July 4, 2015 Meeting of the ACB Board of Directors

The American Council of the Blind (ACB) Board of Directors met for its conference and convention board meeting on Saturday, July 4, 2015 at the Sheraton Hotel in Dallas, Texas.  President Kim Charlson called the meeting to order at 9:05 a.m.  At the call of the roll, the following board members were present:  Kim Charlson, Jeff Thom, Marlaina Lieberg, Ray Campbell, Mitch Pomerantz, Berl Colley, Sara Conrad, Katie Frederick, Michael Garrett, George Holliday, John McCann, Allan Peterson, Patrick Sheehan, Dan Spoone and David Trott.  Treasurer Carla Ruschival was not present at the call of the roll, but joined the meeting later.  Board of Publications Representative Denise Colley was present.  Staff present: Melanie Brunson, ACB Executive Director, Eric Bridges, ACB Director of External Relations and Policy, Tom Tobin, ACB Development Director, Kelly Gasque, ACB Administrative Assistant,  Lane Waters, ACB Controller, and Nancy Becker, Administrative Assistant, Minneapolis Area office.  Following roll call, several guests introduced themselves.  Sharon Lovering, ACB Braille Forum Editor, did not answer the roll call but join later in the meeting to present her report.
President Charlson reviewed the agenda.  Lieberg moved and McCann seconded adoption of the agenda as presented, the motion carried.
The minutes of the February 21 board meeting were presented by ACB Secretary Ray Campbell.  He indicated he had received one correction which was incorporated.  Spoone moved and Holliday seconded adoption of the February 21 minutes as corrected, the motion carried.
Secretary Campbell also presented five email votes for ratification.  McCann moved and Lieberg seconded ratification of the email vote taken March 4-6, 2015, authorizing the ACB Conference and Convention Coordinator to solicit bids for the 2017 ACB Conference and Convention, with the first choice being Reno, Nevada, and the second choice being Phoenix, Arizona.  The email vote was 15 yes, 0 no.  The motion carried.
Pomerantz moved and Frederick seconded ratification of the email vote that ACB contribute $100 toward the expenses to bring Michelle Pean, World Blind Union representative from Haiti, to the North American Caribbean Region meeting of the World Blind Union, and that this amount be expensed to the WBU ACB Budget Line Item. The email vote was conducted March 21-23, 2015, with 14 yes, 0 no.  Motion carried.
Lieberg moved and Garrett seconded ratification of the email vote that ACB pursue legal options with regard to trademark issues involving ACB Radio Café.  The email vote was conducted in early April, 2015, with 15 yes, 0 no.  The motion carried.
Pomerantz moved and Lieberg seconded ratification of the email vote That ACB enter into a five year lease on office space in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota as proposed by the ACB Controller.  The email vote was conducted April 26-May 4, 2015, with 10 yes, 3 no, with those voting no being Directors Peterson, Spoone and Trott.  The motion carried.
McCann moved and Lieberg seconded ratification of the email vote to adopt revised Convention Standing Rule 7 as proposed by Strategic Plan Goal Group 4, to comply with revised DC Non-profit Code, the revisions being made as of May 5, 2015.  The email vote was conducted May 3-5, 2015 with 15 yes, 0 no.  The motion carried.
The President’s Report was given by Kim Charlson.  Highlights included:

  • Dan Spoone and Alan Peterson have been appointed as Chair and Vice Chair, respectively, of the ACB Advisory Board working group.  President Charlson and the board recognized Mitch Pomerantz for his efforts getting the advisory board off the ground.
  • Kim had a productive conversation with Eric Damery, Vice President, Software Product Management at Freedom Scientific.  She had reached out to Freedom after learning of some very generous promotions they were offering during the 75th Anniversary convention of the National Federation of the Blind.  Both she and the management at Freedom are committed to growing our relationship going forward.
  • Kim indicated that ACB will begin the search for a new Executive Director after the Conference and Convention.  She asked Jeff Thom, Carla Ruschival and Mitch Pomerantz to work with her to update the position description.
  • Kim and Mitch reported on the North American Caribbean Regional meeting of the World Blind Union.  There was much discussion of the 9th Quadrennial General Assembly of WBU which will take place in August, 2016 in Orlando, Florida.  The ACB Board needs to think about a possible financial contribution to that during discussions of the 2016 budget.  Also, Dr. Frederick Schroeder reported on the work WBU is doing to make sure hybrid and electric vehicles manufactured and sold around the world are equipped with a warning sound so that people who are blind know when they are present.  While vehicles either built in or imported to America will have to comply with our standards for a sound that cannot be disabled by the driver, in other parts of the world advocating for this safeguard to help people who are blind is running up against advocates who are seeking to reduce the amount of noise in the environment.  Finally, Mitch indicated Dr. Schroeder has put his name forward as a candidate for WBU President.
  • Kim asked Jeff Bishop to discuss the soon to be available ACB App for IOS devices.  Jeff indicated that we are working with a very good app developer, who is fully aware of accessibility needs.  He announced that the Arizona Council of the Blind has agreed to fully fund the development cost for the app.  However, there will be ongoing app store and upgrade costs that ACB will need to consider going forward.  Some of the things the app will allow is for users to be put in contact with their state affiliates, allow ACB to communicate important, timely information via push notifications and provide access to the ACB and ACB Radio websites as well as any current or future podcast feeds.  Work is also being done to prominently include the ACB Mini Mall inside the app.  Beta testing will begin soon, with projected availability being early 2016.  Second Vice President Lieberg generously agreed to donate the first $99 for the Apple Developer account which will be required.

McCann moved and Campbell seconded that we proceed with development of the ACB App, the motion carried.
Lieberg moved and McCann seconded acceptance of the President’s report, the motion carried.
ACB Braille Forum Editor Sharon Lovering began the staff reports by presenting her Editor’s report.  As her report had been sent to the board in advance, she answered questions from the board.
ACB Executive Director Melanie Brunson next presented her report.  Highlights included:

  • ACB recently engaged with Google and through working with a consultant, we have received very practical, valuable advice on a number of things.  An ACB Youtube channel has been established, and Kelly will be doing some short video interviews with conference and convention attendees for this channel.  ACB will also engage with Google for Non-profits, through which we can get up to a $10,000 per month grant for the production of Google Add Words.  This can help ACB’s name take a higher position when people do google searches on such topics as blindness or blindness organizations. We’ve already seen several occasions where ACB’s name is coming up before other organizations.  Also, we signed up for the Google Analytics tool that gives you lots of good information about the ACB Website, such as number of visitors, what they looked at and other things.  ACB will start working as of July 15 with an organization called HUGE which can help with branding and messaging on our website, through social media and other things.
  • The application for trademark of ACB Radio Café has been filed, and we are awaiting a response.  ACB’s trademark attorney has suggested we look at other names we wish to trademark, as filing several applications at once can decrease our legal expenses.
  • ACB will be searching for a new individual to help with grant writing following the conference and convention.  The application to the Washington Aid Association has been submitted for general operating assistance; we should hear back shortly.  Unfortunately, ACB did not get the 5-year grant we applied for through the U.S. Department of Education for the Audio Description Project.  We will be looking into the review and evaluation of our application and deciding how to respond.
  • The proposed dates of the 2016 ACB Midyear meetings will be February 20-23, 2016.  Melanie hopes to have a hotel identified by Labor Day in order to give plenty of notice to affiliates.

