Thursday, October 13, 2005

October 13: More viewpoints on public speaking at STRS Board meetings

From Board member Dr. Stephen Buser:

Dear Dennis and others:

I cannot speak for other Board members. Nevertheless, I assume that we all understand the significance of the opportunity for members to address the Board, and that we all want to work toward maintaining a viable structure. With respect to Chairman Brown's statement, I think he clearly deserves the benefit of any doubt at this point. Chairman Brown was asked to respond on a particular issue, and he did so by noting that the full Board will be able to explore permanent solutions at the February retreat. I do not interpret his willingness to respond as a desire to preempt the Board as a whole. Nor do I interpret his response as a decision to rule out temporary solutions to problems that might arise prior to the February retreat.

On the contrary, I am only aware of one prior instance in which a problem arose with the schedule of speakers. That occurred at the last meeting, and Chairman Brown took steps to address that issue to the benefit of members in general. Thus, while I confess that I do not as yet fully understand the nature of the current issue, I have every confidence that both Chairman Brown, and the Board as a whole, will continue to work in the best interests of members, even if that means adopting yet another stop gap measure pending our search for more permanent solutions.

For example, one advantage of the current system is that we have been alerted in advance to a potential problem with the schedule of speakers for next week's meeting. If indeed we are confronted with an unusually large number of requests from a single organization, I can imagine that the Board or the Chair might advise that organization that their voice could be heard more effectively, and perhaps with greater sympathy, if the organization were to appoint one, or perhaps two representatives to speak for the group as a whole in order to allow other speakers to address the Board as well. If such voluntary efforts fail, I can imagine that the Board would want to consider another temporary measure, as it did at the last meeting, and perhaps even reschedule the issue of speaker schedules for a meeting prior to February if needed.

In sum, pending evidence to the contrary, I continue to believe that both Chairman Brown and the Board as a whole will continue to act in the interest of members on this and other issues. We might not get every issue right every time. However, based on my limited observations to date, I think we have all earned respect for our continuing efforts on behalf of members.


P.S. Please note that I will be out of town until next Tuesday and will not have access to email. Thus, if anyone expects me to respond further on this or other issues, please do not interpret my silence as indifference.

From Board member Conni Ramser (written to Molly Janczyk):

Hi! Having finished parent conferences last night and being back in at my usual 6AM time, I may not make a bunch of sense. However, that said, I will try to be coherent.

The public speaks session, from my understanding, is to allow members to address the board with issues of interest/concern. I am not concerned with whether they are active, retired, or both.

What the individuals have to say is more of interest. I appreciate printed remarks, so that I can go back and more thoroughly reflect on the message at a later time. So for me, a letter is as valuable as a speech.

So, that's my 2 cents, for what it is worth.

Conni Ramser

From Molly Janczyk:

Thank you, Conni, But how do you feel about folks who wish to speak and possibly being shut out after driving hours to attend. All speakers need know they have equal opportunity.

From Jim Kimmel:

Ms Ramser:

It should also be of concern to you that more than one point of view be heard. If the OEA people (active or retired) use up all the allotted slots then CORE and others cannot have their say. A letter may be useful but it should be obvious that a letter or email read in the privacy of one's home or office cannot possibly have the impact that a speech made by an individual before the assembled STRS Board would have. A letter is private but a speech is there for all to hear. And it might be difficult to get a specific letter read by one of the board members at a board meeting, especially one that criticizes or asks probing questions that may need to be asked. During Mr. Dyer's regime HE opened board members' letters personally, even when not addressed to him. Not only was that a federal offense but one wonders how many letters ever even made it to the board members at all. While I doubt that is happening now the retirees would certainly feel more confident in future board decisions if it were clear that speech opportunities are not monopolized by the OEA,CORE, or any other single group. I really wonder if this is not a tactic of OEA (your neighbor across the street) to monopolize things and prevent CORE people from having their say. Please try to create a situation that is fair to all and expresses the retirees' true sentiments. For example, a recent series of OEA speakers said to the Board that the retirees were so glad "STRS has continued to provide 'affordable' health coverage." Do you REALLY believe that?

So we need more than one point of view, don't you think? CORE never tried to monopolize the Public Speaking time, as far as I can tell. How often did OEA and other groups like ORTA or others even ask to speak until recently? Perhaps some had other ways of communicating with past Board members that are no longer available. For CORE and individual retirees the public speech (3 minute limit) was the ONLY venue in which we could be sure board members could be reached. E-mails were returned, letters opened by Dyer, etc. Just be fair so all can be heard - including all points of view.

James O. Kimmel
Proud CORE Member
STRS Retiree
Larry KehresMount Union Collge
Division III
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