[GDUI-Announce] Announcement, February 9, 2017

[GDUI-Announce] Announcement, February 9, 2017

Dear GDUI Members,

First, the big announcement and invitation! You are all invited to our first

Membership/Town Hall Meeting

of 2017! The meeting will take place via conference call on Saturday,

February 18, beginning at 2:00 p.m., Eastern Standard Time (11:00

a.m., Pacific Standard Time) at this number: 712.432.0075. Your

Participant Code will be: 919245-Pound. We expect the conversation to

last for at least 90 minutes, with a possible end-of-meeting time of

4:00 p.m., Eastern Time. We hope that many of you will come ready to

participate in our conversation. Bring us your concerns. Tell us what

you like, where we can improve, how you want to help, and how you see

Guide Dog Users, Inc. meeting the needs of the 21st Century guide dog

users’ community.


We anticipate that our meeting will incorporate several themes, including these:


  1. Membership Involvement in the governance of GDUI: Since GDUI’s

members voted to embrace universal, accessible voting, we have been

proud to accept guidance from all of our members. With the advent of

universal voting made available by phone and online to every GDUI

member, GDUI was no longer guided by mandates from the relatively few

members and GDUI affiliates’ representatives who could attend our

annual conventions. Each of us can submit proposed amendments for the

consideration of GDUI’s Bylaws and Resolutions Committee, and vote

proposed bylaw amendments up or down via a universally accessible

election ballot, as well as cast our votes for the candidates of our

choosing. We believe that this system is a good one, especially since

via telephone, e-mail and web site feedback, members have many

opportunities during the course of the year’s day-to-day conversations

to communicate with directors and officers, and our administration has

tried hard to take your comments and suggestions into account, to add

items you have submitted to us (often via e—mail or phone calls) to

our meeting agendas, to welcome you as observers and participants at

our board meetings, and to share information and concerns with you via

these announcements, and in the pages of PawTracks.


Yet, some of our members are asking, can this representative kind of

democracy respond effectively to members’ concerns and guidance? Are

there other ways for members to participate more directly in decisions

and discussions that influence GDUI’s operations and direction? Now

that members don’t recommend and vote upon GDUI policies while

participating in the annual GDUI business meetings at our summer

conventions, what are effective ways for members to make their wishes

known and direct the activities of the organization? How can

resolutions be introduced, discussed, considered, and acted upon? Is

there a danger that just a few who have the time and inclination to

participate on GDUI e-mail discussion lists and bimonthly affiliates

calls are the only members whose needs and concerns will or can be

addressed? Is there a danger that the attention of directors and

officers will be drawn toward those few members who don’t hesitate to

find fault or express discontent while they may not find a way to hear

from members who may want to share more positive suggestions, i.e., is

it only the “squeaky wheels” who are capable of attracting board

members’ attentions?   What role does or should PawTracks (or Facebook

or Twitter or www.GuideDogUsersInc.org)  play in fostering forums for

member involvement and feedback? What about members who either by

personal choice or because of lack of opportunity don’t participate in

online discussions?


We welcome your participation in this discussion. On our part, we will

ask Maria Hansen, Chair of the GDUI Bylaws and Resolutions Committee,

and other board members to explain how members can participate in

crafting, understanding and voting upon bylaws and bylaws changes, and

in the resolutions process, as well.


Dixie Sanderson, who chairs this year’s Nominating Committee,  will

outline plans for the coming elections, including the process for

becoming involved as a candidate for office, and also participating in

our planned candidates forums.


  1. What role should and can members play in funding the work that GDUI

does on their behalf?


GDUI’s individual membership dues have not been increased for many

years.(In an informal poll of board members, I couldn’t find anyone

who remembers paying less than$15 annually – ever!) Yet, during that

time, the costs for providing members’ services have increased



Online and telephonic voting do not come cheap! During last year’s

election, we paid $5.00 for each member eligible to vote, and we just

received a quote for this year’s services from VoteNow, which will

cost the same. VoteNow which conducts our elections, assists members

who encounter difficulties, tallies the results, and assures that our

system is entirely secure provides good service to us, and theirs was

the lowest bid among companies we surveyed in order to select the best

service provider.


Of course, we have additional ongoing expenses as well, including

those for PawTracks, for maintaining our web site, and for putting on

an excellent GDUI national convention each summer. We provide a

toll-free number for our members who reside in the USA, and there are

expenses associated with advocacy as well as with our affiliation with



Dixie Sanderson, who serves with Maria Hansen, Lynn Merrill, Sarah

Calhoun, and me on the GDUI Budget and Finance Committee, is gifted at

explaining exactly how your membership dues figure into our overall

budget – and the resulting shortfall that we are experiencing.


We want you to understand why we’re proposing an increase in members’

dues, and we want to hear about your ideas for other ways of finding

the money to meet your needs.


Part of this discussion will also include the disposition of GDUI’s

reserves, and Maria Hansen and Lynn Merrill will discuss our beliefs

about how and when investment funds should be tapped, and when and how

we might find other ways to raise funds.


  1. GDUI exists to support our members, most of whom are guide dog

users themselves, to advocate for our civil rights as people who are

blind who choose to travel with guide dogs for independence and

safety, and to educate the public about our dogs, our rights, and the

many benefits of partnering with guide dogs. What directions should

GDUI be pursuing in terms of support and advocacy?


Charlie Crawford, who chairs the GDUI Advocacy and Legislative

Committee, will be eager to provide the latest info on what we’ve been

doing to advocate for you and on your behalf, and to hear from you if

or how our advocacy goals should be expanded.


So, there you have it! This is a lot to cover within just a short

afternoon, and we promise to keep our remarks as brief as we can, to

give all of you ample opportunity to tell us what you think and guide

us in the directions you want us to go.


We propose a two-minute time limit for each member who wishes to speak

on a given topic, and Sarah Calhoun, GDUI’s Secretary and Office

Manager, will be using her IPhone to make sure we don’t stray from

that limit.


Background noise has been a persistent problem on board meeting calls.

We implore each of you to mute your phones when you are not speaking

so that all of us can hear one another. Our conference calling service

does include a feature by which all callers, except for a few, can be

muted and a central authority can then allow individuals to speak –

while everyone else’s line is kept quiet. As tempting as it is to

utilize this feature, we hesitate to do so. Honestly, this exact

feature has been used in less democratic times to silence members who

wished to speak and to promote only one, favored point of view. We

believe in open dialogue, and frankly we don’t want to even imply that

those actions from a darker period in GDUI’s history could be adopted

again. So, please, if you’re not speaking, mute your phones (Star6),

and if you can’t make your smart phone fall in line, keep the

background noise at a minimum! We appreciate your cooperation.


In any meeting of this sort, it’s easy to fall into the mind-sets of

complaining, criticizing, and accusation. We hope that this meeting

can rise above that kind of negativity. Please share with us those

things that you like about GDUI as well as those ways we can all

listen and respond to one another’s needs and wishes and hopes

effectively! We all joined GDUI for similar reasons. We whom you have

elected to represent you hope that we’re measuring up to your

expectations, and we’re eager to hear from you about the best ways to

meet your needs and facilitate your participation in decision making.


We are looking forward to hearing from many of you on Saturday,

February 18. We’ll be there at 2:00 p.m., Eastern Standard Time. We

hope you will be too.



Penny Reeder, President

Guide Dog Users, Inc.



Deanna Noriega, First Vice President

Guide Dog Users, Inc.





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information with all of our GDUI members and friends.


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