by Paul Edwards
One of the responsibilities of the representative of the board of publications to ACB's board meetings is to provide our membership with a timely report of what our board is doing in "The Braille Forum." I am our representative this year and I did not meet my obligation to get the September board report out in a timely fashion. I am including in this report discussion of that meeting and three additional board meetings. I apologize to the membership for my failure and pledge to do better.
ACB Fall Board Meeting
The ACB board met in Columbus, Ohio in September 2012. Marlaina Lieberg was the only member absent. Ray Campbell took the minutes.
The president, Mitch Pomerantz, included in his report that he will become the next vice president of the region of the World Blind Union. He and Kim Charlson will be attending the Bangkok meeting of the World Blind Union in November. The Thailand Association of the Blind is funding Larry Turnbull and Brian Charlson to stream the WBU meeting and other meetings that will occur, including a meeting of world educators and a diversity conference, on ACB Radio.
Melanie Brunson, our executive director, reported that Francine Patterson started as the new administrative assistant in the national office on Aug. 1, and she is doing well. ACB is transitioning to a new telephone provider. The service quality should be higher and the cost will be half of what it currently is.
Melanie is currently looking for someone to update the various Spanish messages on the phone system. She reported on her work to change international copyright law. She will be spending Thanksgiving in Geneva with WIPO in November and will also be going to Geneva in October. The negotiations cannot be discussed publicly but there is hope that there will be some significant progress to report after the November meeting.
A working group has now been created to work on prescription drug labels. A first meeting was held with Eric Bridges representing ACB. This meeting also concerned Section 508. A rule for implementing the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act is currently with the Office of Management and Budget. Melanie reported that there is going to be a Google Summit where ACB will be represented by Pratik Patel and Brian Charlson. While there, they also plan to meet with Facebook and Apple.
The Combined Federal Campaign is now under way and there are now 22 volunteers who have agreed to give presentations at various locations to encourage federal employees to designate ACB as a recipient of dollars they donate.
Our annual report for 2011 is almost ready for release. It will be sent to the board list and will be on the web site.
The advisory board approved via a constitutional change this summer at the convention is still being put together. One meeting has been held concerning its organization and it is hoped that the advisory board will be in place by the end of the year.
There are currently five grant proposals that are awaiting approval. These total $45,000. There are five more grants that are expected to be submitted by the end of the year.
Melanie reported that, with the assistance of Bob Hachey from Massachusetts, Eric Bridges of the national office and Joel Snyder of our Audio Description Project have prepared instructions on how to file a complaint with the FCC if you are in the top 25 markets for TV and cannot get description as you should have been able to do after July 1st. The Audio Description Project had a successful training program this summer in conjunction with our convention. We have also continued work with a grant that we have received from Smith-Kettlewell in San Francisco. We reported to them on our activities and our report was well received.
Lane Waters reported on activities in the Minneapolis office, where there are three full-time people and one part-time person. The office is responsible for overseeing our thrift stores, handling our convention accounting and providing financial oversight for ACB. He indicates that everything is going smoothly.
Carla Ruschival informed everyone that a new report has been generated that shows the percentage of the revenue or expenditure that has been expended or received for the year for each budget item. She believes this can help the board and the budget committee better track where ACB is financially. While she recognizes that we are only two-thirds of the way through the year, most of our revenue is received during the first part of the year. Currently we have received 34.1 percent of the funds that were expected under unrestricted revenue in our 2012 budget. Restricted revenue is at 63 percent of the budgeted amount. Grants are at 10.7 percent. Total revenue is at 46.1 percent, which she described as a real concern. One bright spot is that our convention should generate more profit than it ever has, though exact figures are not yet available. On the expenditure side, we are at 59.8 percent of the funds we expect to spend for the year. Carla indicates that we will probably need an additional $200,000 from our reserves to make it through this year.
The next segment of the meeting was devoted to the consideration of our strategic plan.
Mitch indicated that he expected groups to meet from now on each month and be prepared to report at each upcoming board meetings. He indicated that Carla will replace Chris Gray as chair of group one, which is working on communications. The second goal relates to fund-raising, and Dan Spoone has been named as the new chair. The third goal is chaired by Kim Charlson, and relates to the development of staff and volunteer practices.
Group one held a meeting at which a report was given and progress was noted with the web site, ACB Radio, public relations, and in other areas. It is a complex goal and, while considerable progress has already been made, many elements of the plan await implementation.
The second group has not yet met, but the new group was defined. It will work with ACB's president to add the advisory council that was approved by the membership this summer. The new database for fund-raising was discussed. It is being implemented and this task should be completed by mid-October. It was also reported that work is being done on the diversification of funding sources from outside ACB.
Goal three is looking at staff and volunteer efforts. Kim presented goal three to the staff of both offices on Sept. 10. There was also a board orientation dinner at which an hour was spent discussing questions that new board members had. The group is also considering how to make committees meet at more reasonable times so as not to require staff to devote lots of their non-working hours to meetings. The goal three group believes there may be some sources for law interns, which will be a better way of recruiting people who can help with ACB's advocacy efforts. It is being recommended that we explore and implement making the ACB 800 number available all day rather than just from 2 to 5 p.m.
Goal four, which relates to ACB governance, has not yet met and is led by Paul Edwards. An executive session was held during lunch at which personnel matters and other issues were discussed. No actions were reported out by that session.
