willing to have alienated owners and an active Board? Why not find a way to have an empowered body of owners and an active Board working together? I think that this is something important to try to get done? Any ideas?

    • Committees are creatures of the Board, not “independent entities.” Any actions they take, routine or otherwise, are at the pleasure of the Board. Trying to run this place with committees would be, in my opinion, a tragic mistake. Of course, the Board is well served by committees that are diligent in their duties.

        • I am not quite sure how we got to this point of disagreement. I guess that it was my fault because I let my typing get ahead of my thoughts. I wanted to say that to the extent that committees are useful as advice givers to the Board, they ought to be independent entities able to look at subjects without influence from the Board . If committees are extensions of the Board and does it bidding it cannot provide independent advice. To the extent that this advice is needed this is a loss. To the extent that it is not needed there is no loss.

          Having said this I concur that committees cannot run the Cloister, but there is a real danger that a committee can provide cover for the Board when the Board wants to do something that is going to be controversial.So we have to be careful.

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