Texas fishing license = revenue

At a recent Boy Scout Roundtable meeting, a Texas Parks and Wildlife police officer talked about what adult leaders should know before taking their packs and troops fishing.

A surprising fact was that White Rock Lake, an inner-city Dallas lake, is among the cleanest and most diverse sources of fish.

Toward the end of the Q&A period, I asked, “What is the purpose of licensing recreational fishers?”

Short answer: revenue. He could not identify any other purpose, although he waxed eloquently about where the revenue went.

“License” revenue generated $80 million of gross income in 2006-2007 (source). Subtract $7.7 “license” issuance costs (source), and subtract TPWD’s $45 million law enforcement budget, the minimum profit is $27.3 million. The profit is likely several millions higher because not all TPWD enforcement time is spent punishing un-“licensed” fishers.

Possessing a license is supposed to be certification that you meet a standard. We’re all familiar with the driver’s license, but there are many other forms of licensing, such as refrigerant purchase licenses, concealed carry licenses, etc.

Having money taken from you is not a “standard.” Calling this function a license cheapens the term and fuels cynicism. Just call it what it is: a tax.

10 years in Scouting

I just completed 10 years as a Boy Scout adult leader. Here’s what the top of my left pocket looks like:
Scout shirt
Left to right, top row: 3 years in Cub Scouts, 7 years in Boy Scouts, 10 years as an adult leader.
Bottom row: Eagle Scout with Gold Palm, Cub Scout God and Family award, and Arrow of Light.

District Commissioner patchI became White Rock District‘s District Commissioner last November. This means I am one of the “Key 3” adult leaders of the district.

Even though it’s called “Key 3”, I operate a staff whose sole mission is to help those “in the trenches” deliver the Promise of Scouting to their youth. This position is about helping my staff be effective in their mission. It’s not about honorifics, and I can’t stand it when people get pompous about their adult leadership positions. Scouting is about the youth, not the adults.

I have made some changes to the Commissioner Staff, but I still have a lot to do. I still need to improve information sharing and recruit more commissioners.

Leadership: where am I going?

I recently ended up in three leadership positions.

As of May, I am the lead for the ITS Web Technologies Team at SMU. This means I coordinate a 3 person team (including me) that maintains most technical aspects of SMU’s core multipurpose web servers, including our main server, www.smu.edu.

My shirt reads FUTURE PRESIDENT.

In April, I was elected president of the Lake Park Estates Neighborhood Association. This is a “close enough” fulfillment of an ambition to be elected into some public office before I turn 30. I’ve apparently had this ambition since I was 3; see the “FUTURE PRESIDENT” on my shirt.

Learning how to communicate to neighbors is interesting and fun. I’ve already taken one controversial stand on a very sensitive local issue, and I’ve come out unscathed–and may have even converted a couple of people.

In early 2006, I became a Assistant District Commissioner in the White Rock District of the Circle Ten Council of the Boy Scouts of America. (That’s a mouthful!) I help guide a small staff of Unit Commissioners in addition to being a Unit Commissioner myself for a couple of units.

Back up three paragraphs. Why do I want to be in an elected position?

Part of it comes from youth leadership experiences in Boy Scouts and Order of the Arrow. From that, and from the leadership training I received (such as JLTC), I learned that any idiot can be a good leader as long as he has a plan and knows how to motivate others. (“Idiot” unambiguously proves my qualifications!)

Fuzzy picture of me at the HOBY conference in 1993.

Part of it stems from an idealism partly instilled by a Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership (HOBY) conference I attended as a high school sophomore. (I was floored when I found out my school chose me to go; I figured it would have gone to a “popular” kid.) That conference helped me understand that it is possible for me to do good and be a model elected representative.

Part of it derives from my general interest in politics. I was fascinated by my high school government course. Well before that, I discovered the world of radio political broadcasters. Yes, I was even a Dittohead for a while. (I outgrew Rush once I went to college.)

Finally, part of it comes from a desire to leave the world a better place than I found it. I see corruption, ineffectiveness, and wrong-headedness all the time, and I know there’s no excuse. I know I can do things differently and better.

But the real question is twofold: 1. am I qualified leader, and 2. can I do it?

Am I a qualified leader?

Me (2nd from left) with U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman (R), who I was able to get to speak to the Teenage Republicans group at Clear Brook High School in the 1994-1995 school year. From left to right: Mark Gandin, Aren Cambre, Steve Stockman, Lisa Fox, Chris Bensch.

I was developing effective leadership skills before college. Not being especially popular, I never was elected president of much of anything, nor did I bother with student council. However, I still managed to create an impressive academic resume. Some highlights include that I was a founder of a short-lived Teenage Republicans group; I innovated a radical, new slideshow format for my annual high school band banquet (we did it all on VHS tape instead of with a projector); and I gained excellent access to school administrators through doing special projects or fixing their computers. Even the Computer Applications teacher was asking my guidance on how to run his class! I had a lot of success with leadership in Boy Scouts–at one point, I was even telling the Scoutmaster what to do–and I did a decent job with leadership-related tasks in other areas.

