Second Annual Convention
NOMINATIONS FOR AFD OFFICES
Nomination petitions accepted from the floor were as follows:
Ben Sher, Sacramento CA, for co-chair; Mike Givel, Columbia MO, for vice
chair; Laura Jennings-Cranford, Cambridge MA, for at-large representative;
and Carl Bielby, Chicago IL, for at-large representative.
Wheaton, chair of the credentials committee, announced that the total number
of weighted chapter votes was 494, as follows by region (Attachment #8):
Northeast: 6 chapters,
11 chapter delegates with 114 votes;
Mid-Atlantic: 2 chapters (DC and Baltimore), 8 delegates (7 from DC) with
chapters, 2 delegates, with 19 chapter votes;
North Central: 4 chapters, 12-15 delegates, 52 votes; (Mid-Missouri people
listed as at large);
chapters, 8 delegates, 80 votes
chapters, 11 delegates, 163 votes
DICK GREGORY, activist, comedian
We have to understand that this movement is about communication. That was
key to success in the civil rights movement. It wasn't just people with
good hearts--it was television. Information is power. If I give you bad
information, you have bad power, and the folks who are providing that make
sure it's out there 24 hours a day. But once we understand who we are, we
have power. That's why I'm here: I know who you are.
We the people come together to ensure domestic tranquility. This system
tries to reduce you to some insignificant nothing, but communication is
the river they're trying to block, one dam after another, to stop us from
reaching the ocean, which is understanding. Age is unimportant. Why does
old wine cost more but with people it's different? I just turned 65 and
on my 75th birthday I'm going to walk from Los Angeles to New York. Why?
To protest something. I don't know what yet.
You have to rest, take care of your body: you won't win anything if you're
up tight. The system can wear you down. We know how to make a living but
few of us know how to live. I was once overweight, a drunk, and when I decided
to run against Chicago Mayor Daley--the real one, not the little punk son--I
was told, "They'll kill you." But nobody ever said that about
cigarettes, or about being drunk and driving home. Not until I got into
health did anybody call me a nut. I could go into a bar and drink a case
of liquor and nobody would say nothing, but if I drink a bottle of calcium
now, people wonder.
The problem is the games the system plays. Let's take Marv Albert--do you
really believe that some insignificant woman from El Salvador could bring
down a major white male primetime sports figure? He alienated somebody at
NBC. Like Bill Cosby--raise your hands if you knew Cosby had made an offer
to buy NBC. He forgot that outside NBC you bump into General Electric. His
son is out there at 1:30 a.m. and this woman comes along in a miniskirt,
high-heeled shoes and a mink coat to help him change a tire? He and Albert
just didn't understand the power of those thugs. They brought in the transvestite
Albert was living with for 15 years, so he surrendered and the trial was
over. They knew about that a long time before it happened. None of the big
newspapers asked why it came down that night. We're naive, in love with
this America. Lots of white writers are pointing this out, but white bookstores
won't carry those books. The only place you'll find them is in black bookstores--the
other stores were all bought up by corporations.
Folks say, "I love America because where else can you live like this?"
The answer is anywhere that lets you live on 85 percent credit. Lots of
black folks have good credit and no cash. People are trapped by fear of
losing credit. But fear and God don't occupy the same space. Fear makes
you do stupid things. If they're going to repossess your car, don't park
in front of your house. Paint your green car red. Punch more holes in the
card and send it back. They ask me, "When can we expect a payment?
I say, I'm not in control of your expectations; you can expect a payment
all the time."
The Million Man March was about expectations. I told Farrakhan six months
beforehand that they wouldn't give him a fair count. If they'd had a rumble
instead of a peaceful meeting, see the headlines: 30 million showed up,
5 million of them attacked a 75- year-old white woman. Naval intelligence
satellites can see a stamp and tell you if it's been canceled, and those
guys said 1.18 million showed up. They know everything we do.
No television covered the women's march. Nobody was fighting, and that's
not the image a white, racist, sexist system wants out there. If you're
hung up on what the press is saying, forget it. Think about the Al Sharpton
race--I told him he wouldn't make the runoff, and he didn't after the Chicago
votes came in. It was the lowest voter turnout since World War II and the
highest number of absentee ballots in history. It's all games.
White has nothing to do with color; it's an attitude. The rest of y'all
The O.J. Simpson case, Diana and her Egyptian boyfriend--black men and white
women doesn't go down well in this country. That's how big this thing is.
