Building Upon a Strong Foundation

From the President

David Rumsey
president@atanet.org
Twitter handle: @davidcrumsey

In addition to living on the West Coast, where sailing is a major pastime, I also share a similar experience with many of my neighbors of having built my own home. The process is not for the faint-hearted, and you have to live with the decisions you make along the way—literally. But the basic framework of a house is an excellent metaphor for how ATA is structured and how we operate.

At the very bottom, often buried underground, lies the foundation. The foundation is a robust structure that supports the entire house. Designing the foundation often requires careful foresight to establish the right balance of flexibility and durability to support the rest of the house.

In ATA, our bylaws serve as the Association’s foundation. The bylaws set forth how the organization is structured, including various types of members, frequency and organization of meetings, and the rules governing the Board and certain committees.

Because a foundation is cast in concrete, modifying it is a highly complex and labor-intensive operation that should not be undertaken lightly. Likewise, changes to ATA’s bylaws are made relatively rarely, roughly every two to three years, and require a two-thirds majority of votes to pass. The last round of bylaw revisions added term limits to Board members and altered the name and charge of the Active Membership Review Committee.

On top of the foundation sits the actual framing for the house. The framing maps out the individual rooms, such as the living room, dining room, or the bedroom. While the framing may be dictated to a certain extent upon the foundation, it provides for a fair amount of creativity to design a house that will be enjoyable to live in.

The equivalent analogy of the framework within ATA includes our policies and procedures. ATA’s policies and procedures are used to establish many of our various programs and specify how they will run. And while it’s much easier to make changes to the framing of a house rather than the foundation, living in a house that is perpetually under renovation isn’t a lot of fun. Likewise, ATA’s Board of Directors reviews our various policies and procedures thoroughly and adjusts them carefully and deliberatively based on the conditions and developments within the Association and outside of it. Recent procedures established by the Board include the Credentialed Interpreter designation in the website database, the creation of the keyboarded certification exam, and processing member resolutions, among others.

On top of the house is the roof, which helps protect the framework and the foundation. Without a strong roof, the entire structure is vulnerable to decay and potentially to collapse. This is particularly the case on the West Coast, where they say there are essentially two seasons: “raining season” and “staining season.”

The analogy to the roof for the Association involves the surrounding legal and financial protection for the Association. ATA operates in a U.S. legal and economic environment with the accompanying emphasis on liability, lawsuits, and legal opinions. For the same reason that many residents of the West Coast choose metal roofs for their durability, we have been fortunate over the past 20 years to be working with a legal team that specializes entirely in association law with an excellent track record to prove it. We also work with an excellent accounting firm to ensure that our financial stability and compliance with regulatory requirements is rigidly upheld. Our financial auditor recently described our financial procedures as “exemplary” and a model for other associations.

When built with care, consideration, and clarity of purpose, a house can stand for generations. Likewise at ATA, which has been in existence for over 50 years, the careful consideration of the delicate interplay between our bylaws, policies, and our surrounding environment will ensure many more years of success for the Association.

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