Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,
Kevin Standlee

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PBM Commentary: Success!

As I reckon most people reading this LJ know, my two highest-priority items for this Worldcon Business Meeting were not necessarily those held in the highest priority by many attendees. I wanted the Business Meeting to pass a resolution overturning the Mark Protection Committee's rule effectively banning any of its members or subcommittee members from being eligible for the Hugo Award, and I wanted to defeat a constitutional amendment that would have written that rule into the WSFS Constitution. After a whole lot of debate, a significant amount of which was technical rather than substantive, the resolution passed, and the constitutional amendment wasn't even debated, but was killed without debate by an Objection to Consideration. (By a 2/3 vote, the meeting can kill an item of new business without debate immediately after it is introduced, but not after debate has begun.)

When the Resolution Overturning the MPC's decision first came up, Business Meeting Chairman Donald Eastlake III ruled it out of order, issuing a well-reasoned, two-page written opinion that said, in part, that the MPC is a creation of the WSFS Constitution, not of the Business Meeting directly, and that therefore individual WSFS Business Meeting cannot give the MPC binding instructions by any mechanism other than through amending the constitution. I understand Don's opinion, but I argued that over more than twenty years, the Business Meeting has repeatedly instructed the MPC to do things by resolution, including forming the Hugo Awards Marketing Committee. I contend that this precedent, which reflects the customs and usages of WSFS of which certain members are so inordinately fond, means that such instructions are binding unless they are prohibited by the constitution. I contend that while the MPC is chartered by the WSFS Constitution, the Business Meeting is the ultimate policy-setting body of WSFS, and therefore the MPC is subordinate to the Business Meeting. To say otherwise, I said approximately, is saying that the MPC is actually the Board of Directors of WSFS Inc.

I appealed Don's ruling and the debate was on. People were not always completely clear on what the issues in play were, but the debate was certainly spirited. After the debate expired, the meeting voted 26-46 to overturn the Chair's ruling, thereby ruling that the resolution was legal. This also IMO effectively establishes as explicit precedent that the MPC can be given binding instructions from the Business Meeting as long as those instructions are not prohibited by the Constitution.

Then the debate could actually get into the substance of the issues. I had an opportunity to explain in my debate what happened in Australia and what the effect of that rule was. I'm afraid that some feeling may be bruised here. I hope that I haven't completely ruined my friendship with Rene Walling (the primary sponsor of the original legislation and of the constitutional amendment), with whom I had breakfast this morning as we held a meeting of the board of directors of CanSMOF, Anticipation's parent non-profit corporation.

There was an amendment made to strike out the words "or any of its subcommittees" from the resolution, which would have said that the MPC isn't allowed to establish Hugo eligibility rules for its own membership (presumably because that's directly regulated by the constitution), but could do so for any of its subordinate bodies like the Hugo Awards Marketing Committee. (The WSFS Constitution allows the MPC to elect its own officers, and established precedent allows it to create non-member agents and subcommittees that include people who are not themselves on the MPC.) While I would have found such a change dismaying, I must admit that such a change is constitutionally defensible. However, the meeting rejected this amendment on an uncounted show of hands.

After the debate ran out (total running time around 15 minutes including the appeal), the vote was taken by the "serpentine" method, and the resolution was adopted 45-26. I was very happy to see that happen, and I'll be working with the MPC to implement the instructions from the BM later at this Worldcon.

While the majority in favor of this motion was large, it wasn't actually 2/3, only about 63%, and particularly when some of the people who weren't interested in further items down the agenda or had pressing other things to get to left, I figured that we might not have the votes to do much about the constitutional amendment that would have written the MPC Eligibility Restriction into the WSFS Constitution. You can imagine my relief and surprise, then, when after an Objection to Consideration was lodged against the constitutional amendment, the vote by uncounted show of hands was sufficiently overwhelming that the Chair didn't bother to count it. That killed the constitutional amendment without any debate, and therefore I didn't even have to wheel out the six "poison pill" amendments I had prepared.

Thank you to everyone who voted to support the Resolution and reject the Amendment. I'm happy on many grounds, not the least of which is that we can, I hope, get rid of any nonsensical implication that the Hugo Awards for Best Semiprozine in 2010 and Best Fan Writer in 2009 were somehow unfairly obtained.
Tags: business meeting, hugo award, renovation, worldcon, wsfs

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