Report from the September 4 DCDSC Meeting

September marked the return of the DC Democratic State Committee from its summer recess. The Ward 4 Democrats had the privilege of hosting it right here in Ward 4 at the new Coolidge Senior High School. To feed the crowd, they tapped Oooohs and Aaaahs on Georgia Ave.

As DCDSC meetings go, this one was uneventful, with no elections, no resolutions considered, and no major initiatives announced. Marking one year since the election of Charles Wilson as Chair and a renewed executive committee, the meeting was more of an optimist’s recap of the past 12 months and an opportunity to set the stage for the next term. Here’s a copy of the agenda.

After opening remarks from Ward 4 Dems President Candace Tiana Nelson and Ward 4 Councilmember Brandon Todd came the Treasurer’s report. The committee has about $120,000 in the bank, with the biggest new revenue coming from a $10,000 DNC grant. That was won thanks to the hard work of newly-hired Executive Director Claudette David. She’s being joined on staff by Phoenix Ray, who is serving as digital associate.

Chair Wilson then swore in two new DCDSC members: John Zottoli from the Ward 1 Democrats and Jennifer Hara from the Asian American Pacific Islander Caucus. Hara is a Ward 4 resident and on the executive committee of the Ward 4 Democrats.

What followed was a list of what Wilson believes the committee accomplished in the 2018-2019 term: getting the committee out of the Wilson Building and meeting in every ward in the city, re-activating long-dormant standing committees, introducing issue-focused panel discussions to draw greater participation in meetings and better inform committeemembers, hosting small dollar fundraisers to help rebuild party finances for the first-time in a decade, and the executive committee developing a 21-month strategic plan for the organization. A copy of that plan should be on the website soon, we’re told.

Wilson also highlighted some initiatives for which the new DCDSC leadership helped create space: the establishment of a Returning Citizens caucus, the revival of the Ward 2 Democrats, and closer engagement with the College and High School Dems.

Looking ahead, Wilson focused his remarks on implementing the 21-month plan, building caucus and committee participation, ramping up intense fundraising to support the DC delegation to the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee, and continuing work to advance DC Statehood.

I appreciate Wilson’s recap, because sometimes it’s easy to get lost in the details and not see how far the organization has come in 12 months on these basic administrative questions. We inherited an organization devastated by not a year or two, but by more than a decade of neglect and systematic deconstruction. Former Chair Anita Bonds and those that held her up for so long should forever feel shame at the condition they left this committee. It’s a shell of an organization compared to those that operate even on the county level in other states, and in DC this is both a city, county, and state organization.

While I am still not excited yet about the political and policy direction of our party, it is worth noting that Wilson and other new executive committee members have made great strides in rebuilding the administrative foundation necessary for any party organization to be credible. Kudos to them.

Kudos also to long-time committee members who shouted into the wind for all those years of disarray. Ward 1’s Stanley Mayes, with whom I often disagree, deserves particular credit. His work, along with that of Vice Chair Linda Gray and Ward 3’s Shelley Tompkin, to revise our by-laws has been persistent. His committee gave an update letting us that know that, as he put it, they are close to bring “to a conclusion a long…process of revising our by-laws.” I’m anxious to see what Mayes and his crew have been up to and to review the new revision recommendations in the months ahead.

Several committee reports of varying detail followed. I want to point out one from the Voter Education and Outreach Committee, which I briefly co-chaired before resigning in frustration earlier this year. Gordon Andrew-Fletcher remains co-chair, and he’s been joined by Ward 2’s Brandon Frye. They appear to be sticking with the far-reaching, grassroots-centered plan Fletcher and I crafted. I’d encourage anyone who wants to grab a piece of party work and run with it to join that committee and support them.

One of the two most active committees during my tenure has been the Statehood Committee, led by Ward 6’s Andria Thomas and At-Large Committeeman Jim Bubar. They’re working closely with and other Statehood advocates to turn people out for the September 19th hearing, advance a “no donation without representation” initiative so that DC Democrats don’t give to any candidate not backing statehood, and they’re holding the DNC to its platform promises.

The other most active committee I’ve seen is the ad-hoc Blue Wave Committee, spearheaded by Ward 3 Committeepeople (and fellow DSA members) Elizabeth Mitchell and Beau Finley. They’re aggressively canvassing in Virginia and other states to help flip legislative seats at the state and federal level from red to blue. Help them out!

After a few more committee and Ward reports, the meeting came to a close. It ended with us learning that Phil Pannell is stepping aside as Recording Secretary and Hugh Allen is doing the same as Treasurer. That means two new openings on the Executive Committee to keep an eye on.

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