Monday, February 13, 2017

Why we are running for office!

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My name is Christopher Jon Telesca and I am the currently elected President of the Wake County Progressive Democrats. Rather than write up something cute for my own campaign ad, I wish to let you all know why the entire Executive Committee (aka the Board) is endorsing a slate of candidates for election on February 15 - listed at end of blog post!
1.            We practice what we teach: democratic procedures and values throughout the Democratic Party.  
We have a great (but not perfect) set of bylaws – which requires that well follow the NCDP Plan of Organization, Roberts Rules of Order.  We also follow applicable state and federal laws.
We have an Executive Committee (aka the Board) that meets to plan our activities.  No one person runs the group – and no one person should be running for any office in the Wake Progressives claiming they can single-handedly change the group.  
Nothing gets done and not one dime gets spent without running by one or both groups.  Everything from what bank we use, to what activities we participate in, and even if we buy hamburgers, hotdogs, pizza, turkey or ham for our various parties – it is all done by a vote of the board and/or membership.
Perhaps you’ve heard the sayings “many hands make light work” and “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link”.  We are only as good as the officers who show up and do the work.  Nearly everyone has been a member of a group where someone runs for an office and doesn’t show up and/or do the work – putting more of a burden on everyone else who does show up.  And sometimes things don’t get done as well or as quickly as we would all like.  But the Wake County Progressive Democrats doesn’t operate on the whims of one officer, and therefore no one candidate’s campaign promises to make significant changes to the group can actually deliver on those promises. 
Our current bylaws do not allow for the removal of members for missing too many meetings or for dereliction of duty.  Now that the bylaws for the Progressive Caucus of the NCDP has passed at the state level, we will have to amend our County chapter bylaws to allow for removal of members for those reasons.  That should clear up a lot of the problems we are having now.
2.            All officers will work to achieve the objectives set forth in the bylaws.  
We are working to achieve the objectives set forth in the bylaws.  Part of the problem is that while we are the same group with roughly the same objectives that started out in 2004, the Democratic Party isn’t the same as it was back then.
We had our first organizational meeting in June 2004 where the progressive “Greendogs” (younger supporters of Howard Dean and Dennis Kucinich feeling alienated from the Democratic Party) joined up with the older “Concerned Democrats” (older party officers and former electeds concerned about the lack of transparency and small-d democracy in the Democratic Party at many levels).  From that time on - we had the blessing and support of then Wake Dems Chair Lorrin Freeman and ED Linda Watson who was a founding member of our group.  We also had auxiliary status either from that point or shortly thereafter. 
But we earned our auxiliary status  – because we did the physical volunteer work in the Democratic Party that no one else wanted to do.  We set up and staffed the sign shop, put together precinct officer training, put together precinct packets and address postcards announcing precinct meetings, set up and operate the Election Day “War Room”, set up for and clean up after party events, etc.  Stuff that wasn’t getting done by people who whose activism was limited to attending catered dinners, getting pics taken with political leaders, and writing checks.  Not that there is anything wrong with that – but that’s not how we roll!  And when we needed information to organize precincts, we got it from the county party.  One night in January 2008, we organized 9 precincts at an OFA meetup!
How times have changed!  After Wake Progressives helped elect a State Party Chair in 2005 and elect a whole new county party board made up mostly of grassroots activists in 2007, some establishment folks vowed to never again let progressives get a chance to look good doing what we do best – volunteer activism and precinct organization. 
Today many people have a different respect for democratic procedures and values – as well as a problem sharing information with an auxiliary like ours that wants to organize precincts to give a larger and more diverse group of Democrats a voice in the party and a seat at the table.
With the creation of the Progressive Caucus of the NCDP, we can get access to statewide Votebuilder data that we can’t get right now at the county level – we will know which precincts are organized and which are not.  Working with other similar grassroots organizations will make precinct organization all that much easier.
3.            Our membership is steadily increasing especially among young people.  But we’ve gotta keep the party from scaring them off!
The Wake County Progressive Democrats started out by attracting a lot of younger progressive Dean and Kucinich people starting in mid 2004.  But they stuck around to help build the Democratic Party because Howard Dean said: “If you want to take back your government you first have to take back your party.” 
We noticed an increase in interest in our group beginning in 2014 - we had increased membership especially with younger people attracted to politics because they wanted someone like Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders to run for President.  Much in the same way an earlier group was attracted by Dean & Kucinich in 2004 and even Barack Obama in 2008.  
While they were attracted to our group, other factors turn them away from becoming active in the Party – like the way Bernie Sanders and his supporters were treated by the DNC in the 2016 Presidential election cycle.  From the way Bernie was treated while he was a candidate to the way his delegates were treated at the DNC Convention, people did notice something was “odd” – and sadly too many voted with their feet.
