NENA Members Vote in Crowd – Masked, Distanced at Sun Ray Cafe and Online via Zoom

Hundreds of NENA members cast ballots yesterday (3/18), online and in person, on the recall of five current NENA board members. Vote organizers, like many other neighbors, are looking after jobs and kids and other things today. All the paper ballots are still sealed in the ballot box. The online ballots are secured by Google. The necessary steps to properly unseal, tally and document the results are being taken, with an abundance of care. We expect results will be reported at some point this weekend. Interim updates will be posted here, as they become available. Thank you for your patience!

Here’s what we have seen and learned so far:

A Legal Vote

The vote was organized by dozens of NENA members and volunteers, who submitted to the NENA board, in early January, a petition with at least 134 verified member signatures, requesting a vote on the recall. That request was eventually and improperly dismissed by the current board. In such a situation, Idaho non-profit law and NENA’s bylaws allow for members to organize a meeting and hold the vote.

Proper Notice

The meeting called on March 18th for the purpose of voting on the removal of five board members was properly noticed. Written notice was delivered to 5200 North End residences and businesses, 10+ days before the vote. It was noticed in the Idaho Statesman, social media channels, this website, emails and on posters all over the neighborhood.

Online and In-person Crowds

Hundreds of North End neighbors turned out, between 4pm and 8pm on March 18th, and cast thousands of individual votes on the five separate removal questions (one for each of the five board members being considered). Via Zoom and on the patio at Sun Ray Cafe in Hyde Park, neighbors turned out and patiently waited their turn to sign in and vote. There was a steady stream of neighbors at both locations, for the full four hours. Thanks to Boise PD for monitoring, since nobody knew what to expect.

Quorum Established and Maintained

A quorum of 25 members was established and maintained, to meet requirements in the bylaws. The quorum was established across the two meeting sites, which were linked by Zoom video, before any votes were recorded. Throughout the four hours, online participants numbered 50-70 participants. A steady crowd of in-person voters streamed through the Sun Ray site. Also worth noting, a few voters had to be turned away when they couldn’t wait until the quorum was established, showed up right after we’d adjourned, or tried to vote the day after by email.

Verified and Documented Eligible Voters

Every voter’s eligibility was established by a combination of measures. Pursuant to the requirements in NENA’s bylaws, neighbors were required to show ID and/or other proof of address, and in some cases sign an affidavit attesting to their address (as is done in government elections), in order to meet the boundary and age requirements in the bylaws. Online, every voter showed their face on live video, spoke their name and address, and showed their ID on camera (up close so we could verify addresses). The online ballot contained an affidavit where voters declared, under penalty of perjury, that they were providing accurate information and understood that to do otherwise is a felony. Every voter gave written consent and asked to be included as an eligible voting member of NENA, to meet the requirements of Idaho law and NENA’s bylaws.

Data Security and Documentation

The entire voting process has been secured and documented. Online, the entire Zoom session was recorded. That video of people and IDs will not be made public, but it’s available for review by authorities, if needed. Once signed in, online voters proceeded to a Google form ballot, similar to the October election, where their information, attestation, and specific votes were submitted directly to Google, where the History function clearly shows no changes have been made to that data. At Sun Ray, all paper ballots went into a sealed ballot box, monitored by a member of the Idaho State Bar, and those handling paper ballots will be signing, under penalty of perjury, that they have conducted that counting properly.

Counting the Votes

The online votes have been given a first review. A small number of obvious duplicate votes have been set aside (without altering the original voting data spreadsheet). A few addresses need to be verified (property owners vs. residents, in most cases). The video of IDs needs to be reviewed and checked against the timestamped votes, to confirm everyone’s votes. This process is more rigorous than what was done in October’s board election.

For the in-person, paper ballots, the sealed ballot box will be unsealed, the ballots counted, and the votes tallied on recorded video. Members of the current board have been invited to attend that video session, so they can secure the counting for themselves. The paper counting process can only happen as quickly as the organizers and the current board can schedule that session. For now the box remains sealed, as shown at the end of the Zoom video recording. The unsealing and counting will be shown live and recorded on Zoom.

An Abundance of Care

We have seen an unprecedented turnout, from all across the neighborhood. Obviously many many neighbors really care about what is happening. The organizers of this vote have deep experience in the neighborhood and as NENA volunteers over many years, and are taking every possible step to conduct things as carefully, securely, transparently as possible, documenting the process, even though that makes it take longer. Meanwhile, they are also out cleaning up the neighborhood, taking down the Vote posters – and taking care of jobs, kids, and the rest of life. Updates will be posted here as soon as possible, sometime over the weekend.

NENA Punts at Historic Preservation Meeting

NENA Board Member Carlos Coto missed a chance to stand up for NENA’s members and for historic preservation in the North End at yesterday’s Historic Preservation Commission meeting. Meeting video here, Coto at 1:13.

In his testimony on behalf of NENA, Coto said: “We agree with the staff report. The report says that the house is a non-contributing structure. It doesn’t matter how much we like it, it’s a non-contributing structure….We believe….the homeowner has every right to alter it. The homeowner has gone above and beyond, moving the canal…the neighbor has gone above and beyond and should not be penalized….”

