Sunday, November 18, 2007

Wrapping up our work

I've turned comments off on the blog, as our last meeting is tomorrow. We'll be going over all the comments we got, and integrating them in to a communication to the board. Also we'll reflect on the process make our experience available to those who come after us.

I hope to do a wrap-up comment soon.


Saturday, October 13, 2007

Comments Enabled

We said we would take comments on the report through November 3rd. I have enabled comments on this blog. Your comment will not be posted until it has been moderated by one of the committee members. Comments must include a real name AND an e-mail address. That way we can get back to you if there's a problem with your post. Let us know which ONE of those two items you'd like to see published with your post, your name OR your e-mail address.

Comments will appear as if they were posted by "anonymous" - that so we can edit out your name OR e-mail address and still post your comment. Still working out the kinks in how to do this WITH moderation, but so you can still sign on as YOU if you care to, so anonymous will have to do for now.

October 13th Corporation Meeting in Worcester

Just a quick note to say that the meeting was very well attended, and that the "Public" version of the report was distributed to attendees. We don't have a mechanism set up yet for distributing the report to corporation members who weren't there. You might try e-mailing the corporation offices at and see what happens. We'll work on this on Monday.

Tom Kennedy moderated masterfully. There were insightful questions from corporation members, only a few of which I can remember. They included:
  • We'll want to sharpen up the linkage between some of our suggestions and the actual IOL events.
  • One of the Pelican representatives asked us to clarify what we meant when we inquired about the relationship between how we deal with the Pelican community and the whether or not it was the "norm" for Pelicans to be ex-conferees.
  • While we recognize that there is a need for healing and reconciliation, and we did have plans to try to do that in this meeting, in the end the logistical plans for the meeting went elsewhere.
  • On the one hand, someone asked if our comment about "disrespect for authority" was overly broad, but on the other hand someone with long experience in Island governance enthusiastically said "Don't change a word about that - thank you for finally saying what I've known for years."
  • There was a question about what action plan emerges from this document. We think that's a question for the board
  • Someone asked, "What changed between 2006 and 2007 such that we opened in 2006 and not 2007?" This is a complicated question in part answered in the body of the report, which people admittedly had only a short time to review. But has more to do with the nature of regulation and what it takes to make regulators comfortable with a situation. The short answer is that between 2006 and 2007, despite continuing to make incremental safety improvements, we moved out of the regulators' comfort zone. Our efforts this year have been focused on concrete improvements, but also on putting in place the processes and communications mechanisms so that we can maintain a relationship with our regulators such that they feel they can, with confidence, approve our operations.
  • A long-time volunteer talked about the frustration of trying to volunteer services and not even being able to figure out who to ask for authorization for a project.

There were a number of other questions. Fortunately, I was sitting next to someone who was taking great notes as I was concentrating on keeping up with the discussions. I hope to get a copy of those notes and boil down the important points for the committee.

Though our work is not done, I need to express my deep gratitude particularly to Jack Lightfoot, who, though not at the meeting, prepared the powerpoint that so succinctly yet thoroughly summed up our report. To Martha Copithorne, Doug Hatfield, and Kristi Vazifdar for being up with me on the podium and answering questions, and to Russ Peterson for advocating for us with the Board. Nick Dembsey,(even though he too couldn't be at the meeting), gets my undying thanks for educating us about regulatory matters so that we could sound intelligent up on the podium.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Report Available at the October 13th Meeting

I have just been informed by Russ Peterson (our committee member and board liaison) and by Brad Greeley that the board has decided to make the "Public" version of the document we submitted, available at October 13th meeting in Worcester.

I understand that this was a difficult decision for the board and applaud them for taking this step.

Look forward to seeing you at the meeting.

A Clarification About Current Plans for the October 13 Meeting

It is our understanding (as of 11:30 EDT) that the Board is gathering input for its decision as to whether they feel they can release either of the documents provided to them by the committee.

Our feeling is that these documents now "belong" to the board and are theirs to do with as they believe best benefits the interests of the Corporation.

At this time, we have not been informed that they plan to distribute any document.

Transmitting our work to the Board

On October 12th, we sent the following e-mail to the Star Island Corporation Board transmitting our work to them:

By this e-mail, we are sending you two documents. The first represents the final submission of the IOL committee to the Star Island Board of Directors. We believe we have thoroughly complied with our charge “to review the elements which led to the delayed opening of the 2007 season and recommend any changes to board policy and process or the staff and its process.”

