On Sunday, we had another meeting of the representative assembly. This week, the main task was to establish sub-committees, and decide on the general topics they would discuss.
The first question was whether we would have any sub-committees at all. As the full committee has 26 members, I said that I thought it would be impossible to properly discuss issues without splitting, and other people then chimed in to agree with me. The motion to establish sub-committees was passed unanimously. Then there was the question of how many sub-committees to set up. I thought we should have three, because even 13 is a bit big for proper discussions, but this time the vote was overwhelmingly in favour of just having two committees. (It wasn’t only me in favour of three, but it wasn’t a close vote.)
So, then we had to decide what each committee would discuss. We had thirteen broad topics that the secretariat had distilled from the points we raised at the previous meeting, and the discussion got a bit complex, partly due to me misunderstanding a proposal, and partly due to a process that made it look like the rejected proposal was going to be implemented. The initial choice was between broadly splitting the sub-committees into “education” and “social issues”, and assigning each of the 13 topics individually to a group. I voted for the first, purely because I thought it would take too long to assign the topics individually, and the first option won.
Then someone pointed out that we needed to decide which topics were going to be on each committee, so that people knew which committee they wanted to be on.
Actually, that wasn’t the same as the rejected proposal, because most of the topics on the list obviously belonged to one or the other. The “education” topic, for instance, would go to the “education” sub-committee, while the “pensions” topic would go to the “society” committee. In the end, we were able to decide the broad spread quite quickly, and then people said which committee they wanted to be on. There were two absences, and we got a 14-10 split, which is close enough to half and half to not require any changes, so that stage was quick.
We then had the first sub-committee meetings, where we had to choose a chair, vice-chair, and name. I joined the society committee, and, of the people nominated, I was the only one who didn’t pull out. The chairs of the sub-committees have to attend weekday preparatory meetings, which makes it difficult for a lot of people, so in the end we didn’t have an election. Everyone just put their hands up to approve me as chair.
There was a real election for vice-chair, because the vice-chair only has to do things on the normal meeting days, so we got two candidates. Fortunately, that didn’t take long either. Choosing the committee’s name was also easy. One member proposed using the same name as last session, another member agreed, and then everyone voted in favour. Thus, we are the “Society and Lifestyle Sub-committee”.
That actually left us a few minutes to discuss what we would discuss, but we didn’t get very far. However, we did make a little bit of progress: there are “deep” issues, and “shallow” issues. A shallow issue is one where there isn’t really a lot for us to discuss or investigate, so we might be able to deal with quite a few of them, as well as with one or two deep issues. I’m certainly going to propose splitting it that way next time. In any event, next time will take us to one quarter of our term, so I really want to finish deciding the topics then.
It has taken a long time to get through the preliminaries, but I can’t really see how it could have been done much more quickly. Everything has to be done in the meetings, and the constitution of the assembly means that we have to decide just about everything for ourselves. People have to be given the chance to make their opinions heard. So, there’s probably nothing that can be done about it. Extending the assembly’s term to three years would reduce the proportion of time spent on preliminaries, but it would require revising the city ordinances, and people who could commit for two years might not be able to commit for three. In the end, I suspect that this is a necessary evil.
On the bright side, quite a few people are participating, and things are going fairly smoothly, so once we do get onto actual topics I think that we will make progress. I’ll just have to do my best to get my sub-committee there as quickly as possible.