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Monday, April 23, 2007

California Freedom: LPCA Convention

The LPCA gathered at the San Ramon Convention Center the weekend of April 21. The weekend was packed with interesting panel discussions, but having an infant and two other young children at home required this reporter to limit his attendance to the weekend business sessions only.

Saturday morning business was devoted to the Bylaws Committee Report. Delegates voted to codify the Bylaws Committee's practice of doing its work early, and to require 2/3 approval for any later changes. The Judicial Committee was made a two-year office that may hold meetings by voice or video conference. Delegates rejected a proposal to let counties set their own membership requirements and make them set and collect their own dues, despite outgoing Chairman Aaron Starr's personal offer to donate $15,000 to the counties if it passed. A proposal was passed to allow each Executive Committee (ExCom) member to sponsor for convention credentialing a member who would otherwise be too new to be seated. Also passed was the elimination of county apportionment of convention delegates, so that any 90-day-tenured member will be automatically seated at conventions. The time allotted for Bylaws work finished with only 11 of the 24 Bylaws Committee proposals having been considered. At the lunch break, the count of credentialed delegates hit its official peak of 101, compared to 91 at the 2006 convention.

The officer elections started with the Chair race. Kevin Takenaga, who had been database chairman and Santa Clara County Chair, lead a slate who promised to emphasize municipal- and county-level politics and coalitions. Takenaga won handily over the self-nominated James Ogle, 83-3-4. Takenaga emphasized the need for coalition building, noting that it "doubles our manpower". His top priority will be development of county parties, since counties are "where all the action is at". He wants local Libertarians to "reach out to people within your own community", and pointed out that "everyone agrees with us on something -- half agree with half of our positions, the other half agree with the other half".

Outgoing Northern Vice Chair nominated his successor Richard Newell, the hero of the Libertarian Perspective media relations effort. Before being elected by acclamation, Newell gave an impassioned speech arguing for a bottom-up approach to LP electoral politics. He said the experiences of Badnarik and Smither in 2006 show that "the public is not ready to vote for us" even when our candidates have big-time money or the "perfect storm" of a write-in opponent with a hard-to-spell name. "The public is not going to put us into higher office until we've proven we can govern effectively at lower levels first. Let's get real." He cautioned that there would be no LP landslide victories in D.C. or state capitols, and pointed to Ocean View school board member Norm Westwell as a model of local success built on the hard work of speaking at public meetings and building credibility in municipal politics. He said "all the heavy lifting has to be done at the county level", and that the LPCA should monitor Sacramento and do just the things that require economies of scale.

Zander Collier won Southern Vice Chair by acclamation, as did Beau Cain for Secretary. Outgoing Secretary Dan Wiener received a richly-deserved standing ovation at the beginning of the Secretary election. In winning Treasurer by acclamation, Don Cowles added a little spark to what was the fifth straight effortless victory. He began his speech by dramatically and silently taking James Ogle's map of California's 12 virtual mini-states and setting it up near the stage -- then suddenly stopped and said "I scared you guys, didn't I?"

The election for Executive Committee were next, with the top five winning 2-year terms:

Ted Brown 70
Camden McConnell 61
Laurence Samuels 58
Brian Holtz 53
Mike McMahon 52
Matthew Barnes 51 (wins 1-year term)
Bruce Dovner 46
Jesse Thomas 40
Starchild 33

The Judicial Committee was chosen to be Bob Weber, Allan Hacker, Dan Wiener, Rick Nichol, and M Carling (later elected JudCom Chair). The ExCom Alternates election chose Chuck Moulton and Jesse Thomas. Moulton is the national LP Vice Chair, and was fortuitously available for a 1-year alternate slot because he will be spending the next year at San Jose State U. in a master's program in Austrian economics.

During the Sunday afternoon business session, the credentialed delegate count was 99, and the exits were informally guarded to help maintain a quorum of 49. This meant that any two or three delegates could block changes to the Platform, which requires 2/3 of those voting but 50%+1 of the credentialed delegates. The room agreed to call for repeal of the federal Real ID act, but declined to oppose 1) any wall or fence on California's border with Mexico, 2) incarceration upon arrest when there is no immediate physical threat from the accused, 3) holding reporters in contempt for not revealing their sources, or 4) deployment of US armed forces beyond America's borders.

There were no resolutions offered for consideration, and the penultimate item of business was the announcement that a contract had been signed to host the 2008 convention on a cruise the weekend of April 18 from Los Angeles to Ensenada. Informed that we were $188 short of raising $5000 in donations this weekend, Starr inspired the delegates to cough up many tens and twenties, and then persuaded Takenaga to empty his wallet for the cause. Retiring Chair Aaron Starr then handed the gavel over to incoming Chair Kevin Takenaga, in front of a dozen cameras and the loud applause of delegates grateful for Aaron's six years of service.

The new Executive Committee met after the convention adjourned. Executive Director Angela Keaton will be managing California Freedom, with Libertarian Perspectives contributor and LA County LP Vice Chair Tom Sipos being retained as editor. Bruce Dovner and the two ExCom alternates Chuck Moulton and Jesse Thomas were nominated to fill the three ExCom vacancies created by the election of Newell and Cowles and the resignation of M Carling to allow his service on the Judicial Committee. The three were elected without objection, as they were the top three vote-getters among ExCom candidates who finished "out of the money" (as Dovner put it). ExCom deferred the filling of the two alternate seats to a future meeting, but voted in an Operations Committee consisting of the five executive officers. The ExCom passed resolutions thanking the convention committee and the outgoing officers, and set the next ExCom meeting for Saturday June 9 in San Diego.

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