Saturday, 27 March 2010

Fast Forward Part 4

The previous instalment of this review of past meetings of the Representative Assembly (RA) of CDS took us through the RA of 19 April 2009. In that meeting the discussion of the merger between CDS and Al Andalus was picking up steam. The next RA meeting seems to have been on 17 May 2009, nearly a month later. (Perhaps the meeting planned for 3 May was held but the minutes were never posted?) The last two meetings in May, summarized below, were exceptionally long and dense, reflecting the complexities of the merger issue.

Remember that the full minutes of these RA meetings can be found in the part of the CDS forum called Representative Assembly Announcements.

Representative Assembly Meeting of 17 May 2009

The proposals discussed in the previous session had been given the form of bills to be voted on, one concerning the Monastery sim expansion and the other concerning the merger with Al Andalus (AA). However, the first agenda item was the Chancellor's report. Jamie Palisades suggested that his time should be used as a Q & A session, so that he could answer the questions that RA members might have about these bills. Gwyneth Llewelyn mentioned a rumor that Port Spinoza was interested in a similar arrangement as had been drafted for AA. Jamie replied that the SL Bar Association might also be interested. (He said this had been discussed at the previous meeting, but as there seems to be no mention of it in the transcripts of 19 April, this further suggests that there may in fact have been a meeting on 3 May.) Concerning Port Spinoza, Jamie thought a possible merger would involve only that sim and its neighbour, rather than all of Cedar Island. (These latter sims were created under the impulsion of CDS member Jon Seattle.)

The next item was discussion of the General Master Plan. Jamie Palisades reported that the Guild had prepared three maps for the possible joining of CDS and AA, each having its proponents. Two RA acts would be required, since RA has jurisdiction for approving major sim map changes under one procedure, and for deciding to buy or take over a sim under other procedures. Jamie proposed that the RA should first hear Moon Adamant's presentation of the Guild maps, then approve the maps, and then debate the merger. Moon presented the three plans, explaining that since the AA void sim Al Garnata has a building of classical design, it was chosen in all three maps as the hinge by which AA is joined to CDS. A question of RA procedure then came to the fore. Cindy Ecksol suggested that RA could first approve the merger with AA, and then pick a map. Jamie agreed that these two RA acts could be taken in either order. If the maps were discussed first, the RA could approve all three, subject to subsequent approval of the merger, but with a ranking of the maps according to the RA's preference. Cindy Ecksol made a motion "that we sever the question: vote separately on the plans and then on the merger." That procedural point was voted on and passed.

Cindy then proposed that "we approve the plans for AA presented by the Guild subject to approval of the merger by RA." She thought that someone else (in other words AA) would decide which of the three plans would be implemented, although she was not sure that the RA should cede that responsibility. She also asked whether AA residents had a preference for one plan or another, to which Gwyneth Llewelyn replied that she thought they had their own set! Sonja suggested that this could be a referendum question. LRA Soro Dagostino summarized: the three plans would be generally approved, then submitted to AA for review and choice. Jamie reported that the AA residents were themselves split on the question of the maps. Moreover, AA decisions prior to the merger would be made according to their current process, which was consensus ratified by the estate owner. Jamie advised against a raucous referendum on the map selection: it's not a yes or no question. Jamie suggested that the approved maps would become part of CDS's global offer to AA. If AA accepts, the process is finished, and if not, the offer comes back to the RA for revision. Sonja Strom saw the map issue as secondary, to be discussed after AA confirms that they want to join CDS. They could join politically without joining geographically at first.

Cindy Ecksol formally moved her proposal that "we approve the plans for AA presented by Guild subject to approval of the merger by RA." It was seconded. Jamie understood the motion to mean that the RA would accept any of the three maps, if AA expressed a sole preference for one. Cindy noted that AA might also come back with something else that the RA would have to evaluate. The motion was voted on, and passed.

