Despite a deeply and bitterly divided community, on one point there can be no disagreement about the April 6 all candidates forum called to hear from candidates up for election to the Union Bay Improvement District Board: the April 6 forum was a whole lot calmer and (even) safer than the October 19, 2016 forum where the developer’s slate muscled the mike from the moderator and proceeded to belligerently confront the meeting.
As I noted in my Oct 21,2016 post Dog Bones, Development and Water; Healing and Moving on in Union Bay? at one point in the Oct 19 forum, just as one of the developer’s group was being pressured to surrender the commandeered mike and allow the meeting to proceed, I saw what looked like a number of not happy people rising from their seats—enough people that I hastily hoisted my iphone to snap a picture and quickly made my way to the exit doors to ensure they opened easily—in case I needed to make a sudden and hasty retreat!
But the April 6 meeting was very different. Some might say that the difference between the October 19 and the April 6 forums was the presence of some pretty beefy looking security guards and the steely resolve of the moderator who laid out the rules of the meeting clearly indicating that the rules were not open to negotiation.
I have other ideas/perceptions about the April 6 meeting. Yes, credit where credit is due, the guards and rigid attention to decorum had a calming effect on all; but,–it seemed to me–there was more to the calm than guards and emphatically stated rules. There was—I believe—a general toning down of the burning antagonism that has for so long—for far too long—divided the community of Union Bay.
I can’t put my thumb on it and say look here and there and you will see the causes and over here you see the effects. This isn’t a well researched “scientific” conclusion drawn from a pile of objective facts. And I am an outsider. I don’t know all the people and the controversy in its multi facets in the vitriol that is the community of Union Bay these days. But sometimes an outsider can see something that stands out or emerges in a community (any kind of community—civic, sports, environmental, church etc—that can’t be seen by those on the inside because they have seen so much for so long it is hard not to see what has always seemed to be—a subtle change in the current is simply lost in the flood tide of the way it has been for so long.
So I’ll go out on a limb and say that I believe the April 6 UBID all candidates meeting marks a turning place: a place where the community and the warring sides have—at last—recognized that all this community divided vitriol isn’t, actually, working for anyone. I am not talking about a sudden and dramatic change—no community lovefest is about to break out in Union Bay– but the subtle signs are there indicating that the two sides recognize that all this confrontation is not working for anyone. Some of the questions from the audience at the April 6 meeting were simply that—questions. And some of the answers were simply an attempt to share information. Yes, there were belligerently stated questions and accusatory, sometimes illusive, answers but—at one point—Susanna Kalijur and Rick Bitten agreed (AGREED) that UBID was on track to meet Island Health dictated improvements to water quality in the UBID system. Both pointed to the board working together to get this done—despite their differences.
Of course a great deal of community venom has been sucked out of the body politic by the fact that the developer has—at long last—had to accept what all the lawyers have been saying—that the expired 2011 water infrastructure agreement is, in fact, expired. No huffing and puffing, no pro-developer dominated board, nothing, can bring back the expired agreement. Yes, there can be, as the facilitator driven, negotiations proved, be a new agreement. An agreement that can work for all. And that, of itself, has to have a medicinal effect on the colic which has been politics as usual in Union Bay. RIP 2011 water agreement. It was and never will be again. No one, not even the so called pro development trustees, could bring back the imbalanced and one-sided 2011 agreement. Which opens the door to the possibility that a new agreement could be struck that balances the desire of the developer for an assured water supply to, at least, get on with the opening round of the Kensington Island Properties and the needs of community members who want a safe, affordable and publicly owned water supply for their community.
In my previous post I pointed out the oft looked over point that the pro/opposed to development battle that is so often pointed to as the core of the problem is—actually– a non sequitur construction. The vitriol with which the developer has clung to the 2011 agreement that was clearly not in the community interest and the tooth and nail determination of the residents to keep a publicly owned and operated water system has so badly damaged community relations that, at one point the rend in the community seemed irreparable. But the irony is that the developer’s interests would have been much more effectively served by a more cooperative approach and the community that is perceived to be anti development—never was. They were simply very determined to not be coerced into an agreement that was clearly not in their interests.
Whatever the outcome of the April 22 UBID election, I believe there is good reason to believe/hope that in negotiating a new water agreement, the UBID board and KIP will, in fact, be negotiating an new standard of community relations that sees a win/ win for all by working together cooperatively.