Emails:

 

Committee members,

Thanks for your hard work. Here are some specific comments from me about

bylaws/constitution/framework and the shape of our future association. These

are my comments and I welcome any feedback. I have never written any bylaws so

my comments might need some polish. Most of my comments revolve around

maximization of members' participation. Sorry for the delay - wanted to send

this on Sunday, took me some time to write this.

 

What is 'Bylaws':

Is it just a set of rules and regulations to go by? I am guessing, by the

phrase 'Bylaws'; we are referring to one document (a big compiled living

document) where the following items (____ please fill in the blank) shall be

covered. This list of items may have been defined by the Ad-Hoc committee and

hope to see this sometime.

 

Association's Goal or Objective:

The goal of our Association is to represent and help our community in many

respects. During last election, I had the opportunity to work with some of the

candidates. As part of the campaign I wrote down a wish list. I am attaching

that document. Correct me, if I am wrong, number one purpose of these 'Bylaws'

(as well as this Ad-Hoc Committee) is to create a framework which shall act like

a guideline or roadmap for the association and its elected officers. Progress

is been good so far. There are some things that might need more attention. As

I said yesterday, what can we do to prevent this from becoming a 'country club'?

I mentioned one in the meeting, and here are some more.

 

Easy and Convenient Access:

As an association, representing a group of people, it is required to provide

easy and convenient access to all association related public activities for all

members. This is one of the toughest requirements to fulfill since we are

trying to represent qualified people from a large geographical area.

Participation from the community members can be (broadly) divided into two

groups; KAMLA or GAMLA (excuse my BANGLA). KAMLA, a group of handful people,

likes to dedicate their time and effort for the greater goods. In almost any

event, these familiar faces can be seen working relentlessly without any desire

for recognition or reward. GAMLA, rest of the bunch, receives all the benefits.

This is the biggest group of people. Some of them may have the intention of

helping out as volunteers (KAMLA), but can't - due to time or other constraints.

In any case, we would like to maximize the participation of all and in every

fashion, be that as volunteers or be that as spectators. Without this GAMLA,

the fruit of these KAMLAs' labor would go in vain. Similarly, without the all

the hard work and dedication of these KAMLAs, GAMLAs shall have nothing to

enjoy. I envision, as part of the bylaws - we create a framework to ensure this

'easy and convenient access' for all. This enforcement would automatically

prevent this from becoming a 'country club'.

 

From the membership section, 'Resident of Greater Austin (Travis, Williamson,

Hays, Bastrop )' is raising a red flag to me. Do we know - how many qualified

members live in these counties? Why not include Burnet, Blanco or Caldwell

counties. If this association is formed to represent four counties, then I

believe we are biting more than what we can chew. Let me try to illustrate this

with an example. As part of community awareness, this ad-hoc committee is

taking a number of initiatives; like Soccer Tournament, Eid party, etc.

Similarly, if and when we have an official association, we are going to see a

number of such events every year. Let's assume I live in Bastrop and if all the

events' are always located in and around Austin (especially north Austin ); then

I am looking towards an hour to two hours drive time each way. This could be a

deterrent for most people (for me sure). One possible solution is to ensure

some events to take place in and around Bastrop area. This would encourage

their participation both as KAMLA and/or GAMLA. Also, other members would share

the pain of taking a 2 hours trek. Are we ready for such a commitment? I would

like to see 'easy and convenient' access as part of the bylaws with some

suggestions or guidelines.

 

Events:

Association shall organize events of our interest. We are currently hosting

some (like Soccer, Eid, etc.) but let's try to make sure we address other

people's interest too. Especially cultural and heritage related events should

get more consideration. We are preparing for Eid party, but let's not forget

about Durga Puja, Christmas, etc. In my childhood days, I enjoyed hanging out

with my friends of other religion and took part in their festivals. They were

equally happy to see me as part of their celebration. Those were some of my

happy memories, gave me some strong friendship and respect for others. For the

new Association, the challenge is - this is another broader list. To control

and limit ourselves, we can first look at the list of BD national holidays and

intersect it with religions practiced by the association members. Association

must consider this and hold a get together (or some kind of event), if

association members of that religious group prefers and deems appropriate.

