GENERAL MEETING MINUTES
Wednesday, February 27, 2019, 7-8:30pm
Nikil opened the meeting at 7:05pm.
Committee people were asked to review the Minutes from the previous meeting (1/23/2019). A motion was made and seconded to approve them and they were approved at 7:10pm. Nikil then reviewed the meeting agenda which primarily consisted of final discussion and voting on our Draft Bylaws. He explained that we would open with a vote on the adoption of the full document and then vote on three specific provisions. He intended to allow up to 10 minutes of discussion preceding each vote and asked that committee people focus primarily on clarifying questions as there has been ample opportunity to comment on the Draft Bylaws at this point and to keep their comments or questions to a minute or less.
VOTE 1 – Should the 2nd Ward Democratic Executive Committee adopt these Bylaws in full? (Yes, No, or Abstain)
There was minimal discussion before a motion to vote was made and seconded. There were 44 votes in favor of adoption and 1 abstention. The Bylaws were adopted in full.
A suggestion was made that as we were one of the first Ward Committees in the city to write a full set of Bylaws, we could consider copywriting and selling them as a fundraiser to benefit the 2nd Ward.
VOTE 2 – Threshold of support required for candidates to receive an endorsement (Option 1, Option 2, or Abstain):
Option 1: Two thirds of committee people or proxies present at the vote.
Option 2: A majority of committee people or proxies present at the vote.
Committee people expressed a variety of opinions on this question, including the following:
- 50% is not a high enough threshold to create a cohesive group of committee people;
- It is a dilution of our power as a collective and an abdication of our responsibility to set the threshold at 2/3rds since it may lead to many cases in which we do not endorse;
- The result of Vote 3 potentially creates a “penalty” for committee people who do not promote Ward endorsements so we should have a 2/3rds threshold in order to minimize the number of committee people affected by it;
- The runoff voting rules will make it easy to reach a 2/3rds majority in most races and the 2/3rds requirement will promote civility and deeper discussion among committee people;
- A 2/3rds majority may be very difficult to achieve in single-seat races with two viable candidates even with runoff voting;
- Our constituents are not likely to draw a distinction between Ward endorsements and endorsements we make as individual committee people, so in the case of a 2/3rds majority requirement, even if the Ward does not endorse a candidate, we can do so ourselves to the same effect;
- As committee people, we should be wary of endorsing candidates who have not shown a prior interest in our communities;
- A 2/3rds majority requirement allows a relatively small group of committee people to withhold and endorsement.
A request for clarification was made about whether we would vote for each provision at the end of the 10 minute discussion period before moving on to discussion of the next vote. Nikil answered yes. Given the relationship between VOTE 2 and VOTE 3, there was some desire for a combined discussion of them, but the voting proceeded as planned.
A motion to vote was made and seconded. There were 14 votes in favor of Option 1 and 31 votes in favor of Option 2. The threshold of support required for endorsement was set at a majority of committee people and proxies present at the vote.
VOTE 3 – Individual committee persons obligation to support endorsed candidates (Option 1, Option 2, or Abstain):
Option 1: “Committee people can endorse their own candidates in their particular division but cannot utilize Ward financial resources to print materials to promote candidates that are not endorsed by the Ward. Committee people that choose to endorse candidates not endorsed by the Ward cannot characterize that those candidates have received the endorsement of the Ward.”
Option 2: “Committee people can receive Ward financial resources to print materials for candidates that are not endorsed by the Ward but must share the official ward endorsements in all materials.”
A clarification was made that the term “Ward financial resources” does not refer to the Election Day stipend (“street money”) that is available from funds provided by the County Committee and will be available to all committee people in the same amount regardless of whether they are promoting the Ward’s endorsed candidates.
The following opinions on this question were shared:
- Given that we chose to endorse candidates with majority (50% + 1) support, committee people should be empowered to carry their own endorsements if they disagree with the Ward endorsements without having to inform constituents of the Ward endorsements since two sets of endorsements would be confusing;
- Option 1 penalizes committee people with fewer financial resources and dissipates the power of an organized political body;
- Option 2 allows us to take money from our endorsed candidates that may then be used to print materials in support of their opponents, which is problematic;
- All committee people have the responsibility to offer their constituents a slate of judicial candidates that have been fully evaluated since judicial elections are very low-information races;
- Option 2 is not written clearly and the Options presented do not reflect the intention of the original discussion within the Bylaws committee on this question.
