Monday, April 27, 2009

Opinions on Proposed AIA Bylaws Amendments & Resolutions

by TSA Executive Vice President David Lancaster, Hon. AIA

On the whole, I have to wonder how much serious debate or discussion the AIA Board had before it approved the proposed amendments and delegate resolutions to be voted on at the 2009 AIA Annual Business Meeting in San Francisco, CA, on May 2.

IMHO, four of the five proposed Bylaws amendments seem flawed—two because of how they’re worded (09-A, 09-D), two just seem to be bad policy (09-B, 09-C). With the exception of 09-02, the resolutions seem to be either superfluously redundant (09-01) or unwise (09-03). Resolution 09-02 could be an interesting referendum on what the driving factors for future AIA conventions should be, and, as such, could prove instructive to national leadership and staff…assuming it’s passed in San Francisco and subsequently ratified by the Board of Directors.

While the bases for my questions or concerns regarding this blog are real, I hope that at least the humor can be appreciated. With that in mind, here’s one person’s irreverent take on some of the major 2009 AIA Annual Business Meeting items:


09-A: Participation by Board Members at Board Meetings

“Dialing up Attention Deficit Disorderliness.” If National wants the authority to meet legally via conference calls, which is the reason I’m told that this amendment is being offered, why not just say so? The wording that’s been published would allow, if not ensure, less productive meetings—if not bad meeting habits. I’m predicting less productive (national) AIA Board meetings in the future because people either 1) won’t bother to attend in person or 2) they’ll call in…then put the phone on mute and try to do other things (like taking care of their paying business), which means reduced focus on their AIA director role. One of the reasons I’ve heard given for considering a new national governance model is that the current way of selecting directors (and, ergo, the current Board members) hasn’t resulted in choosing those who are tuned in sufficiently to be strategic and efficient. If anyone thinks national directors aren’t already tuned in, wait until they let them multi-task during meetings. The bright side of this proposal is that at least we’ll eliminate that old problem of AIA Board “class cliques.”

09-B: Public Membership

Let’s call this one “Boston (or BSA) Legal.” Most everyone is familiar with the old saw, “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.” This looks like a situation in which, since the Boston Society of Architects (BSA) won’t stop offering Public Membership to the “great unwashed” of the northeast (in violation of Section 4.054 of the national Bylaws), the national component has decided to follow BSA’s lead by changing its Bylaws to let National start milking that potential cash cow, too. So what if it may well negatively impact a whole boatload of related local/state components’ architectural foundations, not to mention all those new architectural centers?!? At least everyone’s will be legal now. One other slightly troublesome item for me in the published wording: nowhere else in any other membership category section is determination of “Rights and Privileges” left to the AIA Board to write/edit/approve. This whole thing seems WAY loose…and rife with opportunity to lead us places we may not really want to go.

09-C: AIA International Membership

If Texas secedes like our Governor has hinted we should consider, will Lone Star architects qualify for AIA International? Apparently, the AIA, whose official “domain” is the United States and its territories, is concerned that it isn’t able to keep pace with the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) when it comes to signing up “foreign” architects as members. The reason behind this idea, allegedly, is that the RIBA doesn’t qualify its letters, while the Institute’s title for anyone not licensed by a regulatory body somewhere within the AIA’s domain must include the word “Associate.” Not to be outdone by the RIBA, this proposal, which is touted as merely (or at least primarily) a title change from “International Assoc. AIA” to “AIA International,” one heck of a more impressive moniker. The way it’s worded, however, would make members of the new category eligible for everything except Fellowship, being an Institute officer and voting on U.S. architects’ dues (unless serving as a director on the national board). Apparently glossed over, however, are the far greater potential unintended consequences that 1) such a move might prompt a backlash by state regulatory boards wanting to avoid consumer confusion by prohibiting use of the terms “AIA” and “AIA International” by anyone not licensed within its specific jurisdiction or 2) creating a perception that someone who is “AIA International” is somehow more qualified for global practice than someone who is “just a plain AIA.” Maybe that’s why “Confused in Fort Worth” is hoping Rick Perry carries through on his “Tax Tea Party Tirade,” he’d wind up with a much sexier title!

