The Mount Washington Community Development Corporation traditionally has a Candidates Night in September, so candidates for seats on the board of directors can promote themselves and can garner votes at the October election.
Not this year.
Instead, such presentations were derailed on Sept. 16 by a long and angry disagreement at the membership meeting on how the MWCDC's nominating committee chose the eight board candidates to be considered for this year's election.
The committee, overseen by board member Pete Karlovich, interviewed candidates but rejected some. That had never happened before. In previous years, anyone who opted to run was eligible to run for election.
The bottom line was a disagreement on who would control the future destiny of the organization.
Executive Director Chris Beichner later said, so far there are no plans to reschedule Candidates Night.
Board member and past president Frank Valenta led opposition to the new procedure by the committee. There were two factions bickering at the meeting and both accused each other of the same motives.
Mr. Karlovich and board president J.T. Smith said in the past Mr. Valenta had some of his friends voted into office, so they could endorse his opinions on how things should be run in the organization. Mr. Valenta said the other side wanted a clique of "professionals" and the "average Joe" was no longer welcome as a board member.
Mr. Valenta, board member Anne Massucci and others vented anger that a board member who was not present at the meeting but is known for spending many hours involved with MWCDC youth activities, had her candidacy rejected.
Mr. Karlovich suggested the people who wanted to run for the board and others might form a citizens' council to handle everyday problems like parking and unsightly property and the MWCDC board could concern itself with development. He also said there were plenty of activities and meetings where residents could volunteer their help.
"I love Frank," member Ginny Gates said. "He is one of the best workers our organization ever had. But I hated Frank's slate…If you weren't on that slate, you didn't get on. It was so wrong…What it comes down to is that it is either Frank's slate or the nominating committee's slate."
Mr. Valenta complained the committee only wanted board members who were local business owners or were involved in real estate, development, tourism, conservation, grant writing or accounting.
"If you are a member in good standing, you should be allowed to run," Ms. Massucci said; she added though she thought those chosen by the committee were fine people.
People whose candidacy was rejected asked why they were turned down. One woman said, "You are talking to us like we're dumb."
"The key difference between a personal slate and the nominating committee's picks is that Frank picks who is on the board," Mr. Smith said. "That is not what our funders (who supply grant money) are looking for." He said the board shouldn't "let any random person who doesn't know our programs be elected."
Mr. Valenta pointed out he and his friends supported Mr. Smith, Mr. Karlovich and other board members when they ran for their positions.
"It is 9:00 and all you have done is argue," Father Victor Cianca pointed out.
Board member Mike Tabachnick put a positive spin on it. "The passion here is what makes our community great."
Mr. Valenta wanted a vote that night on allowing all 14 board applicants to have their names on the organization's October ballot. But Mr. Karlovich and Mr. Smith said Roberts Rules of Order required a quorum for that vote and it would require more than half of the 230 members to be present.
"There are people here that you brought in to vote this down," Mr. Smith, who was running the meeting, told Mr. Valenta.
However, he permitted the vote although he said it wasn't proper. The motion passed 21 to 19. "A landslide victory," Mr. Smith joked. The matter, as required by the bylaws, was referred to the board to make a decision about the ballots.
Mr. Karlovich then said he was going to resign. "I don't need this."
After the meeting when things were calmer, he said he might reconsider and explained he wanted to see what happened with the election.
The candidates scheduled to speak at Candidates Night were: Emily Anderson, Tom Brady (current board member who is running for vice president), Father Cianca, Phil Delmer, Jerry Dettore (who is running as board member and treasurer), Joanna Doven (who works for the mayor), Eric Horwith, Jon Lusin (as vice president), Gloria Ostermeyer, J.T. Smith (who is running for president) and Mike Tabachnick.
Mr. Smith, Mr. Brady and Mr. Lusin are current board members who are running for officer positions; Mr. Dettore, also on the board, is running for reelection and for treasurer.
Candidates' backgrounds can be read at the web site: 15211.org. In other business Mr. Beichner said developer Craig Cozza was fined by District Magisterial Judge James Motznik for not maintaining his property along the 1400 block of Grandview Avenue and is appealing the fine on Oct. 12. He said the developer has replaced the sidewalk and leveled the land on the property.
An open house is scheduled from 2 to 5 p.m. Sept. 29 at the new South Hills Retirement Residence, the former South Hills High School at 125 Ruth Street.
The Wild Art Wild Trails Festival will be held from 1 to 4 p.m. Oct. 3 at Mount Washington Park, also known as Dillworth Park. Artists and attendees will turn dump site garbage collected from the park into works of art. The fun includes an art cart, a climbing wall and high tech treasure hunting.