Minutes – General Body Meeting, 3/22/20

Chair: Stu K
Secretary: Zach E

Introduction

Meeting came to order at 3:02pm. Stu asked members to place themselves in one of three breakout groups: housing, electoral, and mutual aid. We are using these breakout groups to try to work on how we can organize remotely in a coronavirus environment.

Chapter Updates

Secretary Report

  • GBM Location Hunt: continued difficulties finding a place cheaper than Friends that meets our other needs, we encourage members to reach out if they have any good ideas
  • Tech changes: Action Network, New website (thank Brendan, Gary)
  • Local MDC DSA Convention move: no longer in October! Moved to December due to election

Financial Report

Brian W delivered financial report. We have $26k on hand, an increase of about $300 from our last report – however there was lots of spending. About $16k is unrestricted, the rest is split between restricted/branch funds. It turns out National DSA owes us about $500. We are working on ending the local dues system. In addition, Amalgamated Bank has ended cash services in DC.

Steering Elections

Current Steering committee groups. Election proposals are going forward and working on putting together the Temporary Election Working Group. Current tentative schedule is that nominations will open on 4/1. See detailed schedule, GBM slide 10. New Steering can have its first meeting on 5/12 where they will elect a new chair in time for the May GBM.

NoVa Branch Update

Helena (NoVa branch co-chair) gave us an update. They are having a meeting on 3/25 (remote). Their current campaigns are migrant justice in northern virginia and an anti-Right to Work campaign; also a mutual aid campaign is spinning up.

Virginia DSA is having a convention of VA chapters in Richmond on Labor Day.

Old Business

Bylaw Amendment on Local Electorals

Stu is introducing a bylaws amendment to resolve an issue that emerges when two people request an endorsement at the same time. This bylaw endorsement will make it so that we vote head-to-head and only endorse one candidate in each election. This will ensure our endorsements are stronger and can unite progressive partners.

Eli asked whether there was a way to vote among several candidates. Stu says there is not right now, but this process would create a two-round process. First, we would vote for candidates and the plurality winner would be voted on for endorsement. This vote would be ranked-choice.

Peter asked whether we have endorsed in the DC elections. We have endorsed Janeese in Ward 4 but nobody else yet. Mike asked about multi-winner elections like MoCo at large. Stu says we could add language to cope with that. Gabe pointed out that we have also endorsed McKayla Wilkes in MD 5th Dist. congressional race. Stu echoed Eric saying that Steering meetings will be open next week.

Participatory Budgeting

Brian (Treasurer) discussed his Participatory Budgeting Resolution. We are implementing a resolution that the 2017 Local Convention passed. This will determine our budget July to December 2020. The goal is to create a process that results in a consensus proposal that everyone likes.

Step one is collect information. Everyone is being solicited for financial info for working groups, caucuses, committees. Step two, Finance Committee builds a recommended budget. Then Steering Committee gets to edit and propose their own version. Then it goes through the chapter resolution process – introduced at one GBM, people can amend it, and then people do a final vote. Overrides to the budget are possible but hard. This process will wrap up by June 1st.

Gabe asked whether it was possible for the chapter to opt in a deficit spending situation. Brian says that yes, ultimately the chapter is able to approve a deficit budget if they want.

Coronavirus

National Response

Gabe spoke about the DSA National demands. DSA is demanding a free access to vaccines and treatment; protection for workers and the wageless. We are also demanding safe housing. Keep our communities safe – end the deportation. Green New Deal – the economy is crashing and we need to support people and transition them. Lift Sanctions against countries like Iran. Demand a right to information. Safe and fair elections – elections should be rescheduled or made able to work. The full DSA statement and shareable petition link is here.

Chapter Response

Zach talked about our chapter’s own response from internal organizing.

Gabe spoke about the mutual aid issues in DC.

Stu spoke about the range of actions taken by DC, MD, and VA government in response to COVID-19. These are only the beginning and we want to make sure that COVID-19 responses work for the many, not the few.

Stephanie talked about DC’s eviction moratorium. As of now landlords can still sue for eviction. We are still working – perhaps shaming landlords who are doing bad. Still pushing to freeze rent increases. Trying to work on things that would stop people from having to pay mortgages or rents for state of emergency + one month. And attorneys for tenants, expanded eligibility for ERAP.

Breakouts

The chapter dispursed into breakouts on three subjects and discussed (1) what we should be working on and (2) how we can achieve that in pandemic lockdown. Report backs from each area:

Electoral

Electoral talked about building phonebanking or relational organizing stuff and doing virtual debates, candidate forums.. We are working on encouraging Maryland doing mail-in voting as well through a petition. Housing

Stomp Out Slumlords campaign will continue to reach out to DC Tenants Union and others to make sure tenants know about existing (and new!) tenants protection. Also discussed demands on Council etc. If anyone has questions about existing housing law email tenants@mdcdsa.org. SOS is also considering phonebanking. Some discussion of group housing – in DC all tenants are liable together so someone moving out would still leave the rest of the tenants on the hook.

Mutual Aid

Mutual aid talked about options for hyperlocal mutual aid, such as neighborhood pods and even organizing on Nextdoor. We are working on not further fragmenting mutual aid negotiations but as the situation continues we will have time to build our own stuff. Sam K is looking at working with the BLM mutual aid networks to deliver supplies EOR.