General Blather

By Rocky Entriken

Rocky is a freelance journalist who contributes a regular column to the Sports Car Club of America's Sports Car magazine, and is an active motorsports enthusiast participating in Road Racing, Autocross, and Rally events in the Midwest.

The changing face of SCCA's geography

Richard Welty kindly invited me to submit a column for his new North American Motorsports Pages. Actually, his exact words were, "I wouldn't mind general blather from you anyway," but then, he also promised the least possible compensation for such efforts. Hmmm, that would be zero, wouldn't it? Well, we hope Richard's efforts will turn a profit eventually, as well as being profitable for readers and browsers to help them keep up on North American Motorsport.

This column, as the title indicates, will be very general in nature, as well as being a forum wherein I may pontificate upon this or that in full realization the dismissive reaction may be, "jeez, what blather!" Indeed, the primary purpose of such an exercise, whether or not it finds agrement among readers, is to generate thought and discussion. And if that discussion takes the form of "Did you see the b.s. Rocky put out this month?" that's OK too if, in rejecting my views, you re-examine the reasons for your own. Of course, if you find my prose golden ... cool!

That said, I'm going to chew on something that has been bouncing around the nets the past month or so that could profoundly affect every member of the Sports Car Club of America -- the "Redistricting Proposals" that could determine where club racers, autocrossers and rallyists compete as we close out the Second Millennium and begin the Third.

If you are an SCCA member, you've seen the proposal on Page 10 of the January SportsCar magazine. Perhaps you've even sent in the postcard (erroneously labeled a "ballot;" it's a poll, not a vote, to gauge member preferences). If you haven't, go find that back issue and add your voice to those already received. It's important.

Four maps are shown in the proposal. Actually, there is a fifth map, the geography of SCCA as it exists today, because one of the five choices in the poll is "no change." If you do not have a map of 1997 SCCA, look at the map for Option B and imagine NEDiv (shown as proposed Area 1) cut up into three Areas -- New England/New York City, upstate New York, and the rest of NEDiv; also the proposed Areas 3 and 4 comprise what is now CenDiv's Areas 4 and 5. Other than that, the rest of the map is identical to today's SCCA except the Area numbers are different.

These proposals would redefine SCCA members' representation to the SCCA Board of Directors, who represent "Areas" rather than "Divisions," although currently the Areas are within Divisional boundaries. If memory serves, SCCA bylaws provide that there be at least nine and no more than 13 Directors. Currently there are 11, and they want to keep it an odd number. Any number less than nine or more than 13 would require a bylaws change. There is no suggestion currently for a higher number, but one of the proposals would create a board of just seven members. In any event new BOD chairman George Bovis has indicated that whether it involves a bylaws change or not, any major restructuring of SCCA's map would be put before the membership.

Now: what's good or bad about the proposals? (This comes with a heavy dose of IMHO, but I'll try to reflect what I've heard from other quarters as well.) Membership numbers quoted are as of April 30, 1996.

No Change: The current problem with today's map seems to be one of representation -- one man, one vote. Areas today range in population from 9,041 in Area 3 (SEDiv) to 1,888 in Area 8 (RMDiv). but biggest Division is CenDiv, with 12,484 members divided into two Areas, yet NEDiv's 10,962 members are divided into three Areas.

Now personally, I don't think one-man-one-vote should be the overriding concern in SCCA, but it is nevertheless a worthy ideal that should not be ignored entirely. This is not Congress determining how we are to be taxed, this is the BOD determining whether to make a weight adjustment to your car. We are not concerned here with the raising of armies, but with good competition. Frankly, whether there are more than 12,000 members in CenDiv and fewer than 2,000 members in RMDiv is irrelevant when the consideration is simply: Are we having fun yet?

Under the current map, we are having fun. People are racing, autocrossing and rallying in association with friends of long-standing familiarity. So, presumably, we can leave the map alone and continue having fun. That leaves the question of whether tinkering with the map can improve the representation matter without screwing up the fun.

RMDiv is lightly populated. Probably that will just have to be accepted, although I hear plaints from NPDiv about the "Rocky Mountain problem." This is a Division of 7,500 members looking at a Division of 1.900 members. But NPDiv by itself is not the largest of Divisions. It is, in fact, fourth on the list of eight Divisions. But currently it is the second-largest Area (after SEDiv).

NEDiv has three Directors with less population than CenDiv which has two (and one NEDiv Area has about the same population as RMDiv). Looks like room for a reduction there. The next question is, if NEDiv loses one, to keep an odd number who gains one? Probably SEDiv, which stands as the next-largest Division. More on that later.

Option A: The current competition Divisions do not change, but Areas no longer would hew to Divisional boundaries. There would be nine Directors. NEDiv, SEDiv and CenDiv each get two Directors with one of CenDiv's also taking in a bit of RMDiv. MiDiv, SEDiv and part of RMDiv share one Director in an Area that looks like the Louisiana Purchase plus the Republic of Texas. The rest of RMDiv shares a Director with SPDiv. How strange that RMDiv, the smallest Division, gets split three ways! In that way, RMDiv basically has no single voice looking out for its interests (the voting strength would be centered in Los Angeles, Chicago and Dallas). And as a member of MiDiv, I loathe the idea of sharing "our" Director with two other Divisions. Even Congress, much more strictly aligned to one-man-one-vote, does not demand that Wyoming share a congressman with South Dakota and Montana.

