Setting an agenda far into the future
The board has been through a very difficult year, partly of our own making and partly due to other influences. But we have come out of it a better board.
What we must do now is to pick our fights appropriately.
There are issues over which consensus can be built. And there are issues where consensus may not be possible.
When the board makes those kinds of difficult, principled decisions, we should simply agree to disagree and move on to the next challenge.
This is a "bully pulpit," but it is a pulpit shaped by the board policy, not the whim of the individual.
Long-range planning is essential. For too many years, the bar has set its policy based on the desires of the current president.
This has resulted in the lack of long-term, consistent focus and a waste of human and financial resources when programs are abandoned after the president's year is over.
True, this means that future presidents may find themselves bound by past decisions, but the benefits far outweigh any detriment to our personal agendas. Establishing our shared values is critical.
To ensure a well-informed planning process, we should seek the input of our members and the public. Our limited resources must be marshalled to take the various views of our constituencies and form them into a consistent and coherent three- to five-year policy. Once the plan is completed, we should set goals and revisit them on a regular basis to keep our vision on track.
Not only should we continue our outreach efforts through the long-range plan, but we should build on the efforts started during the plebiscite.
But these efforts should be expanded to include a better outreach to all of our constituencies -- members, consumers, the public at large, the courts and the legislature.
We need to emphasize our historical service ethic and our role as problem solvers, not problem creators.
Additionally, we should continue to educate the public about the role of the lawyer as protector of our basic values, separate and apart from our representation of any individual client or cause.
At the same time, we need to provide better information to help consumers help themselves and to make them better informed clients. These issues are not mutually exclusive.
Finally, much has been written about reducing dues. This is a laudable goal and should always be a consideration in the board's planning.
But show me any other organization which has managed to keep the dues bill flat for so many years. The largest portion of our resources goes to discipline.
After the DEC (Discipline Evaluation Committee) report of two years ago, reductions were made and the board agreed to give the system a chance to operate for several years without further changes and then to reevaluate.
This means that any further dues reduction must come from the remaining 30 percent of the budget. There may be some small reductions to be made, but we now have committees which cannot complete assigned tasks due to a lack of resources.
In addition, we have just received the JNE Advisory Commission report which recommends increasing funding and staffing to the JNE Commission so that it can adequately perform one of the most important duties of the bar -- evaluation of applicants for the bench.
Careful paring of the budget is always in order, but we should not cut ourselves out of meeting the needs of our members and the consumer.
I welcome the challenge to serve all of the constituencies of the bar. I hope the board will give me that opportunity.
Pauline Weaver is assistant public defender in Alameda County.