A Proposal for a radical rethinking and restructuring of the GPOK

Note by James M. Branum – This document was considered at the 2005 GPOK state convention in June. I’ve posted this here to better explain the rationale for the “radical changes” that the GPOK has undertook.

See our bylaws to find the final version that was adopted by the body (a few changes were made upon the version proposed below).

A Proposal for a radical rethinking and restructuring of the GPOK
by Rachel Jackson & James M. Branum, GPOK Co-Chairs

The Argument for why such a change is needed

Over the years, the Greens in Oklahoma have had a mixed record in our state.

On the positive, local chapters have accomplished some significant achievements. For instance, the Oklahoma & Cleveland County chapters have supported progressive municipal candidates, researched local issues and educated their membership on these concerns. Also the Green Country & Rural Greens chapters have initiated projects that in time took a life of their own outside the party, such as the Kendall-Whittier Community Garden, the CROP peace protests, and the Wrangler plant lay-off protests. Additionally, the state party has gained a new and important Rural Greens chapter.

Unfortunately, the membership and activity of local chapters have seemed to ebb and flow a lot. The Oklahoma county group has held comparatively steady in its activity, but the other chapters have fluctuated widely.

As far as the state party goes, prior to the formation of the state party there was a statewide newsletter committee that worked jointly in the publishing of the state newsletter and the candidate questionnaires. After the state party was “formed,” there has been some work done, such as several party statements on important issues, some coalition building and lobbying work on ballot access, and good outreach with the website. Because of the formation of a state party headed by an “Executive Committee,” and through the efforts of several of its diligent and determined members, Oklahoma has officially gained affiliation with the GPUS. These accomplishments afford us the position to evaluate what room we have for improvement. While we have much to be proud of as a state party, it is arguable that the state party has not functioned as thoroughly in the way many of us envision.

A good example of this phenomenon can be seen by looking at the attendance at state conventions. The first one was very well attended (about 40 folks), but our second and third conventions had very few non-EC members in attendance. In practical terms, this means that the state party is no longer a democratic organization in which everyone of its members participate, but rather like a self-perpetuating and representative board of directors similar to those of many non-profit organizations. We simply cannot realistically claim that we are a grassroots body, when most of the grassroots do not attend conventions, which are intended more than any state party function to attract the largest possible portion of the state party membership for participation. This is a problem we must begin to address if we hope to increase our membership and activity, and influence the body politic in Oklahoma.

We do not think the problem comes from a lack of hard work and commitment, but rather is systemic in nature. Like many organizations, the state party unfortunately has become an “institution” of its own – an institution that is increasingly disconnected from the local chapters, has no means of funding, and is regrettably hierarchical and bureaucratic in nature. These characteristics, though unintentional and perhaps unavoidable in a traditionally-structured political party, are counter to the values that we consider to be Green values. If they go unchecked, we risk becoming not the change we wish to see, but the problem we are trying to correct.

In that light, we think it is time to rethink – and reinvigorate – the whole party paradigm. We need to refocus the energy of the party on attracting more individuals to the local chapters, and increasing the membership and activity of those chapters, as well as chapter participation together as a state party. The “Executive Committee” of the state party must become more of an open, mutual and cooperative effort of the various local chapters instead of a distant, separate and largely symbolic body. Further, We need to move away from the idea of state party officers and instead replace the existing and limited notions of “leadership” with a model that more clearly communicates the equal worth and valued contribution of every member of the party, and thereby work more directly toward the day when we need no “leaders” at all.

In a true democracy, and most certainly in a Green democracy, the people are entrusted with their own freedom, rather than entrusting that freedom to a far-removed and ruling government. Because of this revolutionary design, built upon tremendous insight and understanding, the people gain the communal solidarity needed to maintain their individual sovereignty. In order to protect the strength of this central community that is so necessary for our lives, liberty and happiness, we must protect each individual’s sense of place in that community. This is possible only when the concept and mechanisms of equality – and thereby mutual esteem and respect – firmly function in the community and in the efforts of the people toward progress; no one’s voice, talent or contributions should overarch those of any other due to title or status, or lack thereof. Of course this requires much volition and vigilance, and in many instances individual reform before community reform. It is a noble and joyous challenge, the fruits of which will set us free.

As Greens, we must make use of our highest potential to bring the best and greatest change to our political systems. Our values and aims exceed what many others believe to be possible, and we uphold them still. We must therefore admit our responsibility to align the inner workings of our party with the values and aims of the party. We must be the example we wish others to follow: we must encourage the democratic participation and nurture the talents of every member of our community. In so doing, we can subvert and avoid the troublesome alienation and subsequent apathy and dysfunction that pushed many of us out of the two-party system. While this is a tremendous and daunting task, we must move closer to it in good faith that it is possible. It is out of this good faith that we propose this plan for radical changes in the GPOK.

