Local Council Meeting Minutes: May 14, 2017

DSA Local Council meeting, May 14, 2017

7–9 p.m.

University Lutheran Chapel
2425 College Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94704

The secretary was present for this meeting and recorded the minutes. The meeting was chaired by the co-chairs of East Bay DSA, Mary Virginia Watson and Jeremy Gong.

Introductions and Opening Statements

The June meeting will also be from 7–9 p.m. at the same location.

Local council members present: Benjamin F., Susan C., Molly A., Michael M., Michael N., Ari, Jeremy, Mary Virginia, Angad B., and Jess D. Absent: Kevin. W.

Michael K., John R., Luke, Jeff, Rosa, Ahmed, Frances, and Amelia, members of East Bay DSA not elected to the local council, were also present.

Approval of Agenda

The agenda passed unanimously.

Approval of Minutes

The minutes of the last local council and general meetings pass with one abstention due to absence from the previous meeting (Michael N. abstaining).

Committee Reports

The treasurer reported on the finances of the organization and put forward a proposal to authorize the treasurer to buy 106 new t-shirts for approximately $1,629.75. Result: The proposal passed unanimously.

The organizing department reported on the multiple areas of work being done by the department and the extent of the reach locally and elsewhere of the committee's work.

The communications committee update covered multiple areas of work.

Susan C. provided the group with updates on the April 29 event.

Mary Virginia provided updates on the upcoming happy hour on May 18, 6 p.m., at Independent Brewing Company.

Important Summer Plans

Ramifications of New Bylaws

Jeremy discussed the upcoming general meeting and election and the transition processes post-bylaws adoption. He highlighted the needs for electing a new leadership, delegates, and changing the structure of the organization according to the new bylaws.

Jeremy clarified the roles that will be elected and the changes in structure to the local council that will take effect with the next election.

A discussion of the upcoming delegate election also occurred. The DSA national convention will set the direction of the organization and involve electing the national board and setting priorities for the organization as a whole. Voting will also likely happen on a number of policy stances of import to members and ways to discuss these with members were framed.

The news was given that East Bay DSA is now the sixth largest DSA chapter.

A priority was discussed of the need to raise funds for the elected delegates. Fundraising will be important but the cost will be mitigated by the fact that there is a travel share to make costs even across chapters.

There was a discussion of whether travel for alternates is funded as well. Probably (but needs clarification) travel for delegates only will be funded and not for alternates.

July Retreat and Transition Working Group

Jeremy and Molly presented a proposal for July retreat and transition working group, which they are cosponsoring.

EBDSA Proposal

Transition Working Group Creation & Implementation

5.8.17

  • WHEREAS EBDSA general membership voted on and approved new bylaws on April 23, 2017.
  • WHEREAS these bylaws dramatically reconfigure the structure of the organization and a successful transition will require a tremendous amount of time, consideration, and communication with leadership and active members
  • WHEREAS a newly elected Local Council, who will be tasked with implementing the new structure laid out by the new bylaws while also developing the organizational and programmatic agenda for the coming year, will begin in June 2017.
  • THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that a Transition Working Group, led by Co-Chair Jeremy Gong and Vice Chair Molly Armstrong, will be formed to oversee the necessary preparation for such a restructuring with the primary goal of meeting with committee and subcommittee chairs as well as other active members to get feedback on how their work has gone so far, to educate and answer questions about the new bylaws' structure, and to discuss goals and concerns moving forward.
  • THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Transition Working Group will use the interactive preparatory work to produce a skeleton plan that addresses, among other important issues, structural questions concerning the allotment of responsibilities between the Internal Organizing Committee (IOC) and the External Organizing Committee (EOC).
  • THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Transition Working Group will be tasked with organizing a retreat for the newly elected Local Counsel and appointed leadership, to be held in July, to discuss, debate, and deliberate on the proposal(s) arising out of the Transition Working Group's preparatory work. The retreat will also include discussions and workshops about the goals and strategies of different parts of EBDSA, including specific projects to be taken up by the IOC and EOC; skills and support needed to be effective leaders; rules and norms for the Local Council and other bodies; and important dates and plans for the rest of 2017. The team members for the working group will be chosen by Jeremy Gong and Molly Armstrong.
  • Therefore be it resolved that in order to ensure a democratic process the working group will publish notes of their suggestions and solicit feedback from the membership on those notes.
  • The ultimate meeting of the transition working group  will be open to EBDSA members.

Result: The proposal passes unanimously following debate and as amended above.

National Convention

The national convention was on the agenda for further discussion, but no additional questions were raised.

General Meeting and Elections

The following timeline was presented by the member Frances, who is leading the subcommittee in charge of the meeting and election. The proposal was sponsored by Jeremy G., member and co-chair of the local council.

