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NCPCA – Why Limit, Can’t it Flourish?

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An interesting debate is brewing at NCPCA on who can vote and who cannot. A change in by-laws on membership rules was introduced in last month’s meeting. Members will vote on this change on January 14.

The proposed by-laws change will limit only up to two residents in a house to vote on NCPCA matters, no matter how many adults (related or not) live in that house.

I enjoy spending time to bring other residents to be part of the NCPCA, and thus, I took special interest in the proposed changes in membership rules.

I had chances to speak with some of the current NCPCA members; many of them actually believe that limiting number of voters to only 1 or 2 in a house equals taking away the most important democratic right a citizen in this country can have: the right to vote. They are of the conviction that denial of such rights is also taking the association backward to a time when women and African Americans could not vote in this country.

Many also find it amusing that a resident is being denied the chance to vote, when the same person just voted to elect their council members two months ago and a president two years ago.

It appears that the proposed changes are based on an unfounded notion of members leaving NCPCA in large numbers because they feel the association allows too many members in one household to vote.

I see such concerns are factually incorrect. One of my jobs as the civic association’s secretary is to help keep track of the members present in its meetings. To the best of my knowledge, I haven’t seen large families with everyone in house participating in the meeting in the past. I also haven’t seen “a lot” of members leaving the association in recent time; our membership has been fairly steady, if not increasing dramatically. True we have lost a few (and I hope they will come back), but speaking with some of them, I found that the reasons for their leaving are anything but being subdued by large families.

Others think that, with NCPCA’s membership not being the most sought after item in a resident’s life,  such an amendment may actually be pushing all members of a large family away from coming to NCPCA, because they will feel disenfranchised because of such undemocratic action.

Proponents of the amendment think that members of a large family should be stripped off from their voting rights because many of them “do not understand the rules of procedure” in the meetings. Such a notion seems a lot of disrespect to these members.

If the size of the family is the yardstick to measure who can vote or who cannot, how do we know just because one or two persons live in a house, they automatically understand the rules of engagement in the meetings, opponents of the proposed amendment ask.

Stripping members of large families from their voting rights will also send a wrong message to our younger family members. Consider my college going son, Arif, who is also serving as the webmaster of the NCPCA website http://myncpca.org. I wonder what incentive he will have in continuing to serve NCPCA when he turns 18 at the end of this year and finds out that he cannot vote. I’m sure there are other young members like Arif in other families that will feel the same way.

That sounds like punishing a family just because it decided to grow!

Now that’s a great way to attract young members to the association. Should we then limit NCPCA’s membership to older generation only?

I’ve also heard concerns that such changes will discourage civic participation of growing minority communities such as Asians and Latinos, who generally have large members in their families. These are the communities that we all have been struggling to bring to the fold of the NCPCA. The concerns go even further – if this is indeed the case, aren’t we doing something that goes against our constitution?

The other groups that will suffer from such a drastic actions are students and families who rent in a shared household with their landlords. Now talk more about citizen rights!!

Also think about the complexities large family members will face in deciding how to vote on a NCPCA matter. Do we see regular monthly family feuds in making?

NCPCA officers will also face unnecessary complexities in deciding whose vote to take in the regular meetings if more than two members from the same house are present in future meetings.

I haven’t seen any other nearby civic association that defines its household by only one or two persons living in one house. Here is how the oldest civic association (est. 1885) in our area deals with its membership.

By all means, we should all try our best to increase our membership, not to reduce it by restrictive membership rules.

The credibility of our association to the public officials depends much on the strength of our membership. I wonder how much credible our association appears to our elected officials when only 0.01% of the population votes on an important matter that affects the entire neighborhood.

True an increased membership may force us to rethink about the meeting location and format, but the size of our association’s membership strength shouldn’t be limited by the size of a room in Davis Hall, but the overall size of our nearly 10,000 member strong neighborhood.

A strong NCPCA membership also means a slew of volunteer driven civic activities. At a time when our residents are threatened by higher taxes and the cost of city services ever rising, we need more members to serve in various important programs and activities to take care of residents’ needs.

