Chapel Hill YMCA steps in it

There's a storm of stupid brewing here in the southern part of heaven, with our local YMCA selling out longtime supporters and donors in a misguided plan to duplicate services available in many other venues in Orange County.

At issue is a decision by the YMCA management and board to shutter the only two racquetball courts available to the Chapel Hill citizen in favor of expanding the number of weight machines in their fitness center. It's a boneheaded move and it's pissing off scores of people, myself included, who have contributed thousands of dollars in fees and gifts over several decades.

If the Y wants to offer more weight machines, why not close their swimming pool and expand into that generous space? There are already three other public pools available, does Chapel Hill really need a fourth?

It's hard to understand how a community-based organization could stumble so badly in managing the relationships with people who helped create it in the first place.


That is too bad. I have a lot

That is too bad. I have a lot of friends who have played there over the years. I guess in this economy they are getting a lot less donations and have to do some cost-benefit analysis of what pays the bills. I have watched a number of companies make boneheaded decisions in the down economy for short term gain. Time will tell.

YMCA loss of differentiation

I just started a week trial at the Y in Chapel Hill precisely because I am interested in hitting a squash ball in addition using some equipment. I have tried the other facilities but dearly miss hitting a squash ball. I was surprised to learn that the courts are doomed taking away a true differentiator. That diminished competitive advantage is exacerbated but the very restricted hours of operation, far less than the other competing fitness facilities. And more expensive. So there is no reason to join after this week,

I never hear them make news for good reasons

Molly has covered their activities pretty well over the past year:

Back in March, the CHCYMCA Board of Directors stated during their board meeting that all plans to merge with the YMCA of the Triangle were on indefinite hold after a commuity outcry because of the discriminatory practices of the YMCA of the Triangle. More on this story can be found in this OP post, this post, and this post.

Prevarication at the Y

I just came from my usual Friday handball match at the Y, and want to report that one-half of the exercise machines in the "Wellness Area" adjacent to the Courts were in use when I arrived at 4:45, and fewer than one-third were in use when I left at 6 pm. The same was true every day last week at 5:30 pm, when I surveyed the area, my curiosity aroused by new Y President Dabney Grinnan's assertions in various papers over the last few weeks that the two multi-purpose racquetball/handball Courts are unused, while Wellness machine users are clamoring for more machines to decrease their wait times, and wider aisles to be made more comfortable in their passage there.

Verifying that Ms. Grinnan simply repeats what others who are certainly mistaken have told her, really, is a simple matter.

At the same time that the fitness machines were awaiting the surmised hoards, at the very hour all would agree to be the Y's busiest, both handball Courts were in use by players (two on one Court, three on the other), which were still busy with racquetball players when I left at the beginning of the six to seven o'clock period.

I have to note as well that the Courts were being used earlier this afternoon, as they often are, to corral school children waiting for their parents to pick them up. Though players are often told the Courts are not available for use when the afterschoolers are housed there, (estimate 100 children in there this afternoon), that use, though beneficial enough to displace players, is never counted as a benefit when Ms. Grinnan and her staff handlers report that the Courts stand unused most of the time and simply must be "re-purposed." Nor are the many practitioners of oriental exercise (families mostly), who prefer the separation and silence of the walled Courts for their meditative exercise; or the high school volleyballers who practice there, or the other users of the Courts never seen by the staff, whose offices and attention are upstairs, and who are never seen visiting this area.

Worse than that, though, is Ms. Grinnan's choice, just before the start of her first Board meeting as President, to close and thus bar from the meeting two senior, original Y members who have played on the Courts here for more than thirty years, Billy Barnes and Bob Epting. The Seniors had come to hear Ms. Grinnan report to the Board about her meeting the previous week with players disgruntled to learn that staff and the Board had undertaken to close the Courts, (the only Courts in Orange County available to the public), to destroy them, and to fill their space with additional single-story stairclimbers and destination-less bicycles. Only problem, they failed to mention their proposals and plans to the Court users until announcing the decision as a fait accompli. We wanted to know why, and to request that the process be re-opened to allow for opportunities for all members to say whether the Courts should go, not just the staff and and whichever members the admittedly "random" survey had reached, so we found out where the January Board was meeting, and when, and appeared at their front door at the appointed hour.

"Out, out you must go," Ms Grinnan told us. "Who closed the meeting, did you close the meeting?" I asked her. Officials from the Triangle Y, rushed to defend her, and coming chest to chest with me, argued with me that, "Our meetings are always closed, we are a private, not a public, non-profit." Are you her boss, I wondered out loud, but got no answer from him. "The decision has been made, it does not matter by whom, and I am going to follow it."