The plan for change

Through the revision of our bylaws at our upcoming convention, we would like to implement the following vision…

1. Disband the current GPOK executive committee and replace it with the GPOK Cooperative Council.
2. The newly formed Cooperative Council would have:
a. Consenting Members – 2 representatives chosen from each local chapter, and designated
to engage in the process of consensus decision-making. Voting will sometimes be
necessary when consensus cannot be reached. – Each local chapter would be free to set its own rules concerning terms of office, procedures for removal, etc.
b. Participatory Members – Any GPOK member who wants to participate in discussion and
influence the Consenting Members.
3. The Council would have:
a. No permanent co-chairs, President, etc., but would rather choose a facilitator.
b. No permanent party spokesperson, but rather would choose spokespeople for individual
issues/events.
c. Service Positions who would serve under the direction of the Council for a term to be defined by the Council:
i. Secretary
ii. Treasurer
iii. Webkeeper
iv. Newsletter Editor(s)
v. GPOK Representatives to the GPUS National Committee
vi. Legal Advisor
vii. Facilitator
viii. Other positions if needed
4. The Council would focus its work primarily on those things that would encourage more local
involvement and more state-wide cooperation:
a. Resume regular publishing of the state newsletter, funded by the local chapters.
b. Continue and expand the work of the state website.
c. Organize social gatherings and other events to bring Green-minded people together,
particularly in rural Oklahoma.

Intended results of these changes

1. The local chapters would continue their work and maybe grow stronger, since the focus of party work will be at this level.
2. The energy of the state party will focus on putting out a state newsletter and other means of encouraging more genuine interaction between party members.
3. The state party will be less a separate institution, and rather would be a cooperative effort of the local chapters.
4. The party will function more organically rather than bureaucratically, and everyone will share equal status and influence within the organization.

Proposed Bylaws Amendment to be considered at 2005 State Convention

Recognizing our desire that the Green Party of Oklahoma function in a way that is consistent with Green Values, we set forth this amendment to the current GPOK bylaws.

Part 1 – The GPOK Executive Committee will be disbanded at the close of the 2005 convention.

Part 2 – The current bylaws in force at this time are repealed and are to be replaced with the following text that shall be in immediate effect upon passage of this amendment:

Preamble
Recognizing the need for alternatives to the existing political parties, we come together to create a change in values and a change in political processes in Oklahoma. We believe that embracing the TEN KEY VALUES of the Greens:

* GRASSROOTS DEMOCRACY
* SOCIAL JUSTICE AND EQUAL OPPORTUNITY
* ECOLOGICAL WISDOM
* NON -VIOLENCE
* DECENTRALIZATION
* COMMUNITY BASED ECONOMICS AND ECONOMIC JUSTICE
* FEMINISM AND GENDER EQUITY
* RESPECT FOR DIVERSITY
* PERSONAL AND GLOBAL RESPONSIBILITY
* FUTURE FOCUS AND SUSTAINABILITY

in our personal and political lives will lead to the transformed society where we wish to live. The values inform how we relate to one another within this organization and outside it.

Article I. Name, Purpose and Definition of Terms

Section 1: The name of this organization shall be the Green Party of Oklahoma (GPOK).

Section 2: The GPOK shall hereafter be a cooperative effort of the local Green Party chapters in Oklahoma.

Section 3: The purpose of the GPOK is to engage in political and educational activities in support of our Green Party values.

Section 4: The GPOK shall work cooperatively with other Green Party organizations, both in the United States and in other countries.

Section 5: The GPOK shall work cooperatively with other organizations and individuals in issues of common concern.

Section 6: The term “consensus” in these bylaws shall refer to a cooperative decision-making process in which the group seeks to reach a conclusion
that all group members consent to. Consent does not mean that everyone would be completely satisfied with the final outcome, but does mean that all would be able to support the group’s decision.

Article II. Membership

Section 1 — Any resident of Oklahoma who affirms support for the party and general agreement with its Ten Key Values by filling out a membership form, and has registered as a Green Party voter, if legally possible, shall be considered a member of the GPOK. No person shall be denied membership in the GPOK for reason of prior criminal conviction, age, or nationality.

Section 2 — Any Member of at least thirty (30) days tenure is entitled to fully participate in all aspects of the Party in accordance with these Bylaws. GPOK members in their first twenty-nine (29) days of membership may participate in all aspects of the GPOK, except they may not vote at the state convention. Any Green Party member in good standing in another state or country who relocates to Oklahoma and becomes a member of GPOK shall be immediately entitled to full participation.

