Second Annual Convention
Sunday, Nov. 2
ELECTION OF COUNCIL OFFICERS
Nominations committee chair Jo Seidita described nomination and election
procedures and opened the floor to nominations.
Committee member Michael Wolff, Amherst MA, made a MOTION to suspend the
rules to allow the nominating committee to name a candidate for the vacant
position of secretary. On a voice VOTE the motion CARRIED without opposition.
Wolff then nominated Vikki Savee, Sacramento CA, to be AfD secretary.
Caplan made a MOTION to suspend rules to withdraw the name of Kwazi Nkrumah
as a nominee for vice co-chair and to submit a petition to nominate him
for an At-large council seat. On a voice VOTE the motion CARRIED and he
was so nominated.
Committee At-large representative nominees Sarah Craven and Joe Seeman withdrew
their names from consideration, citing other obligations.
Seidita made a MOTION that unopposed candidates be elected by acclamation:
Mid-Atlantic Regional Rep. Sue Wheaton, Washington DC, as co-chair; Nancy
Price, Davis CA, as co-Vice chair; North Central Regional Rep. Michael S.
Givel, as co-Vice chair; Marie Smith, Kansas City MO, as treasurer; and
Vikki Savee as secretary. On a voice VOTE, the motion CARRIED, and the new
officers accepted the applause of the convention.
ELECTION OF REGIONAL REPRESENTATIVES
Seidita asked for reports from AfD regional caucuses. The regions reported
election of representatives for 1998 as follows:
-Northeast: Garret Whitney, Concord MA, re-elected;
and Joe Seeman, Ballston Spa NY.
-North Central: Stephanie Miller, Indianapolis IN; and Marc Loveless, Chicago
-Southeast: Edward G. Rollins, Maryville TN, and John Withrow, Birmingham
-South Central: Jim Bush, Waxahatchie TX; and Gary Dugger, Austin TX.
-Southwest: Jo Seidita, San Fernando Valley CA, re-elected; and Bob Chase,
-Mid Atlantic: Jim Schrider, Washington DC; and Bonnie Preston, Baltimore
Seidita invited statements by or on behalf of the two candidates for the
remaining co-chair position, co-chair Ronnie Dugger and Southwest Regional
Rep. Ben Sher.
Garret Whitney, on behalf of Dugger:
Ronnie is a man who thinks along four or five tracks at the same time. Sometimes
this makes him seem disorganized. He takes up a lot of psychic space. He's
dogged as the keeper of the Alliance message, and that keeps the rest of
us on that message. That's one of the basic functions of the co-chair position.
Ronnie suggests our agenda and did it from the start with his Call. He's
our staunchest defender of real democracy; that drives us crazy sometimes,
the tension between efficiency and democracy. We need him as co-chair.
Jo Seidita, on behalf of Dugger:
We're electing a leader here, not an administrative assistant or a coordinator.
Different roles need different talents, and the talent we need now to push
this organization forward is Ronnie Dugger.
We have entered social history this weekend; we snuck in. The press and
others will find out later and that's fine, but we know. I'm glad to have
a contest for co-chair. That's what happens in a free and open place. Ben
is a brilliant political tactician and we're lucky to have him. But I decided
to stay on as co-chair, if so honored by your votes, on the basis of my
vision for the coming year, and of what is best for the Alliance.
I do love Ronnie Dugger and this is not a knock-down, drag-out fight. I
love him not just because his is the best-engaged mind in America, but because
I am braced in his presence, not just as a friend. He is my essential teacher.
He's more than a writer of historic books; he also writes poetry. He has
done a cycle on the tides at Cape Cod that I hope he will one day share
with us. But one part of an organization's journey is how we mentor leadership
form one generation to next. That's why I ask for your vote.
I've been a grassroots organizer since college. Since my marriage I've hunkered
down in my own rural county against local speculators and developers. If
elected, I'll become essentially a fulltime organizer for the Alliance.
To build a team, the first rule is that nobody can do it alone. Creating
Action Development Groups is building a team to shove the hogs out of the
creek. The Alliance will be stronger with the team of Dugger, Wheaton and
Sher. But Ronnie doesn't need an honorary title nor the organizational headaches
of being co-chair. Ronnie Dugger will remain the Alliance leader because
only Ronnie Dugger can lead it. He's our wellspring of energy and our vision.
