Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Next CA Plenary report

California Plenary report

As of now we have an unconfirmed report that Cat Woods and "Marybeth someone" were elected to the Green National Committee as representatives from California. I have written Cres, the CA Greens Press Secretary, and asked for more details.

I think the essence of what happened at the California Green Party plenary session is reflected in these pages, although I am sure it's a less complete picture than we would all like.

Several folks were willing to talk with me on the phone, and since they don't know me from Adam's house cat, that was very generous of them. In addition, a few folks have made comments at the site, and I think they have been helpful too. Finally, Dean Meyerson, formally staff for the USGP, pointed out that the affiliation agreements between the various states and the national body may not be uniform. It would seem that it might make sense to ask every state to agree to the same affiliation agreement.

That was, of course, the opinion side of this article. Now let me see if I can scrape together some news, and hopefully news we haven't read before. :-)

From the California Greens press release, which was mailed to me by Cres Vellucci, Press Secretary for the California Greens. I couldn't find a link to the piece, so until it's posted, you'll just have to trust me. ;-P

The Green Party of California – in the first day of its two-day State Convention here Saturday – said it will spearhead a statewide initiative in 2006 that would dramatically increase the hourly minimum wage in California by $2 to $8.75 an hour – the first increase for the state's lowest paid workers since 2002.

Meeting here at the University of California, Davis, about 100 Green Party delegates from Los Angeles to Eureka said they will organize locally with labor, immigrant and other social justice groups – and even other political parties – to put the measure on the ballot in November of 2006.
The Greens are also pledging to financially support the initiative – on Saturday, one Green Party county delegation wrote and presented a $1,000 check to Californians for Fair Wages, the statewide political action committee overseeing the initiative.

The campaign will try to become the first successful all-volunteer signature-gathering effort in more than a decade. Signature-gathering for the initiative is expected to begin by the end of December.

Now, that's the official press release, but I know you want more than that, so I'll try to paste together some info that might give us all a sense of how stuff went. But remember folks, I was not there. I am an exceptionally poor source on this topic. If you're interested, I'd suggest writing any friends you may have in the California Greens and ask them what their impressions were.

For the moment, there are some notes I have gotten, with permission to pass them along, and I hope you'll find them helpful.

First of all, Cat Woods wrote a very nice and detailed piece about the plenary, and I am in her debt for doing so. The first point Cat made, and perhaps the most important point Cat made is "I'd just emphasize that most of us are thinking forward, not backward." I believe this is true, on all sides of the divide...and remember folks, there are not two points of view on the issues, but several.

She wrote independently of what Dean Meyerson wrote, and they reflected the same basic information on CA's original affiliation. I think the most important phrase Cat used in discussing the basic question of how affiliation was done was, "Basically, it was the typical problem of Green follow through." In other words, like the co-chair vacancy that has been there since the Tulsa meeting, the affiliation agreement and who signed it were allowed to go unanswered for so long that feelings got damaged and trust was lessened. I can say from personal experience that problems do not go away just by ignoring them, but this is what it seems happens too often.

I was amazed to read "There was one proposal and six possible amendments which were all over the map, so it was equivalent to seven
separate proposals. We had 45 minutes.

45 minutes? Wow...that's moving on if you ask me! To be able to deal with such a major issue in such a brief time frame deserves comment, and I am sure everyone had to bend some to comply with that schedule.
Of course, it was not all milk and honey. As Cat reported, and again, I have limited information, but trust that Cat is being honest and complete, the gathering had to take 20 minutes to decide how to set up a straw poll of the delegates. That much time spent on what would seem, from here, where I can't see anything, seems like time that could perhaps have been better spent. Of course, I have myself been a part of that chorus of complaints and insecurity that can stretch things out longer than necessary, so I understand the feeling.
These are the results of this straw poll as reported to me by Cat:

original proposal: approve affiliation agreement, affirming our bylaw that "no GPUS decision is binding on the GPCA without its consent" and interpreting that to mean that any GPUS decision or nomination that affects CA must be approved by a General Assembly if contested by the GPCA membership. 26 votes
Amendment 1: change interpretation of bylaw to mandate a state nominating convention to approve presidential nominee through an IRV election. 29 votes
Amendment 2: In addition to amendment 1, change the affiliation agreement itself to take out the implication regarding presidential nominees. 2 votes

