Open Letter to Chairperson Meeks

The following letter signed by 43 members of the Queens County Democratic County Committee was hand-delivered on April 4 to the party’s county headquarters. To get involved or receive updates about this effort, please fill out this brief form. You may also wish to show your support by signing this petition.

April 4, 2019
Gregory W. Meeks
72–50 Austin Street
Forest Hills, NY 11375

Dear Chairperson Meeks:

We, the undersigned members of the Queens County Democratic County Committee, are writing to request a meeting with you, the new Chairperson of our Democratic Organization’s Executive Committee, to discuss the attached list of proposed constructive changes to the current procedures and activities of our County Committee. We composed this document because it is our belief that the Democratic County Committee of Queens County should be a democratic, transparent, inclusive, accountable, and accessible organization. Democrats will continue to win elections only when our Party itself truly practices these principles of democracy.

Please contact Sarah Kenny (AD 23) at sarahkenny109@gmail.com, Maria Kaufer (AD 28) at mariakaufer@gmail.com, and Radha Vatsal (AD 39) at radhavatsalqcc@gmail.com to schedule a meeting.

We hope to hear from you soon.

Sincerely,
Members of the Queens County Democratic County Committee:

Alison Abulafia (AD 28)
Amy Althoff (AD 28)
Martha Ayon (AD 35)
Melissa Enama Bair (AD 30)
Peter Beadle (AD 28)
Rebecca Bish-Cornelissen (AD 34)
Zachariah J. Boyer (AD 36)
Gary Brocks (AD 28)
Peter Bronson (AD 28)
Jeremy Buchman (AD 28)
MacGregor Burns (AD 28)
Danielle Cione (AD 28)
Michael Connor (AD 23)
Heather Dimitriadis (AD 28)
Morry Galonoy (AD 37)
Nora Gomez-Strauss (AD 28)
Nick Haby (AD 36)
Lauren Feldman Hay (AD 28)
Peggy Heeney (AD 39)
Katya Hott (AD 30)
Karina Imas (AD 28)
Evan Karl (AD 30)
Maria Kaufer (AD 28)
Sarah Kenny (AD 23)
Kelsey Kettelhut (AD 30)
Soumaly King (AD 28)
Nina Kulkarni (AD 28)
Prameet Kumar (AD 28)
Hannah Lupien (AD 36)
Erica Manney (AD 25)
Laura Newman (AD 34)
Ashley Reed (AD 35)
Matthew Retzer (AD 28)
Emily Sharpe (AD 30)
Felicia Singh (AD 23)
Megan Stotts (AD 36)
Jacqueline Sung (AD 39)
Alisa Tippie (AD 28)
Radha Vatsal (AD 39)
Amanda Vender (AD 34)
Alexa Weitzman (AD 28)
Dan Wilson (AD 34)
Tim Wilson (AD 36)


Summary of Reforms

It is our belief that the Democratic County Committee of Queens County should be a democratic, transparent, inclusive, accountable and accessible organization whose purpose is to:

  • Set the agenda for the Democratic Party in Queens
  • Fill vacancies to public office and nominate judicial candidates through a robust selection process
  • Continue to grow the voter base to ensure the continued success of the Democratic Party in Queens
  • Empower grassroots Democrats to participate in the political process and learn about candidates and local party efforts
  • Foster a new generation of leaders so that the party reflects the needs of Democratic voters in Queens
  • Ensure Democrats continue to win elections in Queens!

To this end we believe that a variety of changes to the current procedures and activities of County Committee is required. A summary of these constructive changes is listed below. Each topic is explained in detail in the pages that follow.

Outreach & Communications to the Committee membership and general public must involve voter education and engagement across Queens as well as on social media.

The organization’s Website must provide Committee members and the general public with information about the County Committee organization, the activities of the Democratic Party in Queens, and empower Democrats to participate in the political process.

Queens County Committee must adopt Eligibility requirements and Term Limits as specified below.

Meetings of the full County Committee must take place at least once every six months (and not just once a term), and Procedures must be amended to facilitate the adoption of new business and to allow for the active participation of membership.

Finances must be reported and an Ethics Committee created. Committee Members must participate in Filling Vacancies for Public Office. A robust process for Judicial Nominations is required with multiple nominees per vacancy.

Committee Members and District Leaders must meet regularly to discuss Committee Business. The activities of the Executive Committee must be made accessible to Committee Members, along with voting records of District Leaders and officers of the Executive Committee.

Primary Elections must be conducted in a transparent and fair manner without endorsement of candidates.


Detailed Overview of Reforms

(Abbreviations used: QCC: Queens County Democratic County Committee; DL: District Leader; CM: County Committee Member; ED: Election District; EC: Executive Committee)

Outreach & Communications:

  • Sponsor town halls/forums to introduce CMs and general public to candidates prior to primaries
  • Register voters
  • Use social media to educate voters about issues and initiatives
  • Provide all DLs + EC members with a QCC email address for communication purposes
  • A quarterly emailed newsletter must be sent to QCC members apprising them of QCC activities, including upcoming meetings

Website:

