What $1.3 million could buy

Update. A press piece yesterday by Jane Greer at UUWorld.org notes the likely maximum is $615,000 — perhaps the first source heard a report rather than reading one — making $1.23 million.

So the UUA Board of Trustees, in a special meeting last night, passed a resolution commending this year’s General Assembly to move the 2012 General Assembly away from Phoenix, Arizona. Cancellation costs are put at $650,000 (official details would be nice; a running complaint of mine) and that’s higher than I thought. The resolution reputedly says — it’s still not online at UUA.org — an equal amount for ARAOM (antiracist antioppression multicultural) work there. So the board resolution has a call for fund-raising, too.

I’m stunned. A call for raising $1.3 million, in this economic climate, rings like “drill, baby, drill.” Didn’t we just have a discussion about cutting staff positions and consolidating departments a month ago? The Commission on Appraisal can’t merit $35,000 but this decision — made too quickly to be called considered (or transparent) — hopes to shift almost forty times as much.

So what does $1.3 million mean?

  • It would fund about 22 positions — with taxes and estimated benefits — at a $45,000 base salary for a year
  • Or rent about 26,000 square feet of fine office space (in the D.C. market, which I know a bit) for a year
  • Pay for the entire cost of education of 8 or 10 ministerial students at a top-flight school — without scholarships
  • Consume the “fair share” of more than 22,000 Unitarian Universalists
  • (I’d compare this sum to the current UUA budget, but after looking for it for 15 minutes at UUA.org, I gave up.)

    In short, I hope there’s a meaningful action to kill the Arizona law in time to avert General Assembly action. Otherwise, I don’t know how the shortfall could be made up.

    This hill needn’t be the one we die on.

    12 Replies to “What $1.3 million could buy”

    1. Details with hopefully be shared with soon. What’s exciting about this decision is that it puts something with huge budgetary impact back into the GA Delegates’ hands. Perhaps we do learn from our past troubles. The delegates wanted racial justice and empowerment (I bet we still do) and voted for supporting that at another moment in UUA development when times were tight. I suspect part of the conversation will include who and how we’ll ask, so that we don’t have to make further cuts. The cost probably reflects not just deposits made that may be lost, but the costs of booking a new site. This returns us to the thorny subject of the costs of these annual meetings, and why we continue the conversation of holding them.

    2. Historically the GA usually makes $$$ promises that the member congregations don’t keep, ending with the UUA looking bad,. I will be pessimistic toady and guess this will happen again.
      Each church would have to pay an additional $15 per member – counting the churches that can’t pay, we’ll say an additional $20 per member? (anybody got a better formula? or am i off base?)
      $20 doesnt sound like a lot – but I hear that churches are having trouble with the budget currently?
      If GA passes this, what are we going to do if we dont raise this money? What do we cut then?
      would we cancel GA that year?
      Are delegates who vote for this, personally or morally responsible for fund raising?

    3. Re: What’s exciting about this decision is that it puts something with huge budgetary impact back into the GA Delegates’…

      I don’t share that excitement about putting big budget items in these folk’s hands.

    4. I’m also worried that this is a psychic replay of the ever-present 1968 GA — that took place a full year before I was born.

    5. According to the latest “Standing On The Side Of Love” email, North Carolina- the 2011 GA- is on the verge of passing an identical law later this year. If the GA votes to boycott AZ next month, what do we do if the law passes in NC? From my experience in convention organizing, the penalties for cancellation become much higher as you get closer to the date; plus, there probably wouldn’t be time to book another city- we’d have to cancel altogether.

    6. @Joel. The closest precedent I know of would be one of the wartime (WWII) Unitarian assemblies, which met pro forma. In Boston, I think.

    7. Who, exactly, has the moral authority to call for a boycott? Those lines were clear in various historical examples of successful boycotts. Is there a valid call, by the people targeted by this law, or an organization that can be said to represent them (not hold the same opinion as them, but are authorized to act as their agents) to take this action? Lacking that, boycotts are about inwardly-directed purity, not change in the world.

    8. If we’re there, we could stage one hell of a demonstration that might actually get some press.

      If we’re not there, no one is really going to notice.

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