Opinionated Notes on the 6/28/2001 planning meeting for the Progressive Electoral Conference

I (Ross Boylan) am writing these on July 7, 2001, and these notes must be unusually tentative. The meeting was a bit unfocussed, and different people had much different perceptions of what we were doing and what was decided. Additionally, time has passed and I lost my own written notes. These notes have absolutely no official status; they are just my thoughts.

There were over 30 people present, including a good mix of men and women and different electoral tendencys (Dem, Green, Peace and Freedom). However, there were almost no young people, and almost no people of color. I was one of the few not from Alameda county.

The meeting began by generating a large list of political gripes and solutions. Everyone was very frustrated by the current fragmentation of the left, as well as the current political scene in general. Unfortunately, I don't have those lists. Representative of the confusion, some people thought this was a platform we were generating. My understanding was that it was simply an exercise for us to get a sense of each other.

Turning to action, the conference is apparently on track. At the end, people organized into various committees to carry forward (outreach, publicity, steering, program, maybe some others). The focus of the conference is to be that everyone who comes will agree to put some time (10 to 15 hours) into a joint project. The purpose of the conference is to pick the project and organize it. Ross made that proposal at the meeting, and it was accepted.

The idea is to actually do something together, instead of just talking about it. The other idea is to give the conference some point, rather than merely being a place people come together and, perhaps, attempt to convince each other to change what they are doing. Without this, the conference has a marketing problem: what's the point? I don't particularly care what the project is; I'd almost say the people present can throw their proposals into a hat and then we can pick one. Almost! If we start thinking about what 100 or 200 of us can do together, I think it will be a liberating experience of powerfulness.

But it is not clear that any meaningful decision was made at the meeting. Different participants had radically different views about what was going on. The head of the outreach committee reportedly isn't even sure that there will be a conference. After the proposal referred to above was accepted, there was a lot of back-pedaling and waffling about what we were doing and deciding. Since then (even to the date of this report, August 7) there hasn't been much response or activity on the part of the conference organizers that I'm aware of.

I think the organization of the meeting was poor. It probably would have worked better with a smaller group or more time. I know that one of the young people and the only black present were so turned off they said they would not return. My take: If the meeting decided to do something, it was a success. It's not clear it did decide to do something.

All wanted to broaden participation demographically. Chris Worthington from Berkeley City Council emphasized the importance of form: "If you have poetry and folk music you won't get young people. If you have spoke word, you will."

There is an e-list, nocal-pro@igc.topica.com, for people working on the conference. You can join by send a message to nocal-pro-subscribe@igc.topica.com (the message can be empty) or visit it on the web.