MINUTES 12-4-11

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Political and Electoral Reform Working Group

Minutes for meeting 12/4/11


Attendance:  9 at the beginning of the meeting, 15 in the middle, 10 at the end (I foolishly did not take names)


Brief discussion of hand signals and process, round of introductions.


Lena is with us from the Swedish equivalent of the Associated Press, TT (?).  She will be taking notes and pictures throughout.


Review of last weeks meetings (see last weeks minutes)




Elspeth – Attended a meeting about fracking on November 30th with the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).  67 people at the meeting had things to say against fracking, 2 had things to say for it.  Despite all that, Cuomo has the final decision about whether to allow fracking in New York and there is concern that he really wants the support of the big money gas companies.  In an environmental report about fracking several inches thick there was no mention of the heath risks.  Elspeth would like to encourage everyone to send written comments to the DEC by January 11th.


There are some suggestions of other working groups that might be more directly interested in concerns about fracking, particularly political action and impact and sustainability.


Tim – Has been invited to take part in a Q&A about OWS at the social justice commission of the Riverside Church on Monday.  This is a simple “learn more about the people in OWS” kind of thing.  Others are invited to attend and participate, particularly those in other working groups.  Monday at 6:45 PM at Riverside Church.


Tim – Voting experiment is still raising money for an iPad, but more on that in report backs.  Stefan made cards!  These are passed around, and all are encouraged to check out the website (someone please provide the URL as I missed it).




Voting Experiment (Tim) – It’s sort of on hold until an iPad can be procured.  It is running in a simulator.  The issue is that it’s at the point where it needs testing, which requires the hardware.  They are raising money


Sam – How far are we in raising money?

Tim – 2 people pledged $100 each but don’t want to use paypal, so another method needs to be found.  Tim pledged $100 and Scott pledged $100


Scott – Getting access to the money is more of an issue than finding people willing to donate.  Also, we need a mass of people to participate to test it effectively.  When Zuccotti was occupied that part seemed easy, but now with people more scattered it’s harder.  There is also collaboration going on with people from Open Source who think they can maybe make a Linux version of the software to be put on cheaper tablets.  No idea how long that would take.  There are plans to hold a parallel primary in Zuccotti park on primary day to test the system.


Brian – Maybe test it on a day of action – access to more people.


Tim – Riverside Church was maybe a possibility for funding help, but their fund isn’t really geared towards this type of thing.


Viral Campaign for a Constitutional Convention (Ben) – The meeting today didn’t really happen, and I (Ben) personally haven’t attended a meeting for a few weeks, so not sure what to report.  There are some really exciting documents circulating the forum, and meetings will resume next week.  Expect more soon.


Outreach (Sam) – Needs help on how to do the actual outward reaching.  Brian volunteers that he can help, as he’s involved in Comm Hub which is specifically for this sort of thing.




Anne –  Do we need an agenda for this subgroup?  Are we looking for a one time cross-WG meeting?


Sam – Hopefully we can get a representative from each group to meld and collaborate on goals that are shared across working groups.  In order to get things moving we need a LOT of people behind each idea, and for that we need cohesion.  Sam will just start contacting people (with an emphasis on those likely to overlap with PaER) and see what happens.  There are threads on NYCGA that indicate other groups have similar ideas and concerns.


Tim – The National Popular Vote Plan is pending in the NY State Assembly.  Should outreach also reach out to Occupies in other NY cities about things like that?


Anne – InterOcc kind of does that already


Sam – the first goal should just be getting cohesion among ONYC, then maybe expand.


Scott – There was an idea weeks ago to reach out to other caucuses, many of which meet at the same time on the same days.  What about trying to have split meetings, with individual WGs meeting for the first hour, then melding for the second hour?




Ben (from DA) – There was a demonstration outside Obama’s fundraiser on Wednesday that went well.  Tomorrow (Monday) Gingrich is in town, DA is going to his fundraiser to tell him to take a bath himself since his politics are dirtier than tent-dwellers.  The action will meet at 11:30 AM at 37th and Park.  Another action will be planned for December 14th for Romney.


