GA Minutes Tue July 17 2012

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Minutes for 17 July 2012


Location: Boston Common, Soldiers and Sailors Monument Hill
Time: 7:00 -- 9:25pm
Note taker: Steve


Approximately 16 people came to tonight's general assembly at Soliders and Sailors Monument Hill. The main goal was to continue last week's discussion about GA and Occupy Boston's decision making process.

We reached consensus on one decision: reducing the number of GAs to 4x/month:

  • The first and third Tuesday of each month (7-9pm)
  • The second and fourth Sunday of each month, at 4pm (in Copley Square, right before SAA)

Working Group and Individual Announcements

Bill. I'm starting a cops working group. Bill recounts his radio interview from Sunday night. Please contact Bil if you're interested in getting involved with the cops working group.

Steve. E5 is moving. They asked if someone could coordinate OB volunteers who want to help E5 move. I volunteered to coordinate. If you want to help E5 move, please send me an email,

Allie. Slutwalk will probably be coming to Boston again. We had meeting last week to discuss it. The next incarnation will have a different name, but the same militant, confrontational stance. If you'd like to get involved, contact or Nicole Sullivan. We haven't chosen a date for the event, but it's happening at some point in the future.

Alex. E5 move -- I hope some of you would participate, because you have friends there. We might have to tear down a wall. E5 is trying to organize a bowling tournament. Groups are supposed to raise $100 to compete. Radio is participating, and we're trying to raise our $100. Also, radio needs content. If you'd like to be on the air, even as a one time thing, get in touch with me.


We continued last week's discussion about General Assembly.

Alex: Last week, we came here to discuss OB and the general assembly. Does anyone want to talk about progress they've made in the last week?

Carolyn: Last week, I proposed that we have this discussion. If you were here last week, you know we didn't make a decision, beyond deciding to meet again today. In facilitation, we talked about "what concrete steps could we take for people going forward". We need concrete ideas. If we don't have concrete ideas, then nothing happens. How about getting a few ideas in play and discussing them?

Justin: I think we should have GA only when the Boston Occupier comes out (1x/month).

Carolyn: I was thinking about combining GA with Sunday's Strategic Action Assembly (SAA). Aria proposed this. One dedicated hour for proposals and discussion; what isn't accomplished would be postponed. Then common agenda (announcements and report-backs), and then regular SAA. Disadvantage: only accommodates Sundays. Advantage: fewer meetings.

Allie: I Second Justin; having GA 1/x month, but not necessarily on the day the Occupier comes out. Perhaps with agenda planning meetings, and publishing the agenda in advance. Actions are the big thing that Occupy does, but actions don't come from GA. GA has been more about allocating funding. If GA has a purpose and goals, then people will have incentive to come. What we do should encompass what SAA is trying to do.

Matt: When we had a camp, GA had a very different meaning that it does now. It'd be nice if we had a good way to get together and communicate. Big public meetings don't need to be strictly on proposals. They can be about actions too.

Bil: The value of OB is doing actions. GA is here to support doing actions. I want a GA that gets us together on a regular basis. I come to GA, so when people knock the GA, I feel like they're knocking me. I'm doing my best to do what's effective. I want to focus on getting actions done.

Question: What are some of the proposal that have been passed recently?

Alex: I'd like to remind everyone that we are trying to get proposals for concrete actions. (Alex reiterates the ideas mentioned so far.)

Carolyn: The biggest recent proposals were S17: a solidarity proposal and a funding proposal. The most recently-passed proposal was funding for street medics. There are many large funding proposals pending.

Patty: It'd be good to be really clear about what GA's role is. Sounds like people want them to be more collaborative, and less administrative. If you got things working right, working groups could energize GA and vice versa.

Matt: I think we need some kind of public meeting, or this movement will completely dissipate.

Alex: We're starting to move into a discussion. Can we consider this one small group, and continue the discussion? (People agree to continue the discussion as one small group.)

Carolyn: I want to preserve a body that can make decisions (endorsements, spending money, etc). We've expanded GA to be about having discussions, and we've had some really interesting ones. I'd like to see us evaluate actions. We've only evaluated one action: Camp Charlie. We can't do better if we don't evaluate what we've done. I think it's all about what people do. If people will only do 1 GA/month, than so be it. I'd like to find out what people are willing to do.

Matt: I think everything Carolyn said was on point. Having side conversations is important -- they bring people together.

Allie: If we're gathering, who's gathering? I really like what Carolyn said. What particularly are we trying to achieve? I feel like we have a way forward, and we just need to hash out details.

Steve: The group has shrunk over the last few months. If we can bring new people through the door, how do we get them involved, and keep them involved?

Matt: A lot of us have ways of networking with other people. I like that Occupy can ride on top of that.

Allie: I'd like to respond to Steve. I brought by sister to GA once. She was enamored -- the way we talk, the hand signals, the way we communicate. She's implemented this in her slam poetry group. You want to give people something radically different, but not so different that they don't know how to interact. We're here to make positive change in the world.

