:FAN: FAN Bylaw Changes

FAN is looking for suggestions for bylaw changes.

The bylaws are below.

I’d like to recommend the following changes.

  1. Change the at-large structure to allow anyone to be an at-large member

Currently, when there’s a neighborhood association that’s represented in FAN any member of that neighborhood association can’t also be a member of FAN. I think it would be helpful to change that structure so that anyone, even those represented under a member neighborhood association could also be an at-large member of FAN. I think this would allow people to feel like they have a direct voice in FAN (maybe they don’t agree with how their member NA votes on something or they just want to have their own say since sometimes member NAs will be voting on things within FAN that didn’t also get voted on within that member NA itself). It also might encourage participation and involvement directly in FAN. People might feel more excited about getting involved if they know they have a direct voice. If someone is an at-large member of FAN and then their NA joins, they are removed from the FAN membership and I’m not a fan of removing people as voting members of FAN, if they want to participate. It’ll also allow FAN to show our actual number of supporters on our website. We would have more at-large members listed on our site now and that could help with our influence on issues if people saw how many people are really involved.

  1. Correct the bylaws to allow the board to select the number of directors

Currently section 8.2. says there can only be “four other FAN delegates” but in section 8.6. it says that “the Board may offer a proposal to add additional directors” and “the Board of Directors shall not exceed 15 members: four officers and eleven directors,” so these sections seem to conflict. By removing the first phrase the Board can scale up or down the number of directors like it looks like the bylaws originally intended, just like it looks like the Board can currently change the number of officers.

  1. Have staggered terms for directors

I think it would be great to have staggered terms for directors. That way there’s not a complete turnover of the leadership at one time. It could be similar to the way the city council is now where half is elected during each election. I don’t think there would need to be a bylaw change for this, but I’m not sure. Since directors serve for 2 years, we could add a few directors during the next election (maybe 2?), which I believe is as early as next April according to the bylaws for the officers and they would then have staggered terms compared to the other directors.

1 Like

Good points raised. Now, when you say “FAN is looking for suggestions” do you mean there was some conversation or private meeting among Officers leading up to making this issue public in this post? FAN seems to have some kind of subconscious. Behind-doors dealings is an controversy in our NA.

There’s a dilemma exposed when thinking about who gets to vote and why. A NA might not always be trusted to vote in it’s membership’s wishes. Might be good to allow only at-large votes. Yet, a NA which hasn’t officially joined FAN could impose undue influence with many at-large votes. Might be good then to allow only NA reps to vote. Or we could try more complex possibilities like averaging out the at-large votes from among all those who are in the same N.

My observation is that memberships of both kinds are currently supported in order to encourage FAN’s start-up population to grow. It might be best to leave this as-is until it actually causes complaint. Then, I would say it should choose to have only NA membership (serving as a council-of-councils) or at-large membership (focusing on the concerns of the most ambitious, regardless of their N).

It’s complicated by FAN’s potential as a formal delegation of formerly-muzzled underdogs. The kind of organization which would offer better individual representation (at-large) might not impress the City Council as being as verifiable/validated as a council-of-councils.

On a side thought, I still have no clear idea what an NA’s FAN membership fee goes toward. Dawson NA has no fees, budget or treasury, so it would either require a wavier, or have to pass out a hat at meetings to join FAN. And neighbors would be asking what benefit FAN provides them, too. I predict they’d be too pragmatic to just pull out some fives and tens and throw them at FAN.

Staggered terms or not, there should be term limits. Our DN PCT has had staggered terms for only 4 years now, and due to some resignations and a death, we’ve already lost track of what seats are open, filled, and when they should end. Our By-Laws stipulate only a minimum number of Board Members, and no term limits. So; the same small group has been re-elected to the Board, and no-one’s been worried about tracking details.

I think as we gain more members, which we have quite a few now, there’s little chance that an NA would encourage their members to join in order to influence the outcome of the at-large members. If they encourage people to join, I think that would actually be a great thing since it would increase FAN numbers. When Friends of Hyde Park started we had a vote on ADUs and the HPNA encouraged their members to sign up to vote against it hoping that they could overwhelm the vote, but what happened was we just ended up with a lot more members. Many people that they signed up actually supported ADUs. The larger participation that we have I can only think would be an advantage since there’s only a small minority of Austin that doesn’t want ADUs, density, walkable neighborhoods, etc.

There have been several people that have tried to sign up and we had to deny since they were part of a member NA. I don’t think that any have complained, but I know if I was in their position I would be discouraged from participating. I think we should always side with inclusiveness.

I really like the idea of having a mix of NAs and at-large members that we do. I think that’ll have the best results to gain members and influence over time to reach the most people. Maybe once we grow we could consider giving the at-large membership a greater percentage of a vote, but we probably don’t have enough member NAs at this time for that kind of change. If we had 100 NAs and 1000s of at-large members I think there would be a great argument to say that greater number of at-large members deserves a greater voice in votes.

