Before last night's general meeting of the Harris County Green Party, I honestly thought that I would be able to tell you today of a new direction for HCGP and a plan to get back on the ballot in 2018. That little dream of mine was deferred until next month, in favor of the important but tedious and contentious recrafting of the HCGP by-laws.
Before the November general election, before we knew for certain that Texas Greens would lose ballot access, I put together a proposal to present at that month's general meeting. The proposal, outlining a strategy for the 2017-18 election cycle, is complex and has long-term implications. Thus, I had no expectation that it would be adopted in November. Since we usually do not meet in December, I agreed that we could put off further debate until January.
At the January meeting of the Steering Committee, the focus was on the by-laws. I had to remind those present that I had a proposal on the table, which specified dates by which we would take some actions toward building party infrastructure, so the proposal would actually be on the agenda.
As an example of the timeliness of the proposal, it calls for having hcgp.org fully converted to the NationBuilder platform by 1 February 2017 and a separate bank account for campaign funds established by March, one year before the 2018 ballot access petition drive could begin.
However, with Steering Committee elections due to take place in February, HCGP also need to outline precisely what candidates for SC positions would be signing up to do. I understand that completely. But it should never have taken this long to adopt new by-laws, considering that a group of us were working on them way back at the end of 2015.
For me, what has sucked the last drop of joy from the by-laws process is certain members' insistence that valuable time be taken up at the general meeting to discuss and debate all the proposed changes. For a party that is trying to grow, this is the surest way to send first-time visitors, even those with a passion for All Things Green, running out screaming. Not every who shows up at general meetings has the inclination, the verbal dexterity, or the knowledge of what constitutes sensible by-laws to participate in these discussions.
What our members may lack in interest and skill, they make up in sincere passion. Sadly, their passions sometimes conflict. There may be conflict over large philosophical issues and visions of where the party should go, noble but not easily resolved in the time frame of a meeting. Other times, there is conflict over choice of words, conflict that to an outsider might seem absurdly petty.
Here is one of the philosophical/visionary questions in dispute: Can a political organization operate democratically and still be effective? I'd like to think so. My quibble is that, as much as I love and honor giving everyone an equal voice, a group that meets monthly cannot accomplish much if it spends most of the meeting debating what to do and how to do it.
In my view, we need a Steering Committee empowered and entrusted to steer this political vehicle, without excessive back-seat driving. Also, we need working groups or standing committees with independent budgets, precisely stated missions, and built-in accountability to the party as a whole. My strategic proposal calls for that, and I repeated the call in a message to the HCGP Discussion List after last night's meeting. I also suggested alternative methods for updating the by-laws that do not require so much general meeting time.
What I hope members who bother to read my message will take most to heart is the vision of a leaderful HCGP. "Leaderful" is a word I learned from Rivera Sun at a workshop she gave at uRth HAUS a couple of years ago. It differs from the popular perception of movements like Occupy as "leaderless;" whether the perception is true or not, the model that Occupy adopted was ground-breaking, but it ultimately could not sustain the movement long-term.
HCGP has done well to last almost 18 years without splintering or going into mothballs, as befell the chapters Dallas and Travis Counties. Our little group has some remarkable accomplishments in its history. But we have had some setbacks in recent years, some of which are inevitable for such organizations, and some of our own making. If we cannot commit to fixing our internal weaknesses, we may never reach those plateaus again.
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