Minutes of Oct. 23 Meeting (Draft–please comment)

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Politics and Electoral Reform OWS Group Meeting
10/23/11 3 p.m. Liberty Square (“Red
Cube”)

Introductions/Attendance: JackRabbit, Karen Young, Dan
Wolff, Scott, Wendelin, John Jaye, Steve, Jesse L., Ross Wolfe, Pam, Brian
Kuhn, Lucius Ringwald, Tim, Stan Williams, Ahmed, Sam Uddin, Casey Bowman,
(indecipherable), Brian, Tania, Anne R. , Alexa.

The guide to Process was presented and explained.

We discussed posting the minutes in the Documents section
and also putting it on a Twitter feed.

Discussion of previous meeting’s minutes.

Sam clarified that this group is a Thematic group, not a
Working group.

The Voting Experiment was discussed. It was explained that
the Voting Experiment will involve an actual voting booth set up in Liberty
Square for the purpose of testing different ways of voting and comparing their
results. These results will be scientifically studied. Anne raised the issue of
whether anyone is qualified to do this and it was stated that Kay, who has been
working on the project, is a mathematician. The issue of preventing fraud was
raised. Registration or unique user IDs were suggested. The issue of funding
was raised. This will need to be addressed at a later date. Karen suggested
getting information from other groups who have already been working on
alternate voting mechanisms.

Jesse presented the “viral” campaign for a Constitutional
Amendment to get money out of politics. Jack suggested contacting groups
already working on this, a strategy meeting and a statement of purpose. There
is a Piratepad with a draft.  Lucius suggested working with a group called “Getting
Money out of Politics.” Alexa explained that this would be for an Article V
Constitutional Convention. She expressed some concern about the “Getting Money
out of Politics” group’s leadership which has been affiliated with the Bahrain
government in some way, and another group (name?). Lucius disagreed and said he
found the groups’ leaderships to be credible. Someone noted there are a number
of groups around the country working on this we could contact.  Scott suggested we develop slogans (“memes”)
for this campaign. Alexa stated that there are two ways to amend the Constitution,
one through Congress and another through thte states. Anne suggested we consult
a political scientist for expertise/authority/clarity.

The Electoral Reform proposal (13 items) was presented for
discussion/approval. Some items were clarified, including fusion voting and
proportional representation and the states’ role in determining Congressional
districts and representation in the Electoral College (clarifying that all the
items can be addressed on a state or local level, as specified in the preamble).
Brian stated that he is opposed to term limits. Alexa made a speech about union
corruption and suggested that unions be specifically mentioned in the preamble.
Tim suggested unions could be viewed as one of the “factions” mentioned in the preamble.
Lucius suggested not getting lost in details, as the document suggests
experimentation. Brian stated that he likes his member of Congress. Anne and
(who?) suggested explanatory paragraphs for the items and Brian K. agreed. Tim
stated these are available on the website.  Hiam (sp?) spoke in favor of ballot
initiatives (referenda) and Jack disagreed. Tim suggested changing some wording
regarding this.  John stated there will
be difficulty contextualizing this for OWS and Brian K agreed that this will
need work. Anne and Karen stated they liked the document overall and Karen
suggested adding a sentence to the preamble about how many other countries
already have many of these provisions. Lucius agreed. Scott noted we had spent
40 minutes discussing the proposal. Jack suggested removing the clause after “publicly
financed election campaigns.” Alexa suggested separating the demands before
presenting them to the GA. Lucius suggested that time is of the essence. John
suggested we need a separate discussion about how to approach the GA with this.
Alexa suggested building consensus among different GAs.  A majority of the group found the Electoral
Reform document to be good overall and a majority also agreed it needs some
fine-tuning. The consensus was that we should spend more time working on it. This
can be done via the website. We agreed to revisit the proposal next Sunday.

Ross presented the Platypus Society’s request for an
endorsement/sponsorship for a panel discussion they are holding about “reconstituting
the Left.” The “Think Tank” OWS group is already on board. Several speakers
from a variety of Marxist persuasions and previous activist movements have been
lined up. Some concerns were raised: Casey and Alexa disliked the idea of
aligning ourselves with an ideological Left. Lucius disliked reinforcing the
idea of a binary “Left-Right” paradigm. Sam stated OWS should transcend labels.
Anne questioned whether this group has the authority to endorse another group
while functioning under the OWS banner. Jack said he liked the idea of building
coalitions with other groups. The group voted down a formal endorsement, but
agreed individual members can speak at the panel or pose questions to the
panel, which can be sent via Ross.

Casey briefly presented his proposal about expanding the
number of Representatives in the House of Representatives. We agreed to deal
with this as a first order of business at the next meeting.

Jack brought up several brief agenda items, which were voted
on:

Clarify on the calendar that the daily meetings are info meetings. Agreed.

Thursday as additional day for official meeting. Agreed.

Meeting in an indoor space in the future. Agreed. Next Sunday we will meet at 60 Wall
St.

Post minutes and distribute hard copies at beginning of next meeting. Some
disagreement about printing out numerous hard copies. Ahmed said he takes his
laptop with him everywhere, so people can view the minutes.

