GA Minutes Tue Apr 24 2012

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Announcements

WGs

  • We're some filmmakers from Vancouver trying to make a full length movie about Occupy. Not just on Boston, but generally. We're spending our life savings on it. Hopefully you'll have something to watch come December. Is anybody adamant about not being on camera? Our website is occupythemovie.com
  • Radio
  • Food: Sometimes we seem individual, but that's because some of us are working a lot or providing child care. One thing I'd like the community to think about is which meetings ought to have food. Should the food working group continue to run on it's prior funds, should it be raising money, or should there be more of a potluck atmosphere. We can't turn on a dime. We have to know which days food is going to be need and where. We're volunteers who do this part time.
  • QTDAWG: We're having a meeting on Friday at 6 (at the bandstand). We have on banner, but we don't know what happened to the "dykes against fair hikes" banner. If you know, let us know. If you want to be involved in the planning for May Day come to the meeting, we definitely want to have a queer presence there. Email me for more info allie@occupyboston.org. If you don't know, we do protests and stuff related to gender and sexuality based oppression. Allies are welcome.
  • SAA: this past week, we had a build-in at Noah's house to work on some of the bikes that were donated to Occupy Boston. They still need more time, so if you have time to work on them let Noah or I know. SAA is sort of an ad-hoc group, we don't have really long WG meetings. We make most of our decisions on the email list. Anybody can join that list. It's saa@lists.occupyboston.org. This week it will be at community church on Sunday. We have 20 bikes. Ariel@occupyboston, ndmc@occupyboston.org if you want to help with the bikes.
  • OccupyMBTA: thanks for participation in Camp Charlie! Our WG meetings are 6PM on Fridays at SEIU on West St. Safer Spaces is hosting an analysis of the action (Camp Charlie). The time for that is TBA.
  • Facilitation: I wanted to plug the nonviolence WG meeting tomorrow at 3PM at Clear Consciounce Cafe in Central Square, Cambridge. Also, facilitation housekeeping. Tonight is our last night here at Arlington Street Church. Thanks so much! From now on at Tuesday nights we'll be meeting at the foot of the hill on the Boston Common facing the bandstand (and Thursdays). On Saturday we're still meeting at CCB. There's a proposal that might change that, but in the meantime we're meeting at CCB, 5PM on Friday. We also have a brand new GA Digest. Ideally we're going to create an opt-in GA digest mailing list to send that out.

