GCC eyes restructuring to fill Germantown Settlement void

Germantown Community Connection is growing. As they take on more responsibility, such as possibly doing the work of a community development corporation, President Betty Turner suggested they need to expand their current three member board.

“I think that GCC is in growing pains just like all of Germantown, and it is now time for us to look at how we operate as a bigger organization,” she said. “What worked for us with ten members may not work with almost 100 members, expanding our board is just one way to address that.”

A decision is expected on Jan 27 to clarify if GCC wants to create a smaller executive board of twelve members or not. The move would drastically change the every-member-votes structure that has guided GCC for the last two years.

Some ideas are to hold larger non-voting general membership meetings for community input and separate executive board meetings for voting members. Another option is to change the bylaws completely to allow a different system of governance.

One member expressed frustration about the current and proposed structural changes.

“I’m tired of all of this bureaucracy,” said Robyn Tevah. “I know of other groups that have been doing great work without all of this structure.”

At the most recent board meeting Tevah said she was deeply worried about the idea of excluding any currently voting members from the future of the organization, but over the last week she changed her mind, reluctantly.

“The underlying worry about power and control is one of the legacies of Germantown Settlement whose abuse of power and misuse of money created mistrust and divisions across Germantown,” she said in an email.

Upon reflection, Tevah saw GCC’s intense focus on by-laws as an attempt to make sure such things wouldn’t happen again, and she decided that “a clear executive committee might further clarify authority and responsibility for decisions.”

Some members suggested changing the bylaws to allow committee members voting status, or expanding the board to 30 members. Most GCC members expressed that the board, no matter how many or few, would have to be geographically representative of Germantown and as diverse as possible.

To that end, one bylaw that won’t change is that 75-percent of the board membership must reside in Germantown. Another likely provision is that at least one board member has to identify as low income, which is around $20,000 for a family of four.

In contrast to Tevah’s first response, other GCC members felt that the need for swift decision making – as with questions about the future of Germantown Settlement properties, which are being liquidated now – was a clear call for a smaller board.

“I think GCC needs an executive board because smaller meetings mean we can get more things done.” said Irv Ackelsberg, a community lawyer who represented GCC in the Germantown Settlement bankruptcy case.

“It also sets us up to oversee the committees and a paid staff eventually, especially if we want to start developing housing” added Ackelsberg.

Ackelsberg was mentioned as a possible nominee during the meeting due to his legal expertise.

This idea might also coincide with private developer Yvonne Haskins’ wish to acquire Queen Lane Apartments on the 500 block of West Queen Lane for a market rate and low income housing renovation.  

“When we first heard the proposal, we thought it sounded like a common ground issue that GCC was created to support,” said Turner.

Yvonne Haskins, also a GCC member, was excited for the initial support.

“I’ve been thinking about that building for a long time, we’ve had to call the police about squatters and other forms of mismanagement of the property many times, how wonderful would it be to see that block revitalized and a coffee shop open near the train station? ” Haskins said.

 

Are you a Germantown Community Connection member or interested in serving on its board of directors? Nominations and voting will take place at the next GCC meeting on January 27th at 35 W Chelten Ave inside the First Presbyterian Church in Germantown at 7pm.

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