Update on the Lincoln Civic Block Association

This essay is the third chapter in the story of the transition of the Lincoln Civic Block Association from the presidency of Jesse Hamilton to a new era under the presidency of Ken Marable. (For those interested see “Elections at the LCBA and Financial Disclosure” and “My Spasm of of Activism on Lincoln Place.) The two earlier essays cover the fact that elections in November led to two officers winning positions uncontested and failed to fill five positions for other officers. This was not because of a lack of interest but rather because of the by-laws. A stipulation that one must attend four “official” meetings meant almost no one could run – even people who had amply demonstrated their commitment by giving their time, money and creativity. At the November meeting people were asked to “volunteer” for the empty positions, and it was understood then that in December elections would be prepared so there could be a vote. There was also a problem with finances. Marable had previously announced that he could not find records of the financial condition of the Association.

In December it turned out Ken had changed his thinking. When asked about a meeting for December 13th, he replied that meetings for the year were over. In response I created I petition asking for a meeting on December 20th to address the issues of the elections, the by-laws, and the finances. This petition was signed by 44 people. Ken at first agreed to a meeting but then the board of the organization reversed his decision and decided not to have one. At a meeting with Ken on the morning of December 20th, he said the would address all the issues raised. Naturally I was eager to see what would happen at the first meeting of 2019 scheduled for January 17. My first inkling came in a tentative agenda, which called for the creation of a by-laws committee but made not mention of the financial situation. It further said there would be temporary appointments of officers. I wrote noting the omission of any reference to the financial situation. Ken wrote back an angry note telling me I was a source of disruption and chaos and that as a relative newcomer I had no right to intervene. He demanded I cease my destructive behavior. He also said the financial situation would be addressed in an “Officers Report.” Given that 44 people had signed a petition to have the financial situation addressed, simply listing an “Officers Report” did not seem sufficient. I wrote back to Ken pointing this out and also defending the right to petition as a conventional part of democratic procedure.

My hopes for the January 17 meeting had been dimmed by this exchange with Ken. In my view there were negative and positive aspects to what actually happened. First there were Ken's appointments to the five positions. Three of them were of people of people I recognized and about whom I knew something. Carmella Murden was made chaplain. Eytan Kurshan was appointed Financial Secretary, and Ashley Jaffe was to be Corresponding Secretary. However, two of the appointments went to people I had barely seen before, and, as far as I knew, had played no active role in the Association. Olivia Lyde was made Vice President and Octavia Brown became secretary. The performance of these two people was not inspiring. Ms. Lyde made a long speech when New Business came up, which had nothing to do with business. It was rather about her “vision” of having the LCBA buy another building. Asie Mirsky interrupted and pointed out that this speech had nothing to do with New Business, and that the LCBA was highly unlikely to be buying another building given that buildings go for over a million dollars. Ms Lyde also advocated celebrating Black History Month, but then advocated that all groups should be celebrated including whites such as the Irish. To me her whole speech and the discussion it led to seemed a waste of limited time. At one point Althea Joseph rose and said the she didn't know who Olivia Lyde was. She said it was odd to find that a stranger was now her Vice President, this in an organization in which Althea is a leading activist. Octavia Brown introduced herself but said little. However, the account of the meeting she wrote that was distributed by Ashley showed she had a very limited grasp of what happened. There were many omissions and factual mistakes, and Ashley had to apologize right afterwards, saying it was only meant to give an idea of what happened. It was not clear what the value of getting an “idea” was if important details were not included. It would be useful to see the minutes ahead of time but only if they give a full and accurate account. Then one can make sensible corrections; to start with something that one knows needs correcting is pointless; the membership is then editing something that should have been edited before it was published.

There were some good points to the meeting. A list was passed around asking for volunteers for the by-laws committee and twelve people ended up signing. There was a Treasurer's Report given by Priscilla Rigby-Ellington. She said there was $43,000 in the bank account and that in December the LCBA took in $1,000 more than it spent. However, when I introduced a proposal to have the organization pay to have litter picked up in the six blocks it covers, there was no way of discussing whether it was financially feasible. Vicky Broadhurst said the money in the bank was needed for other things. With no budget it seemed impossible to debate this matter. Dan La Botz called for tabling my motion and Israel Mirsky added an amendment that there should be a budget presented at the next meeting so that there could be an informed discussion. Unfortunately this was not reflected in the minutes first issued. A second version did reflect what had happened. Alas in the second version there were still many omissions – no mention was made of Ms. Lyde's visionary ruminations. On another point Noelky Sullivan asked if the LCBA had filed a tax return last year. Ken's answer was strange. He said he didn't know and asked Noelky if she had filed a tax return. She never got an answer to her question. Could it be that LCBA did not file a tax return? I was left gasping. And then there is the issue of applying for grants. Asie Mirsky began to ask a question about this but was surprised when I told her the LCBA had lost its non-profit status. Ken confirmed this; he said the LCBA had stopped filing 990's in 2006 and lost its non-profit status in in 2010 after three years of failing to file. So the organization is cut off from most grants until its non-profit status is restored.

Concerning elections, Dan La Botz asked when these might be held. Ken did not come up with an answer. I got the impression they would certainly not be held in March. There would have to be preparations in February. There was no mention of anything like that.

So, to sum up. The finances are still not sorted out and the will to do so seems to be diminished. Ken thought Priscilla's report a good step forward. He did not mention anything more to be done. The lack of a budget for 2018 and the lack of planning for 2019 did not seem to be on his mind. The schedule for elections has become increasingly vague. There is a by-laws committee made up of twelve people. Three of them are members of the old board that refused to hold a special meeting in December. There is also Ken's wife, Joan Marable, and three members are people Ken appointed to his “team” – Carmella, Eytan and Ashley. And then there is Ernest, Carmella's husband. That makes eight out of twelve. One can hope for reforms, but the committee seems it might be more conservative than reform-minded. However, the vote is up to the membership.

At the first meeting of the By-Laws Committee, Ken insisted everyone sign a confidentiality agreement. So the deliberations, like those of the Executive Committee, will be secret. I am not quite sure why Ken thought that was necessary. He said anyone not signing would not be allowed to serve. So this is the last thing I can write about the committee. However, keep a look out for the results and keep asking when they might come out.

– John DeWind

UpdatesJonathan Judge