Individual Announcements

  • Rebecca: I'm the ministerial intern here at Arlington Street Church. I've been working with Facilitation to organize this space for GA. We wanted to give a warm send off. We're interested in how we can stay in a good relationship with Occupy Boston. I believe some working groups are still going to continue to meet here. I also wanted to thank facilitation that have worked well to make this space useable for everything, and to thank everybody who's taken out trash and swept the floor, etc. I also wanted to mention that we have a Friday night supper program every Friday evening.
  • Safer Space: We're going to try to pick up speed, because we got really exhausted and bogged down with other stuff that we're doing. We're planning to do action debriefs. We're still trying to figure out if it's possible to do one for the Camp Charlie action. We want to setup an ethic to evaluate actions after each one we do. We'll definitely do that for May First. We're also working with the women's caucus to schedule a public meeting about addressing harm within the community. Our meetings are Saturday at 2PM at e5. We might take them ouside, but we'll make sure to announce that. It would be really great to have your feedback about how to do action debriefs. We also need more people in the group, we've been very small so far. A relatively recent thing we did was pass this commitment to challenge oppression. One thing we're doing is figure out how we're going to live up to that. I want to read a really quick thing, this is helping me think about personal anti-oppression: "Challenge yourself to be honest and open and address racism, sexism and other forms of oppression. If you encounter some address it on the spot, either 1-on-1 or with allies. Challenge the behavior, not the person. Don't generalize feelings, thoughts, and behaviors towards the whole group. Recognize when somebody offers criticism about oppressive behavior and treat it as a gift. Challenge macho, bravado, or rugged individualism in yourself or others. Take on the grunt work of cooking, cleaning, sending emails, take initiative, etc. Don't feel guilty, feel responsible. Take part in the solution, not the problem." If you're interested in developing community practices email saferspaces@occupyboston.org, but the best thing to do is come to the Saturday meetings. I also wanted to make a disclaimer, I have a friend with me here who's a member of the German press, so just in the interested of safer spaces, people should be aware.
  • Megan: I study journalism at BU, and for my final I'm doing a story on Occupy Boston on what's next. I was hoping I could interview folks and ask some questions at the end. If you feel comfortable I'll be around.
  • Jen: Today Mass Senior Action has their Ride action at the State House, and they were treated horribly. It started at 2:30. The police told us to disperse. At one point somebody started speaking and did a mic check. So that was it.
  • Steve & Tiffany: We both work as organized with United Autoworkes Unions. We want you to know what's happening with the adjunct professors at UMass Lowell. Adjuncts teach the majority of classes but are treated poorly by the administration. For the last year they've been fighting very hard to form a union contract with the administration. So this has been a really important struggle, and we wanted to let you know about that. We're going to be having a rally next Wednesday in Lowell, 11:30, on the South Campus. We wanted to give this information out. Public education is under attack everywhere. We'd also like to ask if you'll endorse this action and support the adjunct's union.
  • Matt: On 8PM on May Day we're having a funeral for capitalism.
  • Ariel: I'm making this announcement on behalf of Noah. Coming up is the 100th aniversary of the bread & roses strike, and the Yiddish Choir is doing a song/show thing and they want to write in Occupy into their play, which is pretty awesome. So, they want to have our voice there. They want us to write a mic check. There will be a mic check during the show, so they people to lead it and to be in it. If you want to lead it you should to to the rehersal tomorrow night at the Teacher's Union Hall in Dorchester tomorrow night at 6:30. The show is 4PM on Sunday. RSVP to Noah, ndmc@occupyboston.org.
  • Allie: I don't know how many of you were here last Saturday, but we passed a proposal to have a new decision making process during GA. I was hoping we were going to use this process tonight, but the person who was going to use the new process didn't show up, so we're not going to use it tonight, but I justed wanted to make sure everybody remembered that they have the option to use it. You don't have to have a clear proposal to use the new process. I also have copies of OB's committment to anti-oppression if anybody wants it.

Proposals

  • (Facilitor explains the hand signals & process)
  • There are two rollovers and two new proposals

Rollovers

    • Changing the GA schedule
    • Expiditing proposals through the GA

New Proposals

    • To move GA on May 5 to JP, where they're doing an event.
    • We're going to be having a rally next Wednesday in Lowell for the adjunct union. We'd like OB to endorse that action.

Ordering the Proposals

  • Currently: Changing the GA schedule, Expiditing proposal through the GA, endorsing the rally in Lowell, moving the GA to May 5 to JP.
  • The order has been changed to allow the Lowell proposal to go through first.

Endorsing an action in Lowell for the adjunct professor's union

  • We're going to see if we can streamline the process for this proposal.

Clarifying Questions & Points of Information

  • CC: Can you lay out what is going to happen during the rally, speakers, etc?
    • We've invited speakers from the students, different orgs, etc.
  • CC: I've never been to UMass Lowell, is it easy to get to from the commuter rail?
    • It's a 40 minute car ride. You can take commuter rail right from downtown and take a bus.

Consensus

  • The proposal passes.

Changing the GA schedule

  • My proposal is simple: to eliminate Tues & Thurs GAs, and to move SAA which happen on Sundays to Tuesdays at 7PM. The new schedule would be SAA on Tuesday at a location TBD, and GA at CCB on Saturday (at 7PM).

Clarifying Questions & Points of Information

  • POI: City Life meets on Tuesdays, so there'd be a conflict.
  • CC: Since some people can't make weekends, and some other people can't make weekdays, so why only one on a weekend?
    • We need some place outside of GA to organize. Saturday seemed to me to be the one that most people would be able to get to. I feel like the pace right now in terms of GA is too quick. They take a lot of energy to put on. If GAs happen at a pace that is too fast or frequent for the community to attend regularly, that's a problem.
  • CC: Is there any consideration of swapping around the time of the GA from week to week?
  • POI: If it's just Saturdays, I'll probably never be there. I'll feel kind of excluded.
  • CC: What's CCB?
    • Community Church of Boston in Copley, where we meet.

