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.