Michael Alexander, General Service Board Chairman
Monday - April 27, 1992Many, if not most, of you are aware that the General Service Office has had a bumpy ride in the past several years. The condition has persisted for 5, perhaps 6 years; and its origins go back 10 or 12 years.
As I said, many of you may know something of the situation. What you may not know is that this situation has been under close watch by the General Service Board, particularly in the past 2 or 3 years. In light of that scrutiny, the General Service Board has adopted some measures-cautiously, prudently and with enormous restraint.
It is not my purpose, nor will it serve a purpose for me, to unearth details of disappointing or disagreeable events. But I will touch upon a few conditions by way of illustration. These are matters of public record. In 1987, the General Service Office committed $1,000,000 for a computer, $1,000,000 for office refurbishing, $400,000 for an AA history, all this in a time of sharply rising costs for personnel and material. In the same year, the General Service Office reduced literature prices by 25%.
The result was predictable: The General Service Office had a deficit of $700,000 in 1988. It would have been worse but for the generous response from the groups, many of whom thought the General Service Office was in trouble financially.
The deficit was worse in 1989. It came to $1,200,000. That was bad enough. What was still worse, the General Service Office was not persuaded that corrective measures were necessary. They hoped to come through it all by business as usual. To some extent they were trying to reflect the wishes of the General Service Board as they understood them.
In July of 1989, a then deeply concerned General Service Board decided to intervene: The General Service Board directed the General Service Office to restore the literature price cuts. That was done at the end of 1989 and we have had no deficit since then.
But there are other conditions that we, at the General Service Board think are inherent in the system. For example, today we are faced with two critical conditions which cannot be ignored: One, unit sales of literature have decreased materially. Two, contributions from the fellowship are not keeping pace with our expectations; and the self-support message is sending mixed signals.
In an effort to address these conditions, and to get more information about them, the General Service Board determined a year and a half ago to have the General Manager report directly to them instead of indirectly through AAWS. We said, at the time, that the action was prompted by the need to open a direct line of communication between the general manager and the trustees, to facilitate essential review by the General Service Board and to relieve the AAWS Board of some of the burdens arising from the growth of the fellowship and the increasing demands for general service.
The General Service Board also appointed an Audit Committee, an Executive Committee and a Policy Committee, among other measures.
These steps took us in the right direction but it now appears they are not enough to help us reach the reasonable destination we have in mind-that is, to provide effective general service and affordable literature to the fellowship.
The General Service Board is considering a proposal to
This arrangement would be for a limited period of 9 months. It will cease at Conference time next year unless formally renewed with your consent. Next year, at this time, the Board would report on the arrangement to the Conference with such recommendations as the Board then wishes to make.
It has been suggested that the conditions of which I speak are the product of personnel and that if the personnel change the conditions will change. We don't think so. It has also been suggested that wholesale restructuring needs to be taken including, among other things, different terms of office for trustees, additional trustees on the service boards, all trustee service boards, elimination of paid employees from service boards. Again, we don't think so.
To the extent that we have any problem, it is a problem for the General Service Board to resolve. We think that there is no effective way we can draw the Conference as a whole in the solution. The Conference would have to observe what the trustees have been looking at and struggling with for nearly three years.
The work of the General Service (Office) is the direct responsibility of the General Service Board, legally and spiritually. We would like to exercise that responsibility in the manner I have described with your support and understanding. At the end of this week, on Friday afternoon to be exact, we will ask for a sense of the meeting. In between now and then you may have a question or two and if you do I guess you will ask a question or two.
In putting forward this proposal, we have been ever mindful of the history of A.A., the time honored ways in which we proceed and the Concepts. In the end, it was our consensus that something had to be done now and that something is the something I have described.
In a few moments you will hear from two other trustees. While listening to them and considering my remarks, I would like to have you keep in mind this picture if you will: On the one hand we have 21 trustees on the General Service Board who are legally and spiritually responsible for the general service work of the General Service Office. On the other hand we have 9 directors of A.A.W.S. who are overseeing that work as the agents of the 21 trustees. Under the agreement I have outlined, the 21 trustees would oversee the general service work instead of the nine directors. Four of the directors are trustees and so we would have their input in their capacity as trustees of the General Service Board. That means that for nine months, only the three non-trustee directors and 2 paid employees would be relieved of oversight responsibility of the service work of the General Service Office. But with the trustees on the A.A.W.S. Board and the five non-trustees on that board would continue as directors of A.A.W.S. At the end of nine months the experiment would end and the General Service Board would again report to the Conference but with more information on the subject.
Michael Alexander Chairman of the General Service Board of Alcoholics Anonymous