Question from chair concerning floor fee (More on convention controversy)

For those of you just tuning in, the organizer of the upcoming Libertarian Party of California convention is trying to charge delegates a floor fee before they can vote on party business unless they have bought a convention package.

  This is a violation of our bylaws, which establish conditions for being a delegate not including the payment of any extra fee, and state that a person meeting these conditions SHALL be a delegate.

  In this latest round of emails, our state chair defends the planned fee while attempting to portray himself as a neutral party who is only concerned with doing what's practical. Sigh...

  Anyway, my comments on Aarron Starr's response to fee opponent Gene Trosper follow.

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Thank you, Gene.

Regarding the seating of delegates, I’m absolutely committed to getting as many people as possible qualified to be delegates at our convention and to get them seated. One of the proposals – I believe it is proposal #19 – coming out of the bylaws committee allows a vote of three-fourths of the registered delegates to seat additional delegates. This will help us deal with the issue of a number of regions that simply forget to send out notices of elections to the Party Secretary. Currently, we’re not empowered to seat delegates who do not qualify.

  In other words, the regions would no longer have control over who is a delegate from their regions. See comments on your point #1 below.

Regarding the free market for conventions, that sounds nice, but I’m the one that has to deal with the reality of whether people are willing to bid to do conventions for us. People who lose time and money putting these together are not going to “gamble” to do this in the future.

  True enough. But letting the bylaws be violated is not an acceptable way to sweeten a contractor's financial prospects.

Frankly, in my opinion, the reasons why it is so difficult to make money at a convention are mostly our own doing.

  I agree! However it will come as no surprise that we sharply disagree on the causes.

1) Most states make all their members automatically delegates. If you want to be a delegate, just show up. In this state, you have to make time to go to a local meeting first to become a delegate, which may not be convenient. As a result, you get only a fraction of the attendance that should be possible in a state this large. That reduces your revenues dramatically.

  That's an interesting point, which I think has some validity. However I am currently not disposed to favor any suggestion that takes power away from the local regions in any way, shape or form. That's because I see a pattern in the proposals coming from your faction of attempting to concentrate more power at the state and national levels of the party at the expense of the grassroots. If you have any ideas for a trade-off to tie to this proposal so that there would be no net loss of governing authority to local regions, I would be sympathetic to a change making delegate status automatic for members as you implicitly suggest ought to be the case.

2) On the cost side, all of our previous conventions we have had in this state lasted from Friday through Monday in order to cover all the dictates of our convention rules. It simply costs too much money to rent a convention hall for so many days.

  That depends what kind of convention hall you use!

This time we’re going to end this convention on Sunday, instead of Monday. I’m going to do my best to cram as much as we can in a short period of time, but it won’t be easy.

  Especially if you waste the convention's time fighting to uphold an illegal floor fee.

If it were up to me, we wouldn’t spend a day at every convention having a committee of folks propose changes to the platform and scheduling several hours debating it on the convention floor, all so we can maintain a long separate state platform that no one reads anyway. If it were up to me, we wouldn’t have a separate LPC Program debated and adopted by delegates every year. These tasks just waste a lot of time and money and don’t accomplish anything practical.

  Much as I appreciate and respect the time and effort that Bruce Dovner has put into it, I agree with you that the program is fundamentally unnecessary. The platform is another story. Platform debates serve the crucial purposes of educating newer members about libertarianism in a participatory fashion, demonstrating our grassroots model of governance, emphasizing the fact that we are a party of ideas, and reminding us what we stand for. Also, the LPC platform, although similar to the national platform, is uniquely focused on what needs to be done to fix *California's* political system, a task which the national platform cannot duplicate.

3) The huge travel time required of delegates to go across this huge state dictates that you need to have a convention near an airport. Otherwise, half the state’s convention attendees would have to drive better than half a day just to get to the convention. We could probably save a ton of money on the facility costs by holding a convention inButteCounty, but how many people fromLos Angeleswould be willing to drive to get there?

  B.J. Wagener says he made money (albeit not much) holding a convention in relatively remote Santa Maria, while you say Mark Hinkle lost over $5000 holding one a stone's throw from San Jose International Airport. You tell me.

Anyway, you can probably read the frustration that I feel over the constraints that are imposed on us here. The national party faces the exact same types of sales, cost and logistical problems that we face inCalifornia, which is why they lose money every single time they hold a convention.

  That's one explanation. Another explanation is that they lose money every time because they take on too much overhead by always using hotels for venues, and largely as a consequence of this, don't throw the kind of conventions that would attract more people.

I’m planning on attending the Oregon Convention in March. Their convention is done in a single day.

  As a speaker, I presume, if their speaker line-up mirrors ours (i.e. heavily weighted toward your faction and including the Oregon LP's executive director).

As things currently stand, if we didn’t give carte blanche to the convention organizer, we would either not have anyone organizing a convention or we’d have to force donors who had no desire or intention to underwrite a convention to pay for one.

  That's not necessarily true. If the ExCom were more flexible on things like location, there might be more people willing to organize conventions.

If I were to renege on our agreement with Mr. Carling by directing him to change the fee structure, I would expose the LPC to thousands of dollars in potential losses. It doesn’t make practical sense for me to do this just because several people are convinced they shouldn’t have to spend as little as $9.

  Did you negotiate an agreement with M Carling that allows him to hold the convention in a manner which violates the party's bylaws?

From my perspective, as a practical matter, the convention organizer controls the convention hall and he can charge what he wants for admittance into the hall.

  If the convention organizer were attempting to use control of the convention hall to do something *else* contrary to the bylaws, such as pick who runs the proceedings in the hall rather than letting you run them as chair, I'll bet you'd be much less nonchalant about it!

I’m the CFO of a company that did $450 million in sales last year. If I were to make it impossible for vendors to make money with us, we wouldn’t have vendors much longer. I’m a practical man interested in practical solutions. I have to do what works.

  Since you mention vendors, I can't help but note that without the costs associated with having conventions in luxury hotels, we wouldn't have to charge a fee to vendors (the people who set up booths at our conventions to sell or promote various products). Judging from their relatively small numbers at the typical LPC convention, most potential vendors *don't* think it is possible to make money with us under our current operating model.

At the moment, I’m not seeing any way to resolve this other than to ask convention attendees to donate money for those unwilling to pay.

  That approach seems calculated to provoke resentment against those who want to follow the bylaws and/or believe as a matter of principle that charging a floor fee is wrong (not because they are "cheapskates," as someone earlier alleged). If you value party unity, you won't try to resolve the issue this way.

  Personally I will not accept anyone paying a floor fee on my behalf who understands that the fee is wrong or who opposes holding our conventions in hotels with associated costs such that a floor fee is deemed by some to be necessary. I would only accept someone paying a floor fee in order to secure my delegate status if the payer or payers support the floor fee and luxury hotel concepts, in which case I think it is perfectly appropriate if they wish to assume the resultant costs of these things themselves instead of passing them on to others.

  But I will still object to the existence of a floor fee on principle, whether someone offers to pay the fee being charged me or not.

Yours in liberty,
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