Saturday, 10 April 2010

Fast Forward Part 5

The Representative Assembly (RA) of May 31 2009 had approved the merger offer which CDS extended to Al Andalus. The next RA meeting was held just one week later, on 7 June 2009. This meeting and the following one on 14 June 2009 were primarily taken up with discussion of proposed amendments to the CDS constitution, which some held to be necessary to accommodate the impending merger.

(Note as usual that minutes of these RA meetings can be found in the part of the CDS forum called Representative Assembly Announcements.)

Representative Assembly Meeting of 7 June 2009

The RA meeting of 7 June 2009 was a Special Meeting, announced at the last minute under conditions contested by Cindy Ecksol, who could not attend but who asked for a 7-day vote.

At the end of the previous RA meeting, the discussion on the latest proposal for a new Monastery sim had been postponed. To resume the discussion, Patroklus Murakami made a motion to approve this proposal, which Gwyneth Llewelyn seconded. The Leader of the Representative Assembly (LRA) Soro Dagostino noted that Chancellor Jamie Palisades had posted a new note on the subject that morning (which would seem to be this note). Those present were ready to vote without further discussion, so the motion was called - and it passed! Thus after 9 months of procedures Arria Perrault was finally able to create the first homestead sim in CDS.

The next matter was a proposed Community Merger Bill, presented by Patroklus Murakami. He began by saluting the "fantastic" news that Al Andalus had agreed to the CDS merger proposal. (The previous RA meeting had approved the Al Andalus Expansion Proposal, the final text of which was posted on the forum by Cindy Ecksol. The offer was sent to the Al Andalus Estate by Chancellor Jamie Palisades, who posted the text of the offer on 2 June 2009, followed by the text of the Al Andalus acceptance on 5 June 2009.) Patroklus maintained however that the merger required changes to the CDS Constitution, notably since the Constitution refers to the RA as being made up of "democratically elected factions."

During prior discussions, Pat had proposed a first version of such a constitutional amendment, but the merger offer was voted before any discussion of Pat's proposal. Then on the morning of 7 June, Jamie Palisades had posted a much simplified alternative version of Pat's text. Soro asked Pat if he accepted Jamie's changed version. But meanwhile the RA members asked for time to read the text - and they were apparently reading Pat's original version instead of Jamie's modified version. Pip Torok suggested changing the first sentence of Section 2 from "at least a year" to "a year to 18 months." (This sentence, about how long after the merger the community joining the CDS will retain its own Estate Owner, is found in Pat's original version.) Pat accepted Pip's suggestion as a friendly amendment. Gwyneth Llewelyn observed that the approved merger offer defines a transition period of a full RA term of six months (see section 4 of the final merger proposal), while section 3 of Pat's first version suggests instead a three month transition period. Sonja Strom proposed rewording this passage to read: "These temporary seats last until the first RA term in which the new citizens participate in the election." Pat accepted that also. There followed discussion of certain words that Pat had put in brackets, meant to be alternative wordings, in particular in the following passage: "the RA will be augmented by a number of [nonvoting] representatives (equal to the number of Interim Added Seats) appointed/elected by the community joining using its own [democratic] methods…." Pat proposed to take out "nonvoting" but to leave in "democratic."

Gwyneth asked if it was clear to everyone that the Interim Added Seats expired at the next regular election. Claude Desmoulins noted that if the merger happens more than thirty days before an election, the text is clear that the interim seats will last a full term, but if the merger happens less than thirty days before, there is ambiguity as to how long the interim is. However, it would be reasonable to assume that in the latter case the interim period would also be until the end of the term, because otherwise it would not be "interim." Sonja Strom asked about the sentence in section 2 which said: "Any sims owned by the community will merge as one territory with the CDS." Pat explained that he didn't mean "one contiguous territory," but that they could remain in different places on the grid. And Gwyneth asked what about getting "half a community"? Then Soro asked if the discussion could be postponed until next week, and Pat agreed that it would be better to get things right than to rush. The meeting was adjourned.

Representative Assembly Meeting of 14 June 2009

The RA decided that the first item of business would be continuation of the discussion about the constitutional amendment to facilitate the merger. Pat moved the proposed constitutional amendment that he had circulated at the last meeting and posted on the forum. Jamie however linked to Pat's most recent draft, which was much shorter, and which was in fact what Pat was proposing. Jamie also distributed Pat's latest version on a notecard, together with Jamie's own proposed modifications thereto. (Some other notable contributions to this long forum thread were from Rose Springvale, who expressed her opposition to any amendments that were "not part of the transactions contemplated," and Claude Desmoulins of the Scientific Council, who argued that the proposed merger was unprecedented and outside the scope of anything in CDS history to that point, therefore requiring a certain amount of flexibility. Claude felt that the attempt to amend the constitution to provide a general framework for any and all future mergers could hinder future ability to negotiate each merger separately.)

