Mr. Wolfe Goes to Washington


The rookie's first Board meeting, part 2

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18 June 2005, Alexandria, VA

After lunch, we finally get to the real meeting of the board of directors. The Executive Committee (president, vice presidents, president-elect, past president, secretary, and treasurer) has been meeting since Wednesday, and we rookies have had our own meetings. This is the first time the entire group gets together at one time, and it's a big group - nine officers, twenty Institute directors, eight incoming board members, and eight CSI staff.

President Gary Betts calls the meeting to order, and the first item of business is the consent agenda we talked about last month. Again, this is a great device to take care of a lot of business in short order. Of the sixty-four items on the agenda, only seven were retained for formal discussion today.

Although "real" business takes place in the regular meeting, a committee of the whole is used to allow more expeditious discussion without all the formalities of Robert's Rules of Order. After approving the consent agenda, we enter into a meeting of the whole, which lasts the rest of the afternoon. The board meeting is recessed until the next morning.

When we reconvene, we receive reports and take formal action on a number of items. Perhaps the most important subject is CSI's financial status, and Treasurer Eugene Valentine spends a lot of time explaining it, using a variety of reports and graphic formats. The Institute's health is displayed in terms of income, expenses, committee activities, reports from the annual convention, and membership. The financial reports and projections are a strong dose of reality, and the responsibilities that go with being on the board of directors begin to hit home.

If you haven't read the statistics provided in CSI's various publications, you may not be aware that our membership has declined over the last few years. From a high of 18,500 in 2000, our numbers have fallen to just over 16,000. I have been told that this problem is not unique to CSI, and that other organizations have lost members since 2000. It seems obvious that the slow economy in 2001 would affect membership, as annual dues are an unnecessary expense to many of those who are laid off. Other factors may include increased family activities, raising chapter dues to include meals, and a perceived lack of value in being a member of any organization.

Fortunately, it looks like things have stabilized. The decline in membership appears to have stopped, and this year every region has a net gain in members. Booth sales for the 2006 convention are up dramatically, reversing a steady downward trend the last few years.

In addition to approving the next year's budget, we approve a number of other actions. Some require little discussion, and may not be of much interest to anyone not directly involved. For example, Institute committee appointments are approved, and an audit committee is appointed.

Other actions have a more obvious affect on members. We approve the bylaws of the Pennsylvania Railroad Chapter, CSI's 145th chapter. In light of the general decline in membership, this is welcome news.

A new plan for the Specifications Competition, which has been on hold the last couple of years, is presented and approved. The new program will have two major categories; Projects will include six types of project manuals or specifications, and Tools will include product binders, websites, and guide specifications. More information is online at

Another interesting proposal is a change in Institute policy that would "recognize documents, publications, information sources, and products that correctly apply CSI standards, formats and principles" and "specifically excludes such recognition being given to manufacturer's product specifications, binders, product information, and websites." Under current policy, CSI may not endorse any documents unless CSI participated in their development. Other than our own documents, only a few are endorsed by CSI, including the EJCDC general conditions, and the Uniform Location of Subject Matter.

Endorsement of documents may seem like a small matter, but making it available would provide incentive for organizations to make their products comply with CSI standards. It would also increase CSI's visibility, and result in greater conformance to CSI formats and principles.

2006 Sheldon Wolfe, RA, FCSI, CCS, CCCA, 

photo courtesy of Joy Davis, CSI

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