Quorum
From: Robert P. Arjet (rarjetlearnlink.emory.edu)
Date: Fri, 1 Jun 2001 23:19:03 -0600 (MDT)
Snips from the thread:

>We made a decision long ago, our adherence to which has been very useful.
>If
>you don't come to the meeting, you have no say. 

and 

>If I had my druthers and ruled the world I would proclaim that whoever
>shows up at meetings can make decisions.  I think it would stimulate
>attendance. 

I spent a year in a student housing co-op with just under 100 residents,
and that was exactly how it worked, and had been working for some time. 
Who ever showed up for a committee meeting *was* the committee.   If only
three people showed up, and the committee made a decision that you didn't
like, the first question was "where were you?" 

>Only 8 people attend monthly meetings regularly, that is more than half
>the
>time.  Most people rarely or never turn up for a variety of reasons
>although
>some of the regular absentees are strident about their right to have a
>say.

For some reason this issue really brings out my less compassionate side. 
While I'm all for scheduling around people's commitments, and I really am
committed to a non-coercive community process, I gotta say that if you
can't be bothered showing up, then you can't really be all that interested
in exercising your right to have a say.   I don't think that a meeting
should ever deliberately go forth when someone has made a good faith
effort to attend--bad flus, children's dance recitals, flat tires happen. 
But to hold up an important decision just because you don't want to show
up for a meeting seems abusive of the consensus process.  To paraphrase
Jefferson, "The price of consensus is eternal attendance."  If you want to
live by decisions that are arrived at consensually, then you have an
obligation to be part of that process.  If you'd rather stay home and
watch PBS, fine, but don't complain when they tell you what shape the
swimming pool's going to be. 

I actually spent quite awhile two nights ago helping to craft a proposed
quorum policy for our group.  We wanted something that would prevent
people from holding guerilla meetings while still allowing any good-faith
meeting to proceed.  At the same time, we wanted to ensure that we could
hold emergency meetings that could pass legally binding decisions.  What
we came up with was this:  "Quorum shall be met by any number of members
attending a meeting which has been announced in accordance with the agenda
committee charter." 

What this means is that if agenda committee publishes the agenda in the
normal way, with the accepted amount of lead time, and through the
accepted channels, then you have only yourself to blame if you don't
either show up or make a compelling case for that  particular item of
business to be postponed.  At the same time, emergency meetings will have
their own clearly laid out requirements for notification, lead time, etc.,
but the same principle applies.  If you don't want to get out of bed at 3
AM to discuss the burst pipe, fine, but don't raise a fuss when it comes
time to pay the plumber. 

All of which sounds a little harsh, but I think it cuts to the heart of
the consensus process, which is about accepting the responsibility of
good-faith, informed and diligent participation.  The down side is that
there will, I'm sure, be some significant decisions arrived at by very
small groups of people.  It would seem to me, however, that if no more
than half the people are showing up for meetings, then they either don't
understand how consensus works, don't care, aren't really invested in it,
or are just willing to trust the attenders' judgement.  Any but the first
seem acceptable to me, and that one is easily addressed. 

Or maybe there's some important point that I'm missing.  Sorry if I've
ranted a little.  Interested to know what others think. 

Robert Arjet
Central Austin Cohousing
www.cohousing.org



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