Something happened in college. I lost my edge. Completely. I did a future leader mentoring program through SMU’s Leadership Consulting Council my freshman year. This was a good experience, but it didn’t gel. The only real leadership positions I held were in APO, and even then, I didn’t do a fantastic job. Even the APO chapter president thought I was a crack whore! (There’s more to it than that. You’ll have to ask me in person.)

Looking back, the only partial regret about my SMU experience, leadership-wise, was that I spent too much time in the time-sapping SMU Mustang Band. I liked playing music, and I tolerated marching. However, I am not a party animal, I don’t drink (never have, still don’t), and I am not excited about spectator sports, so I was not a good cultural fit. I finally dropped band my senior year, but that was too late to get deeply involved in other organizations. I probably should have spent more time trying to get into areas where I can utilize my leadership like Student Senate. Speaking of, I technically got elected into the Student Senate 1-2 years after I graduated! I asked several people write me in while I was working on my Master’s degree. Interest was so low that I actually qualified to be an Engineering Senator. Unfortunately, only full time students may serve on the Student Senate, so they had to pass me up for the next person. I wouldn’t have had the time to do that, anyway.

After college, my leadership record has been mixed. I got involved in Boy Scouts again as a Chartered Organization Representative with a troop that wasn’t running well. I had limited success in getting things turned around, but in hindsight I see that I did not manage conflict very well. However, since then, I have had a better record with the Commissioners’ Staff, involvement in my neighborhood association and church, work, and other small successes.

I think I am getting my edge back, but does this mean things turning around? Time will tell.

Can I do it?

Will I someday seek a “real” elected position? The more I think about it, the less I am sure. I value that my current employment doesn’t occupy my entire life. I have a good amount of quality hours off the job. I know lots of people for whom that isn’t the case, be it because of lengthy commutes, long work hours, fear of taking vacation time, excessive job duties, etc.

Many elected positions occupy your entire life. Take the Texas Legislature, for example. Even though it only has regular sessions once every other year, the legislators live in Austin for around 5 consecutive months during the session, only returning for the weekends. That’s 5 months of separation from one’s family and home. Even officials elected to local offices seem to find their lives consumed with job responsibilities. That isn’t appealing, and it becomes even less appealing now that I have a family.

One thing is sure: I must finish my doctorate, and I don’t see that happening until the of 2007 at the very earliest, if I am lucky! I am carefully limiting my commitments because I do not want to jeopardize that degree. If I screw up this doctorate, I will regret it forever.

I leave you with a parting thought, just in case I end up in a position of authority:

Scout Locker

On Tuesday I re-organized something called the Scout Locker. It’s a collection of used Scout uniforms that the White Rock District sells to kids who otherwise could not afford Boy Scout uniforms.

The Scout Locker used to be at a spare building at White Rock United Methodist Church, a big supporter of Scouting. This building developed roof leaks, so the clothing was moved to a different location.

BSA uniforms are expensive. A normal uniform set for a boy (uniform shirt, shorts, belt, and socks) is $77.95. The same stuff sized for an adult is $83.70. This doesn’t even include the patches or epaulets, each of which are sold separately. And an optional cap is $11.50. See the prices for yourself at the online Scout Catalog.

As a side note, sometimes I wonder if the BSA is excessively profiting on uniform parts. It sure seems contrary to the ninth point of the Scout Law, Thrifty, for this clothing to be so expensive. I wish the BSA could just sell this stuff at cost.

As I was putting everything together I found that we have a ton of Boy Scout shorts and a paucity of everything else: no Cub Scout uniform shirts, only two pairs of Cub Scout shorts, and few Boy Scout uniform shirts.

Fortunately, we have a limited amount of funds available to acquire some additional uniform pieces. I am going to strike a deal with a guy to purchase a bulk quantity of Cub Scout uniform parts. Hopefully after that, we will have a good deal of uniform parts for children in need.

Stomach Virus and Wood Badge

I almost didn’t make it to the second Wood Badge weekend. All three of us got the stomach virus last week. Alec got his on Tuesday and was over it by Wednesday. I got mine on Tuesday but didn’t fully recover until Saturday. Jennifer got hers on Thursday night, less than 10 hours before I was supposed to leave. I had to miss the first day because she was far too ill to be alone. There was no way she could have cared for Alec. Fortunately she was mostly over it by Saturday morning, so she took me bright and early to Camp Wisdom.

My abbreviated weekend was still fun. The second half of the Wood Badge program is a few more presentations, some events, an overnight campout as a patrol (without “adult” leaders present), and the closing events.

Now I work on my ticket.