Thursday, May 02, 2013

The Permanent Transient reveals Hinself and Extends his Remarks.

Jake Morrill sends this addition to his earlier post.


It shows up as "Permanent Transient," but this is Jake Morrill. I'm a minister and a member of the UUA Board, but don't speak on behalf of the Board. I speak for myself.

Tom asks: "Did Gini Courter move too aggressively toward imposing policy governance on an administration that had serious reservations about it?"

Like Clyde, I resist the personality-driven narrative that says this is just Gini. I have been a Trustee for four years and proudly stand up for what the Board has done. The Board is a body of strong leaders.

So, to the meat of your question: the Board began movement toward implementing policy governance well before Peter Morales took office. In the year leading up to the Hallman/Morales election, both candidates were invited to take part in the process to develop the Ends (which was also a process of sifting through a lot of grassroots feedback). So, it was clear that whoever won that election in 2009 would be functioning in the role of President within a system of Policy Governance. The year 2009 might be the mid-point in the transition, not the starting point.

I’m curious about the framing of a sentence that includes “imposing policy governance on an administration,” as if the Board was a rude partner engaged in some form of violation. At this very late hour, there are some (including Christine, a colleague I respect very much) who still claim that, because the UUA President is elected by General Assembly, the Board cannot oversee the Administration, that the Board’s clear governance role is impossible within our system. This, despite Association bylaws which suggest that, other than how the President comes to office, the relationship between Board and President is exactly that of any other large organization—the Board reviews, sets compensation, and has the power to discipline or remove the President from office. Just like anywhere else. Some will say that, because the President is elected by the General Assembly, he or she should be directly accountable to GA, and not the Board, nor anyone else. Accepting that argument for a moment, one might also observe that, except for the week in which GA is in session, for the other 51 weeks of the year, the Board functions on behalf of GA. So, for 51 weeks of the year, for the President to be accountable to GA would mean that the President was accountable to the Board.

One might say that Policy Governance hobbles a leader’s ability to lead. How can a leader name a vision, and inspire the people, with heavy-breathing functionaries standing so close. And so this raises the question of where the vision comes from. Does it come from the leader? Or does it come from the people? If it comes from the leader, are we a democracy? Is our only option to follow, or not? If, when the people elect the leader, they are endorsing his or her platform, should the leader have free rein to pursue that platform, with no oversight? What if, between elections, changing conditions require a strategy other than the platform? Can the leader change course, or is he or she bound by the platform? When Obama ran on health-care reform in 2008, should his election meant that he could enact it, irrespective of congress? And would the same hold true if Romney had been elected, with his notion of self-deportation? In our Association, is election of officers every few years the only democratic lever to pull?

2 comments:

Edmund Robinson said...

Thank you for that perspective, Jake. I am no great fan of policy governance, but you have ably articulated a defense of it.

Christine Robinson said...

Hi, Jake,

I respect you, too!

I do think that how a president comes to power is actually pretty important, ESPECIALLY in a system like ours where trustees are virtually unknown to their constituents.

The bare bones issue here is that both entities (board and president) have legitimate authority and therefore neither entity can act as if they are boss over the other. And it does feel to me, as it apparently does to Tom, that the Board up and decided to adopt a particularly doctrinaire form of policy governance that makes itself the boss. Involving people in your ends adoption process is several steps downstream and not at all the same thing as their approval. It also feels to me that the Board has not only named itself the Boss without consultation but has acted bossy (non-collaborative, non-respectful, non-negotiating) in the past four years, causing a lot of pain, not only to Peter but to many others on the staff. This is all second hand information, I realize, as I have not been actually present, but I have heard this from people who have been present and it is consistent with UU World reports and the documents I've reviewed.

If the Board is now going to tackle the difficult project of being accountable to UU's in spite of all being elected at large, well, here's some feedback from your constituents. This doesn't work. Time to make a change.