In an informal conversation before the start of this process, Brad noted the conflicting tensions inherent in this process: “Take as long as you need, but complete your task as quickly as possible.” His statement was prescient. We have no doubt that this report could be improved in various details if there were more time to work on it. Nonetheless, we have researched all of the “fact” issues included in this report to the best of our ability and believe they are all supported by the evidence we have gathered.

We also appreciate that delivery at this time significantly improves the ability of the corporation to move on with the immediate practical work needed to ensure a successful 2008 season. Certainly the deadline has been useful, (if inconvenient!) for us; to paraphrase Samuel Johnson, “nothing concentrates the mind so wonderfully as the imminent prospect of a deadline.”

While we have been unstinting in our candid criticism of all parts of the Star Island community as regards their role as “elements which led to the delayed opening of the 2007 season,” we have striven to make our recommendations constructive and of a type that allows them to be acted upon. It has been our intention to provide the Board with the signposts it needs to chart our course where “board policy and process … [and] staff and its process” do not result in similar events in the future.

As we state in the introduction, “This report will not solve any of the problems confronting our island and its community. This report can only serve to begin a process, or a number of processes, by which we redefine ourselves, re-invent the way we run our island, change our expectations (including financial expectations), and change our personal relationships to one another and to our island community.”

We hope the Board will use this document to begin that process.

The second document is an edition of the final report that has been edited to remove any material that may be problematical if released in a public setting. This document was created with a strong eye to the concerns of the SIC Counsel. It is the opinion of the attorneys on the committee that this document does not represent a risk to the corporation beyond the normal course of doing business. It is the opinion of the expert in regulatory matters on the committee that this document does not create any exposure vis a vis our regulators.

It is our hope that the board will see the value in releasing this version of the report to the corporation membership. One of our significant recommendations is that we “establish transparency as a community value” in the confidence that “the entire Star Island community will respond positively to factual information. We should trust one another not only to handle the truth, but to want the truth in a clear and complete picture. Stating that the Island has shortcomings, what those shortcomings are, and encouraging input as to ways to overcome them reflects a trust that should be a cornerstone of Star Island.”

It is in this spirit that we offer the edited edition of our final report.

On my own part, it has been a privilege working with this extraordinary group of people, and I commend Brad and the Board for assembling such an eminent group. The dedication and love for the island in the room was palpable; the accumulated life wisdom and professional expertise that each of the members brought to bear was extremely impressive.

Respectfully submitted,

Jordan Young

For the Island Opened Late committee:
Martha Copithorne
Nick Dembsey
Doug Hatfield
Jack Lightfoot
Russ Peterson
Kristi Vazifdar
Jordan Young

Full disclosure: At the request of the board, there was a minor edit between the version we sent to them and the version published here. We do not believe the change is material.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Finishing Our Report

On Monday, October 8th, the committee completed its report to the Board of Directors, and e-mailed it to them. The Board met on October 9th to review the document. Jordan was present for the portion of the call dealing with "Next Steps" and how and whether the document would be released to the corporation membership.

Directors offered numerous small corrections to the document, which the committee gratefully accepted. They also had some substantive concerns. The committee concluded that these were best dealt with through the anticipated "public comment period." In the end, we reminded ourselves that the Board did not have to agree with our report in order to accept it and take it under advisement.

Some members of the board expressed concerns as to whether the report needed to be vetted by the Corporation's counsel. The committee had considered this issue several times, most recently in August, and (given that there are three attorneys on the committee) concluded that there was no material in the report of concern.

Nonetheless, the draft given to the Board was referred to the Corporation's counsel, who expressed a number of concerns, some specific and some general.

Early in its deliberations, the committee considered having a "public" version of its report and a version to the board, which would be free of the real constraints that exist with regard to a public document. We had abandoned this approach as we did not believe it was necessary, but readopted it in the face of Counsel's concerns.

Counsel was asked to review the document in this light, and, in consultation with the attorneys on the committee, agreed to provide us with areas of concern.

Our next communication was from the Board, indicating that there was no form of the document that they could envision releasing.

Our intent had been to review the document with the corporation membership at the October 13th meeting, and invite comments and corrections via this blog, which will open for moderated comments in the afternoon of October 13th. Our intent was then to issue a final enhanced document as our report to the Board of Directors.

Given that this plan no longer seems feasible in the absence of a document to comment on, we have finalized our report and will be delivering it to the board on Friday, October 12th. We will also deliver to the board a version of the document which we believe addresses all the substantive concerns of Counsel with regard to public distribution.

What happens to these documents is up to the board.

This was not at all the distribution mechanism nor ending we had envisioned for our committee, and it has been a difficult process.