And the Bylaws include a provision for former co-chairs to remain on the
council--Ruth Caplan too.
So we'll keep our sages and they'll make sure the new council doesn't do
foolish things. But we need to bring along new people too. The activist
core is aging and needs replacement with younger people. The organization
will be strengthened with the four of us on one team. I'm prepared and qualified
to serve as co-chair. With Sue Wheaton, we'll be able to keep the crew of
the boat focused on the goal of increasing the membership. With Sue and
everyone engaged in refining our toolbox, Ronnie will be set free to engage
100 percent in what only he can do in building a movement. He will get to
travel, keep us in touch, cohering long enough to go past 2000. He'll be
unburdened of daily stresses, as in the song, "I shall be released."
Ronnie, by your superior intellect, experience and talent, you alone will
be equipped to do it. In Atchison where Amelia Earhart was born, this is
the way to demonstrate that we know how our dreams can take flight.
Henry Clark, on behalf of Sher:
Sher's challenge is no repudiation of Ronnie or an effort to unseat him.
Ronnie will remain our chief, our #1 thinker, spokesman, leader. But the
best team is one in which Ronnie is free to do those things that only he
can do and someone else tends the organizational shop. Ben would do a great
job. He has the experience, commitment, skills and grace to be effective.
He would ensure Alliance stress on effective action now--lobbying campaigns
for social change in legislation and policy beyond the superb statements
and meetings we have: and vigorous direct action campaigns against specific
corporations. Take Sher as the win-win solution for the optimal Alliance
AT LARGE CANDIDATES
Seidita then invited statements from the six candidates for five at-large
seats on the council:
Carl Bielby, North Central Regional Representative:
This is the only organization aimed directly at corporate power and I would
keep it focused there. I started as a minister and then directed the Family
Life Department of the National Council of Churches. I started a career-change
consulting firm. I'm a business developer at heart. My social activism began
at the Council of Churches when someone asked me to help change the abortion
laws to allow women the right to choose. I know corporations from the inside--I
once developed leadership education programs at Dun and Bradstreet. I bring
insight to the council on how to deal with corporations in the most effective
Arnold Stanton, Newark DE:
I learned from Ronnie's Call that I'd been a populist before I knew the
word. Now I'm a family therapist, a marriage and career counselor. Resolving
conflict is a skill I want to bring to the council--the ability to hear
and facilitate good communication. My agenda is to support the Alliance
mission. I've been an activist and a teacher who has inspired students toward
progressive action, and I'll do the same on the council.
Laura Jennings-Cranford, former Northeast Regional
I found as a regional representative that the needs of getting organized
meant I wasn't doing the rep's job very well, but I was doing database organizing
and management, and then funding, and then convention management. I worked
closely with Ruth Caplan to create a functioning accounting system, and
as at-large representative I'll work to keep the organization running smoothly.
Nancy Campbell, Convention Coordinator and
former South Central Regional Representative:
Without Laura, the convention would not have come together. On my own behalf,
my goal as regional rep was to improve communications between the chapters
and the council. This has been a serious problem. My main concern is moving
into the second year on the threshold of exciting and perhaps even risky
strategies and actions, which will require great teamwork. My training is
in social movement history and analysis. I haven't been able to contribute
those skills during our period of consolidation, but I hope to help in that
regard this year. I know how to analyze corporate behavior: I did labor
organizing at the University of Texas at Austin on behalf of graduate student
employees, where the graduate student union leader won $3 million out of
the UT administration and passage of a law allowing public employees to
have health insurance. It was that mix of analysis and strategic planning
I hope to bring to the council as an at-large rep.
Bob Cohen, Boulder CO, on behalf of Emilie
Nichols, Denver CO:
Emilie is an ex-Texan who would have been here if her husband had not had
a motorcycle accident. She's a tireless worker on behalf of the Alliance,
around the clock. She has been chairing the Denver AfD chapter, organized
AfD participation in the TOES meeting last summer, and ran her place as
a hotel for several activists. She's a real fireball and the council will
be lucky to have her.
