by Charles S.P. Hodge

The fall 2006 ACB board meeting was called to order by President Chris Gray at 8:45 a.m. Central daylight time on Sept. 23, 2006, at the Comfort Suites Hotel in Nashville, Tenn. President Gray thanked the staff members from the American Foundation for the Blind who had presented a training seminar on direct mail fund-raising programs the previous afternoon. Secretary Donna Seliger called the roll; all board members were present. Gray then reviewed the agenda. Several board members suggested additional agenda items, or rearranging the timing, to better facilitate the flow of the meeting. The board approved the amended agenda.

Gray then called upon Seliger to present minutes from previous board meetings. First to be considered were the minutes of the July 8, 2006 pre- convention board meeting. After board members suggested minor and technical corrections, the board approved the pre-convention meeting minutes as corrected. Seliger next presented the draft minutes of the July 15, 2006 post-convention board meeting. The board approved those minutes as well.

Gray began his report by observing that the fall board meeting gave the board time to get to know each other better and work with each other to solve thorny or even controversial issues confronting ACB. He gave several examples of thorny issues: the direct mail program and the American Center on Blindness and Visual Impairment project, which present challenges but also give the board a chance to work together to forge innovative solutions. He then read a draft motion putting ACB on record as endorsing in principle the concept of a direct mail program as a useful tool for ACB to enhance many purposes and objectives discussed during Friday afternoon's AFB direct mail presentation. Donna Seliger made the motion to adopt in principle the concept of a direct mail program for ACB as outlined by President Gray. This motion led to considerable discussion.

Mike Godino moved to table further discussion of the motion until the direct mail agenda item scheduled for later in the day. When a voice vote proved inconclusive, Seliger called the roll. The motion to table was defeated by a vote of 9 to 6. Those voting in favor were Ed Bradley, Brenda Dillon, Mike Godino, Billie Jean Keith, Patrick Sheehan and David Trott; those opposed were Ray Campbell, Paul Edwards, Oral Miller, Mitch Pomerantz, Carla Ruschival, M.J. Schmitt, Donna Seliger, Naomi Soule and Jeff Thom.

The pending question reverted to the Seliger motion to endorse in concept the use of direct mail. Miller suggested that a proviso be added to the motion, making it clear that adoption of the motion did not commit ACB to any specific actions -- especially any action involving expenditure of ACB funds. This proviso was accepted. Edwards requested that a roll call vote be taken. The resulting vote revealed 12 in favor and 3 opposed. Those voting in favor were Bradley, Campbell, Dillon, Godino, Keith, Miller, Pomerantz, Ruschival, Schmitt, Seliger, Thom and Trott. Those opposed were Edwards, Sheehan and Soule.

Gray continued his report by briefly distinguishing and contrasting the Jernigan Institute located at the National Federation of the Blind's national headquarters in Baltimore with the multi-faceted, multi-purpose and multi-functional American Center on Blindness and Visual Impairment envisioned by ACB. He informed the board that ACB's database was sorely inadequate for tracking and updating important data, which makes it much less useful to affiliates and members than should be the case. He further indicated that it would take a one-time capital expenditure of approximately $25,000 to give ACB the sort of modernized database which our affiliates and membership deserve. Gray reported that he had attended the 50th anniversary convention of the Georgia Council of the Blind in August and that he appreciated the affiliate's warm Southern hospitality which resulted in his having a wonderful time. M.J. Schmitt chimed in to say that she had also had the pleasure of attending this milestone convention.

Gray reported that the vehicle donation committee consists of Carol Ewing of Nevada, Gene Barton and John Horst of Pennsylvania sharing a seat, and a representative from the Washington Council of the Blind yet to be determined, along with board members Mitch Pomerantz, Ed Bradley and Donna Seliger. Seliger has agreed to keep committee records for ease in reporting to the board. He noted that since ACB's success in having an audio description track included on DVDs of the movie "Ray" about the life and musical career of the blind performer Ray Charles, no other movies have been issued with audio description tracks on them. Gray appointed an ad hoc committee of Pat Sheehan as chairman, Jeff Thom and Ray Campbell to meet and develop action steps that ACB will be able to take to address this issue. He also designated Day Al-Mohamed to sit on this committee. He concluded his report by informing the board that within the past four months, four new programs have been added to ACB Radio's mainstream, and that 10 new broadcasters have also been added. Bradley moved that the president's report be accepted. This motion passed.

Edwards then moved that this board authorize the president, executive director and other individuals who may be needed to begin development of and implementation of steps to address ACB's need for a modernized database, and that cost recommendations associated with this process be made available to the budget committee for inclusion in the 2007 budget. This motion was adopted on a voice vote.

The Monthly Monetary Support program report was given by Dr. Ron Milliman, chairman of the MMS committee. He reported that the number of participating contributors was up 71 percent from this time last year, with the monthly contribution level up 101 percent from this point in time last year to $2,832 per month. Edwards moved that the board direct the budget committee to allocate at least $1,000 to the MMS committee in the 2007 budget so that the committee may develop a marketing strategy. This motion passed with one dissenting vote. Edwards moved that Milliman's report be accepted; the board approved.

