By Greg Peele, LPF Director At-Large 3
Hi all, time to review party business for the LPF Executive Committee on Sunday, June 17, 2018.
The opinions presented here are my own and do not represent the Libertarian Party of Orange County nor the Libertarian Party of Florida.
This one was a strange one because the only motion submitted in time for an agenda was to accept Alison's resignation. Significant discussion and debate happened outside of the context of business motions and the meeting ended early due to loss of quorum. I was a bit troubled by how some of that went.
Given the timing of Father's Day and the lack of significant written agenda, perhaps it is unsurprising that we started the meeting missing seven people.
Amend Agenda - Add Approval of Marc Golob's Fundraising Contract - Nay / Failed
This one makes me a little sad. I had worked with Chair Miralles to amend the fundraising contract template to add compliance with state and federal campaign finance law to the duties of a paid fundraiser, and to harden up the commission structure to ensure it accomplished what Chair Miralles intended without unintended side effects. Myself and Region 2 Representative Morrell personally watched Marc Golob sign this contract during his visit to Orlando, and Representative Morrell sent the scanned signed copy to the Chair two weeks prior to the meeting. So the lack of timely submission for this motion to be included on the agenda is puzzling.
The fact that no other EC members besides the three of us saw the final amended contract made it impossible for me to support adding this to the agenda. While I personally feel the final contract is in good shape, I would never want an EC member to agree to a contract binding the LPF EC that they have not personally had the opportunity to review. I suggested conducting this one as an email vote so folks have the time to properly review the finalized contract without necessarily waiting until our next meeting.
Furthermore, the LPF EC previously voted to approve a Standing Rule to set a five day deadline for submission of motions to be included on the agenda by a near-unanimous vote. There is no purpose in voting for such a rule unless we intend to enforce it equally and evenly on all members, including the Chair. The rule itself was proposed so that all EC members have sufficient time to conduct appropriate public and private discussions, to craft potential amendments, and to seek constituent feedback - decisions are usually best when made with careful consideration, and hasty decisions rushed during a meeting are much easier to get wrong. I strongly supported the 5-day rule and will only vote to amend agendas to include late motions for truly time-sensitive items or other very special situations. While I can see the results of insisting on proper process and workflow to be frustrating sometimes, the process itself exists for solid reasons, and I have no intent of making Swiss cheese out of it by making exceptions.
Amend Agenda - Add Acceptance of Steven Nekhaila's Resignation - Abstain / Passed
Shortly prior to the meeting, Steven Nekhaila emailed the EC his resignation from Region 14 Representative with the intent to seek appointment for the Director At-Large 1 position pending Alison Foxall's resignation being accepted. I was against adding any non-time-sensitive motion submitted late to the agenda for the same reasons as the previous motion, however resignations are a bit of a special case in Robert's Rules (you can't exactly compel someone to serve) and I had additionally been requested to serve as Representative Nekhaila's proxy, which the resignation may have invalidated, so in the end I abstained since I had not decided my vote in time for the roll call.
Adopt Agenda as Amended - Aye / Passed
There was only two motions presented during the Chair's report. However, there was substantial discussion during this report on items presented. One suggestion that I would like to make is that we should have committee reports presented separately during the time allocated for them rather than as part of the Chair's report.
Nation Builder Proposal
Convention Committee Chair Zach Detwiler conducted a question and answer session about an ongoing effort to investigate overhauling our contact management (CRM) system. The new system under consideration is Nation Builder, a commercial CRM system. While Nation Builder has multiple tiers of capability and support, the proposal was notionally for the highest tier of service which includes full time commercial support, data migration from our current system, custom development for our use case, various types of analytics and workflows, and a potentially very high number of contacts (lower tiers of support are limited to 10,000 contacts, for example). The notional proposal had an annual cost of $20,000 - approximately 1/3 of our current treasury per year. Mr. Detwiler addressed on the call that he had heard the prior concerns of the EC on the cost, and that he believed it could be negotiated down given the details of our particular use case - enterprise licensing at this level is typically an actual negotiation rather than a fixed price. Mr. Detwiler indicated that he has had some success going back to the Nation Builder sales representative to negotiate down the price given the EC's concerns, and had also opened discussion with at least two competing commercial vendors.
Our current system, for comparison, is a free open source system called CiviCRM - it's probably fair to describe its current state as "abysmal." It is an open question as to whether that's inherently true of CiviCRM or just that our current installation of it isn't configured well, since there are many organizations that do seem to use CiviCRM effectively.
