District Direction

By Ken Monzingo
National Board Representative

 The rule for effective governance is simple: when there is a problem, you fix it. That is the job you have been sent to do, and you cannot wait for someone else to do it for you.
– Christopher “Chris” Christie (1962- )

For the past four years I’ve maintained a position that our international program, which benefits only a few of our greatest players, should be continued, but could be more funded by their National Bridge Organization – the United States Bridge Federation (USBF) which selects “our” teams USA1 and USA2 (USBF1 and USBF2 sounds better) and sends them globe-trotting. As I’ve documented in past columns, we continue to raise $285,000 in annual International Fund (IF) donations to USBF, and also contribute $144,000 from the ACBL general fund to a faux membership in the World Bridge Federation (WBF). That one should come from USBF’s IF donations. Not from us.
Other than a costly rewrite of ACBL Score, and publishing our ACBL Bridge Bulletin, that annual $400K+ is probably more money than is donated/spent on any other league program – marketing, juniors, teaching, etc. Yet most of our members have little idea why-what-when-or where, and to whom, any of this money goes, since less than 1% of ACBL membership benefits from it.
Go look in the mirror and ask yourself, “What is the International Fund?” “Who receives it?” “Who gives it?” “What is the USBF? “Who is the World Bridge Federation?” “How can one play in WBF events?” “Who are the ‘USA’ teams and Women’s teams?” “What do we get from $144K WBF annual dues we pay?”
If 10% of our membership could answer half of those questions I would give up the quest. However, I feel safe in assuming no more than 1% know any of those answers. I’m not against what USBF does internationally, I just think they should pay the mysterious WBF membership tab, not us. It’s their party.

Help: If help comes, who could do it?

If I have support for my cause – and I have lots locally – who can affect change? Well, that falls on my board – the ACBL Board of Directors (BoD) of which I am one member of twenty-five. Unfortunately, that will not happen, but that’s another story.
There is a secondary governance body – the ACBL Board of Governors (BoG), whose primary duty is oversight of the BoD. Its body is similar, yet differs from my board in electing five members, instead of one, from each district: the first and second alternates to the BoD and three BoG members. It also differs in that BoG members are asked to travel to NABCs at their own expense to attend their three annual meetings. No perks.
The day I wrote this column, October 8, ACBL announced winning results of the 2013 BoG elections in District 22. Our three positions will be filled by: Maritha Pottenger, San Diego, Linda Trent, Fullerton, and Rex Latus, Escondido. On these new members much responsibility rests. Voices from the field help.

Influence: Does BoG have meaningful influence?

In the 1990s, the BoG was quite active in working to ensure a more open and transparent governance structure in ACBL. Perhaps their greatest effect was in shining light on league practices, and in pressing for reforms via a public forum. They still remain a check-and-balance on the activities of our organization; however, much of that depends on the composition of the membership of the BoG. A more recent example was the BoG’s effort to scale back the huge masterpoint awards for special games.
The BoG can also be a player in bylaw amendments, changes which can only be initiated by one of three procedures:
1. By a member of the ACBL Board of Directors.
2. By a member of the ACBL Board of Governors.
3. By a petition of at least 50 ACBL members, representing a majority of the districts, resulting in action by the annual general membership meeting.
In the first two cases, the initiating body must pass the amendment twice, then have it ratified by the other governing body (BoD or BoG). If not ratified, it may be ratified by an affirmative vote of 3/4ths of the 25 ACBL districts (by the district boards).
In the third case, the membership may, on its own, amend the league bylaws over the course of two membership meetings provided a quorum of 250 ACBL members is present.

Power: Does the BoG have meaningful power?

BoG’s primary powers are: 1. the above ratification power for bylaw changes; 2. the authority in requiring BoD reconsideration of motions or laws passed; 3. the authority to place items on the agenda of the BoD meetings; and 4. the right to pose strong questions, including requesting official explanations and data, regarding both the BoD and management’s actions. In Oklahoma-speak, we call this “the power to hold their feet to the coals.”
I hope (wish) they are on my side, I’m a tenderfoot.
Peace, my friends.