Ruth Caplan, outgoing co-chair, on behalf of Kwazi Nkrumah, co-vice chair:
Kwazi would be here but he was injured in an automobile accident three days
ago, and his partner is ill. He has a long history of involvement in the
labor, civil rights, peace and multiculturalism movements. He came to the
council's in-person February and July meetings and displayed real leadership
qualities. But he has decided he is too overextended to serve well as vice
co-chair right now. He has a new full-time job and has requested this change
in his council role. As an at-large representative he would continue working
on broadening the diversity of the Alliance, using his many contacts nationwide.
He's an activist with many talents and we need him on the council.
Jo Seidita made a MOTION that balloting begin, and on a voice vote the motion
CONSTITUTION AND BYLAWS
(continued during balloting)
Robert Pederson, Camby IN, made a MOTION to reconsider the vote on Article
IV Sec IV.2 (requiring a quorum of 5 percent to validate membership mail
ballots). He said he had realized that his affirmative vote was in error.
After discussion of whether delegates who had left the convention might
be unfairly affected, a voice VOTE was held and the motion to reconsider
Pederson then made a MOTION to insert after the word "votes" in
Sec. IV.2 the words, "not referred from the annual convention."
This, he said, would specify that the quorum requirement is intended to
apply only to mail votes taken during the year, not to those referred from
the convention. Otherwise a small number of voters (46, a majority of 90)
might overturn a decision by a larger number of convention votes. He said
Sec. III.5 (convention decisions are AfD policy except those referred to
the membership) requires membership negative votes to be larger in number
than convention affirmative votes in order to carry. Therefore, application
of a quorum requirement to those ballotings becomes illogical.
Opponents said it would be acceptable for members' votes to overturn convention
decisions in that way because the membership is presumed to be unbiased
and grassroots, while the vote of the convention is biased by the self-selection
and self-financing of delegates.
Garret Whitney and Ralph Suter then noted that the relevant wording of Sec.
III.5 that Pederson referred to had not in fact been part of the option
approved in Saturday's vote. Dugger, noting consensus on the need for clarity,
asked suspension of the issue while interested parties conferred on a possible
agreement. That was granted without opposition, and the convention returned
to consideration of the 11 decision items in the Constitution and Bylaws
7. Shall the Constitution and Bylaws be approved by a single vote or article
Dugger noted that the rest of the proposed Constitution and Bylaws included
provisions establishing the independence of AfD chapters; on independent
election of an ombudsman; setting policy on nonviolence; and on procedures
to remove a council member. Affiliation agreement texts and a policy on
database use remain to be decided, but provisions could be voted upon separately
or together, he said.
Henry Clark, Sacramento CA, made a MOTION to adopt the entire proposed Constitution,
as amended, on one vote. Caplan offered a friendly AMENDMENT to adopt Bylaws
too, and Clark accepted.
Suter and Whitney interrupted the ensuing discussion to report agreement
on the question of clarifying quorum and other voting requirements for membership
balloting. On a query from Dugger the convention agreed to consider their
suggestion informally. They made the following suggestion, and Dugger requested
CONSENSUS on it: that Sec. IV.2 incorporate Pederson's proposed wording
to refer to non-convention referrals, and that the appropriate wording be
inserted in the approved Option 1 for Sec. III.5 from the rejected Option
2. On a suggestion from Caplan, Dugger asked the convention to allow a drafting
committee to codify that approach. The suggestion and request were then
[Language of Sec. III.5 Option 1, approved Saturday, now reads as follows:
"Convention decisions shall become the policy of AfD except those that
the convention refers to the full membership for ratification or other type
of vote. When a decision by membership vote rejects a convention decision,
for the outcome to hold, the number of individuals who voted NO by mail
must exceed the number of individuals who voted YES at the convention."
Language of Sec. IV.2, Option 2, approved Saturday, now reads as follows:
"All membership votes not referred from the annual convention shall
be decided by a majority of the members voting, unless otherwise required
by the Constitution or these Bylaws, provided that the quorum for a membership
vote shall be five percent of the members on the date of record. In the
case that a quorum is not obtained when a convention vote is referred to
the membership, the convention decision stands."]