Alex: I really enjoyed that you said that. Jane brought her sister last week. It was interesting to talk to her sister afterwards. She seemed to have enjoyed it. The train wreck aspect was kind of cool to her. She felt that a lot had happened to get there. She really wanted to be more well-informed about our desire for change. Maybe we've lost a vision of what the original desire was.

Bil: I think it's productive to point out the 99% thing. Making people aware of the unfairness in the world is really important. I want to make the biggest possible change to the Boston Police Department. I think that will be huge. Keep going, keep going, keep working. We are doing the right things, let's just keep going.

Rich: I agree with Bil; what we've accomplished is pretty significant. I'm looking at lots of things I feel marginally attached to, which are different that what attracted me originally. I see whether or not people are willing to work on something that isn't ideal, and the answer so far seems to be "no". I think there's a need for long-term continuity that people can coalesce around. I'm not sure if 1x/month would work for me, but I'd be willing to try it. I see the current GA as a placeholder, in case there's something that regenerates enthusiasm. I'm near the end of my tether, but I'm not quite there yet.

B: I agree with Carolyn regarding the purpose of GA. GA can be good place to drum up interest through actions, etc. I want to relate GA more to actions; what are our interests and critiques of the system, and how can we address them? I'd be okay with monthly GAs, or GAs that were called as needed. Full agendas could get more people to come.

Allie: Agreed, but I'm not sure what process we'd use for calling GA (as needed). Maybe similar to the way we called June 1st planning meeting. Right now, GA is a difficult space for me; it wears me out. I don't think GA is dying, more like it's ossified. GA should be flexible, and maybe with less dogmatic procedure. Processes should serve the purpose that we want to achieve. I don't think people in GA had any malice -- this issues have more to do with group dynamics.

?: I have nothing against GA. I don't think the drop off is anyone's fault. We don't have the directions we did when we started. What is OB's direction, and what are we trying to accomplish? What's going on now that we can work towards?

?: Sounds like people are thinking 1x/month as opposed to 1--2 times a week. If you have 1x/month and someone can't make it, then they're out for a whole month. That disrupts continuity. More frequent meetings provide continuity. I think you need to be able to count on a schedule, so that people can plan around it. I'd like to see GA every couple of weeks. If we have problems, we need to figure out how to solve them. Less frequent GAs won't solve them. Some people stopped coming to GA because they got frustrated; things (in society) didn't change right away. But this really is a long-haul effort, and we won't see changes right away.

?: Discussion about 1x/month or every few weeks -- how are fewer or more GAs going to make a difference, if we don't push the movement forward? I see Occupy like our own little army to deal with these issues, like the fare hike. We should talk about the issues we can work on right now.

Bil: What good are we? We are working on transit, doing fare strikes, tax dodgers, taxation. We are constantly marching with different groups, and going to foreclosure actions. We are doing really good things, and some of them are really hard. But this is all worthwhile.

Justin: Cutting back GAs won't solve any problem. I'm concerned about dissipating numbers. Know some people who stopped coming because we stopped talking about strategies and tactics, and started talking more about internal things. I'd like to go back to GAs that talked about tactical things.

Alex: I feel like the frequency of GAs is part of this discussion. I know people who are pressed for time. You can lose continuity by having too few, or too many meetings. People have to be able to get to your meetings. Meeting in person is still an effective way to work together. The need for instant gratification dominates our culture. Getting rid of that need is a long process. Pace yourself, and help your friends pace themselves. I don't know where this conversation ends.

Matt: Meeting more infrequently won't solve this issue, but people might have more energy. We've been overdoing internal refection on process. We don't reflect on how we treat each other and how well our process works. We need that reflection if we want to improve.

Justin: I'd suggest meeting once every two weeks, and changing Tuesday GA to SAA. 7pm on Tuesday would be SAA instead of GA. And have GA every other Saturday. Keep SAA on Sunday.

Patty: I wondered about combining 1x/month GAs and smaller, more frequent, meetings to determine the GA agenda.

Rich: I worry about small agenda planning groups. I fear that such a group would become the central planning committee.

Alex: We used to go to church every 2nd and 4th Sunday. Maybe we could have a schedule like that, but with alternate days: 2nd Sunday and 4th Tuesday. That gives people two days of the week. I'm a big fan of two weeks. Two weeks gives people time to adjust, reflect, and think about what they've done.

Bil: If we're talking about agendas, who bottom lines them? How will the agenda planning get done? I really like meeting 1x/week. I think we'll be more effective like that. I want to be part of a group, and spend time talking about actions, politics, and such.

?: I can't come to Sunday events, so I've never been to one. I don't mind alternating days for meetings.

Matt: I like the idea of alternating Tuesdays and Sundays. I would appreciate having stuff well-documented. I'd also like to have a way for people to contribute announcements, etc, even if they're not here in person.

?: I like the idea of having GA once during the week and once during the weekend. Bring a friend, bring someone you know. Some people are scared to get involved, but want to know what's going on.