I much appreciate the ultimate goal of the amendment – to bring harmony and cohesiveness to the association. Unfortunately, I can see talks of such changes are already causing a toxic atmosphere by putting small families against large ones and students against residents. Most feedback I’ve received from the members point me to this conclusion that such a change is backward, undemocratic, divisive, and anti-family, and is thus unnecessary.

Thinking about our neighborhood association’s membership is a good one, but let’s not step backward by discouraging and limiting more residents from becoming part of our association. Let us move forward with an increased and vibrant membership goal – let’s all work together to make it flourish.

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15 Comments to “NCPCA – Why Limit, Can’t it Flourish?”

  1. By Mohammed Hossain, January 6, 2010 @ 3:20 pm

    Difference between dictionary meaning of ‘family’ and the one defined by the proponents of the amendment is distinct here.
    NCPCA is a voice of all citizens of North College Park, not a closed door club, where rules and regulations can not be understood by general public! North College park residents statistics will make more histories to confirm city’s historic authenticity!

  2. By Nisar, January 6, 2010 @ 4:02 pm

    I have always believed that a fundamental right of ALL citizens of the United States is to vote. This change in the By-Laws will restrict this fundamental right. I thought the NCPCA should be encouraging voting and not restricting it!

    Just my 2 cents

  3. By Matthew Byrd, January 6, 2010 @ 6:26 pm

    I think there are a couple of fundamental flaws with the proposal. One is the assertion that the NCPCA is a private club. Well, yes and no. It IS a private club, but one for the benefit of the membership, which is open to all residents of North College Park over the age of 18. There is no special privilege specified in the by-laws for those who have been attending meetings regularly, or have lived in the community for a long time, or fully grasp the use of Robert’s Rules of Order, or who live in “traditional” households of one or two adults.

    Folks, the times have changed. Economic circumstances have forced a lot of people to do things they wouldn’t have done at any another time, and it seems to me that a failure to acknowledge the current state of affairs is simply short-sighted and, ultimately, a disservice to the very community the organization was designed to serve.

    Given the problems we are sure to experience in the near future, we should be doing everything possible to encourage increased participation in the organization, and, in turn, the community. We all live together, like it or not, and we need to learn how to live amongst ourselves before we can do anything to benefit the community as a whole. Living in a crowded house doesn’t make anyone less affected by problems here. We all want the same things, in the end: Safety of our homes, property, selves and families; a nice place to look at in the daytime; and a sense of shared-interest with our neighbors, who face the same challenges we do, in one way or another.

    Initially, I was in favor of a per-person structure for dues, but after some reflection, I think we ought to leave it as it is. If there are more than 2 adults living together in a household, it would indicate to me some level of economic distress that ought to be acknowledged and respected by the organization. The cost of mailings do not increase with additional members in a shared household, so the expenses are not affected, only the income, and that is mandated to be reinvested in the organization, anyway. I think increased membership would be the better investment, in the long term.

    If you are uncomfortable with the abandonment of Robert’s Rules during meetings, help your neighbors to understand and use them properly. Robert’s Rules of Order is a very affordable book, perhaps some of the budget could be used to offer each participating household a copy of it. Assist them. Coach them. But don’t exclude them.

    Regardless of how this all turns out in the end, I am awed that so many people have taken such an interest in civic matters. All too often it is the level of apathy that is the problem.

    -Matt

  4. By R. Smith, January 7, 2010 @ 3:54 am

    Matt Byrd has covered the subject very well highlighting the problems with the proposal and the reasons why it shouldn’t be adopted, and the benefits of families with large numbers and their inclusion.

  5. By Shafiq Rahman, January 7, 2010 @ 5:52 pm

    It’s a free country and it is okay to come up with such a proposition no matter how archaic it may be. For some, awarding voting rights can be an anathema but this great country of ours fought for too long to make voting an inalienable right. I thought we were sophisticated enough not to toss out one’s legitimate right especially when this livable city sat in proximity of a capital beaming with existing as well as brewing rights and privileges. The proposition to dismantle voting power also becomes comical particularly this week as one Federal Court ruled allowing the Washington state prison inmates to have voting rights. It’s a great relief that NCPCA is not delving into such legal intricacies but it is to honor a plain voting right of our fellow good citizens without blemish.

