Marcy-Holmes bylaw change could better include business owners, renters

Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association members will vote April 16 on whether or not to allow nonresidents to join the board.

Imani Cruzen

New Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association bylaws could make the organization more accessible to business owners and renters, members say. 

The revised policy opens up membership to nonresident property owners and sets the MHNA’s voting age to 16. Members would also only have to be part of the organization for 20 days to run for the board, as opposed to previous bylaws that required six months of membership. MHNA members will vote on the bylaws during a general membership meeting on April 16.

“Whether you’ve been a member for a day or lived here for a day or had a business here for 30 or 40 years, we want everybody to have the same opportunities, ultimately,” said MHNA Executive Director Chris Lautenschlager. 

Opening the board and membership to nonresidents will make it more inclusive to business owners and other supporters of the neighborhood, Lautenschlager said.

“We’ve always worked with our business community, as long as this organization has been around,” Lautenschlager said. “We often ask for sponsorship or to raise money with organizations. And we appreciate all the support that they could give to us, but we found it, structurally, a little difficult to give support to them.”

While the neighborhood does not currently have a voting age, keeping it low prevents the bylaws from being a barrier to younger residents, Lautenschlager said.

The board has been working on the bylaws since June, but similar proposals received pushback in the early 2000s.

The MHNA board attempted to move the neighborhood’s annual meeting from June to October in 2004. Some board members thought doing so would be more inclusive to students who only lived in Marcy-Holmes during the school year, said Ted Tucker, who was MHNA president at the time of the proposal. The revised bylaw was defeated, though it was eventually approved in 2016.

“I think there [was] a certain wariness about organized students taking over the neighborhood association in order to pass a particular motion and then disappearing and not being a continuing part of the organization,” Tucker said.

Despite past pushback, Tucker said the recent proposal has seen more support. 

“I think they’ve been moving gradually to be more inclusive,” Tucker said. “It’ll make it easier for all sorts of people to participate.”

MHNA President Vic Thorstenson, who was also involved in MHNA in 2004, said the neighborhood is more open to increasing participation now. 

“I think there’s more of a realization now that the group that represents the neighborhood has to be fully representative of the neighborhood,” Thorstenson said.