Bail Out NYYM in 2009?
There is good news and there is bad news.
The looming deficit between what the constituent Monthly Meetings will pay, and the amount New York Yearly Meeting plans to spend for 2009 was 5% in August 2008.
I’ve developed over the past two years a theme many sang under their breath for decades - NYYM is a small group of an entitled overweight few. These few have continued a tradition incongruent with the manner of Friends,with a padded expense budget. The padded budget maintains the group in an insulated, and privileged state of luxury vacation, distant and expensive retreat center, guaranteed paid positions and dishonest non-transparent governance.
How this select few became so entrenched and insulated and how other individuals in the future could simply assume the role of the current select few, is what Friends around the world might examine, and make sure NOT to emulate.
Question: What allows such an elite to rule and consolidate power and resources around itself?
Answers: Apathy of the 1500* or so total Yearly Meeting membership; Vanity and Political Correctness of a select and active few who have become inured in an annual vacation in the Adirondack mountains.
Now, NYYM has created a two-headed monster in assigning costs to various ‘programs’ that NYYM presents as its permanently settled, reason-to-be. The other head of the monster living under the bed NYYM Friends have made for themselves, is simply the budget broken into the four general committees how the Yearly Meeting organizes itself. Paid employees are asked to fill in a time sheet showing which ‘program’ they are serving with each 15 minute increment of their time. Well guess what? It’s not that the office staff lie: Quakers don’t lie. But in fact, like my favorite quote in my favorite movie, ‘The Blues Brothers’ the office employees have simply filled in bullshit on those timesheets.
No matter how NYYM tries to gerrymander its office salary expenses according to program, there is obvious misappropriation of funds which are actually spent (as different from funds directed to be spent according to approved budgets).
In fact, NYYM will not allow anyone on the finance committee to remain invited to committee meetings (see how it happened to one Friend who dissented) who doubts that the budget should always go up, or that NYYM should continue to draw financial and time and talent resources from dying, trust-funded, Monthly Meetings and or struggling growing Monthly Meetings which truly have the most important reason-to-be in their local communities.
What those in the Aquarian (Baby Boomer) generation in 2008, those economically entitled NYYM Friends between the ages of 53 and 70, have done, is to continue to live in the past, and figuratively dropped some acid to create this two-headed monster of a centralized overweight budget for 2009. The two heads of this ‘monster’ effectively hide the fact that the budget for 2009 has gone up sharply, again, trying to draw more resources to itself from the Monthly Meetings.
The biggest joke NYYM is trying to pull off, is the attempt to convince NYYM Friends that the job descriptions for its paid employees it released recently are in any way serious or transparent. The NYYM General Secretary costs NYYM Friends approximately $150,000 per year for the main purpose ‘to discern gifts’, and he shows up at the office less than once per week. It is pretty obvious also that this is an attempt to validate only those who feel NYYM is important, as those who are chosen and financially supported to travel to Monthly Meetings and give their testimony. Monthly Meetings in the manner of decentralized Friends traditionally have given minutes, release and financial support to their members to travel widely.
- Has the NYYM office moved to a less expensive and more central location? No.
- Has NYYM found a less expensive site for its annual meeting? No.
- Is money going to current NYYM rent / electricity which is not reported in the treasurer’s report? Yes.
- In addition to the rent/electricity, are there more misappropriations in the NYYM approved budgets, and misrepresentations in the NYYM Treasurer’s reports? Yes.
- Is the annual Budget Saturday meeting still held in a place where the least number of people can attend? Yes.
- Has anyone questioned the now in 2009, more expensive bookkeeping service? Not sure.
- Has anyone been able to see the Financial Management Guidelines which would show transparency into how the bookkeeping gets done with the cooperation of the paid employees of NYYM office? Probably not, it’s a secret only the select few can know.
- Have Friends asked the tough questions of NYYM? It doesn’t appear so.
- Have the select few continued to nominate themselves into the positions of power – Personnel, Audit, Clerk of General Services, General Secretary’s Committee? Making progress, but far from home.
Going on: The Associate General Secretary does not supervise the office and it is dubious as to how often she shows up at the office and what if anything, other than organize the annual meeting on paper instead of through automation of the registration process, she does. Don’t question this however, or you’ll be shamed and called a racist, and by the way, Racism is a very, very, very important issue (to help obscure what is really going on with your money).
The good news is that the scales of justice are slowly coming home to balance a group of the overweight few. This movement began when Friends got together in Albany for the Budget Saturday meeting in September 2004 and began what is now called ‘Covenant Donations’ or ‘Bottom-up Financing’ which is in the true decentralized manner of Friends NYYM has been in padded budget deficit for the past 3 out of 4 years due to this, but the ‘pain’ of this has shown Padded means it continues to ‘say’ it needs X amount, takes in Y amount, and actually spends Z amount. Let’s put this in a simple index format for Friends to understand what happens with your money for the past 20 years straight.
Monthly Meetings eventually “Actually give Y” = $ 95.
NYYM “Actually Spends Z” = $ 90.
It was and still is a process of lies (oh, I mean bullshit) and passive aggression on the part of those in the Monthly Meetings who knew they were lies (I mean bullshit).
More continuing concern is that the new Clerk of the Financial Services Committee didn’t bring the expenses more into line with the Clerks of Coordinating Committees in June of this year. He should have done this to avoid the ‘crisis’ that looms this November when Friends can actually go to the meeting will rubber stamp whatever happens behind the scenes. The Clerk of Financial Services really has a tough, thankless job, having much responsibility (to balance the budget) but not much authority (to do so). The Financial Services Committee really has no teeth, and it has no experienced members who are fodder for the Clerk of General Services who is ostensibly still ‘running’ the show.
The hippie generation, the Aquarians, or more generally called, the Baby-Boomers, in NYYM are those who feel entitled to continue to prop up a dead horse by drawing resources to themselves are also the same generation which has gotten the United States and the world into an economic crisis. These are economically entitled, vain, selfish people with not enough going on in their personal lives to keep them out of self aggrandizing ministry and church politics.
So, the question remains. Bail Out NYYM in 2009? NAY. Monthly Meetings’ first responsibility is to fund themselves and their local activities - not to bail out the wider government (especially one which is unresponsive, insulated and self-serving). The issue involved here is to make NYYM more efficient with less resources, because real change happens locally – where the resources of time, talent and money are best spent.
Is there really CHANGE coming to NYYM? NYYM is still doing the same things, calling them something different, and expecting a different result. We’ll end on a positive note with the answer: It’s a DEFINITE MAYBE