Spokes Council Budget Drafting

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Spokes Council Budget Drafting
Working Group: Town Planning
Point of Contact: Sean McKeown (s_mckeown@hotmail.com)
Proposed Discussion Date: 3/5/12

A proposal was brought to General Assembly on Tuesday night to guide discussion towards ending the spending freeze via that body. It was, to say the least, unsuccessful. Spokes Council, as a means of interaction that is purposefully designed to facilitate just these sorts of conversations between Working Groups, is thus better able to draft a comprehensive budget to present to the General Assembly and finally thaw the spending freeze.

Occupy works best when we cooperate rather than compete for resources. We cannot have a horizontal movement moving forward purposefully to action if those who do not have access to basic needs operate on a different level than those with easy access to resources. However, we also do not require money to accomplish this on an individual basis.

By focusing on maximizing the impact of our resources and only relying on the crutch of ”money” when it can do something no other resource we have access to can, our Occupation can move forward without having to concern itself over money. Many would like nothing better than to light it on fire, but that’s not what we were given it for. We have been using it as the solution to every problem, but that, too, is not what we were given it for. Meeting somewhere in the middle is thus the appropriate position to take, as is taking our focus off of money and onto the true purpose of Occupy Wall Street: discussing how to change the world, instead of how to budget metrocards. An action-oriented focus on OWS, whether that be the bold actions of Direct Action and today’s corporate shutdowns across the country or the humbler actions of outreach canvassing or simply serving dinner, will allow us to cooperate together in unity once again rather than compete for resources.

I would propose that we begin this discussion with our presently excepted budgetary items in the spending freeze, then proceed to currently frozen budgetary items in drafting a comprehensive budget. This will likely take more than one session’s worth of discussion, and thus this splits it up nicely in two ways: we can start seeking agreement on the pressing issues that currently drive our budgeting, before coming back to look at the bigger picture of everything Occupy is working to achieve… and we can begin the discussion on the discussion points we are all presently very familiar with, then spend the interim between this Spokes Council and Monday’s discussing with each other the other projects, working groups, and miscellaneous budget needs to figure out where the rest of our budgeting makes sense and follows through on both our ideals and our purpose.

* Kitchen – Suggest discussing how to move the Kitchen budget away from financial expenditures and focus more heavily upon donation-based budgeting. Ideally a donation-based budgeting system with at least 50% donations would be achievable within 2-3 weeks; this could be made more reasonable by moving Kitchen’s distribution point from 60 Wall Street and miscellaneous meetings back to Liberty Square with the cultural reoccupation of Liberty Square (COOLS) initiative beginning 3/1.

* Medics – Likewise, the present budget for Medics might be best served moving to at least some significant percentage of donation-based budgeting rather than strict finance expenditures.

* Tech Ops – Website access is not maneuverable away from financial requirements. Suggestion: use as-is.

* Outreach – Outreach fliering prices have already dropped considerably, per piece, thanks to the printing co-op started which does much of our outreach printing. Suggestion: use as-is, or even increase to higher levels if such could be productively used to canvass new areas or meaningfully heighten awareness and interaction.

* Facilitation Site Budgeting – Suggest reduction to maximum of $250 per week from its current maximum level of $450 per week.

* Housing – Currently at zero. This is not anticipated to change.

* Metrocards – We presently over-regulate metrocards and exhibit too little trust, thus requiring too much bureaucracy. These are also presently being given out without question of how effective they are, or what impact this has upon action attendance. I believe these are one of our major remaining weaknesses here at OWS, as these metrocards are a resource that individuals compete over and thus remains a major chink in our effective implementation of a truly horizontal movement. Spokes Council has been accused of being non-democratic because of shifting patterns of horizontal positions; metrocard access as we presently utilize it is absolutely non-democratic because it is clearly non-horizontal. Some Occupiers who meet the guidelines, strict as they are, do not get metrocards… and there is no clear remedy to this. The problem comes not just from what number of these cards we issue, however; the problem comes from the fact that we are issuing private property to individuals rather than communal property to working groups.

I believe OWS should be more action-oriented as a whole, and shift our budgeting to focus on what is effective rather than what it has been in the past… but also believe that we probably need more metrocards than we presently have to do the job, and need to work each individual card *harder* by entrusting these cards not to individuals but to working groups. Internally, card-sharing is only prevented right now by the fact that losing a card or not having it in your hand the next week will prevent you from receiving a new card. Trusting the working groups to find their own best system that suits their own actual needs, however, would be much more in keeping with the principles of Occupy AND allow us to share cards and work them harder for each fiscal expenditure, allowing us to spend less money more effectively to get people to actions and Working Group functions as well as back and forth to housing options.

Suggestion: Discuss which working groups need access to this resource, and at what present levels. Given that Occupiers attending direct actions should be a major focus of this, I would begin by suggesting not just a small increase but a major redefining of the levels we currently use, and suggest not five, not seven, but between twenty-five and fifty metrocards for Direct Action, entrusting that this Working Group will rock these cards as hard as possible not just to get as many Occupiers to daily actions as conceivably feasible, but also use them to get Occupiers to and from their present housing options.

* Two additional pieces of food for thought:

Spokes Council achieved consensus on Monday, 2/13/12, to never use non-consensus discretionary spending (the $100 daily ”per diem” previously accessible by Working Groups without regulation) as part of its budgeting process.

Liberty Square’s occupation is the biggest, most successful direct action we’ve ever implemented. It’s been noted that over the winter, as our actions have gotten less massive, we have received considerably less in outside donations. This also tracks quite directly to ”since we ceased having a physical occupation,” and even if we do not sleep there, the daily occupation of Liberty Square should be considered the topmost priority on a daily basis unless and until a new permanent occupation site is decided upon and implemented. Working Group meetings should move to Liberty Square, and daily attendance at Liberty Square should be maximized as much as possible even if we don’t sleep there.


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