OMVNA Steering Committee Minutes, March 8, 2010

March 8, 2010 OMVNA Steering Committee Meeting Minutes

Attending: Laura Lewis, David Lewis, Deb Keller, Carter Coleman, Becky Reyna, Jack Perkins, Robert Cox, Kim Copher, Aaron Grossman

Neighbors: Maureen Blando, Max Hauser, Monica Smith, Steve Lacy, Lauren Angelo

(1) Call to order.

a.       Chair Laura Lewis called the meeting to order at 7:33PM.

(2) High Speed Rail Presentation.

a.       Robert Cox reported that Don Cecil, whose office is working on the Alternatives Analysis for the High Speed Rail line between San Jose and San Francisco, has offered to send people from his office to give a presentation to the Old Mountain View Neighborhood Association at a general meeting in the May/June timeframe.  This is intended to coincide with the public comment period, which will be a minimum of 45 days.

(3)     Bylaws Discussion.

a.       Laura noted that copies of the new bylaws will be published on and in full in the next newsletter. Aaron Grossman asked if the wording of the bylaws amendments was final.  Laura replied that it was. The general meeting at which they will be voted on will be held at Landels.

b.       Jack Perkins noted that there had been some controversy over the amendment offered by Mike Reiche, saying that some people thought we had delayed voting on the amendment because it would weaken the role of the steering committee.  Laura responded that the steering committee was just trying to be careful, get the wording right, and follow the bylaws precisely on notification. Aaron noted that because Ed Sweirk had submitted his bylaws amendments in writing at the election steering committee meeting, there was little trouble processing his amendments. Laura noted that the date for voting on the amendments is April 19.

(4) CERT.

a.       Aaron asked for an indication of who had food and water stored at home for earthquakes. Laura Lewis and Carter Coleman have signed up to be OMVNA’s  50th and 51st CERT members. Laura encouraged CERT membership, noting that the training was a painless process. CERT flashlights were provided to the members with 150 hour battery life. Aaron repeated his offer to induct new CERT members.  Jack asked whether the extra money that Aaron had requested had been spent. Carter noted that Aaron was advanced $100 to buy radios and whistles.

(5)     OMVNAtalk.  Most of the meeting was taken up with discussion of OMVNAtalk and the way that it had been moderated.

a.       Steve Lacy, who works at Google, who had started a new list, spoke first. He said that he had long seen the need for an unmoderated and unaffiliated list, and that his list currently had about 75 subscribers. He noted that many of the subscribers were also active contributors to OMVNAtalk.

b.       Max Hauser had researched California libel law, and said that making derogatory comments about businesses is not sufficient grounds for a lawsuit. OMVNA cannot be sued over comments which are solely expressions of personal opinion or taste. A firm wishing to collect damages would need to demonstrate willfulness and concrete financial damage resulting from what was said.

c.       Laura responded that letters were not modified in response to concerns about libel.  Rather, Laura felt that because the downtown businesses were part of OMVNA, we should be careful about bashing them on the list.  She also expressed a desire to maintain a general sense of decorum on the list. David Lewis added that a person wishing to direct people toward good businesses doesn’t need to make negative comments to do that.  Monica Smith said that a particular restaurant had a chef that engaged in unhygienic behavior, and it was good to let people know about the specifics. Max noted that he has written critical reviews of restaurants.

d.       Deb Keller said that threading the OMVNAtalk list would ad to its appeal.  Max noted that there are specific tools available to aid in doing that.

e.       Laura noted that moderation was a useful activity.  She said that the list had a history of moderation, and that comments which included threats of suicide had been intercepted via moderation and that was a good thing to do.  As for ending discussions, Jack said that it was the moderator’s role to make judgment calls, and that ending a discussion was one means of moderating the list. Max responded that Jack had made history on OMVNAtalk by ending discussions.  Maureen Blando also expressed concern about the appropriateness of ending discussions.

f.         Kim Copher said that over time an understanding of how the list should be moderated had been established, and that guidelines should be written up that reflect past practices. She noted that Noam Livnat and Bruce Karney had written to her expressing their views on the appropriate moderation of the list. Kim felt that having more than one moderator would be good. She said that Jack, in his role as moderator, had come across as harsh, and Deb Keller agreed with her. Laura said that we need more specific suggestions on how to improve moderation, and asked if moderator training would be appropriate.

g.       Aaron suggested that we not make sudden changes in the way that the list is moderated.  He spoke against editing messages and ending discussions.  He added that in the past blocked messages were sent back to the author for reconsideration.  Laura noted that she had thought that editing of messages had been done in the past, but added that this conclusion might have been a misinterpretation of the logs.  She said that, as moderator, she had edited her own messages, and these appeared as edits in the log. She acknowledged that the moderators have made mistakes in how they have handled the moderation.

h.       Monica said that she had valued the element of restraint that had been exercised on the list in the past.  She added that, in the past, swearing was not common on the list, and that the tone has changed.  She felt that continuous sarcasm on the list was not a good thing. She noted that the Minton discussion changed the tone of the list.  Aaron asked whether the Minton issue should have been discussed on the list.

i.         Laura commented that about 40 people sent her e-mails about the moderation issue.  The list of subscribers to OMVNAtalk has grown from about 100 when Ronit Bryant moderated the list to 400.  Max noted that there was some traffic on the list when the idea of a grocery store was discussed. Aaron said that we need some discussion of what the general standards for moderation should be.  Monica said that she doesn’t want to be on two lists. Max said 400 people can have 400 opinions, and that some restaurant lists generate such a huge amount of traffic that the size of list becomes an issue.

