Event:2019/03/07 Delegates Meeting

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Omni Delegates' Meeting - 07 March 2019 7pm-9pm

for instructions on preparing and archiving these notes, please see the bottom

Agenda

  • Introductions, Meeting Roles, and Delegates Count [10 minutes]
  • Access Check-in [5 minutes]
  • Brief Announcements [5 minutes]
  • Working Group Report-Backs [15 minutes]
  • Member Collective Updates (10 minutes)
  • Ban Report (if any) [5 minutes]
  • Facilitation Proposal
  • Hiring Jenny as bookkeeper
  • GCEA 3 Day Notice Proposal

Introductions

Introduce yourself: Name; Preferred Pronoun; Affiliation; any brief announcements; say whether you're a delegate; let us know about any access needs you have†

  • yar sudo delegate
  • robb sudo
  • julian baps delegate
  • Ken, CCL delegate
  • Lynn
  • Laura
  • Marcus
  • Joe FNB delegate
  • Almaz GCEA delegate
  • habiba FNB
  • jenny sudoroom
  • dennis liblens delegate
  • mary ann, chiapas, she/her
  • rachel gws delegate

Access Check In

Is everybody able to participate fully in this meeting? Do people have unmet needs or concerns?

Meeting Roles

  • Facilitator/s: Phil
  • Explanation of hand signals: "deaf applause", "raised hand", "point of process", "direct response"(wildcard), etc.
  • Stacktaker: Lynn
  • Timekeeper: Yar
  • Notetaker/s: Yar, Laura, Jenny
  • Vibe Reader: Marcus
  • Next meeting's facilitator(s):

Delegates

  • BAPS: julian
  • CCL: ken
  • CSC: Mary Ann
  • FNB: joe
  • GWS: Rachel
  • LL: Dennis
  • Sudo: yar
  • GCEA: almaz
  • Quorum: full!!

Brief Announcements

  • Joe- starting Saturday at 6pm there is a homeless artists showing opening at Expressions Gallery
  • Rachel - tomorrow is international women's day and there is an event at Oscar Grant Plaza, 5:30-7:30, speakers

Working Group Report-Backs

Building & permits

Commons

Meetings: Currently ad-hoc; join the 'Commons' list

Communications

Meetings: Not currently meeting

  • Physical sign up sheet is not longer in the entrance hall because of the cafe. Mailing list has been getting smaller. We shold think about where to have a signup sheet.
  • Monthly events announcement is going out on this list.

Finance

Meetings: Currently conjoined with Fundraising, 2nd & 4th Mondays at 6pm

  • Maintenance supplies are now being delivered automatically - if you see packages out front from office depot, feel free to unwrap and put away cleaning supplies! still a lock on the cleaning supplies closet becasue of theft of supplies. Ask if you want the combo.

Fundraising

Meetings: Currently conjoined with Finance,, 2nd & 4th Mondays at 6pm

Kitchen

  • Cleanup party this Saturday 3/9 11am-2pm, to clean up kitchen area and do some other preparatory work for the kitchen remodel

Member Collective Updates

What is going on with your collective? What are you working on? What have you accomplished? Any events coming up? Any difficulties you are encountering that you need help with?

BAPS

  • writing group & beat aesthetic continue.

CCL

  • still having lots of classes

CSC

  • busy writing grant proposals

FNB

  • Ppls park 50th anniversary on 13th & big party on 28th. country joe coming back.

GCEA

  • no updates

GWS

  • intl womens day actions tomorrow - will be there as part of int'l women's strike
  • Tuesday March 12th at sf city hall, Safety For Sex Workers 20th anniversary / proclamation reading starts at 1pm
  • April 6th Poor People's Hearing at Taylor Memorial Church in Oakland

LL

Sudo

  • still a mess, still working on it

Ban Report (if any)

Facilitation/Mediation Proposal

  • Pay $1500 to Melissa Merin https://melissamerin.com
  • Hold sessions on 3 Saturdays in April or May based on peoples' responses to the survey
  • We will NOT invite anybody who is banned from Omni - there is too much else to do here
  • The exact set of people will be based on everybody's responses to the survey
  • People will be expected to speak about their own personal experiences, rather than speaking on behalf of others
  • Please fill out the survey if you're considering going - we'd really like at least one person from each collective. If you already filled it out, please look at the updated questions. In particular, we've added dates in April since not enough people are available in March: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSeeKpM-FS4qcRCOjoHugyyztf9-3CtmUAyEHFPS5e8wNDvJfw/viewform