Murdering dog thugs is what we're up against but we're winning. Once you
understand the power of truth you can understand the price you have to pay
The people who broke the CIA-crack cocaine connection in 1986 got shut down,
but they can't shut Gregory down. The big media said evidence is lacking
of a CIA plot, but those who say that have CIA connections themselves. It's
all games. The newspapers worry about whether taxpayers can afford giving
apple juice to welfare babies, while the airlines gave away $250 million
in free whiskey to first-class passengers last year. They wrote it off as
a business expense, so we taxpayers paid for it. Shame on us.
The first president of the US was John Hanson--as in John Hanson highway
here. His statue is in the Senate but no one tells you why he's there. That's
because he was a black man. Fear and lies is how they run things. I was
in J. Edgar Hoover's secret files on the JFK assassination--all I ever said
was that the FBI, the CIA and the Mafia did it. "We have long suspected
that Gregory is demented," it said, and recommended that agents "confront
him and let him know he'd better stop putting out such gutter talk."
In 1968, the file said "a plan to neutralize Dick Gregory should be
developed," and later Hoover told agents to "alert La Cosa Nostra
to Gregory's attack on them."
We have no money, no technology, but we'll beat 'em. They can't get around
the power of what's right. You can make a difference. You have power, awesome
power. Use it.
How can we bring this structure down? Take care of your body, stay well,
keep doing what you're doing. Do more to bring black folks here. There's
a certain way you have to call out to people who've been misused for a long
time by people who look like you. But I thank and praise god that groups
like you exist, where decent folks can put an agenda together. The symbol
of liberty is a cracked bell. We can heal that crack and America will be
Networking is one thing we have to do more. Sixty to 80 percent of all retail
merchandise moves during the Christmas holidays; all we have to do is throw
the sales off 6 to 8 percent and corporate control is over. Realize that
60 percent of liquor sold yearly is during Christmas. Celebrate Thanksgiving
a week late and they'll give you the turkey. Celebrate Christmas a day late
and it's 70 percent cheaper. We have the power to pull America's drawers
down and give its corporate controllers a good spanking. Be part of it.
My life changed when I bumped into you people; yours is the big picture,
putting out a mark that will liberate the whole world.
PANEL DISCUSSION: MULTICULTURAL DIVERSITY
Marc Loveless, Chicago AfD, moderator
Deborah Peebles, Red Lake Chippewa from North Dakota; a mother and writer
with a Master's degree in fine arts, University of Missouri. She hosts a
KKFI community radio program on Native Americans.
Juan Marinez, assistant director for outreach at the Julian Sonoma Center,
Michigan State University extension. He's been a civil rights activist since
he was eight years old, working with Latino and Chicano communities around
the midwest against the formation of an underclass.
Peebles: I begin with a prayer in my cultural tradition, for hope. Most
of my work is done in prisons where I advocate for prisoners' spiritual
rights. The First Amendment now stops at Native Americans. The law took
away religious rights of prisoners practicing anything other than Christianity.
The Native American Rights Fund does advocacy on this in Washington.
I also have a tribal number, not unlike a yellow star; only in the last
10 to 15 years has being a numbered Indian become useful. As a child I felt
I could be called up before authorities because of it. Native Americans
are constantly surrounded by the FBI. We are considered security risks.
Work with prison inmates is crucial because being jailed is the ultimate
social rejection. Rehabilitation programs don't exist for Indians; spiritual
guidance is one way to help them cope when they come out. We believe in
the circle: red, black, yellow and white quarters of the circle, involving
heart, body, mind and spirit; in the middle is yourself. These concepts
were given to us by the Great Spirit long before the white man came.
Accurate education is the answer. Without it you have one more mask to pull
off your face.
Marinez: I'm a seventh-generation Texan on one side, and the native side
has been here longer than anyone can trace. The first "mestizo"
people of mixed indigenous and European stock were recorded in Texas in
the 1700s. People said when I was small that they were of Aztec origin,
and it's true. The Spanish conquistadores had indigenous allies from when
they first arrived in the 16th century.
In the Mexican revolution of 1810, a million Mexicans moved north. They
brought the idea of ranchos, and they were vaqueros who herded cattle, wearing
western hats, cotton pants, vests, boots. The white guys came out there
wearing raccoon hats and leather jackets adapted from the woodland Indian
tribes. The real cowboys were the Mexicans. And when Texas wanted to come
into the Union, all the people who looked like me wouldn't be able to vote
under the Constitution. So they passed a law that declared us white. Mexicans
are the only group that's legally declared white.
