Monday, April 14, 2008

DPO Platform Convention Platform

The Democratic Party of Oregon met this weekend to put together its 2008 Platform. The document is broken into three parts:

Platform and Planks - general statements of the philosophy of the DPO
Legislative Agenda Items - specific legislative goals attached to planks
Statements of Democratic Principle - the specific principles informing the legislative agenda

The Platform and Planks was approved in record time, this reflects the hard work of the Platform and Resolutions Committee headed by Leo Schulman and their ability to fold interested parties into the process preceding the convention. It also shows the wisdom of breaking the document into separate pieces, keeping specific agendas out of the general philosophy retains that character and allows for the more hot button issues to be addressed separately in more compact forums.

The Legislative and Principles sections were addressed in individual breakout sessions allowing a concentration of interested parties who were required to register for two sessions. Items were amended, edited, or added in those sessions prior to being voted upon by the convention. This in general also moved along smoothly. The results will be available on Democratic Party of Oregon in about 3 weeks.

It may seem odd that I keep stressing the smoothness of the Convention; this is actually quite a big deal. Platforms are considered the guts of the Party and anytime activists are dealing with the basic statement of a party there is a large opportunity for dissension. How this is dealt with says a great deal about the party and has large impact on its ability to function well. It is wise to remember that the primary goal of the DPO is to elect Democratic officials and support Democratic ideals. It is not the purpose of the DPO to write legislation.

The Democratic Party proposes to be an inclusive Party, that is to represent a broad range of individuals' interests. Anytime such a thing is proposed there will be conflicts of interest which need to be ironed out. Because an organization like DPO is composed of the activist elements of these interests, there will be strong feelings and strong commitments to those interests. It is the goal of a Platform to unite those interests. I am happy to report that this Convention succeeded.

I am known within the organization as a plain speaker and one who sticks to principles while attempting to work with others. I'm also pretty easy to find in a crowd. I am a lightning rod for complaints. I didn't experience anything of note. In a contentious Primary season this is something for the DPO to be proud of and to take home to their County Parties and voters with confidence.

16 comments:

Jenni Simonis said...

There was a big reason why things went as smooth as they did, and that's because dissension wasn't really allowed.

A large group of us had a real problem with one of the planks and we tried to get the problem solved by taking it to the body. We weren't allowed, and this will be the third convention in a row that we've had this problem.

I heavily disagree with how it was handled, and I told them so, but it was obvious that it didn't matter if I agreed because we weren't going to be allowed to make our motion. Period.

I really want to hope that this will be fixed for the 2010 convention. I really do. It's just hard when the exact same thing has been said after the '04 and '06 conventions, and yet things were the same this time. For now I'm going to stick with that hope that it will change.

Jenni Simonis said...

I should also say that beyond problems with dissension being heavily discouraged, I really enjoyed myself at the convention and thought it was well put together.

It was just really disappointing to see how this was handled. And several people I talked to who were new to the platform convention and in being a party activist really felt let down about how things were handled. I can only hope they'll take Meredith up on her offer and will write her with their comments about suggestions for changes and see that other than these few situations, overwhelmingly being a Party activist is a great use of your time and energy.

Anonymous said...

Anyone who was at the 2004 Convention understands why the process was changed. The rules on debate were so open then that we literally could not finish our work even given two extra hours.

Jenni Simonis said...

I was at the 2004 convention. I'm not talking about open debate. Our plank meeting in 2004 was awful - we had to do another off-schedule meeting to get close to finishing.

In 2006, our facilitator was apparently reduced to tears and had to be replaced.

In 2008, our plank meeting once again was a mess. The facilitator, Jenny Greenleaf, did the best that could possibly be done in the situation (and I thanked her for doing such).

We had a motion to bring before the body, since it's the only way the situation could be fixed. We weren't allowed to do so.

Like I said, right now, I'm putting my hope in the fact that we pushed even harder this time and that the DPO has said they'll do something about it. It's an absolute mess, and we've chased off the legislators who used to attend the plank meeting.

Chuck Butcher said...

I had hoped that all the early access to the Platform would have short circuited this.

Leo Schuman said...

Chuck wrote: "I had hoped that all the early access to the Platform would have short circuited this."

Me too. I personally invited Jenni Simonis over six months ago - last October at the Oregon Summit - to come to a Platform committee meeting to advocate for this specific change. I gave her my contact info to be sure she could find out about the meetings. The Platform committee had over 40 hours of meetings after that point, during any of which a place could have been found on the agenda to try to address Jenni's concerns.

But, Jenni never contacted me, nor anyone else on the committee so far as I've been able to determine, and never showed up for any of nearly a dozen meetings we held after she'd been personally invited to get involved around this issue. Nor did any of her Congressional District's delegates on the committee raise this issue, so I assume she never contacted any of them about it either, even though it's their assigned role to represent her views.

It's a truism: decisions are made by those who show up. Dividing Health Care into its own plank is a good idea. I hope Jenni, or someone, will do the work to make it happen for 2010.

Jenni Simonis said...

Leo:

This is where we'll have to agree to disagree.

It would be one thing if we'd never told anyone, but we'd...

* Put in in writing during and after the 2004 convention this needed to be changed.

* Contacted party leadership during and after the 2004 convention this needed to be changed.

* Put in in writing during and after the 2006 convention this needed to be changed.

* Contacted party leadership during and after the 2006 convention this needed to be changed.

* Been ensured after the 2006 convention that it would be discussed during the process of preparing for the 2008 convention.

* Brought it up to the committee's chair and requested it be discussed during the process.

People shouldn't have to show up at all the meetings just to get something done. We've now ensured that enough people on the committee know of the issue that it shouldn't get dropped again.

