(This weekend, Alabama Democrats lost a champion for justice. Pam Wallace of Athens lost her battle with ALS. Our hearts ache for her family & friends. Let’s take this opportunity to remember how she led the fight for more fairness and representation for women and a more diverse & inclusive membership on the SDEC & executive board. What better way to honor her than continue the fight to reform the SDEC? – promoted by countrycat)
Let's cut to the chase. The Alabama Federation of Democratic Women (AFDW) Amendment to the Alabama State Democratic Executive Committee (SDEC) Bylaws did not pass at the Jan. 29th meeting. Technically, it did not even come up for a vote. For the third straight SDEC meeting, procedural manuevers kept the amendment, which would make the President of the AFDW an ex officio member of the SDEC's Executive Board, from receiving a simple up or down vote.
Pam Wallace, the current AFDW President, who had earlier asked committee members to “Say yes to the women of the party. Yes your work is valuable, yes your input is valuable, and yes you deserve a seat at the table,” granted a brief interview after the SDEC meeting adjourned.
Wallace: It seems to me that if there are 17 men on the board and 10 women, there's certainly room to a woman to come and give her opinion and let the party know what women think from our perspective.
LiA: Do you think this will have an impact on the enthusiasm of some of the most active women in the party?
Wallace: It's hard to say. Right now, my heart is a little broken because women have worked so hard. I've been a county club chair, a county committee chair for 15 years. I was one of the original Howard Dean “50 State Strategy” people. I'm proud of that. I've given up my life for the Democratic Party and I think the party ought to acknowledge women and our role in the electoral process. So I hope they don't quit. I hope they don't say “it's not worth it.” But right now, in my heart, that's what I think. But in my head, I know we can't quit. We have to keep on.
We had the chance today to do the right thing and we didn't.
LiA: Are you planning to bring the motion up again?
Wallace: We're going to bring the motion up again until we make it. We'll just up the ante.
I just want people to know the Democratic Party has its heart in the right place. Judge Kennedy did a great job today. He ruled in favor of bringing it off the table. People did not understand that once it was tabled, it was tabled forever.
And I still think the last two meetings were a Parliamentary Disaster but we're going to look at it as a fresh, new start. We'll be ready next time and women count. We're going to count with the party.
As Ms. Wallace mentioned, there are indeed 17 men and 10 women on the SDEC's Executive Board, the only portion of that body that is not already required to have equal representation of men and women — see The Charter and the Bylaws of the Democratic Party of the United States, Article 8. Alabama Democratic Women are not asking for seven more seats, they are merely asking for one more, to be held by the democratically elected president of the AFDW. Still, the proposal has become a bone of contention on the SDEC and threatens to split women, a key group of voters and volunteers, from the party heirarchy.
When we last spoke of Saturday's meeting, Judge Mark Kennedy had just been acclaimed as the new Party Chair and had given a well received inaugural speech in which he spoke these eerily prophetic words:
We are the party of the Big Tent. But I want to tell you right now, now I'm preaching. We don't need a circus. We need a revival!
Job 1 for Kennedy will be to evict the circus from our Big Tent so he can get the Revival underway. Follow below the fold for a look at what was showing inside the Big Top.
As soon as the applause for his speech died away, Judge Kennedy directed the Committee's attention to the published Agenda (click to enlarge) shown at right. Immediately below “VII. Election of Chair” we see “VIII. Bylaw Amendment #1.”
Johnny Ford, at large member from Macon County, rose for a point of special privilege to ask for adoption of a resolution having to do with a show of support for unemployed bingo workers in Alabama. There was a discussion of whether this was an appropriate time for his resolution. Ford initially backed off but Bob Harrison, member for HD19, asserted that this resolution was both time critical and time sensitive. The Chair inquired as to the substance of the resolution. Mr. Harrison assured him that both the ADC and the Minority Caucus had already approved similar resolutions … but after lengthy discussion it appeared that the text of the resolution was not available, or at any rate would not be read before the Committee at this time. It was eventually approved in some form, along with a companion.
The discussion of these resolutions was lengthy. Some of the more jaded in the audience suspected it was specifically intended to kill time and further extend an already rather long meeting. Although LiA usually elects to show our readers more rather than less of these events, this is an episode we believe is better left to the imagination.
Next up, the Amendment 1 agenda item which is the Women's Amendment. Pam Wallace stood up to speak for approving a dedicated seat for Democratic Women on the Executive Board.
“I've come to you today to ask your support for this amendment. It's not personal. I'm on the Board — I was elected from the 5th congressional district.
I'm here to ask you to say “Yes” to the women of the party. Yes your work is valuable. Yes your input is valuable, and yes you deserve a seat at the table.
