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Dr. George's Governing Council Blog

 by George Rossano


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Sunday, 5 May 2013

Four hours was allocated for this morning's session, but the meeting was wrapped up quickly.  There were a few more committee reports to work through, but the chairs must have learned or been warned from yesterday.  They kept is short and sweet this morning in their remarks and then went straight to new business.

There were two new business items this year.

The first of these was to change the age limit for Juvenile Synchro teams from younger than 13 to younger than 14.  The purpose of this was to allow a Pre-Juvenile team to move up to Juvenile intact with the risk of losing skaters who would become (or be) age ineligible at Juvenile -- since the age limit for Pre-Juvenile allows older skaters than what is permitted in the higher division.  It would also bring synchro in line with singles, pairs and dance which have older age limits for juvenile than synchro.

This proposal was brought to the Governing Council by an East Coast club last year and rejected.  It was brought this year by a West Coast club (my own).  This time the proposal was referred to committee for study.  The Synchronized Skating chair assured us that her community will be polled on this issue and she will report back to the Governing Council next year.  Will a solution be proposed next year -- tbd.  Will the teams affected by these squirrely age limits survive this season -- tbd.  But at least getting the issue studied is a hopeful start.

The second new business item was a rule to improve the reporting requirements for budget information provided to the delegates.  This passed and hopefully will make the budget and its revisions during the year easier for the delegates to understand and follow.  At least that's the goal.

The meeting concluded with the election of the slate of candidates by acclamation, followed by adoption of the budget, and was then adjourned by 9:30, two and one-half hours early.

The meeting format this year was an experiment as a compromise to reduce the cost of the annual meeting while still maintaining a face-to-face business meeting.

By holding the Governing Council in Colorado Springs, near the U.S. Figure Skating headquarters, reducing the number of educational meetings prior to the Governing Council, and keeping requests for action to a minimum the schedule was compressed and costs reduced by about $70,000.  Next year there will be a traditional full meeting followed by a compressed meeting in 2015.

All-in-all the compressed schedule worked well from our point of view.  It was fairly easy to get to the meeting, the hotel was priced reasonably for the clubs and the meeting facilities more than adequate.  East Coast delegates, however, might take issue with the description "easy to get to the meeting" as there are more direct flights into Colorado Springs from the West Coast and Midwest than from the East.  But speaking purely from a position of self interest, we liked it.

The only area in which organization of the meeting erred, in our view, is that the decision to reduce requests for action was applied too aggressively,  There is clearly time to discuss more business of substance under this experimental format than was allowed here; and if additional business is not planned for in 2015, then the time would be better spent incorporating additional forums for dialog and discussion between the delegates and the leadership, outside the formal parliamentary constraints of a business session.  My take is that the delegates would rather have been engaged in a dialog than sit listening to as many hours of reports as were presented at this meeting.

So bottom line, good start, but tweaks are needed.

We are not going to review the reports of action as they are available in the U.S. Figure Skating website, and the final report of action is expected to be posted in about two weeks.  Most of the action brought to the Governing Council were adopted as written, and only a few received minor word smithing.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

For me personally, my most productive accomplishment at this meeting has been the 3000 miles I will earn towards qualifying for my premier gold airline status.  If one word were to be attached to the business meeting it would be tedious.  And the only two really memorable moments were John Coughlin at the microphone (available on YouTube) and the evening AAC Gala.

Touching only on the highlights,  the meeting led off with a rah-rah presentation of current and past athletes who have represented the U.S. in international competition, as a lead in to the rolling out of the Destination Sochi promotional efforts of U.S. Figure Skating.  This is a set of programs for fundraising and to develop fan interest in the U.S. Figure Skating team that will represent the U.S. in Sochi next February.  One element of this is the goal to raise $5000 per athlete to aid families to travel to Sochi to see their athlete compete in Sochi.  With a team size of 15 athletes, the goal is to raise a total of $75,000 for this part of the initiative.  The Destination Sochi website can be accessed by a link on the U.S. Figure Skating website home page.

