Lucas Ramirez at Program Planning workshop 2013
Lucas Ramirez at the January program planning meeting in Los Altos when he first proposed expansion of the League position to include higher education beyond community colleges

[UPDATE March 19, 2014. Are you interested in learning more about higher education in our state? Are you great as part of a team? Are you looking for a top-notch professional experience doing good? Apply to serve on our Higher Education Study Committee:  Yes, the little study proposal  that started right here in our own LWMV chapter January 2013 is now a real, official LWV of California study.  The scope is not quite the same as was proposed last May, but the “founders” — Lucas Ramirez, Max Beckman-Harned and Ellen Wheeler — are please that the state league will actually develop a position of the State and UC systems.  Right now the state league only has positions on k-12 and community colleges – a gap in coverage.  So do a good deed and apply to extend League positions to our State and UC systems.]

At the LWVC State Convention May 16-19 in San Jose, the State Board and staff urged delegates to “Be Bold” just like our forbears when they fought for suffrage. New members Lucas Ramirez and Max Beckman-Harned heeded this call to action, boldly proposing and passing a new State League study on California higher education.

Lucas and Max were joined by numerous key supporters who advised on the strategy and tactics for jumping through all the right parliamentary hoops at the convention. It’s no easy feat to get a “not recommended by State Board ” motion approved by delegates. In pictures and words, you will see what was passed and how they beat the odds. Be Bold!

Bold New Members Pass Motion To Study

The back story

Lucas Ramirez first proposed that the the League position on Community Colleges should be expanded to include UC and CSU at his very first event as a member of LWVLAMV. This was the annual program planning meeting January 26.

Lucas had seen first-hand the impact of university governance in the dramatic changes made to the Santa Clara University Music Department during his time at the school. He began investigating the governance of the UC and CSU systems. He saw that the boards were opaque and insular and started working to change them. At the Democratic State Convention, he proposed a resolution on university governance that was approved. Lucas reasoned that because there was no League position on the California higher education system (apart from the community college system), the League could take no action nor take any stance on issues relating to the university system.


Lucas and Max go to Convention…

Max Beckman-Harned and Lucas Ramirez model League t-shirts
Max Beckman-Harned and Lucas Ramirez model League t-shirts at the Convention Marketplace

In April our Los Altos – Mountain View League selected Lucas and Max Beckman-Harned, both new members, to be two of our six State Convention delegates. Lucas began to ask experienced Los Altos – Mountain View members like Ellen Wheeler and Steve Chessin how the League could become active on his prized issue. Their advice was that the way to expand the state position was to start with a study. Ellen Wheeler explained that because the State Board had not proposed the study in their Proposed Program 2013-2015, Lucas would have to propose the study as a “not-recommended” item on the floor of the Convention. Lucas convinced Max of the need for the study, and they agreed to work on the issue together at convention.


Friday – Lucas & Max learn procedures and protocols

On the first full day of convention, Lucas and Max came early to the 8:45am parliamentary briefing to learn the procedures and protocols to follow at convention. They learned the full process to follow, which started with the optional but recommended step of participating in the Notice of Intent to Move Not-Recommended Items in that afternoon’s caucus, where Lucas would let the other delegates know of his intention to propose the new study. Two other delegates also intended to move for new studies and positions. One wished to study marijuana, the other wished to expand the League’s natural resources position. The field of not-recommended items was heating up!


Saturday 9:00 am – Fill out the a Motion Form at Plenary Session

As the 9am plenary session started, Steve Chessin helped Lucas to carefully craft the language of his motion, and Max seconded it. [Lucas had already proposed the motion during the next morning’s 7:30 a.m. education caucuses — an early child education caucuses as well as a community college caucus.]

Here is Lucas’ copy of the original motion form.

This is the presenter's copy of motions. Other copies go to the parliamentarian, etc.
This is the succinct original motion. Lucas’ bottom copy.

Lucas then approached the computer operator with the filled-out form (in quadruplicate) so it could be entered into the League’s system.

Lucas gives the motion form with itsthe computer operator
Lucas gave the motion form in quadruplicate to the computer operator

The computer operator kept the original form. The first copy went to the secretary.

Lucas handing the relevant motion form copies to the parliamentarian
Lucas hands the relevant motion form copies to the secretary

The next step was to wait patiently for the time slot for Motions to Consider Not-Recommended Program Items. At that time Lucas would go the the floor microphone and make the case to the delegates that the motion warranted consideration for discussion.

Lucas is waiting to present his motion for "consideration, "hopefully adding it to the agenda for discussion and a vote
Lucas is waiting to present his motion for “consideration, “hopefully adding it to the agenda for discussion and a vote


Saturday around 10am – Higher Ed, the only “not recommended” item to pass

Finally Lucas makes his case for his motion to study higher education with a brief speech. