Event:2021/05/10 Commons

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Omni's "Commons Working Group" May 10, 2021

agenda items

  • yar: naming our values as a working group, aligning practices with values, guidelines for what needs a contract/money/etc, visioning for the different rooms
  • vicky concurs
  • roberto: ways to encourage more people to get involved / use the space. create actual structures. can we agree that some people may not be required to pay fees for use, for example? how do we encourage people to just use the space?
    • yar: prioritizing having a full vibrant room over having income?
    • roberto: yes
    • vicky: tie it into equity with the neighorhood. acknoweldge the way this group has power over having space in a gentrifying neighborhood

values

  • naming our values as a working group
  • joe: i value the qualities of honest spontanaiety, equity, priority to POC, we need to advertise & enlist people in the community to use our space. recruit
    • jenny: promote
  • vicky: i feel like as the rest of omni commons has a value of anticapitalism, can we translate that value to the way we profit off of renting the land that we own?
  • roberto: similarly, prioritizing people over money. how do we translate that into the processes we have in place? that's going back to what we were saying about having space available and accessible to people regardless of how much money they pay. in that same vein, being intentional in how we / what kind of relationship we're building with whomeever is using the space and not having these transactional ... people over money
  • joe how about furthering causes and needs of the community over making highest income
  • jenny: in line. in terms of how we make it work, there's ways we can tie in fundraisers / ticketing systems with omni as the sponsoring 501c3 that's also helping to shuttle in tax deductable donations or grants or what have you with some sort of portal. david introduced some folks that safer diy was working with ~2 years ago towards that end, "with friends". ways the venue could use this for ticket sales that are tax deductable with some % to venue. automates complicated tax stuff. so omni can be an umbrella that makes stuff easier for small groups. omni should be doing overhead work to enable grassroots/unofficial groups to happen. can do that by tying in our 501c3 with venue and ticket sales and looping in events and groups and projects that are doing stuff. (thinking https://withfriends.co/ )
  • sarah: community building
  • vicky: fostering the commons
  • yar: radical redistribution of space and resources. also values about how we treat each other while working together - care, honesty, accountability.
  • roberto: specifically care because in the past, we've burnt out so much doing the work. so i think we gotta prioritize our self care and also each-other care.
  • anka: having other omni people handle events day-of who aren't otherwise part of this wg. wasn't a thing before, but it's simple. be there, make sure... prevent some burnout.
  • jenny: nurturing of volunteers, onboarding in that sense
  • joe: circumventing or preventing factionalism. in other words, if you feel aligned with some subgroup in commons, making your responsibility to work outside of those lines or certainly not get stuck in that faction. if you're in a faction that's talking shit about someone, make it a point to go talk about it... we have to get over the differences whatever they might be. things do get pretty specific and ... like that sometimes.
    • yar: i've heard similar language in the past be used to shut down people from talking about power dynamics
      • vicky: yeah
    • joe: well if it doesn't work, never mind
    • jenny: just trying to dedicate oneself to open & transparent conversations with the working group if issues arise. transparency & clarity fo communication and willingness to work through. sometimes groups dwindle... continuing to have open meetings, announcing them, inviting people to participate. making sure a diversity of voices is heard, not just one dominating.
  • yar: accessibility. both in terms of access for disabled folks, but also the process of occupying the commons to be as easy as possible for folks
  • silver: i want ... i really want this to be accessible for the people of oakland, who've been displaced, who've moved out. bringing them back in, giving them room to take up space, learn grow build create share love. i don't want to be hyper focused on making money. i wanna see more art shows, skill shares, black & brown & queer folks taking up space, everyone on the margins.
  • vicky: we acknowledge intent vs impact, in terms of interaction within this space. i feel like i've noticed some of that at omni. privilege, institutional body language. people with privilege might have good intentions but their impact is something else. we can value reflecting on our own behaviors.
    • jenny: that shit is subtle. we should have a group training on how to not be an asshole when you answer the door. better practices for being welcoming.
    • silver: masks can be a thing. today i ran to omni to get lettuce. someone yelled at me about a parking spot. [a redacted instance of racist impact]
  • yar: should i take it out of the notes
    • joe: NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO
  • side convo about people not wearing masks
  • joe: is this another example of a white person not being told the effect he has on a poc?
    • sarah: i feel like a good sort of topic this relates to is, the multiuse nature of the space and that yknow sometimes the people that one would sort of interact with are in the middle of doing something else. there's sort of an improvised chaotic quality. is there a way we should.... always acknowledge everybody even if we're in the middle of a dump run? i'm not trying to be defensive, just bring that into what / how we can sort of cake this kind of issue which seems like the kind of thing that isn't just sort of an isolated thing...... how should we be thinking about treating other people?
  • yar: the impact is the fact that small things add up
  • silver: it's a little thing, not a big deal, just ...
  • microaggression
  • yar: it's not about punishing people
  • joe: it's a way people grow. understanding what their words mean to other people.
  • yar: if people were just able to say "i acknoweldge i contributed to your experience of racism and i'm sorry"
  • jenny: being welcoming & reaching out to aligned groups
    • yar: building connections
    • jenny: & inviting rather than just assuming [?]
    • sarah: that's what i meant by community building.
    • vicky: so we take a proactive role?
  • sarah: we could. I don't want omni to be like a fortress. part of being welcoming is saying "hey you're accepted here, you can contribute, how can we help" vs if you just say "hey everyone's welcome" you end up ... you need to take extra steps, especially if people already feel suspicious or excluded. make more efforts.
    • silver: i resonate. my fav thing to say is "this building belongs to you. we run this" if someone were to tell me that... someone told me that at noisebridge. i felt so empowered. they were like "this sewing station is yours silver". some people can operate on a fear model, "they might exploit this if you give them that".
    • sarah: generosity
  • anka:
  • roberto: what we do: creating policies & systems & processes to help run the common space, but in doing that we're creating like a right & wrong way to do things. we prioritize punishing/penalizing sometimes vs looking at nuances, being more lenient or flexible. i guess a value we can hold is to ... enforce them while being welcoming at the same time. it's a difficult balance. i often get frustrated because we have adopted certain policies like not leaving stuff behind / being packrats / donations. it happens. how do we not punish that but still not have it be out here? or mask wearing. how do we deal with that? it's a feedback loop. we're not trying to punish people but we do need policies. hard balance. we should not be so quick at being harsh with people.
    • yar: an important point: you can't be inclusive of everybody. it's not possible. by including some people, you're excluding others and that's impossible to avoid.
  • vicky: in america, policy is written penally. as a country we wanted as little written structure around capitalism as possible. we can write policy that's ways we can agree, how we embody and praxis the culture we want to see in this building... other countries have less penal policies. alternatives can be not so harsh. what we agree to because this is what we want to see. then we can think differently about conflict resolution.
    • roberto: we have policy that says you can't use the space without having a contract or ... if you're not in the schedule you can't be here. one of vicky's 1st interactions with robb.
    • yar: this was a noma meeting that happened in the ballroom
  • roberto: there was a woman holding classes in the disco room and we were like wtf, she never signed any contracts. i spoke to her many times and she'd still come back and do her stuff. finally i wrote up a contract there so she could use it. but it's our approach. instead of saying "no you can't" how do we create policies that are more welcoming. if they're holding a meeting without consent/ a contract... yar's been talking about how can someone just click some buttons and reserve the space without all that bureaucracy
    • more discussion of that event
    • yar: it would've been easier if thtere was a stack of papers that could just be filled out right there
    • roberto: it took me 15 minutes once i figured out that's all i needed to do. i was telling her "go home nad fill out a form" but all i had to do was help, i needed a different approach.
    • jenny remembers printing it. simple one page contract. a signature & a check. covers liability.
      • jnny: post-facto note: we used to have a stack of these one-off contracts for small events in the mailbox in entrance hall; could print out a batch and make them available. comes back to having solid comms and in-person stewardship (front desk type of stuff)
  • yar thinks it's important to have a sliding scale go all the way down to zero. not $1, zero!
    • roberto: yes but i think that giving something in exchange for space fosters ownership as well. you care more about the space when you're, a trade. not to be transactional. there's something that happens. idk. maybe not monetary.
    • yar: i think it's important that it does not have to be monetary.
    • joe: maybe we could give a room away. once a month, once a week. reparations are coming around in congress.
  • sarah: i'm definitely wary of "pay to play". a lot of places have that to pay expenses. a goal for omni financially would be to get to a point where we can do that. present events without charging.
  • anka: i like the idea of having a day or certain day where things are free for things that are awesome and relevant
  • yar: reparations IMO means people without are not forced to give. not squeezing blood from a stone. but people going home to a nice house should be forced/required to pay more to subsidize the poeple who don't.
  • jenny: it'd be cool to leverage the utility of our 501c3 to also help with fundraising. use our social/legal reach to make those efforts viable.

contract creation / guidelines?