j.         Max asked Steve Lacy whether there will be any moderation of his list.  Steve replied that he was considering adopting a “three strikes and you’re out policy” for people who violate his general guidelines.  Steve said he was not sure whether he wanted his list to be long lived. Kim noted she was trying to work behind the scenes to get a successful resolution of the moderator issue.

k.       Aaron directed the discussion back to the key issues of edits, ending discussions, and blocking of postings.  Robert made a motion that a subcommittee would be formed of current and past moderators to decide on future moderation guidelines, and that in the interim, there would be no editing of postings, no ending of discussions, and that banning of people from the list could be done, but only after a majority vote of the steering committee. The motion was seconded, and passed with an 8-0 vote of the steering committee. In the interim, Laura will be the moderator.  Possible subcommittee members will include Laura Lewis, Kim Copher, Noam Livnat, Bruce Karney, and Ken Rosenberg.  Lauren Angelo, Max Hauser, and Maureen Blando may also participate.

(6) Treasurer’s Report.

a.       While reviewing OMVNA’s current financial status, Carter looked into the issue of whether OMVNA owes back taxes.  Carter contacted the IRS to discuss the issue.  Aaron Grossman was conferenced into the call with the IRS to authorize Carter to talk about the issue, since Aaron’s name is on the IRS records. Presently, OMVNA still owes federal penalties and back taxes because OMVNA did not file a tax return last year. Interest will accrue on our penalties and back taxes.  Carter is working with the IRS to get OMVNA into compliance and correct for omissions made in previous years.

b.       Carter noted that we had been spending a lot more money than in the past.  He has moved the financial documents over to Google docs. These include Aaron’s proposed budget.  Since this in an election year, we may get more money for newsletter ads, but this is not certain. Therefore, we cannot spend as if we are sure we will get revenue from those ads. We are spending more for the newsletter and the website.  Additional ads are covering the cost of the newsletter.  An additional $100 has been budgeted for CERT.  All of this leads Carter to encourage all of us to join him in helping to raise revenue for OMVNA by selling ads and getting donations to help fund OMVNA activities.

c.       Laura noted that in order to be more environmentally conscious and to save printing costs, we could ask people to voluntarily opt out of receiving paper copiers of the newsletter.

d.       Carter made a motion to accept the budget, which was seconded by David Lewis.  The resolution passed with an 8-0 vote of the steering committee.

e.       Carter asked Robert, as secretary, to provide a letter to the IRS indicating the purpose of OMVNA to settle the issue of its tax status.  Carter already has obtained verbal approval from the IRS for a non-profit 501c4 status.  The IRS informed Carter that 501c4 status would be approved by May 15th, the deadline for non-profit IRS filings.  At that time, OMVNA will be able to file a 940 non profit submission on line. Future IRS filings will be easier, because they will consist of simply making the 940 on line submission. Carter made a motion that OMVNA files its 2009 tax documents as a 501c4 organization.  Kim Copher seconded the motion, and the motion was passed with an 8-0 vote of the steering committee.

f.         Deb noted that a tax professional had given OMVNA the use of his services for a year in exchange for an ad in the newsletter.

(7) Mixers

a.       Next Thursday will be the first $5 per lesson night at Alberto’s for salsa lessons.

b.       Carter mentioned that he had signed up Zucca for a mixer. Hugh Donagher will be hosting a mixer at the Wine Depot in May.  Zucca’s mixer will be in June.

c.       Carter noted that revenue generation is important, and that mixers can be a way to generate revenue.  We could put out a hat at the mixers and ask for donations.

d.       Laura suggested an informal subcommittee for people who wanted to work on mixers. Max encouraged the steering committee to give Hugh Donagher a free hand in setting up mixers, given his past role in doing so.

(8) March 23 City Council Meeting on Minton’s

a.       Aaron Grossman had suggested that the public discussion portion of the March 23 council meeting on Minton’s be limited to five people speaking in favor of the project and five against.

b.       Laura Lewis responded that it was not the role of the steering committee to limit who could speak in favor or against a project at a city council meeting. She suggested that the steering committee not take action on this request.

(9) Web Site Revamping

a.       Deb Keller would like some help in revamping our web site.  She’s looking for someone who could post articles, update the calendar, and perform similar duties.

b.       Steve Lacy said he would discuss this with Deb off line. It may also be possible to get some high school students involved in this kind of work.  Jack Perkins said we should make sure that any helpers are able to make a positive contribution, rather than becoming a burden on those they are supposed to help.

(10) General Plan Subcommittee

a.       Robert noted that he has been discussing concerns about the direction of the General Plan 2030 with leaders of two other neighborhood associations.  These leaders had raised the issue of sending a letter to Randy Tsuda, city planning director, on how a process could be established to better communicate the direction of the general plan to the neighborhoods and receive neighborhood feedback.

b.       A general plan subcommittee was authorized by an 8-0 vote of the steering committee, with Robert, Carter, Jack, and David as members.  Laura will be an observer.  The subcommittee will seek participation from the neighborhood.  Carter will write up an announcement of the subcommittee on OMVNAtalk. The first task of the subcommittee will be to work on a joint letter to Mr. Tsuda with the other neighborhood associations.

(11) Miscellaneous

a.       Laura Lewis sent a letter to the city council expressing OMVNA’s support for the soap box derby.

b.       A replacement for Julie Lovins as newsletter distribution coordinator has not yet been found.  For the time being, Julie is working with Joan Karlin.  Laura will be meeting with Julie to discuss how to move forward.

(12) Adjournment

a.       The meeting was adjourned at 9:45PM.

— Minutes recorded by Robert Cox, OMVNA Secretary

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