Proposed Amendments to Bylaws to Improve Representation and Function of Steering Commitee

Background and rationale for amendments

Different chapters of DSA have different compositions for their executive committees, as well as different names; this committee is called the Steering Committee (SC) in Twin Cities DSA and its existence dates from September 2016, when our original constitution and bylaws were adopted. In general, our SC has worked fairly well, and we have avoided some of the dramas that can occur with a burgeoning political organization, in a high-stakes mission, in unstable times. However, a number of officers on the SC have had to resign due to burnout or inability to do the job as they wanted. A committee called the Operations Committee (OC), all-volunteer but chaired by a SC officer, (this has changed a couple of times over the interim period) has taken up a lot of the slack that was just too much work for the SC alone, with the result that the chair position of that committee is now vacant and its future composition is also being reassessed. The SC and the OC held a joint meeting to discuss their co-functioning around some pressure points, notably the newsletter, the general membership meetings, and the notice requirements for those meetings. 

At that joint meeting, the point was made that it is the SC’s responsibility (in fact the co-chairs’, but that can be interpreted to be the SC) to plan and organize meetings, and yet it has come to be the OC’s responsibility by default. The further point was made that every member of the SC has another constitutional duty which is “full time” – keeping the books, keeping membership rolls, or representing a branch, for instance – and that this may be why it’s so hard for them to carve out time to organize meetings, which is a huge task. In other words, although it is the SC’s job, it’s no one’s main job, and no one “bottom-lines” it on the SC, except in theory the co-chairs, who do not really have the capacity. 

Several different solutions to these issues are also in consideration, but this set of amendments is one part of that strategy. This amendment proposes to add three new members to the SC who will have “bottom-line” responsibility for a) representing the views and needs of all members, but especially those who are not active in a branch, or are members of an I represented minority, and b) as a natural outflow of that, scheduling, organizing, and doing turnout for the general membership meetings. The exact number and composition of the new members was determined by a straw poll at the September 2019 annual conference of Twin Cities DSA, plus some helpful input from various members. The title held by the new members will be Member Representative (MR.) Each MR will represent the entire membership body “at-large.” 

Note that the deletion of the words “or Sections” in Item III, Section 1a is simply due to the fact that the terminology of “Sections” is no longer used in DSA. 

Proposed Amendments 

The new language in proposed amendments below is in red. Deleted language is shown by a red ellipsis.

Proposed amendment to Item II, Section 2-a:

Current wording:

  1. The Co-chairs shall be the chief executives of the TCDSA and shall serve as spokespersons when one is required. Co-chair responsibilities include:
  • Scheduling Steering Committee and chapter meetings
  • Drafting agendas for Steering Committee and chapter meetings, with input from Steering Committee members
  • Facilitating Steering Committee and chapter meetings
  • Approving contents of the chapter newsletter before each edition is sent

Amended wording:

  1. The Co-chairs shall be the chief executives of the TCDSA and shall serve as spokespersons when one is required. Co-chair responsibilities include:
  • Drafting agendas for Steering Committee and chapter meetings, with input from Steering Committee members
  • Facilitating Steering Committee and chapter meetings 
  • Approving contents of the chapter newsletter before each edition is sent, or delegating to other Steering Committee members

New Section 9 under Item II. Current Section 9 – 11* – Nominations & voting; Recall Elections; and Terms of Office, will become Sections 10 – 12 respectively. *(actually 9, 10, and 10, obviously a mistake) 

Section 9. Member Representatives (three)

a. The three Member Representatives shall represent the views of all members (at-large) on the Steering Committee. Member Representatives’ responsibilities include:

  • Scheduling chapter meetings, with assistance and input from the Operations Committee
  • Working with Operations Committee and the rest of the Steering Committee to plan, give notice of, and set up chapter meetings 
  • In the lead time before chapter meetings, facilitating ride-sharing and working to enhance turnout to the meetings
  • Participation on (chairing optionally) the Inreach Committee, or convening an Inreach Working Group if the Inreach Committee does not exist 
  • Sharing joint responsibility with the Operations Coordinator of the lists of current members
  • At general membership meetings, as part of the initial business on every agenda, the chairs will introduce the Member Representatives and give out their contact information so that members will know whom to contact if they need representation or want to give feedback. Member Representatives may optionally make a report at the membership meeting but are not required to do so as other officers. 

b. All three Member Representatives will serve the same two year term, and will be elected at the annual meeting in the odd years. However, for 2020, three Member Representatives will be elected in the first possible general meeting of the year, and will serve a term of less than 24 months, with the next election occurring at the general meeting of 2021. 

c. At least one Member Representative must not be a cisgender male at any given time.

d. There will be a geographical requirement for the elected Member Representatives, and for simplicity of election style, there will be three separate nomination streams and ballot lines for the three positions. The three areas to supply one or more candidates for Member Representative are: 

  • Minneapolis, including those areas of the city east of the Mississippi River, and close suburbs of Minneapolis – Golden Valley, St. Louis Park, Edina, Richfield, St. Anthony, Columbia Heights, Fridley, and Brooklyn Center. 
  • Saint Paul and close suburbs of Saint Paul – Mendota, Mendota Heights, Lilydale, West St. Paul, South St. Paul, Maplewood, Falcon Heights, Lauderdale, and Roseville. 
  • Other suburban cities and unincorporated areas within the 14 county Twin Cities Metro.  

Notwithstanding the above, all Member Representatives will serve as representatives of the interests of the entire membership body, with a special duty to represent any minority or marginalized groups within the membership. 

Proposed amendment to Item III, Section 1a

Current wording: 

Section 1. Composition

a. The Steering Committee shall consist of the seven (7) officers defined in Item II above, plus the elected representatives of any Branches or Sections formed as part of TCDSA. 

Amended wording: 

Section 1. Composition

a. The Steering Committee shall consist of all of the officers and representatives defined in Item II above, plus the elected representatives of any Branches formed as part of TCDSA.