At this point, President Charlson invited Serita Kimble from the Durward K. McDaniel First Timer’s Committee to discuss the DKM coin.  As the coin was passed around, Serita indicated that they will cost $25 each, and that they can be purchased during the ACB Conference and Convention, the hope being that the first allotment of about 100 coins sell before the end of it.
After a break, Melanie continued her report.  She publicly thanked everyone involved with the comments ACB has filed on the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, and on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s efforts to address discrimination in the Federal workforce.  She also indicated ACB has opened a business account with Uber, and as a result, they have met extensively with Uber’s accessibility folks.  While Uber does have an extensive training module on the Americans with Disabilities Act and service animal issues, they don’t make it mandatory.  Uber has indicated that if a driver denies someone a ride with a guide or service dog, their app is turned off and they are required to go through remediation training.  If that same driver denies someone a second time, they are disassociated with Uber.
Melanie indicated so far, only nine countries have ratified the Marrakesh treaty, and we need 20 to put the treaty in force.  The Obama administration has not yet submitted a ratification package to the U.S. Senate.  ACB will be working on a letter writing campaign around the treaty shortly after the conference and convention.
Melanie next presented the options ACB has for leasing office space in the Washington, DC area.  She presented three options which were detailed to the board in a memo distributed prior to the meeting.  The three options are:

  1.  ACB would stay in our current Arlington, Virginia office location for five years, however, we would have a smaller space.
  2. ACB would move to another office location in Arlington, or
  3. ACB would move for two to three years into a flexible office arrangement in Washington, DC, and then, move into a new building in Alexandria, Virginia being built by National Industries for the Blind.

After much discussion of the pros and cons of each option, Pomerantz moved and Lieberg seconded that it be the sense of the Board of Directors of the American Council of the Blind that we support Option 1 of the lease options proposed by the ACB Executive Director.  The motion carried on a 10 to 5 roll call vote.  Board members voting in favor were Thom, Lieberg, Campbell, Pomerantz, Conrad, Frederick, Garrett, Holliday, McCann and Peterson.  Board members not in favor were Ruschival, Colley, Sheehan, Spoone and Trott.
Eric Bridges, Director of External Relations and Policy, presented his report.  Highlights included:

  • Eric updated us on the Washington, DC Taxi lawsuit we have filed.  He said we’ll be scheduling with the judge in the case on July 10, and that four taxi companies have, as expected, filed a motion for dismissal.  The day the suit was filed, ACB received good media coverage from WTOP Radio, as well as the CBS, ABC and Fox affiliates in Washington, DC.  We also received coverage in the Washington Post.
  • Besides a woman being on the new $10 bill, it will have a tactile feature.  This came about, in part, thanks to ACB leveraging a relationship with JP Morgan Chase to get a meeting with the Senate Banking Committee staff to express our concerns about the pace at which the Bureau of Engraving and Printing was moving to implement the court order on accessible currency.
  • Eric discussed a video project, sponsored by JP Morgan Chase highlighting four people who are blind who are working, emphasizing the capabilities of people who are blind in the workplace.  Not only does the video feature these individuals, but also, their bosses as well.  Chase will be helping promote this video, which is intended to educate employers.
  • Eric discussed the prestigious award ACB received from the Washington Lawyer’s Committee on Civil and Human Rights, and how in the lead up to receiving the award, he and Melanie were interviewed by the committee.  The award presentation gave positive exposure to ACB with some of the top law firms in DC and throughout the world.
  • Eric discussed the recent Video Description workshop held by the Federal Communications Commission.  Several aspects of video description were discussed during this event, and video description did not have to share the stage at this event with closed captioning or anything else.  A number of companies were represented at this event, along with prominent advocates for video description.
  • Charter Communications has reached out to discuss how they will be making their cable box accessible.
  • Regarding H.R.729, the goal is to get more co-sponsors, we have 11 now, including three Republicans.  Eric indicated working on Capitol Hill is quite difficult for everyone right now, including ACB due to the political dynamics.
  • Eric has been able to meet with the individual who handles military and Veterans issues for Uber.  This allows ACB to bring issues and concerns to them in multiple ways.