In 2010 Alabama women accounted for 55% of the total vote. Women truly are the backbone of the party.
I want you to think just a minute – close your eyes. When you go into your headquarters who do you see working there? When somebody raises their hand to say, “I'll go door to door with you” who is that? When somebody says “Oh, we need somebody to do this dinner again,” in your mind, who do you see who says yes to that? It's a woman.
It is time for the Alabama Democratic Party to say to our hard working women, “Welcome to the table.” I'm asking you all to do the right thing. Vote yes for this amendment. Thank you.”
A woman who did not identify herself spoke immediately after Ms. Wallace.
Unidentified woman: Point of inquiry. This is an amendment that had been tabled. We would first have to have a motion to remove it from the table at this point of time do you not say this amendment is out of order.
Unidentified man: Mr. Chairman, I will second the motion that was just made by Ms. Wallace.
Unidentified woman: It is still out of order. The last meeting which was a regular meeting of this organization, we tabled this amendment. We met in a special called meeting which you can only discuss what is on the agenda for a called meeting. This is the next regular meeting, so … we would have to have a motion to remove it from the table. This motion is out of order.
Marsha Burke: I move to take this motion from the table.
This situation clearly put the new Chairman at a significant disadvantage since he was not present at either of the two previous meetings, no minutes were read and those meetings were not comprehensible to most of the people who were present. Still, he makes a game attempt to unravel this coil.
Chairman Kennedy: Point of personal privilege from Chair – I did not preside at the last 2 meetings therefore I'm presuming that there is a consensus or that there's a statement that the motion that was tabled is actually the same as this motion that was put forward today.
Point of Order from Charles McDonald: I make an inquiry … The motion that was brought is a brand new motion. It was distributed in that way and distributed for this meeting. And it would be correct and proper to act …
At this point Vice Chair Nancy Worley, who seems to be acting as Parliamentarian, rises to explain the history of the Women's Amendment. Some have mistakenly identified her as the Vice Chair for Women's Affairs, but we must note that that position does not exist in the Democratic heirarchy. She is the 1st Vice Chair, period.
Nancy Worley, Vice Chair: This motion that was mailed to you is the motion which was made at the August meeting. [The Aug. 14, 2010 meeting.] I was chairing that meeting and I not only made the motion that day but after some objections from other groups that wanted to be recognized, I moved to table that motion and it passed. So the motion right now is on the table and Ms. Burke's was in order. She should have spoken first because you can't debate the motion to bring from the table. Now – Ms. Wallace has already debated this – which was out of order, but Ms. Burke's motion to bring it from the table – which is not debatable – is in order but we have to vote either to bring it from the table or to keep it on the table ….
Charles McDonald: Mr. Chairman it's improper for her to set up there and tell us what is in order and out of order. That is the Chair's responsibility. That's all she's doing. She made a mess of the last meeting …
At this point a woman who had been waiting at the microphone for some time was recognized:
“My name is Helen Carter, I'm from Birmingham Alabama. I've been a yellow-dog Democrat over 45 years and I move to take this off the table.”
Ms. Carter was likely confused by the on and off the table language — she was not alone in that confusion.
Now Charles McDonald was recognized by Chairman Kennedy and uttered one of the key statements of the entire day.
“Mr. Chairman. Charles McDonald. I'll be 65 years old in July and I've been a Democrat all my life. The last meeting that I was at I was embarrassed because I couldn't go home and tell people what we did. Me and a lot of other people drove 200 miles in order to have a fair meeting based on the agenda that was laid out. We didn't have that. Bringing up old festering and old unhealed wounds is not good and I didn't want to do that. The fact that the motion that she is making today … it's a current and its a proper motion and we should act on that motion. That's what my inquiry was in the beginning. I don't think it's right that the Vice Chair is the one that starts making parliamentary decisions and statements that this is a fact and that's a fact. I hate to put you in the position, as the new chairman, this is a contentious issue and has been … I thank you and I hope you consider the request and my parliamentary inquiry and act on that.… “
Mr. McDonald is one of those SDEC members who actually attend the meetings — over half the Committee was absent last Saturday — and he had obviously been present for the previous two meetings, meetings which brought no credit to the organization. The embarrassment he speaks of is not limited to members of the Committee. The conduct of these meetings has been an embarrassment to rank and file Democrats across the state and likely to elected Democrats as well. If we can't conduct a Party meeting with some semblance of order and fairness, there is no possibility of convincing voters we can conduct the affairs of the state or its component parts with order and fairness. This is a situation Chairman Kennedy simply must rectify, and he must be seen to have rectified it.
