Tag Archives: Chris Finnie

Let’s fix more of what’s broken

Recently, the first Vice Chair and Controller of the California Democratic Party joined a California Assemblymember to call for delegates to “help us rewrite the rules and make common-sense reforms….” They have proposed to change to one rule of the California Democratic Party.

I applaud their call for reforms. I support their call for rules changes to accomplish that reform. But, though the change they propose is an important one, it is hardly enough. Here are some other ideas that would actually bring the greater accountability these reformers call for:

1. A new Statewide Strategy Committee would work with the CDP Political Director, the Vice Chairs, representatives from Democratic elected officials, and county central committees to develop a statewide strategic plan to win upcoming races. It would also target swing races based on competitive criteria, including vote history and voter demographics. The Party would perform polling in selected districts to further refine our targets.

2. The Chair and Executive Director develop the coordinated campaign plan in conjunction with Regional Directors and a new Campaign standing committee. This Committee will also work with Regional Directors to develop candidate training programs statewide. Training will include how to develop a campaign plan, a website, and a fundraising plan

3. The Voter Services Committee will be tasked with developing a tactical voter-registration and volunteer-building plan, based on the strategic plan. The committee will develop specific targets for each region in the state, with particular emphasis on swing areas targeted by the statewide strategic plan.

The committee will work with the staff Political Director and the Regional Directors to implement the plan statewide, and will make detailed quarterly reports to the Executive Board.

4.  The mission of the Organizational Development Committee will be expanded to include training and support for chartered organizations so they can more effectively participate in campaigns, with an emphasis on areas targeted by the strategic plan. This training will also be a vehicle to acquaint local organizations with the strategic plan and state Party resources, and to disseminate best practices throughout the state.

Organizational Development will also collect information about resources available and needed by local Party organizations through an annual survey that evaluates existing tools and programs. Chartered organizations and county central committees will complete this survey.

5.  A new Fundraising Committee will work with a staff Fundraising Director to develop a fundraising plan, do major donor outreach-and small donor development. The staff Finance Director will work with the committee to implement the plan, with numerical goals for each donor base. The Finance director will hire experienced staff to support development of each category of donor outreach. The committee will make quarterly reports to the Executive Board on fundraising targets and results.

6.  Regional Directors will appoint members of state party standing committees for a term of two years. Each region will be able to appoint one member to each committee. Members will then elect a Chair and two Vice Chairs for each two-year term.

7.  To encourage attendance at regional events, statewide party officers such as Vice Chairs, Secretary, and Controller will be reimbursed for mileage and hotel costs when attending events outside of their own region. Committee Chairs and Vice Chairs may also be reimbursed for attending  events  in support of one of the tasks assigned to their committee.

8.  The California Democratic Party will establish and maintain an accurate database of email addresses for all delegates, regional directors, and central committee chairs to facilitate two-way communication between them.

9.  The Party will establish a password-protected section of the website where it will post training documents, videos, and podcasts. It will also establish a section to enable various Democratic organizations and counties to share best practices. Strategic plans, coordinated campaign plans, financial reports, and other documents that facilitate statewide coordination will be posted online in this password-protected section of the Party website for easy dissemination to relevant organizations and officers.

10.  The California Democratic Party will institute a new standing committee, called the Special Technology and Campaign Infrastructure Committee. With members from the Computer and Internet Caucus, Executive Board members, the Campaign Committee, and members of the community with expertise in evaluating campaign technology-this committee will recommend effective technology tools and report these to the Vice Chairs and the Regional Directors for review and approval. The committee will also take into account feedback from the annual Organizational Development assessment results. Volunteers from the Disability Caucus will evaluate any tools and technologies for accessibility.

The Political Director of the party will be responsible for working with the Technology Committee to oversee implementation of the plan, with competitive bids from contractors. The CDP will not award any contract without a competitive bid process, and approval by the committee. Nor will any funds be disbursed until tools are deemed accessible.

The Party will implement a “search” function on the CDP website to facilitate easy access to information and tools online.

11.  The party will initiate a survey of skills and experience and establish a database of volunteers who are willing to use these in the service of candidates and issues campaigns. Volunteers will specify how many hours they are available, geographic or other limitations, and what types of activities they are willing to work on. This database will be maintained by CDP staff and available to campaigns and organizations that have been chartered or endorsed by the CDP.