We haven’t been charging NA fees. I would hope that we would continue to keep being an NA and at-large member free. There hasn’t been any talk about charging that I’ve seen.

We do have term limits for officer positions and I believe it’s just for the officer positions: “A person may not serve in any one position as an officer for more than two consecutive terms.”

For #1, can you explain how you might envision voting going? Would the person’s vote get tallied twice (once in the ‘at-large group’ which turns into 1 vote at the level of the NA, and once in their own member NA (if that’s what their NA does)?)

Further thoughts on Pete’s item 1):

When I applied for FAN membership, I was advised that my $5 fee would be waived until the end of the year. The fee for a NA was much higher; $50 I think. There was no explanation given about what that money is spent on.

And I don’t understand what benefit a NA gets for paying this fee. NA membership forcibly nullifies the votes of it’s individual neighbors, and reduces their group’s voice to only one vote. That can only have a negative impact on FAN being inclusive and representative of the people.

Our Dawson NA doesn’t have fees, so that mainly means we just find outside sponsors to fund our projects. From running my own quasi-NA for the last 2 years, I have an appreciation for what can be done for free, and FAN can still expand it’s scope considerably without tangible expense. A $5/year fee is not unreasonable though, provided we have up-front reckoning for how it is spent.

So, the strength of at-large membership is to amplify the voice of individuals when we reach out to the City Council and such. That aligns well with the stated purpose of FAN. The point of NA membership is… uh, to show the CC that important groups take us seriously… at the expense of muting a host of individual voices… That kind of sponsorship might impress and influence the CC, but it comes at a pretty big cost; unless I’m missing something. Also, parallel at-large + NA membership could be viewed as a system where a group can purchase additional votes!

So, I’m in favor of 1) clearly defining and publicizing what all membership fees are spent on 2) strictly limiting fees in any case 3) converting existing NA memberships to individual ones 4) abolishing NA memberships in favor of an entirely at-large membership.

Ironically, the changes I’m in favor of seem to increase a risk I’m also concerned about. If there has been at least one attempt by an NA to influence the vote by overwhelming the membership, we’re bound to see similar attempts in the future. I’m intrigued by the effect FAN has seen, where the opposition actually tends to just stay on their own side and not try to infiltrate. It’s also related to FAN’s advocacy of launching parallel “friends of” NA rather than reforming existing NA. However, I don’t think that’s an effect we can rely on. At some point, NA will realize FAN deserves serious attention. I would not be in favor of classifying people differently and granting them different levels of influence, so the best defense would seem to be a large, unified membership which can absorb such attacks.

Item 2): The By-Law’s use of terms should be cleaned up, with regard to “delegates” vs “officers” vs “members” vs “directors”, but I see no conflict if you realize that the 4 Officers are also the 4 “delegates” and that the other 11 Directors are simply not empowered to speak on behalf of the Board to the Public. As for limiting the number of Directors, perhaps this should be tied to the number of FAN Members, rather than be given a hard upper limit. It might work better if the membership at-large could propose the addition of Directors as desired. The By-Laws could define the threshold for this opportunity, and in the event a smaller Board seems to work best, it need not be a mandatory expansion either.

@mdahmus If there’s a case where a member NA has a vote on something that’s identical to something that FAN votes on, that individual person could vote in their member NA vote and also vote in FANs vote. Some people might not be a member of the FAN member NA and prefer to vote directly with FAN. For example, FAN has online voting and the member NA might not have online voting so they might not be able to participate.

However, I believe most of the votes that FAN has had and probably will have probably won’t have an identical vote by the member NA that those members could directly vote in - there’s no way to make member NAs be required to also have a similar vote and that probably wouldn’t be practical. The FAN member NA delegate or board votes how they believe is what most of their members want in most cases. So in cases that the FAN member NA didn’t have time, didn’t want to have a direct vote of their members, or just couldn’t, or weren’t interested in the vote to have a direct vote, allowing everyone to participate in the at-large vote would make sure that everyone gets to participate in some form no matter what votes their NA has had.

@Pete_Gilcrease ok then, every individual gets a vote, and NA get to buy extra votes. I don’t favor that.

@ChadV What do you mean by buy extra votes?

Nobody is buying extra votes. Yes, it’s true that voters gain extra representation by forming a new NA, but that’s a feature not a bug. We want there to be an incentive to create NAs

@Pete_Gilcrease Currently, an NA becomes a voting entity upon paying it’s dues to join. (dues are waived at the moment, but dues are intended to be SOP Jan 1) Depending on whether we do-or-don’t allow both “at-large” and “NA” memberships from residents of a given neighborhood, the NA would therefore either join in order to silence their uppity at-large members from their neighborhood, or to buy extra influence in FAN with another vote ( I didn’t say it would be cheap). It’s my observation that the main benefit of NA Membership (currently) is the opportunity to nullify some at-large votes. That’s a far greater risk than seeing a hostile NA take over FAN with at-large votes.