BUT… The “non-contributing” status is based on a survey from 1978, before historic guidelines were in place. This homeowner had 10 trees removed to accommodate a new structure, with no permit. A nearby neighbor testified that the house is not “dilapidated” as stipulated by the owner.

It’s not clear if or how Coto engaged neighbors before this meeting or how their views were incorporated in his testimony. Long-time observers had expressed concerns in social media. Others were talking afterward.

Coto’s support for owner rights was surprising based on his own vocal opposition to owner rights in the recent TRICA and Franklin House questions. TRICA happens to be across the street from his own home.

Trees cleared without a permit. Canal shift proposed.

Read the Plan: A History of Self-Organization!

The first draft of the North End Neighborhood Plan is out now for your review and survey commenting until March 19. It’ll help drive the things you’ll celebrate or complain about for years to come..

This story from its 30-page history section is a timely testament to what we’re showcasing here at northendalliance.org: self-organization!

…Under the headline, “Park Proposal is Laid Before the Council,” the newspaper in May 1914 reported that 57 property owners had asked the city council “to secure for a park a two-block tract of land” situated in Elm Grove addition. They pointed out that three-fourths of the property “is covered with elm trees at the present time.”

A year before, the city had rejected an offer to buy the park for $10,000, but since then land sales and prices had been falling, so now might be a better time. Walter Pierce, whose syndicate had platted the subdivision, evidently intended these two blocks for a park, as he had provided toilets, swings, benches, and fencing–and planted the trees. The city council put the matter away to study, but the price must not have been sweet enough.

Nevertheless, a few weeks later, a social note in the paper said that the Ladies Aid of Emmanuel Methodist church were having their picnic “in Elm Grove” on Wednesday afternoon. It was a park. Another women’s group, the Women’s Relief Corps of the GAR, formally opened the park with a picnic in July 1915. The city purchased the land in 1920 and then annexed the two blocks into the city limits in 1922.

It is a good place for picnics. And so it went. A tradition of neighbors acting together was by no means restricted to the city’s north additions, and the practice of organizing neighbors to get something accomplished persisted into the next two centuries.

NENA Board Election – Now Certified, Still Challenged, Meeting Tonight, Link Below

Following October’s Annual Meeting and board elections, a number of formal inquiries have been presented to the NENA board, by NENA members, regarding the election process and legitimacy of the results – including a petition signed/submitted by 180+ members (update: now 258 members) which was presented at the November meeting. October Zoom Video | November Zoom Video

The issues raised by these inquiries are being investigated. Election results have not been certified and a new board has not yet been formally established. The current board must ratify (or not) the results of the election and the current board remains in place until a new board is selected and ratified.

This process was unanimously approved before the election because the bylaws are silent on how to conduct the election. Ratification must now also include consideration of the issues raised by NENA membership about the legitimacy of the election process.

UPDATE to what was announced at the November meeting: Tom Banducci (Boise attorney and mediator) has volunteered to facilitate a discussion between board election candidates and other interested parties (including association members supportive of the recent petition), with the aim of exploring possible solutions. To that end, Mr. Banducci plans to meet with stakeholders and other interested parties, in advance of the December 13th meeting, in a non-binding confidential mediation process.

UPDATE: Days before the scheduled special meeting, threats of legal action have necessitated the withdrawal of our volunteer mediator and scuttled, at least for now, the chance for a mediated solution. The board is still working to restart the mediation process, which would now require finding a new mediator. We may or may not have a meeting agenda posted in advance of this meeting.

UPDATE: The petitioners have been heard, the election results certified, but a new petition from members has been presented. At the special meeting on December 13th (interrupted by Zoom capacity issue that limited attendance) and then its continuation on January 10th, the original petitioning group brought concerns and questions for sitting board members and recent board candidates. Board members and one candidate addressed all questions put to them. The election results from October were certified as required by Idaho state law, with protests noted. Three board members announced their resignations during the session. December Zoom Video | January Zoom Video

A new petition from members was announced at the end of the meeting. The special meeting to address that petition will be coupled with the next regular monthly meeting, on the evening of Tuesday, January 26th has now been postponed. Updates will be posted here, as they become available. Here is the full text of that petition:

Demand for Special Membership Meeting of the North End Neighborhood Association

In the event that the North End Neighborhood (NENA) board certifies the October 27, 2020, board election, we, the undersigned, as member of the NENA, pursuant to Idaho Nonprofit code 30-30-608*, are demanding a NENA special member meeting for the purpose of removing the following board members: Tory Spengler, Sarah Foregger, Carlos Coto, Daniel Foregger, and Sitka Koloski.

*30-30-608. Removal of directors by members or directors. (1) The members may remove one (1) or more directors elected by them without cause.

Please join us – February 23rd, at 7-9pm – for the next regular monthly board meeting.

Click Here to Join the Zoom Meeting

Link and other meeting info will be posted 15 minutes before the meeting starts

Meeting ID: TBD
One tap mobile numbers: TBD

If you missed any of these meetings, you can catch up here:
October Zoom Video | November Zoom Video | December Zoom Video
January (1/10 Special Meeting) Zoom Video | January (Regular Meeting) Zoom Video