Member Parliamentarian

In several groups I work with, I am also a member of the group. This can present many problems including a desire to post messages on things not related to procedure.

Posting on things not procedural in nature is violation of RONR as the parliamentarian, even the member parliamentarian, is supposed to be neutral. That even goes into voting where the member gives up his or her right to vote except in a ballot.

I have a simple, but practical way to get around this problem. Most the communications come as emails. I find it very easy to write replies to these emails giving all the information that I have accumulated over the years. Often, these are brilliant responses with loads of information and practical advise. I surprise myself by how much information I have accumulated.

I find that I often edit these replies over several sessions, making them better each time. They truly reflect years of experience that was gotten the hard way.

Then I delete them

Voting I Don’t Like

I am back in Japan after the AIP Annual Session. At the annual session, I got reminded of one aspect of voting that I do not like at all. It is the fact that a two-thirds vote does not have to be counted. The chair can accept the vote simply by looking and there is no way to force a counted vote.

A two-thirds vote is designed to protect the minority but a simple majority can deny the minority of the protection of a counted vote. Yes, counting will take more time and more effort. But if it is an item that denies the rights of the minority, it needs to be counted. Otherwise, I think that it is grossly unfair.

The allowing of the chair to simply declare a two-thirds vote is a type of anarchy. I know that many will disagree with me, but that is not something I will worry about. The majority of one on this blog thinks that the rules should be changed so that the minority is actually protected by a real two-thirds counted vote,

Business Development Institute

The Business Development Institute is over and it went quite well. 22 people were in attendance and seemed to have a good time looking at the business aspects of Parliamentary Procedure.

I was the first presenter. I showed how they could write a homepage easily so that they could have a presence on the web. In addition, we looked at databases, email, and the like. I thought it went well.

The second presenter was James Lochrie who took us through the Core Values of the Parliamentarian. He hit the main points of what it means to be a parliamentarian and then went on to deal with ethics. It was a lively presentation.

After a break, Alison Wallis took us through many of the legal pitfalls of being a professional. It made me happy to be in Japan as we don’t has the litigation that is common in the US. She knew of no case where a parliamentarian had been held liable but that does not mean that it will not happen. Her handout on what we should be keeping track of is extremely helpful.

After a delicious lunch Eli Mina spoke about Making Tough Business Decisions in Parliamentary Practice. A very enjoyable presentation with many fabulous stories about situations he has encountered in his professional life. Eli likes to lower the confrontational level when tensions rise. He gave us a well organized look at many of the areas we have to make decisions about.

Jim Jones finished up the day by getting us to look at Parliamentary Possibilities and Your Niche. What part or parts of the field are we comfortable with and why? Where are we uncomfortable? Another good thought provoking presentation.

All-in-all, I think all of the presenters found the time too short. I think all of us could have gone for hours in our area and still not finished as there is much to look at in the area.

If you missed it, you missed a good one. Hopefully, there will be another next year in the other Ontario.

The Chair and the Secretary

It is interesting that Robert’s Rules of Order list eleven duties for the Chair and eleven for the Secretary. These are the two offices that are most intertwined. In a good meeting, they are sitting next to each other (the parliamentarian is sitting on the other side of the Chair!)

The duties are closely related to each other as the Chair and the Secretary need to be in close communication. The Chair’s wording of a motion is the final form –that is what the members vote on.. At the same time, the wording that goes in the minutes might be the one that the membership approves as the final wording. It needs to be a situation where the two work together.

Is getting the two to agree easy — yes, as it is a simple matter of looking through the real mirror. If both sides are hones, an agreement can be reached quickly and this is what is wanted.

The Chair and the Secretary are a powerful team if, and only if, they want to work together.

The Computer and the Parliamentarian

In just a few days, the American Institute of Parliamentarians is having a workshop in Ontario, California related to the business of being a parliamentarian. At that workshop, I will give an hour on making use of the computer for the professional parliamentarian.

The focus of my workshop will be on the needs of the members in the audience. I have nine different areas that I can easily go to, but where the workshop goes will depend on the answers of the participants to some basic questions. The first question will be, “Who has a homepage?” If a good number do not have home pages, my first topic is going to be creating simple homepages and getting them published.

Other possible areas include databases, Skype, PDF files and their uses, and software I have developed. I won’t publish the list here — you need to come to the workshop to see that.

It is important to remember that the computer is a tool for the parliamentarian and is controlled by the parliamentarian; it is not the other way around as so many people seem to think. The computer only works if it is a help; once it controls, it has lost that qualification and is without merit.

So what is the largest value of the computer for the parliamentarian? I really think that it is speed coupled with organization. Things move so quickly at modern meetings that the slow parliamentarian will be left far behind. I find that in the work I do here in Japan and on the lists that I am on. People want answers long before they have time to formulate the question. The parliamentarian who cannot keep up with that speed is lost.

If you want information about the workshop, go to and look at the upcoming events.


Election woes

Elections can be very trying for any organization. Even if only one candidate is running for an office, there will be people who view themselves as losers. I remember that when Kennedy ran against Nixon, Ohio went for Nixon. One resident that I delivered newspapers to told me that he would not vote again as his candidate lost. When I asked him which one he voted for, he said Kennedy. He explained that his vote meant nothing as Ohio went for Nixon. I told him that he did have a winning candidate and he added to the national total. He found that to be not good enough.

This sort of discontent is dangerous in that it has a win-or-nothing mentality attached to. There is no room for compromise nor for the influence of the minority. I find this nowadays in the way people view the results of the 2008 election — Obama won so that is the only opinion that needs to be considered. It is so dangerous.

I remember reading many a year ago (don’t ask me where as I can’t remember) that Lyndon Johnson was successful in the Senate not because the Democrats had a majority but because he knew to compromise and work with Dirkson who was the leader of the Republicans. He kept the Democrats agenda going but he did not overlook the opposition.

I really believe that the same needs to occur in any election results to have a strong organization — one side leads but does not dominate absolutely.

At the same time, the side that lost must be willing to work with the winners accepting the concept that the others are the leaders and many of the losing side’s plans need to be put on hold or moderated to an acceptable level.

I know that many people are opposed to the constant compromise of politics, but, when used well, compromise leads to a better organization for all the members.

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