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Re: Changes to SEAOC and SEAOSC, SEAONC, SEAOSD and SEAOCC

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As a member of SEAONC and SEAOC I have followed this thread with interest.
At the SEAONC annual meeting last tuesday evening, several of the SEAONC
officers, the SEAOC President and the SEAOC Executive Director made
comments about the reorganization study.  The party line repeatedly
presented was that a study is happening but no decisions have been made.  

However, from the remarks made a very different picture emerged.  Each of
those that spoke emphasized basically that there needed to be a single,
statewide organization with all power concentrated in that body.  The words
used were remarkably similar.  It appears that a consensus has already been
reached with little, if any, dialog with the membership.

Ron Hamburger's remarks on this list serve leave no doubt where he stands
on the issue.  He feels change is vital.  While I do not disagree that we
need to be continually mindful of how best to advance the structural
engineering profession's impact on issues vital to all of us, I strongly
feel that we need to "remember our roots."  As an alliance of four (4)
strong regional organizations operating together with Statewide
coordination, SEAOC can and will effectively represent our concerns.
Remember that each of the four regional organizations is as large as many
of the statewide organizations in other states.

Ron points out that the airplane and telephone have made practice on a
state (and I would point out in the case of Ron's firm, national and
international level as well) level practical.  While this is true for some
firms, many structural engineers practice on a local or regional level in
small firms.  Should SEAOC represent only those who practice on the wider
level.  I think not.

I believe we need to COORDINATE on a Statewide basis, but GOVERN on a
regional basis.  One of the hazards of a single state organization is that
it makes contact with the average SEAOC member even more remote.  Many of
us just don't have the travel budget to fly all over the State to
participate.  We can and do participate locally and , thanks to this
listserver, globally.

SEAOSC has taken the lead in establishing and maintaining this list server.
 This list shows how we can utilize current technology to effectively
foster dialog. It also shows that a close regional connection helps to make
important advancements happen.  SEAOSC has some significant Board
participation in these discussions.  With the exception of Ron (who
particpates frequently with thoughtful discussions on a variety of
subjects), however, it is distrubing that SEAONC Boardmembers appear
content to basically ignore the list or at least visibly so.  

If we go to a statewide governance model, I fear the contact will be even
more remote.  Concentrating the organization at the State level will mean
fewer people making all the decisions.  The feeling of the members I've
talked with is that they expect it will be much more difficult for them to
realistically participate in the directions SEAOC takes. Shafat's concerns
about a "strong state office" with little to offer is an important comment.

The most effective way we can be heard as a profession is to encourage the
widest possible participation by structural engineers in issues that are
important to us.  Most politicians look at the volume of contacts they
receive on an issue and many do not pay particular attention to who it came
from (unless, of course, there is a big check attached  :<))   ).  Thus if
they get a letter or phone call or a fax from SEAOC, it may count about as
much as a letter, phone call or fax from Joe Citizen.  Because of this,
four STRONG regional organizations, each voicing concerns and cooperating
(where there is consensus) through the coordination of a state office, can
be more effective.  And where we all do agree on an issue, that means four
strong voices, not just one.  Where we don't have a general consensus, we
should not be taking a stand anyway since the organization is then only
representing those currently "in power."  

This gets to the issue of speaking with one voice versus many.  Having held
two elective offices (City Council and Board of Education), I have found
that a single voice tends to freeze the dialog too early.  Most of the
better governmental decisions I've been involved with have resulted from
many people arguing their respective positions with the resulting
discussions evolving into a decision that is far better than any one of the
original positions.  We should be offering up our ideas and working toward
a synergistic solution. I will agree that this process is neither
comfortable or rapid.  But the fact is that it produces better decisions.
We only need to look at some of the hair-brained State Propositions (e.g.,
Proposition 224, remember that one?) that we recently voted on.  These
initatives are drafted by one group (many well-intentioned) and lack the
critical review by those of opposite views with the subsequent
modifications that might make their idea truly serve the public as a whole.

Advancing our interests can not be just limited to SEAOC participation.  We
have far too few engineers involved on governing boards, city councils,
county boards of supervisors, the legislatures and, in fact, all elective
offices.  On the other hand, we have far too many lawyers!!!

Fred Turner's comments on "isolationist rumblings" do a disservice to the
SoCal folks.  This listserver ties us together on a statewide basis and
would not have happened without the SoCal lead.  It is unfortunate that we
don't have current minutes, reports, etc. on the webpage.  It would be an
excellent way to improve communication between the Board and the membership.  

At the tuesday night SEAONC meeting, I was distrubed when the SEAOC
Executive Director commented that he didn't feel putting the minutes of
Board meetings on the webpage was particularly timely or helpful to the
membership as that couldn't be done until they are official and that would
take THIRTY DAYS until the next meeting.   What would be wrong with HIM
putting a short report on what was discussed and some of the thoughts
offererd both for and against the proposals considered?  It would not be
the "corporate records" but it would certainly give the membership a better
feel for what is being discussed. It would be more and better information
than the sanitized versions we now get long after the fact.  And what is so
slow about THIRTY days?  Most of the most recent committee meeting minutes
are over a year old and many committees don't even post.

I see communication and coordination as a role of the State office that is
as important as serving the Board and national advocacy.  If the Board made
it an important part of the role of the SEAOC Executive Director to
communicate with the membership and emphasized the importance of the use of
electronic means, like the webpage and the listserver, to accomplish that
communication, we could more quickly build strong consensus on issues and
have a much better informed and active membership.  In each of the
non-profit organization boards I serve on, the Executive Director's role is
to coordinate the utilization of as many volunteers as possible to further
the organization's puproses, not do it all themselves.  One of these
organizations effectively mobilizes over 2,000 volunteers each year to
perform over 30,000 hours of service to the local community. That is far
more effective than the just using the hours our two paid staff members
have available plus it builds community.   What I'm trying to say is that I
think we can use State staff more effectively by refocusing their roles in
the areas of communication and coordination.  We have outstanding staff
members that, with Board direction, can be far more effective coordinating
the membership to action than just trying to do it on our behalf.


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BILL CAIN, SE
OAKLAND, CA
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