Small group discussions

Statements of Support

  • I think that as a person, who attempted to live a normal live while also attending every GA and wanted to die, I think that it's good to lower the load of General Assemblies, because it's a huge commitment right now.
  • I also feel that the need is there to reduce the number and length of time spent at GA, so I applaud the spirit of this proposal. I have an ammendment.
  • I like the idea of cutting the number. I think having one a week if we did some thinking about how to make it more interesting and perhaps having something like a potluck. I think we'll have bigger GAs if we just had one a week, and it might give us more momentum.
  • This will move us towards being more inclusive. Right now it's really hard for people to have fifteen hours for people to devote to OB GAs, and we see the same faces each time. This is supposed to be a powerful space for collective decision making and now it's watered down. I think it would be a great idea if Thursday nights and other nights we still assembled together, perhaps a potluck or skill share.
  • The people of color WG is planning a GA in Roxbury and I think we are making space for that to happen. I don't know exactly what their timeline is, but it should happen in a couple months, and when that happens we'll be ready to go there as a community. I also can't wait for all the other stuff that we can do with our weeknights when we have less GAs. Our groups meetings will be more schedulable.
  • I support this.
  • Occupy Arlington has one GA a week and they're averaging 40-60 people. The same location often has WG meetings before and after it.

Statements of Concern

  • We used to have GA twice a day, I feel like we went from 14 to 4 to make space for the WGs, and they started meeting for a while and eventually met less frequently and some dissolved. While there might be some benefits I feel like it's a crapshoot. We should be having more GAs. It's not that hard for people to get to Roxbury, and it's not that hard for people in Roxbury to get here. If people aren't coming here either they're not feelin it or they have other stuff to do. I just don't see this as being much benefit to us.
  • I see this as potentially harming our movement. We justed added a new process to our GA that is going to allow us to have better discussions about things like politics and values. I believe we need to decide where we're going over the next few months in some collective process. We need to take the time to do that before we change our structure. The structure we have should serve our organizational objectives. Part of what Occupy is, is to be something bigger than a small community group. I see this proposal as devolving us into smaller group. In my experience when you start dropping meetings you don't get them back.
  • There are people who are in our movement who can't stand for long period of time and need restrooms, so I'm assuming that's why this one meeing a week is indoors. For issues of visibility and that POC is planning to start having GAs in Roxbury. I think that if it was instead, and will amend, that if it was one weekday and one weekend it'd be better. I've been an advocate of using GAs of outreach, and we can't do that if GA is indoors.
  • This feels really premature. There is such a push to repurpose what GA means. This is a bad process, we can do better than this. We can change the process. Also, if we give up this time, we're not going to get it back. This is going to happen based on every organizing thing that I've been apart of over the past decade. Some things I'm pushing for personally is what else can we use GA for? There's a lot of baggage attached to words that do not need to be there. If we don't have a central point to get together we're going to lose coordination between WGs, and it could be the death of our momentum. With 3 a week you can choose one that suits you. If there's only one there might be people which we never see again. This is a block level concern.
  • I support what Matt & Carolyn said. I would like to challenge the assumption that with only one meeting a week we'll be bigger. There are some people who can only come one night a week, and if you don't pick their night, they're gone. We've replaced GAs with other things like SAAs, but their attendance isn't any better, so it's just the boring structure that's keeping people away. I was just at the teach-in at Brandeis today about Occupy, and somebody said there that one of the things that makes Occupy different is that we have a shared, common, space where we interact as a group. I don't feel like that this point that it makes sense to eliminate 2 of 3 of those spaces. A long term strategy of where we want to be should occur before we start cutting the wheels off the cart. There a lot of talk about the difference between Occupy as a movement as as an organization. A movement is made up of a lot of organizations, and they're not always organized. I wan't to be in a medium-large organization, not as a wart. I think we need something that's more cohesive here than a bunch of working groups.
  • I do support that rethinking some of how we use our time and energy is a smart thing. At the same time, I think going down to one GA is what I'm going to express the biggest concern for. One of the things that has frustrated me personally and politically is that I'm not seeing us yet take a very developmental perspective on what we're building. That's a time investment: to build community. Politicaly speaking, we've yet to even begin thinking about how we're going to build a cohesive political analysis. I'm much more in favor, now, of staying with two a week, and one of them being much more discussion orientated. I've never considered doing a block before, but this has me considering it. At the same time, I really love that we're trying to figure this out.
