01/02/12

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HQ + Space + Meeting

Introductions

Report back:  What we’ve done so far

Greg:   This is the fourth meeting I’ve been to.    At the first meeting, Jay and I volunteered to be co-coordinators of the group.   I’ve facilitated and posted minutes.  At each meeting we’ve done a round stack where we brainstormed what we wanted to talk about.   The first meeting was, why are we here, what do we want to see in the future?   There’s a lot of ideas about what we want to be doing in terms of space.   Most of the people at that meeting wanted to focus on a central location for working groups, storefront, that type of space, minimum of 3000 square feet.    Some people went on a road trip, walking trip, walked around to visit properties, which was presented at the last meeting  (visiting 30 properties).   John and Jay made a top 10 list of 30 properties, which was given to Paul, who has a relationship with the brokers.   When they did that, they found

John Murphy:   It was me, Jorge, Jay, Eric – we added to the list, walked around.   There’s no bad places in Boston to rent.  As we were going through the list, me and Jay determined 10 that we wanted to stop and and go into.   We tallied up good, eye-catching places along Washington Street, just window shopping. 

Jay:  Another review of past meetings:  The past two we’ve been determining what we would use the space for.   Last week we determined that it should be 3000 sq ft + , the use of the space would be primarily for working groups to hold meetings, an information area for the public in front, core working groups that need space and facilities  (food, media, logistics), and to have conference and meeting space and possibly space for GA.   

Liam:  I don’t think the discussion was limited to that  (no, that was just what I remembered)

Jorge:   Over those last two meetings, what people wanted to see ranged widely – some wanted mixed-use space, some wanted to go back outdoor space, some wanted just an HQ for working groups, to Monica and Allison’s idea of having a democracy center + justice center with multiple uses, cooperative spaces, etc.  

Liam:   Last week, we also talked about a Housing Works, NYC model – we have to be able to demonstrate to people who might want to support us what we’ve done, what our tangibles are – a cooperative business that is self-sustaining would really help to show our viability to people who might want to support us.

 

Updates:  E5, leasing options

Jorge:  I think we need a couple more voices in here.   Laura had sent out a contact for Isaac Beck, who owns a few more buildings in Sobo, leather district.   He doesn’t list them, so we have to call him.   I wonder if another voice or articulation would be helpful here.   (Lydia:  I can talk to him)

Paul:  I surveyed the building, talked to brokers – this is going to be hard, we’ve got to get serious about how we’re going to pay for space, because it’s going to be hard to rent one.   Some of the problems include:

  • Most leases are 3-5 years, and landlords are reluctant to sign a lease for shorter times than that.   Most of them don’t need to rent the space, and aren’t keen on renting a one-year lease.  
  • We’re also not a legal entity – we don’t exist, there’s no one to sign a lease, there’s no one to follow up with if we can’t pay the rent.   If we were a legal entity, we have no track record, no regular or expected source of income.   There’s no reason to expect we’d have the resources to pay the rent, etc. We’d have to pay rent up front.   We’d have to come up with $40,000 up front if we want to play.
  • We COULD get an organization to back us – SEIU, a union – to rent as a proxy.   I don’t know anyone who would sign a lease for us, though.   Finally, we’re not “valued tenants.”   We’re a movement.  We could alienate existing good tenants.    From their point of view, they have a vision of us with drum circles and people sleeping in the hallways.    We might be low maintenance, but we’re not great tenants
  • If we’re going to proceed, the number one thing we have to do is figure out how we’re going to get the money to pay for this.   Possible options include:  Fundraising within our own movement  ($20 per person, per month), do a public call, or go to private foundations.  

If we’re thinking about fundraising, we’re going to be asked four things:

  • If we give you the money, what are you going to do with it?
  • What have you done in the past that was so great?
  • What capacity do you have to do stuff in the future?
  • Who are you?

Greg:   United for a Fair Economy would sign a lease, if they knew the money was there and they wouldn’t be stuck with the bill

CC:   E5 has been having internal discussions about

As background:  E5 started up about 5 years ago, emerged out of a discussion with the Boston Social Forum, about the need for a space to help build up smaller groups addressing issues as a broad-based coalition.   This building is owned by a union, and this floor was a garment shop.   We cleared out the sewing machines that were here and made it into this space.