In those days cowherding was a job for the poor. Now we process meat, automobiles,
steel, poultry--still jobs of the poor. We're called Hispanics but we don't
see Spanish as our own language; one worker told me we only borrow it. English-only
laws are a declaration of war on us. Whites' ancestors came to get away
from persecution where the European kings wanted to make everybody the same,
and you're not. We want to preserve our uniqueness too, and our language
allows that. Think of the ethnicity in yourselves and you'll appreciate
it in us. I studied the Irish as an example of another persecuted group.
The British called them the white monkeys--the lowest of the low. The Alliance
means we all understand what it took to get to mutual understanding.
Fear is our biggest problem. People who look like me are afraid of people
who look like you, who beat us up, haul over farmworkers' cars and abuse
us. You're afraid of people who look like me.
My family insisted we speak Spanish at home and English outside: it provided
access to different worlds, led to more truths. We're trying to bring truth
to the midwest and Michigan about our present, by doing oral histories.
If there's work there's Chicanos--work someone else doesn't want to do.
Americans eat because Mexicans are picking the crops; now we are buying
farms, 35 in Michigan alone. This should be supported to combat corporate
control of agriculture.
What should whites actually do to unite with African and Native Americans?
Peebles: It starts in your heart, with curiosity about your next door neighbor;
with listening and being sensitive to what you hear, even if you may not
like the content. We have to forgive white people and white people have
to understand that healing has to occur. An accurate education is key. If
you don't know the truth you're living in a numb state.
Marinez: Think of your own ancestors and how they may have wanted to communicate
with those other groups. You need to share your stories too--don't always
just ask for our stories. We need to see you not just as people who did
things to us. We can create alliances and collaborations. Rural communities
often get upset because Chicano farmworker men hang out someplace, drinking
and making passes at the local girls. But look at the context. These guys
were taken away from their families and put into all-male dorms so they
can work three shifts using the same beds. They're going to bring their
wives and kids up to live like that? Remember it was the same thing with
Swedes and Norwegians in the Wisconsin and North Dakota logging camps. The
thing is to collaborate so this misunderstanding stops.
Loveless: Five suggested approaches.
1--Think of your intellectual peers now, as if
you were pulling together a project. Who would you ask? If on that list
all the people are just like you, you may want to examine that. Get to
where you talk right away about who else can you bring in, the women, the
people of color.
2--Recognize that people of color and non-color see issues differently.
In some areas, people talk about crime prevention; in others they talk
about police brutality. One Neighborhood Watch group in Chicago ran down
and killed a burglary suspect with a car. People of color have work to
do too: one reason people are oppressed is that a little bit of them believes
they deserve it. I grew up in Detroit, which has a black mayor. But in
East Lansing blacks are all shovelers. When everyone you see is a janitor
that has an effect on you. I learned in moving to Wilberforce IL that black
folks can have property that's immaculate.
3--Recognize racism for what it is. It exists even among other excluded
groups like gays and lesbians. Often it relates to power struggles. (Peebles:
seeing yourself as a mascot for a football team has an effect on you; it
means you don't really exist or count for much.)
4--Put resources into changing the situation. The Detroit archdiocese put
resources into changing their mosaics from a white Jesus to a black one,
and put up statues of black madonnas. That meant a lot to me. You can use
black artists' work. One place hired a Protestant black music director
to teach black Catholics how to sing gospel. If this group wants to be
serious, it needs to put up resources or it won't happen.
5--Remember that your response has to be not that you didn't have anything
to do with setting up a racist system, but asking yourself what you have
done to change it.
STRATEGIES AND ACTIONS
Caplan, presiding, explained the rules for presentation of the options,
debate and voting on the eight proposals for national campaigns and actions.
1. Campaign to Stop the MAI and Promote Positive
Discussion involved questions of funding such a big effort while keeping
the national office operating, hiring a national coordinator and doing
other essential tasks. This raised general questions of priorities among
publications, actions, outreach and growth. Ben Sher suggested that approving
a campaign should not imply a council commitment to the funding requested,
and this received consensus approval. The named sums are maximums, not
minimums; the Strategies and Actions Committee (SAC) had no authority to
relate one proposal's request to another's and the council retains funding
and budget authority. Caplan said fundraising and special appeals would
be part of most actions and certainly the MAI effort.