  • One assembly is alienating to a large group of people. I wanted to express right now my frustrated of the commodification of the voices in our community to the numbers of people. Rather than talking about our friends who won't be able to get here we're talking about the numbers of people we might or might not have. I don't know if that's necessarily a concern on the proposal itself, but I'm concerned that it's going on. I sometimes feel like I'm sometimes on a long death march away from Dewey Square. Eventually there's going to be one person left with $10,000 and they win. I'm sad, this makes me sad, and I'm concerned about it.
  • Reducing the GAs to one a week, I think, threatens the movement. We won't get the community we have here. I think seeing the community at least twice a week will be strong and good. I think we should be outside on Saturday for maximum visibility and be inside on Tuesday. We need at least twice a week, and the weekday one should be inside.
  • I see it going down hill and I'm very concerned about the idea that some people might not be able to go during the week, and some people might not be able to go during the weekend. Also, I'm just feeling very negative right now about this. I want to remind folks that this is a political movement. We have to commit a lot of time to this. We have to think beyond just ourselves to other people who may want more than once a week, and we want as much attention as we can get, which means more than one meeting a week. I'm also in interested in this new process, so maybe we should have more time to just deal with that. I think this is not solvable by taking away GAs, it's solvable by ideas such as major recruitment, we could also have a retreat maybe, some time this summer. Other people may only be able to come one night a week, and we can't afford to have less people. There are people in the future who may only be able to come during the weekend or during the week.
  • To the best of my knowledge people are voting with their feet. Tuesdays are the best attended, Thursdays are the least attended. What we have right now, in effect, is two GAs, Tues and Sat. A lot of people, including myself want more discussion time, we voted on a new process to make that better for us. At the same time we want fewer meetings so we can do more things. I'm going to ask people to think beyond their pet projects and think about the rest of us. And also to give the new process a chance.
  • If we use a less academic and beuracratic process we'll have more people here.
  • I think the proposal is a step in the right directions. I can basically come to one a week and that's it. I think if we had one a week and one meeting which was a community discussion that'd be good. I agree that it's hard to have one outside I think that meetings like this are a lot better inside. I don't want us to become a confederation of working groups.
  • I think we should give the outdoor GAs and the new process a shot.
  • We're speeding along too much. We've been hiding in church basements and we need to be outside and let that sink in a bit. The problem of our numbers is because we're not outside. Once we go back outside and once school ends we'll get more people again.
  • I'm a little scared of what will happen if we start cutting down. I feel like right now, if we cut down to only one GA a week, that we are probably not going to attract people back and we might lose people because of scheduling, and that scares me. I like the idea of switching the SAA to Tuesdays, but I'm not sold on having only one GA a week. It scares me to think that this could shoot ourselves in the foot.
  • I hear a lot of people saying that one is way too few, so maybe two. I'm burning out, and that's either going to make me walk out of the movement. I need to do fun stuff too, and GA is not my life. It's something to consider. You don't have to be at GA to do OB stuff.
  • One thing about GAs that are different in OB is how long the GAs are. When I go to GA in other places they're two hours long instead of five. What if, instead of having fewer GAs we have shorter GAs.
  • I have a concern that there might be some element of reactivity that a number of these proposals embody as the result of the experience of having the GAs (and people) attacked, that say that they're boring, useless, etc. I've said those things too. Yet, there's an intuitive fear that I have, that to defend against criticism or acknowledging that there are real principled differences between us that we are in some kind of unintentional unconsciousness, and there might be some kind of angst of trying to get it right to try and get everybody back together again. I'm concerned that the unresolved issues that caused so much conflict, has some part on our sense of urgency to fix it.
  • We should learn to pace ourselves. We don't have to be at everything all the time.
  • I think it's pertinent that we think outside the box. I went to a lot of Occupies and there were a lot of places that had gotten rid of GA. When they took them away they couldn't get them back. And more interestingly there was a quick turnaround for people to say "oh, I really want that back". They got into this weird limbo where 60% really wanted GA back and 40% didn't. I worry about the one day a week because whether it's inside or outside it alienates people. I can't deal with outside GAs, so just having one GA outside would end GAs for me. I really with that we kind of thought about ways to have community in this time and space before we do something like this. There's definitely a lot more room to think outside the box with this. I don't want anybody in this community to feel pressured, like they have to come everyday a week. Part of being a community means others can voice your concerns even when you're not around.

