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Cburkhardt

Suggest Councils that should be Combined

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On 2/25/2020 at 3:40 PM, Cburkhardt said:

Chicagoland:  The Pathway, Three Fires, Rainbow and Northeast Illinois councils should consider combining into a single council to provide Scouting to the greater Chicagoland/NW Indiana geography.  There is an overall cultural and economic unity to Scouting in that area

I'd take exception to your last sentence.  The outlying districts in Rainbow and TFC have zero in common with PTAC.  If this was to happen it would be more important than ever to give units the option to change councils.  

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19 minutes ago, mds3d said:

But that isn't the situation that Eagle1993 is talking about.   Once the bankruptcy proceedings are done, new assets can't be targeted.  National won't be looking for more money to pay lawsuits.  This is all about if the lawyers are able to convince a judge that the Councils assets should be included in the proceedings.  If they aren't then the lawyers will have to go after councils individually. 

 Eagle1993 is pointing out that if the settlement is at the low end, National is going to be faced with liquidating every asset they posses (and that is what the lawyers are seeking to do).  Costs will be trimmed, but how long can they survive with no $ on hand? Sure, staff will likely be reduced for the short term, but if what we want to see is membership grow, eventually you have to add staff again, and pay them.  More revenue will eventually be needed, especially if you are potentially cutting off income source from Philmont, Sea Base, etc.  So, either they will eventually have to increase membership fees to individuals, or to Councils.  Robust Councils may be able to absorb increased fees they pay to National- struggling Councils will not, and then there those that are somewhere in the middle that are going to have to figure out how to juggle it for the long-term budgets.

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@HashTagScouts and @carebear3895 … I didn't even think of the increased nation fees on councils that will be coming, but you are right.  There was a lawyer asking how the BSA plans to pay their massive legal fees given the income was relatively low.

But I was thinking the state lawsuits that will be placed.  This article below is simply one example.  Both National BSA & council were sued in state court.  National BSA was asked to be pulled from the lawsuit given the bankruptcy filing … but the lawsuit will continue against the council.  

https://www.seacoastonline.com/news/20200220/boy-scouts-file-for-bankruptcy-after-sex-abuse-lawsuits-how-will-this-impact-local-troops

“Litigation will continue against the state councils in the (superior) courts,” Garabedian said. “Filing for bankruptcy stops civil litigation (against BSA), but it does not stop litigation against the (state) councils as separate corporations.

 

With 1,000 to 5,000 plaintiffs, expect many state lawsuits … especially ones in states that have removed the statue of limitations … and many states are in the process of changing their laws.  See below for a good summary for a reddit poster:

The reorganizaiton plan includes plans for "Local Council Trust Contributions" and "Chartered Organization Trust Contributions" (Exhibits H and I). 

From DEBTORS’ INFORMATIONAL BRIEF

Page 4

Sometimes predators used the BSA organization to gain access to children, and volunteers or employees of the BSA or Local Councils did not effectively act on allegations and transgressions as the BSA would have wanted them to and as the organization’s policies mandate today.

Page 6

The strategic options that the BSA explored throughout 2019 included efforts to reach a settlement with a substantial number of abuse victims that could be implemented through a prearranged chapter 11 proceeding. Those efforts involved several meetings with attorneys representing many abuse victims, including a two-day mediation in early November 2019. The mediation was attended by a prepetition future claims representative and some of the BSA’s insurers. Unfortunately, the mediation was unsuccessful. It became apparent that attorneys for abuse victims believed that certain Local Councils with significant abuse liabilities have significant assets that could be used to compensate victims. Further, it became clear that attorneys for abuse victims would only accept information about the nature and extent of the BSA’s available assets if provided through a court-supervised process. Accordingly, the BSA recognized in late 2019 that there were no meaningful prospects for a prearranged global resolution.

Some local councils will be turning over financial data as part of the bankruptcy. See page 7

This data room includes, among other things, balance sheets and asset-level information for the BSA and numerous Local Councils, including details regarding donor restrictions on such assets, as well as information on the BSA’s liabilities.

 

 

Look at the Illinois example .. lets say there are two councils (A and B).  A has 20M of assets, B has 5M. Lets say B has 10 victims and A has 0.  Why would A merge with B until B declares bankruptcy to clear out any possible judgements that would have  hit the AB council after merger?

 

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My understanding is that Councils can sign on to be part of the National bankruptcy filing and thus obtain some degree of protection however then any unencumbered assets could be at risk. My understanding is that many did so. 

 

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Walk in Woods:  Those further out districts might be better in other councils.  There is no particular reason why the combining councils need to come-in as-is.

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It's been my impression that council mergers are major muscle movements.  At this point, can mergers take place that are worth the time, money, and energy expended?  Especially when liquidation is nigh.

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5 minutes ago, yknot said:

My understanding is that Councils can sign on to be part of the National bankruptcy filing and thus obtain some degree of protection however then any unencumbered assets could be at risk. My understanding is that many did so. 

 

This was mentioned in the article; however, that means Council assets (buildings, camps, investments) could be included.

