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Earnest responds to VeloNews Editorial

The September 3 issue of VeloNews included an editorial supporting one of several propositions that appear on the annual election ballots mailed to voting members of USA Cycling. While the editors of the magazine have expressed support for Proposition A, we welcome comment from those who might hold a different opinion. Les Earnest, the primary author of Proposition B took advantage of our offer to present his views. VeloNews editorial on Propositions A and BBy Les Earnest, co-author of Proposition BThe 9/3/01 issue of VeloNews contains an editorial recommending the adoption of Proposition A

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The September 3 issue of VeloNews included an editorial supporting one of several propositions that appear on the annual election ballots mailed to voting members of USA Cycling. While the editors of the magazine have expressed support for Proposition A, we welcome comment from those who might hold a different opinion. Les Earnest, the primary author of Proposition B took advantage of our offer to present his views.

VeloNews editorial on Propositions A and B

By Les Earnest, co-author of Proposition B

The 9/3/01 issue of VeloNews contains an editorial recommending the adoption of Proposition A in the current election. The editors have a right and, arguably, an obligation to make a recommendation to their readers on the important question of how USA Cycling should be organized in the future, but they also have an obligation use accurate facts when taking a position. The “facts” cited in the editorial are erroneous, and the recommendation should therefore be suspect. 1. The Voters have three, not two, choices in the current election regarding how USA Cycling will be organized in the future: Prop. A, Prop. B or continue with the existing structure. The VeloNews editorial doesn’t address the “continue” option. 2. After praising the role of the USA Cycling Development Foundation (USACDF) in advancing the sport of cycling the editorial says, “Because of this pivotal point, the relative strengths of the boards, we support Proposition A.” Propositions A and B allocate exactly the same voting strength on the board of directors to USACDF, namely one-fifth of the seats. No difference there. 3. The editorial goes on to say “Proposition B does shift voting power back to the members. But it also puts the bulk of legislative responsibility in the hands of an annual House of Delegates meeting and turns the board into a toothless racing rules committee, with no power to hire, fire or even ask for an audit.” That is incorrect. Under Proposition B the board has all the power it has ever had, including complete control over the policies of the organization and the ability to hire, fire and audit. Under Proposition B, the House of Delegates will perform exactly the same functions that the annual Meeting of Members does now. The most important function will continue to be reviewing and deciding on proposed changes to the Articles of Incorporation, which specify the general structure of the organization and allocations of voting strengths. The House will not be able to hire or fire and policy management will remain firmly in the hands of the board of directors. There are two very important differences between Propositions A and B:(a) Under Prop. A, 11 of 15 directors would represent commercial or professional cycling interests who make up less than 1 percent of the licensees while under Prop. B those same interests would get 4 out of 10 seats on the board with the other 6 seats being elected by the general membership, on a regional basis;(b) Under Prop. A the board of directors will be given the additional authority to amend the Articles of Incorporation and will therefore be empowered to reallocate representation and political power within the organization, including their own, whereas Prop. B leaves control of this important organizational matter in the hands of an independent body, the House of Delegates that will meet once a year to publicly debate and vote on the issues.Which kind of structure do you think will better serve the interests of the sport of cycling and its participants? 4. What the Voting Members need to understand is that Proposition A does exactly what the Board of Directors surreptitiously tried to do in 1999 and which was declared void by a court of law. 5. What VeloNews seems to believe is that the failure to adopt Proposition A will cause USACDF to withdraw its support of USA Cycling. USACDF is the brainchild of Thomas Weisel, a successful investment banker in San Francisco who has contributed a lot to the sport of cycling and reportedly played a pivotal role in the formation of the U.S. Postal Service team. However, his contributions have come at a price. USACDF has also taken on another role, as a political action committee to ensure the continuing control of USA Cycling by commercial and professional cycling interests. Given that USACDF has been politicized and mobilized by Weisel to round up votes in support of Prop. A and to defeat Prop. B, it is reasonable to wonder whether he will withdraw his support and participation in USA Cycling if Prop. B is adopted. Note however that Weisel will be able to regain his seat on the board if either Prop. A or Prop. B passes, Should it really matter to him which way he gets there? Based on his actions, it apparently does matter. Note that USACDF and USA Cycling, which are supposedly separate nonprofit corporations, have been welded together. Steve Johnson, who is the Executive Director of USACDF, is also the Chief Operating Officer of USA Cycling and is running both organizations. One must question whether Johnson can wear separate hats and has kept that separation when it comes to the involvement of USAC staff in the election process. I believe that the proper role of the staff is to provide good administration, not to engage in political activities in support of one faction. If Prop. A passes or if neither A nor B passes, we can expect more of the same. Weisel will remain as the new strongman of USA Cycling, replacing the fading Mike Plant, and can be expected to continue running it so as to benefit the commercial interests that have controlled USA Cycling since it was formed seven years ago. If Prop. B passes, all participants in the sport will have significant representation on the board of directors and Weisel will be able to continue contributing as a partner, if he chooses, but not as a czar. While the editors may sincerely believe that commercial interests should dominate the sport, it is up to the Voting Members, most of who receive no benefit from commercial interests and end up contributing more than they receive in benefits. While Weisel and his colleagues in USACDF might be willing to pump more money into USA Cycling in order to keep it going under their control, I believe that the organization will be worse off financially and functionally in the long run because it is very unlikely that the breakaway racing associations will reconnect to an organization in which they have no voice, and there will surely be more breakaway organizations which will form in the future. I believe that the path toward a healthy future lies in the direction of Prop. B with or without Weisel and USACDF. This will restore democratic representation on the board of directors, who in turn can be expected to bring in a staff of administrators who do not function as political shills but do work to support all aspects of the sport. This will take time but will lead to a much stronger and productive organization. I call upon the editors of VeloNews to reexamine this issue and make a recommendation based on facts rather than erroneous claims.

Les Earnest