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Response to Frank Lew & Virtual Committees

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Frank Lew stated:
|Yeah, but our messages will contain more static than coherence or
|Dennis, your idealism is endearing, but your fervent beliefs and hopes
|sometimes cause you to not face all the issues that are relevant to the
|situation or cause.  Your "collective voice" statement is like politicians
|saying that, on a given issue, the "American People" have spoken, or want
|this, or need that, or deserve something else.  With very rare exceptions,
the "American People" don't express a collective voice on any issue - we 280
|million Americans have a multiplicity of interests and agendas that span
|political, economic and social spectrums.  But not surprisingly,
|always find that the "American People's" desire or position on an issue is
|coincident with the one they are advocating.   Even though this listserv
|membership is much smaller, a review of postings that contain
|opinions and positions would show significant diversity in thinking and
|attitudes, and seldom anything that could be construed as a collective
|So, what messages could policy and decision makers discern from reading
|collections of postings made by a group that includes conservatives,
|if-the-roaders, bleeding hearts, employees, principals, etc, all of whom
|to grind the axe differently?

|Frank Lew, SE
|Orinda, CA
I responded to you three times in this letter and erased each one. Each time
I read and reread your post the only thing that came to mind was this:
You either sit back, do nothing and be an observer, or you identify the
tools you have and work with them to produce change. Let the community as a
whole decide what is best - this is not up to you or I.
What constitues a community voice? Do we send out questionairs to all
members and ask them to vote or do we wait for members to write their local
board members and voice opinion?
I would doubt that we ever had more than 5% of the membership express
opinions since 1929. However, with the creation of the Internet list, we
have made it possible to not only express individual opinion, but to collect
opinions in favor of or against.
How many letters have you written to your local chapter? How many responses
have you received? Personally, I've written about a dozen or so letters
since joining SEAOSC and SEAOC. I never received the curtesy of a response.
How was I to know if my opinions were given any serious thought by our board
members or even if others expressed similar concerns. Also, how was I to
know if they acted in behalf of their members needs or simply created an
agenda for what they felt was in our best interest and simply discarded the
letters they received in the trash.

"Times they are a changing" Frank. When we write an opinon on this list it
remains posted for those interested enough to read it. It grows from those
interested enough to respond. And recently, it has brought responses -
positive and negative - to my desk and telephone. These responses came from
board members, local board members and others on the outside whose voice,
like yours Frank, have the respect of these policy and decision makers and
who are willing to take a stand - whether it is for or against our issues.
Unlike our letters to our state or local chapters, our posts don't
disappear - they grow and they get archived and used as references some
point later in time.
They can also be used to gauge the effectiveness of those who represent us
by comparing the number of favorable comments to those against. And it most
certainly will affect the voting of representatives when the time comes
since we now maintain records of their actions.

You are a respected member of this community who happens to have the skills
to utilize the list and Internet. You are also respected by the community
for your volunteer efforts to promote change in codes, create technical
methods and institute change in the profession. You also have the ability to
use your strength to help develop these Internet tools and convince
non-technical board members that it may be worth investing in now for what
we can accomplish tomorrow. Yet, Frank, you don't do this. Instead you mount
that soap box that I steped down from to declare me a dreamer, a
self-proclaimed representative of the virtual whole, with fervered ideals
that do not realistically represent a consensus - yet you know as little as
any of us what a true consensus is.
I believe that our board members act, not on the input of members, but on
the evolution of traditional ideas and goals which are dictated by a few
rather than a true representation of our community. The easiest response
would be to blame us for electing these members, but the truth is that very
few paid members know or care who represents us - at least until now. The
reason is that now, members feel empowered in that their opinons do simply
fade into obscurity but become a link in the chain we call the listservice.
There is unity here that only those willing to participate physically had in
the past.
At what point, Frank, will you use the power you have to back this
listservice and take steps to advocate the development of the list as a tool
to enhance the work done by traditional means? You are not alone here. I
pose the same question to all of those engineers (you know who you are)
whose names are known from publications, committee work or the fraternity of
members who supposedly represent us. These are the people that can make the
greatest change, yet it's left to the loud mouths like me or to the unknown
members of our society to bitch the longest and loudest until we gather
I had so much more to say, but feel as though it would be falling on deaf
ears. I would much rather support someone who is idealistic (possibly a
dreamer)who sees the potential in what we have created and who is willing to
test their conviction rather than to be apathetic.
Okay, Frank, I'm off the soap box and out of this thread. If there are stong
opinons let others speak them.
My offer to create a virtual committee still stands. So far I have two or
three others who wish to participate. The rest is up to those who care. I'm
simply not going to believe, as Bill Allen does, that this list, and our
professional organization is ineffective and unresponsive to the needs of
our subscribers. The moment I find this to be true, I'll unsubscribe from
this list and never participate in my profession again. This is no idle
threat, but a promise.

Dennis Wish PE