Also, anything with any kind of political or other connotation should be

discarded. I am not asking for a secular association, nor am I asking for a

religion based association. We respect other people's faith and let's have a

provision to address that.

 

Election:

In bylaws, I would like to see a fixed date for election with guidelines for

backup (reserve) plan. Also, we need to consider access and convenience for all

members. To me, the easiest solution would be 'online voting'; but we are far

from this Utopia. On the evening of our last election day, Galib and I were

talking about this and some other ideas over a smoke break (no, not that kind of

smoke). Later on different occasions, I had discussed these with Mostafiz.

We have people from all profession with different kind of time restrictions.

Some of us work on weekends or late into nights by profession. Tie that with

geographical area, we have a large issue to work with. An ideal solution might

be to have multiple polling stations or have polling over a number of days or a

combination of both. May be we are not big enough to take that route yet or

may be we are; but I would like to see something in the bylaws that shall make

our future election commissions to consider this kind of scenarios before making

a decision. Other ideas we talked about were, what if we could tie this

election with a large get together event of common interest. This would ensure

a large turn out. Disadvantage is co-ordination and co-location of two events

shall more than double the logistical work and there is a possibility of

spoiling the fun with some nasty poly-ticking (we are from BD, aren't we).

Another idea, instead of electing the entire BOD every time, why not let a 3rd

expire every year or every other year and hold election to replace them.

Keeping track of large number of candidates running for a large number of

offices; is hard on voters. I had hard time, keeping track of 17 candidates

from our last election. Dealing with only a few offices/seats would make it

exciting. In this scenario € we need to solve the math for the 1 st election.

Solution might be to let a third of elected members with highest vote to

continue for three terms, another third with second highest vote to continue for

two terms and last group for one term.

 

Content and Format:

I don't know what the content and format of this bylaw document is going to be.

I hope clarity of the content for all audiences shall be of higher priority.

The challenge is to keep the actual goal/policy/intention as simple as possible;

at the same time capture/encompass all the ideas/intentions behind it. It is

more challenging to document statements with 'broader meaning' and 'open to

interpretation'. I hope these kinds of statement shall be followed by some

guidelines, some more detail on ultimate goal/intentions, some examples, and

more. For example, the statement 'Easy and Convenient Access' conveys broader

meaning and open to interpretation. If we incorporate a statement like; "For

all events, the association must try to accommodate 'Easy and Convenient Access'

to all members" into the bylaws - then we might include some guidelines,

rational, example situations, solutions, etceteras behind this as a supplement

or addendum. This supplement and addendum is flexible enough to accommodate

current situation but the original statement can not be altered (without some

hard work - see Rigid and Flexibility below). Similarly, the statement like

"The association must provide open and up-to-date information to its members as

well as have channels open to receive community inputs" carries the meaning of

openness and two way communications. Currently Ad-Hoc committee is trying to

accomplish this by holding public meeting, group email and a website. In

future, we may choose to use a different set of communication medium but the

spirit of the statement shall remain the same. Some simple statements may

require clarifications, "Age 16 and up" as membership criteria € does this mean

16 years of age on the day of election, or the day when the EC is formed, or the

day voter registration was compiled, or on 1 st day of the year?

 

Rigid flexibility:

To withstand the change of time, we must have changes to the

constitution/framework/bylaws. I would like to see a well defined process (and

a very hard process to execute) to make changes to this document.

Interpretations to these rules/policies/bylaws can be added as addendum or

supplement, as needed, but never deleted. This is essential and required from

day one.

