Tony Vartanian in Board Operations on April 10, 2014
As for the residents, some have been here for as long as I can remember. That says something. But there also are many young professionals and new couples. They were one reason I joined the five-member board.
It happened like this: although we appreciated the long years of service by the directors, a group of us felt it was time for a change. Imagine a board where everybody is much older than a lot of the people now in the co-op — most of the members had served for over a decade — and imagine that the board no longer understood the needs of the newer shareholders.
My generation and the generations to follow probably have a different idea of what it's like to be a neighbor and what it's like to be part of a cooperative. Essentially, it's the idea that we're all shareholders of this single corporation. As such, I wanted to know how the building is doing, what projects are coming up and the plans for the future. With the old board, you would often find out that there was this big project on deck when the contractors showed up. You didn't really know about it. They didn't communicate.
We wanted to create a different kind of culture for the board. It had been like a secret society, so we tried to open it up. We gave everyone our e-mail addresses and cell-phone numbers, and staged open sessions in which we would explain to shareholders what was happening and get feedback.
Elevating the Conversation
We put our beliefs to the test in a recent project. With our mortgage coming due, we thought it was a great opportunity to refinance and lock in a really great rate. We had plans — our elevators need to be upgraded, and we'd like to move to a natural gas for heat, for instance — but if we waited for the reserve funds to grow, it would be six years before anything would be done. So we are going to do the refi and lower our mortgage amount.
We didn't just go ahead and do it, however. We explained it to the residents, pointing out that the work probably needs to be done within the next two months, and noting that the improvements would add tremendous value to the property.
We got their OK. Not that we officially needed it, but we felt it was important that everyone understand the issues. Because, in the final analysis, communicating with the shareholders should be a conversation, not a lecture.
Tony Vartanian photo by Jennifer Wu.
From April 30, 2010: Rafolin Board President John Stucki: "It can a thankless job sometimes...."
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