Elections Timeline

Date Local Council Delegate
Tuesday, May 16 First notice of elections for local council First notice of elections delegates for national convention
Monday, June 5, 11:59 p.m. Close nominations for local council
Friday, June 9 Candidate packets are mailed and emailed to members, including candidate statements, pictures, proxy forms, and statement about the role of delegates at the national convention
Friday, June 16 Close nominations for delegates
Monday, June 19 Delegate candidates are emailed to members
Saturday or Sunday, June 24 or 25 Special elections meeting, local council candidates give statement and membership votes. Delegate candidates are introduced and membership votes.

Elections Process

Local Council Nominations
  • Nominations will be gathered through a Google Form and will be shared on a web page and a mailed packet
  • Candidates must be nominated by one member and can have up to five nominations
  • Nominators may submit brief statements in support of candidate
  • Five nominations per candidate will be shared. If more nominations are received, the candidate will be asked to choose five to be shared.
  • Nominations will be accepted from the floor with eight seconds
  • Amendment: A person cannot run for multiple positions (Result: nine in favor, one opposed. Passes.)
Candidate Responsibilities

Fill out a web form which will ask for

  • A brief summary of their DSA activities and history
  • Why they are qualified for this particular position
  • What are their goals for serving in this position

Candidates must also supply

  • A picture sent to the elections email address
  • A brief speech at election meeting
Voting

To fulfill the bylaws mandate that both co-chairs not be white cismen, nominees may be asked to share their identification along racial or gender lines privately with an elections coordinator ahead of the vote. If two white cismen win, the lower vote-getter will be replaced with the next eligible top vote-getter.

Michael M. proposes an amendment. Result: nine in favor, two opposed. The amendment passes.

  • The two top vote-getters for chair will get the co-chair positions (assuming they are not both cis white men).
  • The top vote-getters for vice chair, secretary, and treasurer will take these positions.
  • The top two vote-getters for the at-large seats will get the at-large seats.
  • The three top vote-getters for the internal organizer positions will get the internal organizer seats.
  • The three top vote-getters for the external organizer positions will get the external organizer seats.
Convention Delegates

Wherever possible in elections communications, we will emphasize that convention delegates are tasked with representing the "group conscience" of East Bay DSA membership at the national convention.

Nominations

Candidates are nominated by one person by Google Form, without a statement.

There are no nominations from the floor of the meeting.

Candidate Responsibilities

Candidates fill out a Google Form with a statement of why they are running to represent the group conscience of East Bay DSA at the national convention.

There are no election speeches, but candidates may be asked to introduce themselves prior to voting.

Elected Delegate Responsibilities

Leadership and whip positions may be created based on vote totals.

Delegates may be expected to plan and attend meetings with Easy Bay DSA members to gauge the group conscience and meetings with other local California delegations.

The above timeline and structure was approved as amended by unanimous vote of the local council.

A Budget of up to $2,000 for the election was approved by unanimous vote of the local council.

Socialist Summer School

A Proposal for a Socialist Summer School Working Group (SSSWG), sponsored by co-chair Jeremy and vice chair Molly, was presented. An overview of the program proposal was given by Ahmed, a member who has been working in collaboration with others on developing the plan and curriculum for this.

  • Whereas political education, broadly defined but within the socialist tradition, is enormously important for developing a base of strong socialist activists who can think critically and strategically for themselves. EBDSA takes very seriously its responsibility to shepherd the politicization and radicalization of dozens if not hundreds of people, young and old, who have joined in the last six months looking for a more serious Left political grounding than liberalism or Bernie Sanders can provide. Political education is also an opportunity to build community and cohesion among the membership.
  • Whereas EBDSA's political education reading groups, in which around 50 people have taken part in the last few months, have been very well received. Feedback included appreciation of the community-building aspects as well as requests from participants for more educational opportunities and/or more frequent reading groups.
  • Whereas the reading groups have become too unwieldy to coordinate, since this involves a dozen or so facilitators each planning their own meetings and yet teaching the same material with ostensibly shared goals; while multiple coordinators and facilitators have dropped out for at least the summer.
  • Whereas we have tried multiple political educational formats in the last 6 months, and have learned important lessons from all of the experiences. It has been a challenge to take on the political education of dozens of new members while having minimal guidance or support from national, and a very small core of well-rounded socialist educator-organizers.
  • Therefore be it resolved the Local Council (LC) forms a Socialist Summer School Working Group (SSSWG), to be co-chaired by EBDSA members Ahmed Kanna and Robbie Nelson. The SSSWG will be dissolved and its project and responsibilities absorbed by the Internal Organizing Committee (IOC) after the June LC elections.
  • Therefore be it resolved the SSSWG will be responsible for conducting research and developing a proposal to the LC for a Socialist Summer School (SSS), which will hold at least several sessions during the months of June, July, and August.
  • Therefore be it resolved the SSS curriculum and reading list will be suggested by the SSSWG for a vote by the LC. Some or all of the assigned SSS readings will also be shared on a "Suggested Socialist Readings" page on our website, eastbaydsa.org. The goal of this page will be to provide opportunities for members, who do or do not participate in SSS, to pursue independent or group-based political education; as well as give EBDSA leaders a place to easily point to when asked by members and others, "What should I read on this or that topic?"