Members of the Bylaws committee stated that the intention of this choice was not to govern whether committee people are obligated to inform their constituents of the Ward endorsements as neither Option was meant to create that obligation. Option 2 was originally introduced to provide a level playing field for committee people with fewer financial resources. The wording of the Options shifted over the course of subsequent discussions.
A motion was made to delay the vote on this question until the Bylaws committee had a chance to revisit the question and provide alternate wording. Committee people could then E-vote on this provision or a vote could be held at the March General Meeting. The motion was seconded, but strong objections to the delay were raised on the grounds that there had been numerous opportunities to comment on this already and that the motion to delay might be intended to introduce a new voting option rather than solely to clarify the existing options. After some discussion, a vote was taken. There were 12 votes in favor of delay, 17 votes against, and 6 abstentions. The motion failed, and a motion to vote on the substantive question was made and seconded. There were 35 votes in favor of Option 1, 6 votes in favor of Option 2, and 5 abstentions. Option 1 was adopted into the Bylaws.
VOTE 4 – Should the following provision be included in the Bylaws (Yes, No, Abstain):
“The Ward may also choose to endorse or oppose bills before City Council, the Pennsylvania Legislature or Congress. If a committee person wishes to suggest a bill for endorsement or opposition they must communicate with the Ward Leader to get the question put on the agenda and the agenda must be circulated to all committee people ahead of the ward meeting where it will be discussed. If a majority of the committee people present vote in favor of endorsing the bill, it will receive the Ward’s endorsement.”
A clarification was made that adopting this provision into the Bylaws is not intended to cause the Ward Committee to support or oppose every piece of legislation under debate at the municipal, state, or federal level, but to empower the Ward Committee to weigh in for or against prominent legislation.
Additional questions and answers on this provision were as follows:
- Can a piece of legislation that a committee person wants to debate be forced onto a meeting agenda or will requests to consider legislation for endorsement come before the full Ward Committee at the discretion of the Ward leader? Answer: the latter;
- At what stage in the legislative process are bills allowed to be considered for endorsement? Answer: TBD.
- Are legislative endorsements intended to influence lawmakers who will be voting on the bills directly or our constituents who could play a grassroots role in supporting or opposing bills? Answer: Either/both depending on the particular situation.
- Does this provision also provide for the Ward Committee to endorse for or against ballot initiatives? Answer: Yes.
A motion to vote was made and seconded. There were 43 votes in favor of this provision and 3 votes against. The provision was adopted into the Bylaws.
Nikil commended the Ward Committee and the Bylaws Committee in particular for the successful development and adoption of the Bylaws.
Endorsement Committee Updates
Savannah offered a brief update from the Endorsements Committee about two candidate forums that will be held next month. Candidates for Sheriff and City Commissioner will be invited to a forum on Saturday, March 16, 2-4pm at Capitolo Rec Center and candidates for City Council At-Large will be invited to a forum on Saturday, March 23, 2-4pm at Capitolo Rec Center. Only candidates who have completed our questionnaires will be invited to the forums. Savannah will be in touch soon with further information about these events and a call for event volunteers.
Mark’s update from the Judicial Endorsements Committee included a revised schedule for judicial endorsements. In order to take into account the Bar Association recommendations which may not be available until early/mid-April, we will not vote on endorsement in judicial races until our General Meeting on Wednesday, April 24. Further questions about the progress of the committee and their process for making recommendations can be directed to the committee.
The meeting was adjourned at 8:35pm.
** Notes on voting results: All voting results in these Minutes include votes by proxy. VOTE 1 and VOTE 2 were held with 45 total votes (33 committee people present + 12 proxy votes). VOTE 3, the motion to delay VOTE 3, and VOTE 4 were held with 46 total votes (35 committee people present + 11 proxy votes). Complete voting results are included on the final page of these Minutes.