Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Post 22: The second formation of the Chinatown Working Group

As always, with the exception of public figures, I use altered names to protect the individuals in this history.

When the smoke cleared from Jay's decision and the angry response it met, CWG was left without a chair and without many of its active members, particularly the tenants of Confucius Plaza, Chatham Green and Chatham Towers. However, many members remained, still believing in the importance of the CWG mission, if not its administrative model. These members immediately set about to restructure the administration. The key players in the restructuring were Emmy (I've altered the name) of CAAAV, Victor, who donated his open office space on Henry Street for our meetings, and myself. We then held open meetings regularly. 

We democratized and horizontalized the structure by expanding the members of the coordinating committee and deny it any executive power. All decisions would be made by the CWG alone. Even the agenda formulated by the coordinating committee would be a mere proposed agenda to be submitted to the entire group at the beginning of each meeting. Rather than have the co-chairs run the meetings, the facilitation of the meetings would rotate among the membership. After discovering that the original membership had no requirements, but that the membership requirements only held of new members, we relaxed the membership requirements allowing that organizations be approved by vote of the CWG itself, so that more local tenants associations would have an easier time joining. 

After about a year of working on these changes, CWG resumed its meetings with a new structure and new chairs. The first item turned out to be fateful. Since the membership over the years had grown, and several founding members were no longer attending, it was no longer possible to require a quorum of 50%+1 of the membership. So after a long debate, we settled on a proposal from Mia (I've changed the name), that a resolution would pass at a meeting where 50% or fewer of the members were attending, if a majority of a majority of the membership approved. So if the membership was 60, but only 16 attended, a resolution could pass if all those 16 approved. This worked well enough when attendance continued in the twenties, but as attendance dwindled, it became dysfunctional. A single abstention could cripple a resolution, and all too often members had to abstain simply because they had not had time to get an approval vote from their organizational members.

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