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The push to make TV cable service optional was a recurring theme at Tuesday's Rancho Murieta Association board of directors meeting. An analysis of the system's finances indicates the service could continue with a smaller customer base, the board reported.

The board voted to permit members of the Freedom of Choice Committee to continue their door-to-door solicitation for proxy votes for a bylaws amendment that would prohibit using dues to support the cable system. Directors Paul Gumbinger and Mike Martel opposed the motion. Referring to complaints the association has received, Gumbinger said people feel intimidated by the canvassers. Martel said he wanted members to know the bylaws amendment proposal has not been vetted or approved by the RMA.

President Dick Cox said, "It doesn't have to meet our standards. It only has to comply with the CC&Rs."

Director Jim Moore reported on a spreadsheet Finance Committee member Frank Pumilia prepared to analyze cable TV costs "showing different scenarios if we went to an optional system. ... It showed that our cable system could remain competitive with other outside offerings and we could stay in business and half the people or a number of people could opt out."

Pumilia considered the number of subscribers, reserve contribution levels, content costs and other variables in developing the spreadsheet. RMA members now pay about $31 a month for the cable system in their dues. This covers basic cable programming, operating costs and a replacement reserves contribution. (Pumilia's Excel spreadsheets are available as attachment downloads at the end of this story.)

At the start of the board's discussion about surveying members about cable, John Weatherford, a member of the Freedom of Choice Committee, said the citizens group is "currently conducting probably the most thorough survey you can do. We're knocking on doors, we're knocking on every door. ... There's one thing they all want. They want freedom of choice."

Cox responded that wasn't the question. "Do they want freedom of choice at $119 a month? ... I really don't know what the bulk of this community wants us to do with TV. Do they want us to continue running it, do they want us to sell it? ... If we get out of the TV business, the broadband goes with it and we have 517 members on broadband. I am one of them and I don't want to go someplace else for broadband."

"Well, that's replaceable, at a lesser price," Weatherford said. "That's the whole issue of freedom of choice. It's just that simple."

George Roper, who's also active in the proxy effort, said "a very large number" of people he's talked to want the option to stay or leave but would chose to stay with the cable system. He said he tells them he believes the cable system would be viable in an opt-out scenario.

Stiffer called the ability to opt out a separate issue. "The question that's being asked is, ‘What do our members want to see happen to the system?' Do they want the association to stay in business with cable TV and broadband or do they want to sell? ... If the board decides that they want to sell the system, there will be a requirement for a member vote."

After the board voted 4-2 in favor of surveying the membership, Moore said, "What are you going to ask? If you ask people what they want, they want 200 channels for $30 a month."

Cox directed staff to prepare survey questions for the board to consider at the next board meeting.

Directors Cox, Gumbinger and Chris Pedersen were appointed to meet with representatives of the Pension Trust Fund for Operating Engineers June 25 to discuss reopening negotiations on the section in the Mutual Benefit Agreement that deals with the cable system.

According to a legal opinion the RMA obtained and sent out to members, the governing documents can't be amended to remove the basic cable charges from the regular assessment without the written agreement of land owners and developers, and there is no reason to expect that they would do that.

Solving neighborhood problems

The board discussed the RMA CC&R that addresses "noxious activities" in the community and the possibility of developing new non-architectural rules for enforcement. The discussion came after neighbor George Kammerer repeated his complaints about noisy neighbors. He has taken the complaints to the Community Services District already and gotten no satisfaction. The Sacramento Sheriff's Department has also been brought in to deal with the matter.
The CC&R refers to maintaining a "quiet time" between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. and lists barking dogs, stereo amplifiers, noisy air-conditioning units, and power tools as noise sources that could "unreasonably disturb any other Member's enjoyment of his or her Lot or the Common Area."

Director Paul Gumbinger said the CC&R has a "twist." It says, If there is a dispute about whether the noise constitutes a nuisance, it will be "presumed to be a nuisance if it is offensive to at least seventy-five percent (75%) of the Owners or occupants of any Dwellings that are either joined to, or within a 250-foot radius of, the center of the Lot or structure from which the alleged nuisance emanates."

Director Chris Pedersen, the chairman of the Compliance Committee, said it was clear to the committee that "a rule can be broken, a citation can be written" without resorting to the 75 percent consensus.

"We need to come up with non-architectural rules that Security can enforce," said Cox. "They can enforce our non-architectural rules, and they will enforce them."