The board next turned its attention to the national office report given by ACB's executive director, Melanie Brunson. After inquiries from board members, Brunson began her report by stating that when contributions are received in the national office, a thank-you note is sent to the contributor within 30 days. This practice is not followed with respect to contributions received in the Minneapolis office, but it is her intent to institute the 30-day thank-you note practice in the Minneapolis office, bringing uniformity to ACB's contribution response policy. She reported that Lainey Feingold and Linda Dardarian are currently negotiating with the three major credit reporting companies with the goal of having these companies make available without charge credit reports in braille, audio cassette and large print to their respective blind and visually impaired customers. She also reported that she had spent the previous day in Boston working with staff at WGBH as to how best to verbalize television weather alerts and other emergency announcements.

Turning to legislative matters, Brunson reported that Senate bill 2686, which would mandate audio description's inclusion in prime time television programming, has still not affirmatively moved in the U.S. Senate. She indicated that Sen. Harkin of Iowa is seriously considering introducing an ADA Restoration Act. ACB has been urging Harkin's office to include language stating that when commercial facilities maintain web sites, that those web sites be made accessible to all users, including disabled Americans, when the bill is introduced. She also reported that work is in progress to bring ACB's Form 990 into compliance with federal requirements, thus making ACB eligible for federal grants and other funding. She noted that the board handbook committee has met and outlined steps that must be taken to put the handbook together.

With respect to personnel matters, Brunson reported Lane Waters, who has 30 years of experience in the financial industry, has been hired as ACB's new comptroller and to supervise the Minneapolis office. Waters will commence his employment in mid-October. She strongly recommended that a support staff position be filled immediately since Patricia Castillo will be going on maternity leave in November. She also reported that our current supply of ACB brochures is running low, and that she is mulling over whether to develop a new brochure or to simply reorder more of our current brochures. She stated that ACB will participate in upcoming meetings to develop further rules under Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. She noted that ACB's intellectual property expert, attorney Leonard DuBoff, has filed for trademark registration of the name American Council of the Blind, as well as other trademarkable names and symbols. Mike Godino volunteered to contact affiliates which had agreed to send scholarship recipients to the 2006 national convention to request reimbursement from such affiliates for the transportation costs for those individuals.

Edwards moved that the board request the president and the executive director work to expeditiously find and employ someone qualified to work on Randolph-Sheppard issues. The motion carried on a voice vote.

M.J. Schmitt, liaison from the American Center committee, indicated that she did not have a report to make to the board. Pam Shaw, a committee member, told the board that the committee was in the midst of brainstorming about how best to move the project forward. Charlie Hodge, another committee member, reassured the board that several members will eventually be on the center's governing board. Edwards moved that this board fully support and endorse the decision made by the membership at the Jacksonville convention to make the American Center project a program of the American Council of the Blind, and that the board is keenly aware of its continuing obligation to give monitoring supervision to the American Center project. This motion carried unanimously. Edwards moved to accept the report on the American Center project. The motion carried. Miller moved to recess the board of directors meeting and to convene a corporate membership meeting of the American Council of the Blind Enterprises and Services.

When the ACB board meeting reconvened at 2:30 p.m., Gray reported that during the ACBES corporate membership meeting, ACBES had voted 9 to 6 to cut its budgetary obligation in half to ACB for the current fiscal year. Those voting in favor were: Campbell, Godino, Keith, Pomerantz, Ruschival, Schmitt, Sheehan, Soule and Trott. Those opposed were: Bradley, Edwards, Gray, Miller, Seliger and Thom. Brenda Dillon abstained. Edwards moved that the board instruct the budget committee to come forward with recommendations as to how best to address the budget shortfall created by ACBES' amended budgetary commitment to ACB for decision by the board by Nov. 6, 2006. This motion passed. Edwards then moved that the board meet by telephone conference call at 9:30 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 6. The motion carried.

Mike Godino presented the treasurer's report. He reviewed the most recent budget figures available, and cautioned that some of these figures will have to be adjusted slightly as more updated data becomes available. Trott moved to accept the treasurer's report. The motion passed. Godino also presented the budget committee's report. He stated that the committee recommends that ACB terminate its association with California Canes. Ed Bradley moved that until ACB can ascertain how best to conduct our dealings with California Canes in a manner designed to protect ACB's best interests, both financial and otherwise, under the contract for the glow-in-the-dark cane, ACB not order any further canes. The board agreed.

Godino also stated that ACB is sorely in need of a publishing software package, and the budget committee would appreciate it if cost information for such an acquisition could be provided. Ray Campbell moved to accept the budget committee's report. This motion passed.

Next on the agenda were the budget committee elections. Ed Bradley nominated Pat Sheehan, Ray Campbell nominated Carla Ruschival, and Paul Edwards nominated Mike Godino. Bradley moved that nominations cease and that the three nominees be elected by acclamation. The motion passed.

