Editor's Note: Due to some controversial responses to Julius Ballanco's May Codes Column, we've decided to print some comments and replies from interested parties in the July PME Letters section.
In Defense of IAPMO
I was disgusted with the article in the May issue written by Julius Ballanco. I could not believe the audacity of this man to present his own personal ideas as those of the entire ASPE membership. It is my belief that Mr. Ballanco has overstepped his bounds and involved the entire organization to further his own agenda. The article is misleading to the reader who does not realize that Mr. Ballanco is the vice president-legislative for the National Board of Directors for ASPE, and as such may act without obtaining a consensus from the membership as a whole. Hence, he is able to pass off his own ideas as those of the organization. Mr. Ballanco should have the courage to issue statements on his own behalf and not hide behind the ASPE membership. The local chapters of ASPE work closely with IAPMO, and we do not appreciate being involved in Julius' selfish crusade. Please cancel my subscription.
Donn C. Gilmore & Associates, Inc.
Julius Ballanco's response: First, as you requested, Scott, I have sent notice to our circulation department to cancel your subscription to PM Engineer. I am sorry that you no longer wish to subscribe to such a fine plumbing engineering magazine.
As you know, I am the editorial director of PME. As such, letters to the editor are forwarded to me. Of course, your letter was disturbing to me, since it appears that either I was unclear in the way I wrote my May column, or you misread it. Either way, I thought it would be most appropriate for me to try to clarify some issues.
In my May column, I was reporting on the news regarding ASPE's decision to file a written comment to ANSI regarding the accreditation of the Uniform Plumbing Code. This was not done by me as the vice president-legislative. I do not have that kind of power as an elected vice president of the society. The letter was submitted to ANSI under the signature of Stan Wolfson. Under my insistence, there was a unanimous decision of the board to submit this letter. As the Society vice president-legislative, I was of the opinion that this was so sensitive that all of the board needed to agree.
What I believe you misunderstood was that ASPE only opposed the ANSI accreditation of the Uniform Plumbing Code. ASPE does not oppose the Uniform Plumbing Code, nor do they oppose IAPMO.
As you know, for the past three years, I have served on the IAPMO Plumbing Technical Committee as a voting member representing ASPE. I put a lot of time, effort, and money into making the Uniform Plumbing Code the best plumbing code it can be. As ASPE's representative, I present the society's code changes and attempt to persuade others to accept those engineering changes to the code. I will admit that I was less than successful.
The changes to the UPC were not submitted by me, they were submitted by the Legislative Committee. During the period of time that these changes were submitted, two members of the L.A. Chapter, April Trafton and Ed Saltzberg, served on the committee. Once the Legislative Committee approves a change, the Board of Directors must also approve the changes before they are submitted. After being submitted, I will then do my best to gain the acceptance of these changes. After all, they are coming from your society, prepared by members across the country, with the best interest of plumbing engineering at heart. I will admit to being passionate about trying to gain approval; however, I always conduct myself professionally and with dignity.
So, as you can see, it is not my agenda, it is your society's agenda that I passionately support.
For your information, I live in a state that adopts the Uniform Plumbing Code. Hence, I use the code all of the time. However, in Indiana, the plumbing engineers convinced the state to modify the UPC to be consistent with the code changes that ASPE submitted to IAPMO. So, as you can see, ASPE members are pursuing changes to the UPC to recognize other plumbing engineering designs.
Finally, I should point out that as ASPE's vice president-legislative, I informed the membership much earlier than the PME May column about the comments submitted to ANSI. This appeared in my April VPL newsletter. The newsletter is sent to every chapter president and VPL. It is also posted on the ASPE Web site in the "Members Only" section. If you would like to read the actual letter submitted to ANSI, check out the attachment to my April VPL newsletter. It you cannot find it on the Web site, give me a call and I will assist you in locating it.
It was nice to read that you consider your chapter as working closely with IAPMO. This is what every chapter should be doing with the code adopted in its area. I hope you continue to work closely and help to gain recognition of all accepted and recognized plumbing engineering designs in the plumbing code.
