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Western Conference Negotiations

By John Grossmann
WC Board Member

I  understand some folks are confused about the future direction of District 17 and the Western Conference related to publications and STAC games. It is indeed a complicated subject, and we promised we would keep you updated.
Background:
The Western Conference was formed many decades ago to promote bridge, coordinate tournament schedules, and publish the Contract Bridge Forum. Most recently, the WC has comprised Districts 22 and 21 in California and our own D17. The single biggest expenditure, about a one-quarter of a million dollars, is related to publishing, printing, mailing and postage for  the Forum.
[Ed. Note: That cost is for 22,500 copies of the Forum mailed to the three member districts monthly: D17 (8500), D21 (7500), and D22 (6500) households.]
The WC annual budget is funded by page purchases by the three districts, regional tournament sanction fees, STAC profits, and Forum advertising. About a year ago, District 17 objected to an increase in sanction fees. A Blue Ribbon Committee was formed to examine the WC finances and to recommend changes. That committee recommended a digital/paper hybrid delivery system for the Forum to save $60,000. When that change was rejected, District 17 voted to leave the Western Conference. Subsequently, District 22 also voted to leave.
WC Update
The Western Conference Board (I am now serving on this board in addition to the D17 Board) has had a few meetings to consider various options for the future. The WC has decided that as of April 2018 they will deliver the Contract Bridge Forum as a flipbook digital publication, replicating the existing tabloid newspaper format. Going digital annually will trim about $110,000, because printing and postage are eliminated. The WC will also switch to video conference meetings to save $4000. After these changes, the net cost to District 17 would be just under $30,000 per year, a big reduction in cost compared to a year ago.
D17 Update
A committee of six board members has been working on “Plan B,” how we could operate if we left the Western Conference. It starts with a bi-monthly digital publication available on desktop, tablet, or smart phone. ACBL uses Nxtbook as its digital vendor, and this vendor has a great multi-platform product called PageRaft that we are likely to use. We may add a short email update on the months when we don’t publish. We will also update and use the district website for communications. If D17 leaves the WC, we will lose access to our fair share of the STAC profits. District 17 would probably run its own STACs. After credits for advertising and STAC profits, the net cost to D17 of the digital publication plan is essentially zero.
The D17 Board has assumed that going digital is inevitable because of the high cost of printing and postage. D17 has two different paths to consider.
Each of the three districts must now re-evaluate if they want to continue as part of the Western Conference. The D17 final vote will probably be held at the Albuquerque meeting in mid-January. Your board will have a received an email summarizing the two options by the time you have read this article. Feel free to contact me at Blackstone.co@comcast.net or talk with your D17 representative about your questions and concerns.