We had a gradual increase in membership from the spring of 2015 when Bernie declared and then three notable drop-offs: one after the March Primary, another after DNC convention, and then again after Labor Day 2016.  One young female Bernie supporter was supposed to our July pool party – but she ended up quitting her job, closing her FB account, and leaving the country to protest the way Bernie was treated by the DNC.  
4.            One of our main objectives is to encourage volunteerism in the furtherance of our electoral process – fundraising is a secondary goal!  
The Wake Progressive Dems has from the start always focused largely on volunteer activism.  Many people are sick and tired of “pay to play politics”, so we don’t focus on raising tons of money to give to the party and to candidates.  We prefer to give something they don’t see much of – volunteer activism!  
Our main monthly meetings consist of potluck dinners – and contributions aren’t mandatory.  We share with each other because we know that there some people can’t afford a $20/month dinner and shouldn’t feel left out of progressive politics because they can’t afford to pony up for a catered meal.
Fundraising is important, but many other Wake County groups can and do focus on fundraising activities.  If you love raise money for candidates – spend time with us, but by all means join one of the other groups as well!  But we are not alone - other Wake County groups do not exist mostly to raise money to be donated directly to the party and candidates.
We encourage our members to donate their time to candidates, and also donate money if they wish to do so.  We give money to the party – we’ve been one of the biggest supporters of the NCDP State Party Fair booth over the years in terms of both money and working volunteer shifts.  
That being said, we do need money to carry on our mission.  We’ve done a great job of fundraising the last few years.  And with a full board working together in the areas of policy, activities & outreach that will be much better supported by communications and technology, we can raise more money from current and new members and still be true to our original mission. 
5.            Wake County Progressive Democrats speak up to make sure democratic procedures and values are being followed!
We don’t treat the Wake County Democratic Party or any other party committee as enemies – but no Democrat should ever be a mute rubber-stamp.  We speak up to question whether democratic procedures and values are being broken.  Party officers and delegates who have a seat at the table and a voice in the party deserve to be heard and answered when they have a respectful and reasonable objection.  Better knowledge of party rules and parliamentary procedures will help our members and other Democrats not feel left out of the political process. 
Officer Endorsements:  The Executive Committee of the Wake County Progressive Democrats has 9 elected and 1 appointed officers. Currently the Outreach Chair is vacant. That leaves us with 8 elected and 1 appointed officers, for a total of 9. 
We, 7 out of 9 current Executive Officers of the Wake County Progressive Democrats whose names are listed at the end of this posting, do hereby endorse and support the following candidates for upcoming Executive Officers on February 15, 2017: 
President - Chris Telesca ** (nominated at January potluck)
Vice President - Mike Pierce ** (nominated at January potluck)
Activities Co-Chair: Quanta Edwards ** (to be nominated at February potluck)
Activities Co-Chair: Kelley Barker (to be nominated at February potluck)
Outreach Chair: Randy Jones (nominated at January potluck)
Policy Chair: Joshua Bradley ** (nominated at January potluck)
Communications Chair: Stacey Piesche * (to be nominated at February potluck)
Tech Chair: Grant Gordon (to be nominated at February potluck)
Secretary: Christina Thompson (to be nominated at February potluck)
* - incumbent officer seeking new position
** - incumbent officer seeking same position 
Current Activities Co-Chair Linda Suggs wishes to withdraw her name from nomination for Activities Co-Chair.  George Frink wishes to withdraw his nomination for Communications Chair.  Furthermore, although she understands that seconds to nominations aren't necessary, current Treasurer Stacey Piesche wishers to hereby withdraw her second to the nomination of Bill Bryan for President. 
We have endorsed these candidates because they have pledged to perform their assigned duties per our bylaws, and to attend all board meetings and potlucks, and observe and follow all of our WCPD bylaws, the NCDP Plan of Organization, and all applicable state and federal laws. We have endorsed the incumbent candidates because they have performed the duties per our bylaws, have exemplary attendance records at board meetings and potlucks, and have observed and followed all WCPD bylaws, the NCDP Plan of Organization and all applicable state and federal laws.
We Seven have endorsed the candidates listed above - and no others. Please draw any conclusions you like from that fact. 
Chris Telesca - President
Mike Pierce - Vice President
Linda Suggs - Secretary
Stacey Piesche - Treasurer (appointed)
Joshua Bradley - Policy Chair
Nancy Brooks - Activities Co-Chair
Quanta Monique Edwards - Activities Co-Chair