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How To Have A Non-Violent Annual Meeting

1.   Show up. I’ve already given you six reasons why.

2.  No quorum, no meeting. No meeting, no election. It’s that simple. If there’s no election, the same people will stay in office and continue to conduct the building’s affairs.  Assuming the sponsor is still around, all it has to do is arrive with its pile of shares, and probably you’re almost home free.  But if not, the burden is on you to make an appearance.

3.  Appoint a proxy if you really can’t go. But don’t just give that piece of paper to the managing agent or the board – unless you want to preserve the status quo, which is what they’ll do. You can give your proxy to whoever you want, and either specifically direct how they should vote or leave it up to them.  But remember, proxies aren’t like potato chips.  You only get one. (See, One To A Customer) and if you hand out a fistful, odds are none of them will count.

4. Don’t let the Building Malcontent hog the proceedings, holding you all hostage, as he shouts the loudest or stands in place like a giant Sequoia. I’ve witnessed a variety of tactics. One way to avoid this is to have owners sign up in advance to speak for a specified number of minutes.

5.  Be proactive, a word I hate, especially now that it’s also a blemish remover (minus the “e”), but if you hope to make a difference you have to think ahead. Say you want to amend the bylaws to impose term limits or reduce the size of the board, or if it’s co-op, change the sublet policy in the proprietary lease. You can’t just get up at the meeting if lightning strikes and make a motion on the spot.  The board will shut you down, and it will be right.  Owners are entitled to advance notice in the proxy of whatever issue will be voted on so they have a chance to have their say.  That’s why you have to plan far enough in advance, otherwise you’ll have to call a separate special meeting.

6.  Sit back and let people ask questions even if they’re dumb or you’ve heard them before.  There’s only one opportunity a year to let off steam, and it it’s cut off too soon, it will accumulate to the bursting point.

7.  Don’t vote till after the venting, otherwise you may elect the people with the wrong answers and it will be too late.

8.  Use cumulative voting, if it’s available, to break the stranglehold of an entrenched board, and get some new blood in office.

9. If someone comes to the meeting with a wheelbarrow full of proxies, insist that at least one representative from each side of the divide act as election inspector and be present when the counting takes place, otherwise things could get ugly and no one will believe the results even if they’re accurate, sinking the new board before it’s begun.

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