November 9, 2013; 1:00 pm,
Capital City Grange, Berlin
In attendance: 125 people
Welcome: Martha Abbott
Martha started the meeting at 1:15pm and thanked the VT State Employees Association for sponsoring the lunch, Elizabeth Skarie for ice cream, Tina Scanlon for organizing the raffle, the current CoCo members and Robert Millar, staff.
A special video message: Prof. Bill McKibben
Convention attendees watched a video message from Prof. Bill McKibben on the climate change crisis and the activism of 350.org. Vermont was a birthplace of the climate change movement and that movement is growing. However, he is dismayed on how little has been done in VT on climate change. In VT Legislature, home heating efficiency never went anywhere and environmental efforts were limited to shutting down wind debate. He called for a more expansive discussion and work to be more self-reliant closer to home. Best thing to do is to sever ties between fossil fuel industries and VT organizations that invest in these industries to force them to change their practices. The cities of Seattle and Portland, Sterling College and Green Mountain College, and the United Church of Christ have all divested from fossil fuels. VT should be the first state to do this. Anthony Pollina said there should be no negative investment performance impact from divesting from fossil fuel. Chevron gave largest corporate donation since Citizen United to make sure election kept climate change deniers elected.
Divesting from the Fossil Fuel Industry: 350.org & Student Activists Panel
Student panel discussed their activism at UVM and Middlebury College, along with Maeve McBride, coordinator of 350Vermont, affiliated with 350.org. Students included Sam Ghazey, UVM, Michelle Galecki, UVM, Jack Hanson, UVM, Caroline DeCunzo, UVM, Teddy Smyth, Middlebury and Greta Neubauer, Middlebury.
UVM Campaign - Nov 2012 students presented to the Board of Trustees on the idea of divestment from fossil fuels. Continued with on campus direct actions and research on process for divestment over winter. Asked all representative groups on campus to pass resolutions to support divestment. Based campaign off off 1990s apartheid campaign. During that campaign, UVM organizers created a liaison group – Social Responsibility Advisory Council – that required research on investments as a result of that campaign. Students are attempting to use this council as part of their divestment strategy. Students helped to launch responsible investors fund – an escrow fund created so donors can donate to UVM but only released once UVM divests from fossil fuels and if they don’t divest, UVM will never get those dollars. Students reaching out to major donors to donate this way to leverage divestment. Board of trustees had divestment subcommittee and working on getting all representative groups on campus to pass resolutions. Still no answer from Board. Students noted that environmental movement needs more connectivity so doing best to build out the network.
Middlebury campaign - Used fake press releases to increase awareness in beginning. 3.6% ($36 Million) of Middlebury endowment in fossil fuels. Administration had panel in spring 2013 and had financial experts say that divesting was not possible, but up against Bill McKibben on same panel who disputed that. Presented to board of trustees in spring 2013. Middlebury announced that they would not divest in fall 2013, but will put more money in endowment and think about values related to endowment investments. Trying to engage alumni to get them organized and energized. Students noted climate change issue impacts poor, people of color, etc and made case for narrative to be more inclusive, not just for white people as reflected on campus and students are pushing for that.
350Vermont – Working on state divestment for public pensions. Progressives have been really helpful already. Chris Pearson and Dave Zuckerman introduced divestment legislation for teacher, state employees, and some municipal workers’ pensions to divest. Anthony Pollina pushed in Senate Govt Ops to get testimony and bill to move last session. VT Pension Investment Committee (chaired by Beth Pearce) got wind of legislation, hired consultant saying that we should NOT divest, claiming it was not financially viable and voted unanimously against this effort. Govt Ops know we need to divest, but don’t know how to alleviate risks of divestment. Trying to get legislation to pass this session – three rallies planned. Also working on VPIC side and working with Beth Pearce to get committee to see things differently. Asked Progs in attendance for their help this session. 20 cities committed to divesting and only 8 colleges so far – cities have democratic process and colleges facing corporate bureaucratic structures.
