First, I want to exhort all members to vote. I do this every election issue, but time and again Guy Soucy’s election report that details the final results shows a minority of TRA members who cast votes. If you look through this issue and examine the candidates, you will see a field of five fine, honorable, and qualified candidates. They deserve consideration, and Tripoli deserves good leaders. PLEASE take the time to read the résumés and cast your vote (make sure you answer the “electronics delivery” question as well). As everyone knows, the times are very difficult right now, and every Board member will have his work cut out for him. My sincere thanks to all five men who have resolved to support Tripoli for three years in the role of Board member. Of course, only three will be chosen, but all five deserve a pat on the back (and a beer or two on me) for showing the fortitude to “have a go.”
President Dick Embry outlined in the previous TR his approach to getting things done. So far, I would say that this approach is working pretty well. I can honestly say that I feel as though I now have more things to do for Tripoli than I did before. There is no doubt in my mind now (if there ever was) that there is no one person, however heroically that person works, that can carry the entire load of organizational needs. At least not and still hold down a full time job.
This is a never ending topic, not only for TRA but for most outside organizations, businesses, etc. There is always a perception that communication needs to improve. And maybe it always does. We now have a TRA private e-forum, and there is undoubtedly more real-time communication going on among members, and among members and the Board, than there ever was before. And although it seems most members feel that communications are improving, you will still get plenty of feedback that they still aren’t good. Who is right? Maybe that’s not the question. The real question may be whether a process for continued improvement has been implemented. Yes, I may be biased, but I think it has. The very existence of the TRA forum and my personal (sometimes overwhelming) role of being the point person for the Board on the forum I think supports my view. And if you take a look at the announcement of the new IT Committee (page 15) you will see that much or most of what the group will be working on is expedited communication projects. I’ll caution all members to try to be understanding as we roll these projects out. There is clearly a great deal of work to be done, and only so much time that each volunteer can devote
Legal and Legislative
We could devote a whole issue to this, covering what actions have been taken, how our world has changed, and where we go from here. We all know now the grim impact of the HSA/SEA legislation. Hopefully the vast majority of TRA members rallied to the support of Senator Enzi’s leadership in drafting legislation that will give us some legislative relief. That battle is well underway and progress appears to be real. Thanks to all who wrote letters to get your senators on board, and thanks to those who have written or who are writing comments on the ATFE NPRM material. We cannot let up on any of this. The ATFE will count on us to grow tired and slack off. They know this is all “extra effort” for all of us, done in our spare time, while in their case, this is what they get paid for. We must keep up the pressure. We have had an obvious effect on Congress, so we must continue to persevere.
Interestingly, and frustrating to all involved, our legal battle is at the point of no immediate action. We have filed all the appropriate papers, made all the motions, responded to everything the ATFE has filed... and it’s now in a judge’s hands. It has been this way for some months now. Our legal counsel cannot just call up the judge and bug him to make a decision. We are on his clock now, and although we can make some limited inquiries, we have to wait. And it’s not a comfortable wait either.
I won’t pull punches here: we are not exactly rolling in funds right now. Here are the general problems - insurance cost has gone up dramatically, and we have not raised dues to keep up. Also, the legal battle costs have outstripped legal donations. No one wants to raise dues, particularly in a time of declining membership. Yes, and that’s another problem area. Why is it declining? There are no doubt several reasons, some of which I can glean from national member input (some via TRA HQ), and anecdotal evidence from my local role of prefect. I have had members tell me that due to motor shortages, a bad economy, and an uncertain regulatory situation, that they want to just hold off on rocketry expenditures for now. Clearly this must also hurt rocketry vendors. The really sad thing is that I have also heard members say “Well if TRA cannot guarantee I can fly rockets this year, I’m not going to support you.” It is my sincere hope and belief that the majority of TRA members don’t look at the situation this selfishly and expect such guaranteed gratification. We are fighting for our rights, and no one said it would be easy. To choke off support during our time of deep need, while our organization fights for our ability to keep HP rocketry alive for everyone, is not what true Tripolitans ought to be doing right now.
The Board is working hard to get additional finances, looking for ways to save costs, and to keep our battles going. To this end the IT Committee will be looking for ways to make electronics work in lieu of paper. Even this issue is deliberately smaller than I would have liked it to be. For example, in the last TR we published many pages of court papers, and promised to publish more. So far, we have only published about 1/3rd of the total; it is clear that it was going to be very costly to continue to provide them to our members this way, so we held off for this issue. I will be working to provide these electronically in the next several weeks, possibly via the website.
I don’t want to leave everyone with a flavor of gloom and doom. I think we are in the tough times right now, but I see that with responsible management, careful steps, and support of the members, we will emerge from these dark times in good shape. In fact, I feel we have a very good chance of being stronger as a result of these trials. I have already seen a great deal of organizational improvement in the past few years, and once we get our ATFE problems resolved, the future of HP rocketry will look better than it ever did.