Saturday, February 03, 2007

Making a move, Making a motion

I've been having this ongoing THING with another Board member. Let's call her Sarah. If I'm anonymous, then I have to keep the rest of the Board anonymous. There's only one male on the Board, and he's currently the President of the Board. Let's call him the Prez.

I keep having these little odd spats in meetings which are really hard to write about, because there are two layers of meaning going on. I'll talk about an example below. But first some background.

Sarah was elected to the Board in November of 2005. She takes her cues mostly from the Prez, as do I. I served with the Prez for two full years before Sarah came on, but she's been friends with him for much longer. In a weird way, she's very protective of him. I figure he's a big boy, and that he entered politics all on his own. Personally, any time he gets attacked, I hurt. We go out to lunch, and we commiserate.

On the other hand, he is not without flaw, and I don't always support every single thing he brings forward. Sometimes he makes mistakes (as do I), and if I have time, I usually try to let him know if I think he's off target. We really have a good working relationship. We apologize to each other immediately when we flare, but overall we trust each other and respect each other very much.

Sarah is making me crazy. She's a new board member, but she tries to convince me to do things by saying things like, "I know that you're not as connected to the community as I am, but people are telling me that we have to..." Or "We're part of a team now. We have to go forward and get this done now, while we all have the chance." I didn't think I really had this in me, but I feel disrespected. That my two years of service prior to hers means nothing. That my experience or advice is useless. I can't believe she's acting this way.

In December we had what I call, The Phone Fight. One of those doozies where each person starts crying partway through, all the while thinking, "Damn. I'm glad I'm on the phone, because this would suck if she could see that I'm crying." But we each knew that the other one was sniffling a little too much.

At the end of The Phone Fight we basically agreed that we were not going to change, and that even though we thought we were friends, it would be better for the Board if we just stepped back. The friend thing was getting in the way.

I tried to tell her that I felt as if she didn't respect me, or my experience, and that it was going to be a long time for me to get over the way in which she constantly pressures me to agree with her. "Stand up and just do what you want to do. I'll either agree or I won't. But I'm not going to agree before you get all your facts straight. Go get your committee work done, and then report back to the Board. I can't do anything with a rumor of a project that came up in one meeting. Flesh it out."

"I feel as if what you're saying is that you don't respect me as a Board member."

"Well, I wouldn't put it that way, but I think you rely too heavily on what the Prez thinks is a good idea. And I'm not sure you do enough homework."

"He has good ideas. You follow his lead."

"Yes. Absolutely. But you pressure me to agree with you by saying that the Prez wants it. If he wanted it, he'd call me. Just because he wants something, doesn't mean he's going to get it. When you support him just because he wants it, I think less of you."

"What do you mean?"

And here comes the hard part of writing all this down. Because we all had an unspoken conversation in a Board meeting, in public, where we all said something to each other without words. It was clear enough to me that I got pissed off, it was clear enough to the Prez that he apologized later, and it was clear enough to Sarah that she got defensive when I brought it up. Here's the part of the vote where we all disagreed.

(OK, by parliamentary rules, a motion is made, someone else has to second. If there's no second, then the motion dies, and someone else makes a motion. With a motion and a second, you can move on to a vote.)

I made a motion which the Prez didn't really like so he asked, "Did you want to amend that?" Which is code for, "I think you may have misspoken? Did you mean to say that?"

I responded, "If there's no second, it can die for lack of a second, but that's my motion." Which means, "I know exactly what I said, and I want the vote to go forward on my motion as stated, but I won't be upset if no one supports me. It's not that important to me. Go ahead."

Prez says, "OK. Anyone second?"

Sarah, not knowing whom to support now, says, "I'd like to amend the motion to say..."

Prez says, "Only the maker of the motion can amend. Suisan?"

"It can die for lack of a second."

Sarah says, "I'll second the motion if you amend." (Suisan is now thinking, "Oh my god, please stay out of this!")

