GA Minutes Tues Feb 28 2012

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Minutes for 28 September 2012

Details

Location Arlington Church

Time: 7pm to 10:30pm

Note taker: Charlie

Summary

Announcements

Non-violence working group

March 17, 100th birthday of ____. Community gathering Monday night, 6-8:30, C__ church in Boston. Exploring power and challenges of non-violence. Next WG meeting Thursday March 1 at 3pm, 7 Pleasant Place in Cambridge.

Food

Food WG is regrouping again. Meeting Tuesday, Arlington Church, 5:30pm

Media / livestream

Livestream training Saturday 3:00pm, E5.

  Q: Any other opportunity for this?
  A: No other training set; but contact livestream team and we can teach you.
  Q: Is the training going to be livestreamed?
  A: We hadn't thought to, but sure.

Logistics

We're working hard still. Would love to see you there. We need a big truck, a food tent, and a sink. logistics@occupyboston.org

Tactical

Meeting tomorrow at Remmington's at 9pm.

Financial Accounting Working Group

Please continue to contribute to the space rental found; $320/week.

We haven't had a meeting in a month or so. Meeting tomorrow, 7pm, at City Place / Transportation building. Please join us: it's just a bunch of old white folks managing your money, which isn't good.

Proposal passed a while ago for a spending freeze on working group dispersements. We promised to make a recommendation on March 6. There was a $2000 set-aside for actions; we've spent ~$800.

Screen Print

We made T-shirts today. Yay!!! See me if you want help with screen printing -- or Screen Print Guild , facebook page, etc.

Spaces

We've had a conversation about visions around space, etc. We decided an affinity group outside OB would be a preferred venue for this.

Meeting Friday 6pm at E5. Spaces needs to interface better with the movement.

Facilitation

Friday 5pm, City Place, sub-group of facilitation for GA process and purpose. Follow-up from last Tuesday.

Individual Announcements

  • __ left this morning for Georgia to hike the Appalachian Trail. Will be in Western Mass probably in June or so.
  • My passion outside of OB is Justice for Palestine. Tufts, BU, Brandeis etc. have speakers running. I have papers comparing South African apartheid to Palestine. This week, an outstanding group of speakers at Harvard. "One State Solution". This weekend, Occupy American Israeli Political Action Committee. This year the focus is on Iran.
  • St. Patrick's day parade pamphlets! March 18. There's been a time change: flyer says 2pm, but it'll be 3pm. This is a permitted march. Expect 1500 to 2000 people. Most will depend on y'all getting out there and talking to people.
  • There is a proposal Occupy Boston Radio Group to OBGA, will be brought up on Thursday. Monday 6pm-7pm, Veteran's for peace radio. Not strictly veteran/military -- you can contribute. Listen!!
  • Parade planning meeting, 2161 Mass Ave, American Friends Service Committee offices. 6:30pm Thursday.
  • Occupy Lynn GA this Saturday, 3pm, city hall in Lynn.
  • Flyers for the community open house. They have fronts, and backs. Hot pink. April 2, and the first Monday of each month. If you want to get involved with Open House, Strategic Action Assembly on Sunday.
  • Occupy U Mass Boston! Thursday March 1, National/International student day of action. 1pm Dewey Square, to State House for rally. March 15-18, outside events at U-Mass Boston.
  • A cool thing in New York: Occupy Town Square at Thompson Square Park for 6 hours every Sunday. Think about this, and whether we could do something like it too.
  • The new face of warfare (and surveillance in the US) is drones. Tomorrow night at 7pm at Cambridge Friends' meeting house, 5 Longfellow Drive in Cambridge.

30 second pause for reflection


Participatory Budgeting and Justice

(Presentation from PB&J committee)

This is not just FAWG: We seek full participation from everyone. PB&J is a working group to develop a budgeting process.

Why PB&J?

  • Budget determines allocation.
  • Translates policy goals to action.
  • To prevent control of the budget by elites.
  • Future of OB should not be controlled by the loudest or most popular, or by those best able to manipulate the system.