Cindy then moved to adopt Jamie's Al Andalus bill as posted in the forum. Brian Livingston requested discussion, and Gwyneth seconded, saying: "I would move to discuss a LOT first." Discussion began with the question posted in the forum by Patroklus Murakami, concerning the issue of double citizenship and double votes. Jamie summarized Pat's post as follows. First, the CDS constitution needs work to retrofit AA into it – though Jamie thought the minor changes implied by his bill would suffice. Second, Pat was asking how AA would choose its first RA members. Would they hold "democratic elections" within AA? Pat would prefer to hold elections for the whole of CDS+AA once the merger had taken place. Jamie reported that AA used a town-meeting consensus process for making decisions, rather than formal voting. Third, Pat expressed concern that Jamie's "converting dual citizen" device would in effect give certain citizens two votes, the one they had already cast for the current RA and another in selecting the new AA members. (A "converting dual citizen" was a former CDS citizen who chose to designate AA's sims as their primary residence within CDS.) Jamie replied that in the first draft of his bill he had proposed that AA select additional RA members now, before the merger, the number of additional RA members being based on the total number of combined CDS and AA citizens. But he changed that in the new bill because AA had replied that it was unfair for all of the dual citizens to be erased from their headcount. Pat countered that he agreed that AA should have their own RA members as a transitional measure, but that if they join the standing RA, converting citizens would in effect get two votes. This could be resolved by holding a special election for the whole of CDS and AA to elect a new combined RA for the merged unity.

Moon suggested that AA could just appoint two reps until the general election could be called, but Jamie observed that AA would trash that idea if they think their headcount deserves more than two reps. Cindy asked who in AA gets to vote on the merger, and who gets to choose the AA reps, noting that these were separate questions. She quoted from the bill: "The [additional] vacant [RA] positions will be filled by [a process designated by AA management, consistent with AA law]." (The brackets denote Jamie's changes with respect to the first version.) Jamie emphasized that "they do. not. vote. there." AA decision-making used consultative town meetings. Sonja said she would be ok with AA choosing their two representatives for the remainder of the term, to which Cindy retorted by asking Sonja what happens if the merger does not occur until after the new term starts. Would Sonja still want them to select their own reps? Sonja said that would be less ideal but still ok with her.

Gwyneth suggested that CDS could use the existing process of "special elections," which allows mid-term voting when seats are vacant that no one is able to fill. But since AA had 60 days to think about the CDS proposal anyway, everyone could simply vote together at the next regular elections. Jamie replied that a special election would either make AA candidates run against CDS candidates for the 2 seats, or force AA to run its own election (under CDS rules). The alternative would be to let AA select its representatives (by their own method), while eliminating double counting. Brian Livingston felt that each citizen's vote and influence should be the same as another's, which would be compromised by counting the votes of dual citizens. Patroklus argued for upholding the constitutional requirement that "The Representative Assembly is a body of democratically elected factions." And Gwyneth repeated her suggestion of holding unified elections at the usual time for the next term, recalculating all the seats, and giving each citizen – no matter where they have land – one vote. Jamie replied that fair law in mergers permits the creation of bridge measures (respecting both sides), and declaring that he personally finds the byzantine complications of CDS election law to be silly. Gwyneth gasped.

Brian and Gwyneth both pointed to the clause permitting AA to dissolve the merger at the 1 year anniversary, saying that CDS should have a similar right. Gwyneth also objected to the clause in which the nonprofit "drops on us like a bomb." Article 5 of the bill foresaw the formation of a nonprofit "using two nominees from CDS and two nominees from AA as the nominal organizers, and the CDS chancellor," which Gwyneth apparently found prematurely detailed. By then the meeting had gone long over time. Against resistance, the LRA managed to postpone further discussion to the next meeting.

Representative Assembly Meeting of 31 May 2009

This meeting had trouble reaching a quorum. There were sighs of relief when Brian Livingston finally came online, making the quorum. The Chancellor's report was deferred, to see if Jamie Palisades would show up.