It’s been hard to sustain this effort – the social movements are small in comparison with Occupy.   You have the scale, you’re the edge of the movement right now.   We see the goals being roughly the same, maybe we’re more anti-imperialist.   So that’s the background.

Soren threw out some ideas in an email to us.   Occupy Boston probably needs 10,000 sq ft. to accommodate everything you need to do – this floor is 6000 sq feet.   One thing he was suggesting that you might consider is taking over this space as a HQ for working groups, while also using progressive spaces around the city – Spontaneous Celebrations, Community Church, Democracy Center, progressive churches – there are spaces like these in existence, many are struggling, some have big financial backers that allow them to c

That does a couple of things – it allows you to build relationships around the city, hopefully those relationships would lead to further work.   The partnership for us would help us tremendously.   Sustaining the space has been a big burden.   MGA has many other projects – the color of water project, majority agenda project – if a partnership could be reached, that would be great.

Rachel:   This is an incredible offer – would the partnership you are envisioning be between oB and MGA, or OB and E5? 

CC:  E5 is a project of MGA – they’re the non-profit entity that runs this space.   A year ago we formed a collective to take over the operations of the space, that’s where I came into the whole thing.   That’s been sort of a failure.   I think it would be a partnership between MGA.   The partnership could take different forms – we’d need to have those conversations in your group, but also in our group.

Ariel:   So when you’re saying we’d take over this space – are you saying we’d take over the use of this whole floor?  

CC:   There are tenants here, so that’s something we’d have to work with. 

Katie:   This is a huge step forward in terms of movement-building – which historically, we’ve not been really good at?   OB frequently takes the position that we’re the first on the scene, the best on the scene, frequently stumbles and fails to see other folks on the scene, etc --- we just all just be aware that that’s part of the conversation.  

Lydia:   It seems like what is actually being suggested is more of a roommate situation --- there would be some delineations about space usage, what’s Occupy, what’s other space, how the finances work --- what relationship we have with the other tenants could evolve, it could be we’re just roommates, it could be a movement-building thing, we don’t know.   I guess the thing we’d need to hammer out is what space would be available, how common spaces would work, what the price per square foot would be, how soon would it be available, etc?

Liam:   This conversation has been taking place for awhile.   It’s just a dialogue at this point.   We’re not to the point of hammering out the logistical issues.   Another option would be to create an entirely new space, and go together.    It’s not just about this space – it’s an open, evolving conversation.  

Cherie:  My concern is always going to be the same – this isn’t a scenario that involves housing.

Rachel:   That seems like a topic for the next agenda item.

Greg:  What’s the next step, then, if we want to look at this?


CC:   We’d need to think about what that partnership would look like --- and you would need to broach this conversation to the wider OB community, and discuss whether this is a thing you’d be interested in.

Jay:   We had discussed previously the option of having an OB space that was also open to progressive organizations – this seems like a key part of the ongoing dialogue  (possibility of bringing E5 with us into a new space)

Rachel:   E5 has been so important to us – the fact that E5 has offered this to us in a transitional way, we can’t say thank you enough for that – we still haven’t gotten, in this meeting, to a conversation about all of the many space conversations that need to be happening.   My proposal would be that it seems like there are a couple of people in this circle who have been engaged in this conversation already.   It makes sense to bring more folks from E5, MGA, and OB together in a room to talk specifically about this collaboration moving forward.    Given that most of the information is out on the table, I think we can’t go further with this conversation in this meeting.    So let’s find space and time for that meeting, and then carry it on then. 

Ariel:   Let’s find a time after this meeting.

Lydia:  I just want to address why I think this is an amazing opportunity – entering into a situation where you have no lease whatsoever, as a short-term solution, this could be immediately acted on  (in as short as two weeks).   We already have non-profits who can be an umbrella here.   It’s centrally located and accessible.    Price is way below market price, even for warehouse space.    You’re not going to find warehouse space for that cheap anywhere.   Finally, it’s not built out – it’s open space.   In other words – this is a long-term solution, but we also need a short-term solution, and this could be a good one.  

