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Number 1 Shimbun

Associates Make Their Voices Heard at Candidate Speak-Out

Associates Make Their Voices Heard at Candidate Speak-Out
by Anthony Rowley

What are the key challenges facing the FCCJ in the coming Board year, as seen through the eyes of candidates for election to the positions of Associate Member Directors and that of Associate Kanji? At a recent Speak-Out session at the Club, candidates cited a series of concerns to which they intend to address their talents and energies if elected.

Improving Club governance was high on the list of candidates' concerns, as was the issue of giving Associates a stronger voice in FCCJ affairs. The need for improved food and beverage services at the Club, and the question of who should provide these, was an issue in debate, as were matters relating to the role of the Club Kanjis.

Current FCCJ Treasurer Willem Kortekaas suggested that “the Club’s governance should be further improved. The statutory requirement of planning has been neglected in the past. It is necessary to develop a mission statement and business plan that will form the basis of making the club relevant again, for journalists in the first place but also for associate members. Communication with the membership and external communications should be improved.”

The financial situation of the club, said Kortekaas “will be severely impacted by the move. We now have to work at increasing our revenues, especially by attracting more members. We also need to continue our efforts to negotiate better terms and conditions with Mitsubishi. We have started soliciting donations from members to build up our financial strength. We now need to start looking for financial donations as well as donations in kind from corporations and other external sources.” He added, “We make poor use of the business knowledge and experience of Associate Members.”

Club Secretary Mary Corbett said, “We are currently standing at a vortex of unprecedented changes: the move to a new facility coinciding with the implementation of a new food and beverage operation model. While there is enormous opportunity to enhance the Club experience for members, there are elements which until recently had proceeded without benefit of stakeholders’ knowledge and stand to damage the wellbeing of the club.

“Management and membership need unprecedented collaboration to secure our future. Governance and, in particular, transparency need to be thoroughly revamped. Checks and balances must be implemented to address a community in flux and flagging institutional memory It may be too late to be questioning the wisdom of the pre-lease which was signed over three years ago, but neither should we accept the vagaries of decisions which have not been approved [but were] arbitrarily incorporated into the terms after the fact. The FCCJ should not accept the closing of the ground floor main entrance at 9 p.m. Nor should it pay for corrections to deeply flawed design elements, which did not meet Health Ministry and industry guidelines. The 20 percent increase in rent was reported to us as an increase of 20 percent floor space, when the new design all but eliminates any increase in usable space.”

Candidate Mehdi Bassiri proposed that the Club “go back to its own in-house operation of food and beverage.” He explained that “past Boards of Directors of the club, by signing at least two faulty contracts, first with Mitsubishi to move the Club to the new Fuji building and, second, to outsource the club’s food and beverage operation, have made enormous mistakes.”

The new Fuji Building into which the FCCJ is due to move has, Bassiri argued, an “irreparably faulty design and layout, which would make the Club's food and beverage operations very difficult. Outsourcing not only has made some of the Club’s original items disappear [but also] most of the time, foods are uneatable. I believe if someone as experienced as myself in food and beverage [had been] a member of the BOD in the past, [he or she] would have convinced other BOD members of [such] problems, and therefore not only would the Board have insisted on having a perfect space [but also] we would not have experienced this big problem with food and beverage operations. My goal is to convince new BOD members to go back to our own in-house operation of food and beverage, and in future [the F&B] contract [should] be more transparent to Associate members.”

Current Board member Milton Isa noted that the Club “has gone through tumultuous times during these four years with six presidents, much finger pointing and the usual complaints. This year was the fourth year for Associates/Professional Associates to have been able to serve on the Board. With so many things that are happening at the FCCJ, continuity is certainly an advantage for any incumbent Director. Koeki Hojin status will hopefully bring us more prestige and donations but it will also mean that our responsibility for public service and proper governances in operating the club will be under more scrutiny. The plan to relocate the FCCJ in few months would need a very concerted effort by all to include financial as well as volunteers and, recruiting new members.”

He added: I am still concerned with the politics surrounding how the club is managed today and would definitely try to bring some sense of reality in its covenants and operations. The Professional and Associate members have different needs, but the ultimate objective is the long-term existence of the FCCJ.”

Makoto Honjo, the current Associate member Kanji and a candidate for the same position on the new Board, noted, “Kanji and its corporate equivalent kansayaku are required under Japanese corporate law to, among others, independently check and report on the workings of BOD members. Honjo said that over the past two years, his work along with that of Regular member Kanji Yoshisuke Iinuma had “especially focused on providing a balanced account to the BOD and the General Membership on the following two fronts: understanding the discussions pertaining to the move to the Marunouchi Nijubashi Building and communicating our findings on where we stand and why, and promoting the understanding of the governance standards required of FCCJ as a Public Interest Incorporated Association (Koeki Shadan Hojin) under Japanese Law."

Uichiro Kinoshita, who is also running for office as Associate member Kanji, was absent from Tokyo and unable to make an oral presentation at the Speak-Out. In a subsequent statement, he said that “the Kanji is expected to execute tasks stipulated in the Public Interest Incorporated Association Law. I also would like to stress that we may have to seriously consider the way we restore the club-like atmosphere of FCCJ.As an associate member for a period of a bit less than 30 years, I witnessed the obvious loss of FCCJ’s unique and unrivaled circumstances [that had] been carefully fostered and accumulated by members and staff highly aware of its importance. Let’s restore it to be enjoyed and appreciated by all members.”

Published in: June 2018

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