  • Maintain an up-to-date website that includes a clear description of the structure of County Committee, current CC Rules/Bylaws, duties of CMs and DLs, and how to run for QCC
  • Include complete lists of CMs, DLs, EC, and State Committee members, along with email addresses (and for DL, EC, and State Committee members, phone numbers) for communication purposes
  • Include complete list of Democratic Clubs along with their contact information (U.S. postal addresses, telephone numbers, and email addresses)
  • Include lists of standing and any and all committees with names of committee chairs and email contact information for committee members
  • Include complete list of judicial delegates as well as an explanation of the Judicial Selection Process, including but not limited to the Judicial Convention Process
  • Include lists and maps of Assembly Districts and clearly marked indicators of Executive District Part A and Part B for each Assembly District by ED
  • Enable the general public to find out their ED and who their CMs, DLs, and publicly elected officials are
  • Create an announcement section (including a Calendar) with all upcoming QCC, EC, standing committee, and all other committee meeting notices, meeting agendas, committee member meeting attendance, and meeting minutes
  • Publish record of all QCC, EC and DL votes
  • If possible, provide online access to BOE source documents: Queens County Democratic County Committee ledger and Queens County Democratic District Leader ledger
  • Publish list of County Committee Member Vacancies filled at the QCC Organization Meeting (“CM Appointments list”) held at the start of each term
  • Communication to CMs via email if requested

Queens County Democratic County Committee Organization:

General:

  • Rewrite Rules/Bylaws in gender neutral language
  • Define duties of CMs, DLs, and officers of QCC and EC in a manner consistent with the changes proposed below

Eligibility (for CMs, DLs, and any and all positions on QCC and EC):

  • No publicly elected officials, paid lobbyists, staffers of elected officials. No one with a record of public corruption (e.g., embezzlement of public funds, defrauding the tax payer).
  • No one holding multiple positions (e.g., CM and DL)
  • Must be a Queens County resident

Term Limits:

  • Any person may serve no more than five consecutive terms in any of the following positions inclusive or combined: DL, member of the Executive Committee, chairs of all other Committees, as well as leadership of the QCC. After five terms’ service, any person shall be eligible to serve in the preceding positions after two terms have elapsed.

QCC Meetings:

  • In addition to the initial organizational meeting at the start of the new term, QCC must meet at least twice a year in accessible locations throughout Queens. (Total of at least 5 meetings per term.) Meetings must include an annual budget meeting where the proposed budget (QCC and EC) is presented to the entire organization for review and approval, Treasurer’s report, reports by all of the Executive Committee’s Standing Committees, new business etc.
  • Meetings shall be open to the public
  • Meetings shall be livestreamed
  • The Chair of the QCC shall call additional meetings upon the written petition of at least 150 CMs of the QCC provided that such petition shall contain the signatures of at least 10 CMs from at least 6 ADs

Procedures:

  • Any member shall have the right to call for standing division or show of hands during votes. A call of the roll may be used during votes, required by a motion and two seconds and a vote of 100 members of the QCC.
  • All rules changes must be voted on by the membership of the QCC
  • No rules changes can be adopted when QCC is not in session
  • Quorum consists of 200 CMs with at least 20 CMs from each of a majority of the Assembly Districts
  • Party Call must be posted on the QCC website one month prior to the start of petitioning, with no changes unless required by law. If changes are made, the revised party call must be posted on the website within 24 hours.
  • Changes/Additions to each meeting agenda: any item with the signatures of 50 CMs submitted to the Chair of QCC at least 72 hours prior to the next QCC meeting shall be considered at that meeting
  • There shall be a Rules Committee which shall be a standing committee which shall offer recommendations of proposed changes to the QCC Rules
  • Proposal for Rules Changes: A mechanism (e.g., all amendments to be submitted to Rules Committee, which will review, distribute to the general County Committee membership, and call for a meeting to discuss and vote on the proposed amendment(s)) is needed to ensure that proposed amendments to the Rules are presented to the entire County Committee membership for consideration and voting. Amendments to the Rules submitted to the Rules Committee or Chair of QCC at least 10 days before the next QCC meeting shall be considered at that meeting; otherwise they shall be considered at the next possible meeting.

Finances:

  • QCC must provide an annual report of income and how it was earned, and of expenses and how monies were spent
  • No CM, DL or Executive Leader shall receive compensation for the fulfillment of their duties
  • No QCC funds shall be used to support candidates or incumbents in primaries

Ethics:

  • Create an Ethics Committee along the lines of the Democratic Party of the County of New York

Filling Vacancies for Public Office:

  • CMs from all affected EDs must be allowed to nominate candidates and vote to fill vacancies. Vote of DLs should carry the the same weight as that of CMs.

Judicial Nominations:

  • Create a robust screening system that results in multiple candidates and competitive elections. This may involve the formation of a subcommittee such as a Committee on the Judiciary per the Democratic Party of the County of New York.

Duties of CM versus DL:

  • DLs must meet with CMs of their Executive District every 2 months and report on their activities, including votes and other activities of the Executive Committee and subcommittees. Every CM must be notified of forthcoming meetings at least 2 weeks in advance. Create a calendar of meetings.
  • If a DL fails to call a meeting, a group of 10 CMs may set a meeting by notifying the QCC Chair and DL. QCC must notifiy all CMs in the relevant Executive District that this meeting will be taking place.

Executive Committee:

  • All EC meetings must be announced in advance on the website and open to the public
  • Meeting notices, agendas, minutes, attendance and voting records shall be published
  • EC meetings shall be livestreamed
  • All members of EC shall be DLs. EC members may vote to hire personnel, including an Executive Director, who may be dismissed by the chair or vote of the Executive Committee. Personnel shall have no rights as members of any committee of the QCC, unless they shall be a DL or CM.
  • Roles of All EC members, board members and personnel must be clearly defined

Primary Elections:

  • For any candidates not witnessing their own petitions, written affirmative consent must be provided to the petitioner with the express purpose of preventing the filling of QCC seats without candidates’ knowledge
  • Provide free training to Democrats petitioning/running/etc for CM or DL
  • Endorsements in primaries shall be abolished