Q&A and comments from floor - Glennie Sewell, Montpelier, urged students to be mindful of language about stopping climate change because can’t stop it, but can lessen impact. Ken Eardley, Underhill, urged debate not to get stuck in definition of what energy sources are renewable or not, focus on divestment. Peggy Sapphire, Craftsbury, noted her town is home of Sterling College and they divested. She shared copies of Progressive platform with students on environment, etc. and encouraged growing solidarity between Party and students. Ben Eastwood, Montpelier, asked what kind of outreach has been done on and off campus to build out network? A: Middlebury working on VT Gas pipeline too and realizing that students leave after 4 years and there are community members who stay behind and are impacted. Trying to get students in frontline communities impacted by pipelines. UVM reaching out to other activists groups and hope to go beyond fossil fuels, ex: divest from Monsanto. Liz Blum, Norwich, asked do you consider nuclear power to be a fossil fuel? A: Middlebury students said nuclear is not part of campaign; they are focused on top 200 fossil fuel companies with reserves in the ground. But they are happy VT Yankee shut down. Nuclear is based on fossil fuels for start, so it is indirectly a root cause of fossil fuel cycle.
CoCo Updates: Coordinating Committee
Emma Mulvaney-Stanak, Chair of the Elections Committee, provided an update. Committee formed in early summer and started up door knocking trainings this fall (Winooski in October and Burlington in September). Looking to replicate the training in more places and use it for candidates in 2014, as well as volunteers and campaign managers. Training also helps us build lists, build skills, seek out and find more volunteers. If interested in hosting a training or joining committee, contact Emma.
Martha noted several CoCo members helped to coordinate party reorganization work on town and county level. Took a lot of effort, but we organized more towns than last cycle.
Selene Colburn, Chair of the Communications Committee, gave an update. Committee is newly formed and looking first to build up support around corporate donation petition campaign with communications strategy and using social media. Committee will also look to use virtual meetings and project management tools to do work virtually, looking for volunteers. Richard announced his public access TV – Progressive Thought – would love to have more folks on the show, please contact him. See Selene to join the Communications Committee.
Joe Sherman, Montgomery, made an announcement. He is an author and interested in writing on climate change and how to talk with kids about that issue. Contact him if you have thoughts.
Corporate Donations Petition Update: Robert Millar
Robert Millar, staff, and Selene Colburn, CoCo member, updated Convention on Corporate Donations Petition Campaign. Progressive Party doesn’t accept any corporate money. Other two major parties (Republicans and Democrats) take a lot of money from corporations (ex: Mansanto, Fairpoint, ATT, Green Mountain Power). In response to Citizens United and increase of corporate money in elections, Party decided to launch this petition. In VT, candidates can still take direct corporate donations, one of few states. Petition puts statewide candidates and parties on spot to call for getting corporations out of campaigns. Petition directed to Ds and Rs and their statewide candidates to agree to remove corporations out of elections. Looking for organizational cosponsors. Party will start 2014 with a public signature drive to align with the 2014 election cycle. Asked people to sign online.
Peggy Sapphire, Craftsbury, asked what happens for a P/D endorsed candidate and if they take corporate donations? Martha said Party would need to discuss that. Another attendee asked does signing the petition require the signer to not vote for those candidates who take corporate donations? Martha said no, just calling on major parties and candidates to say no to corporate money. Rep. Cindy Weed said she ran as a P/D and she said Dems never gave her money.
Martha reflected on 12 years of leadership and commended group of party members who have helped build this party. She thanked several people for their mentorship and support. She offered thoughts on future of party – focus on economic issues that face Vermonters and will galvanize average Vermonters, focus on what we can agree on and try not to get sidetracked. Republicans are shrinking and Democrats are beginning to monopolize and candidates will seek progressive endorsement to distinguish themselves. Has confidence in new leaders within party, but seasoned leaders need to stay engaged in party. And made a request for donations – we will have more impact when we have more resources. Other Party members then thanked Martha with a round of speeches and announced $6500 had been raised leading up to Convention in honor of Martha’s leadership.