12.  An addition to Section 4 of the existing bylaws, AGENDA:

c. A detailed agenda shall be available to members of the state Party in a password-protected section of the Party website at least sixty (60) days before a statewide convention or Executive Board meeting and will include agenda for caucuses and committees. Members may request additions or changes to the agenda in writing until thirty (30) days before the scheduled meeting. Changes will be submitted to the Executive Director either by mail, or by email.

It is time for all of us to look at the rules and bylaws of the California Democratic Party. We need to find ways to open up the decision-making process, to facilitate information and skills sharing, to ensure transparency and accountability, and to make this truly a state party–rather than one that is run by a Chair and Executive Director with little oversight by the rest of the Party. Delegates, Executive Board Members, Regional Directors, and other statewide officers are duly elected members of the Party who must have rights and who must assume responsibilities. As chair, this is much of the work I hope to do.

Chris Finnie, candidate for chair of the CDP

CDP going back to the future?

In Sunday’s San Francisco Chronicle, Sr. Political Reporter Carla Marinucci writes about the race for chair of the California Democratic Party:

“Even as the Democratic Party rides an Obama-fueled wave of youth, enthusiasm and “change,” the Democrats of California look to be bucking the trend: They’re preparing to elect former state Senate President Pro Tem John Burton, 77, the iconic, battle-scarred veteran of state politics, as their party leader.

It’s a move not without controversy: The powerful former legislator, who first held the job of party chairman 36 years ago, is to his fans a colorful idol of progressive politics and to his critics the very symbol of old school, insider machine politics.”

The article goes on to paint Senator Burton’s election as nearly inevitable. But the comments are fascinating. In 6 pages of comments I read this morning, two supported Senator Burton. The rest were pretty consistent–the CDP needs to stop recycling retired politicians to lead the party. One poster wanted to know if this meant disco was coming back too. As hilarious as they were, they pointed to a pretty disturbing perception among California voters–that the CDP is resistant to, and even actively hostile to change.

Marinucci also points to a possibility that others have noted, saying “Republicans watching the show say Burton’s election would provide them with plenty of material for attack.

“It’s the party of clogged arteries,” says GOP consultant Kevin Spillane, who advises GOP gubernatorial candidate Steve Poizner. “They’re going to be led by survivors of the 1960s and 1970s, when people are looking for 21st century solutions.”

But Barbara O’Connor, professor of political communication at Cal State Sacramento, says “I think it is an homage to long years of public service and friendship. Many people owe him their careers, their electability … and it’s payback time,” she said.

While “his demographics are not similar to Obama’s,” he has a constituency that is key, she said: “He brings labor solidly behind him – and the old party guard.'”

And she is exactly right. That’s who will be in charge of the CDP–labor and the old party guard. As Marinucci points out, that’s an unusual choice when the desire for change was obviously so high. In a year when Barack Obama won California by 24%. When the grassroots activists we depend on all over the state to do the Party’s business all year–between elections and during them–are clamoring for more accountability, transparency, and control.

Is that what California Democrats want? Homage? Or do we want a Party that can be effective? That can support the issues and candidates that matter to us? And a chair that can actually lead our party into this century and the next.

Before I heard about the column, I sent out a second email to CDP delegates about my campaign last night. I’ve been fairly stunned at the response. At the number of people who have taken the trouble to email back to say they’ve heard of me, or heard me, and are going to vote for me.

Like many others, Marinucci doesn’t give my campaign much of a chance. But most people didn’t think Americans were ready to elect a black man as president. Few people believed Jerry McNerney could win a seat in Congress. But I worked in Jerry’s campaign, and he never doubted it.

One lady today asked me if I would appoint her to the state standing committee she currently serves on after I was elected chair. Maybe she’s just being nice. But maybe in an era where a wind engineer can go to Congress and a black man to the White House, the CDP can stop electing members of the old guard as chair.

One commenter to Marinucci’s story said he nearly snorted his corn flakes when the story painted me as the defender of California’s youth. At 59 myself, I am a pretty unlikely champion for the future. But my vision for the CDP is vastly different than John Burton’s. My dedication to change is what has kept me going through a physically and financially taxing campaign. And my commitment to the California Democrats who answer my emails and come up to talk to me after central committee meetings is what keeps me going.

Change is possible. If only enough state central committee members believe in and vote for it on April 25.