Fae a few points..First board members are volunteers like you and all the things that are asked of a candidate represents a significant amount of time. In addition there are timelines and the notion of a process to improve questions is not really feasible. Also I said it before, many of the questions asked have nothing to do with the remit of a board member. Effectively, issues are put before the board and the board typically asks the WMF org for a proposal.
As to autonomy of communities, they exist within boundaries. In the past projects have been put on notice, have been deleted and senior people from a project have been banned (most recently at the Croatian Wikipedia).
Given that I am a member of the language committee, there are plans to do away with Incubator and have projects provisionally created. When the content of the project shows that it does not represent the language or other significant problems it will be removed. This ensures a much easier integration from the start for a starting project. NB a language will first have to be considered "eligible". After this, it will have the prospect of activation given the policies of the Language committee.
As to funding of what you call external .. calling the paid-for API external is disingenuous. We already provide this service, it is part of our commitment to share in the sum of all knowledge. With this service we provide a better service to commercial entities that ask for a service level and are willing to pay for the additional service. This service improves quality all around. As to payments to external parties. I am all for it when it provides a real service to our movement. I would for instance make Wikicite a shared project with the Internet Archive because it would deduplicate services and the combination will improve services to us and to them.
You call the process opaque. It is. It is because it is attempting to bring more engagement from all over the world, the way it is done is new and there is a difference between the operational reality and the expectations during the planning phase. This is not a community process even though the objective is very much to engage a wider public.