 

Self Destruction:

The greatest strength of this association shall come from its power to self

destruct (sounds like a sci-fi movie). Our framework needs to provide guide

lines on how to monitor the health and effectiveness (its current execution,

variances from objectivities, etcetera) of this association and void it-self if

and when it becomes ineffective. This is harder to document; one suggestion

might be - if at any time, number of voters' participation is less than 60% (or

some higher number) of registered members then that election is void. Two

consecutive void elections shall be the end of this association. Another

suggestion might be to hold a re-election with vigorous 'Get out and vote'

campaign. If a large number of qualified members don't feel any need or utility

for the association, they are highly unlikely to come out and vote. Since, they

don't feel any need for the association, the very existence of this association

becomes questionable; hence self destruct. Also, adding a self destruct clause

shall ensure that we as a community don't lose focus - if we get distracted and

turn this into a country club € only to cater to a small group of people's need,

this association shall fail to represent others and die. Similarly, if one or

more members feel the need for the association but think it is failing to

execute, they are going to find one or more candidates, take active part in

member registration process, campaign, and work actively to make changes. This

would also prevent self destruction, as ineffective organization means end,

members wishing changes would work harder to stop this.

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Since election is looming, I feel the urge to share my inputs to regarding

the *Code of Conduct* for future Board Members, voting and other stuff:

 

a) All elected board members* must* be open to work with everyone regardless

of personal conflict, preferences etc. *Must wear that BAGA hat during

his/her tenure and be open to resolve differences*.

 

b) BAGA board members must not disclose their preferences or dislike openly

to other members or persuade other community members to push their

"subjective" belief IFF it is unrelated to the betterment of the

Association. This will unnecessaryily create distraction for the board.

 

c) Should a Board member feel it is absolutely impossible to work with

certain individual or a group of people, he/she must (under extreme

situations) let other members "drive" that particular event for fairness

purpose. This should never happen but a guideline needs to written out

explicitly.

 

d) We also need a clause against Paneling -- best candidate always wins!.

Austin does not need this. Let's not leave a hole in the process for next

election; this needs at least 3-4 sitting to resolve. There should be a

clause (albeit not popular) regarding this subject as well. Bizu bhai, Shams

bhai and other experienced with by-laws-- we are counting on you to come up

with something brilliant!

 

e) We need to have a oath ceremony for elected officials and cover some of

the items discussed above and few more not comprehended..

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I would like to add the following for consideration ( if not already there ).

 

1. MALMA to oust AMALA [ borrowing similar terms from Riaz's email ] :-)

 

Procedure for No confidence petition :

I propose there be an agreed upon process where by, if majority ( some agreed

percentage ,say 51 percent or more ) of the members voice opinions ( signed

petition or something likewise ) against an elected Committee during its tenure

a General election will be held before the actual term of the committee ends.

This is to safeguard against any BD actions contrary to the majority opinion.

 

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i would like to add my "two paisas" in response to some of the feedback to the

bylaws email that i have read. First and foremost, i think that given the short

amount of time that BAGA has been in existence they have done a good job of

bringing members of the community together for events, especially drawing in new

faces which i think is one of the more important aspects of having a bangladesh

association.

 

The second observation i have made in reading the emails which leaves me

puzzled is that there seem to be many individuals, who perhaps do not have

experience in writing bylaws, but do nevertheless have good ideas that need to

be given serious consideration. why aren't members of the larger community who

feel like they may be able to contribute ideas being welcomed into the process?

i understand the complexities in semantics of writing a document such as a

constitution and for that i believe that Shams and Biju are well-qualified, but

before the process is well-underway there needs to be a venue to invite all

those who would like to contribute their thoughts and ideas as to their goals

and aspirations for their bangladesh association. Not many people can make it to

meetings (even though it is important to them) and therefore i think an email

inviting constructive, non-repetitive ideas should be sent; this will allow

those who missed the meeting to share their thoughts

and also provide a forum for those who may not feel comfortable speaking in

public at meetings. once all the ideas are in then commencement in writing of

the bylaws can begin - i believe this to be fair and inclusive and eliminates

predominance by any individual(s) or cliques. This will minimize the

possibility of a revision or complete tossing out of the bylaws formed by the

ad-hoc committee because it will have recognized and tried to implement all of

the major ideas - and we all know that discarding and beginning anew by the

formal BAGA committee may well happen if it does not reflect the basic needs of

the community...