Current monthly deficit -- projected/estimated based on current practice:

General funds
Beginning general funds $66000
Less tactical reserve -$14000
Net working cash $52000
Income
GA donations $750 per month
Other unrestricted donations $1000 per month
Total general revenues $1750 per month
Expenses
Rent $2710
Internet service $470
Mutual aid $1300
Total $4480 per month
Deficit
deficit before WG expenses -$2730 per month
round-up deficit -$3000 per month

Given this deficit, here are three scenarios for 6-month cash flow projection:

  • If expenses don't change, with no WG expenses: After 6 months: $34000 cash remaining.
  • If we have $2,500 per month WG expenses: After 6 months: $19000 cash remaining.
  • If we have $5,000 per month WG expenses: After 6 months: $4000 cash remaining.
  • Any expenses beyond this would have to be offset by Working Group fundraising.

How does PB work?

Instead of "Announce and defend" (where you present options and pick), engage the community to define things themselves.: Participatory Budgeting employs a set of tools to help make effective decisions.

History of PB:

  • 1989 -- city of Porto Allegre in Brazil used PB to allow more direct control
  • 2009 -- Chicago's 49th ward launched 1st US experience.
  • Used in Latin America, Europe, Africa and Asia
  • New York: discretionary funds, $6million using this process.
  • Participatory Budgeting: "A fundamental law for revolutionary democracy."

How to implement in OB?

Each working group will report budgetary needs and what it will do with the funds. Together, the WGs look past individual goals to see whole movement opportunities.

   Q: Does the budget process establish goals, or do goals inform the budget process?
   A: Working Groups already decide what the actions are that they do.
   Q: Who gets to decide the goals/vision of movement?  Shouldn't we do that first?
   A: The process you're asking for -- collective discussion of Occupy's goals -- 
   is what this workshop is.  It's a strategic planning process.  By coming 
   together and sharing knowledge between working groups, there's better 
   creativity and synergy.
   A: We could spend hte next 3 months trying to figure out our goals. If 
   working groups weren't working in our interests, we'd be up in arms about 
   that.  Through this process, we get more accountability than we already have.

Issues discussed in PB&J meetings

  • Avoid becoming an NGO!
    • Don't just sustain the institution rather than change the world.
  • How to handle fundraising?
    • Do we even do it?
    • Should each WG raise its own funds or continue to have a single OB fund?
  • Who else should be participating in these sessions?
  • SWOT -- What are our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats?

What's planned so far?

  • First workshop:
    • March 25th noon-5pm at New Hope Church in JP
    • Introduction to PB by Maria Green, Northeastern School of Law
    • Workshop moderated by Bianpaolo Baiocchi, expert in PB at Brown U, PB project, NYd
    • Workshop Output: trial budget
      • Do budget for 3 months and see how it works out
  • What's accomplished so far?
    • Prepared forms for WGs to outline mission, opportunities, needs
    • Increaesd WG communication
    • WGs need to help each other out.
  • Needed:
    • submit forms describing WG and its needs -- important if you want funding
    • Participate in the process regardless of need
      • Help guide the direction of OB
      • Take ownership

Discussion

Comment: As a member of FAWG, I realize that there's some tension here. I played a role here, but FAWG jumped forward and has been building support for this. Another way to do it would be to put up a proposal to do a PB process in front of GA. FAWG chose to do it one way, which may have given rise to unrest.

Comment: I'm going to treat this as a gift to the community to understand the process, and then have clarifying questions.

Comment: I like the idea of participatory budgets and including everyone. I feel really uncomfortable with how this process came about. I'm uncomfortable that we're moving a collective discussion of goals and strategies to something that came out of a working group. Are we going to be an occupation? Are we going outdoors or in? These things need to be decided as a group. The projections of money lock in a certain vision of us that I'm not ready to lock in. We could be something totally different in 2-3 months. We need to decide that as a group and not lock in.