Town Meeting Resolutions: Martha Abbott
Martha reported on a town meeting resolution for party members to use in March. Health care resolution came out of state committee meeting discussion in May and CoCo presented language today based on financing mechanism that state legislature will put forward this session. This resolution would help connect the dots by having towns ask how single-payer would impact their town budgets. Easy way to get people to talk about this issue. This resolution is not a formal Prog campaign, just an option/tool to use. Anyone who is interested should contact party leadership and we can connect those interested.
Notes from the Auditor’s Office: State Auditor Doug Hoffer
Auditor Doug Hoffer reported on recent audits from his office on: 1) state employees workers’ compensation program ($8M a year, didn’t do claims audit, looked at whether state was doing its work to prevent workers’ comp issues). Cuts in state government make reducing workers’ comp claims hard; many departments did not implement safety fixes because they don’t have resources. 2) Agency of Transportation, looked at Bennington Bypass project and it was done within budget and on time. Another paving project was very late and over budget. If contractor is late, contract includes a penalty on contractor, but state only charges cost of overrun when late, not other delay costs such as overtime and this always happens in every AOT contract. 3) Bidding process for fuel prices – 5% more than cost included in contract, but if more than that when project actually happens, state pays extra cost. This cost us $14M over last 10 years because of this process. Pushing AOT to get real cost figures vs. artificial cost formulas that have caused this cost. 4) Corrections health care costs and looking at overseeing contractors’ cost. No one can estimate actual cost so they make it uncapped and this went $4M over. Working to create more oversight of contractors and maybe bring back state employees to do that work vs. private contractor. 5) State employee cell phones - $200-300K overrun, state management doesn’t oversee this. Each department oversees this and should have consistent policies. Administration said they would take all Doug’s recommendations.
Forthcoming reviews/audits of: 1) Mental health contractors - we spend $300M on these services each year and need to look at whether we are monitoring the services and they are meeting performance requirements. 2) State liquor stores – private stores, but state administers store. What does sale of alcohol have to do with state’s purpose? Doug will look at other models that might work better for state. 3) State energy plan for state infrastructure – will look to reduce energy expenditure on state buildings and vehicles, etc. Because state is very decentralized, suspect there are potential cost savings. In the future reviews of: 1) Tax department – collections are flat, receivables keep rising, how aggressive have they been on people underreporting 2) Special education cost - $300M a year, concerns about expenditure and how funds are being used.
Doug noted that his office gets a lot of whistleblowers and ideas on what to investigate. Auditor can’t keep whistleblowers names confidential in VT, no law protects them. State employees have protection on paper, VSEA doing survey on this issue and most say they will never report because they would be retaliated against by boss. Looking for VT Legislature to deal with whistleblower issue.
Announcement by Shawn Jarecki, Pittsfield, Rutland County Chair, VT rep for Lawyers Guild event – legal observer training and civil disobedience training at Chandler Music Hall in Randolph coming up.
Point of order by Ed Stanak, Barre, regarding the platform. Bylaws Article 3 Sec 5 says primary role of Convention is to adopt and revise the platform – last time we did that was Nov 2011 based on website. Revision of platform is not on agenda. He suggests a platform committee be formed, but there is no annual meeting again until Nov 2014. This is a problem because he feels the platform should be tweaked ahead of legislative session to give Progressive legislators more guidance.
Martha responded, process of having dozens of people wordsmith at Convention has not work so have set up a committee in past. Can form another committee of state committee members and present modified platform at a future state committee meeting (not annual meeting). Also encouraged people to talk to legislators now and not wait for platform to change.
Ed questioned this process based on process outlined in by-laws. Peggy Sapphire, Craftsbury, noted that when she chaired platform committee in past, they realized we need to renew platform every two years under state law. Peggy willing to help with this process to update/review platform.