Paul:  We need to keep our options open --- before we commit to this generous offer, we need to keep in mind other places – we need visibility!

What we are, what we’re called

Katie:   I think the context of the email was more about accessibility – how to make this a broader conversation within Occupy Boston?    That seems like an important part of this discussion.

Liam:  Can we change the name of the group to “spaces”?

Rachel:   Then we can call each other astronauts

Lydia:  I like the name “base” – it’s a central common area, a launching pad, a space can involve physical encampments, etc.   I think “base” encompasses that.

Paul:  I’m completely against changing the name – but I also think the original name was a stupid name to begin with, so I’m kind of torn.  Let’s call it whatever we want to call it and then move on.

Cherie:   We’re finding a home.   Let’s call it the OB home working group. 

Rachel:   OK, again:  this was not supposed to be about names, but about what this working group was trying to accomplish.   Throwing out words and names is great for free association, but

Monica:   We wanted to find a center for OB.   We want to realize the core of our mission is.

Katie:   We had a logistics team.   That logistics team figured out how to get tents, where they should go, tactical issues, what went where.   That seems a lot like what we’re doing here – just to delimit the question a bit.   To expand the question, and respond to Monica – if what we’re doing is finding a core, that’s not a thing that gets outsourced to a working group.   That’s a thing we need to do across OB as a whole – that was a big part of Angela’s email, and something that seems like it needs to get addressed here:

Ariel:   I think the conversation also needs to address our values – do we want to be renting from a landlord, a one percenter?   I think it needs to involve not just what we’re doing, but the values by which we’re doing it.

Liam:   It’s great that there are so many new faces here, but it’s getting a little messy with new people.   We’re still a working group – we still bring back to GA, report back – we’re no different.  

Lydia: When dewey square was lost we lost a commons and a resource center.  There is an urgent and immediate need for a common space, in terms of people not wasting effort, having a place to drop something off.  Our survival depends on the integration of common space.  What were te functions of having territory before, and which functions do we still need to serve?  But I think it gets into something that is not just a technical issue. 

Greg: When I first heard tis meeting announced I came to it with the assumption that it was a WG about just that, finding a space for this movement to flourish post-Dewey.  This does not preclude any other function for that space.  It’s apparent to me that we have many different ideas about what the next step should be; from leasing a space that is public and accessible, in partnership with other progressive groups; I also understand the passion of people who want to occupy abandoned buildings, bur they’re not mutually exclusive.  I think there is a critical part of dialogue; as much as Angela’s email pissed me off completely, we need to proceed because—I’m here in this working group because I want it to be a space that is publicly accessible, it impacts all of us and we need to be as transparent and inclusive as possible; not just tell people at Gas that this is happening but also have a dialogue about it.  That said we all have limited time, and we have to make choices about how we spend our time in OB.  What was lacking in Angela’s email was trust; well, trust us, trust that we can hold in our hearts that there is an occupation aware that there are a lot of people who have needs.  I will demand that we be trusted. 

Rachel: I’m hearing a lot of similar assertions about what we think the WG is for, which is great.  I wonder if it would be possible to just have a temp check on what Lydia and Greg were getting at, which I’d paraphrase: “this WG exists to find a space to fulfill some or all of the functions of the Dewey encampment.” 

(Conversation between John and Rachel about the legality.)

Lydia: it’s important that this be not exclusive of other options.

Rachel: I think every time we feel the need to restate that we denigrate the system we have created in OB which operates on the assumption that WGs take on small portions of work that we bring back to GA; obviously we plan to be inclusive and transparent, we are a WG of OB.  We don’t need to start that all over again; we do that all the time in every WG every day. 