Comment: This seems like a great process for cities. I don't know how it's relevant to us. We have no idea what we're going to be dealing with in 2 months. We could be occupying, with big donations, or no longer here at all. One reason lots of WG's aren't taking part, is that we never decided this is what we're going to do. There's no decision that the plan will make a difference, or that we're using the process. This should have come not as a presentation, but a proposal.

Comment: I think this is a great idea -- it can help be a catalyst for the bigger discussion we need to have as a movement. It needs to go a little more slowly. First, figure out who we are and where we're going, then go to the budgeting. We can still bring this to GA, and address it there. Then, the WG's will be more on board. Could these meetings/workshops that happen not all happen Monday-Friday 9-5? There's a lot of folks that can't make it those times.

Comment: This is about planning how to spend money. We're either going to plan, or we'll spend without planning. Are we going to have a plan, or first come first serve and then 3 months there's nothing left? The spending freeze arose out of the fact that we're losing cash so rapidly. This isn't an issue that can just sit around; 2 months from now that cash balance could be too low if people approve things without a budget. We have limited resources that are rapidly depleting.

Comment: The status quo is to do what we've been doing (first come, first serve). That's not equitable -- it's who's in front of the line that gets the money. This is a more equitable way of making sure that everyone's voice is heard. Second: Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Baltimore have been doing this -- though OWS haven't implemented it yet. We don't want to just teach them; we want to actually do it.

Comment: A number of points have been raised that participatory budget serves participatory goals.

Comment: It's not a 1-year budget. We could do it as a 3-month.

Facilitator: The part I heard -- not necessarily up to the PB&J folks -- there needs to be a process determining the goals, which a budgeting process can work with.

Question: Do you believe it's within your authority as a group to decide our budget for the next 3 months? I don't.

Answer: Think of it as a GA about money.

Q: But it's not a GA.

A: Why not? I get that we didn't consent to do this process. But what I've heard my colleagues say is that the process they hope to give and get people involved in is absolutely not FAWG deciding how to make money. It's FAWG setting up a process for participation.

Q: At the end of 3 months, if htis process exists, will there be a budget OB is committed to?

A: Yes -- but it'd have to come back to GA.

Facilitator: Timeout.

Facilitator: There's conflict, misunderstanding, and there needs to be flexibility to achieve clarity. I'm recognizing that this is a moment when we need clarity. I'm asking if we can just take a few minutes to clear up a misunderstanding.

A: Two things: first, our plan (which I didn't have an opportunity to say) is to do monitoring and evaluation, see if it's working, go to GA, and if folks are happy, to adopt it as the process at that point. That's how it works -- it's not just planning, it's monitoring and evaluation too. One more point: When we made the participatory budgeting presentation back in 2011, there was a 100% temperature check that people liked it.

B: The financial analysis at the time were done produently and well; frankly, given the fact that he wasn't paid to do it, above and beyond what was expected. However, it came from a negative view to the extent that it assumed we wouldn't find any additional fundraising, such as permanant communities, reoccupation, concerts, etc. Things that would bring money in. What I'm saying is when business forecast, they forecast speculatively, in a positive light. If we do this -- let's get to doing this!

C: I agree with that -- what's presented so far is just what we've got now, and the past couple of months. That does not say that as spring unfolds we won't do better. This process isn't trying to limit anything; if that's how it comes across, we aren't communicating well. I'm applauding that FAWG is grabbing this and trying to get more what people are asking for -- a global, community decision about what to do. I haven't seen other folks doing that; it doesn't happen at GA. What it's about is this visionary stuff -- what we want to do.

D: The majority of the questions are misinterpreting because we put numbers on a screen. What we are presenting a tool that we can use, regardless of the numbers. We need methods and tools we can use. Participatory Budgeting is such a tool.