The primary problems in a nutshell are:
1.) Combining contact data from multiple sources in our current system is not automatic and results in unresolved duplicates (among other issues)
2.) Tracking changes over time such as voters registering or unregistering LPF is not trivial, and these changes are not automatically reported
3.) Donor information is not currently tracked in this system at all, and certainly isn't linked to our payment processor
4.) Volunteers need to conduct a fair amount of active searching and data entry to accomplish tasks
While I did not weigh in during the call since many others did so, I had previously discussed the proposal extensively with Mr. Detwiler and others. Nation Builder appears to be a very good technology system, but I am so far unconvinced that sufficient value exists to proceed at the quoted prices, particularly without thoroughly comparing it to other free or lower cost systems. The analogy I've made is that we are currently driving a Yugo, which almost everyone agrees is terrible. However, we are considering a proposal to buy a fully customized luxury Cadillac when we currently have the budget for a Kia. To switch metaphors - I understand and appreciate that folks are frustrated that we've spent too long at the crawl stage of crawl-walk-run, and sometimes it feels like we're going backwards, but there's an important distinction between standing up to run vs. jumping off a cliff saying "I can fly." It is always appropriate to expect proper substantiation of major costs and to conduct due diligence of review on major proposals.
It is my own belief that our current deficiencies are primarily human factors and process management issues, with the technology certainly needing improvement but not being the key blocking issue. To my knowledge, committees and party volunteers are mostly not using the current system, even as imperfect as it is. I would need to see some sort of action plan of how our people would use an entirely new technology platform, with new training and data migration, to believe it will see any more use than the current system. Better data and better technology to manage that data would be awesome. But data or even technology doesn't win elections or change policy by itself - it must be used effectively by actual humans at some point.
Despite my skepticism, I'm still open to being convinced that this or another new system is a good investment, particularly if there is an incremental approach that allows us to conduct pilot programs, mitigate risk, and prove out better human processes at a more reasonable cost. For example, perhaps we can try out Nation Builder at lower tiers that are clearly within the LPF's budget and realize some membership and fundraising returns to show the value of the system before pursuing further upgrades. Clearly we need to do something rather than nothing. However, I do think any discussion needs to include an estimate of the tasks and level of effort to bring our current CiviCRM system up to a minimum level of functionality as a baseline comparison to justify any costs to do otherwise. Maybe the effort to upgrade our current system ends up not being worth it, but I'd like to rule that out and then proceed with a thorough (and written) assessment of our options to carefully review.
I am willing to take risks. But I do have a fiduciary duty, along with the other 20 EC members, to the party's bottom line.
Change of Convention Venue
Convention Committee Chair Zach Detwiler also discussed a proposal to change the venue for the 2019 Convention. As described, the primary issue with the selected venue in Daytona Beach is that it is very limited in size - a maximum of 180 attendees. This is not that much larger than the attendance of the 2017 Convention in Cocoa Beach, so it is plausible that an exceptionally successful convention could overflow that venue, particularly with top tier speakers. Mr. Detwiler also clarified that we are able to cancel our current venue without financial penalty since there is enough lead time, so losing our deposit is not an issue. I agree that pursuing this makes sense and will give strong weight to endorsing a change in venue if the Convention Committee votes to approve such after a competitive review of venues.
Accept the Resignation of Alison Foxall from Director At-Large 1 - Aye / Passed
Alison submitted her resignation due to loss of eligibility due to no longer living in Florida. I am honored by the opportunity to work together with her and wish her the best of fortune on her new endeavors.
Accept the Resignation of Steven Nekhaila from Region 14 - Aye / Passed
Steven submitted his resignation due to seeking to be appointed as the replacement Director At-Large 1. I personally feel that he should have made the resignation contingent on appointment, but saw no reason to oppose his wishes.
Appointment of Steven Nekhaila to Director At-Large 1 and Martha Bueno to Region 14
Chair Miralles appointed Steven Nekhaila to the vacant Director At-Large 1 position and Martha Bueno to the vacant Region 14 Representative.
In a significant break with tradition, the Chair asserted that per the LPF Constitution Article III Section 4(D) that his appointments did not require EC approval and were effective immediately - link to LPF Constitution here - until a special election for these positions are held at the next regular business meeting. The relevant section was amended at the 2018 Ft. Walton Beach Convention and moved to the Constitution from the Bylaws, and we had not conducted any appointments under these new rules since then - the appointment of Brandon Kneeld to Region 8 Representative, Mark Rodriguez to Region 6 Representative, and Mari Morrell to Region 2 Representative was done under the traditional process of nomination by the Chair and confirmation by EC vote. I was completely unprepared for this particular constitutional question, and the LPF Rules Chair Philippe Cadorette was not available to offer his opinion, so this definitely caught me by surprise. I will be reviewing the rules in more detail later, just to verify we handled this properly, and to ensure I understand how the upcoming special election will work.
I will note that I believe both Mr. Nekhaila and Ms. Bueno to be eminently qualified for their positions and would have voted in favor of them had it been voted upon.
I believe the Chair would secure more positive responses by advising the EC of these decisions, especially controversial ones, in advance. Several EC members disagreed with how these appointments were conducted and after some debate left the call, which resulted in the meeting losing quorum. Speaking personally, I definitely did not previously understand the full implications of the constitutional amendment we passed regarding vacancies, which I'm a little concerned that I missed in my reviews prior to that Convention.
A reminder, perhaps, to be extra cautious in reviewing the upcoming business for the LNC in New Orleans and only voting yes to items for which I fully understand the implications.