Second Annual Convention
Sunday, Nov. 2


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.


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 IL.

-Southeast: Edward G. Rollins, Maryville TN, and John Withrow, Birmingham AL.

-Northwest: none

-South Central: Jim Bush, Waxahatchie TX; and Gary Dugger, Austin TX.

-Southwest: Jo Seidita, San Fernando Valley CA, re-elected; and Bob Chase, Sacramento CA.

-Mid Atlantic: Jim Schrider, Washington DC; and Bonnie Preston, Baltimore MD.


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.

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.

Ben Sher:

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 team.


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 way.

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 Representative:

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 CARRIED.

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 CARRIED.

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 Committee proposal.

7. Shall the Constitution and Bylaws be approved by a single vote or article by 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 AFFIRMED.

[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 constitutional issues.


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.


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 FAILED.


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.


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.


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 motion CARRIED.


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, Stanton 332.

The winners were declared elected and were applauded by the convention.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Respectfully submitted,

Joanne Omang
Secretary 1997

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