GENERAL MEETING MINUTES
Wednesday, January 23, 2019, 7-9pm
Nikil opened the meeting at 7:08pm.
Committee people were asked to review Minutes from the previous meetings (12/12/18). A motion was made and seconded to approve them and they were approved at 7:15pm. Nikil then reviewed the meeting agenda including a discussion of Ward endorsements, review of the Draft Bylaws, a discussion about Slow Zones applications, and additional announcements.
Nikil announced that we are forming two ad hoc committees to manage the process of endorsing candidates in the primary election this spring. The first committee will review all candidates for non-judicial offices (Mayor, City Council, Commissioners, Sheriff, etc) and will be co-chaired by Savannah Fritz and Taylor Benjamin-Britton. The second committee will review judicial candidates and will be co-chaired by Mark Kasten and Amy Donnella. Nikil explained that the committees are not forming for the purpose of making endorsements as all committee people will have an equal vote on this matter, but rather to review the candidates via candidate questionnaires, interviews, writing samples, or other means and to plan a forum or forums at which the candidates can appear before the 2nd Ward Executive Committee and possibly the general public. The intent is for all candidate review to happen before the Ward meeting on Wednesday, March 27, and that we will vote on endorsements at that meeting.
Savannah announced that the General Endorsements Committee will hold their first meeting on Wednesday, Jan 30 at Taylor’s house (1202 Federal Street). Between now and then, she will be sharing spreadsheets that all committee people are encouraged to contribute to with names of candidates running for office and any contacts we have within their campaigns as well as suggested questions for candidate questionnaires. The meeting next week will focus on planning candidate forums (the format, date, and intended audience of such forums are to be discussed further) and delegating the work of reaching out to individual campaigns.
Amy gave a brief overview of the intended work of the Judicial Endorsements Committee, which will include reviewing the recommendations of other groups that will offer recommendations on judicial candidates, reviewing writing samples, and conducting interviews with the candidates (since there are many judicial positions and candidates, it would be cumbersome for them to appear before the full committee in a forum). She emphasized that the committee is open to all CPs whether or not you have a legal background and that a fundamental criteria of their candidate assessments will be based on the candidate’s view towards people. Mark reiterated that a legal background is not a prerequisite for joining this committee and that he hopes many CPs will be interested in doing so. They will be sharing more information about this committee via email and intend to spend the first committee meeting laying out the review process, including a discussion of existing models for review of judicial candidates and whether we should collaborate with other Wards that will be conducting judicial candidate interviews.
Nikil commended the hard work that the Bylaws Committee has put in on crafting the Draft Bylaws, starting with regular meetings last June and concluding in December. He explained that our intention was to review the Draft Bylaws in their entirety at this meeting, after which there would be an online comment period for further feedback and the Bylaws Committee would reconvene to make final edits so that a final draft could be put to a vote at our General Meeting on Wednesday, February 27. He asked that tonight’s discussion be civil, that everyone keep their comments and questions as brief and pointed, and that comments should focus on ideas rather than people. He noted that Taylor would be reading the Bylaws and moderating the discussion.
We, the elected representatives of the Executive Committee for the Democratic Party of Philadelphia’s Second Ward, have adopted these bylaws to supplement where necessary and appropriate the Rules of the Democratic Party of the City and County of Philadelphia (Revised 2014) (hereafter “the Rules” or “the Rules of the Democratic Party.”) We believe that furthering democratic values, in our capacities as agents of our constituents, residents of the Second Ward and of Philadelphia, and members of the Democratic Party, should be our defining principle. We have, therefore, designed these bylaws to ensure that Committee enterprises and meetings are conducted in an open, transparent, accountable manner.
Accordingly, these bylaws should be interpreted consistent with three goals: First, to ensure that the activities of the Second Ward are carried out in a structured and civil manner. Second, to accomplish our purpose of supporting the Democratic Party, endorsing Democratic candidates, and getting out the vote. Third, to achieve our aspiration and commitment to fulfill the obligations of participatory government, by encouraging robust debate, providing a forum for the views and ideas of all our members, and considering the needs and unselfishly serving the interests of our constituents and all Philadelphians, including those whose voices might not otherwise be heard.
There were no comments or questions on the Preamble.
Scheduling/Noticing for meetings
Meetings of the 2nd Ward Democratic Executive Committee shall be held at least quarterly (four times/year) at a time and location of the Committee’s choosing.
Written notice of any change in venue, meeting date or time for any Executive Committee meeting shall be provided by the Ward Leader or his/her designee to all Committee people as well as by posting on any Ward website that is established, as early as possible.
- Comment: change “his/her” to “their.”