Amended Mediation Proposal

    • Julio, Katrina and Yar have modified their proposal to pay a professional mediator to help us talk through some major problems at Omni. We support mediation and suggest the following modifications that were developed with input from Chiapas Solidarity Committee and Global Women’s Strike, and represent GWS consensus. Laura and Jenny also contributed.
    • Pay up to $1500 to a professional facilitator chosen by Yar, Julio, and Katrina. Any Omni collective member or working group member may suggest a specific mediator. Alternate suggestions we have heard at this point are Osha Neumann (East Bay Community Law Center), and the Center for Efficient Collaboration (a project of Bay Area Nonviolent Communication).
    • Hold sessions on 3 Saturdays in April or May based on responses to the survey. Mediation must begin by May 31, 2019 and end by June 30, 2019.
    • No one who is banned from Omni will be invited or allowed to participate.
    • Any confirmed member of any collective or active participant in any working group can participate in the mediation. Advance expression of intention to be present is encouraged.
    • Participants in the mediation will be expected to speak about their own personal experiences, rather than speaking on behalf of others.
    • The purpose of the mediation will be:
      1. to deal with Almaz/GCEA’s misrepresentations and breaches of Omni Commons’ agreements, and Almaz’s treatment of other members of the Omni community, that have led to a loss of trust between Almaz/GCEA and most OC collectives and members;
      2. if trust can be restored between GCEA and OC, to negotiate a new agreement for GCEA to become a member collective;
      3. if there is time, identify the policies and practices that have the most negative impact on participation of people of color at Omni and, since there is not likely enough time to deal with them fully, to at least reach an agreement on next steps to do so.