New architectural rules get mixed reaction

Changes in the RMA's architectural rules affecting circle, cottage and townhouse lots failed to pass, but the board unanimously approved similar changes that apply to estate lots. The new design standards for estate lots limit construction to no more than 35 percent of the lot and designate setbacks to avoid encroaching on neighboring houses.

Two residents spoke against the circle-lot changes that would have limited construction to no more than 50 percent of the circle. One of the speakers, Realtor Karen Hoberg, said she was representing clients as well.

The rules were circulated for public comment more than a month ago. With one director absent, the board deadlocked on votes affecting circle and cottage lots, effectively killing the measures, and voted down the one proposed for townhouses.

The board approved rule changes proposed for storage sheds and accessory buildings.

Board approves water truck purchase

The board voted unanimously to approve an expenditure of up to $6,000 to buy a used water truck to irrigate the lawns of foreclosed homes.

Last week RMA Maintenance began watering the lawns at 19 homes, now up to 20. The homes are evenly divided between North and South. The cost of renting the truck being used now is $100 a day, about half of the total daily cost of the effort. Other options for watering were considered and rejected because of liability concerns, General Manager David Stiffler said.

In addition to watering, Maintenance will remove dead plantings and use stockpiled wood chips on lawns where the grass is too far gone to respond. "This process will continue indefinitely," said Stiffler.

Stiffler said the truck can be used for many things, including street cleaning and when mowing undeveloped areas where there is a potential for fire.

The board approved Maintenance Department expenditure requests to spend $6,982 to replace street signs and $4,300 to replace the vehicle lift used in maintaining the association's vehicles.

New enforcement rules approved

The board unanimously approved new non-architectural rules that enhance penalties for speeding, increase fines for multiple moving violations occurring in the same year, and require cars and golf carts to stop for school buses displaying flashing red lights or a stop sign.

A reference to golf carts crossing Highway 16 illegally was replaced with the Golf Cart Circulation Plan that allows for legal crossings at the North and South traffic intersections.

A new enforcement rule requires residents and guests to identify themselves to a Security officer if asked to do so.

Quorum vote fails

The bylaws change to reduce quorum requirements for the election of RMA directors failed to get enough member votes. There were 814 votes in favor of the change, RMA staff reported, hundreds shy of the 50 percent plus one needed to pass.

Aviation summer camp offered for teens

The board passed a resolution in support of Rancho Murieta Aviators' Young Eagles Summer Day Camp after local aviator Wally Boeck outlined the one-week program designed for teenagers 13 to 18 years old who are interested in aviation. It begins July 28 and concludes Aug. 1 with an Experimental Aircraft Association Young Eagles flight event at the airport.

Campers will receive instruction from aviation professionals throughout the week and have the opportunity to use flight simulators on a field trip to Mather Field. RMA insurance will cover activities on the ground. The Experimental Aircraft Association provides insurance coverage for the Young Eagles events at the airport.

The program can accommodate 50 campers. The cost is $199. For information, contact Boeck at 354-8764 or wboeck@boeckna.com.

Committee appointments

  • The board approved reinstating the Joint Security Committee for 12 months with Directors Chris Pedersen and Dick Cox representing RMA.
  • Steve Anderson was appointed to replace new Director Jim Moore as a member of the Compliance Committee.
  • John Weatherford replaces Moore on the Finance Committee, which Moore chairs as RMA treasurer.

Parks Committee

Two letters concerning funds the RMA repaid itself for legal expenses for the pedestrian bridge -- one letter from the CSD and one from developer Reynen & Bardis -- were brought up at the meeting. Director Paul Gumbinger invited members to attend the June 26 Parks Committee meeting where Gary Parker of Reynen & Bardis is expected to discuss the points he makes in his letter. Previous coverage of the issue is available here.

 


Blake Carmichael's picture
Joined: 07/30/2007
Posts: 278
Post rating: 434

Passing on the Pass?

Sorry if I missed it in the report, or from the meeting. What is the procedure going to be when someone gets to the gate without a pass?

Can one be purchased on that date? Will they be waved through? Will they be turned away?

My big concern is that this circumstance needs to be be handled uniformly. The temptation will be fore "permanent" guests to be given a "pass on the pass" and just let in, which I would find unfair to those who plan ahead and pay. It's not a money thing, it's a fairness thing.