    We’re certainly not in a repressive regime where rights are squandered in the name of simplicity and so called progression. Is NCPCA positioning itself to turn the clock back to the time when ‘separate but equal’ made sense to a lot of people, unfortunately? The framers of such legal passing had great minds too but they failed with an act that stigmatized our entire nation. We’re definitely not proud of those days of disenfranchisement and a social quandary. So we should not feel good about this alienating proposition now cooked up to mute voices implying one could live in our district but cannot vote!

    In a corporate world, not all the rightful shareholders actively participate in shareholders’ meetings or even not care to give voting proxies but all of them enjoy the rightful dividends the corporation declares. So why are we depriving folks – no matter how engaged they are or not – of the right that NCPCA should be upholding as fiduciary and not limiting to entertain outmoded orchestration. Bylaws, in places like NCPCA, should be enshrining citizenry interest plus rights and not dispel the very right we all hold close so dearly that some other nations’ members still battling through to get to our state. If we’re really serious about this primordial idea of suffocating voices to thrive, then we need to look at our family institutions, especially the ones coming to this city, and mandate the number of household that can live in a unit because some will be without rights based on this tin-pot proposition. Can we all picture this now as it is as quaint as VHS tapes and displays a xenophobic undertone without much of a quality?

  6. By Abu Muinuddin, January 7, 2010 @ 6:41 pm

    Voting Rights Act [From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia]

    The National Voting Rights Act of 1965 (42 U.S.C. § 1973–1973aa-6)[1] outlawed discriminatory voting practices that had been responsible for the widespread disenfranchisement of African Americans in the United States. Echoing the language of the 15th Amendment, the Act prohibited states from imposing any “voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure … to deny or abridge the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color.”[2] Specifically, Congress intended the Act to outlaw the practice of requiring otherwise qualified voters to pass literacy tests in order to register to vote, a principal means by which Southern states had prevented African-Americans from exercising the franchise.[3] The Act was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson, a Democrat, who had earlier signed the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law. For more info …..
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voting_Rights_Act

    ——————————————————————————————————
    I am proud of the founders and the great people of this nation who have constitute the constitution and fought for the fundamental human rights, free the society and thus enable us to exercise the rights of life liberty and persuade of happiness.

    I personally don’t see any room for going backward on this issue. Voting rights should be granted for all, if required the membership fees of $10.00 might be imposed per family of two and extra $5.00 fees for the additional members of the family if they wanted to be the member of NCPCA.
    —————————————————————————————————–

  7. By John Krouse, January 8, 2010 @ 1:09 am

    Well I guess we must be talking to different people. Several people I’ve spoken with are actually mad at me because I didn’t propose an amendment to allow only ONE vote per household!

    See you on the 14th!

  8. By Arif Kabir, January 8, 2010 @ 2:59 pm

    Woah, one vote per household…seems as if we’re trying to institute an electoral college at NCPCA! I think I should go around rallying at Davis Hall with a sign saying “Taxation with no Representation”.

    If I believe that somebody should be re-elected instead of the current board member (which I actually do) and my father or mother feels otherwise, who takes the vote?

    If you had a wife or somebody else who lives in your house, who has the right to say to the other, “You can’t vote, because I’m taking the vote?”

    Obviously, this is blatant discrimination against others with higher populations. I have not, to this day and after countless NCPCA meetings, heard one rational argument given in support of only allowing one vote. It’s as if you’re not wanting more members and you do not want full families to participate.

  9. By John Krouse, January 9, 2010 @ 2:34 pm

    Actually, I think a lot of people feel the best way to avoid “putting small families against large ones” would be for NCPCA to allow only one vote per address.

    ‘One vote for one address’ is the rule of many homeowners associations, and is very reasonable. However, it is also true that a very large number allow two votes.

