A funny thing happened on my way to the last North Coast Unit meeting. The reason isn’t important here, but instead of being in place almost an hour before the meeting I signed on slightly late. And I’m the president, so that was a problem: members were waiting for me to start the meeting on Zoom!

Since NCU thinks of its meetings as a teaching tool, my tardiness provides a teachable moment. I’ll provide here a quick look at the parliamentary situation when the presider doesn’t show up.

The first line of defense in NCU, as in most organizations, is the vice-president. Like most presiders, I prepare a podium script which helps with the many predictable parts of the meeting; and I share it with the vice-president before the meeting. Normally, our VP would have used the script to start the meeting in my absence; however, this evening she was absent due to a medical procedure.

RONR1 (12th ed.) 3:6 identifies the presiding officer and secretary as the “minimum essential officers for the conduct of business.” Normally that presiding officer is the president, but under certain circumstances someone else serves as the presiding officer. RONR (12th ed.) 47:33 (11) states that the duties of the secretary include “In the absence of the president and vice-president, to call the meeting to order and preside until the immediate election of a chairman pro tem.” In this case, she didn’t need to do so: I was ready to preside before most assemblies would have been able to elect a chair pro tem; but that’s how the assembly would have solved the problem if I had been much later.

A couple of comments about this:

  • The podium script is a functional document, not a publication; but it makes sense to share it with the secretary as well as the VP. That way the secretary can share it with the chairman pro tem.
  • Some organizations would want to designate the secretary as the chair pro tem.2 However, the work of the secretary is critical to the meeting, and it would be difficult for one person to perform both roles. If the members elect the secretary as the chair pro tem, then his/her first act should be to preside over the election of a secretary pro tem.

Hopefully the situation won’t happen again in my term as NCU president; but if it does, or if it happens in other organizations you may belong to, I hope this article clarifies what happens. What is clear is that the absence of the president doesn’t mean that the meeting is canceled: the organization is bigger than the president.


  1. “RONR” is Rules of Order Newly Revised: parlispeak for what most folks call “Robert’s Rules.” The 12th is the current edition, published in 2020.
  2. There’s some logic to this: the secretary typically sits next to or near presiders and is familiar with the environment and many of the participants; but organizations typically don’t elect secretaries for their presiding skills, so some secretaries may not be comfortable in that role.

August’s Issue 1: Hypocritical and Corrupt

I posted the column that follows in the week before the August 8 special election, which had one item on the ballot. The thoughts below are about that issue, which was intended to tighten the requirements for citizen amendments to the Ohio constitution. I opposed that issue, and fortunately (in my view), it lost. Due to Ohio’s practice for numbering these issues, the reproductive freedom amendment on November’s ballot is also marked as Issue 1. That’s a separate topic from the post that appears here.

Democratic governance is about choosing lawmakers and holding them accountable. Accountability limits errors in judgment, abuse of authority, and the sort of material corruption that Ohioans saw so clearly in the First Energy bribery scandal. Gerrymandering permits Ohio’s General Assembly to avoid accountability and maintains a one-party supermajority. It wasn’t hyperbole last year when Senate President Matt Huffman told a newspaper, “We can kind of do what we want.”

Ohio voters thought they had fixed the problem. They passed constitutional amendments in 2015 and 2018 to reform Ohio’s redistricting process. But state officials managed to subvert those reforms in 2022, granting themselves two more years of unchecked power. That’s why “they can do what they want.”

Last year, what they wanted to do was to avoid August elections. Voter turnout was too low to be representative, they said. August elections were an unneeded expense, they said.

. . . Until the U.S. Supreme Court opened up the abortion issue, that is. Suddenly the prudent thing became an expensive, unrepresentative single-issue election they they could use to play to their base and mine donors for more contributions. Issue 1 in August is dandy for that.

Thing is, I don’t think it’s about abortion at all.1 Both sides in the Issue 1 campaign have focused on the upcoming November vote on a reproductive freedom amendment as the main issue. That’s an important issue, and it’s probably the issue that has donors contributing to both sides of the campaign. But while it’s a real issue, I suggest that it’s not the real issue. Some Issue 1 supporters want to save babies, but they all want to be re-elected, and Issue 1 has the potential to help them with that. I suggest that Issue 1 isn’t about babies: it’s about grownups.

Redistricting reform, probably headed for the ballot in 2024, has the potential to finally end one-party rule in Ohio, and Issue 1 would make its passage exponentially more difficult.

By scheduling Issue 1 for an August election which they had just recently branded as unrepresentative, Ohio’s legislative princes hope to forestall accountability not just now but for the foreseeable future.2

To fight corruption and promote accountability will take two elections. First, on Tuesday [August 8, 2023], we need to defeat Issue 1; then in the primary and general elections of 2024, we need to punish those responsible for this cynical power grab.


  1. I recognize that none of us ever really knows the state of someone else’s soul. I’m sure that some legislators are sincerely pro-life, but please permit some skepticism. I may be paranoid; but paranoia doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you.
  2. There may be good reasons to consider a change in how Ohioans amend their constitution. But just now? In a wasteful, imprudent August election? No.

Now They’ve Gone and Done It!

Now they’ve gone and done it! The Twinsburg Historical Society has invited me to give a talk on Wednesday, March 22. The title is “Organizations:
American Democracy’s
Secret Sauce.” (Unless I change it: I tend to fiddle with my presentations right up until showtime, which in this case is 7:00 p.m.)

The location is 8996 Darrow Road (route 91), Twinsburg, Ohio. You may recognize the building, which is shown above. The presentation is free and open to the public.

Continue reading “Now They’ve Gone and Done It!”