Thursday, March 14, 2013

Regrouping with The Johnson County Democrats

Johnson County Democrats are gathering at the Iowa City school district offices for our biennial - biannual? - every two years - reorganizational meeting.

This isn't the meeting we expected. Our outgoing chair Terry Dahms was supposed to get a rousing sendoff to the Board of Supervisors. But that didn't work out, so instead we're in navel-gazing, regrouping mode. Dahms is not running for chair again, and the main papabili seems to be vice chair Mike Carberry.

Tonight is Officially three meetings in one because of the nature of our rules. Frankly, an excessive focus on boring bylaws kind of stuff is part of our New Member Repellent problem. Some of it is inherent to any organization, but we could really stand to streamline.

Meeting One is a "normal" meeting for routine business. One of the likely items is a discussion of the justice center election on May 7. We have a two-stage process - bylaws again! - for endorsing non-partisan things. We have to pre-endorse it one month with a 50% majority, then officially endorse at the next meeting with 2/3. With our next meetings April 4 and May 2, we need to pre-endorse tonight in order to fully endorse in any sort of meaningful timeframe before the election. 

The Democrats endorsed the November justice center issue, which won 56% support but needed 60. To be honest, that endorsement sailed through at low-attendance meetings in July and August, and we could see a more... vigorous discussion tonight.

There's also the possibility of electing new members at Meeting One, who will immediately be able to vote at Meeting Two, the officer election. We have to split them up because the agenda for the officer election is locked in by either constitution or bylaws, can't remember and don't care which: Item One is election of chair. 

Once we see the white smoke and we Habemas Chair, we elect the other officers: 1st Vice Chair (what you Republicans would inexplicably call "co" chair) is traditionally in charge of GOTV efforts. 2nd Vice Chair is the events/parades person. Then we have Secretary (meeting minutes/notices), Treasurer (campaign finance reports), Finance (fund raising), Data Management (the list geek, I'm the incumbent), Candidate Development (liaison to caddidates and possibly recruiting), and Public Relations (press releases, website, social media). Two offices are on a different cycle. Platform chair (Dennis and Robin Roseman co-chairing) is elected by the platform committee and affirmative action chair (Diana Coberly) is elected by the convention; both those are in even years.

Meeting Three is the "off-year caucus" which is frankly one of the more pointless exercises we do, but it's required by the state party. It's basically a chance to pass resolutions and "nominate" - not elect, just "nominate" - new members (as opposed to the new members we just nominated and elected at Meeting One?) The biggest difference is that Meetings One and Two are voting members only. In Meeting Three any Democrat in the county can participate.

Still with me? Watch this space.

We're underway just five minutes late, which for us is pretty good.

Dahms offers his thoughts: party in good financial shape, more members and better attendance than two years ago, won big last fall. As for this month's election: "A lot of things just didn't come together. It was just not my destiny to get this job." Notes he was interviewed twice for TV, but editors refused to air it because opponent did not make himself available to balance the story. "The North Corridor completely blew up, and that was a factor. I don't see how you can throw out 15+ years of planning and a vision. We protected our land use plan but this is not going to go away." The justice center isn't going away either. "We'll be well organized in two years, we learned something for this."

Carberry to Dahms: "You worked hard on your election; we as a party didn't. I don't think it was your fault, don't let yourself think that."

Electeds on hand: Mascher, Rettig, Sullivan, Pat Hughes of Oxford Township, Brad Kunkel of Solon city council.

We elect three new members and pass the justice center pre-endorsement with no dissent. Low key discussion. Again: this just puts it on the agenda for the April meeting where it needs a 2/3 vote for a formal endorsement. We take a moment to remember Lori Bears.

Mary Mascher says she's having some luck moving forward on a bill that gives more voting rights to people in mixed-purpose senior living facilities (think: Oaknoll.) There's some opposition from the Secretary of State, but Republicans Guy Vander Linden and Jack Drake are helping Mary on the bill. Oaknoll residents weren't allowed mailed ballots last year; they either had to vote with the nursing home team or in person. The Iowa Veteran's Home had similar problems, and Vander Linden and Drake are both vets.

7:45. Shifting gears to officer elections. Parliamentarian Tom Larkin is temporary chair until the party chair is elected, and reviews rules. We had strongly contested chair elections in 2007 and 2007.

Past chair (09-11) Dennis Roseman nominates Carberry. No other nominations. Unanimous. As chair of People's Republic of Johnson County, Carberry says, he may write a little red book. Carberry takes over the gavel.

Gerene Denning elected vice chair (in absentia but she knows). Second vice chair is Pete Ungaro, a sheriff's employee who drove the parade truck last year.

Now a slew of re-elections: secretary Steve Damm, treasurer Pete Hansen, finance chair Dan Tallon, me as Data Geek, Karen Disbrow for PR. A new post, liaison to the UDems, goes to Katherine Valde, our outgoing second vice chair. (She's also running for UI student government president.) We didn't fill our candidate development slot; Carberry says building a bench, even in the non-partisan city and school offices, is a priority for his term. "We took a lot of things for granted in the (special) election, and we're going to suffer for it for the next year and a half. We can't let that happen again."

Our parliamentarian gently reminds us to close the organizational meeting and move into the offyear caucus at 8:08. Only eight minutes behind and we started five minutes late. Dahms reads the highlights of letters from Bruce Braley and Brad Anderson. Carberry reminds folks to check the party box on the Iowa tax return (right above the signature).

The Rosemans take over for platform resolution discussion. (Technically not "platform," but I'm not sure all the distinctions.) I keep forgetting to vote while I write. Some discussion of revisiting the county land use plan, but no actual resolution offered. Dahms (who's still chair of the planning and zoning commission): "In my mind, the land use plan has been very effective," and discusses process for proposing changes.

Tom Carsner offers more history and argues that enough land is already residential zoned. Eventually some vauge resolution gets offered, with a lot of not so sutle digs at Dahms. Carsner publicly states he voted for "a Democrat" but refuses to say it was Dahms. It fails narrowly. This is the only contentious part of the night.

We get a resolution about Iowa City's petition process - they take a very strict interpretation of "elector" - pass Bruce Braley and Brad Anderson endorsements and "encourage" Branstad to expand Medicaid. (I'd like to encourage him by voting him out...)

And that's a wrap.

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