National Campaign on the Nature of Corporations and Corporate Governance
Discussion: Committee co-chair Mike Givel noted that while corporate initiatives
received the most straw poll votes, all together will take enormous effort
and continuous spending. The first stage of this approach is an educational
campaign, production of materials in plain English and in other languages,
and dissemination. It will be a tool for grassroots community organizing.
In its second phase, it is a strategic campaign to enter the process of
revoking state charters on corporations; and the third stage is implementation
of the process and enaction of new charters and legislation. Two specialized
task forces--on corporate personhood and on chartering--will work cooperatively,
making interim reports available to the members.
3.Members noted that little understanding yet exists on what "educational
efforts" means in practice. Political statements and goals won't substitute
for concrete work projects. The degree of local level coordination and
interaction hasn't been determined and goes to the heart of the communications
question. Is it to be "the more the merrier," or more centrally
directed? Each phase will have to be subject to reinterpretation as events
warrant. We will need attorneys and researchers providing information,
as this is a dodgy task--we're taking on the real power in this country
and will need major resources to do it. Each chapter can research the corporate
code of its own state.
4. (taken out of order): Federal Definition and Charter of Interstate Corporations
Discussion concerned differences if any between this proposal and the preceding
one. Proponents said the complex situation and role of corporations merited
addressing from many directions and that multiple campaigns would educate
us as well as the public, with locals already eager to launch short-term
actions. Conflicts can be reviewed and resolved by the council. Opponents
maintained that complexity meant one campaign would be less confusing.
Locals' involvement is essential and their resources and energies should
not be diffused.
3. Ending Corporate Personhood
Discussion concerned the intense legal and research work that would be
needed over an extended period to do this in the thorough and meticulous
way necessary. Dugger said draft constitutional amendments have already
been written on a pro-bono basis by Steve Russell, a constitutional law
professor in San Antonio TX, and that more pro bono work would be sought.
6.(out of order) Action and Coalition Building
Discussion concerned the value of taking concrete actions, in addition
to theoretical positions, to draw in members whose first question is always,
"What are you doing?" The goal is to choose events, promote them
and organize for them. A national March on Wall Street is proposed for
March 1999, for example. University teach-ins set for March 1998 could
focus on the 1948 UN Universal Declaration on Human Rights; a march or
caravan could target the Chicago Board of Trade whose commodity prices
rule rural America. AfD actions would begin with small meetings in members'
homes for neighbors, building to local actions, forums, larger demonstrations,
teach-ins, caravans and marches. Sher said the idea is to become skilled
at pulling off actions at various levels of size, complexity and organizational
Members cautioned that the nature of initial gatherings would vary depending
on locale; that marches require at least 20,000 adherents to generate real
notice; that the majority of participants would not be AfD members at first
no matter what the event. Consensus emerged that actions build grassroots
muscle, as Janet Harris said, and forge coalitions, two of our major goals.
5. Clearinghouse and Database National Campaign
Discussion concerned whether an AfD clearinghouse of information, opinions
and experiences about alternative economic experiments would duplicate
others' efforts or involve unavailable money and time. Proponents said
it requires only $1,000 of AfD funds; the remaining $15,000 would come
from foundation applications to be put forward jointly by sponsoring groups.
Existing databases are limited by nation or sector, according to a GEO
newsletter survey. An inventory would be the first step; dividing the necessary
labor among the sponsors would be essential.
7. Public Funding of Election Campaigns
Discussion concerned which existing efforts AfD should join. Farron said
the effort would use referendum processes and initiatives where possible
and join groups working to set such processes up in other states and to
overturn Buckley v. Valeo. Allies include "Public Campaign" in
Washington DC, which is eager for our cooperation, especially in a vigorous
Massachusetts effort; and the Pro-Democracy Working Group. Referenda have
already worked in Maine and Vermont.
8. Health Care
Discussion: Proponents said that while our ultimate goal is a single-payer
health care system, this is a more doable first step: join the Dec. 3 Call
to Action by doctors, nurses and health care workers in Massachusetts.
It includes a state-level moratorium on further for-profit takeovers of
clinics and other health care facilities; a restart of the dialogue on
what's wrong with the present system and what it should be; and a restart
of the idea that profit has no place in health care. It would start quickly
and give locals a way to recruit new members. This is a bite-sized local
action to take right now, not next year, and lets AfD be part of something
just beginning nationwide.
