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 this meeting 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 waded through all the details of the organization's 2008 budget during its early February meeting in Washington, D.C. President Mitch Pomerantz called the session to order. The entire board was in attendance, two via speakerphone, with executive director Melanie Brunson and controller Lane Waters also at the table.
Assorted good news and encouraging updates permeated the reports from Pomerantz, Brunson, and treasurer Mike Godino. The arrival of more generous bequests prompted one of many unanimous voice votes. It decreed that a wall plaque honor all donors of amounts in six figures or higher, and that those names appear in "The Braille Forum" and on the ACB web site. Brunson also assured the board that all donations, however modest, are formally acknowledged. She also reported that recruitment is ongoing for the newly established national office position of director of development, and will be stepped up to reach even more suitable candidates. Brunson indicated that the organization's business relationship with Damar Travel will end in April with all owed money received. A contractual relationship with some other travel agency is expected soon thereafter.
Pomerantz described his activities representing ACB in the World Blind Union, and the board was updated on administrative progress within the nascent American Center on Blindness and Visual Impairment. Godino noted that ACB's financial reserves have now topped the $1 million mark. The remainder of its total assets are in ordinary operating funds, over $200,000, and funds with specific purposes designated for them, almost $900,000.
A detailed report was received from Michael Garrett, chair of the ACBES board. He indicated that the stores in Milwaukee and Texas are showing improved sales, while stores in other Midwest locales are still struggling. He and Waters mentioned specific actions being taken to improve their performance. The board of directors, by another one of its unanimous voice votes, authorized a $100,000 line of credit to finance capital expenditures needed for the thrift store operations.
The budget for the current calendar year received final approval by the board after extensive examination of the details of projected revenues and justified expenditures. The board enthusiastically blessed the board of publications' proposal to return to a full 12 monthly issues of "The Braille Forum." Funds for scholarships granted to blind students pursuing higher education were increased substantially, from $30,000 up to $42,000. The board allocated $14,000 for an entirely new telephone system in the national office.
Brunson led discussion of relocating the national office when the lease on its present quarters ends later this year. The lease for the Minneapolis space also expires this year, but it has been decided not to combine the two operations in one location. Pomerantz acknowledged the appeal of such an efficiency during the discussion. The objective is to find rental space convenient to the various District of Columbia business destinations frequented by national office staff. The board agreed on an expeditious decision-making process as soon as suitable quarters at a reasonable rent are located.
At noon, the board went into executive session. When the audience returned, Pomerantz reported that no actions were taken, no motions were made, and the primary discussion dealt with the audit letter for ACB litigation matters and areas in which we might expect advocacy-related revenues.
Mike Dickson, a representative of the Dain Rauscher securities firm, presented himself to familiarize board members with the services which will be provided by that Minneapolis-based company in its capacity as ACB's investment adviser. He assured attendees that there would be no fees charged over the basic annual contractual amount, just under one percent of ACB's total asset package being managed.
A regular feature of ACB board meetings is a report on future conventions, provided by convention committee chair Carla Ruschival. She confirmed that a commitment has now been made for 2010 at the new Phoenix Sheraton. And the board passed a resolution to assure that appropriate accommodations are provided for attendees with other disabilities.
The board also took a few minutes to greet and converse with a visitor from Africa accompanied by an escort provided by the U.S. State Department. Danlami Barashu is an official of a Nigerian organization of the blind, and a national leader in that nation's disability community.
Minus only the two members previously connected by speakerphone, the board reconvened the next day. Many would be participating in the annual affiliate presidents' meeting scheduled immediately following. Questions and comments from that audience were accepted by Pomerantz, especially during the lively final segment of the board's session. It featured officers reporting on the standing committees and other ACB working groups to which each of them, including the president himself, serves as liaison. (For a complete list of standing committees and their members, contact the ACB national office.)
Announcements made during the closing session included one from Brunson that efforts are under way to revitalize an affiliate in the state of Idaho. Board member and resource development committee chair David Trott mentioned preliminary plans to stage a walkathon during next year's convention in Orlando, Fla.