E: Before Christmas I visited Occupy Providence. They have no budgeting, but they manage to travel to national conventions. They have no funds at all. A good process of us budgeting would be categorizing money into groups on what we as a community together decide, instead of a process of trying to be conservative. Even if the budget becomes zero, we could take a lesson from Providence.

F: Observations: : We currently don't have a budget. In the interests of creating a democratic process, we have a working group. There are people in the GA who believe that process should be ratified by the GA.

Facilitator: Deep gratitude for a process that just revealed what is already happening. It's clearly been an important catalyst for people to say "hmm", what is this not taking into account? I'm greatful for that being raised. It's an invitation for people to be involved in defining goals.

Proposals

Summaries:

  • Denouncing American Style Democracy: American democracy today is a scam. To express our dissatisfaction, Occupy Boston endorses writing "none of the above" in the coming election.
  • Stop GA other than announcements until we shut down banks. (ROLLED FORWARD)
  • U-Mass Boston wants to borrow a food tank for 4 or 5 days. (ROLLED FORWARD)

Denouncing American style democracy

1. Denouncing American Style Democracy

Initial proposal text:

   American Democracy today is a scam.  All major politicians sleep in
   the same bed, lined with crisp new bills from the Federal Reserve
   Bank.  The People are told they have no choice but to vote for one
   of two candidates.  The truth is that either way we vote, we are
   still voting to continue the corporate-government complex that
   funnels money from the People into illegal, meaningless wars, spends
   trillions on bailing out ineffective multinational banks, and
   literally is making our planet unlivable for human  and other
   organisms.  
   But there is another choice.  We can decide to protest the two party
   system through a write-in campaign.  By doing so, we can send a
   strong message that we refuse to participate in this broken
   electoral system.  To express our dissatisfaction Occupy Boston
   endorses writing in on the ballot for President of the USA,
   "none-of-the-above" in this coming election.  We believe the office
   of President of the United States of America has been purchased by
   multinational corporations and banks.  Ergo we refuse to acknowledge
   the validity of any of the major candidates.
   Furthermore, we encourage all Occupies and other interested parties
   around the country to endorse the above mentioned write-in campaign.
   With enough protest votes we can show the political elite and
   plutocrats that we refuse to accept their veiled aristocracy and
   demand that a new political system based on the principles of a true
   Democracy be established.

Q: Do we mean to denounce green and other party candidates?

A: We don't mean to reject any options. This is just one option.

Q: What kind of numbers are we looking for here? How many?

A: 50 million. :) What I'd like to see is everyone that doesn't vote writes in none of the above -- but that's not going to happen. Maybe 2 or 3 percent of the vote.

Q: Is it your intention to say that Occupy Boston will write in "None of the above", or we encourage people to do it, or what?

A: No... nothing in here states that if you don't write "None of the above" you're no longer in Occupy Boston. I'd encourage people to do that if they're not satisfied.

Q: I wonder if you're thinking of this as one step in a greater action. How do we expand this? Is this the beginning or end of discussion?

A: The last paragraph deos say that we encourage others to endorse this as well. Were this to pass, there would certainly be outreach at least to the other occupies.

Q: What do you mean to "refuse to participate" and "don't recognize the validity"?

A: The general point is that the major candidates are bought by corporations. Any major candidate, it's intentionally broad. President only.

Q: Half of qualified electorate are unregistered. Do you suggest people should register in order to write in none-of-the-above?

A: There's no such suggestion in this proposal.

Information: In some states there are no write ins.

Information: You can request one in any state.


