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A tale of two Tremonts - Few things expose longstanding distrust between two sides more than an election.
Submitted by Quest-News-Serv... on Thu, 01/22/2009 - 22:16.
A tale of two Tremonts
Thursday, January 22, 2009
By Ken Prendergast kprendergast [at] sunnews [dot] com
West Side Sun News
Few things expose longstanding distrust between two sides more than an election.
That distrust has re-emerged in the weeks leading up to the Jan. 29 election of trustees for the Tremont West Development Corp. which coordinates neighborhood revitalization and improvement programs, including the spending of taxpayer dollars.
The two sides are the haves and the have-nots in Tremont -- developers and new, wealthier residents on one side; lower-income, older residents on the other.
Some dues-paying Tremont West members, including at least two who are running for board seats at next week's annual meeting, complained that the election process needs to be more transparent, based on past elections.
They claimed votes were cast before the annual meeting was called to order, votes were counted in private by people who had a stake in their outcome and that ballots weren't kept after the election.
At a Jan. 13 meeting of Tremont West's board, several members asked the board to allow election monitors, possibly from Cleveland State University or by block club representatives, to oversee the vote. The request was tabled.
"They were asking for a change in a longstanding process just two weeks out from the annual meeting," said Chris Garland, executive director of Tremont West.
He said the question has been referred to a bylaw committee co-chaired by board members Lynn Murray and Tim Jenkins.
Tremont West's bylaws say a vote or other business can be conducted at the annual meeting if a quorum is present. The bylaws define a quorum as being at least 20 percent of the membership or 40 members, whichever is greater.
The problem, as some members see it, is they can't get a straight answer from Tremont West staff as to how many members there are. The bylaws state that someone must join Tremont West more than 30 days before the election in order to vote in that election. The membership list must also be occasionally purged of people who have moved away or died.
A tale of two Tremonts - Page 2
"The vote is rigged," said Guy Templeton Black, a lower-income candidate for the board. "I asked them how many members there are and they said we're working on that.' They've been working on that for years. You can't tell who is a voter due to no checks and balances."
Garland said the number of members would be announced at the annual meeting.
"A Tremont West member is literally any stakeholder," Garland said. "It's not just a paid member. It can be any resident and employee in Tremont. That's the broad spectrum. There are 9,000 people in our service area."
Candidates for board president plus seven trustee seats are to be nominated at the meeting, which will start at 7 p.m. Jan. 29 at Our Lady of Angels/St. Joseph Center, 2346 W. 14th St. It will be preceded by a dinner at 6 p.m.
Jerlene Justus, who has lived in Tremont for 40 years and a dues-paying member of Tremont West, said she will ask for a floor vote at the annual meeting to bring in election monitors to observe the vote.
"Secrecy is my concern," said Justus. "Why can't an organization tell you how many members they have? We just want a fair and balanced election with transparency."
But not all who have raised concerns about the election process are older Tremont residents.
"The election needs to be more transparent and election monitors would help," echoed board candidate Eric Russ, a new Tremont resident and a young professional. "It would only help (Tremont West's) effectiveness in the community and give the board more legitimacy."
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