Friendly Amendments

  • I amend that we have two GAs a week, and leave the SAA alone.
  • I'm feeling a lot of negativity! There were so many people talking about fears that the movement would dissipate if we take away GAs. With this proposal we would find a way to make it work, we'd find new structures to fill the space. I think that having two is a great amendment. However, my amendment is to have GA on Tuesday, SAA on Sunday, and leave Saturday open for events. If we have a big rally on Sat and want it to culminate in GA we should be able to do it.
  • We should have two GAs. I think that's a good compromise. One SAA, two GAs. The second part of it is to leave an open space for a GA that goes to different communities in Boston. We have activists in other communities, and it would take some time to setup, but we'd get used to it eventually. Rotate the Thursday to communities who are under represented.
  • I amend that we table this for precisely one month to give our recent changes time.
  • I propose that we eliminate the Thursday GA, unless we are going to turn it into a roving GA. I think we need to retain the Tues and Sat GAs.
  • To turn one of the GAs into an offset (having it every 6 days or every 8 days) so that it eventually happens every day of the week.
  • To keep three GAs, and to add a traveling GA on Sunday before SAA.
  • I say we table this, and we won't bring it up until we have a summit about what the movement actually stands for.
  • We bring it down to Tuesday and Saturday, and perhaps having a roving GA or, just a discussion time. We also need to figure out this new process, maybe that will convince more people to come. Maybe wait for a month.
  • That every decision that the OB GA passes are announced at the next GAs that week and that people be given the opportunity to block afterwards, so everybody doesn't have to be at any particular GA.
  • First, I think we should not specify what days the GAs should be, and just leave the proposal just cutting down the number, so GA can change the days after that. Secondly, I think that cutting down the number of GAs should be linked with setting agendas for proposals, so people know what to expect.
  • I'm hearing that a lot of people are interested in having this proposal tabled and to have more discussion, and I wonder if taking the time to take this proposal through a priority process thing, or once we figure out how to change one of the GAs into some kind of discussion thing. Maybe if we take some time to do that research and change the process before we make any decisions to cut GAs. I guess I'm recommending a community meeting to change one of the GAs to a discussion process before we cut it.

Proposer Responds

  • This clearly is not going to be a decision which unites us. I'll pledge to come back in two weeks or a month with a reworked proposal. I've been going to facilitation for a long time, and have spent a long time arguing about how to GAs better, and that takes up a hole hell of a lot of time. We keep having GAs, and I'm pretty sure that all the proposals on stack tonight (before the folks from Lowell showed up) were about GAs. That concerns me, because we're spending way too much time at GA talking about GA. We need to be a community taking action. The concerns that I'm hearing concern me a little bit. On the one hand we want to have 3 GAs a week and we want to be accessible. But this is also the place where we make decisions as a community, and we seem to also be saying that "if you don't want to go to GA, don't go to GA." That's hard for me to reconcile. I agree that we need to find a way to be outside and inside. That's probably what I'll come back with. The other tension that we probably need to resolve, and that we need to think about is that there are people in the room who want more time for discussion, and there are also people in the room who want more time for WG and affinity group organizing. We need to figure out how much organizing we need to do, and how much needs to happen in GA. I had emailed what's left of the media WG about possibly doing a poll, because I thought this might not get resolved tonight. It might be useful as a resource, even if everybody can't get to that.