Amendment 3: delete second paragraph that interprets bylaw (just approve affiliation agreement and affirm our autonomy bylaw) 16 votes

Amendment 4: reject the affiliation agreement and form a reaffiliation committee 6 votes

Amendment 5: also give counties autonomy in all statewide races. (I called this one the "sarcastic" amendment, since it came from people who believe we *are* bound to the national ballot line and considered this a way to point out the absurdity of our bylaw. The bylaw is our bylaw, like it or not, so if they want to change it, they need more than
sarcasm -- they need to propose a bylaw change and get 80% approval for it. I pointed out that the legal and democratic situations are very different between the cases, but since I'd said we'd consider any amendment, I left it in.) 4 votes

Amendment 6: replace second paragraph with forming a committee to bring the issue back. 16 votes

Now please note that this is a personal conversation between two Greens. Please do not go off on a "Cat said this but she's a pain" sort of thing. If Cat or I made a reporting error, please point it out. But if you just want to say "So and so is a jerk"...well, blogs are free for the taking. *smile*

I am not saying that Cat's 100% accurate in every detail, but to me she seems credible and, while clear about where she wants the Green Party to go, she doesn't strike me as being anti-democratic, and certainly not anti-Green.

Cat said that some folks were critical of the process, with one proposal and six amendments etc, but she feels that the needed 80% vote was not going to happen this weekend. Placing a few of the proposals that got substantial support before a committee with a decision to be made at a future plenary seems to be the compromise that has been reached.

I end with this quote from Cat's email, which sort of wraps everything up in a package.

What I take from all this:
* There was virtually no support for messing with the text of the affiliation agreement itself. (I think, in addition to seeming complicated and problematic, it also seemed unnecessary, since we interpret our bylaws and legally control our ballot line, not the GPUS.)

* There was very little support for sarcasm toward our autonomy from national. (I dug up quote after quote since 1998 of assurances that we were not giving up authority and would retain our autonomy.)

* There was little support for disaffiliating.

* The GPCA by and large takes this issue seriously and wants to consider it carefully. It neither wishes to recklessly disaffiliate nor allow the threat of disaffiliation (from the crowd behind 191) to control us, in violation of our bylaws and without the consent of our decision-making body (the GA).

This story was the reason I started doing this blog with any real determination. I hope the readers have gotten some benefit from my first attempt at long distance reporting.

A reader posted a message and asked for my email address so s/he could write me privately with observations. That is, of course, fine. I will gladly quote anonymous sources, and even go to jail for you if need be. (Not really, but hell, it sounds good. Don't worry, "real" journalists don't protect anonymous sources either.) But I will keep your name out of it unless forced to reveal my sources to a court. Again, not that I'm a journalist, I am not, but I can keep my mouth shut.

OK, for those who want it, and I'll figure out a way to set up a link at the site that will stay in place, here is my email address: GreggJocoy29715@yahoo.com
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I respect that California Greens are trying to find a diplomatic way to resolve the issue of the affiliation agreement. The problem is that most state parties have made a commitment to support the nominee. If California rejects doing that, as seems likely, then why should the other states continue their affiliation under the current terms?
I think folks should think about this statement: "The GPCA by and large takes this issue seriously and wants to consider it carefully. It neither wishes to recklessly disaffiliate nor allow the threat of disaffiliation (from the crowd behind 191) to control us, in violation of our bylaws and without the consent of our decision-making body (the GA)."

After all the sabre rattling of prop 18? and 191, no one should be surprised that some states might want to consider their affiliation with GPUS. California may be the first but it certainly won't be the last.

Perhaps, rather than trying to paint this as a dangerous precedent we should look at it as an opportunity to work together to find common ground.
"Saber rattling" is the on of the best and most succinct descriptions for proposal 191, even if many people who voted for it didn't mean it that way.

I think what some folks miss is that it sure felt as such. It felt like a threat and was seen as a slap for some perceived past wrongs (which really for the most part seem not to exist).

We need to work much more on processes and goals we can be in agreement on, not punishments and threats for what happens when we don't.

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