The broader discussion then turned to the workload of the proposals and
how many might realistically be adopted, how they might be interlinked
and how their timing might be handled. Agreement emerged that as implementation
will depend upon locals' interest and involvement, their approval is a
prerequisite. Caplan, presiding, asked for a sense of the gathering on
how to vote.
MOTION by Jo Seidita to vote by show of hands on
all eight proposals at once.
After a discussion on the certain need for a weighted vote at some point,
Seidita offered an AMENDMENT to her own motion that affirmed anyone's right
to call for a roll-call ballot. After Loveless observed that the amendment
was unnecessary, Caplan called for a VOTE and on a show of hands, the motion
CARRIED with eight votes opposing.
MOTION by Dugger that adoption of these recommendations shall in no case
constitute an instruction to the national council to disburse funds posited
in the resolutions as needed. The figures were developed by proponents without
coordination with other proposals, and SAC had no authority to adjust them
relative to each other.
VOTE: The motion CARRIED on a show of hands with no opposition and two abstentions.
After a brief procedural discussion punctuated with conflicting motions,
Caplan invited and received from the floor a MOTION to take voice votes
on each proposal under procedures allowing roll call votes in case of significant
division. VOTE: on a show of hands, the motion CARRIED with seven opposed
and no abstentions.
VOTE 1. MAI: CARRIED with no opposition and 1
VOTE 2. The nature of corporations: CARRIED with no opposition and 3 abstentions.
VOTE 3. On corporate personhood: CARRIED with 4 opposed and 3 abstentions.
VOTE 4. On corporate charters: CARRIED with 4 opposed and 3 abstentions.
VOTE 5. On an economic alternatives clearinghouse: CARRIED, with 6 opposed
and 7 abstentions.
VOTE 6. On action plans for 20,000 members by 2000: CARRIED with 5 opposed
and 5 abstentions.
VOTE 7. On the Clean Money campaign: CARRIED with 3 opposed and 3 abstentions.
VOTE 8. On health care: CARRIED with no opposition and 2 abstentions.
The number of delegates present during these votes
was tallied at 67, and it was noted that Caplan had abstained on all votes
as presiding officer.
PROPOSALS FOR NATIONAL RECOMMENDATIONS FOR
Dugger, presiding, defined the recommendations as undertakings to which
sectors or individuals in the AfD might wish to commit their efforts, and
to which the national AfD provides its endorsement but not its resources.
A. CHILDREN'S BILL OF RIGHTS FOR EQUAL OPPORTUNITY
Sponsor Nick Seidita, San Fernando Valley CA, noted that five organizations
and AfD chapters had co-sponsored this measure. He cited widespread denial
of social services and equal opportunity to non-wealthy children, noting
that the US ranked with South Africa and former Soviet states among the
worst offenders. He said the project involved producing and distributing
an information packet and possible collaboration in producing a documentary
VOTE: On a show of hands the recommendation was ADOPTED without opposition
and with two abstentions.
D. END CORPORATE WELFARE AS WE KNOW IT
Sponsor Jerry Polner, Brooklyn NY, said he and other members would produce
a corporate welfare application kit to let AfD members apply for accelerated
depreciation for their cars, oil depreciation allowance for salad dressing,
overseas advertising subsidies for yard sales, and so on. The kit would
request that rebates be sent directly to Congress, and would include monthly
overdue notices warning that if rebates are not forthcoming, the debt will
be referred to the AfD collection agency. Materials would be subject to
review by the council Publications Board and provided free to AfD chapters.
Polner said the kit would include facts and figures about the real costs
of corporate welfare to citizens, and would be updated regularly.
VOTE: On a show of hands the recommendation was ADOPTED without opposition
and with two abstentions.
E. MODEL US CONSTITUTION FOR ECONOMIC AND
Co-sponsor Allan Mathews, Washington DC, said interested members would
at their own expense revise or rewrite the U.S. Constitution, using the
process and materials for educational purposes only at first, with the
understanding that further action might occur later.
Discussion concerned whether AfD had already taken on too much without
this and whether it might offend some people's patriotic feelings. Proponents
said the action would require work from only those interested and that
ten or so members were already involved.
VOTE: On a standing vote the recommendation was ADOPTED with 37 in favor,
12 opposed and 7 abstentions.
F. FOOD AND AGRICULTURE ACTION
Cosponsor Ben Kjelshus said setting up buying clubs and forming food circles
was a doable, grassroots way to build community and develop a sustainable
food supply system. AfD would encourage, promote and provide informational
resources to locals in forming these clubs and circles, without any financial
request. The MO-KAN AfD would be a networking center and would arrange
a two-day national conference that the AfD would cosponsor. The Green Party
is providing an $800 loan for it, he said.