But it doesn't change the fact that we weren't even allowed to bring up the issue before the body, which is in response to Chuck talking about how smoothly everything went.

Jenni Simonis said...

Well, I wrote a really long post that should have shown up before Leo's that explained everything that had happened with the situation. I don't see it here. I can only assume it's out in cyberspace somewhere.

Leo Schuman said...

Jenni wrote: "People shouldn't have to show up at all the meetings just to get something done."

I agree with you, Jenni. But, it would have only taken one person proposing your idea at one of nearly a dozen meetings to get it on an appropriate agenda for a vote.

Each Congressional District appoints 5 delegates and 2 alternates to the Platform committee. Any one of these people could have been asked to raise this proposal for you. All the meetings this year, by committee policy, were also open to non-voting participation by party members in general, and several chose to be very productively involved (particularly members of the Faith Caucus).

I hope the newly forming Health Caucus will take it upon themselves to be similarly involved in the next Platform development cycle, and engage in the process to create the change you're seeking.

Chuck Butcher said...

Jenni,
There are times I hate every commenting format available, long posts gone and a pissed off author. I haven't had a previous complaint, so hopefully it's been rare here, but I've lost them on google's format and all the rest. Finding myself staring at a blank after writing a closely reasoned and well worded post is infuriating. I apologize, sincerly.

Jenni Simonis said...

Leo:

As far as I can tell, they're definitely taking up the issue.

My concern isn't about health care. It's the fact that the party glosses over poverty, homelessness, etc. too much, and so does its candidates. That was a big reason why I was originally an Edwards supporter - he did more than just give it a little mention in his speeches. And Obama learned from him and is doing more on the topic as well.

It's a huge issue we're facing right now, and we're going to see even more with the job outlook doing worse, gas prices going up, food prices going up, people losing their homes, etc. And with health care being such a huge issue, we're often lucky if we can get one item on one of the biggest problem this country is facing - it's usually some overarching thing trying to pull in everything regarding poverty, wages, homelessness, food, etc.

We're trying to get those at the lower incomes to vote for our candidates and support our party, but we don't give them much of a reason to do so. I was hoping to have a platform that I could point to and show them we do care. It goes back to a lot of what Obama recently said in his speeches regarding bitterness.

Chuck Butcher said...

I'll take this opportunity to once again compliment Leo for his work and attempts to make this smooth. This issue should have been addressed and could have been. Delegate exist for this reason exactly, and I have carried water that I personally didn't have a position on as a delegate - this was before Leo's tenurec.

Jenni Simonis said...

Chuck:

It's not your fault. It happens. I can't tell you how many times I've written out a nice long blog posting for Blog for Oregon and had it just disappear. I'll try to write it back out later. It went into more detail about all the steps we've gone through since 2004 to get this situation taken care of. I try to use Word when I'm writing anything very long, but this time I didn't.

Jenni Simonis said...

Oh, I think Leo and the committee did a great job. There was plenty of stuff I thought went much better than past years. Facilitators were bettered prepared - if it hadn't been for us being paired with a strong willed person, I'd hate to have seen the mess we would've had.

Each year we've gotten better.

I think it'll be even better if next time when the very first draft is sent out to the various groups that we get some real input in on it. From what I gather, input that some people gave during that process wasn't passed on to the committee. I think if we can ensure that feedback gets to the committee long before they're setting schedules, printing up drafts, etc., we can head off some of these problems.

But things are getting better, which is why I'm optimistic that this problem will be settled before 2010.

Chuck Butcher said...

I'm hoping you're right Jenni.

Word is truly useful in the respect of not losing stuff. If I had any sense I'd use it...if.

Wayne said...

First of all, there is a huge difference between dissension and violations of the rules, and I'm disappointed that Jenni insists on presenting it that way.

Jenni's issue, which would have created a new subcommittee, was never brought to the Platform Committee when the draft was being developed. It was never brought to the attention of the state party committee. It was never mentioned when the convention organized and voted on the rules Friday night. If this was such a burning issue, how come it never came up?

The committee's job was clearly outlined in the rules. It couldn't split itself. Once the committee was finished, it's work was reflected on a ballot. Leo did the right thing in recombining what the committee didn't have a right to do.

When the convention re-assembled on Sunday, the ballots had been available for 12 hours. Calling the ballots back that had been cast, and redoing them all would have been impractical and expensive. That part of the convention process was over, and we were on to the rest of the agenda. You can't unring a bell.

There were a couple of people who were ready to make motions to split up the committee's work on the ballot. I told them their motions would be ruled out of order. I told them that proceeding further on that would require a challenge to the chair's ruling. They chose not to do that.

Because of the issues raised, and because we were getting done early, I suggested to Meredith that we have an open, informal discussion of the process. When we shifted to that, we forgot to adjourn the convention, but that was corrected part way through.

I would like to know which party leaders or convention officials Jenni had discussions with on this issue. I was parliamentarian in 2006, and it never came to me. I haven't talked to everyone who was a party or convention official in 2004, 2006 or 2008, but the ones I have talked with (other than Leo) have no recollection of discussing this with her.

As far as showing up goes, it's telling that while Leo gave notice of the meetings of the Platform Committee, and invited her there, she never attended and no one brought this up. Showing up does matter, and mentioning it at a party conference and then letting it drop had a predictable result.

As for 2010, maybe the makeup of the platform committees will be changed and maybe they won't. That will depend on the work the Platform Committee does, and the feeling of the convention once it starts up again in 2010. People have a right to a process and input, but not to a result. I think Leo and other leaders in our Party did a great job of making sure this was a democratic process. I'm proud of the job they did.

Wayne Kinney
DPO Rules Committee chair