Lydia: But what I meant was that in pursuing this center people can still squat…

Bobbie: I think we have the same group here, can we just go around and be quick and say what we want…

Paul: This is the fifth meeting of this group; we have got to do something; we have to stop talking and make some decisions.  What are we going to do, we have to have a deadline to stick to it.  We’ve spent the last half hour talking about our name…

Greg: That’s not why we’re having this conversation because of Angela’s email; I raised this as an agenda item because I wanted to clarify that there’s been several rounds of people going around with visions and I wanted to coalesce it and figure out what this group is going to do so we can decide to spend our time here, make sure we’re on the same page.  Some of us want a home, some of us want to occupy a space.  Let’s clarify this—it’s not about Angela’s email, it opens up and creates energy.

Jay: So the third agenda item was determining our purpose and the group name.  It’s just this conversation started when we got to that point in the agenda.

Rachel: I have a proposal. 

Marty D.: This is my first HQ meeting.  I feel like all along in Occupy there has been a knee jerk response to getting things done and strategizing.  GA approves decisions but it’s not where the action is happening.  There are units of cultural transmission called memes, we need groups of people invested in Occupy generating memes and popularizing these ideas and allowing them to spread to the broader population in order to be approved by GA.  We are thinking things through, popularizing, getting shit done and bringing it to GA.

John M: We had the encampment and it’s done.  I got lazy and figured someone would find a space but no—I was at GA and people didn’t want ot coninute GA outside because it was too cold, thisis a problem….hopefully we find many spaces over the years, I’m looking long term and short term both.  So this group is honestly a working document for finding a place to hold meetings at so we don’t have WGs overlapping and once we find a place and have structure, then we can have a calendar and be structured, right now we can’t do that.  With E5 we take over this place and it feels like the majority of people who come here think it’s our headquarters; and I keep telling people it’s not.  We need a place to hold meetings and hopefully if that doesn’t work out…we need a starting point, we need a building. 

Monica: Mission statement: This group exists to find a space to realize the mission of Occupy Boston.  Not just Dewey; the occupation was one thing we did at the beginning.

 

Jay: This movement feels like molasses, this groupo feels like molasses; we feel like we’re spinning our wheels and going over and reviewing…here at e5 there were lots of meetings going on at once…it’s an issue of overlap, when we went to schedule this meeting we had an overlap problem in scheduling.  Personally the purpose of this group is finding a space that is a central meeting spot for the work of Occupy Boston. 

Nelson: We should—before Logistics was Logistics it was Tactical, and their main duty was to find a spot to deal with us as a movement.  It’s a simple name, a simple mission,  Let’s start getting shit done.

Lydia: We might have already found a space so we shouldn’t look at it that way.

Nelson: We should take it back block by block…

Cherie: I’m going to be out of process, but when I first made my Mutual Aid proposal there was a block because it was taking money from our ability to find a space.  But we keep overlooking the reason I made the proposal; we keep looking at spaces

Nelson”: half of DA is homeless and they found spaces, there’s a way.

Cherie: it would be nice if we could share information or squat because I’m tired of the bigotry

Nelson: Talk to Troll.

Cherie: We want to close that proposal and one of the ways we’re going to do it is by finding a place for people to sleep, one way is for everyone to sign the good neighbor policy.  It’s sort of the attitude we have, people will not overlook the fact that someone is homeless.  They have a stereotype because of their own experience.  Everyone should be accountable for their behavior if we found a place to sleep at, not just homeless.

Greg: Only in that—I want to acknowledge I hear you saying that and you’ve said that at every meeting here, you came to this group hoping that this group would address this issue.  It’s one of the reasons I wanted to define what this group is doing.  It sounds like what you want might not be the working of that particular group.

Cherie: It sounds like it’s not what OB is doing either.

We don’t know that (several)

Cherie: You were ready to clear Weird Street-

Nelson: as someone who cleared out those crack ridden tents it had to go-

Paul: I cannot come to another meeting; I need a simple answer to a simple question.  Do we have any money?  Do we have any potential for money?  Before you take off to your FAWG meeting, can you answer that question, Greg?  How much money do we have, do we get any income, I need to understand, because I can’t have any more conversations with anyone unless I know if we’re real.  Are we interested in raising money? 

Greg: I’ve been answering these questions every day; we have about $50,000.  That doesn’t tell us what OB wants to do with that money.  I hear your frustration.  If you can’t give us more of your time then that’s fine, but there is other foundational work that has to be done. 

