What Fresh Hell Is This?

February 5, 2009


Earlier this week Chris Potter over at his Slag Heap blog wrote about some proposed changes to the Allegheny County Democratic Committee's bylaws (link on this page).

As Potter put it:
And the key question to be discussed is:

Should Democratic committee people be required to support the party's endorsed candidates?
As he notes, they already are required to do this but the bylaw revisions would now include punishment for those who do not march in lockstep.

I'd also like to point out this proposed change in RULE IV Conduct:
e. Determine that said committee member is ineligible for endorsement at one (1) or more future endorsement meetings for which said committee member seeks office;
If I read this correctly -- and from what I've heard about proposed changes from committee members over the last couple of years -- this means that if you are a committee member and you have the temerity to run for office against an ACDC endorsed candidate, you will be punished by being ineligible to even be considered for future endorsements. Many, if not most, candidates for local office are committee members or ward chairs.

To sum up:
1) If you are a committee person and you don't get ACDC's endorsement and you run anyway in an election (I don't see any exception even in the case of special elections when there is no primary or primary elections themselves) you may be blackballed from one or more future endorsements, and

2) If you are a committee person and you don't support the endorsed candidate in an election, there will be a trial and if found guilty, you will be punished (reprimanded verbally or in writing/or censored/deactivated/removed from office/be ineligible for future endorsements).

There is no indication as to what crime merits which punishment. (Written warning for a button, but deactivation for a yard sign?)

Under these proposed rules, City Councilman Bruce Kraus (for example) would have been punished by ACDC for running (and winning).

Why even bother to have primaries?

Hail Victory, ACDC!


Mike said...

They want to make the endorsement seem worth something. Here is a suggestion: Endorse the best candidates! Endorse candidates that people respect and believe in.

The bylaws changes are awful. There are a lot of new committee members that I can't see supporting this, and I hope that they vote it down.

This is not the Republican Party. I don't know if the Republicans have written rules like this, but they certainly go out of their way to not have a real primary. That is how they got stuck with candidates like Lynn Swann and Melissa Hart in the last couple elections.

I think the primary helps weed out the poor candidates especially in local elections. I don't care about winning in May. I want to make sure the best candidates are running in November.

It also helped toughen up Barack Obama for his run. Would he have been as strong and would his name have been out there that long had Clinton simply given up like all the Republicans did?

EdHeath said...

I think there are three (possibly mutually exclusive) methods to evaluate a candidate, whether to vote for, or for the purposes of this discussion, who the ACDC should endorse.

First, who can (or already has) raise the most money. Now, successful fund raising could result from the candidate capturing the imagination of the public (see Obama) or because the candidate has something to offer to special interests (see Ravenstahl).

Second, which candidate is the most appealing, or perhaps the least repulsive. My sister in law caught a Ravenstahl/DeSantis debate and preferred Ravenstahl (grrrr) because she thought DeSantis was more boring and used business speak phrases.

Third is who is the best candidate in terms of proposals and ideas. I really wish this could be if not the only then at least the most important criteria. We still may be in more trouble than most cities, although the recession is doing a number on everyone’s tax base and I believe other cities are catching up to us.

Now that Peduto has decided he is *not* running, he has advanced a great idea on street lights and proposed another great idea on bike racks on parking meters. Small things, but the kind of small distinctions a city can use to promote itself.

Jeanne Clark said...

Reasons to Oppose the Allegheny County Democratic Party By-Laws Changes
• They are anti-democratic with both a large and a small "D.

"Under Rule IV, the by-laws create a “Star Chamber” in which the County Chair, with his hand-picked Executive Committee, can discipline a committee member based solely on an allegation by any Democratic voter that the committee member has violated the by-laws.
The accused has no right to:
- an evidentiary hearing,
- to face her/his accuser, and
- no right to counsel.

The Executive Committee needs only a majority vote and can censure, deactivate and even remove from office any committee member. This violates all standards of justice, and could mean that one disgruntled person could invalidate a legally elected member.

- There is no recourse through the courts, and the only appeal is to the State Executive Committee.
• The addition of voting rights to treasurers would serve to dilute the impact of the Pittsburgh City Committee, by adding treasurer to every municipality and suburb, no matter the size of the municipality. With 129 municipalities in addition to Pittsburgh, each getting additional voters, Pittsburgh will find itself outgunned, especially on the crucial issue of a possible forced merger with Allegheny County.
• They are draconian, creating an absolute bar from endorsement for any committee member who has ever run against or supported someone other than an endorsed candidate, or been found guilty of anything by the “Star Chamber.” This rule would have barred the late Mayor Dick Caliguiri from being endorsed by the Party.
• They would punish and remove committee members – who are all volunteers, fitting their public service around their jobs and families – for missing meetings and endorsements.
• The by-laws fail to meet the standards of equal division by gender, as required by the National Party.
• They are sloppily written, with incorrect cites, which could cause confusion and possible litigation.

Jeanne Clark said...

Good news from the By-Laws convention.

The "Conduct" section (Ve haf vays of dealing with you) was tabled. It was a great victory -- no one spoke on behalf of the section.

But the City took it on the chin on the move to give the unelected treasurers of each committee a vote. That motion passed, so the City will gain 32 more votes, but the County will gain at least 129 more votes.

Maria said...


Great news on the conduct section!