Expediting proposal through GA

  • I propose to create a consent stack which is a list of proposal that can be considered to address subjects around which a broad consensus can be reached. Proposals are grouped together in a stack or package. There would be no discussion about the proposals themselves beyond clarifying questions. If any member feels that any proposal or proposals required discussion, it would be pulled out and considered as part of the regular proposal process. The remaining items in the consent stack would be adopted by unanimous vote. The consent stack would be considered after announcements and before the scheduled agenda.

Clarifying Questions & Points of Information

  • CC: Who decides what goes into this stack? Facilitation, the proposer, or is it set before GA?
    • There's beens ome concern about notification of propsals, so I opted not to include it in this proposal, it's up to the proposer.
  • CC: Are you familiar with the use of this technique to know how often or in what ways it can be abused?
    • The major concern for our purposes is notification, it was felt that it would be too much of a burden so I didn't include it in the proposal.
  • CC: Isn't an example of this the folks from Lowell who came today? Would they get a chance to speak?
    • Yes, in fact, it would have made it a smoother process, and we'd still hear what they had to say.
  • CC: Is there any concern that somebody with a more controversial proposal can just dump it in here?
    • No, because a single person's reservation is enough to take it out of the expedited stack.
  • CC: How is this different, or the same from the rollover?
    • These proposals would be considered before rollovers, because they're straightforward.
  • POI: They've been using something like this in Spain for a while.

Small Group Discussion

Statements of Support

  • There's a lot of things that we agree on that we don't agree on because we don't have a process that allows things to be passed without talking for an hour and a half. I also like the idea of not having an expedited process without confusion.
  • We saw an example of how this could work tonight, and it seems to work when we do it informally.
  • This will leave more time to debate things that need to be debated.
  • Even courts do this.
  • This is one of the key things that we've been missing in our process.

Statements of Concern

  • Even though I support this proposal I'm concerned because if everybody in the room says "this is a no-brainer" but my quiet self thinks something should go on stack, everybody else in the room is going to go "fuck you". It's a lot of peer-pressure, which is what our process tries to avoid.
  • I do think that it's very important to have some kind of mechanism for expedience. There have been proposals, which weren't necessarily bad or poorly intentioned, but they were decisive.
  • I think this would be very effective at stopping time wasting, but I'm concerned that it's going to stop well thought out proposals from being discussed.
  • Right now this isn't something that I'm concerned about this, but last week I would be, and I probably will be in the future. Sometimes I don't mind statements of solidarity but sometimes I think they're bad and we should stop doing them entirely. It's not like we're committing to go to these things but we're just saying... "yes". I think this might encourage more proposals just looking for some kind of GA approval stamp for endorsements.
  • This puts a lot of power into the proposer's hands to decide whats controversial to people. I feel like the community should be making those decisions. I also worry that in it's form right now, the proposal doesn't encourage people to do different things with their proposals. It doesn't encourage people to do something more active with the endorsement type proposals, like commiting to attending those things, etc.

Amendments

  • All proposals should get on the consent stack, because I think we should get used to even one person raising their voice "I think this should be discussed". Then we also take away the power from the proposer to decide "is this controversial". We'll get used to being intentional about being "yes, we want to talk about it." Again, we should have every proposal be on the consent stack, and to make sure we have a very facilitated safe space, where even one person who's very shy and doesn't often speak up can say "I have an issue with that."
  • As a computer science nerd I cannot continue to go along calling this a "stack" because it not a stack. We should call it a batch instead.
  • To not have a separate-bucket-popcorn-box but to have every proposal go through this amendment.
  • When somebody has a concern, the people next to that person should raise their hand for them, so that's person alone.

Proposer Returns

  • I'll accept the amendment that all proposals go through this process. As for the name, we can call it "consent agenda" rather than stack. I'll also say that it's options for somebody else to raise somebody's concern.

Clarifying Questions & Points of Information

  • Nope

Statements of Support

  • It's awesome

Statements of Concern

  • Nope

Amendments

  • I'll amend that rather than say that safer spaces are optional, to say that we will create a non-oppressive safe space for people to raise concerns.

Blocks

  • Facilitator reads the definition of blocks.
  • There has been a call for quorum.

Quorum

  • Facilitator reads the definition of quorum.
  • We do not have quorum, so this proposal will roll over until Thursday.