Baltimore Steering Committee Notes April 8th

IndivisibleMD – Organizational Meeting
April 8, 2017

Introduction
This meeting was called by J, Chief Strategist for IndivisibleMD. The stated purpose was to develop a Steering Committee that would guide future efforts by IndivisibleMD volunteers, and time permitting to conduct training on Building Power and Getting Ready for the Next Fights. J has been meeting with individual group leaders and coalitions that are forming across the state. A common wish is for a coordinating entity that can facilitate the sharing of information, resources, plans, and activities to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the grassroots organzations. IndivisibleMD is willing to take on this role, but the member groups should define the mission and functions, and conduct decision-making on issues that will arise.

Discussion/Questions/Ideas (organized by themes that emerged)
1. Purpose of a coordinating organization
a. IndivisibleMD was established per the Indivisible Guide with a focus on national-level issues. Early on there were requests to get involved in state and local issues. What criteria to use for deciding what to engage on and what not to engage on?
b. The national-level Indivisible Team is not interested in forming an organization that supports and coordinates activities across states. They are focused on creating tools and training materials for distribution to local groups.
c. How do we best share information across groups? How do we tailor information in a way that is useful to local groups versus broad information at the state or national level?
d. We should monitor the legislative calendar and send calls to action that are timely with scheduled votes at committee or general assembly levels rather than send out calls to action and bombard elected officials offices with statements at a time when no action is being taken. Staffers are beleaguered with the volume of calls and wish these to be more timely with votes.
e. One staffer suggested that organizing a petition drive on an issue would be helpful to the elected official who can point to a document with many names that support/oppose a particular position.
f. We should monitor the votes and positions taken by elected officials and create scorecards for future reference. This holds them accountable.
g. Should Indivisible groups engage in supporting/opposing individual election campaigns? Should we be wary of being coopted by a political party to help them with their campaign efforts?
h. What does it mean to be non-partisan? Does this term confuse people or discourage people who want to support a particular party that shares their values/goals? Is the term “not-affiliated with a party” a better way to say this?
i. Why are we pushing Democrats away? There are no Republicans who are supporting the liberal/progressive priorities. Why aren’t we supporting the candidates who share our views?
j. The current mission statement for IndivisibleMD was created 2 months ago by the then-current volunteers, but can be changed to suit the member groups who participate in the coalition. The mission statement should be helpful in sorting out what the coordinating group will do/not do.
k. There are many political issues and many diverging views on these issues. A coordinating group can invest a lot of time in working out positions based on members’ views, or it can leave that activity to local groups where the interest and energy is. Perhaps the coordinating group states objectives at a high level to allow room for local group choices.
l. The mission statement should have a long-term focus and not be specific to named persons and parties. One group has described concepts that they support or oppose in their mission statement to avoid the short-term nature of specific persons, e.g. being anti-Trump.
m. There is interest in helping Eastern and Western Maryland change the views of their residents and change the elected officials to support more liberal progressive actions. Any actions in those areas need to be directed by local groups, not proscribed by people from outside those Districts.
n. IndivisibleMD needs to define its goals and be able to measure when it has achieved those goals. This is important in maintaining member interest and engagement.
o. Rather than try to be all things to all groups, the steering committee needs to define a limited set of initial objectives that can be expanded later as the group matures and stabilizes.

2. Membership Criteria/Structure of Steering Committee
a. There many organizations that exist with liberal, progressive, resistance, and party affiliations. Should members be limited to Indivisible-affiliated groups or open to other groups with similar goals? The existing Maryland Resistance Coalition has membership of Indivisible-affiliated and other groups.
b. Coalitions are forming in areas such as I-Baltimore Coalition, MoCo Coalition, 1st District Coalition, and PG County Coalition. Should the steering committee be made up of a leader from these coalitions?
c. Having a member on the steering committee from each group is not workable since there are many, many groups. We could end up with a committee of 100 people.
d. Should the Steering Committee reflect the proportional membership of each area? Central Maryland is more population dense and has many large groups. Eastern and Western Maryland are less dense and have fewer, smaller groups.
e. A steering committee formed this month does not have to be permanent and can change its structure and membership as the needs of the member groups evolve. Perhaps the initial steering committee lasts for 6 – 9 months?
f. Discussion coalesced around a Congressional District-based steering committee with each member responsible for communications with each group that has members in their District. Some groups have members in multiple districts and they should choose a single District to identify their representative on the steering committee.
g. The member groups should identify a liaison person to communicate with the group’s District representative on the steering committee. The District rep. would be responsible for meeting with the group liaisons in his/her District and sharing information and representing the group’s views. P volunteered to draft a description of District Captain roles and responsibilities.
h. Those present at today’s meeting will be temporary District Captains. They are charged with canvassing the groups in their Congressional District and democratically electing a single person to serve as the District Captain on the Steering Committee. District Captains need to be identified by April 22, 2017.
i. IndivisibleMD can provide a list of known groups in each District and contact information to assist the temporary District Captains reach out to potential member groups.

3. Tools currently provided by IndivisibleMD
a. Website at http://www.Indivisiblemd.org provides information on elected officials, an events calendar, a discussion blog for each Congressional District, and postings on current news items. The platform is Weebly, and it is possible to establish a page for each member group, specific issues to consolidate information, and other topics.
b. Chat app at Slack.com has been established to provide a secure space for MRC member discussions. IndivisibleMD needs a request to join and an email address for each member. Send your request to: XXX . Once in, there are tutorials on how to use Slack, multiple channels for discussion organized by topic, and capability for people to have a more private one-on-one chat.
c. IndivisibleMD also has a Slack site currently used by our volunteers for internal operations and information-sharing.

4. Miscellaneous
a. Non-profit organizations are either IRS 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(4). The “c3” is very limited in lobbying or support political candidates and the “c4” has fewer limits. Understanding the rules is important to avoiding legal issues.
b. We need to include efforts to recruit and train new members. Diversity is lacking in some groups. We tend to cluster by race or age and lack skills to reach groups who are not like “us”. Continuously recruiting and mobilizing new members will be key to long term success.

Decisions
1. The Steering Committee will initially be composed of one representative serving as a District Captain for all participating groups with members in the specific Maryland Congressional District.
2. The District Captain will be the link between participating member groups and the Steering Committee to represent their views and communicate actions by the Steering Committee.
3. This initial structure can change over time as the needs of the member groups change.
4. Those present at today’s meeting will be temporary District Captains. They are charged with canvassing the groups in their Congressional District and democratically electing a single person to serve as the District Captain on the Steering Committee. District Captains need to be identified by April 22, 2017.
5. J will schedule the first meeting of District Captains for a date after April 22, 2017.

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