RM.com's picture
Joined: 06/19/2007
Posts: 27726
Post rating: 1387

Change in story

The "News brief" version of this story, published June 17, reported on July 4 guest passes, which is what Blake Carmichael's comment references. That isn't present in this version of the story because there is now a separate story about July 4 passes, which you can see here.

Al Dolata's picture
Joined: 08/09/2007
Posts: 94
Post rating: 129

No Secret

Am I the only one to whom it is obvious that "door -to door solicitation" of proxies (essentially ballots) is  inimical to  the concept of secret voting?  The American labor movement argues that authorization cards privately solicited ought to be a valid basis upon which to compel employer recognition of bargaining agents, and has gotten nowhere with this position.   The NLRB and courts have decided that indicators procured under such cicumstances are inherently flawed.   I think they are right.

Al Dolata

Wilbur Haines's picture
Joined: 08/07/2007
Posts: 474
Post rating: 470

It's a VOLUNTARY proxy, Al

Al, secret proxies which keep your proxyholder ignorant of how you want your vote cast are illegal. I'm not sure exactly what you want here.

The applicable legal requirements require a proxy to specifically state what subject the proxy is for, and to instruct the proxyholder which way you want them to vote your proxy. This is to protect you against a "blank check" being used in any unexpected way. The law then requires that those instructions be separated from the signed proxies and kept aside, so they can be themselves counted and verified without RMA knowing which member instructed a yes vote and which instructed a no vote. That is how you protect the privacy of a secret ballot. One pile of signed proxies so the voter can be validated as entitled to vote, the other pile of instructions, separated from the proxies. We propose that the separation of the two take place under the direct supervision of the inspector of elections to make clear there's no hanky panky going on there. The Inspector then issues some 1200 ballots to the proxyholder in exchange for some 1200 validated proxies, proxyholder casts some 1200 'yes" votes and the handful of "no" proxies which have been received. Inspector counts the instructions in the next pile, which he saw being torn off the proxies so he knows they're genuine, and they verify he should have the 1200 or so yes ballots and the handful of no ballots. Numbers of ballots and instructions add up, yes votes exceed 50% of total membership, game over.

There's no way under Davis-Stirling and our Bylaws to give a proxy which does not disclose to the proxyholder how you want your vote cast. It is that way to protect YOU from being tricked. The statutory "Separation of instructions from proxies" mechanism otherwise protects the privacy of your vote.

If you don't wish even your proxyholder to know how you're voting (like it's a secret at this point), then don't sign a proxy. It's that simple. RMA is going to issue you a ballot which you can mark and send back yourself in the normal way. Nobody's required to vote by proxy.

Now, does it still sound sinister to you?

Wyatt Gaylor's picture
Joined: 08/24/2007
Posts: 63
Post rating: 46

"Survey"

I understand that "we" approved that people can solicit door to door about if I want freedom of choice, but I don't appreciate that once they come "survey" they are judgemental when I tell them that I like it they way it is.

I joined this community with the understanding that cable was included in my mothnly HOA dues. Since joining, new channels have been added including HD, which I enjoy.

I also find it curious that I wasn't asked to fill out the survey with a NO checkbox....

 

Barbara Halpin's picture
Joined: 08/11/2007
Posts: 24
Post rating: 7

"Survey"

Yes, I had the same experience. I started to fill out the ballot and noticed the Yes box had already been checked. When I asked about this the soliciter stated, "Oh, we are only collecting yes votes."  

Wyatt Gaylor's picture
Joined: 08/24/2007
Posts: 63
Post rating: 46

They should collect NO votes

By not collecting NO votes it could be assumed that either the person was not home nor wished to participate, skewing the numbers. Why have the NO check box on the survey if they are not collecting them?

 

Mike Burnett's picture
Joined: 07/31/2007
Posts: 183
Post rating: 0

I collected NO votes

I have been one of the committee members collecting Proxies for the Freedom of Choice Committee and have collected No Votes.  I didn't check either of the boxes.  I requested the member to check the appropriate box, sign their name and print it.

The purpose of the proxy is to get the members vote, however, if they vote NO, this vote is not the focus of the exercise.  The committee is attempting to get the YES votes to change how the fees for cable are collected and separate these fees from our dues.  If the committee is successful, the NO votes are a mute point.

