The long struggle to get an amendment to PA Democratic State Committee’s by-laws to guarantee due process for committee people.
This shouldn’t be so hard! In 2011, our Philadelphia Democratic Progressive Caucus brought the issue of the Philadelphia Democratic Party’s failure to seat duly elected democratic committeeperson Tracey Gordon to the attention of the PA Democratic Progressive Caucus . We were gratified by the strong support we received. We learned that Philadelphia County is not the only place where party officials flout the will of the voters and that there is widespread support throughout the state for ensuring transparent, democratic processes and a grievance procedure for committeepeople who were treated unfairly.
The Philadelphia Democratic Progressive Caucus had tried repeatedly to contact Philadelphia Democratic City Committee re the Tracey Gordon case but we received no reply and our certified mail was refused. Furthermore, the Philadelphia Democratic Party did not respond to letters from Tracey Gordon’s lawyer Irv Acklesberg. Jim Burn’s response to Irv Ackelsberg was that the PA Democratic Party would not respond until Gordon had first taken up the matter with the Philadelphia Democratic Party. Burn was unmoved by Ackelsberg’s proof of repeated unsuccessful attemtps to contact Philadelphia Democratic City Committee.
In response to our concerns, the PA Democratic Progressive Caucus tried to get a motion supporting due process for aggrieved committeepeople to the floor for a vote at the September 2012 state committee meeting, but we were told that the motion had first to be approved by the by-laws committee. (A real concern or a delaying tactic?) However, the following motion was passed:
Therefore, be it resolved, that we the elected committee people of the Democratic State Party respectfully request that the leadership of the State Democratic Party commission the state by-laws committee to establish a review and recommendation process for a due process procedure of the removal of county committee people and to submit a draft to all state committee members for the Jan./Feb. 2013 30 day call.
The by-laws committee was then charged to develop a motion to address these concerns. The motion was to be voted on at the February state committee meeting. I decided to view this as a victory and that there would be a final resolution in February 2013. My belief that the Party was taking a real step towards ensuring due process has turned out to be premature.
The by-laws committee did propose an amendment which addressed our concerns; however, the PA Democratic Party’s Deputy Chair and legal counsel objected to the proposed motion on the grounds that these issues should be resolved at the County Committee level which is better situated to handle local matters involving local individuals and local collection of documentation.!!!!
The bylaws committee members understood that that this effectively leaves a committeeperson without any recourse and there must be some mechanism for an aggrieved committeeperson to appeal to state committee. This is so painfully obvious that it’s hard to believe that the PA Democratic Party’s Deputy Chair and its legal counsel were making such a specious argument.
I was unable to attend the by-laws committee meeting which (unlike previous by-laws committee meetings I attended) was closed to those who were not members of the committee. Apparently there was an agreement that the by-laws committee would work on language satisfactory to both the by-laws committee and the Party’s legal counsel and that the by-laws amendment will go to the general assembly to be voted on at the state committee meeting in June, 2013.
So this much needed amendment has been delayed once again. Progressive Caucus Chair Bruce Slater believes that Party Chair Jim Burn (who attended the closed by-laws committee meeting) was acting in good faith. I sure hope he’s right and that we are not being jerked around once again.
I find it hard to believe that getting an amendment to ensure something so integral to the operation of a party committed to democratic principles should be so controversial, so difficult to achieve.
If the Democratic Party is ever to attract idealistic young people with the energy and vision to build the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, it must have fair, transparent internal processes. What happened to Tracey Gordon must not happen again. (Fortunately there was a satisfactory resolution in the Tracey Gordon case, but we had to go to Court to achieve this. )
Some of my friends who see the Democratic Party as incapable of reform and are seeking alternatives to the Democratic Party think I’m borderline delusional and engaged in a hopeless, quixotic quest. Maybe. After this by-laws saga and a similar procedural derailment of the anti-fracking resolution, that little voice in the back of my head asking why I’m involved in this Sisyphean struggle becomes a little louder, a little more insistent. But there are some very good people involved on the grassroots level of the Democratic Party (if not on the top leadership level) and I have not yet given up hope.
Karen Bojar blogs about retirement life, feminist activism, grassroots politics and gardening at http://www.the-next-stage.com/
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