discussion

  • Yar: your phrasing of the "purpose" of mediation is not appropriate and not a friendly amendment. you can't go into a mediation while blaming one party. the conflation of "almaz/gcea" is itself offensive and I hope the delegates will not accept it.
  • Joe - there is a substitute propoposal being brought forward that should be discussed before the main proposal. If the makers of the original proposal don't see the ammendments as friendly to their proposal, then it's not an amendment, its a substitute. following Robert's Rule of order, it should be addressed first.
    • Lynn - procedurally - this is a new proposal, so in terms of our consensus process
  • Laura - our intention w/ the ammendment is to take into account concerns from members of two collectives - CSC and GWS.
    • Yar - the biggest differences - there are new people being identified as alternate facilitators. we did not agree at the last meeting on anything except Melissa.
      • we designed this updated proposal in the interest in getting this passed quickly, I see a lot of delays in this. I see Oshua Neuman as a new idea, but has anyone screened this person?
      • there are problems in terms of the propoal of allowing participants to the mediation. we really need to have a cap to the participants in this mediation. we are trying to actually do this the best way in terms of participatin.
        • but it also seems to exclude non-members and non-working group participants. it's important to be more flexible than that.
        • this also goes into detail with the purpose of this mediation, and makes accusations etc. if the delegates passes the proposal as written, the delegates are taking a position on this conflict. also treating GCEA as Almaz, is a big problem.
        • this new ammendment is not productive.
    • [Julian - twinkle fingers]
  • Ken - CCL highly respects the work of the ad hoc committee here. all the things that the group has been doing is what I recommend, unless there are major objections.
  • Joe - I suspect that one reason that this alternative proposal has been introduced - if you look at all the variations of the proposal that has gone on. with one after another of succeeding proposal, things have gotten changed.
    • the previous proposal leaves no room for discussing the concerns around lease violations, etc.
  • Rachel - I felt frustrated at the last meeting. The proposal was wooly. It doesn't get to the core issues. 9 hours is a lot of time. To not be specific and to not go into a specificity about the proposa.
    • This proposal is frank, it's not some airy fairy thing - to go into the mediation w/out focus. we're being realistic and facing the music. If that's showing a way about putting down on paper.
  • MaryAnn - I met with some of the members of my collective. I have been forwarding all the emails regarding mediation and the issues the sides are presenting. What the people in my group said is that they don't want to go into a mediation where the issues are not defined, so that we don't need to.
  • julian: part of the process of the mediator is to examine the survey responses - which contains the question "why do you want this to happen?" and craft an agenda based on those.
  • Lynn - I don't see this as the friendly amendment. I think some of these problems as raised in this alternate proposal are problems but they aren't the only problems at hand here. there have been for years hostility, there is a racist element to the way things have been happening. Is our racism coming out in the way we do business - yes, absolutely. These legal responsibilities are important, but they aren't what's been tearing us apart. We need people in a room that address the depth of concern. we need more of the burdens to be represented fairly. People have also been making decisons and influencing things outside of the assembly. the new proposal takes a biased position, and impedes a meaningful mediation.
  • Yar - for those who have expressed specific concerns about what should happen in the mediation - those people could meet in person with Melissa and Yar.
    • Laura - I would be willing to do that. my main concerns aren't about her, there are doubts about other elements.
      • yar - were those concerns related to her previous work facilitating the transition from hldoutk
    • Rachel - I didn't understand that we had agreed to find other facilitators by now... I think we should be open to other possibilities that might also be good. the expense is great.
      • laura: as a facilitator, $100/hr is pretty standard
      • Yar - this isn't a hard deadline, but we've been going through this for some time. $100/hr is reasonable. there is a lot of prep time.
  • Habiba - I see these meetings go back and forth on making decisions. But I've been to the meeting with
    • Rachel - I agree that it's ridiculous that we're willing to pay $1200 out the door, but not to hire Jenny.
  • Laura - Katrina was orignally a person proposing this. My first recommendation was Roxy Manning from Bay Area Non-violent Communication.
    • Yar - we did talk about BANVC, and talked to a number of them. Melissa was the best fit from our perspective.
  • Dennis - similar reaction from LL about the $. But, underandably sometimes this cost is serious. Some people were not happy with Melissa as a person - one specifically opposed her. Do people want that?
    • Yar - everyone has my contact info or ask for it - yardenack@gmail.com
      • Dennis - the discussion last time, my understanding was that the agreement was _up to_ $1500
  • Joe - the last thing that offered hope - a small group of people meet with Melissa that have specific business/needs to be met.
  • Yar - MaryAnn was told to block this proposal if it was open ended. My hope is that Laura and MaryAnn can meet with Melissa.
    • the ammended proposal is not something we can consent on.
    • Yar - it's 8:45
  • Phil: In sum - have a small group meeting with Melissa and con
  • MaryAnn - it may not be me that is the person that goes, maybe someone else from the collective.

Hiring Jenny as Bookeeper

  • Recently, the topic of more regular and transparent financial reporting has been discussed in Omni Delegates Meetings. While this has traditionally been the domain of the Finance Working Group, said working group has usually seen fewer than 3 members in attendance, and historically has relied on one or two volunteers to uphold day-to-day financial transactions, regular reporting, annual filings (State, Federal, County, and City), loan repayments, invoicing, bank reconciliations, bill payments, check cashing and internal financing and filings. Additionally, we continue to receive requests for and accrue fiscally-sponsored projects, significantly adding to our administrative overhead. Our property tax exemption application is due February 15th, which requires detailed documentation of all entities that use the building (including one-time event rentals and small recurring group meetings). We also need to consolidate our mortgage loan within the next two years. Total number of hours spent on this labor each month has frequently trended toward that of full-time employment (with overtime).

I am now incapable of continuing to engage on this level with Omni’s bookkeeping and operations on a volunteer basis. I enjoy this work, and have been studying nonprofit bookkeeping and law generally over the past three years, obtained Quickbooks certifications, attended webinars and workshops, and have already begun doing nonprofit bookkeeping as a paid position for other clients. However, I have bills to pay and will soon need to find full-time paid employment or the equivalent - which means I won't have time to work on Omni. This work adds up to minimally 20 hours/month and is reliant on skilled labor that has been consistently out of reach for Omni Commons since its inception. Starting March 1st, all of our community loans - totalling over $100K with monthly average repayments to the tune of $3,200 - will have been repaid! We are now in a position, financially, to afford professional bookkeeping and administrative services (see Feasibility). Paying for skilled labor is not unprecedented: since our beginnings, we have readily paid the hourly or project-based rate for legal assistance, city permitting and inspection fees, and building and maintenance work (including electrical, plumbing, fire safety, and roof repair) - as well as supporting paid A/V for events. Traditionally, those we hire have been people aligned and familiar with Omni’s vision and structure, or recommended by comrades within our community. Summary/Proposal: It seems to me that Omni has the following options: Hire an accountant and train them in the structure and history of Omni and its collectives (probably expensive); Hire another Omni volunteer and train them in bookkeeping, taxes, etc; (who will do the training?); Attempt to find someone else to do this work for free; Pay me to continue doing the work I've been doing for free over the past 3+ years.

