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JACL National Board Faces Difficult Decisions ahead of July Confab

By May 10, 2024July 8th, 2024No Comments

A sizable budget deficit and calls for a statement on the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict chief among issues facing the organization.

By P.C. Staff

As the JACL gears up for its upcoming National Convention in Philadelphia July 10-14, its National Board met for its quarterly meeting via Zoom on April 27 to tackle pressing issues, including a sizable budget deficit and calls for a statement on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Since the start of the Israel-Hamas war, there has been a growing divide among the Japanese American community and increasing clamor for the JACL to call for an immediate ceasefire in the Middle East.

JACL Executive Director David Inoue addressed such concerns in his report, stating, “We remain in conversation with our various coalition partners on the impacts that the war in Palestine is having on Jewish, Muslim and Middle Eastern North African (MENA) communities. This is also in consideration of what has been happening with our NCAPA coalition, Nikkei4Palestine and the BDS petition.”

Speaking on behalf of their respective districts, several JACL governors voiced their concerns over JACL’s position in the matter.

MDC Gov. Eric Langowski introduced a resolution to advocate for a ceasefire in Gaza on behalf of his district in order to establish a framework for the organization so that JACL would not have confusion amongst its membership.

“We needed to have more framework as we head to convention to talk about this,” said Langowski. “People are asking us about this, and we want to at least have the direction we’re going and here’s what we have to say. I think it’s very difficult, and that’s very understandable, but I would like to see us have a framework to move ahead.”

Echoed IDC Gov. Lisa Olsen: “We do have such a gamut of opinions, and it is causing a few issues among some people in their opinions. It’s a very emotional issue, and the conversations are difficult.”

“The lack of an answer does look poor to some people, and by not releasing a statement, it looks like we’re not taking this issue seriously to some people,” said PSW Gov. Ryan Yoshikawa. “Unfortunately in my discussion, it’s not very clear as to what direction our members would like us to go.”

Said National President Larry Oda, “We’re trying to toe that line, and we have so many different opinions. Everyone sees something from their own perspective, and we’re trying to encompass all of those into our response, and I think what we can agree on is maybe not as JACL but personally we don’t want to see innocent civilians killed, and this is occurring on both sides.”

Following a seconded motion, the National Board voted overwhelmingly to accept the resolution and directed Inoue and his staff to issue a formal statement (see page 2 of this issue).

The meeting’s other primary issue was to gain approval of the proposed budget for the next biennium despite it reflecting a $400,000 budget shortfall due in large part to the deficit incurred following last year’s National Convention and lower-than-expected fundraising earnings forecasts.

During his presentation, Secretary/Treasurer Jonathan Okamoto asked, “How are we going to close this gap? Are you going to create more aspirational revenue or are we going to make some internal operational decisions to lower expenses. Which way does the board think is the best way?”

During the budget presentation by Okamoto and JACL Director of Finance/CFO Tom Fernandez, the following considerations were asked of the board as a means to decrease the shortfall: increase aspirational revenue goals, realign staff priorities to generate additional savings and alter National Convention events to generate additional savings.

Said Fernandez, “Estimated savings of shortening National Convention by one day would be $81,000 approximately in savings.”

“We would still have a convention, but we would not have a National Council session,” said Inoue. “We would have other programming, but chapters would not be obligated to send a delegate. … Fundamentally, we are an education organization, and if we are providing content that is of more interest to people, that can actually bring more people in.”

Inoue also emphasized the need for a development director to bring in more revenue, which was supported by VP of Planning and Development Gary Nakamura.

“A really good, competent fund development director should be bringing in not just his/her annual salary but maybe three times that,” said Nakamura.

Following more discussion, the National Board tasked Inoue, Okamoto and Fernandez with assembling its finance suggestions to draft a new proposed budget, one that would be presented and voted upon during a National Board call on May 1.