Having worked with Julius Ballanco for the last 15 years, I am troubled by the need to write this letter. Unfortunately, I am compelled to do so as a result of Mr. Ballanco's continual, unwarranted attacks against the Uniform Plumbing Code and the methodology used to develop it. Your magazines provide Mr. Ballanco with a pen and a platform, and I respectfully submit to you that journalistic responsibility, integrity and ethics must accompany that platform.
Julius Ballanco's recent column ("ASPE Opposes ANSI Accreditation of UPC," May 2003) is inaccurate, misleading and is yet another example of how his opinions erode the editorial credibility of all the Business News Publishing Co. magazines he contributes to.
Mr. Ballanco writes "ASPE pointed out that the Uniform Plumbing Code (UPC) is a flawed document to use as the base document for an American National Standard." Not only is that statement inaccurate, but as a member of the ASPE Board of Directors (a fact not revealed in the article), Mr. Ballanco should have been fully aware of its inaccuracy.
On May 19, 2003, ASPE President Larry Oliver issued a statement saying, "ASPE does not and has never been in opposition to, nor does it take issue with, the UPC as a viable or acceptable plumbing code."
As noted by Mr. Ballanco on May 30, 2001, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) accredited IAPMO to use the organization method to develop the 2003 editions of the Uniform Plumbing Code and Uniform Mechanical Code. Over the subsequent two years, the best and brightest minds in the plumbing industry, representing all segments of groups and individuals interested in the plumbing and mechanical fields, worked together under the framework of the ANSI-accredited consensus process to produce the 2003 editions of the UPC and UMC.
To illustrate the point, one need only look at the areas of the ANSI-accredited process identified by Mr. Ballanco in his article. For example, he asserts that the UPC is a flawed document since, in his opinion, the code is a restrictive code. Unfortunately, he fails to acknowledge that the content of the code is a product of consensus. The Regulations Governing Committee Projects, accredited by ANSI to develop the 2003 editions, required the technical committees (Mr. Ballanco is a member of the IAPMO Plumbing Technical Committee) responsible for the documents to provide the technical basis for each and every action taken in response to every proposal for text contained within the document. The technical committee action (required by the ANSI-accredited regulations to be approved by at least two-thirds majority vote to ensure consensus) and rationale for every vote was published in the Report on Proposals and Report on Comments, and was thus subject to public scrutiny. These rather voluminous publications are posted on the IAPMO Web site at www.iapmo.org, and I invite and encourage you to review these documents for yourself in order to make your own determination as to whether the technical committees abided by the ANSI-accredited procedures.
Mr. Ballanco's wrath apparently has no limits, as illustrated by his completely unwarranted attacks on IAPMO'S code development partner, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Don't journalistic ethics require that the statement "NFPA's incompetence was obvious from the rulings it made on every appeal submitted to its Standards Council" be either prefaced or followed with the information that the author that made such statement is the same person who submitted five appeals to the NFPA Standards Council, all of which were found to be without merit? When attacking NFPA, don't journalistic ethics require the author to at least point out that the organization he is attacking develops over 200 ANSI-accredited standards; the only electrical code used in the United States (NEC); the premier life, safety and fire codes; and is so skilled at developing ANSI-accredited standards that ANSI itself bestowed the coveted status of "ANSI Audited Designator" upon NFPA?
While Mr. Ballanco's article is placed under the heading of "Column," it has become nothing more than a space for him to grind his personal ax. It is these continuous self-serving articles which lack true industry perspective that do great harm to a national trade journal.
GP Russ Chaney
PME Consulting Editor Jim Olsztynski's response: Good journalism entails publishing not only facts, but a divergence of opinion on issues of importance to the audience. Opinions often derive from facts that are subject to different interpretations, as illustrated by the classic metaphor of seeing a glass as either half full or half empty. Same fact, but different points of view.
The role of a columnist in this or any other publication traditionally has been to offer opinions based upon his or her interpretation of facts. In other words, of course Julius Ballanco is opinionated in his columns. He's supposed to be.
The only breach of "journalistic responsibility, integrity and ethics" would occur if we failed to accommodate opposing views by credible spokespersons. We are happy to provide such a forum by publishing Russ Chaney's unedited letter, which offers a different interpretation of the same events that Ballanco wrote about.
Now, the best journalistic service PM Engineer can perform is to leave it to our readers to decide for themselves which point of view is better reasoned and supported by facts.