ALA re-elects Copeland, debates budget cuts

Dace Copeland has been re-elected president of the American Latvian Association during the organization’s 52nd annual congress in St. Paul, Minn., while delegates also approved a 2003 budget of USD 649,080.

Copeland will lead a board of directors largely unchanged from the ALA’s current administration. Almost all the candidates put forward by the nominating committee were approved by acclamation.

Getting the delegates to agree on the new budget was harder. After nearly an hour of debate May 3 over several line items, delegates finally gave their overwhelming support, but they also recommended the ALA’s board of directors seek USD 30,000 in cuts.

Delegates defeated a motion to recommend USD 55,000 in cuts.

At issue was why the organization still needs to spend a projected USD 55,000 on lobbying for expansion of the NATO defense alliance. ALA officials conceded that approval by the U.S. Senate—expected shortly after floor debate is to begin May 6—has come sooner than expected, suggesting that lobbying efforts could be scaled back.

But Copeland told delegates that the fight to get Latvia and six other Eastern and Central European nations into NATO is not yet over. Even if, as expected, the U.S. Senate ratifies expansion, many other NATO members still need to be convinced in the coming year, Copeland said.

While where to make cuts is left to the discretion of the board of directors, some delegates suggested several places where dollars could be trimmed from the new budget. Among them is the “Sveika, Latvija!” program that sends Latvian-American school children on a two-week summer tour of the homeland. The new budget forecasts USD 82,300 in spending for the program, offset by USD 55,570 in revenue meant for it.

Other delegates stood up for program, including former ALA chair Jānis Kukainis. He noted that it’s important to get young people involved in the Latvian community. His son, Roberts, is chair of the American Latvian Youth Association.

Overall, the new budget is lower than the USD 723,550 approved last year. According to the organization’s financial report, it actually spent only USD 563,743 in 2002.

In voting for ALA’s officers, delegates supported a slate that included Copeland as president; Juris Mežinskis, vice president and head of the information office; Jānis Grāmatiņš, treasurer; Ilze Kalniņa, secretary; Mārtiņš Duhms, fundraising officer; Lilita Spure, head of the culture office; Ēriks Krūmiņš, head of the Cooperation With Latvia program; Jānis Robiņš, head of the sports office, and Vija Zuntaka-Bērziņa, chair of the ALA Culture Fund.

Elected to the ALA’s audit committee were Kārlis Ķirsis, Pēteris Grotāns and Jānis Vītols. Aivars Zeltiņš also was a candidate for the committee.

Delegates elected Ilze Kancāne the new head of education office. Kancāne, nominated from the floor, defeated the nominating committee’s choice, Inese Račevska, by a vote of 72-14.

Andris Straumanis is a special correspondent for and a co-founder of Latvians Online. From 2000–2012 he was editor of the website.

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