Suisan, "You make a motion. This one currently has no second."

Prez says, "Only one motion on the floor at a time." (Which means, "Wait your turn. You can make a motion later if this one goes nowhere.")

At this point the sharks are circling in the waters. There are a few members of the audience who love this stuff. "Wait," they think. "What are they fighting about?" And I can see a few of them shifting in their seats. Now if Sarah would just shut the hell up, my motion can die, and she can make her own motion which the Prez has obviously signalled that he'd support. When you don't know what to do next, shut up.

Sarah says, "Won't you amend it to say..."

Suisan is now placed in the position where she can make a big deal about this or cave. Is it really THAT important that her original motion stand, or can she come up with an edit on the fly which will satisfy everyone? My motion only calls for one action, the Prez wants one motion with two actions in it. I agree with the Prez on the larger issue, but I want two votes. One on each action. (And not just for parliamentary reasons. Other members have signalled that they may indeed vote down the second action--if you put them together, then we'd never know.) But is it THAT important to me? Sarah only wants to support what the Prez wants. So she needs to hear a motion that has two actions. (Note here: Under parliamentary procedure, you are not supposed to make a "compound motion", but people do it all the time.) So I tip my head from side to side, signalling that I'm thinking, make a few scratches on my agenda, and think about how I'm going to do this.

"I make a motion that we take action A, and action B. Action B not to be carried out until we get advice from counsel."

"Second!" says Sarah. We all vote: motion carries.

Back to The Phone Fight:

"There was no reason for you to ask me to change what I said. I said it. I made a motion. Agree or disagree, but don't ask me to change it to make the Prez happy. Even HE didn't ask me to change it."

"But you didn't have the two things in there."


"But it wasn't correct that way."

"Yes it was. And actually, I feel bad for caving on the second part, but I figure it will take forever to get legal advice on it. But the point is: you pressured me to change to make the Prez happy. It didn't have to change, it could have died and then, God Forbid, the Prez could even make his own motion. What ticks me off is that you assume that I'm in error and I need to shift my point of view so we can act as a team. I resent you pressuring me."

Sarah says, "Well, I didn't get any training when I came on the Board. I had an inexpereinced Superintendent, and a disfunctional District Office when I came in. No one trained me. No one told me how to do this. I don't know how these things work."

"You think I got training when I came on? No one told me anything! It took me forever to figure out that only resolutions require a roll call vote. I couldn't figure out how to get an item on the agenda, and then I felt totally stupid when I found out that I just had to ask at the end of a meeting. And I was in the minority, with people constantly trying to trip me up. I only learned that stuff by being watching."

"Well, I still don't understand everything which goes on in a public meeting."(!!!!) (Wow. That's a dangerous thing for a Trustee to say.)

"Right. Which is why I get annoyed when you try to pressure me to come along with your team. Sometimes 'the team' is wrong, and sometimes you don't know what you're doing."

I think we can call that the moment when the friendship ended.

After Sarah left the Policy Committee, the Superintendent and I brought forward more policies to be approved by the Board. Sarah sits next to me in meetings, and as we were approving them she whispered to me, "And I read every word."

Yeesh. So you read every word NOW, but did you help edit them when you were on the committee? No. That same meeting I thanked the three secretaries who had worked on formatting the policies, and mentioned how time-consuming and confusing it all was, and that I appreciated their grace under pressure. Sarah leans in to whisper, "Are those the only people you are going to thank?"

Um yeah. I think so. Inferiority complex?

There are times in my life when I really hate acting like a girl. This is one of them. I can get to a more professional relationship with her (by basically not working with her anymore), but I'm annoyed that this is all so petty. I've had my spats with the Prez, no doubt, but I don't ever remember it being so very muddled up with friendship. Gah.

1 comment:

michael said...

you yankee's sure do take your politic's seriuosly;it makes me glad that i live in australia and 600miles from the nearest town and tellie.