Rachel: There are OB folks who have a great deal of interest in raising money for a space, there is interest in doing that and an understanding among many members of our movement that we need to do that.  Yes, that is happening.

Lydia: But obviously you’re at a point where you shouldn’t be going further with brokers based on this meeting.

Greg: But to Paul’s frustration, I think he needs more information to work with brokers.

Nelson: We could go back to occupying parks.

Rachel: So my proposal incorporates Monica’s mission statement.  We, the spaces WG, exist to identify space or spaces to help us to realize the mission and do the work of occupy boston. 

We have consensus on that proposal, we have a statement of what we’re doing (says fac Jay.)

Jay: Next on the agenda: HOW WE WANT TO USE THE SPACE.

Greg: iF that’s what this WG is doing there’s a lot of history in this group conversations about uses of space.  What we’re talking about is:

  1. Info tent stuff
  2. Working group meeting space
  3. Income-producing activities/becoming self sufficient
  4. FSU, teach ins, workshops, artistic endeavors
  5. Maybe a GA to hold 300-400 people
  6. Library—used bookstore
  7. Rooftop garden
  8. Kitchens
  9. Showers
  10. Spiritual/meditation space

Jay: maybe in this use of space conversation we could go around and if anyone has more suggestions for what to use the space for

Lydia: Cherie’s suggestion for living space

Liam: Tat’s some codependent shit, she left the meeting.

Nelson: Physical encampment?

Greg: This is off topic but I need to go to this other meeting.  As a group as we do our research and look at space and ideas about funding.  It will all be coalesced around something that goes to GA and maybe it’s an interim thing with E5 that becomes bigger.  It needs to be addressed really soon: the money to make that happen.  There’s a lot of ways this conversation can go down; there’s a lot of us in this room with connections to donors to make stuff happen; there’s a lot of us who want to self fund it.  Paul is in a tough position with brokers.

Rachel: So let’s work on what Greg talked about before the next meeting: that people bring whatever information they have about fundraising possibilities…so we can have the information possible when we begin.

Lydia: a Short term and a long term ambitious plan

Greg: regardless…we have a fundraising WG where  we talked about the fundraising WG, this work is happening nad we’re meeting.

Jay: We still have use of space, preferred location, etc. on the agenda.  Lots of us have to leave including me.  Can we set a new meeting time?

Paul: What can we bring in the way of fundraising? What are our ideas about how we can raise money?  We have to sell ourselves; if everyone can think of how you would pitch this group and get someone to give money to us; tell your story and have examples of things you experienced that were remarkable; when you tell that story, people might give you money.  If we can all do a diary, think of the five best things that happened to you at occupy, we can use that as a selling point to convince people to give you money.

(We’re sort of but not working on this—writers, media—so we can mine this.  Martin, Liam, Monica, Jay.)

Liam: Siren is in Syracuse (from E5)

(We are now discussing when we should meet; not transcribing.)

 

MEETING AT 6 on Friday, provided e5 has space to spare. 

Jay: So the rest of the agenda; the issue of funding and organizing a budget; preferred location—these are the two things left on the agenda.  Part of what came up is how we organize as a whole at occupy boston (i.e. 501c3).  As a group I don’t feel like we can decide that; we could say to the GA that maybe that’s what we’re doing, but not something we can decide for ourselves.

Liam: I see a problem coming down the pipeline; if we become a coop and start generating profits and we make it sustainable and compensate people; there is a real problem doing a payroll without being a 501c3.  And we did raise last meeting that there are problem with becoming a 501c3. 

Jay: This is my personal thing, not necessarily the group.

Paul: There are people in Occupy dead set against becoming anything; we need to look at this pro and con.  Can we look into why we should or shouldn’t do this?

Nelson: What happens if we go into an alliance with Mass Global Action?

Jay: E5 would take us on as we are without being a corp.

 

(oops.  5 minutes of talking in which I, Monica, talked.)

 

Bill: …other WGs who are working on these issues; it seems like our time would be better spent focusing on spaces; the history of our movement in these three months is so short and so unstable; our advantage here would be to go with a short term outlook and look for spaces in the nexst three months and not talk about too far in the future.  We should be talking about our immediate future.

