“Safe upon the sidewalks our costly assets stand:
Come and see our BIA, built upon the sand!”
The superficial structuring of BIAs (by legislation) is intentional. It produces a great number of deficiencies in BIA governance – resulting in many conflicts, complications and waste.
Some typical BIA shortcomings…
The BIA Board of Management (the ‘Board’) is a volunteer operation with participants neither experienced nor skilled in governing these not-for-profit agencies. These volunteers are often conflicted as to whether they serve their members or whether they are an agency of the city. In reality, they are treated as an agency by the city so that the city can claim sovereignty over them. This makes them subject to city regulations.
However, as city agencies, they are not given access to municipal resources – such as legal services or city databases.
Their volunteer Board members are not compensated (unlike city staff). They are expected to contribute their time for free. This results in most Board members participating at a shallow level; after all, these people are all merchants or property owners whose priorities are to prosper – not to work for free for a city agency. Whilst devoting their quality efforts to their own business priorities, most of the Board members cannot find time to serve for free. They limit their participation to monthly meetings for a few hours.
In order to provide for the bureaucratic needs of the BIA, most Boards choose to hire an outsider as staff.
Hiring an individual (usually named ‘coordinator’, ‘manager’ or ‘executive director’) brings into play many other required elements such as; additional accounting, employment knowledge and insurance, labour relations knowledge and considerable expenses in wages as well as a logistical need for a furnished office (with the accompanying overhead costs).
Often, the employee (or contractor) becomes the de facto controller of the BIA due to their assuming all duties and serving as the one and only contact to the BIA. The convenience of having staff gives rise to the Board members gradually abrogating more and more of their duties (and responsibilities) to the staff.
This is not necessarily intentional – it is a natural evolution.
“Self-preservation often generates political warfare.”
This natural evolution is that staff coordinators almost always become gatekeepers and the volunteer Boards lose relevance and/or awareness of events. If the coordinators choose to isolate the Board, they effectively assume control and may subsume the interests of the BIA to their own priorities (such as remaining employed).
This abrogation of responsibility is not the fault of staff. It is the fault of management; usually the Chair of the Board. Board members should not be oblivious to a common tenet that staff intuitively embraces… ‘You will always have a boss. The best solution is to have one that you can control.’
Another deficiency that prevails is that BIA Boards rarely have expertise in governing. Very few members know the rules of procedure in running a BIA and even fewer have knowledge of (Robert’s) Rules of Order which are one prerequisite to conducting appropriate and efficient, productive meetings.
Additionally, some Board members succumb to personality clashes which result in political infighting. This results in losses in focus and priorities and the Board is overtaken by personal feuds ensuing in a waste of time and money.
Continued, Part III