After the executive session ended, the board recessed so that the membership meeting of the American Council of the Blind Enterprises and Services could convene for the purpose of electing new members of the ACBES board. During that meeting, Dan Spoone, Carla Ruschival, Jeff Thom and George Holliday were elected to the American Council of the Blind Enterprises and Services board. After this action, the ACBES membership meeting was adjourned.
The ACB board then went back into session and began consideration of where ACB ought to go with regard to the ACB membership database. Chris Gray has been working on a membership database for ACB for the last several years. ACB has recently purchased a database called Donor Perfect to manage our donations. It is now being proposed that Donor Perfect be used for ACB's membership information rather than the one that Chris has been working on.
The president read a recommendation that would authorize ACB to enter into a contract with a company called Implex to create a membership module that would work with Donor Perfect, our fund-raising database. This would involve taking up to $7,500 from board reserves. After lengthy discussion, a roll call vote was taken. Of the 14 members voting, Chris Gray, Allan Peterson and Dan Spoone voted no while the remaining board members voted yes. It is expected that the membership database module will be ready by Dec. 15, 2012.
As chair of the convention committee, Janet Dickelman reported that plans are going well for our 2013 convention in Columbus. Janet indicated that she is rewriting the specs for our RFP to reflect lower convention attendance and the need for a little less space. At her recommendation, the board postponed a decision on the 2015 convention location.
The last part of the board meeting was devoted to officer reports concerning what work the committees they supervise are doing.
Meetings of Dec. 6 and 17, 2012
At the start of the meeting, only Brenda Dillon was missing. The president did not offer a complete report but indicated he will give a full report in February. He indicated that he would respond to questions. Chris asked that his questions regarding ACBES be answered and was told that they would be covered, perhaps in executive session, at the February board meeting. John McCann asked where we are with Donor Perfect. Lane indicated that the system is working well. Everyone seems happy with it. The back-end program is almost finished. The test site should be up next Monday. There is a small task force of members who have provided input. The interface is finished and it works.
The board went into executive session. Personnel matters were discussed. In particular, there was discussion of the resignation of Steve Obremski. No action was taken.
A report on the ACB Radio auction was discussed. It raised $4,145 minus the expenses to get Larry to Louisville.
By the end of the board meeting, the whole budget must be adopted. This evening, however, only the revenue side was discussed. While each element of the revenue side was reviewed, only two elements provoked major disagreement. The first concerned the $125,000 that was budgeted for bequests. ACB received less than $4,000 this year but in virtually all of the 20 previous years, considerably more has been received and, in several years, far more than the proposed revenue has been received. The proposed budgeted number was approved. In this budget, ACBES is proposing to provide no funds to ACB. As an outgrowth of this decision, a motion was made that the membership of ACBES hold an extraordinary meeting in executive session within 45 days. After the revenue side of the budget was adopted with a total expected income of $871,059, the board meeting was recessed until Dec. 17, at which time the board considered the expense side of the 2013 budget.
At the beginning of the Dec. 17 meeting, the board went into executive session. Two motions were made. One indicated that Laurie Mehta of GDUI be invited to meet with the board early in January to discuss issues relating to that organization. The second motion called on the president to publish a statement to our lists indicating that this meeting will happen.
The board then considered the expenses of the budget. Minor changes were made to various expense items. Perhaps the most significant change was made in the board of publications area. It was originally proposed in the budget to go from 10 to 9 issues of "The Braille Forum" in 2013. The board of publications proposed going to six issues, each of which would be 56 large-print pages. In addition, the BOP proposed publishing an electronic publication in those months when there is no regular "Braille Forum" published. This will mean that we will be publishing a larger magazine, which will allow us to publish significantly longer articles. We will also be able to keep members informed every month. The BOP proposed a budget to accomplish this of about 70 percent of the allocation originally proposed by the budget committee.
By the end of the meeting, final figures for the new budget were not available for two reasons. There are still some components of the budget that need to be finalized and a couple of organizational elements of the budget must be rearranged. Despite the absence of final figures, the board voted to adopt a budget that will require us to withdraw $250,000 from our reserves unless our revenues are significantly higher than they were projected. In round figures, we anticipate spending just over $1,100,000 in 2013.
At the end of the meeting, the board adopted the expense side of the budget and the budget as a whole.
Meeting of Jan. 3, 2013
This meeting was called to order by the president and, after the roll was called, a motion was made by Chris Gray and seconded by Dan Spoone that the report to be received from Laurie Mehta, president of Guide Dog Users, Inc., be held in open session. After considerable debate, this motion was defeated and a motion was subsequently made to go into executive session. During that session, a report was received on the background and current state of GDUI from its elected president, Laurie Mehta.
At the end of the executive session, the passage of two motions was reported by the president. The first motion indicated that ACB will extend a line of credit of up to $3,000 to GDUI for the purpose of covering bills that need to be paid outside of any funds owed to ACB for dues. This line of credit was authorized for four months commencing on Jan. 3, 2013, and will be repaid by GDUI as soon as their accounts are available. The signatures of the president and the treasurer of GDUI will be required on any requests for funds through this line of credit. The second motion asked the credentials committee to consider extending the deadline for the receipt of GDUI's dues payment.
The meeting adjourned after this report was received.
A Final Note
While it is beyond the scope of this article to report on the membership meeting of ACBES since it is a separate entity, I feel compelled to report that, based on a motion passed during the Dec. 6 meeting, an executive meeting of that corporation was held on Jan. 28. I expect the chair of ACBES, Michael Garrett, to report what the corporation decided to do at the next ACB board meeting.