The first item discussed was thus the General Master Plan and accession of AA. Jamie had posted to the forum a third draft of the merger bill. Brian explained that Jamie had revised the proposal to allow CDS to dissolve the merger, and also to attempt to address the concerns over double voting. LRA Soro Dagostino moved to amend the second draft, as a way of putting the third draft on the table. Cindy Eckso requested that they begin instead by reviewing Jamie's second draft. Brian felt that while Jamie's new version allowed the RA to dissolve the merger by simple majority, it would be more appropriate to require a super majority of two-thirds, given the grave implications of such a decision. Soro wondered which version was being discussed, and Brian explained that he was going to propose a modification to the second version, rather than discuss the third version. Having carefully read the bill, Brian was less concerned about citizens of both CDS and AA counting twice in the RA, since their additional investment of time and effort in AA could reasonably deserve a separate representation. Moreover, he saw the AA method of selection of RA members to be an internal matter within their own community. He therefore proposed amending section 8 of the second version in the spirit of Jamie's third version changes to that clause, but adding the requirement of a two-thirds majority for an RA vote to dissolve the merger.

Patroklus hoped that they would instead move on to discussion of the third draft, since the second draft had several problems. He also wanted to discuss his related proposal of a detailed constitutional amendment to enable the merger to take place. Soro called on Claude Desmoulins, then head of the Scientific Council (SC), who had come to report on a recent SC meeting. The SC had examined the question of whether a constitutional amendment would be required in order to add representatives, even temporary ones, to an existing RA. Moreover, the merger could add as many as 45 new citizens to CDS, thereby raising the number of members any faction needs to be able to present candidates (which was then 10% of the total CDS population). This would mean that two of the three current factions would need to recruit very rapidly to remain legally viable, running the risk of leaving only one faction with candidates. Cindy maintained that the bill under discussion could be voted on without any constitutional amendment, since it only extended a proposal to AA, and that the constitutional issue would only arise once AA accepted and the proposal came back to the RA. She moved the second draft as amended, and Brian seconded. Jamie finally arrived just at that moment, ready to speak to the motion. Pat again raised his question about how AA would select its representatives, but Soro called the vote. The motion passed with four ayes, no nayes, and a 7 day vote still to come from Sonja.

Next item for discussion was Arria's Monastery sim, as proposed in a new draft bill posted by Jamie Palisades. Pip started things off by moving the bill as posted, and Brian seconded it. Rose Springvale noted that she had several times argued for making this a full sim instead a homestead, but that her suggestion had never been discussed. Also, she wondered whether, once CDS buys the homestead, it would get payments for the sale of the parcels. Arria replied that the Monastery holds exhibits but not events, so a homestead would suffice. On the payment question, she had committed herself to paying all the parcel fees for 4 months, with the CDS receiving this money in the usual way. Jamie confirmed that this was the procedure set out in the latest draft, adding that this sim would be an experiment in whether small lots can be attractive on a homestead sim. Rose repeated that she was opposed to using a limited homestead sim in that location, and noted that Arria's existing Monastery does hold events, having just participated in the latest Grand Tour (of community sims in SL). Patroklus retorted that the RA had just voted to add AA with its four homestead sims to the CDS. Cindy replied to Pat that the Monastery has much more going on that the AA homesteads, which are mostly one-person, one-function spaces. Cindy suggested adding a contingency to the Monastery bill that the usage of the sim be revisited after a certain time to see if the sim requires an upgrade. But formulating such an amendment would take time, so Soro steered discussion back to the proposal at hand. Rose explained that an upgrade of some of the AA homestead sims was being actively considered in relation to the planned relocation of AA next to CDS, and for the same reason (heavier traffic). Rose also stated that if the merger went through, CDS could have full sims at lower prices by using the non-profit organisation. But Arria specifically wanted a homestead sim so that the Monastery would be surrounded by low density space. Patroklus noted that Arria's whole proposal had been worked out in all its details for a homestead sim, and changing to a full sim would fundamentally alter it. Pat also felt the non-profit option was still uncertain. It was becoming clear that the Monastery proposal would require more discussion. Jamie suggested that Rose briefly describe AA's experience with the "Library" void sim, which was being considered for an upgrade. But Cindy moved to defer the vote on the Monastery until next meeting, and that passed. Arria stated that if she could not get a homestead sim in CDS, she would look for a solution outside of CDS.

Soro asked if there were still items for the Scientific Council to review, but Claude Desmoulins and Delia Lake were gone. Pip moved to postpone the SC matters. That passed, and the meeting was adjourned.

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