The March 15 membership meeting for the Mount Washington Community Development Corporation started and ended with an argument.
What happened in between wasn't much fun either.
The purpose of the meeting was to vote on approving by-law changes for the organization as recommended by its board of directors.
State Sen. Wayne Fontana came to the meeting to address the group but never got a chance to speak and soon left the premises.
MWCDC vice-president Frank Valenta motioned that the group get down to business and discuss and vote on the by-laws instead of allowing Mr. Fontana to talk first. “Our vote concerns Mount Washington. He doesn't live in Mount Washington. He can wait,” he said.
Members Diane Delmar, Kim Barthelmes and Georgia Blotzer protested that the MWCDC was being rude to its guest.
Members voted 34 to 14 to discuss and vote on the by-laws.
“I just felt terrible. He came from Harrisburg to seek our opinions and ask about our concerns and we didn't afford him the opportunity,” Ms. Blotzer said just after the meeting ended.
Mr. Valenta later said he phoned Mr. Fontana and apologized. But he said he still thought it inappropriate for the state senator to speak at a membership voting meeting.
Mr. Valenta urged the group to discuss a by-law change he championed, that would require a majority vote by board of directors to change or repeal by-laws. Currently a two thirds vote is required. In both instances the by-law changes would then be subject to a vote by the MWCDC members regarding approval.
However some members that night resisted discussion of Mr. Valenta's proposed change. They said the board of directors had not approved that proposed revision for discussion. They maintained it was out of order for Mr. Valenta to raise the issue that night.
“I motion that we move on with the rest of the meeting,” Ms. Blotzer said. After more discussion her motion passed 42 to 9.
During that discussion executive director Ethan Raup said he was disheartened by what he was hearing. He said he was aware of “finger pointing” and “bullying” and that one hardworking board director was considering quitting.
He said he had been proud of recent MWCDC accomplishments and of goals set during a board retreat and planning session in February.
“I'm seeing it all unravel. I'm ashamed to be part of it right now,” Mr. Raup said.
“We should quit arguing over penny ante stuff and figure out what to do for the hill,” Rich Komacki, one of the board members, said during the discussion.
In other business, approval of three new by-laws came without much opposition.
One gave Aug. 1 as the date for collection of dues. Another made June a month for a member voting meeting, in addition to meetings held in October and March. A third changed the reference from corporation to MWCDC in the by-laws.
There was also discussion of legislation Councilman Dan Deasy favors that would affect landlords and tenants. The bill proposes a $25 annual permit fee per rental unit and mandatory inspection of the units every two years.
“At first glance it seems like a really good thing,” said member Ginny Gates. But the inspections would be hard to arrange and “an invasion of privacy,” she said.
The group voted 50 to 2 to have more discussion after someone comes to the MWCDC to answer questions and to explain the proposed legislation.
Mr. Valenta then motioned to adjourn. Members objected they had other issues they wanted to discuss but his motion passed.