- Comment: add language clarifying that Meetings are to be held in the 2nd Ward
The Ward Leader or his/her designee shall distribute a draft agenda at least seven days in advance of any scheduled Executive Committee meeting. However, changes in the agenda up to the time of the meeting are permitted. In addition, the Secretary or person designated by the Secretary shall distribute the minutes from the previous meeting no later than seven days following any scheduled Executive Committee meeting. All Executive Committee meetings shall begin with a vote on the approval of the minutes from the previous meeting.
- Comment: add language specifying that Steering Committee meeting draft agendas are also distributed to the full Executive Committee seven days prior to meetings and minutes are distributed to the full Executive Committee within seven days of the meeting
Quorum and Voting
No vote of any kind shall be held at any Executive Committee meeting without a quorum being present. A quorum shall be present if a simple majority of elected Committee people are in attendance either in person or via teleconference. Committee people are encouraged to make every effort to attend in person whenever possible. Votes pass with a simple majority unless otherwise noted in these bylaws.
- Comment: need to resolve the inconsistency between this section and the definition of “quorum” in the Appendix; whereas the Appendix suggests that if quorum is reached at the beginning of the meeting then business may proceed until meeting adjournment whether or not there is a quorum present by the close of the meeting, this section suggests that quorum must be present at the time of a vote
- Question: what technology is acceptable for attendance “via teleconference”?
- Comment: in-person attendees must be notified of anyone who is attending via teleconference
Voting by electronic mail (e-mail) is permitted under these Bylaws. This may arise, for example, in the event a quorum is not present at a formal meeting, or in the event that Board action is considered desirable at a time between regularly scheduled meetings. In such cases, all Committee members have the right to submit a vote within a specified time period (no less than 48 hours, no more than 7 calendar days). Vote by email will be conducted in the following manner:
- The Ward Leader may request a vote via email. Committee people shall have 3 options regarding their vote: i. Vote to pass the motion ii. Vote to reject the motion iii. Express the opinion that the motion is not amenable to an electronic vote.
- It is the responsibility of each committee person to inform the Secretary of the correct email address for purposes of correspondence and email voting. If a Committee person does not have email, the Ward Leader or their proxy may call the Committee person for their verbal vote.
- Comment: the 3 options available confuse the substantive vote with the decision to hold an electronic vote; this should be broken out into a two-stage vote: 1. whether the motion is amenable to an electronic vote, 2. vote on whether to pass the motion
- Comment: remove quorum language from this section as it confuses the issue of why an electronic vote might be held
- Comment: as written, this section does not allow for supplemental electronic voting (ie – some CPs cast their vote in the meeting, some via email)
- Comment: this section should establish two types of votes: 1. votes that are important enough to require that an electronic vote be made available to CPs who are not in attendance at a meeting (endorsements, Bylaws passage or amendments, removal of a CP from the Executive Committee, etc), 2. ad hoc motions or minor resolutions that do not require a supplemental electronic vote
In the event that a division has a single vacancy after the reorganization meeting, the division’s remaining committee person nominates a replacement, who is appointed by a majority vote of the ward’s committee people, in accordance with the ward’s voting procedures.
In the event that a division has two vacancies after the reorganization meeting, or that a new division is created by the Board of Elections, all replacement candidates are afforded equal access and opportunity to seek appointment. Candidates are appointed by a vote of the ward’s committee people, in accordance with the ward’s voting procedures.
A member can only be removed from the Ward Committee for good cause shown. In order for a removal request to be brought, any committee person may ask for a vote of removal via a written request to the Ward Leader. The written request must lay out the alleged grounds for removal. The Ward Leader must immediately share the request with the member whose removal is sought and communicate any response back to the member seeking removal in an effort to resolve the matter informally. Should such mediation fail to resolve the issue, the Ward Leader shall share the request with the Ward Committee and shall schedule a hearing of the Ward Committee no sooner than 30 days from the date of the request. The member for whom removal is sought shall be entitled to a full, fair, non-summary hearing before the Ward Committee prior to a vote. At the end of the hearing, a vote for removal shall be held. Removal of a member shall require a vote of three-fourths of the Ward Committee and can only be based upon the alleged grounds for removal.
- Question: can we remove someone who has been elected by the people in their Division?
- Answer: YES – the Rules of the Democratic Party have a provision for the removal of CPs; this section provides a process and raises the threshold required for removal
Treasurer’s Report: The Treasurer shall give a report at least quarterly as to the Ward’s books and finances which will include an income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow activity and an update on the filing of upcoming campaign finance report/s. The Treasurer’s report may take place at each meeting of the 2nd Ward Democratic Executive Committee, although a written treasurer’s report provided to all Committee People is also permissible. In such event, the written report shall be provided no earlier than 7 days and no later than 48 hours prior to any Executive Committee meeting. Written Treasurer’s reports must also be provided to the Committee members in any month that an Executive Committee meeting is not held.
