District Direction

By Ken Monzingo
National Board Representative

“Nothing is more difficult, and therefore more
precious, than to be able to decide.”

– Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821)

If you’ve wondered what happens in those closed sessions of the ACBL Board of Directors, don’t feel alone. So did I until I joined them. Now it’s all I can do just to keep up; the pace is brisk and the issues often very complex. But first, to define who we are, picture the North American continent segmented into 25 areas which we call districts (see the district map at acbl.org).
The fundamental “building block” is the unit – that’s what each member belongs to, and corresponds to where they reside. It’s also where and how our elections and representations are based.

Districts are an aggregation of its units. Some districts are very small – Los Angeles D23 is tiny in both size and bridge population. In contrast, our eastern neighbor, D17 (Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, some Nevada and Wyoming, and El Paso, Tex.), is huge. Each district elects a national board representative (my job in D22) called District Directors – although we are not bridge directors. We are really corporate officers on the corporate board of directors. Thus the “Director” title. These twenty-five individuals make up the ACBL Board of Directors and are charged with making policy, procedures and regulations for the 166,000 paid members of our league, and also to represent our own districts.

We meet for 3-4 days preceding each of the league’s three annual national tournaments (NABCs). Day one begins with a housecleaning of any elections (the board elects a new president each year) or other such business. We sit in a large room with tables arranged in a huge square – each representative occupying his favorite spot. The president leads the first morning meeting, flanked by top ACBL management. Opening reports come from the CEO and League Counsel. From the dais the president then sets the pace and thrust of the motions and decisions to be discussed.

ACBL is primarily a motion-driven board closely following Robert’s Rules of Order on parliamentary procedures. Each of the board members may submit motions, which are then normally assigned to specific committees for clarification. Motions may also come from management, or from the Board of Governors.

Committees & Task Forces

After a lunch break, board members reassemble to smaller rooms to join their assigned committees. In January the president assigns each of us to several different committees and/or task forces which we generally remain on for the entire year. Committees are as small as four or as large as twelve, with descriptive names such as: membership, masterpoints, juniors, tournaments, finance, appeals & charges, etc. Each has a chairman who is responsible for getting business done in a timely manner and reporting their findings to the full board.

After researching and discussing a motion, the committee chairman takes a vote of his members to establish what to recommend. On the final day of the meeting, after the committee presents their decisions, the full board decides some action to be taken on each motion – e.g. to pass it, amend it, reject it, or to defer it.

Example:District 7 is hosting an NABC in Atlanta and the local community has petitioned the league to schedule the two session games at 10:00 a.m. & 3:00 p.m., which is not standard NABC procedure. The traditional 1:00 & 7:30 p.m. games are the norm and to change alters speaker lectures, Goodwill Committee meetings, educational sessions, and a host of other regular events.

A committee is selected to hear it and intense discussion follows as the different factions present their case. When both sides have spoken, in full board, we vote. A 13-12 majority vote is all that is required to pass or reject most motions and/or elections.
When a motion is passed it becomes a regulation with ACBL Management in Horn Lake, Miss. who must implement all board decisions into their everyday duties of running the league. New information must get funneled to all involved, be they clubs, districts, units, directors or whomever. Conditions of contest are often rewritten and the codification of the league’s rules updated.

Management: Horn Lake

The ACBL management staff of about 60 employees do their best to keep up with, and back up, our decisions – they earn their keep. The key here is they are employees, doing a job. It’s easy to cry, “That damned ACBL did it again!” Just as we say, “Those damned Democrats!” or “Those damned Republicans!”
It’s common to blame management when we don’t get our way, but it is not them, it’s us – the 25 board members – who make these decisions. If you’re unhappy yell at me, not them; they are very dedicated to their jobs and have thick skins to fend off unwarranted accusations and attacks.

Assignment: Scribe

My fun assignment this year is being appointed scribe of the board, charged with explaining these inner workings of our board meetings, committees, and task forces to the membership via an occasional column in the ACBL Bulletin. I hope you’ll read it and give me your thoughts.  kenm@kenmonzingo.com

Peace, my friends

*Note: We occasionally move units into another district, but we don’t change the district to encompass a unit. The district boundaries are dependent on the units that comprise it.