The Kenwood Press
: 12/01/2012

Forum Oakmont

Oakmont’s summer of discontent

Yvonne Frauenfelder

Next year in September, our village will celebrate its 50th Anniversary, a milestone in the history of this retirement community, which was one of the first of its kind in the state of California when it was founded in 1963. Residents are enthusiastically engaged in formulating ideas and creating plans to ensure that the occasion will be suitably observed and adequately commemorated. An air of festive anticipation permeates our village, offering a communal picture of harmony and unity of purpose.

But there are times when appearances can be deceiving, masking a reality that deviates in some degree from the burnished image projected. And, as surprising as it may seem, Oakmont, long considered an oasis of civic tranquility, erupted with popular discontent on a number of fronts over the past few months. The unhappiness created with the partial loss of medical insurance for employees’ relatives set the stage for the furor over the Oakmont Village Association’s (OVA) change from a local accounting business to an out-of-county firm. The abrupt closure of the access road to Channel Drive and Annadel State Park resulted in hundreds of signatures on a petition presented to the OVA Board of Directors, yet the path remains off-limits to this day. A routine matter of setting pool temperatures turned into a contentious debate, while the closure of the OVA offices over the noon hours led to a tug of war with the administrator.

A series of burglaries during the summer put residents on edge, who demanded the immediate installation of surveillance cameras at the entrances to the village. The hesitation by Oakmont’s directors to take action on this matter during their next meeting elicited such outrage that members of the audience verbally assaulted both the board and its association manager, leading one director to resign.

In a letter to the editor of the Oakmont News, Pat Amedeo, a prominent resident and former OVA president, wrote that the above-cited incident “broke the camel’s back.” During an interview she elaborated on her comment, stating that the board fails to listen to public concerns and neglects to adequately communicate with its constituency. Amedeo, who has worked for both the federal and state governments, was emphatic that Oakmont should be run like a small town and not like a business. “You really have to spend the time listening to the people and get a sense of what is important to them,” she said. And while she believes in the goodwill of our elected officials, she regrets the absence of experience in politics and the resultant misjudgment in setting priorities. “In government everything is a balancing act; people need to know that problems are solved in their favor and deliberations will end constructively and positively.”

Recalling OVA manager Ted Throndson, Patricia Arnold’s more flexibly inclined predecessor, Amedeo noted that Throndson would advise the board on the pros and cons in any given situation, entrusting the decision making process entirely to the directors. His style was relaxed and nonintrusive, meshing well with a community of retirees. By contrast, new manager Arnold hails from a different school of thought, where the avoidance of legal challenges takes on paramount importance, and the rigorous adherence to the tightly woven statutes of the Davis-Stirling Act leave little room for local improvisation.

While the current board takes pride in conducting the affairs of the village efficiently and competently, Amedeo hinted at the need for a gentler and less “dry” governance. “We are not only volunteers, we are all neighbors; we should have fun! We need less bureaucracy and more camaraderie, working jointly and joyously to keep Oakmont the wonderful place it has always been,” said Amedeo.

OVA take note!