Tuesday, October 25, 2011

MOVE OR ROVE – The Penultimate Blog

Report from a Roving Specialty
by Carole Stein

Longtime boxer fancier Carole Stein recently returned from the Frenchie National, a roving specialty that was held at the Hilton Hotel NE in Atlanta from Sunday, September 25, through Friday, September 30.  We don’t know what Carole decided about adding a Frenchie to her household, but she did bring back some interesting ideas on how an ABC roving national might work. At the end of Carole’s report, we’ll provide some stats from the 2011 Frenchie and ABC Catalogs; and as always, a few opinions. J 

I spent the last 4 days in Atlanta at the Frenchie National.  I think it’s always interesting to share different ideas, so here goes:  For entries, the Frenchie people considered this show to be very large (317 to 325 dogs at each of the 2 parent club sponsored shows held during the week, including 110 – 119 specials; also 147 entries in a mid-week sweepstakes.). It doesn't seem to be a "handlers’ breed," like boxers. It was fun to reconnect with Boxer folks who have downsized J.  But let's talk about the show.

First, there is a company called http://www.specialtydogshows.com/. This company only does specialty dog shows, and all I can say is Wow!! From the catalogue to the premium list to the judging schedule and rosettes, they know how to put the SPECIAL in “Specialty.” They are good enough to do large shows like the Golden National. I of course asked about their pricing versus that of the regular show superintendents – they claim that they are competitive, if not a bit less expensive.  BUT, you know you are at a Specialty, not just another dog show.

Because this is their business, they know where there are good and bad dog show venues first hand. And because the French Bull Dog Club of America has an interactive website, I could purchase tickets in advance for just the dinners or events I wanted to attend. When I arrived, there was a packet with my name tag to hang around my neck and all my tickets were inside.  Everyone received logo-imprinted coolers stuffed with lots of goodies.  Interestingly, rescue organizations put in things as well as various Frenchie kennels. The whole scene was very welcoming.  Frenchies, like many breeds, have a roving national, and this one was very well-done.  

Their annual meeting was one night, but it wasn't the whole night, it was part of the art auction night. The silent auction to benefit their charitable foundation went on the whole week of the show.  What I liked so much was how it was organized to allow every Frenchie owner to participate and feel like they were connected and involved, whether they were at the show or not.  I don't know how it was put together but there were HUGE baskets from various states, loaded with goodies from a particular state. I would correlate it to a local club building a basket and sending it.  That way, even if you weren't at the National you could still feel like you participated and you belonged and you contributed, either stuff or sweat equity. This is an old club – way older than the ABC and they know how to get things done.

There were also raffles going on.  People were buying tickets right and left and putting the ticket in the jar next to the item they were interested in. A fancier from Louisiana had built a 5 foot wooden whelping box inside of an armoire.  There was some serious stuff and less serious stuff.  But you had the whole week to bid and look and buy more raffle tickets to increase your chances. The club made it very easy for you to give money to all their good causes.

They ended the week by finishing up with the awards banquet and silent auction for their foundation, instead of separating the two events – you can see more on the FBDCA website. Their Top 20 was Wednesday night.

Frenchies are clowns.  Monday night there was a “pupcake” parade. The folks who dressed up themselves and their dogs took it all very seriously.  The judges, well they even hired a local member of the "Real Housewives of Atlanta" cast.  It was very funny.  

The hotel was fine. There was one restaurant and a small bar.  Food wasn't bad. Service was OK – rooms were clean.  The hotel had bus service that took you where you wanted to go within a 5 mile radius. The show committee made sure that there were clean-up materials in every nook and cranny in case of an accident. There were a whole lot of motor homes and not a whole lot of handlers. I very easily got in and out of Hartsfield.

As I have said several times over the years, you can't have a revolving national unless there is a process and committee in place first to make it happen. I personally think that airports are no longer of great importance – having adequate RV space is far more important, at least for a roving specialty, to which many more people would be driving rather than flying. And while the pictures that line the walls of the ballroom at the ABC are awesome, their storage should not be an issue IMHO

The big difference here is that the Frenchie parent club offers 2 shows in 5 days – 2 sets of 5pt majors! The parent club puts on both an independent specialty AND a national specialty.  Instead of a futurity, the club offered a sweepstakes on Wednesday. Frankly, I think the idea of having 2 shows in 5 days would be very appealing to a lot of people.

I know there are boxer folks on this list that are Frenchie Club members - please pass on my thanks for making a perfect stranger feel very welcome.

