By proving their ability to self-police the sport, USPA has been there to argue convincingly on our behalf with government agencies as well as law-making bodies, ensuring that each of us has a place to skydive, and a place to do it reasonably affordably. We may feel we get an "okay" deal for our money from the USPA each time we remit those renewal dues but, perhaps, we could be getting more.
However, like most long-standing organizations; those with rich histories going back decades, the USPA is beginning to get stale, beginning to develop the disease of bureaucracy. Most people think of a large, lumbering organization when they think of a bureaucracy; but the small organization can fall into that trap just as readily.
While USPA maintains a small staff to perform a mountain of tasks, they maintain a rather large, unpaid leadership quotient. In some respects, this would be a good thing, but in USPA's case, it is probably the opposite, since many of those leaders serve both the organization, and thus its membership, second to their own personal interests.
With the vast majority of our USPA leadership involved in the business end of skydiving, their first priority, naturally, is to protect those business interests they have worked so hard to cultivate. The result is a leadership which offers little controversy, and even less representation of the vast majority of those members who only partake of this sport for sheer
When the interests of one segment of the membership take an across-the-board prominence in any organization, that organization, while perhaps remaining effective, becomes stale. New ideas are slow to achieve acceptance, and many are quashed at the outset simply because they don't serve the needs of those in power to support and argue them.
We are coming upon a new era in our sport, a sport that is one of the more rapidly changing ones, with new ways of flying, new concepts of instruction, new disciplines emerging daily. Thus, we need a leadership at our representative organization that can shepherd those new ideas into acceptance and be more in touch with the "common skydiver", the one for whom this sport represents sheer enjoyment, and not necessarily a business interest.
This is not to say business is bad; for without the money that flows into the sport through new products, progressive drop zones with an active student program, and the myriad other commercial ventures operating in our sphere of the world, our sport would truly never have evolved as quickly as it has. But, in order for our sport to continue to evolve, we need leaders who represent a diversity of the interests operating within it.
We are at a time when we will elect those representatives who will serve us for the next two years. Thus, if we want our voices heard, now is the time to take action. If we want some diversity, a healthy difference of opinions which will give rise to more progressive leadership, then we have to take the actions that will make that happen, or else we have no right to complain about our representative organization and what it is doing for us.
This year there were 22 canadidates who qualified for National Director on the USPA election ballot. However, USPA policy dictated that the list be truncated to 20. The two candidates who were "voted off the island"--Mike Mullins and Bill Richards--both happened to be high-profile, controversial personalities, but certainly both have superior experience to some who will be allowed to run. Doesn't that seems way too convenient?
Much has been said on the rec.skydiving newsgroup in recent days about USPA's refusal to place Mullins and Richards on the ballet for National Director slots. A little known item in the USPA By-Laws gives our current leadership the right to "pare down" the ballot to 20 candidates, using various vague attributes such as "service to the sport," and "member in good standing" to accomplish the process.
As a result, two highly qualified individuals, people who have given much to our sport, are being denied the opportunity of presenting their qualifications and their chosen platforms to us, the USPA membership. And in our opinion, this is WRONG!
In the best interest of the membership, perhaps that policy of a 20 limit could have been waived by the Board of Directors when they recently met, based on the logic that the original limit of "20" was just a number pulled out of the air anyway. There's certainly no scientific, mathmatical, metaphysical, moral or emotional factor which would make 22 candidates less of a practicality to deal with than 20 candidates. The deadline for qualifying had come and gone long before the decision to drop two of the candidates had to be made, so they knew that there weren't 1,000 people vying for 10 slots. We are only talking about waiving a simple procedural rule here, this is not brain surgery.
It seems way too convenient for those responsible to simply shrug their shoulders and point to the Governance Manual and indicate "see, it says it right here, no more than 20, so our hands are tied". That comes across to us like the 7-11 clerk not being able to accept your dollar for a cup of coffee "because the computer is down". The individual candidates who are in danger of not making the ballot are of less concern to us than is the politics of the USPA machine. The real politics of the USPA machine lies in the hands of the voting members.
The Governance Manual (available at uspa.org) also says the candidates should be geographically representative of the membership. Fact: there are 5 candidates from CA, 3 from AZ (same city, actually) That's 25% & 15%, but membership in the ENTIRE Western Region is about 12%.
In the past, many of us could probably admit to being somewhat ambivalent when election time came around. Half the time, maybe we didn't even bother to vote. Many of us have probably been guilty of this transgression in the past. But, we do know that in this last year, we've seen far, far more criticism of various USPA actions appearing on the newsgroup, from gripes about consistently late delivery of Parachutist, and poor editorial quality in the magazine, to criticisms of the new student program and the newly-instituted charges for awards.
If we do not like these things, then perhaps the time has come to "shake up" our leadership, by installing some "new blood" on the Board of Directors--new faces who will not simply "rubber stamp" the proposals of the majority. Maybe those new people won't be able to make the major difference that some of us would hope, perhaps their voices will be drowned out by the substantial majority. But at least the presence of a new breed of leader, someone with a different agenda, an agenda closer to the heart of "mainstream" skydivers, will at least make a difference in forcing some new viewpoints to be heard!
We invite everyone to join us in setting a new example this year for ourselves and our fellow jumpers, by taking the few minutes necessary to carefully consider who we wish to represent us and filling out our ballot forms. And, if there is a candidate we would like to see in elected office, one who perhaps the USPA leadership has seen fit to "pare off" the final ballet, then by all means WRITE THAT CANDIDATE IN and make your voice heard!
Let's see if we skydivers, whether we are the simple fun jumper or the serious competition parachutist, can make a difference!
Whether you are in this sport for the simple pleasures of a laugh shared, a canopy landing against a backdrop of the setting sun, the embers glowing from a crackling bonfire enjoyed after a hard day of jumping, or to seek the high-level thrills of world competition, you CAN make a difference!
We urge you make a positive impact to preserve our sport in a form that will make us proud long after we're gone and to carefully deliberate and then vote with your intellect, and maybe even a bit with your heart.
by rita [email@example.com] and Trisha Riga [firstname.lastname@example.org]
You may vote for up to eight National Director candidates. However, voting for candidates that you do not know or fully support dilutes the vote for the candidates you do strongly wish to be elected. If you know only one candidate, vote for just that one and you will have a better chance of seeing your candidate win!
There is a space on the USPA election ballot to "write in" your vote for National Director. If you choose to "write in" Mike Mullins or William Richards [NOT Billy Richards!], please be sure to spell their name(s) correctly.
Remember, do not vote for a total of more than eight (8) National Directors. Again, vote for only those you know and really want on the board--don't dilute your vote!
Be very careful in marking your ballot. Any cross-outs, erasures, or irregularities may void your ballot. You may make copies of the ballot, but copies must be marked in original writing. Be sure to fill in your USPA membership number, expiration date, and sign your ballot. Ballots must be received at USPA headquarters by December 29, 2000.