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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Election 2010

It was very exciting to have an opportunity to hear the candidates at the Membership meeting last night. You will have a very different board starting June 1, regardless of who wins. You will be electing six candidates - five for a two year term, and one for a one year term. Please make sure that you vote.

All candidates' e-mail addresses are being made available to you so if you have any questions to ask of them, send them an e-mail and ask the question.

Let's see a HUGE turnout. This is your chance to choose who will lead your organization and make decisions that affect you and the local performing arts community. Very few people voted last year, and based on the results, you will see that the difference in votes between those who won and those who didn't is very small. Every one of your votes is very important.

This election needs to be about more than name recognition, or who you know. Base your vote on the candidates' answers to your questions. Base it on who you think will work hard, and meet deadlines. Base it on who you know can cooperate with others, even those with whom they disagree.

Think about what the candidates can bring to our organization in the way of both inside and outside experience.

Below, I have reprinted the results of last year's election.

The following 5 candidates were elected to 2 year terms each:

Mark Jeffries 187 votes
B. J . Nelson 187 votes
Linda Berg 183 votes
Deborah Granite 174 votes
Hugh Spencer 159 votes

The following 2 candidates were elected to 1 year terms each:

Lorraine Edelstein 156 votes
Sharon McLean 148 votes


The following 4 candidates were not elected:

Marvin Levin 141 votes
David Goldberg 131 votes
Laura Sapoznik 89 votes
Carole Howard 86 votes


Total ballots counted - 251
Total ballots disqualified per established rules - 12

Friday, April 23, 2010


I have been very quiet and very busy during the past month. As I was catching up on my Saints e-mail, and planning a coordinator meeting, I realized that I hadn't looked at my blog for close to a month.

It is very exciting to see that there is an election commission, and that candidates are voicing their ideas and opinions in response to serious questions. The quality of some of the questions is outstanding, and very thought provoking. The responses from the candidates have been candid, and people have not always taken the easy route when responding. It's so wonderful.

On Monday, April 26, there will be a membership meeting where candidates will be nominated, find out their ballot positions, and publicly answer questions from the membership. What a change from last year's elections. It's so refreshing.

Right now, we have nine candidates for six board positions.

What is most refreshing is how many people are helping and how people have stepped up to work hard to make the Saints an even better organization. We have smoothly made a transition during what is the busiest time of year for the Saints. Election time, renewals, new members coming to orientations, making the mailed Spotlight available on a subscription basis, new venues, new coordinators, board meetings, membership meetings, appreciation events, determining grant recipients, drafting a "privacy policy" and rewriting bylaws. Wow. Lots of hard work and lots of volunteers.

We are a vibrant organization. After a very challenging year, we are coming through and have definitely grown in numbers and sophistication.

Let's make sure that we have a good turnout Monday at the membership meeting. There will be an opportunity to ask questions of the candidates, sign up for ushering, and socialize.

Vittum Theatre, 1012 N Noble on April 26 at 7 pm

Do not park in the parking lot in back of the building but park on the street or use public transportation.

I hope to see many of you there.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Change in Leadership

The board meeting scheduled for the morning of March 6 convened with a quorum but three board members, all of them officers, did not show up. They had sent their resignations to the Saints membership during the night. Those of us who came to the board meeting had not received an agenda from Mr. Lingras, although we knew that there were many time sensitive issues that needed attention. Many of us had submitted agenda items to the President, and we expected him to be there. Some of the agenda items included setting dues for 2010-2011, selection of an election commission, passing a budget, and getting an update on the financial reports which are long overdue.

The Board of Directors advised the many observers that we would begin with a brief executive session. Observers were asked to please stick around because they would be invited back to observe our meeting as soon as we had finished selection of officers and an election commission, which will become operational if there are more candidates than board vacancies. The board elected two interim officers, Hugh Spencer as President and Jim Venskus as Secretary. No Treasurer has been appointed yet, however discussions and contacts have been made. Hopefully, the position will be filled at our next board meeting. In addition, we appointed board members and a coordinator to handle certain responsibilities on an interim basis – The appointments are as follows:

CSO Coordinator – Hugh Spencer
Grant Committee Liaison – Jim Venskus
Membership Coordinator – Deborah Granite
Coordinator Liaison – Deborah Granite
Cyberline Editor - Ray Rasane, a coordinator for 16th Street

Mark Jeffries will continue as Communications Chair and Spotlight Editor, and Lorraine Edelstein will continue as Program Chair. She will also manage the Appreciation Event.

The five board members in attendance (Hugh Spencer, Jim Venskus, Mark Jeffries, Lorraine Edelstein and Deborah Granite) voted to keep the dues at the same amount as last year - $45 for renewals postmarked or paid by credit card before June 1, and $65 for new members and renewals postmarked or paid by credit card on or after June 1. Rates for mailed subscriptions to the Spotlight have not yet been determined.

