I remember very few of the votes.
I remember very few of the committee meetings. (Although I do recall very vividly giving a post-mortem of a Parent Club Committee meeting for a colleague, immediately after, over the phone, from the parking lot, in which I relayed to him in horror, “The word ‘dog’ was not uttered the entire time!”)
I remember almost none of the parade of presentations, mostly given for their shock and awe value —think the Doner animal extremists video — and not for their substance or any lasting impact.
Of all the memories I have about my time attending AKC delegate meetings, the one thing that stands out most?
“Don’t eat the mushroom soup.”
My first delegate meeting, back in the days when the meetings were held at the Hyatt or Hilton (again, memory …) Grand Central in Manhattan.
The meeting itself is a blur, but as I sat down to lunch, a co-worker said to me, “Don’t eat the mushroom soup.”
I was bummed. I like mushroom soup. It’s New York. Bad mushroom soup here?
I took her word for it.
This is not to say that nothing important comes out of the quarterly delegate meetings. It mainly speaks to my bad memory. And my ability to suppress memories that no longer serve me.
In fact, I do remember clearly the vote taken by the delegates in September of 2010 on a proposal brought forward by the Bylaws Committee to eliminate the provision in the AKC’s Charter & Bylaws that provides for term limits. That proposal failed, 151-220. Lots of delegates expressed dissatisfaction at the time with the existing bylaws provision, which it’s important to note contains the “loophole” that, after a one-year hiatus from service, the termed-out person may run again. However, even given that, an overwhelming number of delegates were not willing to toss term limits altogether.
Fast forward to 2022, and once again, the Bylaws Committee has brought forward a proposal to eliminate the term-limits provision from the bylaws. The same justifications for the proposal are being put forth that were expressed in 2010: We are about to lose our “institutional knowledge” on the board when multiple board members in upcoming classes must “sit out” at least a year; we can determine who we want to serve us through elections, and if we are dissatisfied with a sitting director, we can vote him or her out; and, lastly, we oppose “term limits” on “philosophical” grounds.
As to the latter, spare me. What’s the name of the school of thought, pray tell, that advocates that you give someone a “representative” seat for life? That someone can remain in office for all eternity, without any meaningful opposition, and while any potential opposition is squelched.
I know what we called it in World History.
But as to the first two, those weren’t compelling reasons to convince 220 delegates in September of 2010. They are even less compelling now.
Since then, the board and staff have convinced the delegates to give away any meaningful opportunity to hold contested board elections. In December of 2021, the delegates voted to amend the bylaws to provide that if no one runs against the board-chosen Nominating Committee’s endorsed slate, that slate is “deemed elected,” obviating the need for “costly elections.” If you don’t remember that vote, it’s no wonder — it was voted on by the board at its August 2021 meeting, read to the delegates at the September meeting, and voted on and passed in December. Uber fast track for the uber conservative AKC. (If you’re not a delegate, and reading along at home for actions that the AKC takes that might be important to you, good luck. Meeting minutes do not include the actual language of proposals being voted on. They’re only included in the “worksheets,” which if your delegate doesn’t share with your club, you don’t see.) If your delegate didn’t run it by your club, so that you could point out the flaws in the proposal, not to mention how incredibly dangerous it was, it’s likely because it wasn’t even on your delegate’s radar.
Nonetheless, that’s the current lay of the land: The board appoints a Nominating Committee. The Nominating Committee nominates a slate of candidates. Candidates not on that slate are discouraged from running, lest they cause the organization to incur a costly election. And what are the odds of getting elected over the Nominating Committee’s slate, anyway?
If the delegates now vote to the remove the current term-limits provision, the slate going forward is going to be all the incumbents. The board you see now is your board for all eternity. Well, until, you know …
As a current delegate recently observed, “This is not representation. This is control.”