@rickyhennessy It’s a big bug, since an incumbent NA could currently nullify every heretic voice from their neighborhood in FAN, by buying a membership. If we want to incentivize new NA, then we should simply provide philosophy, startup guides and workshops. Speaking as one who runs a candidate organization, I see no benefit to FAN membership other than the option to nullify my other neighbor’s votes. And that’s not how I want to operate. Nor does paying FAN dues help me get my org off the ground or give it direction or influence. I’m sorry, it’s just true.

@ChadV I doubt that someone would form a FAN member NA to silence others in the area, but if we did allow at-large members to vote even if they were in an area that has a FAN member NA, that should take care of that concern I think. Member NAs don’t have to pay anything now and hopefully not ever, so there wouldn’t be anything to buy. We’ve never received any money from anyone for any reason so far. The incentive to starting a new FAN member NA is that you get a vote in FAN and you get help organizing and using our resources to help keep the NA up and going along with any other help we can provide. Generally people in the neighborhood that know other people would be great resources to have as an organization and so FAN should be encouraging that type of grass roots involvement.

@Pete_Gilcrease If we’re proceeding on the assumption that our neighbors and influential NA’s can be counted on to act in everyone’s best interest, then what is FAN supposed to be equalizing? Right? I’m flatly unwilling to trust other political bodies to conduct themselves fairly. As far as incentives go, now would be a good time to provide some concrete examples. We would love to partake, and if successful, would provide FAN with the greatest testimonial.

If this FAQ is out of date, someone should fix it:

“How much does it cost to be a FAN? Neighborhood association
memberships are $50 per year. The annual fee for at large (individual)
memberships is $5. However, we’re waiving these fees until 2016.”

@ChadV I updated the FAQ. I looked at the bylaws and it doesn’t specify any specific amounts and just says that the board can put in place a membership fee if they want (unless I’m reading it wrong), so I think the new change to that FAQ might be more accurate.

How… fortunate that you have that latitude. Such would require a meeting and a vote here in Dawson.

It is different than the original design point, but I agree that allowing an individual to be a member of a FAN NA & FAN at large member could be a good thing - they are two different things and being active in both should be encouraged.

Agreed we should add 2 Directors in the upcoming election cycle, and believe that it can be done without changing the bylaws - just acting on them as laid out.

I can look closer again having spent time earlier in the year crawling through the bylaws detail in support of the election cycle - I’m happy to again be part of a bylaws review in January if there is an interest in looking to make modifications in a few areas . I would hope we could start with a face to face meeting among those interested, including Chad - my experience with NA’s has apparently been so different than his it would be valuable for us to compare notes - absent a member NA the level of involvement in FAN in my NA would be a small % of what it otherwise would be so we can not give that up… and we have received invaluable support from FAN every step of the way, so our bylaws will not match the template 100%, instead are customized to help us ramp up (encourage all to consider same); & we understood FAN charging member NA’s fees was not a given - so Pete changing the FAQ was fine with me & should not require a vote.


I think the problem is the word voting. We should be polling. We have an issue, we have a conversation, we compile our thoughts and responses, we organize those thoughts in a coherent way that provides decision makers with a document that is our collective wisdom. Them hope they look at it.


We’ll soon be having a vote to update our bylaws.

There’s been a separate discussion on allowing people that are part of a FAN member NA to also be an at large member here:

Another suggested change would be to allow a nominating committee process to be more flexible instead of the wording that we have now that requires us to elect a nominating committee 30 days before the annual meeting. We had issues with the timing during this last year and it would be great to have more flexibility on the timing and to give more options in how the nominating committee is selected - like allowing the entire membership to be part of the nominating committee to suggest people.

I think those are the two main changes I’d like other than some word cleanup. Does anyone have any other suggested changes?

1 Like

@Pete_Gilcrease, one not-really-a “change” that I would suggest all consider, is that we activate the “Assembly of Delegates” provision in the bylaws by having periodic meetings, including one in September. Technically I know the process to call one, but would rather it be more of a “consensus” that their perspective would have value in informing the Board and members. Not a tug-of-war, but to ensure the Board, Assembly, and At-Large are all hearing each other - and would encourage representation from the later.

From that vantage point I would be more comfortable accepting positive changes to the bylaws which could theoretically include the “at-large” membership having two delegates to further encourage participation there, and a larger role in the nominating committee process. Deciding this on Helios alone does not seem like the founders intent as we know all member NA’s and delegates are not equally involved in the forum.

One “real” change that I ask all to consider is that the bylaws template wisely recommends the member NA’s provide a period of time from start to finish in the polling process for their organizations. FAN needs to respect that, where possible, and back up the time line further for FAN level votes to allow member NA’s to fully engage. I think that is what we all want, it is just an operational level tweak - and does not even require a bylaws change.

If the above is not practical to fit the desired schedule, it would be nice to have the wording on the proposed bylaws changes well in advance to debate from that level.