We are still in the process of obtaining the information necessary to ensure a smooth transition. Bank account access needs to be transferred, a Treasurer needs to be appointed, and information from those who have handled the above responsibilities for the past nine months needs to be transferred to those of us who will see that the organization continues to operate smoothly. This is the busiest time of year due to membership renewals, influx of new members who want to join at the beginning of the fiscal year, decisions regarding the awarding of grants, preparation of next year’s budget, elections, as well as an annual meeting for coordinators, the annual membership meeting, an appreciation luncheon, and the BJ Nelson Memorial event. Those who attended the last board meeting are working diligently to make sure that everything is handled but we will need patience and support from the membership. We also hope that the board members who resigned as officers will help ensure that both this transition and the May 31 transition is seamless.

Members need to step forward and run for office (it looks like there will be six vacancies on the board – five two year positions and a one year position). Andy Lingras has stated that he will not be seeking re-election however we have not heard from all of the board members whose terms will expire on May 31, 2010. Letters of intent are to be sent to the Saints President no later than April 1. Instructions for submitting a letter of intent are contained in the March 19th Cyberline and on the Saints website.

I am hopeful that the official Saints communication sources which include the Cyberline, the Spotlight and the Saints website will be your primary information source. I am also hopeful that the forum option on the website will be activated as soon as our Board re-convenes and has a chance to discuss the process for moderating it. Until then, feel free to post your comments here or on the Volunteer Ushers' Discussion Group - Saints. There is a link at the top of this site, and you can also subscribe to receive e-mails when there are posts to the Discussion Group.

In addition, I am hopeful that we will establish clear guidelines regarding the appropriate use of official Saints communications. The membership directory has been used by certain individuals without going through proper channels. For right now, I want to encourage people to communicate with all board members by logging onto the Saints website, and clicking on “contact us” at the top of the home page. You will now be able to send an e-mail to all of the board members by selecting “Board of Directors” in the drop down box.

Also, be sure to attend the general membership meeting on Monday, March 22 at 7:00 pm at Northeastern Illinois University Recital Hall. Our speaker is a terrific actor, Karen Aldridge, who you may have seen at Chicago Shakespeare, Next, Goodman, Steppenwolf or Writers' Theater. You may sign up for ushering opportunities, ask questions of the board, meet coordinators, and meet fellow Saints' members. Parking in the indoor garage is free. Refer to the Cyberline or the Spotlight for additional details.

Monday, March 1, 2010

"SaintsVoice?" NOT!

On page 4 of the February and March Spotlight, there is a new e-mail heading on the list of contact information called SPEAK OUT. Next to this heading is a newly created e-mail address that was recently announced in the Cyberline. The address is also publicized on page 29 and states "Speak out on the Saints and get a response." There is no explanation that e-mail sent to this address goes directly to the President, Andy Lingras, and no other board member. I believe that establishing this e-mail address and publicizing it as the place to express one's viewpoints about the Saints is deceptive, an attempt to cut the board off from the membership, as well as self-serving. As many of you may have heard, Mr. Lingras' two year term will be expiring on May 31st, and if he wishes to stay on the board, he will have to run in a contested election.

The establishment of this address did not receive board approval and is another example of Andy Lingras’ abuse of presidential power. Mr. Lingras already has at least three active e-mail addresses that are publicized in the Spotlight - one with his own name as a Board Contact, one as the CSO Coordinator, and one as the Cyberline contact. One would think that people have enough ways to send an e-mail to the President. But Mr. Lingras has created an additional e-mail that appears as though it is the primary vehicle for voicing one's opinions about the organization.

Two members of the Board, Jim Venskus and I, have had our names removed from the Contact List on the website. That is 25% of your Board's voting directors. When asked about the fact that two elected board members are not listed, Mr. Lingras' response was that members could look for our e-mail address in the Spotlight.

I think we have an answer to the question – Democracy or Dictatorship? Take the extra time to send your e-mail to each of the eight board members if you want your voice to truly be heard.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Saints Membership Meeting

Last night, about seventy-five Saints members came to a general membership meeting at the Raven Theatre to hear Jeffrey Marks, a Chicago attorney, talk with us about the Jeff Committee. He gave us insight into how the committee works, some of the unique challenges of the Chicago Theater community, and how the Jeff Committee has evolved over the years. We are so lucky to live in Chicago and have access to what many believe to be the best theater town in the world.

Our speaker was followed by another Question and Answer session with the Saints Board of Directors. Prior to the session, members submitted questions to specific board members on index cards. The session was presided over by our Interim President, Andy Lingras. It seemed that he had difficulty reading the many questions that were submitted, and did not provide specifics when responding. Instead, he told members that the board would be making decisions and sharing results in the near future – even though some of these questions have been asked repeatedly for months and months. He also used the time to promote some of his goals for the Saints, one of which is to make the portion of our dues that goes toward funding grants to the performing arts community “optional.”

