By Clayton (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The meeting began about 20 minutes late after everyone who was lost in conversation and debate found their way to the front of City Hall. About 122 people were in attendance, including one member of the city council. I felt the significance of that fact was under-appreciated, cooperation from city council could bring about tangible changes here in Austin. Roughly 15 people joined after the start.
We approved a mission statement! “Our Mission is to assert our rightful place within the political process, and to take the reins of power away from profit driven interests.” There was some concern that it was too general; if you would like to see this specified and developed, talk to Kyle and join the Values and Mission Committee. They can’t reflect your opinions if they don’t know what they are and the General Assembly is not the venue for this type of debate.
This came after Stephanie Collins addressed legal questions. Peter (#arrestedaustin) NEEDS a couple people to help him man the phones and coordinate our legal response team if there are any confrontations with peace officers. I would like to remind everyone that the police is not our adversary in this, they are working individuals like the rest of us.
Unfortunately, the issue of whether or not to have a police liaison brought about the most divisive debate we have yet had. We paused to do some breathing exercises, which was brilliant and should be considered by future vibes checkers. The issue was left unresolved; so we all must serve as police liaisons and be respectful. That idea received the most support but by no means a consensus.
On a similar note, Lauren Welker stated that anyone is welcome to speak with the press, but implored everyone to stand by our solidarity and mission statement and not present their own opinions as consensus decisions to reporters who may not know the difference. Many other topics were discussed in brief and can be found in the 10/4 Minutes.
The meeting highlighted the need for procedural reform if the GA is to function with possibly 10x the number of people participating. It took an hour and 40 minutes to even get to the agenda yesterday, which was covered in a mere 45 minutes. Unless changes are made, this will cripple us when the occupation begins.
I have been following the minutes of the NYC GA’s facilitation team. They’re a couple weeks ahead of us in organizing and have had some good ideas we can modify to fit our needs.
Their main focus, and what ours is slowly moving towards, is on how the GA should use its time, what is its function? Clearly we cannot spend most of our time talking about what we want to talk about later. One thing most people seem to agree on is that it’s not an open forum.
So let’s create an open forum! Call it the Discussion Forum or something; set aside a couple hours earlier before the GA that is essentially an open mic debate w/ a stack. This would allow people to have an outlet for debate and free up time for the GA to vote on defined proposals. The NYC GA calls this “soapboxing” though I think that term can be seen as condescending.
They are also trying to decentralize power in the decision making process, something I feel most everyone here is on board with. The new rule put into place yesterday stating that facilitation committee members cannot moderate more than two consecutive GA’s goes a long way in this direction. I have also been talking with others who support focusing the GA’s efforts on coordinating the committees and that seems to be happening to an extent. There should be some kind of process for A) setting the agenda and/or stack before the GA begins and B) making sure speakers either have an organized proposal or question for a committee.
We should put it up to vote if the GA should have the authority to demand a committee do something or simply approve/disapprove of their autonomous action and coordinate efforts. This is important because if we decide the GA cannot order committees to act, then time consuming debates over things like amendments to the mission statement would have no place in the GA. Those who had suggestions would be redirected to the proper committee to work on it.
This must come to vote soon! As the GA grows, we must decide if we will get bogged down in ideological debate or allow those most compelled by an issue to form a committee and present informed proposals to be approved by consensus. Will we serve as a body that links committees and strengthens our ability to work together? Or will we allow the GA to be the discussion forum as well and hinder the coordination of the movement be devoting more time to having divisive ideological arguments?
We’re not all on the same page, no. But hundreds of copies of the same page would be a very boring book. Let’s create a GA that binds and organizes us into chapters (committees) so we can stop trying to put our own pages first, and come together into a powerful narrative.