Pam Wallace: I never made a motion.
Chairman Kennedy: The chair rules that the appropriate motion … before the body now is a motion to bring the issue back to the table and there is a second to that motion … bring it off the table. At this point we need a vote. All opposed …
Pam Wallace: I'd like to ask for a written ballot.
Dr. Joe Reed: I was just about to say let's put this thing to rest for good. [Shouting] … vote it up or down and be through with it. … Those of us who are against it we'll just kill it. Those who are for it will pass.
Chairman Kennedy: There's a motion that's been seconded take this motion off this table.
The voice vote was inconclusive. The chair then called for a standing vote. In this process all in favor of the motion to take it from the table stand and remain standing while “counters” go around the room and count them. Then those members of the Committee sit down and all those opposed to the motion to take it from the table stand and are counted. This process had to be repeated at least twice because the counters did not agree on the number of people standing. There was a suggestion from the floor to ask the Committee members to more to different sides of the room to signify an affirmative vs. a negative vote, but that was not adopted.
Chairman Kennedy: The vote is 67 to leave the motion on the table and 53 to take it off.
Rep Pat Todd: Question of parliamentary procedure. So, I want to thoroughly understand. So when we adjourn the meeting, everything that we've tabled in that meeting is tabled forever unless we bring it back up. … Is that correct? My understanding is when you adjourn the meeting, all the business of that meeting closes. Is that not true? … I want to know, because if that's true that every motion we table at a meeting is tabled forever until we bring it back up — that doesn't sound right to me. That's why we adjourn meetings.
Chairman Kennedy: If you do not bring a motion to table, if you do not bring that motion back at the next regularly scheduled meeting then that motion dies.
Rep. Todd: But by being on our agenda today, doesn't that make that part of our business today to vote on that motion.
Chairman Kennedy: The ruling of the chair was that this was the same motion that was laid on the table and therefore was subject to a motion to remove from the table. This motion now that remains on the table cannot be brought up at another meeting because it has to be brought up at the next regularly scheduled meeting. If not then that motion dies. And it can be the subject of another motion on the same issue at subsequent meetings.
Rep. Todd: I want to clearly understand this. So that when we table something at a meeting, the next meeting you cannot bring that issue up unless you bring it off the table?
Chairman Kennedy: Correct. But then after that next meeting then that motion is gone. And the next regularly scheduled meeting you can bring up the same issue if you choose to in a new motion.
Pam Wallace: Point of order, sir. When we tried to bring it up at the second meeting we were not allowed to bring it up at that meeting. …
Chairman Kennedy: I think that we've settled this issue. The motion is on the table. The issue can be brought up at subsequent meetings by a new motion. Are there any other items to be brought before
Dr. Joe Reed: I move to adjourn.
The Aug. 14 and Aug. 26 SDEC meetings had left a huge mess — not only regarding the Women's Amendment — but that happened to be the only visible part of the mess that was still floating around in the system. Judge Kennedy ruled that the amendment which was attempted to be brought to the floor Saturday was not in fact a new amendment, then allowed an attempt to take the previous amendment off the table. The attempt failed by 15 votes — in a vote when it appeared that several people on both sides were confused about what the vote meant.
The bone of contention that was born on Aug. 14, 2010 and that had become the focus of so much bitterness, frustration and distrust was done away with on Saturday. But Judge Kennedy twice repeated that it would be proper to bring up the same issue at subsequent meetings in a new motion. The repetition made those words appear particularly significant.
The unfinished business of the previous administration is now cleared away. It was ugly to see and deeply disappointing to many, many Democratic women and men who believe women deserve a sure seat at the head table. The issue is certainly not settled, but perhaps Judge Kennedy succeeded in clearing at least part of the circus out of the Big Tent. It's significant that this was posted on the AFDW's Facebook page after the meeting:
The AFDW Amendment to add the AFDW president to the Alabama Democratic Party's Executive Board failed. Due to a confusing and disputed parliamentary procedure led by Nancy Worley and Joe Reed, the amendment was not allowed to be removed from the table. Women deserve this seat at the table and AFDW will work smarter AND… harder to get this seat that is deserved at the next meeting.
This Women's Amendment will return, in one form or another. As Ms. Wallace pointed out, the NFDW President is recognized with a special position in the DNC. A similar arrangement already exists in Tennessee, and even in Mississippi there is a standing committee for their Federation of Democratic Women within the SDEC. Other state Democratic Parties have accorded women a seat at the head table and Alabama women won't settle for scant representation in what we are pleased to call as the People's Party.
Note: Both Countrycat and Mooncat contributed to this report.