Result: The measure passed unanimously following discussion. The recommendation was given that childcare be provided.

Conflict Resolution Working Group

Benjamin Fife, the secretary, presented two proposals regarding the formation of a conflict resolution working group.

Housing within Local Council

The secretary proposes that a conflict resolution team be formed as a subcommittee of the local council.

The housing of this subcommittee within the local council is understood to be temporary until it can be appropriately moved to the internal organizing department after the next election when that department will have leadership and structure.

Result: This proposal passes unanimously.

Proposal Draft

The secretary also proposes that the local council approve that the conflict resolution team be structured and empowered according to a draft document drawn up by the conflict resolution working group.

Result: The proposal does not pass.

Suggestions

The following suggestions were given to the secretary to bring back to the working group.

  1. The team should aim for brevity and present the local council with an at-a-glance document that they can pass, preferably one page that can explain the conflict resolution process we are describing. What we currently have is rich on details, which will be a really great document to inform training once the team is formed, but what the local council needs is something that explains a conflict resolution process in a way that someone can look at, read quickly, and know where to start and what to expect.
  2. The team should think about how to separate conflict resolution around interpersonal conflict, which we want to support, from conflict resolution around political conflict. There may well be political conflicts that it is important for our chapter to foster so that we can have internal debate and realize where we stand on important issues. Those conflicts are important not to resolve prematurely.
  3. The team should see if there is a way to separate conflict resolution from referral for complaints about abusive behavior that needs face some sort of sanction. The point was made that people might be reticent to participate in conflict resolution if it is seen as too closely tied to investigation and sanction. This seems like it will need a lot of thought and as a team we may want to draw up two different documents. One suggesting what a conflict resolution or member retention team could do and another suggesting what a complaint filing and investigation team could look like. Those both would not need to be the work of the conflict resolution group, but the current group may be uniquely skilled and able to suggest structures for both of those things.

Addenda

Strike Endorsement

The following urgent request for a strike endorsement came to East Bay DSA through Jeremy, co-chair of the local council.

I've gotten a request from CWA (via an NYC DSA leader and CWA organizer, Zelig Stern): Support striking CWA workers by turning out a EBDSA contingent to picket lines in Fremont and/or Oakland this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

Result: nine in favor, zero opposed. The proposal passed.

Online Donations

The following request, which has some urgency if we are going to begin accepting online donations, was submitted via email to the local council.

Proposal to approve PayPal as a vendor for online credit card payment processing

Presented by Treasurer Jess Dervin-Ackerman (w/ help from Jeff Lee of Ops Team)

Proposal:

EBDSA should relax its January 29, 2017 decision to boycott PayPal as a payment processor and elect to use PayPal as a vendor for credit card processing through the Nation Builder on the EBDSA website.

Rationale:

PayPal has numerous functional advantages over similar services. Distaste for the political actions of corporate leaders (in this case Peter Thiel) is both reasonable and understandable, but it should be taken in proper context and weighed accordingly. Among the payment processing options available through NationBuilder, PayPal's standard plan seems to have material advantages over the alternatives:

  • PayPal is widespread. It provides a convenient, familiar interface for many, if not most, of our Internet audience.
  • In addition to accepting credit/debit card input, it supports payment via pre-existing PayPal accounts. From the user perspective, this is a more secure and convenient option.
  • It has no up-front fees, and is therefore relatively cost-free to evaluate.
  • It is roughly $230 cheaper per year than the closest viable alternative.

In a vacuum, these are good reasons to consider PayPal as a payment processor. Moreover, while Peter Thiel's relationship to PayPal is problematic on some level, a boycott on these grounds does not withstand scrutiny from a variety of angles:

  • While Thiel founded PayPal and profited greatly from it, the company was sold in 2002 (15 years ago), and Thiel no longer has any official position at the company or its board. It is unclear how much ownership stake he retains, if any.
  • Thiel is, however, a board member of Facebook, a company whose services EBDSA has adopted with enthusiasm. More broadly, EBDSA and its membership routinely adopt and pay for goods and services provided by companies that are politically problematic. Twitter, NationBuilder, and AT&T are some recent examples. The decision to boycott particular companies should be made strategically, as part of a larger public statement or organizing goal, or at the very least tactically, when there is zero cost to choosing alternatives that are deemed less problematic.
  • PayPal offers specific tactical advantages (it seems cheaper and easier to use), whereas there would seem to be little strategic, tactical, or symbolic value in a boycott. There is no meaningful boycott movement with which EBDSA can claim solidarity. Thiel is highly unlikely to suffer any direct financial impact. Finally, EBDSA has not issued a statement against either Thiel or PayPal; in fact, the only publicly-available discussion of the matter (the minutes of the January 29 meeting) makes no mention whatsoever of why PayPal was disqualified as an option, so the symbolic value of the choice is nil.

Result: eight in favor, zero opposed. The proposal passed by email.

Socialist Summer School Reading List and Budget

The reading list and proposed budget for the socialist summer school was presented to the local council for an email vote.

Result: nine in favor, zero opposed. The list and budget passed.