  • anka: thought this was why meeting in person
  • joe: don't have forms for the two new ones from jesse: [added to action items]
  • roberto: we have 3 contracts, we're getting clarity over what to use when
    • joe: i know what to use now
  • sarah: it comes down to interpreting codes for property tax welfare exemption. the 2 jesse sent, event presentation is fine to use for everything. i could write an even simpler one that's just 3 people doing an informal thing like roberto was talking about. the difference of opinion revovles around what is considered use by omni - what is us, what is others? when it was submitted to the assessors office, omni use was very small. we're moving towards the idea that "us" includes all these other things. we wanna be inclusive, we want to be a part of this vs a property management company, which is the way some of the things we presented to assessors were written as.
  • jenny: we first filed 100 page app in 2017. in person, office said "if the contract language says you're sponsoring it for charitable reasons, then that's sufficient" - jesse sent us new-language contracts that incorporate that language. that overrides some confusion. unincorporated, sole proprietors, etc. assessor's office focuses more on groups that use the space more than once a month. doesn't even need to be in advertising/promo or anything, just in the official contract.
    • sarah: issue is what's an "other"
  • joe:
  • yar: but when does it rise to that level? am i an event? me playing piano by myself? need a flow chart for this
    • sarah: we're making things too bureaucratic. what's this? what's a formal use by others? what is omni and not omni?
  • roberto: it's 7:30, meeting is technically over but... we should dedicate yet another meeting specifically to try to get clarity on this. perhaps we can just look at the contracts. just what's an event, what's not, come at it together. right now my question is whether we want to have a document of our values. what's the purpose of listing them? do we want to have an official document that comes from it?
  • joe: in lieu of having a document, or in addition - our values and action, that would express very clearly our allegiance to those values. create a marquee on the corner that says "does your group need to raise funds? predominantly whatever you wanna say using code or explicit about poc" space is limited so call us now.
  • roberto: let's look at contracts next meeting. we've already had this discussion. we can put it on our website.
    • yar: like just condensing from the notes. i can do that. i think we can iterate over email from what we have in these notes
  • jenny: to clarify - are people going to still review the contracts jesse sent before consenting on them? then put them in form form.
    • yar: delegates already consented on those new contracts form jesse
    • jenny wants to add our own language
    • sarah agrees we can make it less "staid". i don't understand why there's 2 of them. i think we can use event presenter alone, because that covers the same thing. just easier to have one thing that we'd use.
  • roberto: we can talk about that next meeting. those are questions we've asked jesse and he already answered them, dealing with nonprofit status.
    • sarah: it was unclear. i think he said "i made a good point but i forget what the upshot was". it goes back to the assessor issue. we don't need to provide all this documentation for something because we're the 501c3. we're providing this. frustrating for me to see us burdened with layers of bureaucracy that are preventing us from doing what we wanna do.
  • roberto: if we're gonna meet in person and virtually we need a better system. in CSC we have a circle. just take turns, a talking order. wait your turn.
  • jenny: we have projectors etc for better a/v
    • yar: i think the biggest limiter is internet speed at omni :/
      • jenny: marc's been testing new routers for higher throughput locally. fiber being rolled out but not yet for commercial contracts AFAIK

Action Items

  • Read through the contract docs that Jesse sent: [LINKS?]
    • Add some Omni-flavored language to them - Sarah (?)
    • Add them as forms in Airtable / Event rental system - Jenny
  • SHATTUCK-FACING MARQUEE (long overdue) - ...sudoroom? sudoroom + FYE? + SPAZ?
  • Upgrade internets @ Omni ;) - Sudomesh
  • Make a field trip to grill the Assessor's Office about our application status and assorted questions we have - Jenny & Sarah (who promises to remain calm)