In discussing Team U.S., Association president Pat St. Peters commented that in her opinion Meryl Davis & Charlie White should have won the dance event at the World Championships in Nice, and revealed that following those championships she had written the ISU on behalf of U.S. Figure Skating raising the Associations concerns over the results of the dance event.

Executive Director David Raith described for the Governing Council a five-year deal with the ISU for IceNetwork to broadcast ISU events in North America.  It appears that IceNetwork is staking a great deal on this content to finally bring IceNetwork to profitability. The budget in U.S. Figure Skating budget includes a $96,000 expense for the cost of subsidising IceNetwork this year.

Obtaining the rights to this content is a significant achievement, and will bring to IceNetwork subscribers all the Grand Prix events as well as all ISU Championship events for the next five season, as well as other ISU events.  This will go a long way towards mitigating the lack of access to skating broadcast in the U.S., and if it finally makes IceNetwork profitable, it will be sweeter still.

Another initiative described at this meeting was the U.S. Figure Skating participation in the USOC Safesport initiative.  This is a USOC program that all NGBs must be in compliance with, to have programs in place to prevent the physical, emotional and sexual abuse of athletes participating in NGB sports.

A lengthy presentation was given by the USOC describing what the Safesport initiative requires of the NGBs, and by extension the members of the NGBs.  In the case of U.S. Figure Skating this means their clubs, officials, coaches, etc.

The PSA announced several of their awards for this season.  The Edi Awards for best performances at U.S. Nationals went to Polina Edmunds' Junior Romeo and Juliette program, Max Aaron's West Side Story program, Scimeca & Knierim's Life is Beautiful program, and Davis & White's Notre Dame de Paris program.

The James Disbrow Award was awarded to Wendy Enzmann.

From this point onward it was all downhill.  The committee reports began, and as there was so little business to present to the delegates for discussion and disposition, the reports droned on endlessly, much of which was already present in the written reports available in the meeting book.  In total, less than a dozen actions were isolated for discussion at this meeting, and most of these were fairly trivial in nature.  I know I am not the only one who found this all too too tedious as many delegates were busy texting and working on their iPads and laptops, etc., instead of being in rapt attention.  By mid-afternoon I fell into a coma and forgot to bid on some items at the silent auction before the closing time.  Dang!

Because there was no candidate's forum this year (all the elections being uncontested), the business meeting was extended somewhat but not long enough to finish the agenda for the weekend.  Following the recess of the meeting today, the accountants had their annual meeting to discuss accounting things.

The day was rescued in the end by the Athlete Advisory Committee fundraising gala.  The AAC has a fundraiser each year, and this year it was a dinner and show at the World Arena.  The show was hosted by Scott Hamilton.  About 30 tables were set around the edge of the ice for dinner with the center used for exhibitions.  Hamilton was in great form and the skating was excellent.  The show was videotaped and may end up on IceNetwork, or elsewhere -- TBD.  If it end up being broadcast fans should not miss it.

Friday, 3 May 2013

6:00 PM

The budget meeting and critical issues meeting are done.

In the budget meeting there were some questions about the deltas between the budget approved last year and current actual amounts, but nothing supremely controversial.  Also, there was again requests that the budget info be presented in a more easily understandable format, and a format that allowed easier comparison of the approved budget from the last meeting and the current financial results for the Association.  Good luck if any of that ends up happing since if memory serves me these requests have been made in the past and it hasn't happened yet.

More significant in my view were the projections for the current four year plan which shows the Association taking $2,000,000 pre year for each of the four years to "balance" the budget, with a projected net cash excess of $1,300,000.  In effect, however, what this means is the projection is to take $8,000,000 out of the foundation for the next four years, which will be $1,300,000 more than needed, with the excess going into a cash reserve that will accumulate over the next four years.

The four year projections show considerable (million dollar or more) fluctuations from year to year, which were explained as being primarily due to the projected revues from the major events expected to be hosted by U.S. Figure Skating each year (U.S. Nationals, Worlds in 2016, Four Continents in 2017 and Synchro Worlds in 2017).  Since these ISU events have yet to be allocated to U.S. Figure Skating, the farther out you look, the more uncertain the figures are.

