The Kenwood Press
: 06/15/2012

Wally Schilpp leaves the Board of Directors of the OVA

Yvonne Frauenfelder

Once upon a time I wrote, “What do you do for an encore when you’ve shown Bertrand Russell how to draw a bath and seen Albert Einstein at your father’s table?”

The answer was simple: you become Oakmont’s undisputed, if unofficial, Ombudsman, the elder everybody seeks out to solve problems, to arbitrate disputes, to offer advice and to mentor newcomers. Wally Schilpp served on innumerable committees, but never ran for the Board of Directors of the OVA.

That changed last April, when he promised David Johnson he would serve at least one term if the former were to run for office as well. Their concern for seeking a board seat was rooted in the conviction that our community benefited the most from residents who had lived here long enough to understand its composition and its character.

Now that a year has passed, Schilpp has concluded that he can be more helpful to his fellow residents outside the Board’s increasing strictures and limitations imposed by state law and an extremely risk-averse administration.

A second consideration lies in the arrival of “social media” in Oakmont, namely Facebook, with a group called “Oakmont Buzz.” In it a vocal and outspoken group of residents is taking a critical position vis--vis the Board and OVA’s manager. Since directors are forbidden by law to participate in the electronic disputations, issues are self-perpetuating in the absence of concrete explanations for the underlying motives, conditions and reasons of their actions.

Schilpp feels certain that had he been able to settle a relatively minor problem related to pool temperatures, the problem would have never taken on disproportional significance, a cause debated back and forth in the “Buzz”, until the President of the OVA himself set the warming levels for the various pools. Parenthetically, since social forums are not only mediums to inform and to amuse, but exceed at perpetuating misinformation and spawning rumors, the time for an Ombudsman’s office is an idea whose time has come.

A popular question is being circulated: “Why is all this drama happening now – when did it begin?” Was it two years ago with the change in managers, and did the Oakmont Buzz/Facebook crystallize all the pent-up frustration?

Schilpp thinks there is truth to both assumptions. He stated that the OVA manager is extremely capable, but far too cautious in her interpretation of the Davis-Sterling Act, the state document governing Common Interest Developments. A few years ago nobody cared much about Sacramento. Ted Throndson’s philosophy was: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

He never worried about an accident occurring on the Benson/Annadel path. Patricia Arnold, highly aware of legal pitfalls, made it her mission to keep Oakmont out of legal trouble at all costs, and that included an uninsured walking path. In order to obtain adequate coverage, improvements had to be made, a legal easement negotiated and city code requirements incorporated. The Board, together with the property owner, Mr. Benson, agreed that there was no feasible way to avoid the accumulating costs, closing the access as a result.

Another bone of contention is the Open Meeting Act that forbids directors to speak to one another about association business outside public meetings. The manager went as far as to counsel Board members not to discuss the above matters with residents at large, a position she later modified, stating that each Director was free to “disregard” respective legal advice. Schilpp is of the opinion that Arnold cannot and should not prepare the community for every worst case scenario, which would bring Oakmont close to a state of paralysis.

He is of divided mind about Oakmont’s generational shift. On the one hand he sees problems: a group had to be forced to change their by-laws in order to allow seniors to attend their events. “Younger people think that they can improve the running of Oakmont and bring novel ideas to the table,” said Schilpp. On the other hand Schilpp admits that older people always prefer the status quo and doing things their habitual way.

A notebook is filled with his reflections and thoughts. He will, I am certain, freed from confidentiality, share his experiences and offer suggestions to whomever he talks to, and that is half of the community.

Welcome back to Main Street, Wally, and many thanks for everything you have done and will continue to do.