As a board and as a community, we have accomplished a lot in one year.
First, we have a new manager, Bill Overton. I cannot overstate the role Bill has played in the four months he has been here. He has energized our staff, kept our board focused and helped to shepherd the achievement of many of our goals.
Specifically, what has the board done to improve its fiscal responsibility, transparency and inclusiveness?
Let’s consider “fiscal responsibility.” We began 2015 by completing a full independent audit of our accounting department and hiring a new controller. Based on the findings of the audit and with the help of our new controller, we restructured the accounting department and moved to a full accrual accounting system. I think it is safe to say that we are light-years ahead of where we were a year ago, in our level of professionalism, accuracy and clear reporting.
The list of other specific administrative achievements in our pursuit of fiscal responsibility is long. It has been wonderful working with all the members of this board who have been so dedicated to getting our house in order.
So, with a cleaner house, what have we done to open the windows?
Transparency in the wider world seems to be an overused word, yet is infrequently implemented as practical policy. However, this board has been very serious about acting transparently.
We turned our eyes first to the Covenant Design Review Committee (formerly known as the Art Jury), which serves an important role in maintaining our Association’s character, but has historically executed this role without an open decision-making process. We streamlined the approval process, opened previously closed meetings, and instituted a more accurate progress tracking system.
Although I could give many examples of our increased transparency, suffice it to say that with every action the board has considered, we have held our discussions in public and allowed them to be reported to you in the local newspapers.
Finally, inclusiveness has meant taking great strides to include more community members and voices in our decision-making process. Primarily, we focused on increasing voter registration and participation. In addition, we plan to study ways to improve the registration process so that voting is easier and more equitable.
There is one particular example of inclusiveness that I would like to highlight. As you probably know, there are several teams that are working on the plan for the proposed Health and Fitness Club — which is now going by the name of The Covenant Club. There is a Design Committee, a Marketing Committee and a Finance Committee. All of these teams are composed of members who represent a broad cross-section of the community. Not only are there representatives of both the Golf Club and the Tennis Club, but there are also members who are skeptical of the project as well as strong proponents. For a project this big and controversial, we wanted to be sure that the entire community would have a voice in the planning phase, long before we get to the community vote.
Last fall, among the top priorities for enhancing our community set by the board were:
• To improve our technology infrastructure, including high speed Internet service and cell coverage; and
• To prepare a full design and engineering plan for what we are now calling The Covenant Club.
In addition to working on these projects intended to enhance our Rancho Santa Fe Covenant lifestyle, we also increased attention and resources toward several other important areas related to preserving our special environment:
• Water. We have established an excellent partnership with the Santa Fe Irrigation District primarily to help members find ways to conserve water in their homes and in their landscaping. Over the long term, through SFID, we will be staying engaged with other agencies at the local and state level to try to find long-term solutions to the water shortage challenge in our community.
• Fire. Wildfires are always a hazard in Southern California. Our severe drought conditions have made fire preparedness an even more critical issue for all of us. We work closely with the Rancho Santa Fe Fire Department to improve fire preparedness throughout the Covenant.
The challenges to our mission to preserve the historic rural character of the Rancho Santa Fe Covenant are daunting. Our goals to enhance the ambience of our Covenant community are lofty. This board is committed to ensuring that the special character and lifestyle of the Covenant will flourish far into the future.