Rich: I agree; scheduling is not the answer, content is the answer. We can control scheduling, but not content. I'm willing to commit, if there's something to do, and a sense of community. We talk about wanting GA to be less proposal-based, less money-based, but we haven't been able to do that. I was concerned about central planning committee, but maybe that would be like facilitation. I'd advocate for putting proposals on-line. That would help.

Alex: There's a need to talk about content. I'd like to see if there's a consensus about the time frequency: weekly, two weeks, or once per month.

Patty: What about having GA do different things on different days? Dedicate one day to action planning, and another day to a different topic.

Bil: I'd like to take a straw poll on frequency of GAs.

We take a straw poll:

  • Weekly? Many in support.
  • 2x/month? Not quite as many in support.
  • 1x/month? Two people in support.

Alex: Frequency also determines what kind of conversations you have. The things I'd want to talk about during a weekly meeting are very different than the things I'd want to talk about during a monthly meeting.

Matt: More infrequent meetings might be longer and/or more crammed full.

Alex: I'd like to talk about content.

?: I'd like to get more of a sense of what the community is doing. I'd have a tough time with long meetings. GA is an important organizing tool, but we seem to talk about it every meeting. There has to be a balance of talk about process and actions. If new people come to a GA, they should get something out of it.

?: I like different days, in case people can't make it for one of those days.

?: Sounds like we really want to talk about substance.

Matt: There is an election season coming up. That's a golden opportunity to make a big stink, and organize alternatives. There could be a lot of substance there.

Rich: I've noticed that people will be able to fill however long the meeting is. We can have the same debate in 1.5 hours or 4 hours.

Steve: Occupy Arlington holds two-hour GAs 2x/month, and its been working out pretty well.

Matt: Who bottom lines SAA?

Bil: No one in particular. Enough people show up to SAA that things get done.

Matt defines the term "bottom-lining" and "donkey-konging".

Rich: I'm still interested in merging SAA and GA. If we're meeting infrequently, we probably have a better chance of getting people on Sunday vs Saturday.

Alex: How do people like the idea of alternating days? (A little over half indicate support.) We don't have as many decisions to make these days. I don't know very well what's going on, now that media's dissolved. I'd really like a time and space for people to talk about what they're doing, and what's going on in the community. And review things that have just happened, and where/how we can go forward.

Rich: I like that idea. I'd suggest alternating Sunday and Tuesday, and making the SAA a little bit longer. And maybe make the Tuesday GA shorter.

Matt: I like a lot of what you've said. I'm a pretty serious photographer, and I miss the part where you all put your photos up, show them to each other, and talk about them. I'd like to apply that as an organizer.

Bil: Earlier on, we had report backs at GA, but people requested we not do that.

Rich: There's been a custom on that. Actions get talked about in working groups, but not GA. At one point, I suggested having GAs 24/7. Might we have an agreement on Sunday/Tuesday alternating thing?

Bil: I have a concern. Trying to merge GA on top of SAA might not be effective. Too long a meeting.

Rich: SAA used to be two cycles of small groups; now it's one cycle. We'd go back to a two-cycle SAA, where the first cycle was GA.

?: I think we won't really know how it works until we try it.

Justin: If we set a shorter time limit for Sunday, then it might work.

Alex: Maybe if GA started 1 hour before SAA, leaked into SAA announcement time, then switched to SAA. I like GA before SAA, because it gives a finite amount of time to GA.

Bil: Point of information. On Sundays, 12--5pm is whiffleball/day camp. SAA is 5--7pm.

Rich: SAA started off as 5--9pm. Whiffleball is a completely different thing. If GA + SAA was 5--8:30, that could be workable.

Matt: Maybe incorporate a short break into the process?

Alex: I don't have a dramatic fear of whiffle ball stopping at 4pm. A lot of ball players don't participate in SAA.

Matt: SAA might draw on people who don't come to GAs. Merging the two might break the false dichotomy between GA and SAA.

Alex: Going forward, I'm trying to use this for a proposal.

Bil: I don't want to talk about content. I want to do content. Let's make a decision about when we want GA, and we will bring the content to it.

Rich: I think if we have this discussion again, I'd have a lottery on how many people would commit suicide. I think we have an actual proposal, and I think we should try to get consensus on it.

The proposal is:

  • GA before SAA on the 2nd and 4th Sunday of the month. GA starts at 4pm.
  • GA on 1st and 3rd Tuesday of the month (leaving SAA untouched). 2 rs (maybe 2.5 if we need it). 7pm until 9:00 or 9:30.
  • Fifth Sunday (or Tuesday) is a day off. Or a day for different kinds of activities.

There's concern about keeping track of the different days. To resolve this, we'll put the dates on the calendar.

?: GA is the decision making body. Whoever shows up makes the decisions.

Alex: Does anyone have something to be dealt with before going forward? I like when we can get a lot of people involved. We had a terrible meeting last night, and a really great discussion tonight.

Matt: The way I've seen consensus used tonight is as good as I've ever seen it it used.

Alex reiterates the proposal.

We have consensus. Proposal Passes.

GA ends at approximately 9:25 pm.