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History of the Mars Society Chapters Council
   Written by Mark Eby

   A Provisional Member's Council (PMC) was formed at the 1999 convention to propose rules to enable members to have a greater voice in the Mars Society. Our goals are to provide rules that will improve vertical and horizontal communication, promote chapter self help interaction, and convey member concerns to society leadership. The history of how this group was formed follows.

   A meeting of chapter contacts was called by Executive director Bruce Mackenzie at 5 PM on the evening of Friday 8/13. The notice was posted on the meeting bulletin board by the registration table. The purpose was to find a way to give the members a stronger voice in the organization.
   The meeting was lead by Mark Peiffer and Bruce Mackenzie. They started by asking what the people present thought the members expected from the society leadership and what they thought the leadership expected of them. The answers were (without consensus):

Members expectations:

   Member information for use by chapters and task forces
   Input on steering committee agenda
   Feedback on steering committee meetings
   Effective financial structure and accountability
   Revenue distribution
   More communication

Leadership expectations:

   Increase membership

   There appeared to be a consensus that some form of members council/assembly was needed. There was no clear agreement on what form it should take or how it would interact with the leadership. Bruce indicated a members council/assembly might have input on a par with the steering committee. Based on the questions and opinions that followed Bruce felt a review of the organizational structure was needed.

   The society is run by a board of directors that elects the president. The board currently consists of Robert Zubrin, Maggie Zubrin, Richard Wagner, Marc Boucher, Kim Stanley Robinson, and Declan O'Donnell. Terms of service were not specified by Bruce. The board has room for other members (up to 12) based on the founding bylaws, but must be elected by the current board. The steering committee serves as an advisory group. Chapters and some task forces reported to the executive director, but that position is being eliminated. The arctic task force reported directly to Robert, and Maggie handled the inactive ones for contact purposes.

   A switch in discussion was made to goals rather than methods. A rough consensus was formed around three main goals for a member's council/assembly:

Council Goals

   -Improve vertical and horizontal communication.
   -Act as a chapter's self help group.
   -Champion members concerns to society leadership.

   Several items for further discussion were agreed on based on earlier comments:

Further Discussion

   -Should member's council/assembly be representative, direct democracy, or combination?
   -Near term goals should be established at convention.
   -What would the role of chapters versus task forces be?

   A meeting was planned Saturday afternoon to gather more details for presentation at the steering committee meeting. Unfortunately this meeting was sparsely attended compared to the previous meeting. On the upside, Mark Peiffer had talked to Robert Zubrin already and found him supportive of the goals outlined the previous day.

   The group skipping lunch quickly decided they did not have enough people present to make a decision representative of membership as a whole. It also decided that any decisions made at the convention would leave out many that did not attend. The lunch group decided to a short term council of 6 to 8 should be elected at a later meeting with more members present to propose rules for a members council/assembly. These rules would then be voted up or down by the entire membership roughly 60 days after the group started work. A 30 day target was set to devise a first draft of rules for review by the law and governance task force.
   A meeting was set up that evening which was attended by about twice as many as the lunch group and roughly half of the first meeting. A seven member provisional council was agreed to at first. This was expanded to 9 when only 9 volunteered to stand for election. The rest of the recommendations of the lunch group were accepted with a broad consensus.
   The nine members of the original Provisional Members Council (PMC) were:
   -Erik Carlstrom (Oregon)
   -Mark Eby (Alabama)
   -Stacy Makus (Arizona)
   -Aaron Oesterle (Michigan)
   -Mark Peiffer (Colorado)
   -Shannon Russell (Massachusetts)
   -Matt Stork (Maryland)
   -Chris Vancil (Washington)
   -Domenique van der Goore (California)

   The meeting adjourned for the banquet. The provisional council met through dinner until past 1:00 AM hashing out its operational rules. Some unexpected operational details remained however. These were resolved by E-mail over the next few weeks and the provisional council began more general work in early September. The PMC members were disappointed in the delay but many felt the details worked out for the PMC would serve as a basis for a future council if a representative form of member input was chosen.

   The PMC struggled to deal with several key issues: direct or representative democracy, council size, council functions, districts of representation, at large representation, member weighted voting, and inclusion of international chapters. It took almost 6 weeks to hash out the basic structure and purpose of the council. The PMC developed a detailed bylaws proposal quickly thereafter based on the outline and its own experience.
   New motions were cut off on October 31 1999. Motions and amendments in progress were resolved by November 06, 1999. A draft set of bylaws was then written to organize all of the individual recommendations of the PMC into a comprehensible and consistent format. This draft was approved on November 14, 1999 and sent to the board of directors for approval.
   The members of the PMC sent well over 1200 messages to each other and other members of the Mars society in the process of debating the issues and recommendations needed to devise this proposal. This probably represented well over 600 hours of work with a conservative estimate of 30 minutes of reading and writing time per message. The Proposed Bylaws reflected the PMC's own experience in trying to run an E-mail based council.

   The PMC recommended the following approval schedule:

   11/15 - 11/22: Review by board of directors and chapter contacts with revisions only on major issues. Chapter contacts are expected to distribute and collect feedback from the members. We also think arrangements for member approval should start at this time.
   11/23-11/30: Complete arrangements for member approval.
   12/1-12/7: Bylaws approval up for vote.
   12/8-12/31: Chapters elect representatives assuming bylaws pass.
   1/1/00 - 1/30/00: Provisional Council works with elected council to review bylaws and outstanding issues. PMC will also work with elected representatives to set up council support systems.
   2/1/00: Elected council takes office and begins work.

   This probably overly optimistic schedule was thrown into chaos by the delay in board approval, their required changes, and a delay in approval to put the recommendations to a vote. The PMC was not aware at the time that the board of directors was heavily involved with their own bylaws discussions for rules governing the entire Mars Society.

   Several members of the PMC had become inactive by the time the bylaws proposal was issued and others wished to move on to other projects. The PMC agreed to add additional members to replace these and start work on member approval of the bylaws and other support functions needed for the council. This period is referred to as the transitional PMC. The members added during the transitional phase were: Paul Wooster, Jim Beyer, Jim Plaxco, and Gary Fisher. It was agreed later to add chapters council representatives to the transitional PMC as soon as they were elected.
   The board approved the recommendations with a few exceptions on December 11, 1999 as part of passing their own set of bylaws for the entire Mars Society. The PMC approved changes to meet the boards requirements on 12/20/99. The changes included a change in the name of the new council from "Member's Council%amp%quot; to chapters council, requiring 10+ members for a chapter or group of chapters to have a representative rather than one per officially recognized chapter, and including international chapters rather than just US and Canadian ones.
   The board to approved a member vote on the council bylaws on 12/16/00 Setting up an approval web page required until 01/01/00. The additional vote to approve the PMC as transitional officers was conducted 1/15/00 to 1/31/00. Both passed by overwhelming margins in a low turn out vote.
   All of these delays left the PMC recommended schedule in tatters. Additional delays were caused by the process of having to determine which chapters qualified for representation. Few chapters had elected representatives by the opening day of the council on 02/01/00. This caused the council to miss the recommended introductory period and left many representatives poorly trained in the bylaws and how to use the egroups functions to carry out council business. A shortage of representatives lead the initial council to approve volunteers joining the council on a nonvoting basis.
   The council is currently operational and looking for additional members both as elected representatives and nonvoting volunteers to help carry out council projects.

Copyright 2001, 2002 The Mars Society