More Announcements:

Anne – went to the Occupy SEC meeting.  They’re going over the Voelker Rule, which is related to Dodd/Frank and bans proprietary trading.  Right now the document is in the “comments” phase, and usually the only ones who comment are big finance who push to get loopholes and soft spots put in.  O-SEC is formulating 35 pages of comments, they would like to bring it to PaER to gather signatures.


Anne – There’s a rally being planned at the Federal Courthouse for the Citizens United  anniversary.  There’s work being done on getting a city council resolution regarding corporate personhood.  Anne would like to organize to get everyone to meet with their city council members to push for that resolution.


People Before Parties (Tim) – There seems to be some possible disagreement on the mission statement.  It is very broad.  What should be our strategy for bringing this to the GA?  There was an attempt at holding teach-ins but no one attended, so it seems like maybe it should just be brought to the GA forthwith.




Dustin – We should bring it up at GA tonight as a working group report back.


Sam – Should it go to Spokes Council instead?


General – spokes seems not to be the place, that’s more about operational concerns


Karen – It seems like there are lots of overlapping ideas.  She likes the plan of bringing it to GA for a breakout discussion, then holding an open forum, then bringing it in as a proposal  It needs moving forward!


Scott – at GA last night Doug brought [something – I missed exactly what] to the GA.  People seemed open to his idea, but not to paying out $25K to a company to do online petitioning.  People are open to these kinds of ideas, but they need to be given action items.  What do they DO?


Anne – What exactly is the goal in taking it to the GA?  It seems more like a policy statement than an actionable item.


Tim – It’s meant more as recommendations to other GAs and Assemblies.


Anne – It needs to be written up what should be done with it.


Sam – It’s been brought up that the document is too long for the attention span of a GA.  It would probably do better passed around for breakout discussions.




Brian – wants it ratified as an OWS press release.  Similar to what was done with the Declaration of Intent.


Tim – the last paragraph contains the “what to do” part.  All of those “urgings” are the point


Anne – it’s unclear to her that that is the point.  Maybe put it at the beginning?


Sam – Still seems ambiguous on what the next step is once it’s presented to GA


Tim – Okay, but the proposal is how to present it to the GA, not what happens after it’s been presented.


Brian – Those two are related though – what we do with it after affects the way it should be presented.


Sam – Just present it as it is and see what happens.


Ben – To make it clearer to GA what the point is, maybe just clarify the last paragraph and move it to the top of the document.


Anne – what day should it go to the GA?  It should go up on NYCGA.net right away so people have time to look at it first.


Tim – How about announcing the intention to bring it at the Saturday GA, holding an open forum for discussion on Sunday, and bringing it back to GA for ratification the following Saturday?


Sam – We should give it a week between the announcement and the forum so people have time to read it.


Tim – Maybe advance that to Saturday presentation, Sunday Forum, Tuesday ratification


Sam – Reiterates – give it time before the forum.  People need time to respond.


Brian – Why wait until Saturday to present it?


Stefan – It should go to GA as soon as possible, getting people’s feedback is the most important thing.


Scott – Friendly Amendment:  Give people a chance online or in person to respond.  Not just one day before asking them to ratify.  If it goes to Facilitation on a Tuesday for a Saturday presentation to the GA, that’s a lot of time to read it.


Proposal:  Bring the document to the GA this coming Saturday (send it to Facilitation on Tuesday), hold a forum on Sunday at Noon, go back to the GA with amendments on Tuesday for ratification.




Anne – Seeking consensus on monitoring the NYCGA.net PaER forum.  We’re missing at least one moderator.  Anne wrote up a document on Borderline Personality/Narcissistic Disorder that may apply to some behavior in the forums.  JackRabbits posted forum guidelines are a good starting point, but there are still problems and no guidelines on enforcement.  Personal attacks seem to be a problem – should there be one warning or two given before action is taken by mods?




Brian – How does the moderation process work?


Anne – no one really knows.  Only Admins can actually ban someone.


[Name unknown] – What constitutes a personal attack?  Maybe what some people read as an attack isn’t meant that way.


Anne – intent doesn’t matter – name calling, slurs and profanity are all attacks.


Sam – Who determines what counts and what doesn’t?  Some people aren’t eloquent communicators, some profanity might just be heated discourse.  Should we start a panel for establishing definitions?  JackRabbit seems to be missing – who’s driving the bus?