Discussion

  • Jenny - some collectives have inquired about a cap on bookkeeping hours. during tax season though, it moves up toward fulltime. 10-80hours/month, high and low.
    • we are entering tax season. Jenny is currently looking for paid work, which could become a point of tension
  • Rachel - you shouldn't have to cap this. I think we should vote.
  • Marcus - sorry I've been out of the picture. I know there was a lot of financial records that still needed to get done; getting capped at 80 hours a month, how are those back-logged financial records going to get done. would there be a second bookkeeper hired alongside?
    • Jenny - we should pay an independent CPA to go over our books. I do think we should do a 1 time audit of our books. some of the fiscally sponsored projects there isn't enough data
  • Laura - I support hiring Jenny for what we've been doing. beginning to hire long term contractors is an entirely new practice, and this has the potential for massive pitfalls and potential conflicts.
    • if we don't develop some kinds of agreements around how we decide who we hire, who we pay, what our guidelines for a search are, wwe could get into serious trouble, including shifting the culture of volunteerism toward careerism, also risks accusations of bias in hiring.
      • ammendment to the proposal - we should take a time to develop guidelines for this kind of hiring, and apply them retroactively
  • Almaz - I agree with what Laura said. this is going to be very complicate. I see and respect what Jenny's work has been. but this range of 10-80 hours is quite opaque. this may also undermine the finance working group. there are a variety of questions as this relates to the dynamic with the finance working group. we need a clear process. last meeting jenny describe 60 hours...
    • Jenny - I was refering to
    • Almaz - Jenny is currently treasurer, is it a conflict to also be hired as the bookkeeper? I'm not against Jenny taking the contract, but we need a clear statement about the needs of the finance working group etc.
  • Yar - to hire Jenny as a temporary contract? was your concern to that as well?
  • Laura - we should indeed elect a new treasurer if we have one. no, temporary contracts are okay
  • Marcus - term limits on Treasurer role? and training in officers role
    • Laura - people are supposed to be doing this kind of training, but we haven't been doing it.
      • Jenny -
  • Julian - I can't do anything but block at this time. If there was discussion last time, it didn't appear in the notes. Based on the discussion that BAPS has heard up to this point, our prior consensus, as communicated via email, was that we cannot support this proposal.
  • Rachel - how do you propose we take care of this issue? we can't just put it off. Do you propose an amendment at this time?
  • Marcus - I'm sensing tension and ressentment on this topic.
  • Almaz - finance working group needs to be responsible for describing and limiting this role. This is a complete change to the culture of the Omni.
  • Yar - I appreciate we have an active vibe reader. My frustration is that discussions at the Omni take a long time. at the minimum at the Omni. If you're going to block, then you should at least make an effort to keep up with all the conversation
  • Laura - I did reply to the email discussion - the finance working group has been pro-hiring bookkeeper for quite some time. it wasn't clear if Jenny would be this person, or not. it's a technical position, most people can't teach themselves the role. it's a job that requires ongoing capacity.
  • Joe - thanks to Marcus for making the obervation clearly and approporaitely as to the vibe. in respect of that, one of the things that's frustrating and keeping me from feeling completely comfortable.
    • at first Julian said it was the facilitation proposal needed to come up with.
  • Julian saw the proposal as an attempt to disrupt the mediation process
    • Julian: securing a potentially permanent role could shield people from consequences of a mediation process
  • Ken: hearing from Julian an extraordinary amount of distrust about everyone else in the collective, especially Jenny. you should've taken initiative
  • Marcus: can you make your point without saying peoples' names?
  • MaryAnne - I just want to remind people of the amount of work that's coming up. If I understand correctly, we have 2 different 501c3s that need to send full reports to the IRS within. I think this would throw this whole process of reporting the government into a mess. Take this please into consideration.
  • Yar - I don't want to pressure you this week to remove the block. we could probably wait another two weeks. I hope that Julian or Steve or both.
    • I want to specifically address this concern about "hiring" - a temporary contractor process, not a permanent one.
    • My read on the timing is that this was indirectly related. I was trying to stick up for GCEA - we should prioritize people over paperwork, and that may have gotten on Jenny's nerves. This may have been Jenny's process of sticking up for the work she's doing as valid workation of the work.
  • Yar - as timekeeper, it's 8:15.


