Matt Tabor's response to James Bradley
James' and Matt's back and forth
The Strategic Planning Committee has been examining how the USHPA
structure is working. The 26-member board of directors served a valuable purpose
when most of the committee work happened in the two days before each board
meeting: It gave each new committee proposal a wide audience of experienced
pilots and instructors, before it was voted on. Many poorly considered
submissions were stopped or amended during this review.
In my experience much of the committee work that had to do with
towing, membership and development and safety and training - the committees that
I spend most of my time and effort, took place between meetings by most or at
While it was convenient to have the committees, which have been
composed mostly of board members, meet immediately before the board meetings,
this format contributed to the perception that USHPA's management acted without
regard for what USHPA's members think.
I am in agreement that the membership has been left out of crucial
issues in the past or has not been presented the issue in a timely manner - this
has to do with poor communication. The Executive Director - the paid individual
that runs the USHPA day to day operations and carries out the will of the BOD
was tasked with this job. For whatever reason this didn't always work reliably
and the individual failed or was late to communicate or the BoD failed to direct
the ED to communicate with the membership on an issue. More than 20 years ago we
as a board voted to create a communications manager full time job to fix this
problem. This was just acted on and I am excited to say we have a new
communications manager position and it is filled by Erica Klien. Up until now
this was not acted on by the Executive Director. In the past for whatever reason
the executive committee did not force this hire. The EC failed to see to it that
this happened or did not want to spend or could not spend the $$ to get this
done. This is a re-occurring problem. Fiscal responsibility trumps all wants -
the absolute needs seem to get done - depending on your position on what are
absolute needs. A recent example would be with insurance - the creation of the
RRRG was a herculean effort that got done because without it we would lose too
many sites. Time will tell how much damage this will do to the instruction side
Now things are different. As USHPA moves to communicate better and
to be transparent in its operations, committee proposals must be posted to the
membership for comment at least 30 days before they are voted on. Anyone can
point out a flaw in reasoning or suggest a better idea. The board, too, can
weigh in. After the comment period, the committee has a chance to incorporate
the feedback into its proposal before presenting it to the board.
I applaud the comment period and want membership involvement but
where will it be posted? How many USHPA members are on facebook and how many of
these look at USHPA? 30 days isn't enough time IMO. Communication is an ongoing
problem that is in the process of being fixed with a communications manager -
this has been addressed without reducing the size of the board.
At the spring board meeting earlier this year in Golden, Colorado,
the room was newly quiet much of the day, because the committee work had been
more fully considered in advance. As the membership becomes more aware of the
opportunity to comment and be heard, even less review will be needed before the
board signs off on most committee proposals. The wide audience is still
happening, just in a different and better way. It has become a waste of money
and especially of volunteer time to fly so many people to a room twice a year,
simply to rubber stamp well-prepared committee work.
I feel that the room was quiet because nothing overly
controversial was up for discussion or a vote. The cost issue is still a
question in my mind - there has been discussion that the committee chairs and
some committee members will still get a stipend for going to a Bod meeting.
Currently it is $600 for airfare and hotel for a voting director and committee
chairs. It always costs more than this sometimes a lot more. There was a time
for many years that this was suspended. That's another possibility although that
would negatively affect who could go and if you want a diversified BoD there are
a limited number of individuals who will pay their own $$ to go. In the past we
have lost young people or certain talented individuals serving on the BoD
because they could not afford to attend. On average it costs over $1000. For 4
days if you add a day because of an extra committee - like the spring BoD
meeting we added an extra day to have a special committee meeting on how to
reverse the membership trend in Hang Gliding. Still you get $600.
Another problem with the current structure became apparent during
the insurance crisis. There was no way for the 26-member board to manage the
fast-moving situation. It fell to the four-member Executive Committee to do it,
along with the Executive Director and a small band of volunteers. It was
understandably frustrating for the board members to be told after the fact about
what was happening and then be expected to sign off on it. It was necessary, and
it made sense; the EC could get together often on conference calls, and the
26-member board couldn't possibly, not to mention the challenges of the large
group making decisions. Some board members found this irritating enough that
they began communicating negatively about USHPA's management, in person and on
social media, at a time when a unified presentation of the challenges, decisions
and reasons might really have helped. (What was actually going on was a group of
volunteers were working hard to solve our insurance problem. Nothing uglier than
that.) In this way our current structure contributed directly to the rift we are
now needing to heal, between USHPA's management and some of its members. Perhaps
you are one of them.
This was and is unfortunate - the majority of the BoD is and was
supportive of the efforts and results by the EC and the small band of
volunteers. The problem is that the unavoidable huge cost is a bitter pill to
swallow and the worry that the cost of the cure will be too high is still an
issue. Our instructors have dropped out in record numbers, schools have shut
down. Many of our instructors are not effective administrators, they may be
great instructors, however, the task of acquiring insurance to be able to
operate at the insured sites is daunting. This is being worked on. I feel that
USHPA needs available personnel to facilitate compliance with administrative
issues with industry professionals or the task needs to be simplified.
