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.)

Just 24 hours after the American Council of the Blind's annual convention in Minneapolis elected them, the organization's new cadre of officers swung into action. At its post-convention meeting on site, the newly constituted board of directors got right down to business, not a little of which was generated by the convention attendees.

It was an open meeting with approximately 40 observers seated around the periphery of the large fifth floor hotel meeting room. With the aid of a wireless microphone, all those observers were able to introduce themselves. From time to time during the meeting, several of them were called upon by newly elected president Mitch Pomerantz to contribute to a particular discussion.

Pomerantz set the tone for the new administration by expressing a determination to maximize the participation of all board officers and directors in organization business during the coming year. Close liaison will be established with committees, and effective communications will be maintained among board members.

After the minutes of the previous board's May 23 meeting were approved, conditional approval was voted unanimously for a new chapter, the ACB of Wisconsin. Final board approval is conditional upon national office reviewing the affiliate's proposed constitution and bylaws. The Milwaukee area's Badger Association has agreed to disaffiliate; its members are among the approximately 30 seeking the new charter.

Before the board tackled the substance of the resolutions which were not yet considered at the close of the convention due to time constraints, Ray Campbell and several other board members expressed their discomfort with the task. Respect for the many convention attendees who opposed the referral to the board, as well as a determination to find ways of avoiding a repeat of that dilemma at the next annual convention, were widely acknowledged.

Resolutions committee chair Judy Jackson read the text of each pending resolution. A vote was taken after discussion and "wordsmithing," and then later in the meeting, a priority was assigned to each resolution that had been approved either by the convention body or the board. The seven given top priority will be implemented immediately by national office staff. Nine which were assigned a priority two will be acted upon in the next several weeks. The remaining two will be pursued as soon as staff time allows, or are described as "ongoing actions" at the national office. The text of every approved resolution will become available to the entire organization membership promptly.

Resolution 07-20, concerning NLS page navigation in DAISY format mark- ups, was defeated by a nearly unanimous vote, but several board members were identified who will develop appropriate wording to respond to any remaining concerns in this area. Resolution 07-31, submitted by the Randolph-Sheppard Vendors of America and expressing its displeasure about some convention aspects, also failed. The president will attend to those concerns informally. Resolution 07-21 on accessibility of web sites and Resolution 07-24 on large print on currency were not acted upon due to the unavailability during the meeting of final proposed wording or the need for more staff attention to their text before board action.

The board discussed at some length the convention, evaluating what features were successful as well as problem areas. Eleven attendees received a total of 158 hours of sign language interpreter services, but a lengthy exchange among several board members and a representative of the relevant committee failed to fully clarify what the total cost to the organization will be, and how much of the service was donated. The board will probe this matter further.

Comptroller Lane Waters was present for a portion of the meeting, and commented briefly on financial matters, identifying no issues calling for board action or cause for worry. He noted that thrift store sales have been stronger lately. He also noted management efficiency improvements in that area. Treasurer Mike Godino reported a total of $17,150 in donations were pledged from individuals and affiliates from the convention floor. It was also reported that the ACB Store at the convention generated about $2,000 in revenue.

It was announced that two affiliate presidents, yet unnamed, will join Pomerantz, Godino and Bradley to comprise the office review committee. Campbell was selected to represent the board of directors on the Internet oversight committee, and Charles Hodge passed the baton to Ken Stewart as the board of publications' ex officio member sitting for the year on the board of directors. Pomerantz will be joined on the executive committee by first vice president Kim Charlson and immediate past president Chris Gray, elected by the officers to represent them, and directors Keith and Thom, elected by their fellow directors.

With any needed board conference calls in the interim, the next assembled board of directors meeting will be scheduled in October or November, possibly at a site of a potential future convention. Chicago and San Diego had been mentioned earlier in the meeting as under consideration as convention sites.

The board adjourned after almost five hours in session.

Board Teleconference August 2, 2007

On Aug. 2, the board resumed discussion of several pieces of business not completed on July 7. The teleconference, lasting a bit over two hours, also considered important issues which had surfaced more recently and deserved attention before the next face-to-face meeting, planned for the weekend of Oct. 13-14 at a site yet to be determined.

Executive director Melanie Brunson reported that the business relationship with an Internet travel service has been severed as requested by Damar Travel, based on the previously existing exclusive contractual relationship between Damar and ACB. The Internet service had generated negligible income for ACB. Damar's connection has generated revenue in past years from cruise business, although there is no record of any for the current year as yet. When the Damar contract expires in 2008, ACB will be free to negotiate with any travel service to obtain the most favorable business terms.

Brunson also reported to the board on staffing adjustments within the national office, and indicated that her review of the submitted constitution from the ACB of Wisconsin group has satisfied her except for one provision which she is assured will be appropriately modified. Based on the executive director's recommendation, the board approved the new ACB of Wisconsin's charter.

The two remaining convention resolutions not already finalized were processed, both receiving a passing vote. Resolution 07-24 expresses the organization's continuing advocacy for more accessible U.S. paper currency, without endorsing any single solution for achieving full accessibility. Resolution 07-21 relates to the need for more accessibility on commercial web sites, urging the application of the ADA's Title III, compliance with standards of web site accessibility, and removal of "captcha," a security feature which cannot be engaged non-visually. In a related action, the board passed a motion expressing support for the on-line petition asking Yahoo to move toward establishing a non-visual method of interacting with its web site "captchas."

The board considered at some length the most appropriate language for a motion supporting the ADA Restoration Act, which is currently being advanced in the U.S. Congress. The motion ultimately receiving a unanimous voice vote conveyed support for the legislation as well as a strong desire to amend it so that it addresses the ADA concerns of people who are blind or visually impaired.

The board also spent time allocating a very generous unrestricted bequest just received in the amount of $400,000. Many deserving budget areas were identified before a decision was reached to place $325,000 into the designated reserve fund, consistent with standing policy aimed toward the goal of building organization reserves to $1 million. The remainder will go into the general fund. Brunson indicated that there may be an additional sum to follow from that bequest, and that another monetary gift was recently received at the national office.

Prior to concluding the teleconference, the board selected representatives to the public relations and credentials committees; they are Billie Jean Keith and Ray Campbell, respectively.

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