My Thoughts on Tulsa
By Ruth Weill
I had no intention of writing about my experience as the Annual National Meeting Committee Co-Chair, and part of the facilitation and elections team. What brought me here was the descriptive slant coming from several different people on all sides. I now feel the need to account for what I thought happened in Tulsa. I am not going to talk about every little event that happened that weekend, just several of the “highlights”.
First of all, I would like to thank the Green Party of Oklahoma for their kindness and hospitality, especially on Friday evening. Despite the extreme heat, the Friday evening fundraiser was a delightful event. Good food and good company!
Friday afternoon’s session was quite informative. We heard great presentations on White Privilege, the Right to Vote Act, the Left Out Tour and many state reports. I do recall some “discussion” about the agenda but we did get through it.
Arriving at the plenary session Saturday morning I discovered there were two factions claiming to be the official Utah delegation. The second group had not arrived before the first plenary session on Friday. I make no claims to know what exactly happened in Utah last year, and I am not sure I want to. What I did know Saturday morning is that this needed to be dealt with ASAP or the session would never begin. A large delay in the morning would cause a spiral effect into the afternoon and consume time set aside for proposal discussions. The Steering Committee was unsure of what to do at this point, as was my co-facilitator, Lynne Serpe. This event resulted in much “caucusing” by the Steering Committee, which at this point it seemed totally warranted.
Finally a compromise was offered by Florida to have each faction get one of the two Utah votes, but it failed. We moved on with the first faction controlling both delegate seats. I am not making any judgments about which group is the correct Green Party in Utah, having personally heard about four different versions of what happened there last year. Unfortunately, the unrelenting fight between the “Cobb and Nader” supporters continues to disrupt our most important work. I just hope this is resolved before next year’s annual meeting.
Everyone there knew Saturday afternoon was the big event. Three GDI proposals were going to be discussed and possibly voted on. On Thursday the delegate packets were being assembled, necessitating many trips to the Kinko’s close to campus. Knowing that the delegates should have a hard copy of the proposals for review, copies were made of proposals 153, 154, 155, only to find out they were not the most updated versions and new copies needed to be made. More direct communication would have alleviated this problem of wasting money and killing trees, not to mention the logistics of trying to distribute the new version of the proposals. Meanwhile the DC Statehood Party created their own proposal in a direct response to proposal 153. Due to telling the crafters of proposals 153-155 that they had until Friday afternoon to turn in their proposal we granted the DC proposal the same rule. There is nothing in the GPUS bylaws regarding this so it was an on-the-spot decision. What is the Steering Committee to do if there is not a policy or procedure about something in particular but to make a decision?
I had made the announcement that all proposals needed to be in by Friday afternoon and we had to keep that rule. I did not specify only proposals that were already introduced; I was unaware at the time that DC had another proposal so that is the real story about why the DC proposal was placed in the agenda. After knowing about the DC proposal the facilitation team tried to accommodate all the proposals and allot more time in the agenda for them. None of the decisions made were going to make everyone happy; we knew that. The facilitation team did their best, along with the Steering Committee, to accommodate all parties involved. A member of the Steering Committee/Facilitation team was supposed to consult with the presenters of 153 about the DC proposal being a part of the discussion on Saturday afternoon. We felt that having it directly after the 153 discussion made sense. We did not hear anything against our idea so we assumed it was ok. That was a big mistake on our part, we should have taken more direct action to discuss the agenda with the presenters of 153 and not left it up to one person. The GDI folks were quite upset that the DC proposal was included in the agenda. After the presentation of proposal 153 the GDI folks basically refused the DC proposal’s presentation. The presenters of the DC proposal did not want to make it a friendly amendment either so we were at a standstill. Many of the GDI group were trying to work things out but the anger won out in the group. There was much caucusing everywhere: the Steering Committee, GDI and the facilitation team.
Valid concerns aside, the handling of this was inexcusable. Pushing people and yelling should have no part of our plenary sessions or at any Green function. I understand the passion but Non-Violence is one of our Four Pillars, come on!
Basically, the Steering Committee and the facilitation team were not realistic in the decision to allow the DC proposal to be discussed during the time allotted to proposals 153-155. It was a bad decision! As human beings we occasionally make bad decisions; nobody is infallible.
Presentations for 154 and 155 were made after 153; then we had a roll call vote. We did not do a roll call per delegate, only per state. Nobody questioned this until close to a week later. This is also something that needs to be worked out before next year’s meeting. All three proposals failed, with about 1/3 of the vote in favor and 2/3 votes against. I hope that people can come together and rework the proposals; much of the content has merit. Hopefully next time will not be so contentious.
The SC elections went fairly well, although the process was quite time consuming. Validation of the ballots could have been handled more efficiently. The team did not have the letters sent to the SC from a couple of states and one caucus about their delegate status changes. The observers asked for clarification, nothing unreasonable. All of the delegates in question were validated from the letters and the counting continued. Next year there should be an elections team meeting a couple of months out to better coordinate logistics. I cannot comment on the recent developments with the threshold issue; I do not know enough about it. I know the NC will decide in an upcoming proposal.
I did not report on every event or activity that happened in Tulsa; it is not necessary. What is necessary is that we realize that we are an ever- growing party and we need to continually improve. There were mistakes made in Tulsa; that happens. All we can do is learn from them. We need to have more strict language in place to better deal with several of the procedural issues we confronted this year. Now is the time for states, caucuses and committees to write better bylaws, procedures and rules. The Steering Committee can only do so much if there are no rules already in place.
This year has been difficult. Much contentiousness has gotten in the way of our responsibility in the community. We need to remember, we are the voice of peace. We must begin to practice what we preach. I call on all Green Party members to get back to why we joined this party, to stop injustice to all — including ourselves.