With these challenges in mind, last fall the board asked my
committee, the Strategic Planning Committee, to develop a proposal for a
7-member board of directors (which has since been revised to 10), with a
transition plan for how to make the change. Included had to be good answers for
how we would do what the regional directors have been doing in their home
regions, how we would maintain regional representation on the committees that
need it (for instance, Towing and Safety and Training), and how might we keep
some of what has always been good about the big board meetings, which is the
in-person time that happens, the conversations over breakfast, the chance to
corner the president in the hall with a question, and so on. This is the kind of
project that can never please everyone. You may not like it. The idea is to try
to step back from whether you like it or I like it, and instead try to think
about what would most help USHPA serve its mission, which is to ensure the
future of free flight. This includes being able to function well in our next
crisis, and to make the best possible use of our volunteers' time and energy,
all of the time.
This is the question - what will most help the USHPA deal with its
many issues - help USHPA serve its mission? Will a smaller BoD be the answer or
will it be the same with less volunteers that have pledged to manage and
participate in the operation of the organization. There are good directors and
not so good directors, having a smaller pool will not help get the work done or
may not get it done correctly. Currently there are industry professionals on the
BoD, these folks have a vested interest in keeping USHPA running smooth. There
is a symbiotic relationship with the industry professionals and USHPA, arguably
what's good for USHPA is good for the schools or at least to a certain extent.
The more members USHPA has the more it can do. In my opinion USHPA should
facilitate to the best of its ability schools successfully making new well
trained pilots who then become members.
IMO everything USHPA focuses on should be guided by the question - does this
support and help us keep current membership or does this help us get new
I feel the new matrix for picking who is qualified to be a director totally
misses this connection. The committee whose proposal you will be voting on did
not think that this was as important as other elements and there is no provision
for industry professional as a BoD member. When I think back to my time on the
BoD these folks have been invaluable.
Will there be any industry professionals on the future BoD of 10? Will the 10
voting directors think that the industry professionals have a conflict of
interest; (they do have a conflict of interest but I believe for the most part
the interests are aligned) will any be asked for their opinion because of their
COI or will they not be asked as just as an oversight?
Volunteer energy is precious; we need to be making the most of it.
Our board members, committee chairs and committee members are all volunteers.
For USHPA to be the best that it can be, we need to provide them with a more
effective framework to work in.
Volunteer excellence has always been a challenge and I feel the
future will not change this dynamic. If this can be done with a small BoD it can
be done with the larger BoD. Why not try and get nationwide volunteers that stay
on and help fix an issue first prior to changing up the structure that has
served us well over the many years?
The proposed new structure has a much smaller board that is
elected nationally rather than regionally. It strengthens the committees, with
committee members selected from the entire pilot community rather than from the
board. It has a revised meetings plan, including an annual in-person board
meeting that is webcast to all of USHPA's members. It has a separate annual
committee meeting that all committees are invited to attend, with travel
reimbursement, to get a large group together again. It includes first drafts of
two new ideas, one a program to help our chapters and the other an ambassador
program to appeal to young people. We think both of these are things to get
started on and then adjust as we see how they go, rather than over think at the
beginning. It has a sketch of a new communications plan, built around a new
staff person with the title of Communications Manager (who was recently hired).
This also can be implemented with the larger BoD - I have felt for
a long time that one meeting in person a year was enough and another virtual
meeting would be effective. Perhaps the size of the BoD is too large for virtual
meetings I don't know we have not tried it
Everything else can be done with the
larger BoD. The national election of directors means that many people will not
know who you are voting for - is that really a problem -time will tell.
At the spring meeting in March, the board discussed our draft. A
motion was made to proceed to a membership vote on the bylaws changes required
to implement that version. The vote was a tie, with a couple of abstentions, so
the motion did not pass. Next, a majority of the board voted to incorporate into
the proposal a couple more ideas that had come up in the discussion, and to put
the new draft out to the membership for comments and feedback. This was
completed over the summer and received 176 member responses (120 members in
favor of the proposal, and 56 opposed).
Out of close to 10,000 members we have 176 members who responded
to the survey, I would feel very bad if the same number of members voted this
proposed change in.
I feel that the vote should be set up so we have a minimum percentage of the
membership vote this question like at least 25% or even 50%.
With the 26 member board you have a certain representation throughout the
country that you will not have with a 10 member board; you also have a checks
and balance of our system to keep from making bad decisions. This has worked,
yes with issues but it has worked and we are still here. What issues will you
have with a 10 person BoD?
Based on member feedback, the proposal was revised once again. It
now calls for a 10-member, nationally elected board representing 5 newly defined
regions. Besides aiming for geographic diversity, the new board also emphasizes
diversity in wing type, age, and gender. The board of directors discussed the
latest version of the proposal at the fall board meeting, made a few edits, and
voted 14-7 to send the proposal on for a full membership vote. The vote will
occur this winter, and we hope that you'll participate and help determine the
future of USHPA's governance structure.