Just the Facts, Ma’am
Ok, now let’s compare the two shows – the Frenchie Nat’l and the ABC – and see where the twain might meet. As Carole noted, the Frenchie Nat’l offered two separate shows with 300+ entries each, plus a huge sweeps, a health clinic and DNA blood draw, breeders and judges educational seminars, annual awards banquet, foundation auction, Top 20, and several other events, all in the space of 5 days.

At the ABC, there were 752 dogs entered, including 193 in the Futurity, 163 Obedience entries, 97 Rally entries, and a large off-site Agility Trial. Plus all of the “extracurricular” activities mentioned above. Obviously the ABC entry is much larger and so are the dogs (you can’t tuck a 6 mos boxer puppy in a carrier under the seat on an airplane, much less an adult), but the ABC runs for 7 days rather than 5 to accommodate the larger entry, a separate dinner and auction for the ABCF, and the big performance events.

Even so, given the disparity in the size of the entry and the size and purpose of the dogs (Working versus Non-Sporting), I’m not sure we can draw any conclusions about how a French Bull Dog style roving show might work for the ABC. A better comparison would be the roving Dobe or Golden Retriever or Great Dane National Specialty. And in fact, the professional event planner that Carole mentioned above has coordinated in the past and is planning current and future national specialties for Goldens, Labs, Rhodesian Ridgebacks and Alaskan Malamutes, among other larger breeds. It would be very simple to contact the specialty-planning company and/or the national breed clubs involved to see how the company performed and how pleased the parent club was/is with a roving national system. (I’ve always wondered why the ABC has never considered using a professional event planner.)

Another good comparison might be the 2011 New England Boxer Regional, from which I just returned. Five sets of 5-pt majors – entries of 140+ to 160+ every day – a plethora of other activities, dinners, meetings, a heart clinic, a 4 – 6 mos puppy competition 4 days in a row, etc; and despite the sudden illness of one of the major organizers, a smoothly-run group of shows with very few glitches and no obvious dissension among the host clubs. 

The big question remains, however: Is an ABC roving national an idea whose time has come? And is a roving show the fairest solution to equal access for ALL ABC members and exhibitors?

This is the next-to-last installment in our “Moving or Roving series. Please tune in to our next blog for the surprise conclusion.  VZ J

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

MOVE OR ROVE by Jennifer Walker, Newcastle Boxers

Throughout this series, others have covered the history behind the ABC National, how we got to Fort Mitchell, and the acknowledged difficulty that many ABC members, notably those in the West and Southwest, face getting to ABC each year. I won’t go much into those topics, except to point out, in fairness, that ever since the move to Fort Mitchell, the ABC National has been “centrally located”, as far as the Board and the attorney it consulted are concerned. (The center of the US is 35 miles outside of Springfield, MO; the Board stipulated the show site should be within 100 miles of an airport that is within 350 miles of that location. Fort Mitchell meets these guidelines, as does Indianapolis.) The problem, ostensibly, is not so much that the Board won’t move the show site as that the members weren’t clear enough when they asked for a “central location.”

Some have joked that the fairest thing would be to find a location that is equally inconvenient to as many members as possible – and there is some truth to that. A better plan, however, might be for the membership to vote to abandon the central location, and instead institute a roving National. It could be done as simply as that – at the next membership meeting where there is a quorum, any voting member in good standing can make a motion to send a vote to the membership, to eliminate the requirement for a central location and instead hold a roving National. Any other voting member in good standing can second it. If the motion passes, the Board will be directed to send the issue to the membership for a vote; if it passes the membership, we will begin to hold a roving National. (Stick around to the end of this article, however, for a caveat on that.)

This is the simple way, but also probably the worst way. We’ve all seen how as vague a notion as a “central location” has gone – that motion was made 13 years ago and some still feel we’re nowhere near centrally located. It will serve the membership far better, instead, to prepare a thoroughly detailed and specific motion that leaves no room for interpretation as to the wishes of the membership. Barring any Board intervention, this will need to go to the entire membership for a vote – Dr. Bob Oliver established a precedent in 2001 that any change in site location must be the result of a mandate from either the Board or the entire membership, and not of a vote made at a membership meeting.

The ideal would be for two or three driven individuals, who have time to spare, to work together on bringing this motion to the floor. Several aspects must be considered and included in the motion, to ensure that as many questions and objections as possible are addressed by the motion itself. The primary considerations are a schedule for rotation, show site criteria, show chair and committees, and ABC property that must be transported to each National and stored in between.