"Garabedian said individual councils could petition the bankruptcy judge to join BSA’s filing with a “channeling injunction” and their assets would be subject to being collateralized to pay into BSA’s victims’ compensation trust. "

Note that courts have not been consistent on agreeing on which assets are unencumbered (just look at the Milwaukee Archdiocese cemetery fund case.

My only point is that before we start suggesting mergers between councils, we need to get through bankruptcy (including councils).  Let this settle out and then reform councils with the remaining assets.

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I agree. This exercise is interesting but it is more academic than practical. Reality, post filing, is probably going to be something we can't much envision or have much influence over. Council mergers are not going to be happening while the bankruptcy case is proceeding in all likelihood. I think it's good to try to frame out possible desired scenarios, but the reality is we are facing a new world order and we'll probably have to adapt as we go. 

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7 minutes ago, Eagle1993 said:

"Garabedian said individual councils could petition the bankruptcy judge to join BSA’s filing with a “channeling injunction” and their assets would be subject to being collateralized to pay into BSA’s victims’ compensation trust. "

I have no inside information and am not an insider, but based on what I heard through our council it made sense for our council to join the petition and that a significant number of councils  have also done so. Would be interested to know what others have heard.  

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Friends:  My intention with this posting is to discuss what potential council combinations might make sense to be implemented proximate in time to the bankruptcy.  I am focused on operations and program — building in the last 6 weeks of discussion.  Such combinations would most likely take place after the financial issues become clear.  I provided the Chicagoland example for discussion purposes because I am familiar with Scouting in that geography.  

I hope someone very familiar with the bankruptcy process and the case itself can start a posting to educate us all on timing and other technical aspects of our challenge.  

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@Cburkhardt - I fully respect what you're asking here.

I want to keep the thread positive, but I'd be remiss if I didn't state my concern.  Pardon in advance.  Fundamentally, I'm worried that we have attached ourselves to an organizational model in Scouting that is not correct for the challenges of today.  I'm worried that in a effort to re-organize after bankruptcy we rush to deploy a model that has not proven successful over the past 40 years. My concerns can be summed up in:

  1. The DE to Scout ratio is wrong.  We have a ratio of about 1 DE to 1,000 Scouts/50 units.  If a DE costs about 40K that means we have to find $40 per Scout per year to pay for that professional.  That is a significant amount of money. Imagine how different council finances would be if that money were spent on camp or on program.  So many of our conversations around this topic seem to be centered on the notion that we have to maintain this ratio - but do we really?  Imagine if it was 1 DE to 5,000 Scouts.  Imagine if we preserved camps, but stopped having DEs.  Would your world be all that different?
  2. The reliance on professional leadership.   So many of the topics come back to the the concept: "Councils work when we have a the right SE."  Why is our council model so beholden to one hire?  I see it in our council periodically in actions such as when the SE decides to redistribute staff, we redraw district boundaries - why?
  3. Mega councils discourage volunteerism.  I've not been impressed with recent updates on council reorgs.  The stories we hear - defocusing on volunteerism and more focus on centralization.  Councils seem to focus on reacting to problems instead of proactively providing a vision for the future.  

So, this led to my earlier post.  Yes - I'd rather let some councils fail and then have us pick up the pieces instead of pursuing a structure that isn't working that well.  I don't know what the structure should be - but I'm open to letting councils experiment.  

 

Edited by ParkMan
typos
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7 hours ago, ParkMan said:

Mega councils discourage volunteerism.  I've not been impressed with recent updates on council reorgs.  The stories we hear - defocusing on volunteerism and more focus on centralization.  Councils seem to focus on reacting to problems instead of proactively providing a vision for the future.  

How does the Michigan Crossroads council work?  It looks like an interesting structure 1 mega council, smaller service centers & multiple districts per service center.  Does that result in a good balance between optimizing finances while still preventing the downsides of mega councils?  What is the role of the service center vs council?

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Parkman:  Your views on adjusting the DE/Scout ratio are consistent with thoughts shared over these weeks seeking a rebalancing of professional-volunteer duties.  One example was that new unit formations should be “taken back” by the volunteers, who are better connected in their communities to make new units happen.  The thoughts about reevaluating the entire role of professionalism in Scouting also reflect the discussions.  We received the widest variety of views on that, ranging from instituting “paid volunteers” to going largely professional-free (except to perform membership processing and insurance enforcement types of roles).  

My sense is that National will come out with its new suggested format in May, and it will look a lot like what we have now – except that administrative layers will have been eliminated and the national office and field staffs will have been pared back to maybe 1/6 of the previous levels.  The bases will presumably continue as-is.

I believe a proactive approach is best for reasons I have stated, but reactions to this posting show that most commenters prefer to wait for events to occur, see what the effects are and adjust as circumstances evolve.  That is a conservative way to manage and reflects the character of BSA volunteers.  However, it is still good to press closer to the edge with these discussions, as changes and events may come quickly and require rapid action.  For example, the Judge could rule this summer that many (or all) councils and assets are to be pulled-into the bankruptcy procedure for liquidation.  In that circumstance, I hope Scouters in geographies suggest going-forward governance, property and operational arrangements – rather than force the Judge or the national organization to make those decisions because local Scouters cannot agree on a local solution.  

