Friday, November 11, 2016

Backdrop for a DPG Revolution: Things you should know going in

Before you start down this road of trying to replace everyone and rebuild DPG from the bottom, there's some things you should know.

Yes, I think the Chair and Officers can set the right direction for the party, a tone that is transparent, organized and inclusive. However, it's pointless to try to villify or lay total blame with any one Chair or set of Officers. These are unpaid, volunteer positions that are fairly underappreciated. The problem is that we have an organizational structure that mainly protects the Chair from questioning, discourages regular internal debate and doesn't really hold anyone accountable to the overall body.

That said, unless the current slate of Officers (or at least a majority that includes the Chair) are willing to promote wide scale change, any change will have to be forced from below by the State Committee. Under the current bylaw structure, it's very difficult for this body to effect change against the will of the Chair.

So the State Committee consists of approx. 332 elected, appointed or designated members from around the state. In order to make anything happen, this body has to meet. Under current bylaws, they have to physically meet, no teleconference. The Chair is supposed to call at least one meeting of State Comm. each year, but it doesn't always happen. State Comm. can only call a meeting, without the Chair, if 20% or around 67 State Comm. members deliver a written notice to the Chair. These 67 would also count as a quorum so if they could all come together and give proper notice, they could vote on organizational changes.

The problem is the Chair is allotted 37 appointments to State Comm. and there's no review of who/when those appointments are made. Appointments can be made, with no oversight, right up to and/or on the day of any meeting (I've seen both occur). So any challenge would have to overcome that block of votes immediately. Also you've got well over 50 elected officials, former statewide Democratic candidates, party Officers, District Chairs, DNC reps and Affiliate Chairs on State Comm. They typically aren't looking to rock the boat or go against the Chair so you can't rely on those votes. Long story short, you have to go around the state to locate at least 100 State Comm. members favorable to change AND you've got to get them to a specific location on a particular date/time AND you've got to make sure they don't get cold feet or pressured to change their mind. Not easy!

Now there is a smaller group called the Executive Committee.This group consists of around 40 elected officials, party Officers, District Chairs, DNC reps, and Affiliate Chairs. This group can act outside of State Comm to make organizational changes BUT they cannot elect new state party leaders. You only need around 20 members to set a regular meeting without the Chair and it only takes that many for a quorum. With little more than 10 Exec. members (25%), you can call for special meetings to deal with urgent matters, but it still takes a majority of the full Exec. to pass any changes. In addition to smaller size, these meetings can be done by telephone, so that's one less hurdle to manage. However, 7 of the members are appointed by the Chair and most of the Executive Committee will lean toward loyalty and maintaining the status quo. During the difficult years under former Chair, now convicted felon Berlon, I was often berated and put down by the Exec. for trying to raise legitimate concerns about his chairmanship. Smaller number, no physical meeting required, but still not easy!

Finally, if you go down this path of trying to change the structure and/or leadership of DPG, you're going to face opposition. You're going to lose some friends (or folks you believed were your friends). You're going to be painted as if you are the problem. If you try to talk publicly, you'll be chided for putting the party's business on blast and for not working within the system.

Don't feel bad. Don't question your motives. The "system" (charter, bylaws, rules, etc.) is not setup for scrutiny or accountability. It's time for a new approach and I thank you for taking steps toward a more responsive, inclusive party. rj

No comments:

Post a Comment