Karen – Forums need strong moderation to be effective tools for communication.  It’s not really that hard to define what is abusive, and it’s easier to establish rules early and enforce them than to try to implement them retroactively.


[name unknown] – Two strikes before action seems good.  People deserve more than one chance, but we should still be strict.  People need an opportunity to explain and defend their words, but it seems like that might be a non-issue since many don’t come to meetings.


Stefan – the person being attacked says what counts as an attack.  It should be an individual’s responsibility to bring it to the mods.


[name unknown] – Technical suggestion:  Erasing posts is a scary thing, it looks and feels like silencing voices.  What if a potentially offensive was hidden instead?  That way a mod could flag a comment and keep it from appearing by default, but those who want to read it can click to open it.  That function may be available in the next version of the forums.


Sam – personally is offended by the proliferation of unrelated material in threads – the agenda thread being a prime example.





Elspeth – Maybe it’s Agents Provacateurs on the forums?


Scott – Friendly Amendment (in advance of an actual proposal):  Until we have a hide feature what about creating a “Doghouse” thread?  Offensive or off topic comments could be put there with a note as to why the comment was moved.  That way it’s not erased and the poster has an opportunity to defend the comment.  Give the original poster seven days to defend their post, and if it is not adequately defended delete it.


ANNE PROPOSAL (in off-the-cuff form) – If someone feels attacked, contact the mods.  Mods will issue warnings twice.  After a violation of the guidelines offensive posts will be hidden or deleted.


Anne will write this up for next meeting.  As a side note, it would be great if mods could move posts to relevant threads.


There is also the issue of “excessive posting”  Some people have been posting the same thing across lots of threads.


Scott – We can not assume that we know the intent or mindsets of individuals.  What looks like malicious behavior may not be.


Tabled, going back to agenda.


99% Candidacy:


Anne – Zack started occupytheballot.org to promote candidates who don’t take money and use GAs in their campaigning process.  There’s been no consensus on the proposal.  Are people generally against candidacy or what?


[name unknown] – What’s the difference between the 99% Candidates idea and a political party?  Generally it seems that OWS is disenchanted with political parties.


Anne – endorsement of a candidate is not the same thing as a political platform – without a platform, it’s not a party.


Karen – There’s a problem with running a campaign through a GA – how would a candidate do that in a large district?


Ben – The original idea about GAs in the document was about constituent access to their candidates and representatives, not about forming platforms and policies directly through GA consensus.


Stefan – the first part of the document is definitely a platform/party.  Block registered on anything that is supporting a political party.  Stefan sent Zack an email with suggestions for changes and was told, basically, that he didn’t understand the document.


Carol – isn’t the document about supporting a person, not a party?  Defining the conduct of one candidate’s campaigning, not a party platform.


Tim – Yes, exactly.  The document is content neutral, it’s about process not platform.  The Nazi party could use it if they chose to.


Scott – sees it that way too, but ideologically agrees with Stefan about party support.  The document needs to be more clear.


Ben – would like to get feedback from Stefan and Scott (and whoever else) and try a rewrite to make it more clearly NOT about party.


Tim – Has to go to his Dad’s birthday party.


PROPOSAL to send Tim’s Dad a happy birthday message from PaER




Sam – “Your dad is a political party, we can’t endorse him”


Stefan circulates document on process – 5 minutes to read.




[name unknown] – This document overlaps with concerns of the Accountability WG


Sam – At what point do we count attendance?


Stefan – The initial count of attendance is to be used for minor proposals.  Attending members can call for a recount at any time to establish quorum.


Don – Is this intended for all working groups?


Stefan – no, just PaER


Don – This could be a good model for other working groups too.




Quorum is the hard part.  There’s lots of math.  There’s potential disenfranchisement.  It’s difficult to work out a middle ground.


Tim – Maybe we need to define a core group of members and use only that to define quorum


Don – A cluster meeting of WGs might be the best place to sort out concerns like this


Anne – When do we define attendance of a meeting for the purpose of determining the average of the past six meetings?  Maybe a person needs to be at the meeting for at least an hour to count towards attendance?


Stefan – doing it by time attending adds a layer of complexity


Brian – [missed this – I’m sorry Brian]


Don – Wants consistency between working groups.  Maybe a digital solution is needed in the broader context.


Tabled for feedback and editing.



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