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I know AHC has been working hard in various different area of interests

of the Bd community, including the "bylaws". But I could not Not comment

on the on going process of bylaws writing. I'll try to be constructive

here and try to give my perspective from outside looking in.

 

I just checked the BAGA website for schedule and found 01/27/07 as date

for BAGA BoD election, but there is no mention of deadline for bylaws

completed. Since election is on Jan 27, I assume bylaws must be

completed few weeks before Jan 27. Lets say Jan7, 2007. That gives us ~2

months to develop the bylaws. My concern is - is 2 months enough?

 

I attended the last bylaws open meeting, on 11/01/06. What I observed in

that meeting does not make me optimistic about the process and meeting

the deadline. So I'm thinking if the timeline is not realistic, should

we rush to get something in just for the sake of deadline and in the

process sacrefice quality and worse, create ground for later public

dissatisfaction and conflicts?

 

If the election date is cast in stone, then perhaps we should work on

ONLY a few sections of bylaws, relevant to BOD election and leave rest

of the bylaws for the new BOD to write.

 

 

Here are my concerns about the process of bylaws writing as well as its

content -

 

1st, the draft bylaws appears to be a "cut & past" from other documents.

 

2nd, the term "bylaws community expert" is not defined and can be

interpreted as somebody's biased preference

 

3rd, an "bylaws community expert" is supposed to help research and

interpret relevant documents and understand federal, state and local laws.

 

4th, an "bylaws community expert" is not supposed to come up with the

bylaws on behalf of the community

 

5th, it is rather the BAGA "Mission Statement" and the community

input/desire that should define the bylaws. The experts should only help

with the proper format of the document and the legal part.

 

6th, based on 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th, it seems more appropriate to hire

an attorney to keep us in check and safe. Yes there would be a cost, but

I think that's well worth it. We all know the saying - you get what you

paid for.

 

7th, the process of collecting of community input, discussing them and

making a resolution on an input seems not open. It is great that AHC is

soliciting input, but how those input are dealt with, there is no

record. AHC publishes some community input but I don't thing all.

 

8th, in my opinion, any input, dumb or smart, must be deliberated in the

AHC and be voted for adaption in the bylaws. Sensitive and/or

controversial issues may require voting in the open meeting. The voting

history should be saved and published on the BAGA site for record. With

out such process bylaws committee activities, so called open meetings,

etc., all could be perceived publicity stunt.

 

9th, to achieve 8th, BAGA must have a "Mission Statement" that is

derived from the community as a whole, that has its buy-in form the

community and represents the community. In my opinion, the mission

statement is "The" most important part of an organisation. It is the

most difficult piece of paragraph that encompasses our objectives,

goals, what we are about, etc, as a whole community. Once we agree on

and develop the mission statement, that's become the golden

standard/reference for bylaws and future decisions. Whatever we decide

then on becomes easy, because it must align with the mission statement -

makes it easy to resolve debate over it and prevents us from diverging

from our direction. That's why mission statement is so critical in

successful organisations.

 

10th, I've already seen plenty of doubts and distrusts among us. Let's

not kid ourselves. There are lot of us here in Austin Bd community

strongly dislikes each other, sometime to the point of hatred. Some

would love to see other go down big. In this environment of distrust and

tension(i went to 1 meeting and have seen enough of that), right thing

to do is to have a clean, transparent and fair process; and listen to

your constituents who elected you.

