SAM SLOAN'S JUNE 2009 MAILING
by Bill Goichberg
Sam Sloan has sent a yellow postcard to some voters which claims to be from the "Committee to Elect Sam Sloan to the USCF Executive Board." A large percentage of the claims that Sloan makes on this card are false or misleading.
Sloan says, "I pledge to restore the USCF to what it once was a few years ago and to start mailing either Chess Life or Chess Life for Kids to ALL regular members." However, regular members have voluntarily chosen to receive their magazine only in online form in order to pay lower dues. If USCF starts sending paper magazines to all its regular members, we will incur tens of thousands of dollars in additional expense with no compensating additional revenue.
Sloan says, "I will work to reverse recent Board decisions and to guarantee that Life Members receive Chess Life for the rest of their lives." But the recent Board decision regarding Life Member publications, approved February 21, 2009 had exactly the effect that Sloan is calling for, so why would he wish to reverse it? The Board approved giving Life Members a choice between premium benefits with a paper magazine and regular benefits with an online magazine only (plus a paper TLA Bulletin), with the intention of asking them to reconfirm this choice approximately every three years. So Life Members who wish to receive a paper Chess Life need only to request this. A significant number of Life Members are selecting the regular (online magazine only) option, which will save USCF a lot of money. Sloan quotes the March Chess Life as saying that premium benefits for life members are guaranteed only through 2010, but fails to mention that due to the Board vote of Feb 21, this wording was changed in the April, May or June issues, and each indicates that life members are guaranteed the premium option permanently.
Sloan says, "In 2003, the USCF had 95,000 members. Now, there are only 77,000 members. We have lost 4,000 members in just the last three months!!!" The most recent member total is 77,807 and if one is going to round this figure rather than quote it exactly, 78,000 seems more appropriate rounding than 77,000. Still, in March 2003 we had 95,388, so there has been a loss of 17,581 members between March 2003 and June 2009. Sloan clearly wants the reader to believe that this loss is due to "current mis-management," however he fails to point out that on Sept 1, 2005, the first membership count after I became USCF President, we had 78,810 members. So of those 17,581 members lost, 16,578 of them had already been lost under previous Presidents! Likewise, when Executive Director Bill Hall took over in June 2005, we had 80,334 members, so not a big drop in the four years since. The real story here is that we were losing members at an alarming rate for several years before the summer of 2005 and that under current leadership, these losses have been virtually stopped, resuming somewhat only during the severe recession of the past year which has caused many schools to cut back on their chess programs.
But what about "We have lost 4,000 members in just the last three months!!!" ? Like most Sloan statements, this one is both false and misleading. It is false because the actual loss during these three months (3/1/09 to 6/1/09) was 3209. Another example of Sloan's curious method of rounding off numbers- 77,807 becomes 77,000 yet 3209 becomes 4000!
However, should we be alarmed about losing 3209 members in only three months? March 1 to June 1 is historically a seasonally weak period for USCF membership numbers, as the following records show:
USCF membership losses, March 1-June 1
2003 Lost 4751 members
2004 Lost 3906 members
2005 Lost 4130 members
2006 Lost 3268 members
2007 Lost 2349 members
2008 Lost 2422 members
2009 Lost 3209 members
So the loss this year was greater than 2007 or 2008, but not enormously so, and smaller than each of the previous four years. And there is good reason to believe the main cause is cutbacks in school chess programs, as adult membership during this period has declined only by 97 members.
Sloan says, "The operating loss this year is over $400,000." This is far from true, as donations and bequests are considered part of current income.
Sloan says, "I was on the board for one year in 2006-2007. That was the only year since 1995 that the USCF did not show a loss in real money. That was the only year since 1996 that there has been an increase in membership. Membership increased by 8,000."
The year 2006-2007 was a fairly good one for USCF, no thanks to Sloan who was censured several times by his fellow board members and was rarely on the prevailing side of a contested Executive Board vote. However, it is false that USCF showed losses in every other year since 1995. In each of 2003-2004 and 2004-2005, USCF had a surplus of over $200,000, and that's without including the building sale and land gift recorded in 2004-2005, which if included would have dramatically increased that surplus. As for membership increasing by 8,000, this is even more curious Sloan arithmetic than his unusual rounding methods, as membership actually increased by 1,785 from 9/1/06 to 9/1/07, going from 78,479 to 80,264.