The fees should be handled separately from our dues and should never have been commingled to begin with.  The MBA requires that the association account for the cable maintenance separately and allows the developers and the future associations to audit the RMA's financial records to make sure they aren't overpaying.  When the Freedom of Choice completes the separation of these fees, it will accomplish two tasks.

1.  Require the association to maintain the cable fees separately from the Association's dues.  This actually works in favor of the requirements in the MBA.

2.  Stops the inequity of requiring members that do not want the Cable Service to opt out and only charge those members that want cable for the associated fees. 

The cable assets belong to the Cable Television Service as defined in the Cable Television Agreement.  These assets are not RMA's and they never should have been part of our dues.  RMA should never have taken on the management of this service.

This movement is a step in the right direction that an overwhelming majority of our members want to change.  The Board ignored the petition submitted to request they take action, so now the members are taking action without any assistance from the Board.

 

 

Wyatt Gaylor's picture
Joined: 08/24/2007
Posts: 63
Post rating: 46

You prove my point

So by you collecting NO votes and your counterparts not you can skew your results and say these are the only NO votes we got. I understand your fight and you feeling that it should be seperate. I and others I know are happy with what we have the way we have it. I honestly don't think my bill will go down 30 bux if this passes it will be assessed as some other fee or fund.

$30 dollars is a helluva a deal for service for my house. I just figured out how much it would cost to have Dish in each of my rooms. Dish charges 7 dollars per box after the first one for lease fee and then 5 dollars per box for access. To cover the 3 extra tvs in my house would cost 36 dollars a month and now I have boxes all over my house on top of the wire coming out of the wall.

 

Feel free and collect this NO vote for your survey!!

Beth Buderus's picture
Joined: 08/03/2007
Posts: 926
Post rating: 706

Directv is cheaper

Anyone considering a dish of some type. Compare them both (Dish & Directv) specifically the channels they offer. I think Directv is a better deal - they don't charge for local channels.

Mike Burnett's picture
Joined: 07/31/2007
Posts: 183
Post rating: 0

Read the CC&R's

Wyatt,

Yuu are missing the point.  Read the CC&R's.  We are obtaining the number of votes required to make a change in our governing documents.  The No votes really don't count.  If we aren't able to acquire the requisite number of votes, then we can't make a change.

Blake Carmichael's picture
Joined: 07/30/2007
Posts: 278
Post rating: 434

No (comment) means no

This isn't really a vote  in the sense of how we think of voting for political candidates or measures on the ballot. If that was the case, I would understand the concern about recording only "yes" votes.

However, anyone who does NOT sign the proxy, or is never contacted, in essense is a "no." This makes it much more difficult for activist folks (on whatever issue), to blindside the membership and ram through a decision without the consent of the majority of the membership (not just those who take the time to vote and pay attention to the issues). That's why a clear majority of the membership (residences/lots) is needed, and not just a clear majority of voters. The latter would be much easier to obtain (see voting for directors).

I don't see a problem with the "no's" being left out under these circumstances. Certainly they CAN'T and WON'T be ignored.

Andy Keyes's picture
Joined: 08/22/2007
Posts: 289
Post rating: 120

It is a 'helluva deal"

This is not a survey.  This is a proxy collection effort and even though the BOD has completely ignored the effort in the past it is well within the rules of the corporation and is legal.  For those who want the status quo I would suggest you draft an equal proxy ballot and collect the signatures.  The future is coming and its going to be nice.  BTW, what will the BOD do if they dont have the channel 5 soapbox to feed their egos?

Wilbur Haines's picture
Joined: 08/07/2007
Posts: 474
Post rating: 470

You still get a ballot

Wyatt, if RMA follows the law there will be a ballot issued to every member and members can then vote "no" to their heart's content if that's what they wish. So you haven't been cheated out of your opportunity to vote No, it is still yet to come.

The other commenters are correct; because amendments do not go by "majority vote" but require a majority of the total membership to affirmatively vote "yes," the number of "no" votes cast almost doesn't matter. Every vote not cast essentially functions as a "No" in a bylaws amendment vote.  The "noes" win unless 50% plus one of the entire 2,320 or whatever memberships vote "yes." If the FOC committee can't get over 50% of the total in "yes" votes, it doesn't matter if the yes votes outnumber no votes, the amendment still fails. Still, provided RMA follows the law they will mail you a ballot and you can vote NO if that makes you feel better.

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