Establish A Rotation Schedule
Virginia suggested four regions for a roving National – I’d suggest five, based on the current Zones into which our local Boxer Clubs are already divided. Roughly, these five could be called Northeast (Zone A), Midwest (Zone B), Southeast (Zone C), Southwest (Zone D), and West (Zone E). The most equitable rotation would be to alternate north and south, east and west, both from year to year and within each Zone. Starting with the West, since they seem the most eager to host a National in their territory, one rotation might be the northern part of Zone E (Pacific Northwest), Zone C (Florida), Zone D (Colorado), Zone A (New York), and the western part of Zone B (Missouri); the next rotation would be the southern part of Zone E (SoCal), Zone C (Ohio), Zone D (Texas), Zone A (Maryland), Zone B (Minnesota); and so on.

This also addresses the issue of whether we’ll have enough workers to put on a roving National. While I agree with Virginia that the ABC should be footing the bill for the events at the National Specialty, the workers must come from the local Boxer Clubs – and not just those immediately local. For a National in the Pacific Northwest, for example, the Pacific Northwest Boxer Club would not be the only Club providing workers; the Oregon and Spokane Boxer Clubs would be expected to assist, and possibly the East Bay and Sacramento Valley Clubs depending on how liberal one was with the definition of “Pacific Northwest”.

Adjust Show Site Criteria
The current show site criteria we have is very specific, and unfortunately also very difficult for most sites to meet. That’s one large reason we’ve been in Fort Mitchell for so many years – the several other, more central sites the Site Selection Committee evaluated did not meet our criteria for one reason or another. Virginia listed the “drop dead” criteria in Part II of this series; the more extensive list is posted on the Boxer Nationals Venues Concerns Facebook group and in the Summer 2011 Bulletin. The group making the motion needs to decide which of the criteria really are “drop dead” and on which we are able to compromise. (Can the airport be an hour and a half from the site, if free shuttle service is readily available? Can the hotel not have a full-service restaurant if there’s one right next door? Could we have the show outdoors? [Several breeds do; Rotties and Goldens recently held their Nationals at a National Park in Colorado.] Should we change our show date to allow for better weather conditions, both for travel and for flying dogs?) The minimum room requirement should, I believe, stay – no one wants a repeat of the situation in Frederick, where all the rooms sold out within an hour of becoming available. (Whether we need a hotel at the show site is a debatable topic – but if we don’t, then I’d suggest we move the National to Purina Farms and leave it there. The facility is tailor-made for dog shows and I believe meets and exceeds every other criteria except the on-site hotel.)

Provide for a Show Chair and Show Committee
I don’t mean assigning a specific person as Show Chair; that is the purview of the President with the approval of the Board of Directors. The motion should provide, however, that the Show Chair be appointed several years in advance (be specific here – they say it takes three years to plan a National, so I’d suggest appointing the Show Chair four or five years in advance). It would probably work best to have the same Show Chair for several years, but again that is the President’s decision. The point is to ensure a Show Chair is appointed far enough in advance that there is ample time to obtain a site, so we don’t end up in a situation where we don’t have another site lined up so we’re staying where we are for the next few years.

Likewise, the President assigns the Chairs of the various show sub-committees, with each Chair selecting committee members. The motion can request that certain Committee Chairs be chosen from the local Boxer Clubs: Hospitality, RV Parking, Special Events Coordinator – positions best served by someone in the area who can be onsite relatively easily throughout the planning stages. Like the Show Chair, the motion can also request that the Committee Chairs be chosen in advance.

Storage and Transportation of ABC Property
One of the arguments against moving from the Drawbridge was that we had nowhere to store the various items of ABC property used at each show between events. This property includes the large portraits that line the walls in the show room and I believe the Top Twenty archway, lighting, and ring decorations. A motion to institute a roving National should include a provision that the Board of Directors assign one person to be responsible for transporting the ABC property to each National and storing it between shows. Ideally, this person will be someone who is able and willing to drive to the National, regardless of where it is held; who has the ability to tow a trailer in which the property is loaded; and who has the ability to store that trailer in an area where it is protected from weather, vermin, and other damage. An alternative is to pay for storage and shipping each year, which may become prohibitively expensive. The motion should probably leave the specifics to the Board and/or Show Chair to decide; a motion to assign one person who is responsible for storing and transporting the property from year to year should be sufficient.