Patroklus opened the discussion of his own proposal. He observed that many citizens felt that his earlier drafts were too long, and that they undid the agreement with Al Andalus. He had therefore drafted a briefer version that would provide a general framework for all such mergers, and into which he had added a role for the Scientific Committee, to validate the number of seats a new community gets in a post-merger RA. Gwyneth agreed that it was important to avoid any amendment that would change the conditions of the merger offer. However, she felt strongly that it was necessary to deal with three issues: (1) transferring citizens (CDS members declaring themselves as AA members) exercising two votes, (2) RA members getting "appointed" (by AA) instead of elected, and (3) CDS maintaining the definition of "democracy" that had served CDS so well during the past five years.

Jamie then set out four points of his own. First, he echoed the suggestion by Sonja Strom (who was absent) that any general framework for mergers should go light on specific details in order to allow flexibility in individual situations. He noted that Pat's latest short version was appropriately light. Second, he felt that the constitution should be adjusted to support the merger fully, so that there would be no room for someone to argue afterwards that the merger was unconstitutional. Third, with respect to the issue of how AA selects its transitional representatives, Pat's insistence on using the word "democracy" could lead to someone challenging the AA selection method after the fact. Jamie therefore proposed to change the wording to "any reasonable method consistent with the joining estate's past practice." Fourth, Pat's most recent text changed the approved merger offer, which included a minimum of 2 AA reps, and which excluded
from the next CDS poll any CDS members who participated in selecting the AA reps, thereby resolving the problem of double voting.

Cindy Ecksol moved Jamie's note card to amend the proposal on the table, which contained the text of Jamie's latest forum post. Patroklus commented that he was glad to hear that dual citizens would not be counted twice, but would like to see that clearly expressed in writing. And he still wondered how AA intended to select its reps. Had secret ballot elections been specifically rejected within AA? Why, he asked, would AA prefer to select its official reps at an informal discussion among only 4 or 5 members. Cindy explained that AA resolves everything by consensus – they talk about each issue until eventually there is a consensus that all can live with. Anyone who is interested shows up for the Town Meeting. Gwyneth called this "adhocracy," observing that the Guild functions similarly, only with voting by those present. Jamie stated that Pat had been wise to remove from his text all detailed procedures for dealing with the dual citizen issue, since such detail did not belong in the constitution. And he warned that imposing one specific sort of democratic decision-making on the joining party would appear to be a deliberate mechanism for undoing such decisions by referring them to the Scientific Council as unconstitutional. He felt that CDS should refrain from interrogating AA as to its method of initial selection, and adopt a more fair-minded attitude instead of giving lessons.

Patroklus then argued against Jamie's latest additions to his own shorter version, on the grounds that they added too much detail, and limited the discretion of the Chancellor to find a working deal. Gwyneth agreed with Pat, asserting that Jamie's additions would void the constitution of what she held to be its fundamental principle, quoting the following passage: "The Representative Assembly (RA) is a body of democratically elected factions which represent different ideological views of its citizens." She proposed that they vote on Pat's shorter text.

Cindy Ecksol observed that the motion on the table was Jamie's amendment to Pat's text. Gwyneth made a final plea for a text which would require all decisions to be made according to the principle of representative democracy. Soro called the question, and Jamie's amendment carried by three votes to two. Then the body voted on Pat's proposal itself (as amended by Jamie's additions). This proposal also carried by three votes to two.

Jamie observed that as a constitutional amendment the proposal would require five votes to pass (five out of seven being more than two thirds). It would thus depend on the 7 day votes from Brian and Sonja. He also reminded everyone that in little more than a week, on the 25th of June, the filings of candidacies for the next CDS elections would open. Al Andalus should make their decision before then, and they might decline the merger offer if there was a negative vote on this motion. Gwyneth replied that the failure of the constitutional amendment bill would leave intact the already approved AA merger bill.

Jamie then gave a quick Chancellor's report. He announced that the Monastery sim had been bought. Also, that CDS land was almost sold out – and so was Al Andalus land. The following item on the agenda was a presentation from the Scientific Committee, but as no SC members were online, this was postponed. Rose Springvale made a few announcements. A third Grand Tour of SL communities was upcoming. Rose advised everyone to go to see the CDS stand at the 6th Second Life birthday exhibit (SLB6). She mentioned that both CDS and AA had put up kiosks in Caledon's Oxbridge Village Gateway. The meeting was adjourned.