Article III. State Party Convention

The State Party Convention is the highest decision-making body in the Green Party of Oklahoma.

Section 1: Date & Logistics
The State Convention shall be held annually on a date(s) set by the State Cooperative Council (in accordance with any GPUS rules for the selection of national convention delegates). The Council shall also be charged with planning the logistics of such a convention and preparing an agenda.

Section 2: Consensus and Voting
The State Convention shall seek consensus on all decisions. In the event consensus is not reached, a 2/3 vote of members present is required for adoption of any proposal or amendment to these Bylaws. For purposes of determining what constitutes a 2/3 vote for or against any proposal or amendment, abstentions shall not be counted as votes cast. If there is no consensus when debating a proposal the Convention shall take an initial non-binding vote, allow the minority an opportunity to speak, then take a final vote.

Section 3: Eligibility to Participate in State Conventions.
Any Green Party of Oklahoma member may attend the convention and participate in discussions, but only Green Party members of at least 30 days tenure may vote at convention.

Section 4: Delegates to National Convention
The Convention shall have the power to select delegates to the National Convention and National meetings of the Green Party of the United States.

Section 5: General Powers
The convention shall have the power to direct all party business, in accordance with these Bylaws.

Article IV. State Cooperative Committee

Section 1: Function
The State Cooperative Council (“Council”) shall be a cooperative effort of the GPOK local chapters between state conventions trusted with the responsibility to manage and conduct the day-to-day business and operations of the Party between State Party Conventions.

Section 2: Consenting Membership
Consenting membership on the Council will be composed of two representatives from each chapter. Each local chapter shall choose its own representatives and can select new representation at any time. Changes in chapter representation shall be made in writing to the Secretary.

Section 3: Participatory Membership
Participatory membership on the Council will be composed of any GPOK member who wishes to participate in the work of the Council and informs the Secretary in writing of her or his desire to be a member of the Council.

Section 3: Meetings
Meetings of the Council shall be held at least quarterly, with the time and location determined by the Council. Additional meetings may be set by agreement of the voting members of the Council. The Council shall strive to meet in person but may also meet by telephone or Internet. The secretary shall notify all Council members of all meetings at least one week in advance, unless all members agree to shorter notification.

Section 4: Quorum
The presence in person, by telephone or the Internet of a majority of Consenting Members shall constitute a quorum.

Section 5: Decision-making process
The Council shall seek consensus on all decisions. In the event consensus is not reached, approval from 3/4 of the members present are required for adoption of any proposal, unless other procedures are provided for elsewhere in these Bylaws.

Section 6: Council Duties
The duties of the Council shall be:
* to endorse statewide and national candidates and/or issues in accordance with our values
and platform in consultation with members and local affiliates;
* to coordinate statewide actions;
* to carry out all responsibilities required by the Oklahoma Election Code;
* to make public statements regarding the Party’s position on issues;
* to respond to inquiries from the media and the public;
* to prepare for State Conventions;
* to create standing and ad hoc committees;
* to keep and make available to the membership records and minutes of meetings;
* to maintain a database of all Party members and known local Party organizations;
* to publish a state newsletter and website; and
* to establish criteria for local party affiliation pursuant to Article 3, Section 3.

Section 7: Removal of Members by the Cooperative Council
The Cooperative Council shall have the power to remove committee members who violate the norms of civility, kindness, and fair treatment. This power may be exercised only upon the unanimous consent of all members (excepting the member in question) following a hearing. Any removed member shall be entitled to an appeal hearing at the next GPOK State Convention.

Article V: Service Positions

Section 1: The State Cooperative Council will approve members (who may have either Consenting or Participatory status) for service positions, which shall include but not be limited to the following positions:

* The Secretary is charged with keeping accurate membership records, taking minutes of
Council meetings, and other functions as defined by the Council.
* The Treasurer is charged with keeping accurate financial records for the party and
insuring that all funds are properly accounted for.
* GPUS National Committee representatives are charged with representing the GPOK on
the GPUS national committee.
* The legal researcher/advisor is charged with conducting legal research (and providing
legal advise if this person is a lawyer in the state of Oklahoma) for the GPOK.
* The Webkeeper is charged with maintaining the website and coordinating technology issues for the GPOK.

Section 2: The Cooperative Council is forbidden from appointing a “Chair,” a “President” or any position that would imply an executive leadership element. The Council is allowed to choose a meeting facilitator who can chair an individual committee meeting but shall not appoint a permanent chair of the Council.

Section 3: The Cooperative Council may appoint a spokesperson to speak for the party on a particular issue or event, but shall not appoint a permanent spokesperson.

Section 4: The Cooperative Council shall have the power to remove any member from a service position at any time.