Dugger requested and obtained CONSENSUS that Clark's motion on a vote on
the overall Constitution be held in abeyance pending consideration of other
NONVIOLENCE POLICY (continued)
Discussion resumed on Article III, the proposed nonviolence policy: "The
AfD is opposed to the use of violence and is committed to the use of only
nonviolent means in our pursuit of social change. Any member of AfD who
seeks social change by committing violence against persons or directly jeopardizing
the safety of other persons directly violates AfD policy and may be disaffiliated
on this account."
Janet Harris made a MOTION to amend Article III to add after the second
instance of the word "persons" the words, "in the name of
AfD policy." Dugger offered and Harris accepted a friendly AMENDMENT
to add after the word "policy" the words "or at Alliance-sponsored
events." The proposed sentence would then read: "Any member of
AfD who seeks social change by committing violence against persons or directly
jeopardizing the safety of other persons in the name of AfD policy or at
Alliance-sponsored events thereby violates AfD policy..."
Proponents said this would limit the Alliance responsibility for such acts
while honoring the breadth of Alliance members' rights. Opponents said it
provided wiggle room and weakened AfD commitment to nonviolence. On a voice
VOTE the motion FAILED.
Carl Bielby made a MOTION to add before the word "committing"
the word "intentionally." This would allow for accidents, he said.
Opponents argued that intent was impossible to know, and on a voice VOTE
the motion FAILED.
DELEGATE SELECTION (revisited)
Pederson made a MOTION to reconsider the vote on Article III Sec. III.3,
convention attendees and delegates. He said inadequate attention had been
given to the issue of delegate selection during Saturday's debate that focused
on other aspects of the article. Misstatements of fact need correction,
other proponents said. Opponents said they were satisfied with Saturday's
debate and vote. The question was called and on a voice VOTE the motion
NONVIOLENCE POLICY (continued)
Robert Cohen, Boulder CO, made a MOTION to insert in Article III line 5,
after the second instance of the word "persons," the words, "or
committing an illegal act." He said this would avoid alienating prospective
members who are opposed to illegal actions.
Opponents said the provision would lock in a prohibition against civil disobedience,
and Cohen said that was his intent. On a voice VOTE the motion FAILED.
Jan Harris made a MOTION to amend Article VI (Ombudsman), Sec. VI.1, to
replace the words "an ombudsman" with the words, "two ombudsmen
of different gender."
Proponents said ombudsmen should probably not be council members; and that
diversity would strengthen the office and broaden its wisdom and reach.
Opponents said the council at 25 members was already too large; and that
two might disagree on ways to resolve a conflict. On a standing VOTE of
23 in favor, 19 opposed and 9 abstentions, the motion CARRIED.
CONSTITUTION VOTE (continued)
Discussion returned to Clark's motion that the proposed Constitution and
Bylaws be voted upon as a single unit. John Durr, Sebastopol CA, offered
a SUBSTITUTE MOTION that a rollcall vote be taken on the proposed Constitution
and Bylaws. Members present were counted at 57, meaning that 12 votes were
required to initiate a roll-call vote. On a standing VOTE, 15 delegates
favored a roll call procedure and the secret balloting began.
During the vote, Nancy Campbell announced that the silent auction had raised
$1,115 thus far.
In response to a question from Dugger, Suter affirmed that any new Constitution
approved by the convention would under the existing provisional Constitution
be referred automatically to a full vote by the membership.
The convention took up the next item in the Constitution and Bylaws working
group list of decisions needed:
8. Shall the convention refer any of the constitutional options, as amended
and approved here for the completed document, to a vote of the membership?
Proponents argued that such a vote was necessary for democratic reasons
and to ensure member support of the provisions. Opponents argued that opening
each section to easy amendment would make the constitutional process unending.
CONSENSUS emerged that members' convention ballot would include information
on constitutional options considered, critical comments upon them and information
that the secretary at her discretion considers to be a diversity of comment.
On a standing VOTE of 17 in favor and 34 opposed with 4 abstentions, the
proposal to refer all options to members FAILED.