VOTE: On a voice vote, the recommendation was ADOPTED without opposition
and one abstention.
G. GREEN FRINGE/GRASSROOTS FLAG
Sponsor George Ripley, Boulder CO, proposed that on June 14, Flag Day,
the AfD send bearers of the green-fringe U.S. flag to converge upon Washington
DC so as to arrive on the Fourth of July for a news conference and celebration
on the Mall.
Discussion concerned the possibility of misinterpretation of a green fringe
on the U.S. flag, and the relation of the proposal to the AfD mission.
VOTE: On a standing vote, the recommendation FAILED with 15 in favor, 31
opposed and 13 abstentions.
MOTION: by Al Krebs, that the house consider an additional matter that
did not go through committee. On a voice VOTE delegates AGREED without
opposition to hear Krebs' request.
Krebs asked that Ralph Nader's group FANS (Fight to Advance National Sports)
be assisted in its effort to combat corporate involvement in sports by
willing AfD members and locals. Relevant materials and strategic research
could be gathered and sent to Krebs. His statement was applauded.
MEMBERSHIP BALLOTING ON CONVENTION DECISIONS
SAC co-chair Whitney noted that much work had preceded convention approval
of strategies and actions, but that the convention involved only 85 delegates
of whom 67 were in the room, while the AfD has 1,800 dues-paid members.
He offered a MOTION: That these decisions be sent to the membership for
voting in such a way that the vote be concluded as soon as possible; and
that when a decision by a membership vote rejects a convention decision,
the outcome totaling NO must exceed the number who voted YES at the convention.
Discussion noted the complications and logistical work required in a membership
ballot, including the delay in beginning to act, especially on the health
care recommendation that begins nationwide Dec. 3. Calvin Simons proposed
an AMENDMENT to exclude the health care recommendation from the need for
a membership vote.
Further discussion concerned the role of representative delegations and
elected representatives in the organization, and the degree of decisionmaking
power at each level. Members have variously called for more council leadership
and less council power, more communication and fewer mailings.
After discussion with Whitney, Simons withdrew his amendment, and Whitney
offered an AMENDMENT adding the following wording to his own motion: and
that these actions are in effect unless reversed by a vote of the membership.
Nancy Price proposed a friendly AMENDMENT to add the words, and that ballots
be sent out by an inexpensive and expeditious method, with the discussion
of each proposal included and a timeline set for return of the ballot by
those not attending the convention. Whitney accepted. The amended motion
would not change the substance of what is sent, only the method, nor would
it delay the health care action, he said.
On a standing VOTE, Whitney's motion as amended CARRIED with 46 in favor,
8 opposed and 5 abstentions.
Dugger, presiding, read the proposed policy and discussion began, but was
suspended for resumption later.
CONSTITUTION AND BYLAWS
Dugger introduced a compromise proposal (Attachment #10) drafted by an ad
hoc committee, and noted its list of 11 substantive issues requiring decisions.
He made a MOTION that debate consider those 11 issues in turn, and on a
voice VOTE the motion CARRIED without objection.
Chief drafter Ralph Suter, Chicago IL, summarized the debate process thus
far: At the founding convention in 1996, a Constitution and set of Bylaws
were considered but for lack of time were only accepted provisionally. The
work group that had developed them was given the charge of continuing to
accept proposed amendments afterward. Most AfD members then received an
issue of Alliance Reports in May 1997 that discussed pertinent constitutional
structural questions and included a pull-out newsprint section of side-by-side
versions of the existing provisional Constitution and two proposed revisions,
one by the East Bay (CA) Alliance and one by AfD member William Peters,
New Haven CT. The intention was to set a vote among those three structures
and then work on amendments to the winner.
However, the East Bay Alliance withdrew its proposal, and controversy then
developed over further balloting procedures and timing. Eventually the workgroup
chair sent all AfD members a mail ballot whose legitimacy was challenged
by some members of the national council. The council voted that the ballot
was not legitimate and as a result many members did not return it. The reasonable
thing to conclude was that that vote, because of the controversy, cannot
be accepted as a proper decision.
During the four days preceding this convention, members of the Constitution
and Bylaws Committee joined interested council members and other AfD members
who wanted to take part to craft a new alternative proposal. An attempt
was made to incorporate as many of the ideas of the competing versions as
possible, Suter said.