    The Bylaws change I have proposed recognizes that North College Park households often have two active members, and I think that allowing two members per address to vote is a reasonable accommodation.

    On the other hand, the current policy has recently allowed 3, 4, 5, 6, or even 7 (!) voting members per address, and this policy actually is “causing a toxic atmosphere by putting small families against large ones”.

  10. By Fazlul Kabir, January 9, 2010 @ 5:45 pm

    John, thanks a lot for your comment.

    Per NCPCA’s By-Laws, NCPCA (NCP Citizens Association) is a citizen – centric organization, it’s not a home-owner’s association. Here is what Section 1 of Article IV says:

    “Article IV: Membership Section 1: Eligibility. Membership in the NCPCA shall be open to all residents in the North College Park area”

  11. By Mohammed Hossain, January 9, 2010 @ 9:09 pm

    NCPCA meeting in November, when ‘membership dues amendment proposal’ opened for discussion, John Krouse proposed reduction of membership dues for a bigger households.
    How the ‘membership dues amendment’ became ‘membership elimination amendment’?
    I ask John Krouse to correct me on this ‘toxic agenda’ by correcting himself!

    Following was my proposal to NCPCA for the above agenda:

    President
    NCPCA,

    1. To reflect the fact that the Municipal and the General elections do not require a citizen to pay a fee to cast a vote
    2. And to acknowledge the fact that less than 1% of the North College Park’s residents currently constitute the total memberships of the NCPCA and hence to encourage more residents in the North College Park become NCPCA members,

    I hereby propose the following amendment of the by-laws
    “Section 3: Dues. Membership dues as of adoption of these By-laws shall be $10 per family,annually.”
    Should be changed to
    “Section 3: Dues. Suggested/Optional Membership dues as of adoption of these By-laws shall be $10. per family, annually.”

    Sincerely,

    Mohammed Hossain
    9803 53rd ave
    College Park, MD 20740

  12. By Matthew Byrd, January 10, 2010 @ 2:22 am

    I believe that Misters Kabir and Krause have defined the core-issue at stake here: Is the NCPCA a civic organization, concerned with encouraging & educating better citizens, or a homeowners association, concerned with ordinance enforcement and architectural variances?

    The vote next Thursday will decide that.

  13. By laura, January 11, 2010 @ 2:12 am

    The proposed amendment is clearly designed to disenfranchise residents who do not conform to the old-fashioned nuclear family model. It’s shameful that the amendment is even being considered in this day and age.

  14. By Mahfuz, January 11, 2010 @ 4:03 pm

    Before even going to the debate of ‘to be or not to be’, I wonder why the amendment of limiting the family/household size should even be raised. What’s the rationale behind it? What’s this good for where family needs to be defined differently unlike any other similar civic organizations in the United States?

    Whatever the reason it might be – the good, bad or ugly, limiting NCPCA membership does not justify anything while NCPCA (North College Park Citizens Association) stands for an association for all of it’s citizen.

    The question is: the decisions that are being made at NCPCA affect the family/household of TWO or ALL? If the latter is true, which I believe is, then NCPCA should ensure that the voice of each of it’s citizen is heard equally and that could be only done by a mindset of accommodation not restriction. Why a decision from two different members of a household will be imposed on the rest while there might be difference of opinions in a same household concerning a NCPCA decision?

    I can understand a Homeowners Association with such an amendment – that’s a no-brainer. However, being an association of the citizen, by the citizen and for the citizen and yet come up with the idea of ignoring it’s citizen is outrageous and very unfortunate for the good citizens of college park. The example of Homeowners Association is like bringing an apple next to an orange and justifying the comparison between the two. Unless one interprets otherwise, how in the world NCPCA could be similar to a Homeowners Association?

    The citizens of College Park still gives me enough reason to be hopeful that we still have true leaders who put their fellow citizens and city first, not anything else . I hope NCPCA will uphold the great values and principles that this great country was founded upon and take a common sense and practical approach so each of it’s citizen can exercise their civic rights – that’s the direction our city wants and so does our country!