CONSTITUTION AND BYLAWS APPROVED
Seidita announced the results of the weighted roll-call vote on the Constitution
and Bylaws: CARRIED on a count of 425 in favor, 24 opposed and 9 abstentions,
with 26 not voting.
Agenda items 9 and 10 were declared moot.
11. Shall the William Peters version of a Constitution and Bylaws for AfD
be included in the ballot for ratification of the Constitution and Bylaws?
Proponents argued that inclusion would give members the chance to vote officially
on a subject of long contention; and that the convention's erosion of membership
control over the AfD would be eased by this act. Caplan noted that in a
letter she and Dugger had sent to Peters, a commitment was given to Peters
months ago that his version would be considered by members.
Opponents argued that the promise to Peters had been superseded by events,
including the pre-convention drafting committee that incorporated many of
his ideas in the final outcome; that too much time had been spent already
on this question; and that other constitutional options drafted by David
Lewit would be unjustly omitted.
Lewit made a SUBSTITUTE MOTION that the amended Constitution and Bylaws
be sent to members for their approval or rejection along with informational
material, and that summary statements regarding the Peters and Lewit constitutional
proposals be included among the diverse comments.
Ralph Suter objected, noting that Lewit's proposal was distributed only
two weeks before the convention and only by e-mail, and that Suter had also
drafted a proposal. Lewit then offered an AMENDMENT to include after the
word "Peters" in his own substitute motion the word, "Suter",
so as to require inclusion in the ballot of summaries of all three alternative
ideas. Suter opposed the move as unnecessary.
On a standing VOTE of 29 in favor, 15 opposed and 7 abstentions, the substitute
Ben Kjelshus, who with Marie Smith and Vikki Savee comprised the vote-counting
committee, with Michael Wolff as judge, announced election results as follows:
Co-chair: Dugger 486, Sher 141
At large: Campbell 492, Nkrumah 420, Nichols 419, Jennings-Cranford 395,
The winners were declared elected and were applauded by the convention.
INCORPORATION AS A NONPROFIT ORGANIZATION
Caplan, presiding at a luncheon session, described the yearlong debate within
the AfD over whether to incorporate as a nonprofit organization under Section
501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Service code, with an educational arm
under the provisions of Section 501(c)(3). After incorporating in Massachusetts
Oct. 1, 1997, the council voted to bring the action to the convention for
its ratification or rejection. She made a MOTION that the convention affirm
the council decision to incorporate the Alliance for Democracy with the
intent of becoming a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization.
Supporters argued that such action was necessary to allow donors to make
tax-deductible contributions to our educational 501(c)(3) arm; to free AfD
income from taxes; to obtain reduced postage and other rates; and to protect
AfD officers from personal liability.
To anticipate the next stage of council action, Marc Loveless offered a
FRIENDLY AMENDMENT to add the words, "and to authorize application
to the IRS for such status," and Caplan accepted. This would preclude
the need for further convention or membership voting.
Caplan explained that a 501(c)(4) organization could conduct unlimited political
and lobbying activity, both direct and indirect, without paying taxes on
its income, but that donations to it were not deductible from the givers'
taxable income. A 501(c)(3) organization could receive tax-deductible contributions
for the purpose of conducting education, and its direct lobbying was limited
to 20 percent of its income and activity averaged over five years, with
indirect lobbying limited to 5 percent. On a standing VOTE of 46 in favor,
zero opposed and 1 abstention, the motion CARRIED.
Pederson made a MOTION to send the convention's approval of incorporation
of the Alliance for Democracy to members for their ratification and to proceed
meanwhile with application for formal 501(c)(4) tax status under the provisions
of the new Constitution.
Suter offered a friendly AMENDMENT to add the words, "assuming member
acceptance of the Constitution," and Pederson accepted the amendment.
Discussion concerned the possibility that misleading information would be
spread by opponents of the convention's constitutional decision, and the
need to assume that members would act intelligently to assess competing
descriptions and understand their options correctly. On a voice VOTE the
motion as amended CARRIED unanimously, without objection or abstention.
