The Ever Beleaguered Montecito Association Gets No Love

The Montecito Association’s stars must be crossed, because
no matter what they do, they continue to be beleaguered, battered,
and bewildered. No sooner did they crawl out from a robust Ty Warner PR flack-attack, than they found
themselves knee deep a self-inflicted election

The Association normally takes the annual December board elections seriously, dedicating
one-quarter of their by-laws to defining the laborious and exacting
process. This earnest approach comes because this is the only
opportunity for general members to have voice on who sits this
powerful Montecito homeowners association lobby.

However, this year, no doubt because they were busy
swatting at Tys, the Association fumbled the
elections. Last week, some 1,050 members received an incomplete and
illegal ballot. It was not only missing the full slate of nominees,
but it also neglected to include the candidate’s biographies, the
voting instructions, and the required annual meeting posting.

Upon receipt, Montecito, which likes consistency, went into a
tailspin. “I just crumpled it up and threw it away,” said one
society maven, referring to her baffling Association ballot. A past
Association president simply rolled his eyes and sighed, “What has
happened to our Association?”

Montecito Association Secretary Richard Shaikewitz (pictured
making wine), who for the past three years has been charged with
election supervision, became equally befuddled. montecito%20winemaker.jpg “No one asked me to do anything,” he
stammered upon hearing about the illegal ballot. Declining to place
blame he said, “It was just a mistake,” and he scurried off to do a
by-laws check and find a remedy for the suffrage slip.

By the Association’s monthly meeting on Tuesday, December 12,
Shaikewitz (who was recently elected board of the Montecito Water
) announced his solution: mail a new, corrected ballot
to members, void any ballots already received, and switch election
date from December 15 to January 3.

Shaikewitz explained that the executive committee voted on
behalf of the board to accept the election date change, even though
Association President Bob
had just minutes before reported that the executive
committee took no action during the month. (Shaikewitz later said
that Collector was referring to the regular executive board
meeting, not a “special” one convened for the election. Hmm.) The
16 board members (including two past presidents) sat mute as
Shaikewitz maneuvered through the parliamentary
, perhaps gaining new respect for the troubles of
their volunteer board colleagues over the Sheriff’s

In the audience and puzzled by the public display of by-law
dementia were two board nominees listed on the dubious ballot.
mindy%20denison%20saks.jpg Jim
, from Balance Bar,
Mindy Denison
(pictured as chair of Montecito Beautification
Day 2006), a veep of Saks,
left perplexed but still willing to participate. Providing their
election is not challenged, they will bravely be joining the
current beleaguered board in January.

They will be joined by newcomer Andy Arnold, of
AOL, and MA re-treads Barry Siegel (seven-year
vet), Jack Overall (eight-year
vet) , and Diane Pannkuk
(10-year vet). Hugh Boss and
Jean von Wittenburg gain
retirement after six years of service, while Susan Keller and Harry Kolb hollered “uncle” after only
three years in the hot seats and declined re-nomination.

The election results will be announced at the MA annual meeting
scheduled for January 9 and each new board member will take their
seats and will get their welcome gift — a now well-thumbed set of
Montecito Association by-laws!

BARK ‘N’ BITE: Possibly causing the Montecito
Association’s uncharacteristic shy demeanor at Tuesday’s meeting
was stage fright, caused by the large audience who attended the
December meeting. The hall seats were filled to capacity, mostly by
members of a new group called The Voices of
. Led by community activist Mary Belle
, the group has announced its intention to watchdog
the actions of the Montecito Association and document what they may
see as “abuse of power.”

Over a dozen VoM members, most recognizable from their previous
pulpit stands in support of Ty Warner’s projects, turned up at the
meeting and sat bemused as the Association negotiated its maze of
election missteps. Earlier in the week, VoM gave thought to
producing an alternate slate for the Association board, but they
abandoned the idea when, after polling dozens of citizens, they
found few takers.

They chose instead to use Tuesday’s Association meeting to
pepper the wary and weary Association board with questions. They
asked the board to explain its function, its role in land use
decisions, its perceived “stalling” tactics, its reasoning, its
structure, its culture, and its policies and politics.

MA president Bob Collector patiently and thoroughly answered
questions. In the end, the VoM’s bark was quelled and the group
departed with wagging tails, saying they appreciated the
opportunity for community input and dialogue.

well-timed Montecito Association re-organization report,
Diane Pannkuk, past president, gave a Tuesday MA
presentation that may spell the death knell for the historic
Montecito Association Land Use Committee.

In an attempt to streamline MA and make it less of a burden in
the land use course, she said the Land Use committee might have its
last meeting on January 2. Pannkuk’s concept is to replace the
13-member committee with small study pods who go to the applicant
and report their land use findings directly to the Montecito Association Board of Directors.

Since the county created the Montecito Planning Commission, the MA’s Land Use
Committee, which served as the front line for community protection
for decades, has floundered in duplicative function. Currently, an
applicant is invited to present a project to the Association’s Land
Use Committee, who in turn makes a recommendation to the Montecito
Association Board for action. Often the board wants to actually see
the project themselves before voting, so the applicant steps up for
another presentation.

Meanwhile, at the county level, an applicant may be required to
visit the Montecito Board of Architectural Review and
ultimately they have to go to the Montecito Planning Commission for
plan a decision.

“Too much!” cries the applicant and MA has come around to

When Westmont put their foot down and refused to present their
massive plan to the Montecito Association’s Land Use Committee, a
small team visited the college to investigate the project and they
in turn made recommendations to the MA board. In spite of MA’s
whining, the process worked very effectively — MA made a comment
and the applicant was less burdened.

Now Pannkuk suggests this format should be adopted as the norm,
thereby eliminating the current panel-member set up and nixing, as
well, the Land Use Committee’s monthly meetings. No action was
taken at their December meeting, but the board was asked to ponder
the idea and be ready for action after their January retreat.

As venerable, feared and controversial as the Montecito Land Use
Committee once was, there will be tears of sorrow and joy when the
word of its demise hits Montecito’s land use interested ears!


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