December 31 2009
That’s what boards sometimes say when they screwed up and don’t want anyone to know what they did so they won’t look bad or worse get sued. Maybe it’s not surprising. That’s what Obama said was the reason for not pursuing criminal charges against those waterboarding Bushies. But, hey, he had the excuse that mucking with the past could destroy the future morale of the troops or foreign relations, not a claim any co-op or condo board could make with a straight face.
If you move forward you don’t look back, if you don’t look back you never know what train wreck was committed, if you don’t know what went wrong the problem sits there and festers like a cancer growing undetected, until it gets big enough to resurface on the radar, and then there’s a new and louder chorus of LET’S MOVE FORWARD.
Say the board assessed owners a million dollars to make the hallways look beautiful. (For those of you unfamiliar with the ways of High Rise Society, boards have the power to tax no matter how many tea parties you hold.) Only instead of making the hallways look better they make them look worse because they have a collective blind eye – so ugly you get depressed every time you come home and have to spend hundreds of dollars on Zoloft, which if there were any justice you’d be able to recoup from them. And worse, they don’t bother to execute an appropriate contract so when it turns out the walls are wavy because they weren’t properly skimmed, and the moldings are rotting before they’re all in, what does the board do? It says: LET’S MOVE FORWARD
Or even though none of them knows anything about investing, and wouldn’t put their own money at risk, they decide at the top of the market to buy some investment vehicle that’s so complicated it takes 200 pages to explain, which may be why they were undeterred by the caution in bold letters that warned: YOU COULD LOSE ALL OF YOUR PRINCIPAL Then the market tanks and the investment goes South, all the way to Rio, and residents start asking what happened to our money. What does the board say? LET’S MOVE FORWARD.
It’s amazing but true that lots of the tribesmen join in the chorus of LET’S MOVE FORWARD. I attended a meeting where owners were told their building’s bank accounts had been emptied out. Where was the board when all this happened, you’d think they’d ask. Didn’t it occur to them to take a look at the statements once in a while so they could see that trouble was brewing? LET’S MOVE FORWARD.
Only when things get really bad the board usually hires a lawyer, who is supposed to be representing all the tribesmen but sometimes represents the board that retained her a little more. And the Board President figures I’m not getting paid a dime so why should I take the hit. That’s why those hired guns get the big bucks. So the lawyer gets up at the meeting and she says LET’S MOVE FORWARD. And such is the power of those three magic words that the audience bursts into spontaneous applause and joins in a cleansing cheer of LET’S MOVE FORWARD.
Yes, I know the new year is the time to look ahead, but the past is prelude to the future. My advice is to stand up and say, we can’t move forward till we go back and fix the problem and, preferably replace the people under whose watch it occurred. Be forewarned your fellow tribesmen may not thank you for opening their eyes. No one likes bad news, no matter that you are only the messenger. But you’ll be doing everyone a favor, by opening the issue for discussion and allowing the building to move forward on firmer ground.