Liam: The reason I like groups names like Ideas and Tactical is that it’s not as limiting; this is a really nuanced conversation we’re having that has legal and fundraising things; and then we have people who don’t want that dynamic stuff in the conversation, and they’re trying to put us into a box; this is so much more complicated.  It’s also a reason why it wasn’t getting top billing, there wasn’t someone going out there and saying come in here and do these things.  This sounds like an elite thing to say; it sounds like some sophisticated stuff and people don’t feel comfortable with that.  People don’t like complicated thought in this movement a lot.

Bill: We can take a small thing and get it done.

 

(oops.  Again.  There are like eight people still here and I’m talking a lot.)

 

Paul: to what extent do we have goals and strategies we are trying to achieve?  We’ve got actions, we’ve got the street people.  If we’re going to raise a fundraising letter we need some meat to put in it.  We have to look around with goals nad strategies to plop in there; what we’ve done in the past and what we can do for the future.  That’s very important to do for the next meeting.  For instance we have the move your money day.  That’s the kind of specific stuff we need.  300 meals a day, healthy meals at the camp, that’s not important in terms of changing the system; it shows we have some capacity (to organize).  I once said I’m never going to eat that food and then I saw the food and thought—wow, that’s some good shit.  …(other good stuff we do).  Finally what’s our story, what looks cool and interesting.  With those four things we can put those into a letter.  I do marketing, I’ve sold an enormous amount of things: we want to know what you’ve done, what you can do, and what you’re like.  I had dinner with my nephew at Christmas and he said, people are going to give money and participate not because you want to change the system but because they think you are like them.  So telling our story, finding something you resonate with—it’s these vignettes that make a difference, so if we can simply…do those four things: make a list of what we’ve done, our capacities, and start telling our story, and find some goals.

 

Martin M: Quick POI; Kelly , and David Ludlow (other $), have been switching gears with the ad buy money, talking about redirecting those funds toward finding us a space.  I got an email from David informing me that that was going on and asking my feedback.  Kelly pulled me aside at GA and asked me the same thing. 

 

Liam: I had mentioned this; there is a thing passed at GA in NY—they still 4-500 dollars; hey came up to the media tent about two weeks before we were cleared.  OWS people camehere and said we have an obscene amount of money, and if you need things we can pass things at GA there.  If you need media stuff we can pass it at GA.  They passed a thing 2 days ago to give 25,000 to Occupy SD for a kickass action.  We can get 25, 30 000 through the NY GA that would cover the difference in a year’s payment on the space.  This group has to make the call about what we’re going to GA with what space and what we’re going to do and ask for support.

Martin M: From FB analytics, in seeing who our targets are, where they live, where they are…our second biggest supporter base is Cambridge, and we all know Cambridge is a very impoverished area of Boston (ha, ha).  A well written OB post about the space would bring in money.

Liam: and occupy Harvard wrote they have an embarrassing amount of money and offered it to us too.  It’s all sitting here in piles and it comes in.

Paul: we need a proposal, getting that letter together.

Marty D: Crowdsourcing is where it’s at, being intentional about what we want, asking the universe and our greater base of support.  We got so much money in Dewey Square; they’re doing something and they want to give us money; if we just got our asses together and put our act together and put our a cohesive vision with a story and what they want to do, showing a track record, demonstrating what we’re about.

Liam: I think our problem is a real cart before the horse horse before the cart problem.  I think the way I feel is that the money’s not a problem; what we show to them is a picture of a space and here’s the one we want.  We can sell it.

Marty: The whole thing getting sidetracked and bogarted by voices…we’ve gotta get shit done and we have enough people who have enough capacity to put an idea together.  If we want to have a space and do what we want to do with the space then let’s do it.

Liam: We can’t kick our wepay as the main wepay; it has to be earmarked, no the general fund.

Martin: I’m on stack for GA tomorrow with a type of proposal for that. 

Zoe: It’s public access TV-

John M: Plug in the statement on the TV show, GA, etc.

 

 

How we want to use the space

Financing and money