Option B: There would be nine Directors, elected strictly along Divisional boundaries. CenDiv would be split into two Divisions to create the odd number of nine. At first glance, I liked this best, but the rumblings I hear from CenDiv is that they may not care to be divided. And one thing I strongly believe is that if CenDiv does not agree to divide it should not be forced to do so.

I see pluses for CenDiv, looking in from beyond its borders. I see a track- rich Division that annually scrambles for race dates, and frequently schedules races (Regionals, anyway) in conflict with one another. Obviously, the membership base is there that such conflicts are not much of a problem. But just the simple task of assigning car numbers becomes difficult. With so many drivers the remaining choices are few in popular classes. The split, basically down the Illinois/Indiana border, would leave two Divisions, each with a healthy member base of 5,000 to 7,500 members, and each with enough tracks for a strong racing program.

Oh, but tracks like Brainerd and Road America are so heavily booked we couldn't get more races on them, it has been said. You'd be amazed. RMDiv used to be part of MiDiv and we annually fought over conflicts between dates in St. Louis and Colorado, to cite an example. After the split, we looked forward to easier scheduling. Well, it was. But lo, the calendar quickly filled again and it was a struggle to pare it from 11 Nationals to nine. Also, there are proposals for new tracks in CenDiv that will just exacerbate the scramble for dates there.

But if they like it that way, that is their business. Certainly, their races, autocrosses and rallies are huge by comparison to the rest of SCCA.

Options C1 and C2: These two options both completely re-draw the Divisional boundaries, nine under C1, seven under C2. Longtime associations are tossed aside for geographic convenience that is hardly convenient at all. Here in MiDiv, for example, C1 takes away tracks at St. Louis and Memphis in trade for Colorado. Drivers going to St. Louis had but a 5-hour run down I-70 from Kansas City, and easy diagonal up I-44 from Oklahoma. Now they'd have a 10- hour drive to Colorado from KC, and a long dogleg through Kansas (no direct diagonal) from Oklahoma. Bad trade.

The C2 option is even worse for MiDiv, which loses Oklahoma entirely. Hallett, the second-closest track for much of MiDiv, is no longer in the Division. Sitting in the middle of MiDiv, I'd lose a 3.5-hour drive to Hallett in trade for an 8-hour drive to the Colorado tracks. Bad trade.

Members in New Mexico similarly lose the relatively short run up I-25 to the Colorado tracks and instead are assigned the longer tows to southern California. Utah, which elected to join RMDiv when it was created, is reassigned to its old haunts in SPDiv. The east and west coasts are little affected geographically. C1 does give St. Louis and Memphis to western CenDiv which could be a plus for them, and gaining Hallett and Memphis for track-poor SWDiv under C2 could be a plus for them.

But do the members want it? Much of the SCCA map today has been redrawn as a result of specific member preference. Mississippi Region moved from SWDiv to MiDiv a couple of years ago because it made more competition sense. A few years earlier, Arkansas returned to MiDiv for the same reason.

If either of the C options was mandated, how long before individual regions would be petitioning to move to a different Division and we'd end up with something resembling the same map we have today?

THE OPTION NOT SHOWN: Keep in mind that the maps displayed in SportsCar are only proposals. They are there not as the only choices, but to generate discussion and response. Send that postcard. If you have other ideas, send a letter.

Here's an Other Idea that has come out of some of the discussion on the nets. It is beautiful in its simplicity, deftly avoids screwing up the competition Divisions, and still addresses the representation issue without the horror of having Areas cross Divisional boundaries.

Reduce NEDiv from three Directors to two. Divide SEDiv into two Areas.

That's it.

NEDiv's two Areas would have populations of 4,700 and 6,200 members. SEDiv's two Areas would have populations of about 4,500 each. The largest Areas would be NPDiv and eastern CenDiv, both about 7,500. There would be no Area with more than 10,000 members. RMDiv's 1,900 would always be the smallest Area in population, but stretching from Canada to Mexico it would not be disfranchised by having to share a Director with another Division (a Director likely elected from a large population base outside of RMDiv).

If you are electing a Congressman, a key question may well be "how much am I going to be taxed?" If you are electing an Area Director, a key question may well be, "how far do I have to tow?" Thus, in this member-driven club that is SCCA, geographic boundaries historically have been more a driving force than population density.

What do you think? Don't tell me -- this is just General Blather. Discuss it in Regional meetings and at events. Tell your Area Director. And send in that postcard; a letter too, if you have a better idea. I'm just one voice of many. You are The Many.

Rocky Entriken

This article copyright 1997 by Rocky Entriken. All Rights Reserved.

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