Andy seems to have forgotten that there are seven other board members, and continues to use the Cyberline and membership meetings to promote his personal agenda. It is sad that the Bylaws were pushed through last year. The haste with which these bylaws were developed, and the limited input from members other than Mr. Lingras, have been obvious to many of us over and over again. Now, rather than follow the bylaws that he crafted, he is proposing that we vote to amend them at our next general membership meeting.

The bylaws do not protect member rights at all. There is no recourse for stopping Mr. Lingras from using Robert’s Rules when he feels like it and ignoring them when he doesn’t, pushing through a takeover of the organization when the Presidency unexpectedly became vacant, calling for executive sessions for inappropriate reasons, deciding who on the board can access information and how it may be used, controlling board meeting agendas, establishing and promoting an e-mail address that can only be accessed by him, and instructing board members as to what they may or may not say to the membership.

Members: If you care about the Saints, then reclaim your organization by asking to attend the next board meeting which is scheduled for Saturday, March 6th at 10 am. Come to the next membership meeting on Monday, March 22 at 7pm. And most importantly, meet the new candidates at the April meeting and VOTE.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Democracy or Dictatorship?

Have you noticed that there seems to be a very strong leadership presence in our “democratic” organization? You don’t hear from two of the eight board members , Deb Granite and Jim Venskus, much anymore, and it isn’t easy to find our contact information.

Today, the Cyberline had a request for you to send your concerns, etc. to our new board President, Andy Lingras, at a brand new address. This new address also appears on the last page of the February Spotlight. He also shared with you his “personal” goals that include making the part of dues that fund grants to the performing arts community optional.

What is the reason that you are being encouraged to circumvent our board of directors, and correspond with the newly elected Saints President directly?

Why does this board member have a direct communication line with the membership, but other board members are advised that it is a violation of confidentiality to correspond with Saints members about anything other than ushering?

How did this individual become the President, and how did each of the board members vote?

What is his past experience and what not for profit "business" did he work for during the seven years that is referenced in today’s Cyberline?

Why is this individual setting up a private mail box rather than encouraging people to share their views and concerns with the board at large?

Why isn't this individual utilizing the forum capabilities on Club Express (it was used to solicit tributes for BJ)?

Remember to send all correspondence to the entire board of directors and not to a single individual. That way, you can be sure that your correspondence will be seen by the entire Saints Board of Directors.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Online Discussion - Post Your Thoughts

I am writing for the first time in quite awhile because I agree with the anonymous comments that this blog is primarily my point of view. Much as I would have liked to see more comments, they just weren't coming. I decided to step back for awhile and wait... I have been listening to what others are doing and saying. It seems like there is a lot going on.

A blog is typically a place where someone communicates their point of view or ideas. There are limitations because of the way a blog is constructed. Those who visit this blog don’t have a place to initiate a discussion or start their own topic. There now is a place where you can start your own topic and/or respond to other people's topics. Simply click on this blue link. Volunteer Ushers' Discussion Group - Saints. You may also post without signing up for a google account by clicking on the following blue link and sending an e-mail directly to the site

Without this blog, I seriously doubt whether I would have been reinstated into the Saints. And it is the only way that many of you were able to find out about what was going on over the past six months. There have been some major changes in the organization and communication is opening up – minutes are posted on the Saints website, question and answer sessions are held at general membership meetings, observers regularly show up at board meetings, and members are talking with each other about the organization and holding the Board of Directors accountable. This is wonderful.

I am confident that this year there will be elections where issues are discussed, and members will be able to base their votes on more than name recognition and a 150 word statement. Already, I see more people participating on committees. There are a large number of members working on the Bylaws. There is greater awareness of our potential as an organization and we are not the same organization that we were five years ago, or even six months ago. We have not only grown in size but in terms of our membership’s expectations. And we have grown in terms of the performing arts community’s expectations.

At last night’s membership meeting, we heard a presentation, given by Hollis Resnik, followed by a generous opportunity to ask her all kinds of questions. The quality of our speakers is something we look forward to, and have come to expect. Part of why we get such good speakers is because we do matter as an organization, and our membership is respected.

Following the presentation, we had a scheduled question and answer session where the members were given an opportunity to ask questions of the board. The discussion was animated; and although there was controversy, the spirit of the discussion was positive. Let’s keep the dialog going.

We have a diverse and intelligent membership. The Saints is a great organization and has the potential to be even greater. We have a lot more we can contribute to the Chicago performing arts community. And there is more that our organization can provide to us. Our 30th year should be a very exciting one.