13 April 2006

Who's in charge here?

What is it with politicians? Are they so hell-bent on self-preservation that they neglect to remember the reason they're in power to begin with? Or is it that those who have come to grips with their own mortality (and therefore the fact that they are, in fact, replaceable) tend to avoid the political arena?

I've been racing for going on 5 years now. I used to be so afraid of "getting a license" that it kept me from exploring the racing scene for years. Then Kim helped convince me that a license wasn't an end, it was a beginning, and so I went ahead and became a Cat. 5, just in time to take on Snake Alley in the pouring rain.

And for the past 5 years, I've been fairly happy with the way things have gone at USCF. I do have an ABR license, and I race ABR time trials and the occasional crit, but for someone who grew up dreaming of "being a bike racer," the only license that really matters is the one that's affiliated with the USOC and the UCI. I managed to avoid the massive schism that happened in the early '90s by being fat and out of shape, so I also missed the financial difficulties and the mess that was happening in Colorado Springs.

What I didn't miss, however, and what I have been quietly supporting for the past few years, was an improvement in the way USCF does business. Five years ago, I had to mail in my renewal each February, I received a rule book in the mail, and in general my communications with the governing body were pretty hit-or-miss. But then Gerard Bisceglia took over, and things looked to be going in the right direction. On-line registration happened. Rule books were no longer printed, saving us money. Renewals were standardized to the end of the calendar year. Membership rolls began to grow.

It wasn't perfect. There are still some major grumblings on the regional level, mostly as a fallout of the debacle of the 90s reorganization. There are still some pretty stupid things that tended to happen (like scheduling a new money race on top of an established state championship, but I won't mention any names). And I have no idea just how much Bisceglia had to do with any of it; I just know that from my perspective, it seemed like he was trying to do right by the membership -- the riders.

He got canned last week. No one is really sure why, least of all him. I won't go into it here -- it's been covered in other places in much more detail than I have. But then, out of the blue, the membership got "an open letter" this week from the new guy in charge, the one who used to be COO. And check this out -- in one fell swoop, he discredits Bisceglia, and takes away any accomplishments he may have made (emphasis mine):

In light of the recent change in management at USA Cycling, I would like to assure all of you that we intend to stay the course with our current programs and will continue to work on many new, exciting programs and member benefits. The real strength of USA Cycling comes from you, our members, working together with your Local Associations and promoters, along with our dedicated staff, to grow and improve American cycling. In fact, many of the recent improvements, from the local Association and NORBA promoter incentive programs to the enhancements of the website to the creation of effective new athlete programs, have been staff-driven initiatives. Over the past few years, USA Cycling has augmented the staff, encouraged their creativity and supported their ideas in order to serve you better.
I don't know about you, but to me that sounds like a whole lot of mud-slinging, albeit in a nice tone of voice. But it's still mud-slinging. It may be true. These may have all been "staff-driven initiatives." But to basically say your predecessor did nothing for 4 years? Wow, that's some serious CYA.

The new guy got his due on VeloNews yesterday. He reiterates his stance that most of the improvements were staff-driven, then goes on to say that we need to view USCF as a stakeholder organization, not a shareholder organization. Which is to say that it's not one-member, one-vote -- it's voting based on influence. Which makes sense ... except that aren't the people determining the influence levels also the ones putting themselves in charge? (Incidentally, this is repeated at the local level -- in one of the first Illinois Cycling Association [ICA] meetings, it was suggested that there be an athlete representative on the board. That idea lasted about 10 seconds, despite popular support, once the regional rep voiced his objection. The membership [the athletes] just aren't the influencers here.)

I don't know what Bisceglia did or didn't do. I'm reading but not really paying attention to the incestuous relationship of those in charge in Colorado. And you know what? I have a feeling that most of my fellow racers don't care. They just want to race their bikes, and be able to sign up for and utilize the services USA Cycling and USCF have to offer in an easy-to-use, hassle-free manner. If all these improvements are truly staff-driven initiatives, nothing will change. But if not, this may finally be the long goodnight that started 15 years ago.



Anonymous said...

Don't buy sushi, the Moonies give all their money to Bush.

Chris said...

I'm convinced the heirs of Sam Walton own the world. But you didn't hear that from me.

Steve Driscoll said...

Chris, since holding a racing license since 1983, I've seen them come, go, get bounced, and they are all meatheads in my mind. Once they treat the USCF like a business, and the racers and promoters like customers, only then will things improve!

Sam Walton's ghost lives!