ADOPTION OF RESOLUTIONS (continued)
Sher reminded members that two of the five proposed resolutions (on boycotting
China goods and on Indian sovereignty) remained to be voted upon, but that
time constraints made roll-call votes difficult. He suggested, and later
made a MOTION, that undecided proposed resolutions be sent to the membership
for decision in the post-convention ballot, under procedures to be devised
by the council.
Marc Loveless sought to offer a proposed resolution on election reform,
but was ruled out of order by the chair because he had not gone through
committee process. He solicited a floor MOTION to overrule the chair, which
was made, and on a voice VOTE of 7 in favor and 9 opposed, the motion FAILED.
Dugger suggested Loveless bring his proposal to the Issues Network on Campaign
and Election Finance Reform.
RESOLUTION ON POPULATION POLICY
Bruce Hunter, Dallas TX, sought permission from the Chair to introduce a
resolution he and Robert Cohen had proposed to the appropriate committee
but that the committee had somehow overlooked. Without objection permission
was granted to introduce it as the sixth proposed resolution.
6. Robert Cohen and Bruce Hunter presented a resolution favoring a sustainable
population project that would establish a national population policy aimed
at achieving zero population growth and two-child, two-parent families.
They argued that overpopulation is an enormous world problem, yet U.S. growth
remains at a steady three million people per year, even as our consumption
rate is 30 times that of a person born in India; that curbing U.S. population
growth could be an element to include in other AfD projects such as opposition
to MAI; that it opened possibilities for creative temporary exchanges of
young people among countries; that it offered another way for AfD to affiliate
and reach out to organizations in other issue areas;
Opponents argued that although the goal was admirable, reference to a two-parent
family set a moral tone that was biased against single parents who do a
good job and against other non-traditional family structures; that it had
unacceptable implications for immigration control; that it was a diversion
from AfD's corporate focus; that it did not address the potential dangers
of the concept of "control"; that it unfairly put the burden on
consumers rather than on the corporate creation of artificial shortages
and wrongful distribution of goods and services; that it muddied a commitment
to multiculturalism; and that it should be redrafted to remove those faults
before receiving support.
Sher offered a friendly AMENDMENT to insert after the word "two"
the words "or fewer," and Cohen accepted.
After further discussion, the question was called, and on a standing VOTE
of 5 in favor, 19 opposed and 8 abstentions, the motion FAILED.
Hunter, noting the lack of a quorum, made a MOTION that the proposed resolution
for a population policy be included among resolutions sent to members for
their vote. He argued that a steadily rising world population allowed corporations
to hold down wages and was in fact their life blood; and that a sustainable
population was a goal one either favored or did not favor.
Opponents argued that only matters approved by the convention were being
sent to members; that the other resolutions being sent had not been voted
upon; and that this resolution addressed an important issue but needed redrafting.
On a voice VOTE the motion FAILED.
THE NEED FOR CULTURAL SENSITIVITY
Marc Loveless addressed the remaining delegates on a point of personal privilege.
He said a culturally diverse organization would have to show more respect
for the emotionalism of people of color than he had received from AfD members
for his intervention in Saturday's debate on the Constitution and Bylaws.
He said he understood that no racist intent was present but that it could
easily have been interpreted that way, and asked for increased sensitivity
by AfD members.
Many delegates rose to affirm and support Loveless' remarks and call for
increased awareness. Several cited Dick Gregory's call for a boycott of
or restraint in seasonal shopping and gift-giving expenditure as a way to
show solidarity, with the understanding that small and local businesses
should receive as much of necessary spending as possible.
CLOSING OF THE CONVENTION
In closing remarks, Dugger quoted Harry Kiely, Washington DC, as comparing
the Alliance to the Biblical army of Gideon, who conquered despite enormous
odds because he had justice on his side. The AfD has materialized in social
history at this convention, he said. The press is not here, but we didn't
need them here. The public doesn't know it, and that's fine. We got down
to business. We have to invent a way to work together in small groups that
are widely separated, but our horse is out of the gate; we are taking on
the whole power of corporations.
With the singing of the Alliance Song and other songs, the 1997 annual convention
of the Alliance for Democracy adjourned.
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