ACB Development Director Tom Tobin presented the development report.  Highlights included:

  • Discussion of the rationale for cumulative giving societies which had been distributed to the board prior to the meeting.  This allows ACB to recognize individuals who have been supportive of our organization’s work over a lifetime.  Five levels were proposed: 1961 Founders Society, $7,500 to $19,999; Visionary, $20,000 to $49,999; Independents, $50,000 to $74,999; Benefactor, $75,000 to $99,999; and the existing Patron society, over $100,000.  While the proposal stated we would go back to January, 2014 to establish cumulative giving history, in some cases such as MMS contributions, we can go back further.  Spoone moved and McCann seconded approval of the proposal to establish cumulative giving societies for ACB, the motion carried.

Tom answered questions and discussed development highlights.  For the Spring, 2015 direct mail appeal, ACB sent 6,881 packets vs. 4,439 in 2014, So far, ACB has netted $5,185 compared with total net revenue of $4,313 in 2014.  ACB received 312 gifts so far in 2015, compared to 276 in 2014, and the average 2015 gift has been $30.34, compared to $29.91 in 2014.
Besides the Washington Aid Association, Tom indicated we’ve had one new grant and one renewal this year.  He is continuing to work on planned giving.  And. Mr. Ross Pangere, who has generously given to ACB’s scholarship program and to other things, will be at the conference and convention to see the scholarships he has funded presented.
Oral Miller, President of the National Education and Legal Defense Service (NELDS) discussed a letter which they had sent to the board.  This letter documented that NELDS is considering dissolution, and would like to turn its assets over to ACB under certain conditions.  Garrett moved and Holliday seconded that ACB agree in concept to accept the assets of NELDS, and that a subcommittee of the ACB board be established to approach NELDS to work through final terms of this transfer. Motion carried.
ACB Controller Lane Waters presented the Minneapolis area office report.  He indicated that thanks to the work ACB has been doing over the past year and a half, we’re on the road to a brighter financial future.  He indicated, thanks to hard work from a lot of people, we’re on track to have a very successful convention.  ACBES is down to running three stores.
Campbell moved and McCann seconded acceptance of the staff reports, the motion carried.
As ACB Treasurer Carla Ruschival was not in the room, Lane presented the Treasurer’s report.  As of May 31, 2015, Total Support and Revenue was $402,718, and total expenses were $524,563.  Director Spoone requested that at the upcoming Fall board meeting, we see at least a preliminary financial report on the convention, and that we receive this annually at the Fall board meeting.  He also requested that we see a budget for the upcoming Conference and Convention as part of the annual ACB budgeting process.  Lane indicated providing this information would not be a problem.  Campbell moved and McCann seconded acceptance of the Treasurer’s report, the motion carried.
Board of Publications Representative Denise Colley presented the BOP report.  Campbell moved and Frederick seconded acceptance of the BOP report, the motion carried.
The Strategic Plan Goal group reports were presented.  Ray Campbell reported that Goal Group 1 has been spending a lot of time in its recent meetings taking a hard look at ACB’s Social Media presence.  We will add Katie Frederick to Goal Group 1.
Dan Spoone reported on Goal group 2.  Along with working on the various fundraising activities, he indicated the volunteer hours reporting will be expanded to all committees and task forces.
Jeff reported for Goal Group 3.  With the impending retirement of our Executive Director, this group will be discussing personnel issues and procedures in an exit interview with her.
John McCann reported for goal group 4.  This year, they’ve looked at the convention standing rules and constitutional changes needed to comply with the revised DC Non-profit Code.  They will be looking at other aspects of the constitution that may need to be changed going forward.
Campbell moved and McCann seconded acceptance of the goal group reports, the motion carried.
President Charlson shared that she plans on re-appointing Denise Colley (chair) and Ron Brooks to the Board of Publications.  The board recognized Second Vice President Lieberg and Executive Director Brunson as this is the last meeting they would be working with us, and both were given an opportunity to share some remarks.
There being no further business, Peterson moved and McCann seconded that the meeting be adjourned.  The motion carried, and the meeting was adjourned at 3:54 p.m.
Ray Campbell,
Date submitted: 8/04/2015
Date approved: 10/31/2015