Watercooler: Quorum

6:00 pm in Watercooler by Kit OConnell

Hi, y’all.

Last night Occupy Austin held a special session of its general assembly and agreed to abolish quorum for passing proposals.

I was present when we passed the quorum at a general assembly in late December. Some of our core occupiers were going away for a winter holiday visit home, and wanted Occupy to look much the same when they returned. The quorum, which I supported at the time, meant that 30 people had to be present to pass any proposals.

At the time it seemed to make sense, but in retrospect it has caused a lot of problems. Some of the people went away to winter breaks and never got back into the habit of attending when they returned. Then eviction came in February, and our assembly numbers dropped just as they have everywhere. Occupy Austin is still doing effective work, but we’ve changed. Instead of a 24/7 occupation, we’ve become what I described as “an A-Team of Activists,” a core group of radical workers who will respond to the need for immediate action, like our recent support of Wood Ridge apartment residents who were displaced after a sudden balcony collapse.

While our working groups may have become smaller but streamlined, the assembly still remained in a form that made sense when it was the governing body of a continuous encampment. Many stopped attending, complaining that proposals never passed and instead we got bogged down in endless debates about our process and what to do about quorum. Last weekend, many people had just had enough. The special session was called, quorum done away with.

There’s already been some blowback — the predictable Facebook flame war — but we’ve invited those who don’t like the decision to come to the next general assembly to discuss it. We appreciate our supporters who can’t join us in person, but the occupation and its assembly have always been “about the people who show up,” as successful Occupy Southby organizer Maryann pointed out last night. With a quorum, people knew all they had to do was stay home and nothing would happen. Without a quorum, anyone who doesn’t like where we’re going just has to come to assembly to make a difference.

Here’s to more action and less process in the future.

That’s what’s on my mind today. What’s on yours?

This is today’s open thread.