I thought, who, without chest bumping me, whispered from my memory, "We have met the enemy and she is it."

This coming Wednesday, the 27th of February, we will visit the Y Board meeting again, this time to deliver to the Board the written and spoken statements of five recent Y Presidents, each of whom has assured me that the Y Board meetings have not been closed, to their knowledge, in the last forty years.

We will also insist that the Board call and provide for the general election we have requested, and as allowed by the by-laws, of all Y members, upon by-law amendments we are proposing that will "clarify," since the Board now seems uncertain about the matter, that all Y members have the right to attend and observe all Board meetings, and that such meetings are always to be open meetings, except when sensitive matters such as personnel questions are being considered.

Ms. Grinnan's response? Late last week she wrote to advise me that the Board will consider our request for an open election by all Y members upon the amendments proposed, at its February 27 meeting, where, in her discretion, the public will be allowed fifteen minutes to address the Board. The rest of the meeting, she asserts, will be closed.

Alas, she seems not to know how she has soiled herself, or when or how to stop.

See you at the Y Board meeting on the 27th, at noon, at the Y daycare facility on Sunrise Road, just off Weaver Dairy Road.


I meant to attribute to Pogo,

I meant to attribute to Pogo, the whispered thought. Correcting that sentence:

"I thought of Pogo, who, without chest bumping me, whispered from my memory, "We have met the enemy and sheezit."

actual Pogo quote

In the interest of historical accuracy, I'd like to point out what Pogo actually said.

"We have met the enemy and he is us."

Board Adds Insult to Injury


The YMCA Board of Directors met last Wednesday, again, in secret. And four previous Board Presidents and the original Executive Director of the Y were required to leave the meeting, along with more than fifty Y members, after President Grinnan announced that Y Board meetings will be closed to the public after an initial fifteen minute public comment session at the beginning of each meeting.

At the beginning of the meeting, Y staff passed out written rules announcing that five persons would be allowed to address the Y Board for up to three minutes each. The five to speak would have to be picked by lot from names placed in a hat at least ten minutes before the meeting, according to those printed rules. No such rules have ever been applied to Y Board meetings before.

Responding to those new rules, the Y’s original Executive Director Howard Tate told the Board that the Y Board always met in public, its meetings were always open to Members, and that he simply did not understand why this practice now had to be changed. No explanation was given him or anyone.

Former Y Board President Dr. Paula Miller recounted her years on the Board, and stated that Board meetings had always been open to Members, and that she did not believe the community would continue to support a Y whose Board felt like it had to keep interested Members outside, and not allow them to observe and hear what went on in its meetings.

Former Y Board President Maureen Rosen told the Board that it ought to be ashamed of itself for distancing itself from its Members, for closing its meetings to Members for the first time in her experience, and thereby creating a chasm of bad feelings between the itself and the community, and for failing to answer in public the questions and requests made to it in public by its Members.

Former Chapel Hill Mayor Rosemary Waldorf, herself a former Y Board President, said that no Board meetings had been closed in her experience, except for consideration of sensitive matters such as personnel issues, and suggested the Board should formally promise in by-law amendments that its Board meetings would be open to the public. She also stated that she felt public funding from governing bodies and from local giving would dry up if the Board continued to insist, as it has under President Grinnan, that its meetings will be closed to the public, and particularly to Members.

Former Board President John Curry sent the Board a letter stating that during the Y’s previous financial crisis in the early 1980’s, many Members attended Board meetings he chaired, and made suggestions that proved valuable to saving the Y. He also recalled that much of the new financial support received in that crisis came from Y Members who were, and still are, regular users of the Courts in the YMCA.

So how was the testimony of these former Presidents received by the Board?

At the end of their remarks, President Grinnan refused to allow the Board to vote on whether to close the meeting. Instead, she declared that the Board had decided in a prior meeting to close all future meetings, and with others clamoring for a chance to speak, she declared the rest of the meeting to be closed and asked the fifty-odd Members who had gathered to observe the meeting, to leave.

This is why we have called for general referendum of all Y members, to vote upon amendments that will make specific in the by-laws that Y Board meetings are open meetings, that Members may attend and observe, and that the Board’s business is the Members’ business and must be done in public and with transparency. Frankly, Ms. Grinnan’s determination to keep Y Members from knowing what business its Board discusses, what action the Board is contemplating, what particular positions its various Board members may support, and what each does not support is baffling, especially in light of the ability and experience of all of her predecessors in being able to lead Board in public meeting.