Discussion began on the 11 agenda items.
1. Article V Sec. V.1: Shall the AfD national
council consist of seven regions with two regional representatives each,
or 14 regions with one representative each?
Proponents of 14 regions argued that travel time and costs would be reduced;
that representatives would be more accountable and balanced by gender;
that it would allow reaching more people and knowing them better; that
AfD would grow to require it eventually anyway; that it would be more flexible
than a state coordinator system; and that existing regions were too big,
especially in the northwest (which includes Alaska, Hawaii and Wyoming).
Proponents of 7 regions with two representatives each argued that it is
already hard to find volunteer representatives and that two could cover
for one another more flexibly.
MOTION by John Durr, Sebastopol CA, to retain the seven regions (option
1) while allowing each region to decide for itself whether to split into
two sections or remain as it is. On a VOTE by a show of hands, the motion
CARRIED with 25 in favor, 20 opposed and 7 abstentions.
A question was raised as to how each region would decide the matter, and
after discussion, agreement emerged that existing representatives would
be left to decide in consultation with local chapters and AfD members.
David Lewit, Boston MA, made a MOTION to reconsider the rules so as to
postpone voting until all remaining 10 items have been discussed, and then
vote one by one. On a voice VOTE, the motion FAILED.
2. Article III Sec. III.3: Shall convention decisions be made by weighted
vote (option 1) or by delegate votes (option 2)?
Discussion focused on a provision of Option 2 authorizing subsidies from
the national council as resources permit for delegates needing them. David
Lewit made a MOTION that subsidies under part (d) be mandatory and complete.
Otherwise, he said, the convention would consist entirely of wealthier
AfD members and would be economically biased and undemocratic.
Opponents said no guarantee of sufficient funds existed and never would.
The question was called, and on a voice VOTE the motion FAILED.
Marc Loveless made a MOTION that Option 1, weighted voting, be approved.
Proponents argued that it is more democratic and would forestall conflict
within delegations over who was certified and who was not; that it offered
incentive for year-round organizing; and that it was simpler than Option
2. Opponents argued it favored moneyed members; and that Option 2 involved
more direct democracy.
A floor AMENDMENT to insert "national dues-paying" before the
word "members" was offered. It was ruled a clarification by the
Chair and was inserted.
Lewit proposed an AMENDMENT to insert paragraph (d) of Option 2 at end
of Option 1, adding the provision for council subsidies to delegates as
resources permit. On a voice VOTE, the amendment CARRIED.
The question was called, and on a standing VOTE, the motion CARRIED as
amended with 45 in favor, 8 opposed and 1 abstention. As approved, the
section now reads as follows:
Article III Section III.3
(a) Conventions shall be open to all national dues-paying members of AfD.
Each chapter represented at a convention shall have the number of votes
equal to the number of national dues-paying members of that chapter. Each
chapter shall determine how its votes are distributed among its representatives
at the convention. At-large members attending the convention shall have
one vote each.
(b) The Council shall, as its resources permit, institute policies and
procedures and provide subsidies designed to equalize the ability of delegates
with varying personal and chapter resources and varying travel and other
convention expenses to attend conventions.
Suter offered a MOTION that no amendments be offered for the first five
minutes of ensuing discussions to allow adequate debate about available
options. After a brief discussion, a voice VOTE approved the motion without
3. Article V Sec. V.1: Shall the council and officers be elected hereafter
by the convention as at present (Option 1), or by a direct vote of the
membership (Option 2)?
Proponents of Option 1 argued that direct voting would impose additional
and unnecessary work on members, who care most about getting to work on
the issues and do not want further navel-gazing; that 2 would be hard to
administer; that getting responses from members was often difficult; that
2 would require costly and time-consuming electioneering; and that it would
favor locals and individuals with more resources.
Proponents of Option 2 argued that only this procedure would retain the
large number of members who have been pressing for more democratic decisionmaking;
that the mess and time-consuming aspect was characteristic of democracy
and had to be lived with; and that those with the energy and commitment
to campaign among the membership deserved to win.
A MOTION was made to approve option one, election by the convention. On
a voice VOTE, the motion FAILED.
A MOTION was made to approve option two, election directly by members.