Small group break-outs


support: I like this proposal. I feel like we have an opportunity right now to get a significant percentage of the vote. We should pick something and go for it.

support: I feel like our group as a whole has already denounced American democracy. I think this proposal should just pass; we've already been doing it.

support: I support this. One of the biggest challenges is that it's hard to consent to things related to electoral politics. It's something we can consent to, because it's kind of a fuck you. It's not committing to anything other than acknowledging that the system exists and that it's broken.

concern: I think most people of the room may feel that this is a good decision, I think we should think back to the hayday of Occupy Boston with large numbers of people involved, and take into consideration that a lot of those folks are concerned with who becomes president. I don't think it's a good idea to pass something that might cut us off from a larger group that should be involved.

concern: I could see putting 'none of the above' on the ballot as a regular choice. I think encouraging people to register to vote violates underlying principles of democracy and direct action.

concern: I said this a couple GA's ago. This proposal has no solutions, and we need proposals with solutions. The whole world is watching, and asking "what are your solutions"? Without solutions, support dwindles, and then Occupy no longer exists.

concern: I really like the first paragraph. It starts out funny and gets serious. I don't like what the actual proposal asks for -- we aren't organized enough to make this relevant, so we're just making ourselves irrelevant through this. Occupy the Movement can't do anything unless it's a mass movement. Maybe think this might be astart to building this narrative... I'd support a fleshing-out of the first paragraph that was a little more nuanced, and acknowledged the gray area. The candidates are bought by the same people, but there are differences, and some of those differences affect lives. I can't see myself supporting a "none of the above" proposal. I don't think passing and calling for other occupies to support it is relevant.

concern: I'm gonna take a wild guess that you've never lived under a dictatorship, or you wouldn't have written the first paragraph. My concern is the same as these concerns -- as a movement we need to make ourselves relevant to the entire 99%. This does just the opposite. Ask people to get involved and do good work.

concern: This will ostracize the general public who've bought into the mainstream perception of the voting process.

concern: It's vague.

info: Voting "None of the above" isn't apathetic -- it's active. To the people that are buying the candidates, the difference isn't appreciable.

concern: The other day we had a whole SAA group conversation around voting. One conclusion we reached is that Occupy Boston is an unsafe space for those who still like to vote. Anyone someone says "vote" there's this air of "how dare you". I'm concerned that it gets even harder with a statement like this that there is a safe space. We decided we needed a working group to ensure that we can make it a safe space. We want to use things like the blue book with who donates to what candidates, and being against those companies.

concern: In most electoral processes, there are more than 2 parties, but only 2 get publicity. My main concern is that we don't shine light on the other parties.

concern: Regarding what Alex said: it's frustrating to be someone who's not a fan of electoral politics to be nice about it. It's not an indictment of anyone's voting; it's just been frustrating.

conern: I think it's a waste of time. People who join after this proposal can do whatever they want to. I understand people's concerns.

concern: I support 75-80% of what's been said. I spent a lot of time trying to convince people of just this. I just don't think this is the right place or way for us to be doing it. It's a statement no one will pay attention to, it isn't linked to any solution. We have a horizontal democracy which is a proactive model we put out as an alternative. If we say we're trying to represent or be part of the 99%, this is a good thing to be the end of a discussion. When you say to people "it's a farce" as your opening line, they won't listen to your second sentence.

concern: I can't support this because I see it as marginalizing Occupy Boston, making it harder to recruit and involve most people that I interact with. It doesn't accomplish anything positive.

concern: It doesn't say loudly enough that we have an alternative democratic model that is more legitimate.

concern: We could do better by having a series of critiques of the electoral system. We do need an approach to the 2012 election. This will only hurt the democratic party though -- this is a concern of mine. We like to think we're speaking to the whole country, but in reality it's just one party.

concern: There might be an opportunity with a statement like this to present something visionary, to communicate with others. But the language of this proposal doesn't do that.

concern: There's something passive and laking in content with this. I sympathize with it, but refusing to endorse a candidate, we will already be making a statement. Promoting GA democracy as an alternative would be better.

concern: I'm concerned that Occupy Boston is more focused and concerned about the things that divide us, rather than the things that unite us. Regardless of the current system, norms, and things people already accept as being true.

amendment: Write in our own names in all of the offices, and vote for ourselves, and urge everyone else in the public to do the same.

amendment: Encourage people to search for third parties and gain knowledge of everyone.

amendment: Just endorse Vermin Supreme.

amendment: Instead of endorsing "None of the Above", we suggest that occupies around the country hold general assemblies and rallies as close to voting places as possible to engage in discussion about horizontal democracy.

information: A bunch of local anarchists ran "none of the above" last election cycle. That's why I kind of like this.

amendment: Where it says "occupy boston endorses", I feel this would be better worded as "suggests" rather than endorses.

amendment: I like "encourage" rather than suggest.... and also, "none of the above" or any candidate of your choice.