The new membership software is set to be rolled out in October 2013, late and over budget, as we anticipated when the project was announced three years ago.  Total cost of the software is estimated to be $1,200,000.  This is $200,000 more than the original amount budgeted for the project.  A question to provide how much has actually been spent so far, was just a vague estimate of 3/4 of the estimated total.  So it seems like there is still some uncertainty how much this will end up costing.

At the critical issues meeting the Association council and Association parliamentarian explained why there will be no "real" election this year that the delegates will participate in.  Basically it comes down to the way the bylaws are written and the deference the bylaws pay to Robert's Rules in conducting the meeting.  The most current version of Robert's Rules do seem to support the chair simply declaring the candidates elected.  Legally this meets the definition of an election we are told, though it certainly doesn't feel like one to the layman.

After their presentation I spoke to them in private, and did learn that there was indeed a "nuclear option" to force a symbolic ballot (written vote), but one that would still not change the outcome of the election (cause the candidate to fail to be elected).  Since even if one wins one loses in this scenario,  the issue of the election process is closed for this year.  Nevertheless, much was learned about what the Association bylaws really mean and how they relate to Robert's Rules was learned, and we expect there will be bylaw amendments addressing this type of election brought to the Governing Council next year.

2:00 AM

This meeting is the first to be held under the new cost cutting measures approved last year.  The meeting is being held in Colorado Springs, CO, the location of U.S. Figure Skating's headquarters, saving the cost of sending staff and equipment out of town to support the meeting.  The business of the meeting has also been reduced to a minimum.  The several informational and educational meetings that are normally a part of the Governing Council weekend are not being held this year; though there is still one general Club Education meeting scheduled for most of this morning and afternoon, in parallel with the Board of Directors are meeting.  The Board meeting is primarily to complete the final list of actions to be brought to the delegates for approval, and take take care of last minute problems, such as dealing with issues brought up by trouble makers like me.

Because requested actions have been kept to a minimum this year, limited to items considered essential to implement before next year's meeting, there are few controversial items on the agenda.  One of these is the manner of holding the vote to approve the extension of the current president's terms for a fifth year.  There really is no significant opposition to the current president, Pat St. Peter serving another year, but there is considerable discomfort with the way the ratification may be handled on Sunday.

Our modest comments on process, now located in the archive, apparently turned a few heads, and we have been told by the friend of a friend of a friend, that the issue will be raised by a board member from the Eastern section.  We also have been told by the parliamentarian that the process for the election will be discussed in the Critical Issues meeting this evening.  So maybe there is some hope that between the two, the delegates will get some form of vote or process that respects their authority as the final decision making body in the Association to ratify the election.

I also have learned via that chain of friends that a few people are looking for my head on a stick for flogging the issue, but sometimes stirring the pot is the only way to overcome the inertia of the Association.

Two of those people, though, have a legitimate right to be carrying pitch forks, one of whom we understand inferred we were were accusing him of an attempt to secretly pull the wool over the eyes of the delegates regarding the process for the election.  It really wasn't our intent to insinuate that, since that was certainly not that case, so if JC is reading this, we apologize for giving that impression.

Later in the afternoon the budget review meeting is scheduled.  Regardless of what actions are requested each year, the budget meeting always has the potential to become animated.  There has been considerable "tension" (shall we say) in recent years concerning how much money is spent, what it is spent on, how much money is taken from the foundation to supplement the annual revenue (which generally has fallen short of expenditures the past several years), and finally accountability (or the lack there of) for projects that are being funded.  It's hard to predict where people will have heartburn, but the cost of the new management software is probably a good bet.

Early in the evening the Critical Issues meeting takes place, held in parallel with the Selections Committee meeting.  The Selections Committee meeting is a closed meeting in which the committee selects things.

 At the Critical Issues meeting the delegates will be brought up to speed on the critical items to be addressed by the Governing Council which convenes Saturday.  This is the meeting where the delegates will finally find out if they have a vote or not in the election for president.

Other than that, there appears to be little else that is really critical, looking at the preliminary report of action posted prior to the meeting.  But we will see.

Perhaps the most important meeting of the day will be the President's Reception later in the evening, where the pre-meeting schmoozing will move into high gear.

Copyright 2013 by George S. Rossano