Safety and Numbers

Safety and Numbers

By Zach Cowan, Chair, Board of Trustees

As you know, in light of recent concerns about security at 444 Natoma, the BOT has decided to hire a security guard through mid-December while a more sustainable and effective security plan is developed.

A number of members have asked why the BOT did not decide to keep a security guard for a longer period, given the status of the endowment and the success of the capital campaign.

Thank you for asking.

The endowment stood at $426,044.51 at the end of the fiscal year on June 30, 2013. The purpose of the endowment is to generate income to help pay for the ongoing operation of the Center. Given current interest rates and economic conditions, it is not generating enough to pay for a permanent security guard. In fact, the Center is currently withdrawing more from the endowment for operating expenses than the endowment is generating. This is not sustainable. The BOT has already taken a number of steps to try to increase the size of the endowment through better management. One of the BOT’s major goals over the next year is to find a way to raise enough money elsewhere so that we can stop taking principal out of the endowment.

The endowment was also the source of $500,000 that was needed to complete the renovation and furnishing of 444 Natoma. The purpose of the capital campaign was to raise money to repay this loan with interest. So far, the campaign has been a success: pledges to date exceed (albeit just) the amount that must be repaid to the endowment. The majority of the contributions to the campaign were pledges to be paid over the next five years. During that time the amount available to supplement our budget has been greatly reduced.

In contrast to its principal, the Center’s operating budget is derived almost entirely from three sources: membership dues, tuition and program fees. Since no one is interested in raising membership dues, that leaves either increasing tuition and other program fees or –preferably – increasing the number of people who are enrolled in training programs at the Center. And this in turn may require some thought about what other sorts of programs the Center might develop and offer, and what additional disciplines might be interested in them. This is the sort of issue where more input would be better than less, and we encourage everyone to communicate with us about this.

Given this discussion of the budget, we can understand why a reader might be tempted to think that the BOT views the safety of people who come to 444 Natoma as a luxury to be paid for only when the Center has extra funds. That reader would be incorrect.

First, it is important to distinguish actual, effective, security measures from just having a person standing at the front door. A security guard at the door will have virtually no effect outside a very small radius around the front door. Most of the concerns we have heard expressed do not relate to that area. In addition, a security guard’s role is to be present, to watch, and to report, but not to intervene in problematic situations. It may be that a guard’s presence may have some deterrent effect in some situations that might otherwise occur in his immediate vicinity. But that is probably the extent of a guard’s effect.

Second, the BOT and Management Team has already taken a number of actions including changing the settings of the auto-opening front door, installing new halogen lighting and installing security cameras on the front and entrance portico of the building.

Third, we will be scheduling at least one safety training for candidates and other interested persons. We have established a relationship with KidPower, an organization that trains children, adolescents and adults how to both avoid dangerous situations and respond to them when they cannot be avoided. We will publish the date once it’s available.

Fourth, the BOT has convened a Safety and Security Committee which will be chaired by Karen Johnson to examine the full range of effective measures that could be taken as well as other measures that have yet to be identified.

Fifth, a safety protocol document has been developed and is included in this newsletter.

There is also good news to share about the parking lot at Natoma and Mary Streets just two doors away from the Center. That lot now remains open in the evenings and on the weekends. The owner has installed an automated system that allows self-parking and payment by credit card at a machine located just inside the gate.

The BOT and Management team will be keeping the membership and community up to date about both our safety and our budget through the year.

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