Proposal: GCEA Lease Termination Proposal

This proposal was developed with input from Chiapas Solidarity Committee and Global Women’s Strike, and represents GWS consensus. Laura and Jenny also contributed. OC will send a 3 day notice (prepared by OC's attorney Jesse Palmer) to GCEA and to Oakland Public Education Fund advising them that they have 3 days to remedy the unauthorized signature on the lease, any other breaches of the lease, and pay all back rent - or vacate the Omni. This step is necessary for several reasons:

  • The pattern of misrepresentation of GCEA’s legal status and finances, and failure to pay its agreed-upon rent, undermines the spirit of trust and cooperation that is necessary for collective sustainability.
  • To protect OC from a situation in which the lack of a legal agreement with a resident unincorporated organization leads to inadequate insurance coverage, or threatens OC’s 501c3 status (via Jesse: “Omni has an obligation to use its assets exclusively for charitable purposes and if parties are using space but not paying rent, that may be conferring a benefit on private persons unless they are using the space exclusively for charitable purposes. This is one of the required provisions in Omni's articles of incorporation, which read (in relevant part): ‘The property of this corporation is irrevocably dedicated to charitable purposes and no part of the net income or assets of the organization shall ever inure to the benefit ... any private person.’” ). Given GCEA’s false claim of being a 501c3, lack of transparent accounting, and Almaz’s possible use of GCEA funds for personal expenses, this is a real issue.
  • To clarify that GCEA has no right under our policies and bylaws to delegate a representative to the OC board as it has no legal contract with OC.
  • To reduce conflict during the day to day operation of OC until the proposed mediation has concluded.

Until a new lease is negotiated, GCEA may have events and classes at OC by reserving space through the normal event request and scheduling process. Almaz and other members of GCEA are welcome to participate in Omni activities as individuals.

discussion

  • Yar: I propose waiting another 2 weeks to send notice, giving extra time to solve the insurance, tax and lease issues. Delegates haven't had enough time to consider this proposal, it was never sent to the consensus list. Also, I don't agree with the framing of what it means to be a member collective.
  • Laura - the entire situation we're in has to do with the rent issue
  • Almaz - we already have articulated positions and questions on all of this. our previous proposal was only delayed, and now
    • I'm confused - at first we're going to pause discussion on GCEA's proposal. if you wanted to do GCEA's status first, then we could have had this issue. we have represented via email our issues around 501c3
  • Rachel - as I understand it, there are legal requirements in terms of the threat to the Omni. if this was my organization, I hadn't paid the rent, had an unclear situation. if the situation seems shady. It's up to GCEA to sort this all out in terms of the legal clarity. when money isn't clear, it is at the root of bad relationships.
  • Almaz - I don't know what Rachel is talking about. There has already been answers to all these questions in terms of the rent and the 501c3. There was also our email from February 7th.
  • Julian - There's the proposal, and then the reply from Almaz about the factual status of their org. My understanding is that the concern is at the level of being in compliance - what's the actual risk here? What's the actual chance that us being out of compliance has any actual effect on Omni? What are the risks we'd possibly face?
  • yar: undestand that the risk becomes greater the longer the ambiguity drags on. If GCEA can present a valid EIN and proof of insurance in the next week, then we're good.
    • Laura - I'm happy to sit down with anyone to discuss the issues from the finance working group perspective.
  • Ken - things could get more serious if we don't do our taxes _wink wink_


Last Meeting Notes

https://omnicommons.org/wiki/Event:2019/MM/DD_Delegates_Meeting

End of Meeting