- Comment: strike the final sentence of this section which is leftover from an earlier draft in which Treasurer’s reports were due each month
Access to Financial Information: Upon request, the Treasurer and/or Ward Leader shall provide any Committee person with access to the bank statements and records of the 2nd Ward, including any and all records regarding financial activity.
Compliance with Campaign Finance Laws: The Treasurer will prepare and file campaign finance reports with the appropriate authorities in compliance with Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and City of Philadelphia campaign finance laws. As such, the Treasurer is required to remain up-to-date on changes to applicable campaign finance laws, regulations, cycles, and filing requirements.
Banks and Expenditures: Prior to expending funds in excess of $1000, a vote of the Ward Committee must be held, and the proposed expenditure must be approved by a majority vote of the members. All credit and debit expenses in excess of $250 must be approved in writing by at least two members of the elected Ward leadership.
- Question: is the $1000 expense understood to be a single expenditure or a category of expense (ie – street money) that consists of multiple payments that add up to more than $1000?
- Answer: The latter, but in order to avoid having to vote at the time of disbursement of funds, we can vote ahead of time to authorize specific expenditures
No candidate shall receive an endorsement of the 2nd Ward Democratic Executive Committee without first conducting a vote of the Committee at which at least XX of elected Committee people vote in favor of such endorsement. This process applies in primary elections; special elections; and in cases where the Ward Leader votes directly on the ward’s endorsement, including when the Democratic nominee withdraws or is withdrawn from the general election ballot.
At a 2nd ward meeting, a vote will be taken on the following two questions.
Below are the options for threshold required to make an endorsement:
- Two thirds majority is required to make endorsement. Runoff votes will be established to get to a two thirds vote.
- Simple majority.
- Comment: Some types of endorsement votes will not lend themselves to reaching a 2/3rds majority via runoff (ie – At-Large council or other multi-seat races)
Below are the options related to endorsing candidates not endorsed by the ward:
- Committee people can endorse their own candidates in their particular division but cannot utilize any financial resources of the ward to help promote candidates that are not endorsed by the ward and must make clear that their endorsements are not those of the ward.
- Committee people can receive ward resources and advocate for candidates that are not endorsed by ward but must share the official ward endorsements in all materials.
- Question: do “financial resources of the ward” include street money or does this relate strictly to printed materials available for GOTV efforts?
- Comment: VAN is a state Democratic party resource that is available to the ward, but there may be technical issues with granting full access to VAN to CPs who are canvassing on behalf of non-endorsed candidates relating to how voters are sorted and walklists are cut throughout the course of the canvassing season; there will be additional discussion of the technical aspects of this question at the GOTV meeting next week and/or the next Bylaws meeting
Citing the robust discussion and the need to adjourn our meeting at or near 9pm, Nikil proposed that discussion of the remainder of the Bylaws take place at our February meeting, and that we will still plan to hold a vote on the Bylaws at that meeting. In the meantime, there will be a Google form for feedback on the Bylaws and a corresponding spreadsheet where CPs can review these comments and the Bylaws Committee will meet to review notes from tonight’s meeting and all subsequent comments and make adjustments accordingly.
Mark Kasten asked that the Executive Committee write a letter in support of various applications that have been made by neighborhoods groups throughout the Ward to the OTIS Slow Zones pilot program, applications for which were submitted last Friday (1/18). He explained that Slow Zones will consist of curb bumpouts within 20’ of intersections, various traffic calming measures (speed cushions, etc), and a maximum speed limit of 20 MPH within the boundary of the zone. Various CPs asked that we table this issue for further discussion, expressing concerns related to loss of parking spaces, whether the Ward as a whole should weigh in on questions like this, and pointing out that there are various locations in the Ward that need additional signage or traffic controls that may or may not be included in these applications. Further discussion was postponed until a later meeting.
Gloria Gilman reminded the committee that the City Commissioners are currently reviewing voting machines as the state has mandated that all counties update their current systems by the 2020 General Election (Philadelphia County intends to have the new voting machines in place for the 2019 General Election in order to test the new system prior to the 2020 General Election). She encouraged everyone to contact the City Commissioners with any comments, questions, or concerns they have about the selection process, which has not been transparent up to this point, and said that she would be sending out further information about this issue by email.
Amy Donnella noted that many Philadelphians who are federal workers have been affected by the federal government shutdown and are on track to miss a second paycheck later this week. In light of this, she asked that we share information on our website about local resources that are available for furloughed government employees and others who have been adversely affected by the shutdown.
The meeting was adjourned at approximately 9pm.