David Trott reported on behalf of the resource development committee. He indicated that sales for the national raffle only stood at $3,200. He also stated that the RDC is planning to conduct a live auction on Wednesday night at the 2007 national convention with all proceeds going to ACB, and that Brenda Dillon has agreed to head up the auction subcommittee. He recommended that a walk-a-thon be held as a fund-raiser on Wednesday morning during the 2007 national convention. Paul Edwards moved that the report of the RDC be accepted. The motion carried.

The board then returned to consideration of ACB's direct mail program. Paul Edwards moved that the board instruct the president and the executive director to work collaboratively to establish parameters for seeking a consultant, and for arriving at the cost, for conducting an audit of ACB's direct mail situation. The motion carried. Mitch Pomerantz moved that within 30 days, a thank-you letter be drafted and sent to all direct mail contributors. The motion passed. Carla Ruschival moved that ACB conduct only one more direct mail mailing before the end of 2006, and that this mailing be a holiday mailing directed only to our current direct mail donor list. This motion carried. Edwards moved that the direct mail report be accepted; the board agreed.

The board next discussed future office leases and the possibility of consolidating the existing two offices at one location. Donna Seliger indicated that she had made inquiries regarding office space in downtown Des Moines, Iowa, and had received preliminary cost figures which she would be happy to share with the executive director and/or the board. After considerable discussion, Bradley moved that the office review and executive committees work together and bring recommendations back to the board for action at the 2007 mid-year meeting. This motion passed. Ray Campbell moved to accept the report on the office lease issue. The motion carried. The board agreed to recess and meet again the next morning at 9.

Gray called the board meeting back into session at 9:15 a.m. Seliger called the roll; all board members were present except for Billie Jean Keith, who had to leave the meeting early. The board began by discussing the state of rehabilitation for the blind. Naomi Soule led the discussion about the rehabilitation center in Missouri being taken over by the National Federation of the Blind's philosophy of rehabilitation. She said that she was aware of three other midwest state agencies for the blind that were under the influence of that philosophy. Several board members related episodic evidence of similar situations in their respective states. Brunson volunteered to contact Keith to insure that the rehabilitation task force was aware of and would work on addressing the issue. Edwards moved that the rehabilitation task force be directed to prepare a white paper on the proper philosophy of rehabilitation for the blind, and that this white paper should be circulated to board members no later than Dec. 31, 2006. This motion carried.

The board took time for announcements. Pam Shaw will lead a leadership presentation during the 2007 affiliate presidents' meeting. The board's 2007 mid-year meeting will be held on Feb. 17 and 18, 2007, at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Minneapolis, Minn. The affiliate presidents' meeting will be held at the Holiday Inn-Rosslyn at Key Bridge Hotel in Arlington, Va., on Feb. 24 and 25, 2007. The legislative seminar will immediately follow the affiliate presidents' meeting, Feb. 25-27, 2007.

Following the announcements, the board discussed the constitutional amendment adopted by the membership at the 2006 national convention stating that current affiliates or organizations seeking affiliation with ACB may not discriminate against applicants for membership or current members based solely on such individuals' holding membership in another consumer organization of the blind.

Charlie Hodge gave the board of publications report. He stated that the BOP is currently in the process of seeking bids for the next two years for the production and distribution of "The Braille Forum." He stated that the BOP intends to publish 10 issues of the Forum during 2007, with eight issues being 32 large-print pages and two issues being 48 large-print pages. The BOP recommended that the board establish a new award to encourage and promote excellence in journalistic practices and quality of writing in the publications of ACB's state and special-interest affiliates. It recommends that the new award be named the Hollis K. Liggett Braille Free Press Award. The award would be a plaque presented to a representative of the winning affiliate. The basis for granting the new award would be: Does the nominated state or special-interest affiliate publication portray its affiliate -- and indirectly ACB -- in a positive light? Hodge moved that the board establish a new award to be administered by the BOP for an outstanding state or special-interest affiliate's publication which would be a plaque and which would be entitled the Hollis K. Liggett Braille Free Press Award. Miller moved to refer the award back to the BOP for further refining. This motion carried on a voice vote.

Carla Ruschival announced that the convention coordinating committee will be meeting in Minneapolis Oct. 12-15, 2006. The committee would like to establish a uniform time slot from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on days during convention week for focus groups to meet. Therefore, all afternoon programming and activities would have to conclude by 4:30 p.m. in order to allow hotel staff to reset the rooms. Ruschival moved that ACB establish a uniform time from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. for focus groups to meet during convention, and that all earlier afternoon sessions and programming must conclude no later than 4:30 p.m. The motion carried. At the suggestion of a number of board members, Ruschival said that she would check with the hotel regarding the availability of dates in March 2007 for holding the mid- year board meeting rather than the February dates announced earlier. With no further business to conduct, Gray adjourned the meeting around 11:30 a.m. Central daylight time.

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