Proposers step back to rework proposal.


Proposers: We reviewed the amendments. Thanks for the discussion. We think GA's and rallies close to polling places is excellent, but doesn't belong in this proposal. We changed the language from 'endorse' to 'suggest', and the second 'endorsed' to 'support'. We decided also to add "or any alternative candidates".

question: Are you implying that Rick Santorum would sleep in the same bed with another male candidate?

question: You claim that we have only a 2-party system. Do you know of the other parties such as the green party, independents, and other parties?

answer: yes... I am aware.... they would not be considered major parties. I think most people would agree there are only 2 major parties.

information: These other parties are not invited to debate or meaningful participate.

information: A two party isn't one with just two parties... it's one where only two have a realistic chance of winning.

information: New Zealand has a 6 party system. The party that supports the rich got voted in.

Facilitator: We have the option to go back into small groups. Is there energy for that? (temp check says no).

support: I like the idea of this. I don't support it wholeheartedly, but support the option to give people an option. I think most people's concerns are that we shouldn't be doing this at all. I support it though -- it's how I feel right now.

support: I could make quibbles about wording, but I support it. We should keep repeating this as long as possible. The more you repeat something, the more that meaning strengthens.

concern: There are still a lot of people in this movement who will vote. I'm one of those. In that, I feel like people already feel ashamed to be a voter. Remember, we're probably coming off one of the most active generations for voting. A lot of them are still not deterred. Just knowing you'll come into a space where people are publicly anti-voting makes for a harder life. I want to keep that in mind.

concern: In your proposal, you have not mentioned anything in the constitution or the representative democracy system. A lot of people will be turned away from occupy if we say we denounce US voting. They'll think we're unconstitutional, a bunch of liars. Add more of our horizontal democracy, and our beliefs about the constitution, that we we don't turn away america, we support it -- in a different system.

concern: Suggesting people could vote for alternative cnadidates goes against Occupy's norm of not suggesting or endorsing candidates. Referring to the electoral system as broken -- in my view, Occupy Boston wouldn't support even an unbroken electoral system.

concern: My fundamental concern is the same. I'm doubly concerned now, because I didn't hear our concerns referenced at all. I'd like to hear the proposers address those.

concern: I wasn't here the first round. I prefer us as a movement instead of condemning, building new things and alternatives. Don't just attack.

Facilitator: It's 10 past 10. We need time for evaluations and cleanup. The question: are there amendments?

amendment: My amendments are very simple: mention how we believe in the constitution, and that it's not being represented. "We believe in the constitution; but the constitution has been violated."

amendment: In the spirit of compromise: encourage people to look for models outside.


Proposers step back to rework proposal.


Proposers: We looked at these concerns again... We've decided to take out the word 'candidate' (it now just says 'and any alternative'). Regarding the concerns that this will ostracize people, we believe this is true, but we believe more people will wake up to this, so we don't believe that it needs to be changed from that.

Proposers: I didn't particularly want to insert any language specifically supporting the constitution, because I think that drastically changes the proposal to something we weren't intending.

Facilitator: Any blocks?

Block: I have concerns that we shouldn't make any statement regarding electoral politics. And further, this is divisive when we need togetherness.

Facilitator: Does this fit the definition of a block? (Unanimous approval).

Facilitator: Who joins ___ in the block? (5 raise hands)

Facilitator: The proposal has been blocked.

Facilitator: A successful block doesn't mean that the proposal is dead -- it can come forward after revision.