Mega-councils are no less effective than councils of modest size as long as circumstances of common Scouting culture and trust exist.  I cite the New York City council organization as an example of a mega-council being very well run and making great organizational sense.  I do not agree that larger councils are inherently ineffective organizations that off-put volunteers.  It is a matter of making things function smoothly and respectfully that counts.   

I am happy to read your thoughts – always well stated and fresh.

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7 hours ago, ParkMan said:

Fundamentally, I'm worried that we have attached ourselves to an organizational model in Scouting that is not correct for the challenges of today.  I'm worried that in a effort to re-organize after bankruptcy we rush to deploy a model that has not proven successful over the past 40 years.

I strongly agree with @ParkMan's concerns.  For me, what is troubling about councils is that they spend the majority of their time, effort, and money in activities and services that units don't need (and often don't even know about) or would get anyway without all the fuss.  Now, there are a few services that, in my view, some BSA office or BSA professional must be responsible for, even if much of the work is done by volunteers:

  • administration of registration, chartering, and other "official record" matters
  • dissemination, implementation, and enforcement of BSA policies
  • specially trained escalation point for all issues of member conduct and compliance with BSA policy
  • specially trained incident / emergency management point of contact for health and safety issues
  • acquisition (whether through purchase or lease) and management of conveniently-located camp properties where units can learn and practice outdoor skills (though there is an argument that this can be done better through private Scout-friendly organizations)
  • management of legal, insurance, and claims matters involving Scouting units, members, properties, and activities
  • management of other BSA employees

Much of the good stuff that helps units or enriches unit programs (adult leader training, activities like camporees, merit badge counseling, roundtable) is attributed to councils or districts, but it is being performed by highly motivated volunteer Scouters who would do things like this anyway. 

I would argue that even district-level organizations that assert responsibility for unit service and support -- and tell units to come to them for answers -- have a net negative impact.  That structure diverts unit Scouters from informally seeking out and sharing information and experiences with Scouters from other units.  I think that is part of the reason that unit quality varies so much:  our culture of vertical transfer of Scouting information inadvertently discourages formation of a culture of easy relationships and frequent exchange of information and experience among units.  ("That's what Roundtable is for!"  "Yeah, but the way the district runs Roundtable is so boring that we don't go.")

And then there is fundraising.  So much of the efforts of councils and districts are directed toward fundraising.  But not raising funds to go to units; they are raising funds from units.  

The point is that the council organization (both at the council level and through its districts) has taken onto itself expensive programs and activities that offer little benefit to units and to some degree are actually burdens on units.  Councils suffer from classic "mission creep."  But they don't see it and the hierarchy above them doesn't see it.

And 200+ local councils over 40 years have not solved Scouting's greatest challenge: the ever-continuing decline in membership.  That alone should be sufficient cause for sweeping away the existing council structure and replacing it with a system that recognizes that the future of Scouting rests, as it always has, on the shoulders of unit Scouters -- and gets out of their way.

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Eagle 1993:  The Michigan Crossroads and Pathway combinations were the big mergers in the Central region over the past 10 years.  Both resulted in similar outcomes, but the implementation was different.

Both mergers involved wholesale merging of separate councils into one larger council, but largely preserving the borders of the previous councils and districts for purposes of field services.  Pathway preserved all four predecessor council service centers and each has a commissioner staff, field service director, etc.  Michigan Crossroads has “field” service councils” that largely reflect the previous councils.  Principal decision-making authority still resides at the “actual" council level. 

What was different is that the Michigan councils (generally speaking) agreed to merge during a time of catastrophic economic problems in the State – which problems threatened to bring down several councils.  Someone directly involved with the council give us the details, but the essentials are that the combining councils each contributed their assets and received representation on the new governing entity.  This new governing entity has been making camp sales decisions over time, with all the attendant objections of Scouters loyal to a particular property.  It took about ten years for the “rough edges” of the merger to become smooth.

 

Pathway was different.  The four predecessor councils had significant governance, membership and financial problems that were not able to be resolved over a multi-year process of working among local council leadership.    Scouting in Chicago is iconic to the BSA because that is where W.D. Boyce started the movement.  Chicago is also the media hub for the center of the country, so allowing a Scouting fail there would be especially problematic.  With some categories of membership dropping by 10% per year and some finance issues in free fall, National withdraw the charters of the four councils, took direct control of properties and started from scratch with new staff and volunteer officers reporting directly to National.  During that time, principal decisions to implement the combination were made, including staff changes, volunteer restructuring and property sales.  A new Pathway board was thereafter granted a new charter.  Pathway has been experiencing real membership growth.  

The eventual results of the two efforts are similar, but Pathway functions as a unitary council whereas Michigan Crossroads has a more complex decision-making process.  Think of Michigan Crossroads as having local “council-like” organizations doing field and finance work – with the actual decision making authority being in the hands of something like our current Areas.

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