by Ken Stewart
(Editor's Note: The American Council of the Blind constitution and bylaws require that a narrative summary of every board of directors meeting be prepared by the board of publications' ex officio representative to the board of directors. Upon approval of the minutes of these meetings by the board of directors, the minutes will be made available to the membership on the web site. Members who cannot access the minutes in that way may request assistance from the national office.)
The ACB board of directors convened its third meeting on Oct. 13-14. Board members came to Chicago from around the country for an intense day and a half of deliberations, decision-making, and information exchanging.
With the metaphorical gavel in the firm hand of President Mitch Pomerantz, the body moved through a long agenda crisply, working from 9 a.m. Saturday to about 5 p.m., and then finishing up with a full morning session on Sunday. Also participating were executive director Melanie Brunson, comptroller Lane Waters, and ACBES board chair Michael Garrett. About a half-dozen others were in the room too, mostly spouses of board members. They were excused from the room only during an executive session, during which Brunson updated the board on three legal matters.
Brunson also reported on the staffing at the national office in Washington, D.C., and recent activities of the office. She presented a job description for a new national office position, a director of development. The board then discussed its content, with final approval to follow later.
Mitch Pomerantz reported on his recent and impending official presidential functions, the latter including an appearance at the convention of the Mid-Atlantic affiliates, immediately followed by a formal reception at the national office on Nov. 5. He established a task force consisting of Jeff Thom, Pat Sheehan, Ken Stewart and Brenda Dillon, whose scope will be to determine whether there is a need to change the method by which voting is conducted at national conventions and, if so, to recommend how or what method(s) might be implemented. The board also elected several members of the board of the American Center on Blindness and Visual Impairment: Marlaina Lieberg, Carla Ruschival, Pam Shaw, and Otis Stephens.
Comptroller Lane Waters reported on behalf of the Minneapolis office where the organization's financial affairs are overseen. Much of the business of the remainder of the day-and-a-half meeting pertained to budgetary issues, asset management, fund-raising efforts, and decisions about expenditure priorities. Treasurer Mike Godino, assisted at times by Waters, presented a very detailed report on each line of the organization's budget. An increase in vehicle donations was noted, as was the placement of virtually all of the approximately $1.5 million asset base in interest- bearing accounts or investments. There was divided opinion expressed during discussion of the pros and cons of the current contractual relationship between ACB and Damar Travel. The fund-raising letter solicitations done by a company identified as "AKA" were referenced, as well as the urgency of a fall ACB direct-mail appeal. The board selected members for the budget committee, which will soon begin developing the 2008 budget. Brunson expects specific budget requests from committees and other organizational entities by early November.
The board returned to a proposal introduced at its post-convention meeting, to authorize a $200 stipend to help defray the expenses of board members' travel and lodging for the present meeting. There was recognition of the value of returning to such a general policy so as to avoid discouraging ACB members from seeking elective office in the organization if their personal finances are limited. The board will revisit the proposal during the consideration of the next annual budget.
For a portion of the first day, the board reconstituted itself as the membership of ACB Enterprises and Services. (For details on ACBES, see "What Is ACBES?," May 2007.) With Michael Garrett presiding, new and re- appointed members for the ACBES board were selected; they are Chris Gray, Mike Godino and Carla Ruschival. The board adopted a policy requiring a written contract with each vendor selling merchandise through ACBES.
Garrett and Waters cited specific actions being taken to improve the business practices at thrift stores, and to assess the value of present store locations and potential new locations.
Convention committee chair Carla Ruschival led discussion of several convention-related items. Negotiations continue with a hotel now under construction in Phoenix, a possible site for 2010. There will be a site visit some time next year as it is nearing completion. There was acknowledgement that adequate provision must be made for guide dog comfort in that city's very hot climate. Several locations for the 2011 convention are receiving consideration, with the 2009 and 2012 sites already determined, Orlando and Louisville, respectively.
The last major item on the agenda was one of the most informative and most heartening too! It was the time set aside for the board to hear about the activities of all standing committees. Each officer spoke in detail about each of the committees for which he/she serves as liaison. It was evident that virtually all of the well over a dozen committees identified in the presentations have been active since the July convention, setting goals, and in several instances dividing work among sub-committees. The transportation committee, for example, has created a sub-committee to focus on rural transit, another to develop a training curriculum for ACB members desiring to become more effective transportation advocates, and a third aiming at coalition-building with other transportation stakeholder groups. One action of the Internet oversight committee had resulted in an agenda item earlier during the board meeting, a recommendation that the ACB-Chat listserv be discontinued, which was approved. Many of the standing committees have established listservs to optimize communication among committee members. Pomerantz observed that other ACB members may contact a committee chair to determine how and whether non-committee members may participate in these listservs. Board Conference Call October 29, 2007
Just 15 days later, the board reconvened via teleconference to follow up on several financial matters and to decide on convention-related items.
There was consensus expressed in support of the judgment reached between the president and the executive director, that an eleventh monthly issue of "The Braille Forum" could be restored. Sufficient funds are available and properly budgeted to publish December and January issues, rather than the joint issue originally planned.
The board approved a request from the public relations committee for $500 to duplicate a public service announcement for distribution to media outlets. It also voted unanimously to place three-quarters of a just- received $100,000 bequest in the reserve fund. The remainder will be added to money allocated to scholarship awards.
There was active discussion of a convention committee idea to increase the share of convention proceeds given to the local host chapter. The amount will be upped, retroactive to the 2007 convention, from the usual $2,000 to $4,000. Ruschival reported that in a recent teleconference, her committee has fine-tuned a convention badge policy which will encourage the wearing of badges at all events, and will expect affiliates to actively support the policy at their individual functions. Convention volunteers will not be burdened with any enforcement responsibilities.
Finally, the board approved a convention committee idea to add to the convention program a section in which a memorial page can be purchased to acknowledge someone an affiliate wishes to honor.
At adjournment, the expectation was the next board meeting would be at the mid-year presidents' meeting in Louisville during the Presidents' Day weekend in February.