Sunday, May 28, 2006

County Council Conundrum

The Green Party gives a lot of lip service to the idea of grassroots democracy and the view that politics is best conducted from the bottom up. The key organizational structure for this view is the County Council. This is the fist place where the needs of the local part members meets the needs of the Party as a whole. If this party is to be successful in implementing its view of politics at any level, the County Council must function effectively.

Why is it then that so many Counties in California are facing an election in which there are no candidates, not even write in candidate, running for County Council?

Mike Feinstein has documented the extent to which County Council's are attracting candidates, or not. I would note the following, based on casual observation...not polling:
  • County Councils seem to be most active where there is a larger pool of people from which to draw candidates.
  • County Councils are also very active where there are local issues that involved Green Party activists and keep them deeply involved between election cycles.
  • County Councils seem to fail when the members are too heavily involved in other roles in the party. For example, a county council member who might also be a member of the Coordinating Committee or a leader (CoCordinator) of one of the Standing Committees or Working Groups. The fact is that all roles demand a lot of time just to do the job and that doing more than one job means compromises have to be made.
I wonder how many different view we have on the role of the County Council. Maybe there are as many as there are active counties. There is a GPCA County Council Handbook (general password required) that addresses this directly. According to that document, many different roles are asked of the County Council.
A county councilmember must wear many different hats. At times you will be the chief fundraiser for your organization. You will have to recruit good, strong candidates. You will have to help mobilize and energize the party activists within your community. You will run regular meetings of your council and of the local. You will likely serve as one of the party's spokespeople. Quite often, you will also be a "cheerleader" and occasionally, a referee. And you must always act in a way that will do you and your county organization the most good.
If the basis of GPCA grassroots organization is the County Council, then it would seem that the organization is failing. It would also seem that there is one primary function for the GrassRoots Organizing Workgroup (GROW). That function should be County Council support.

It also seems to me that we have a similar problem with the role of the Regional Rep. The job description for the Regional Rep says that they are deeply involved in County Council operations.
2. Solicit the organization of inactive counties, and provide pro-active guidance and assistance to counties seeking active status.
3. Provide pro-active guidance and assistance to counties whose county organization is in need of support, restructuring or is malfunctioning.
6. Insure the flow of information between the GPCA and counties.
7. Help maintain GPCA databases regarding both active and inactive counties, e.g. county contacts, bylaws, county councils, etc.

Maybe there is an issue of accountability here. I would like to Coordinating Council to ask Regional Reps for a regular report on each of their counties. In some cases, that is realtaively easy, in other, such as for the Central Region, I have found regional reps who didn't even know what counties were in their region. In that case, how is it possible to do what needs to be done to ensure that County Councils are fulfilling their role?

If there is one thing that the GPCA must do in the next six months, it is to rebuild the county council structures in as many counties as we can. Maybe, having state wide candidates can help. I would like to see all of the State Wide Candidates make themselves avaialble to visit any county that wants to have a presence.

I surely don't have all of the answers, but maybe this is the start of a discussion that is meaningful.


Michael Feinstein said...

"It also seems to me that we have a similar problem with the role of the Regional Rep. The job description for the Regional Rep says that they are deeply involved in County Council operations."

This 'job description' that is linked to here, has little validity, although unfortunately it has been promoted as such.

The CC is a committee of the General Assembly and the CC's responsibilities are described in the GPCA bylaws. The 'extra' job description referred to her was passed internally by the CC at one point in time and has no validity as far as the GA is concerned, since that 'extra' description never went to the GA.

Unfortunately, this extra job description has confused the issue about what the job of the rep is, and I think, discouraged some from seeking it who would be very qualified to do the things that *are* in the job description.

Wes said...

Ok, if that is NOT the job description, then I would suggest that a "valid" job description be posted. Who is responsible for keeping that section of the GPCA web site up to date?

It is my opinion, if the CC passed this job description for Regional Reps, and the CC is made up of Regional Reps, that those same Regional Reps are NOT doing their job.

So, if you want to use the bylaws as the basis for defining what a Regional Rep does, the only thing it says is that they are members of the CC. In other words, without a job definition other than the tasks of the CC which are defined by bylaws Section 7-1.1

"Coordinating Committee shall be generally responsible for coordinating meetings, internal
communications and other administrative tasks,..."

Given that general description it would seem that the CC has been known to overstep its authority since it is clear that the CC has an administrative role, not a policy making role.

Maybe the CC need to redefine what its members are supposed to be doing, since to the untrained, remote observer who has not a tad of interest in gotcha politics, it might appear that the CC is not doing anything other than discussing who should be a regional rep.

Michael Feinstein said...

Yes Wes, I find the parlor games about who is a regional rep incredibly boring, but parlor politics seems to be the end point for some...that being said, I am working on cleaning up the CC internal page, which is where you found that 'job description'.

The current version of the CC internal page is an upgrade on where it was before, it contains a lot more info...and that is something that I worked on. One of the projects no yet completed (because it is massive) is I am going through all CC minutes since 2000 to see what CC internal procedures have been approved and when, as the record-keeping for that is terrible and that means people fight over the process, because even getting to use it.

As for the CC making policy, I agree with you about the CC being an admin committee (I actually was one of the six people locked in a room at the August 1990 plenary that created the CC concept that the GA then approved).

Can you tell me which cases you feel are policy-making by the CC?