Section 5: The Cooperative Council shall have the power to create or abolish any service position at any time,

Article VI. GPOK Local chapters

Section 1: Local Emphasis
The GPOK shall seek to work cooperatively with local chapters.

Section 2: Local Party Affiliation
Any local, county, or regional Green Party organization within the state of Oklahoma may apply for affiliation with the GPOK by written request to the Cooperative Council. The Council shall then accept or reject said application. Any local Green Party organization that is rejected for affiliation shall be entitled to a hearing and review of the decision at the next state convention.

Article VII. National Party Relations
Section 1: The Cooperative Council shall support the agenda and candidates of the GPUS national party, subject to any contrary direction of the membership of the party at the state convention.

Section 2: National Council Representatives are to be chosen by The Cooperative Council, and can be removed from their positions at any time by The Cooperative Council.

Section 3: GPUS National convention delegates are to be chosen by the State Convention.

Article VIII. Adoption and Amendments
Section 1: These revised bylaws shall take effect immediately upon adoption at the state convention.

Section 2: Amendments to these Bylaws may be made at any Convention of the Green Party of Oklahoma, providing prior notification of the proposed Bylaws Amendment(s) has been made available to members at least 10 days prior to the Convention. A 2/3 vote of those present and voting (not counting abstentions) is required to accept an amendment in the event that consensus is not achieved.

Section 3: Any member may propose an amendment by submitting it to the State Cooperative Council at least fourteen days prior to the State Convention. The Cooperative Council is responsible to make available to members the proposed amendment in accord with the time requirements specified in Section 2 of this article.

Prior bylaws: Adopted 11/02, Amended 5/03, Amended 5/04
Revised bylaws adopted: ????

Pictures from the Green Party’s 2005 National Meeting in Tulsa

These pictures were taken on my camera by Rebecca Weber (a reporter for Green Pages) of the press conference on Saturday of the Annual National Meeting. (Here’s a GPUS Press release that gives a good summary of the event.

These first few shots are of Rachel Jackson (ANM Coordinator and Oklahoma GP Co-Chair) and Pat LaMarche (2004 Green Party Vice-Presidential nominee) speaking about the Green Party’s service project during the Tulsa meeting, and the importance of female leadership in the party…

The next picture is of me (James Branum, GPOK Co-chair and Alternate Delegate) speaking about ballot access reform

The next few shots are of Nan Garrett speaking about Elaine Brown’s run for Mayor in Brunswick, GA

The next picture is of Rebecca Rotzler, Deputy Mayor of New Paltz, NY

The last picture is of all of us together (Brent McMillan, GPUS political director is on the left-hand side)

The Oklahoman says that Greens are the party for the “left, way, way out”

From: NewsOK: Short Takes — Green Party get-together: “It’s always interesting when, as often happens, members of fringe organizations wonder why they remain on the fringe. Take the Green Party of the United States as an example. Green Party members are holding their annual meeting in Tulsa this week. The party’s Web site advocates impeaching President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. Don’t like ‘em? IMPEACH! The Green’s media coordinator told the Tulsa World, “We consider ourselves a party for the left out.” For the left way, way out might be more accurate.”

OK Green Party throws party for national delegates

Friday night’s Wingding for Okie Greens: Ya’ll Come!

Consider this your official invite to the Green event of the season!

When: FRIDAY, JULY 22ND – 7:00-11:00 P.M.

Where: TULSA, OK – WOODWARD PARK PAVILLION – 21ST & PEORIA

What: OKIE GREEN WINGDING & FUNDRAISER

Who: GREEN PARTY OF OKLAHOMA

Why: TO RAISE MONEY FOR THE GREEN MOVEMENT IN OKLAHOMA

How: A GREAT LOCALLY GROWN, LOCALLY PREPARED DINNER – OKIE PRODUCTS RAFFLE – BAKE SALE – T-SHIRT SALES – FRISBEE –
MUSIC – SQUIRRELS – CHIGGERS – ICE TEA & PEACH COBBLER

Etc.: ALL PROCEEDS GO TO THE STATE PARTY AND LOCAL PARTY TREASURIES TO MAKE THE OKIE GREEN MOVEMENT MOVE.

COST: Dinner – $10.00 [Vegan or Non-Vegan Entree, Sides, Bread, Dessert, Drink, & Door Prize Ticket] Dessert & Ice Tea – $4.00 [Includes Door Prize Ticket] Hangin’ Out – Free

Those interested in volunteering will receive good karma, much appreciation, and dinner at half price. Contact Rachel Jackson at rachel(at)gp(dot)org or James Branum at jmb(at)jmbzine(dot)com.

If you need directions, we can help with that, too, if you contact us.

Please come, have a good time, and help spread the warmth Okie style.