09-D: Associate Members as Regional Directors on the Institute’s Board of Directors

“So which of the previous provision or positions still apply?” Last year, delegates in Boston approved Resolution 08-C, which recommended allowing regions to elect an Associate AIA member as Regional Director to the (national) Board, if that was the region’s choice. I’m not questioning that 2008 Vox Populi Architecti, but I must ask if allowing this eligibility will affect whether or not the two designated “Associate AIA Representative” positions set out in Section 6.02 of the Bylaws will continue, or is this the first step in a plan to do away with all constituent reps. (One could ask the same question about the International Director position on the board, too, given 09-C.) Since nothing indicates a change in any of the limitations put on the number or percentages of Associates who may serve on section, chapter, state or regional boards [see 2.333(a) and (c)], is the national board to be different or will this become an issue to answer later? Should this motion be reconsidered to cover these and other questions?

09-E: Members Emeritus

As some Texans say, “even a blind hog finds an acorn once in a while.” Just to prove that I’m not simply some crusty old “nattering nabob” (thank you Spiro Agnew), I’m good with this one. One person, however, suggested that the new language in 2.311(ii) [“has achieved architect emeritus status under law in any state of the United States”] could be interpreted to mean that the state with the youngest or lowest age that qualifies for emeritus status sets the bar for all the rest. Would “has achieved architect emeritus status under law in the state in which he or she is registered” work better? The same sort of tweaking could be applied to AIA International members (including Texans, if we secede) should 09-C be approved.


(Before I get into the real stuff, did anyone else notice that last year the Resolutions had capital letters rather than numbers…and this year they’ve been viced versa? Cool, huh?!?)

09-1: Component Adoption of the Gateway Commitment

“Can I get a component ‘AMEN’…or 300?” It feels good, it feels right…and who in his or her right (political) mind would vote against it, but what does it really do?!? It says “the AIA Board of Directors must urge each state and local component to embrace and adopt the…Commitment; and…develop a concrete plan” for implementing it, but why does the AIA Board have to wait for a delegate resolution to do that—or “to make readily available all resources…in the accomplishment of (the) diversity goals?” Would it be OK for the state and local components just to adopt the national “concrete plan” once we do our embracing and adopting…both of which I am all in favor of doing!

09-2: Ensuring a Viable National Convention

“This still doesn’t guarantee we’re coming to Detroit, Fred.” Given last September’s decision by the AIA Board to cede future national convention site decisions to the AIA Executive Committee, this one makes good sense. If such a review and confirmation doesn’t take place, we may well wind up with such decisions being made based only (or almost completely) on the size of the available exhibit hall space. If that’s the case, we could wind up limited to 5-6 cities (Boston, New York City, DC, Vegas, LA and Frisco). How does that fit with 09-1 and promoting diversity?

09-3: Defining a Minimum Standard to Meet Our Obligations Regarding Environmentally Responsible Design

“This resolution died on a point of order last year; it should die on its merits now.” From my narrow (OK, call it selfish) AIA lobbyist’s point of view, neither National nor its individual local and state components should “recommend and support” a single green building rating system…and that’s what I interpret the published wording as doing. (Striking the word “most” on the 4th line of the first RESOLVED paragraph might solve this issue. MAYBE!) Even if the USGBC and LEED program do exist as a result of the leadership provided by some earlier members of the AIA’s Committee on the Environment (COTE), government shouldn’t be in the business of using only one standard when “shaping public policy, action, and metrics” for green buildings—and we shouldn’t be promoting a single standard. No state legislature is going to “green light” a monopoly, even one for green building standards, so let’s avoid advocating any standard more than another—unless it’s OUR standard, one we developed, which, then, of course, would be OK.

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