Barry Kade, Montgomery, suggested we could suspend this meeting and take up again at a future meeting so Convention could continue. Peggy Sapphire seconded. Tabled item until end of meeting.
Legislative Priorities for 2014: Progressive Legislators
Sen. Anthony Pollina, Rep. Chris Pearson, Sen. Dave Zuckerman, Rep. Sandy Haas, Rep. Cindy Weed, Rep. Susan Hatch-Davis all gave updates based on their committees and issues they are putting forward in January. Sen. Zuckerman working on GMO issue again and looking at private school vs. public school mandates and what inhibits teachers from being effective in classroom. Rep. Haas working on reduction of mental health issues and barriers for Vermonters in corrections system. Sen. Pollina will focus on issue of divestment from fossil fuels, “pay it forward” college funding concept, increasing state funding for education, and state bank issue. Rep. Weed will focus on labor bills, including paid sick days. Rep. Hatch-Davis will focus on paid sick days, early education organizing, changing the minimum wage to a livable wage. Rep. Pearson will focus on health care transition issue and how to get us to single-payer, also working on an economic bill of rights bill and continuing work on myriad climate change bills.
Watch for updates from Party to help weigh in to help with bills.
Martha suggested a motion be made to suspend the Convention to reconvene at the next state committee meeting to address platform issue raised earlier in the meeting. Ben Eastwood, Montpelier, quoted the state statue and said that major parties must adopt a platform on or before 4th Tuesday of November (even year). He moved to table discussion until the Chair calls a meeting to address platform. There was some confusion on when platform last addressed. Chris Pearson, Burlington: If people want to change platform or by-laws, submit it to leadership and it starts process. Barry Kade, Montgomery, withdrew motion from earlier in the meeting because state statue requires action in even year. Tony Smith, Wolcott, asked how the state statue works with what Chris Pearson says. Martha, state law says 2014 is the rule, not odd years. Peggy Sapphire, Craftsbury, said party members can provide revisions anytime, not just in even years, and the Coco can create a committee to review the platform. No vote was taken.
Motion by Tom Kingston, Colchester, Second by Ben Eastwood, Montpelier to adjourn state convention. Unanimous approval at 4:12pm.
STATE COMMITTEE ACTIONS: Robert Millar
Robert Millar called State Committee to order at 4:12pm.
Election of Officers & Coordinating Committee
Chair: Emma Mulvaney-Stanak, Winooski, nominated by Chris Pearson, Burlington
Vice Chair: Selene Colburn, Burlington, nominated by David Zuckerman, Hinesburg
Secretary: Chris Brimmer, South Ryegate, nominated by Nancy Potak, Greensboro
Treasurer: Martha Abbott, Underhill, nominated by David Zuckerman, Hinesburg
Vice Treasurer: Katherine Sims, Lowell, nominated by Marjorie Kramer, Lowell
At Large: 6 seats
Caryn Connolly, South Royalton, nominated by Liz Blum, Norwich
Mari Cordes, Lincoln, nominated by Emma Mulvaney-Stanak, Winooski
Corey Decker, Fletcher, nominated by Phil Bronz, Bakersfield
Ben Eastwood, Montpelier, nominated by Jeremy Hansen, Berlin
Richard Kemp, Burlington, nominated by Kyle Silliman-Smith, Burlington
Lee Madden, Brattleboro, nominated by Tim Kipp, Brattleboro
Adam Norton, Burlington, nominated by Chris Pearson, Burlington
Nancy Potak, Greensboro, nominated by Marjorie Kramer, Lowell
Becky Raymond, Middlesex, nominated by Emma Mulvaney-Stanak, Winooski
Glennie Sewell and Peggy Sapphire counted ballots. Election results: All officers ran unopposed. 6 At Large Seats elected: Caryn Connolly, Mari Cordes, Corey Decker, Lee Madden, Adam Norton, and Nancy Potak.
Discussion: CoCo Subcommittees
We did not address this item.
Submitted by Emma Mulvaney-Stanak, Secretary 11/13/13