 

11th, I see sarcasm and arrogance when I see such words "ByLaws

enthusiasts". It's not the enthusiasm, rather responsibly and concerns

over BAGA that drives those citizens, who elected you (might I remind

you). Please use a better and more respectable terms. Sorry, I didn't

take it as a joke.

 

 

That's enough for now. I'd urge other responsible citizens of Austin Bd

community take more pro-active and constructive role in the bylaws

writing process and voice your opinion and concerns.

 

 

FORUM

 

There has an interesting point raised about making the By-Laws writing process more transparent.

 

I believe the Ad-Hoc / By-Laws Comm has been holding Open Forum every ~ 6 weeks and gathering inputs / suggestions / concerns from the community. These inputs are documented in the meeting minutes that are sent out via e-mails. If there is any inconsistency in this documentation I am sure it is human error and can easily be corrected.

 

The process of actually including / excluding each idea is not transparent. It would be nice if it were transparent. But the kind of transparency that is being asked for (demanded) I think is a bit over kill.

 

Not only would such a requirement be a logistical nightmare (it can be done, it is NOT impossible), but it would also make the decision process even more complicated and time consuming.

 

Also, "we" have elected these people to the Ad-Hoc Comm. We may not have voted for them, but they are our elected members and we have to be able to put some level of faith on them.

 

Additionally, this By-Laws document is a living document. If an idea is not included in this round, we can follow-up in the future and try to ammend it.

 

To summarize - I am not against making the process even more transparent. Transparency is always (at least almost always) better. But I am strongly against making it a mandatory requirement.

 

Something that the By-Laws sub-committee or the Ad-Hoc Comm may do is remind us all how the By-Laws Comm was created, who the members are, if others were not included (and why) etc.

 

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bylaws subcommittee position is that the open forums are the discussions and the draft bylaws is our final decision.

 

the community elected ahc to do the 'work' that is required in between.

 

i think it would be unfair to demand documentation of that 'work'. some in the community unfairly comapre ahc to other elected officials in the state, city govt and may demand similar transparency. and that is exactly why i keep reminding everyone that ahc is not fulltime positions. if we had 8 hours a day to work on this, we could have fulfilled all documentations for transparency. if the community realizes this fact, i think their demands will first turn into requests and then if the request cannot be fulfilled, they would understand.

 

at the same time, community needs to think, is it enough to provide explanation of inclusion/exclusion of input? would there be additional meeting, debates on those explanations? would some people start talking about why a certain justification may be incomplete? why a certain scenario was not given sufficient importance. would we then demand (based on the explanation) that the bylaws subcommittee must make decisions in the presense of the community?

 

as prescribed by the constitution committee, i think, the bylaws subcommittee is following the guideline accurately. in addition, the subcommittee selected few community experts to be a part of their committee not only for assistance, but also for transparency. some have asked what was the selection process for choosing experts? why were some invited and not others. our initial explanation that out of all community members who had bylaws experience in the recent past, the subcommittee selected three individuals. but that explanation was not sufficient.

 

after all, all we are really talking about is lack of trust. we want evidence to build trust. but i think without trust to begin with - 'no explanation/evidence is sufficient'. this community may have gone through a lot in losing faith in people. but we must at some point learn to trust others.

 

i am open to the idea of making public the bylaws subcommittee minutes - even though i believe, for the reason it was demanded, it would be insufficient. we'll let ahc full committee decide on that.

 

but i keep repeating that should there be any question on a specific input, let us know and we will try to answer why or how it was accepted/refuted.

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The fact is we are very divided community and, as you said, have lost faith in people in charge, a great deal.

Trust is something one has to earn. Transparency along with integrity and high moral standard help this cause. Once a group(or a committee) earned the trust of the community, then people would worry less about their activities. Until then "trust but verify" would be the way to bridge the gap.

Transparency, will make BAGA AHC/BOD better and stronger. No doubt it is more work, but I believe if you ask for help people will volunteer to ease the load; or let's take allocate more time to get it done.