Clearly, this is a complex motion and as such, should be presented in writing to ensure clarity. The written motion should say something like this:

“That we amend the May, 1998 motion on the site location ["that the National Specialty be held in a central location in the United States of America and that the vote on this motion be put to the entire membership.”] by striking out “in a central location” and replacing with “at rotating locations”, and by adding the following after “America” and before “and that the vote….”:

“that the locations rotate among the current Regional Zones in the order E, C, D, A, B, or in such a manner that the site rotates between North and South and between East and West;

“that the show criteria be amended to exclude the requirement for …… [fill in as/if needed];

“that the President, with the approval of the Board, select a Show Chairperson at least four years prior to the show date;

“that the President, with the approval of the Board, fill the Hospitality, RV Parking, and Special Events chair positions at least four years in advance with someone local to the show site;

“that the President, with the approval of the Board, assign one person to be responsible for responsible for transporting the ABC property to each National and storing it between shows; “

For clarification, the entire motion will read:

That we amend the May, 1998 motion on the site location to read: That the National Specialty be held at rotation locations in the United States of America; that the locations rotate among the current Regional Zones in the order E, C, D, A, B, or in such a manner that the site rotates between North and South and between East and West; that the show criteria be amended to exclude the requirement for …… [fill in as/if needed]; that the President, with the approval of the Board, select a Show Chairperson at least four years prior to the show date; that the President, with the approval of the Board, fill the Hospitality, RV Parking, and Special Events chair positions at least four years in advance with someone local to the show site; that the President, with the approval of the Board, assign one person to be responsible for responsible for transporting the ABC property to each National and storing it between shows; and that the vote on this motion be put to the entire membership.

In parliamentary terms, this is a Motion to Amend Something Previously Adopted and requires a two-thirds vote to pass, a majority vote with previous notice, or a majority vote of the entire membership. Previous notice is a little tricky with a mailed vote – although there’s nothing in the Bylaws stating a specific amount of previous notice, it appears that we’ve used the length of time between mailing the ballot and the voting deadline (30 to 45 days) as previous notice in our past mailed votes. (Alternatively, the vote to send the issue to the membership, or the minutes of the meeting at which the topic is introduced, may also arguably be considered previous notice).

For the membership meeting, previous notice means notice of the motion must be included in the call of the meeting – which means either someone can announce at the Regional meeting that the motion will be brought up at the National meeting, or someone can contact the ABC Secretary and inform her of the intent to bring up the motion before she sends the call for the National meeting. (This can be done without previous notice, again, if it passes with a 2/3 vote; previous notice simply decreases the votes needed to a majority.)

The Role of the Board
Some important aspects of this discussion revolve around the role the Board plays. A key point for the membership meeting is that the Board, as a whole, has no presence at a membership meeting. Since our Board members are also Club members, they are of course allowed to attend and participate in the meeting *as members*, but any additional privileges they have at a meeting can only be granted to them by the assembly. This includes seating arrangements – according to parliamentary procedure, the head table should include only the President, who chairs the meeting; the Secretary, who sits close enough to the President that they can pass papers between them; and the Parliamentarian, who sits close enough to offer whispered advice to the President if necessary. The membership can, if they desire, make a motion to request that any other Board members at the head table take seats with the rest of the membership. Should those Board members refuse – and since we do not have a Sergeant-At-Arms – the membership can move their chairs around the head table. (Clearly this is a dramatic gesture but can be effective when faced with a bullying Board. The motion would need to be made before the site location motion is made, however, because it cannot be made after discussion begins on the site location. It requires a second and must pass by a majority. If the motion-makers feel the Board will be “circling its wagons” or attempting to “flex its muscles”, then dispersing the Board members from the head table may help restore power to the membership.)

After all is said and done, however, the ABC Bylaws state that “the governance and management of the Club shall be vested in the Board of Directors.” In a nutshell, this means that the membership has only those powers which are specifically given to them in the Bylaws. (I verified this with the AKC, since the wording is similar in their sample Bylaws – their response was “The members exercise authority only in those areas in which the bylaws specifically give them that power.”)

In other words, the Board doesn’t have to do anything at all about moving the show if they don’t want to. Even if the rotating National idea passed the membership unanimously, if the Board doesn’t want to move the show, the Board doesn’t have to. Our only recourse in that case is to elect a new Board that will be more responsive to the membership – and that will take some time, since our Board is elected in shifts of three years each.

Of course, we can hope that the Board will endeavor to put into action the will of the membership – and certainly if the Board members want to retain their positions it would be in their best interests to do so. There have been occasions recently, however, when the members and the Board have been in opposition, and in those cases the Board always wins.