On a standing VOTE, the motion CARRIED with 41 in favor, 9 opposed and
Al Krebs made a MOTION to immediately take up Item 6, the source of Alliance
authority. The question was called and on a voice VOTE the motion CARRIED
Delegates present were tallied at 57 to provide the information that approval
by 12 people would be necessary to require a weighted roll call vote.
6. Article II Sec. 2.1: Shall the source of all authority in the AfD reside
in the membership (Option 1), or shall the source of all authority and
policy be members acting individually, through delegates to conventions,
membership votes and other procedures (Option 2)?
Suter described Option 1 as simple and declarative; and Option 2 as adding
the word "policy" to authority and specifying additional information
on how members can act to express their will.
Proponents of Option 2 argued that it specifically allows action through
delegates and in other ways, forestalling argument that every decision
had to be made by direct and full membership vote; that repeated direct
voting would be expensive, tedious and unworkable in practice; and that
Option 1 could be and had been interpreted restrictively to question council
and convention authority to act.
Proponents of Option 1 argued that it is simpler; that it keeps the AfD's
democratic intentions foremost; and that Option 2 could be interpreted
to require delegation of authority.
The question was called, and on a standing VOTE Option 2 CARRIED on a vote
of 9 for Option 1, 34 for Option 2, and 5 abstentions.
4. Article III Sec. III.5: Shall substantive decisions be made by the annual
convention, except for those referred to the membership for ratification
or other vote (Option 1); or shall non-procedural decisions which required
a roll-call vote at the convention be referred to a direct vote of the
membership by mail ballot (Option 2)?
Dugger, presiding, said Option 2 would introduce the roll call as the measure
of which convention votes are sent to the membership. After a discussion
of definitions, Janet Harris, Baltimore MD, proposed an AMENDMENT to Option
2 to remove the words "which require a roll-call vote." Option
2 would then require a membership verdict on all substantive votes.
Proponents of the amendment argued that members have demanded this and
it would honor our democratic commitment to include non-convention-goers
Opponents argued that it was another expression of lack of trust in the
convention; and that it would be impossible and self-destructive to try
to repeat the entire nonprocedural business of the convention at the chapter
On a voice VOTE, the amendment FAILED with 10 in favor, 29 opposed and
Further discussion noted that Option 1 allows referral of matters to members
but does not require that all matters be so referred, and that the ballot
would be required to go out to all members within 45 days, with response
time not specified.
By a standing VOTE, Option 1 CARRIED on a count of 36 in favor, 10 in favor
of Option 2, and 5 abstentions.
5. Article IV Sec. IV.2: Shall membership votes be decided by a majority
without a specified quorum (Option 1) or shall a quorum of 8 percent of
the members on the date of record be required for a valid decision (Option
Discussion concerned the function of quorum requirements. Proponents of
Option 1 (no quorum) argued that 8 percent of the present membership would
require 150 votes, more people than were present at the convention; that
many so-called "members" are only financial supporters and do
not want to participate actively; that repeated expensive and time-consuming
mail ballots would be necessary if the first one failed to get the required
response; that the members who were most interested and active would be
those who made every decision if no quorum were required, which would be
a democratic outcome; that important work would be stalled or go into limbo
with a quorum requirement; and that AfD should be as experimental as possible.
Proponents of Option 2 (quorum required) argued
that an issue failing to generate interest among 8 percent of the members
was not an issue and could be decided by the council; and that the requirement
would keep a tiny minority from acting against the will of the broader
Lewit proposed an AMENDMENT to require that all ballots sent to the membership
be accompanied by a diversity of critical commentary on the issues involved.
This would inform members not present during convention debate, he said.
Proponents argued that such information was essential, although questions
of who writes the commentary and who approves it needed explication.
Opponents argued that anything less than full debate transcripts might
be misleading or inaccurate, and that transcripts would be unworkably long.
On a standing VOTE the amendment CARRIED with 30 in favor, 13 opposed and
A floor AMENDMENT was offered to Option 2, to reduce the required quorum
from 8 percent of the membership to 5 percent. That would be about 90 votes
at current membership levels. The question was called and on a voice VOTE
the amendment CARRIED without opposition.
Caplan offered an AMENDMENT to Option 2, adding the words: In the case
that a quorum is not obtained when a convention vote is referred to the
membership, the convention decision stands. On a voice VOTE the amendment
CARRIED without objection.
The question was called, and on a standing VOTE Option 2 CARRIED, with
a vote of 6 for Option one, 24 for Option 2, and 11 abstentions.
[Index] [Thursday] [Friday] [Saturday] [Sunday]