Why is it then, that under President Grinnan, the open meetings practices of our YMCA have to be changed and the Board must meet and deliberate in secret?

Who is being accommodated by her insistence on closed Board meetings?

Are all Board members insisting, or even agreeing with her, that Members of the YMCA cannot be trusted to attend and observe Y Board meetings ?

Is it the weakness of her convictions that makes her unwilling to have their discussion hidden from public view? Or is she just so certain that she is right that she feels no need to consider anything else?

Are this Y’s assets at risk? Has this Board so weakened it financially that we may not know its peril?

Have agreements already been made to turn the assets of our Y, and its future, over to some larger organization with a regional rather than local tradition and outlook? Does the Y’s Management Agreement lead this Y to that end, and are these closed meetings required in order to secure that course, rather than expose it to public discussion?

If you were thinking when you began today ‘s remarks that here comes more about why these old guys need to keep on playing Racquetball at the local Y, well surprise, surprise! As a matter of fact, in the course of trying to determine how local staff could have surveyed its members and missed all hundred or so Court users in that process, and by having the door to the Y Board meeting slammed in our face, not just one month, but now for two months in a row, it has become clear that local Board governance has had to become a secret process under President Grinnan. And that as a first priority, that has got to be changed.

I don’t expect she will ever be able to say why times have changed and why Board meetings must be secret now that she is President. So long as she continues, and so long as the rest of the Board remains cowed at her declarations as to how they will be allowed, or not, to be observed by and to interact with Y Members, this Y is on a self-destructive path.

Perhaps other Board members may begin to see the light, and insist that she stop. I sure hope so. Surely there are some on that Board who are not willing to have her attribute her aversion to transparency, inclusion, and open governance to them by unobserved, un-voted, and unrecorded fiat.

Today’s Chapel Hill News reported that one Board member explained the closed meeting Wednesday by reciting his fear that, if the meetings were open, “Folks like you would be in here writing down everything we say.”

Well, duh, that’s right, and people would then know what you were doing, what each of you is thinking, who was for it and who against, and come the next Board election, Y Members would have some basis for knowing who to support and who to reject.

The way it is, they have no idea whatsoever, until by secret vote at closed meetings, whatever part of the Y they use is announced to have been “re-purposed,” so that others may have the use of the space they used to enjoy.

President’s Grinnan’s penchant for autocracy mocks everything this community reveres about the transparency and self-governance by which local non-profits like the YMCA are governed.

Please join our efforts to change that by insisting upon an all-Member referendum to amend the Y’s by-laws to keep our Board meetings open and to make the Board aware that its business is, meeting after meeting, our business.

And join us as stand out front of the Y with our signs demanding open meetings, and as we attend the next Y Board meeting on the second Wednesday in March, at the Y Day Care Facility operated with Carol Woods residents on Sunrise Road in Chapel Hill.

Bob Epting

03 03 13

FYI, as of now, there is not

FYI, as of now, there is not a Board meeting scheduled for the second Wednesday in March.


Dabney Grinnan
CHCYMCA Board Chair

No Meeting, No Members to Face, BINGO!

The CHCY Board promised action on our requests within two weeks of their last meeting, thus my post promising our attendance two weeks from their last meeting. How stupid of me to expect them to take action in a real meeting.

Instead, we understand now that a quorum of Board members cannot be arranged for a meeting, and that the Board will instead confer by telephone and internet, without a formal meeting, in an effort to construct a negotiated resolution of our requests.

Nice, no meeting, no Y Members asking to hear and see how their Board interacts and transacts their business! And no way for individual Board members to know that each has access to all the information provided to others, or to test the proposal to be offered, no doubt from the Executive committee, with questions or discussion.

The only real difference, since they say they'll keep locking us out at future meetings anyway, is that there is to be no photo-op where news crews can photograph previous Board Presidents and Executive Directors, and scores of Y Members being kicked out of their Board meetings, if there is no meeting!

Nevertheless, it is our hope that by that Resolution, Board members will agree to open their meetings, as all their predecessor Boards have done. We also trust that they will cancel their flawed plan to destroy the only public racquetball Courts in town,involve all interested Y Members in a new survey, and develop future space utilization plans with input and support of all Members.

If they do not, we will proceed with a general election by all Y Members to amend the Y by-laws to provide for open meetings, public documents, and full transparency of Y Board business to all Y Members. It is ridiculous that they should have to be reminded of this community's expectations in this regard.

Stay tuned, and we will let you know if, when, and where if ever they decide to have another real meeting of the Board of Directors.

Bob Epting