The year leading up to the 2020 HVNA (Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association) Election was a doozy in large part because past President (Gail Baugh) was still calling the shots while the new president (Craig Hamburg) stepped into the role. 2019 also marked the year of the District 5 supervisor campaign.
The following contentious issues arose during the 2019 board year:
- District 5 Supervisor Election
- Big Belly Contracts
- HVNA Bylaws
- Nominating Committee Improprieties
- Board member (Babs Early) living outside the HVNA boundaries
Each one of the above topics was dominated by Gail. To state that there was a level of impropriety in these areas would be an understatement. Those that were whistleblowers were pinned as a problem both in and out of the boardroom.
These events were the catalyst for a few of us to embark on a community outreach campaign; in the months leading up to the election we focused on encouraging neighbors and business owners to attend the 2020 Election. We emphasized the criticality for the community to come out and engage. Additionally, we cast light on the ongoing shenanigans with the organization’s leadership and those influencing it.
In contrast to the typical annual 25 attendee turnout for an HVNA Election, the 2020 Election had a packed room of approximately 80 members. Seating capacity was maxed while people had to stand in the back of the room.
After a few rounds of questioning pertaining to items 3-5 above four members exercised their rights to nominate and be nominated from the floor; nominations included the role of President and Membership Secretary. When this happened the current president Craig Hamburg and former president Jim Warshell (Gail’s spouse) called the nominees toxic. While we did not prevail (we lost by a handful of votes) we felt we had sent a strong message about our community presence and clout to the appointed board – but more importantly we believed we had succeeded in activating a larger subset of the community which in our view was a net positive.
Here’s an email excerpt from an exchange between the presidential floor nominee and the presidential nominee who was up for reelection. We feel this captures the post election tone and mindset.
As far as the board election and overall takeaway of what transpired this past board year (2019) — please recognize that in reaching out to you directly here — I really want to emphasize how poorly misunderstood and mistreated I have been. The incivility of the election process in particular by those running it did not shine a positive light on the organization. Bob and I exercised our right to a nomination from the floor – and in return you and Jim crucified us in a packed room full of members without providing us an option to defend ourselves as you carried on with your ‘toxicity’ campaign. The response/argument you provided when the membership was offered another option for 2 positions was to focus on the survival of appointed board members rather than uphold a civil like election process. Comportment by board members was questionable at best; those of us in the back of the room were stunned when a board member abruptly stomped to the membership table – tearing up handouts and screaming “this is disgusting – this is not an election!” and then exited. (Not to mention another board member’s husband was not shy in dishing out disparaging comments from the middle of the room about Bob and I.) I ask you…how can the board be an advocate for the membership when there are those that can not handle a discussion and demonstrate such bias? Frankly this is the same mindset that the board had demonstrated in 2019 when differing views were shared. Rather than hear them and consider them — those that spoke up were labeled troublemakers and were vilified. In the face of all this what is even more concerning is now we have members going around the neighborhood talking poorly of Bob and I because of opinions/pov put out by the board (these people don’t even know me yet you have given them the right to label us in such a poor manner). This really needs to change for the sake of the membership/community…if we are to embody the true spirit of what HVNA was founded on.
The other grave concern that has been on display is this necessity by the board in recent years to be grey with the bylaws. In speaking with past board members and current members this is the one thing that really portrays the organization as disingenuous.
Craig you know I’ve been involved with HVNA as a volunteer for several years — and have put in a lot of effort/love in my work — and to have that stripped away this past year has been disheartening to say the least. This neighborhood and its community has provided …a home that we love — and we’ve only been driven to give back and make this neighborhood better for all residents. I hope you can take to heart some of these observations I have shared – and steer the ship a bit differently — in an effort to do right by our membership. I’m officially on the other side of the fence now so my lens will be aligned with many of the new members I am proud to say I had a hand in having join HVNA recently –along with many members who have returned after a hiatus. We have a lot of work to do – a lot of ground to cover ….and hopefully with a concerted reset by all we will rise to the challenge.
The period following this event we were accused by the board of forming a coup when in fact we merely exercised our membership rights; this narrative has continued to this day. Again, we are here to set the record straight and to shed light on the unlimited and unchecked power of the small HVNA who continues to claim they speak for the neighborhood ….while their demonstrable antics reflect otherwise.
In our next segment we will cover: the experiences of the 2020 HVNA Communications Committee and how they were blocked and shunned by the HVNA Board during the pandemic.