From the President's Desk - 2012 in Review

The Executive and the Constitution Committees continue to be preoccupied by the Society’s governance issues and CNCA compliance. Under normal circumstances, the Constitution Committee has little to do, since Society and Centre By-Laws usually change only rarely. However, the last several years of sweeping modifications to the way we operate as demanded by the federal government via the CRA and now the CNCA, have meant that considerable time and effort have had to be put into our governance. We would all probably prefer to be dealing with pursuits more astronomical in nature rather than governance issues, but this is our fate for the immediate future. 
Society Office 
Our main Office is running smoothly under the capable leadership of Deborah Thompson. Renata Koziol is our Office Administrator and Melissa Mascarin our new Marketing Coordinator, replacing Kate Fane who recently left us. The efforts of our staff have significantly contributed to the improvements in our performance. 
We have seen about an increase of 137 members over this time last year to now total 4030, and our total sales and membership income of $307,849 handily exceeded our 2012 budget estimate of $245,633. 
Our eStore and web site will be undergoing renewal and improvement thanks to the efforts of the IT Committee, and our iMIS back office is also being refurbished in an extended project. The expenses for these have been approved and budgeted and results should start appearing as the year progresses.
Detailed in the Treasurer’s Report is the good news that our Society’s financial affairs have improved slightly, with higher membership and sales revenues than in previous years. This might have been affected by the slow recovery of the economy since the debacle of 2008, but it certainly reflects well on the efforts of the staff of the Society Office. 
Our new By-Law is probably in its final version, or very close to it, and is expected to be voted into force at the upcoming Thunder Bay GA. The new Policy Manual is well along in its development, but it is expected that further input and extra eyes from outside the Executive will still lead to some changes to it. It is intended to be a “living document,” susceptible to change as circumstances change for the operation of the Society. 
Once the new By-Law has been accepted, Centre By-Laws will also have to be changed to take into account new features. Membership types, for example, (previously referred to as “membership classes”) are being harmonized, and it is going to be extremely helpful to have everyone use the same terminology for the same sort of membership situation. And, every Centre member will be a voting member of the RASC under one official membership type or another. 
Members of the current and past Executive have been visiting as many Centres as possible between now and the GA as a “By-law Road Show” to meet with at least the Centre leadership (but hopefully more people) to give a show and tell about the By-Law process and contents, as well as those of the new Policy Manual. This process has been going reasonably well, with over half of our Centres visited as of this writing, and for all but two non-compliant Centres, acceptance has been extremely good.
After several years of steady decline, improved sales for the Observer’s Handbook and Calendar are a welcome sight. Progress by Brenda Shaw continues on the next version of the Beginner’s Observing Guide so that we shall have something ready when the inventory of the current edition runs out in 2014 or 2015. Nicole Mortillaro has been accepted as Assistant Editor for our Journal, with a view to her taking over the editorship from our Journal stalwart Jay Anderson at some future date. Our Light Pollution Abatement team put together a very nice supplement to the Journal on that topic, a topic so dear to all of us observers. Paul Gray completed his first Observer’s Calendar as new Calendar Editor after taking the reins from Dave Lane. 
Concluding Remarks
The Society could not function without the efforts of a host of volunteers who work on committees, who govern the Society, and who dedicate their time and effort for the opportunity to contribute to something larger than just their own neighbourhood astronomy interests. No one need wait to have their arm twisted to step up and offer their services, for example as nominees for the Board elections at the upcoming General Assembly in Thunder Bay.