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Re: OC Dinner Meeting - March, 1998

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On 3/16/98  Rick Drake wrote  (under the subject "1997 UBC"):
>     I have read with interest the comments about the recent Orange County 
>     Dinner Meeting and the 1997 UBC provisions and offer the following for 
>     thoughts.
>     1) It is discourteous and unprofessional to "bad mouth" a fellow 
>     Engineer on this server, especially if that individual is not a 
>     member.

My reply on this point is to ask rhetorically, Which bulldog-faced British
Prime Minister said,   "Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary.
It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body; it calls attention
to an unhealthy state of things." ?

There has been more than sufficient expression of concern on this server,
and in SEAOC section newsletters, that the Building Code is becoming too
complex and difficult to comply with...more than sufficient to make this a
legitimate issue for criticism, whether polite or anguished or hot-headed.    

In reviewing Bill Allen's 12 March Posting that opened this thread, I see an
informative account of what Mr Allen believes he witnessed, and I find his
clearly labeled "opinions" of what he thought of Mr Bachman's conduct that
night, how it may relate to the writing of the relevant parts of the 1997
UBC, and of the 1997 UBC itself.  I find no insult in it, nor misstating of
opinion as fact. In my opinion, this is the best writing of Mr Allen's that
I've ever read, and I hope he carries on at this caliber of expression.     

        Mr Drake continues:
>     2) The 1997 UBC was not written by any one individual.  It was written 
>     by the State Seismology Committee, whose membership include 
>     representatives from all 4 SEAOC sections.  This occurred over a three 
>     year cycle, each year with new committee heads.  The 1997 UBC 
>     provisions reflect the diligent effort of hundreds of our fellow 
>     Engineers, many of which participate on this server.  The code 
>     provisions written by SEAOC still had to be approved by ICBO 
>     membership.
>     3) All committee meetings are open for any member of the general 
>     public to attend.  Meeting notes are posted on the SEAOC list server 
>     for those unable to attend.
>     4) If you don't vote in an public election, you have lost the right to 
>     complain about the winner.  If you don't participate in the committee 
>     process ...
>     5) Those of us who believe that the 1997 UBC provisions have strayed 
>     from "easy-to-use" to "requires a short course to explain" should take 
>     the opportunity to participate in the 2000 IBC process, possibly 
>     through participation in a SEAOC committee.  Details of the IBC 
>     process have been offered on the list server by Franklin Lew, Thomas 
>     Hunt, and others.
In the above comments is the notion, repeated in recent days by others who
are prominent in SEAOC code-writing committees, that those who don't
participate in committees shouldn't criticize the work product of those who
do.  And that's rubbish. As one who has participated, I know full well the
extent to which these autonomous committees have become smug, self-directing
little empires, riddled with "groupthink" like-mindedness, and enjoying a
hands-off lack of direction and oversight from the elected local section and
SEAOC Boards of Directors. 

And yet many have told me that SEAOC enjoys great influence with ICBO, and
in no small part because of the appearance that the several SEAOC committees
that deal with code represent a reliable consensus of SEAOC membership. In
reality, these committees only represent a reliable consensus of those who
attend all the time. Those who attend all the time are those who prevail,
not those whose differing philosophies are continually thwarted.

An unfortunate factor is that code-influencing committee work seems
especially to appeal to devoutly altruistic persons of monitoring and
controlling temperaments. Their work is manifested not as advisories, or as
helpful research digests, but as legally enforceable requirements that
everyone must comply with. I have seen the dreamy look of satisfaction on
the face of one prominent committee chair when this purpose --compelling
compliance-- was spoken of. 

You see the same committee people year after year, and it's hard not to
suppose that there are among them addicted "controlaholics" satisfying inner
inclinations in the process. To the extent that is so, there is no use to
plead with them to do their committee work differently. It would be resisted
with endless and ingenious rationalizations that never quite add up. Try it
and see.  

The necessary action to change this long-neglected  SEAOC committee tendency
toward ever-stricter confining and exacting control is for the much more
diverse elected Boards of Directors within SEAOC to take charge and insist
on recruiting an appropriately diverse committee make-up, and keeping it
accountable to the membership, instead of letting these perennial feifdoms
of "volunteers" run SEAOC and run our professional practices. 

And what power does an individual member have to that end?  Personally
expressed criticism, a willingness to serve when an amenable climate in
which to serve is finally created, and perhaps balking at that dues increase
if nothing is done.  There's already Road Rage out there. Now comes Code
Rage. Well done, Bill Allen.   

Charles O. Greenlaw, SE    Sacramento, CA