The Spokescouncil proposal was discussed, including the
implications for this group’s ability to get financing and promote our
proposals to the larger community.

The meeting was adjourned some time around 6 p.m.

6 Responses to “Minutes of Oct. 23 Meeting (Draft–please comment)”

  1. Casey Bowman

    “Casey and Alexa disliked the idea of aligning ourselves with an ideological Left.”

    One clarification on the whole left-right business – the definition of the left spoken of on Sunday is so last century. I’ve always seen myself as of the original left, the left defined by the *ongoing* American Revolution defined by the Declaration of Independence. I wrote about this in 2007. I think the left is about to be redefined BTW by pirate parties with libertarian tendencies to decentralize, decentralize, decentralize.

    I recently heard that Lech Walesa, of Solidarity fame, had changed his mind on visiting OWS. I haven’t received corroboration on this, but if it’s true, it’s very sad. People must understand the horrors people have experienced in the 20th century under such-and-such powers.

    Let me underline that it’s important to have a public space where we can all talk as individuals and reason together and see beyond the labels to the ideas, which may or may not have merit. There can be elements of enlightenment in many lines of thinking, trapped by rigidity and labeling and the two-party game. Let’s leave the parties and factions at the door, particularly the strong-arm ones.

  2. Tom White

    The way in which Federal elections are held are outlined in the Constitution and we will need to stay within those guidelines. I would suggest that you do not seek to make Constitutional changes. I firmly believe that the changes we seek can be obtained without having to change the Constitution. Remember, this is not a protest against authority. We must work within the rules of law to achieve the things we want. Our numbers will speak for themselves. We need to change existing laws that limit the ability of any party other than Republicans or Democrats to compete in elections…or get elected anyways.
    We will soon be a significant political force of our own. We need to organize quickly and back candidates that we know will further our agenda, if not run them from within our own ranks. But to obtain true Occupy representation in government probably means electing members of Congress of our own.
    We don’t HAVE to be a political party, but it sure wouldn’t hurt.

  3. Casey Bowman

    @Tom As was pointed out in the meeting, one process we are discussing is an Article V convention, which is called by the states. It’s an amendment convention, limited in purview. As was pointed out in the recent Harvard conference, this would not be a constitutional convention where the people would start from scratch. There was an article written in 1776, entitled “The Alarm”, which Gordon Wood quotes in his book “Creation of the American Republic”, where the author differentiates between the legislation of legislators governing citizens and the constitution of the people governing legislators. “CONVENTIONS … are the only proper bodies to form a Constitution, and Assemblies are the proper bodies to make Laws agreeable to that Constitution.” Legislators can’t be their own authority on this. There may be some amendment necessary, and happily there’s Article V to get past the two-party locks. Many of the items in the document we spent time considering Sunday would require amendment not legislation if the process is to be proper.

  4. Haym Gross

    (This post is copied to the Electoral Reform Proposal page in the interest of wider distribution).

    Bravo, excellent work on the Electoral Reform Proposal and as presented at the 10/23 meeting the recommendations are near,in my opinion, to a worthy proposal for consideration by the NYCGA. While the assembled group raised concerns and some outright objections, the direction and tone of the document is sound.

    Several points: The very articulate bearded young man (sorry didn’t catch name, Tim?) who presented the document is rightly impatient for change. With a bit of patience and collective effort the proposal will be refined and improved.

    OWS is a grudging acknowledgement of the power of the current ‘economic royalist’ regime and a campaign to forge a common response. I say simply that after 235 years, let’s face it, the Tories won.

    ‘People before Parties’ and the doc’s emphasis on electoral reform works to change our present system of exercising political power through representative government. Most of these proposals are overdue fixes to a corrupt system or tried and true reforms which will advance democratic participation and ballot access. Let’s not ‘call for experimentation with reforms’ but INSIST UPON THE INSTITUTION OF REFORMS and offer these instruments of reform as options to the laboratories of democracy.

    With respect to representation:
    Term limits- we shouldn’t be so quick to fire Henry Waxman. The presumption of the system’s corruptibility will not taint all politicians equally.

    I agree with all the proposals to improve proportional representation. Is the Senate not the most disproportionately representative and elite body ? (Worthy of mention ?)

    My main point:
    Link the recommendations with ‘getting money out of politics’, which is the gist of the swelling rebellion against the plutocracy. Democracy through representatives is, despite every effort at reform, subject to the corruption of money.

    Yes-’Get Money Out of Politics’.

    Here’s the meme: ‘Make the Public Purse Public’

    Take our money out of the hands of politicians.

    So: strengthen the recommendation on Initiatives and Referenda to PROMOTE VOTING ON BIG PUBLIC FUNDING DECISIONS. Large public expenditures or public obligations should be subject to a direct popular vote.

    • Jameson Quinn

      I agree with making the statement stronger; “insisting” or “demanding” rather than “calling for”.

      “It is unacceptable that nobody can be elected to congress if they don’t spend more money than (99%? I think this is true, but if not, find the real number… 97% or whatever) make in a year. We demand ….

      “It is unacceptable that we are forced to vote for a Democrat or Republican if we want to affect the winner. We demand that the plurality system be abandoned at all levels and with all reasonable haste. There are many better options…”

      etc.