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RE: SEAOC Dues Increases - Resonse to James Lai's Comments

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My special thanks to James Lai, who holds the honor of being the first active SEAOSC president to be a subscriber of this list. I have spoken with James in the past and recognize that he is a supporter of technology and recognizes the importance of the tools that the CAC (Computer Applications Committee) has provided the engineering community.
I challenge James to work toward promoting the active use of these tools (the Web site and Listservice) by committee chairs (and members) as well as the board of directors of each chapter.

Until this time the outspoken portion of our community has been very limited. From this time forth, the outspoken portion of our community will be growing louder with each new subscriber to this list.
As Rick Ranous stated in his post:

"Many of you have talked and are planning a "virtual committee."  This is a good idea that should be pursued.  It allows those who wish to become involved in the activities of the association who logistically of physically can not be involved with committees to participate.  The "virtual committee" will never replace the existing committee structure
because we need to speak with one voice as a committee.  However, the virtual committee can certainly provide valuable opinion and insight to the standing committee members."

Those who are discussing this issue are in agreement that the strength of Virtual Committees will be felt as information begins to flow in both directions from traditional committees to those on the virtual side who have not had the ability to participate in the past. However, I strongly recommend that the board consider the potential cost savings that can be recognized by using virtual methods to accomodate tasks which had been done by unnecessary travel and expenses. Surly SEAOC members have a right to questions the expense of traveling around the state (or counrty) to accomplish tasks which can possibly be done by email, fax, listservices or conference calling - in short, we request a concerted effort to tighten the belt so that members can gain more from their professional organization and possible pay less for the priviledge.

To paraphrase from my letter to the SEAOSC board that I submitted to Bill Warren yesterday, SEAOSC must go further by recognizing that technology has matured to a level that brings specific financial advantages to those who utilize it. By maintaining computer ignorance, chairs and board members can not properly lead our profession into the next millenium without serious financial risk. Therefore, the primary concern of the policy and decision makers that represent us should be to improve their skills and explore how new tools can save our members money, yet generate more income sales of seminars, publications and web advertising (to name just a few).

Some suggestions I submitted to Bill Warren for submittal to the board are as follows:

  1. Eliminating unnecessary travel, accommodations, conference room expenses and meals . Use the Internet tools to complete the work without the high cost of physical meetings. Use physical meetings more sparingly.
  2. Increase chapter income sufficiently to compensate state office costs rather than increasing members dues.
  3. Use the tools provided by the Computer Applications Committee to increase income from seminars. Distribute seminars in low cost format that preserve graphical, and audible qualities. Use Web sites to present seminars as was suggested by Bill Warren. Distribute seminars in electronic format for those who do not wish to attend Web based seminars.
  4. Consider the market of publication in low cost (and often no cost) electronic format. This is easily accomplished by scanning published documents and converting them to Portable Document Format (PDF). The viewer is available to the public free of charge and the PDF format appears to becoming a "standard". Simpson Strong-tie is currently distributing catalogs in PDF format.
  5. Create incentives for members to volunteer for committee work. Compensate a years worth of activity in a committee with some percentage off of the members following annual dues. A member must complete a minimum attendance to qualify. Inasmuch as committee keep records of attendance, this will not be difficult to maintain.
  6. Virtual committees draw from a segment of the community that is willing but physically unable to attend meetings. The work done online can be effectively used to enhance the work done in physical meetings.
  7. Fill the SEAOC Web site with information. Require committee chairs to not simply submit minutes, but to maintain the web by submitting all documents (minutes, drafts etc) to the SEAOSC chapter for storage. This is very easy since all documents today are created with software. For every document, a copy should be sent to SEAOSC by email or by conventional mail. There are no longer reasons not to include SEAOSC in each committees distribution list.
  8. Require board members and committee members to use email as a means of communication within our professional organization. Lack of interest is no longer a valid excuse. The profession must move forward together and this means taking a strong position on accepting and using the new tools provided. If learning how to use these tools is of issue, the state CAC should provide simple written instructions or regional mini-seminars to instruct how to establish and use email, the listservice and the web site.
  9. Promote acceptance of these standards with other chapters and professional affiliations. Encourage other professional organizations to use these new tools to help reduce unnecessary expenditures.
James, since you have already been given a preview of this afternoons suggestions, I ask that you support the efforts of the group of volunteers on this list who have formed a Virtual Standards Committee to develope guidelines needed to properly control the flow and dissemination of information between virtual (listservice, email etc.) and physical (traditional) committee work. We do not wish the letters from list members to simply be "letters to the chairman" of committees, but honest attempts to fit in as a working member of the committee and to participate in the developments of each.
Again, I wish to thank you and Rick Ranous for your responses and willingness to cooperate with this listservice. Mostly I thank you for recognizing the importance of the tools that the CAC has provided our profession.

Dennis Wish PE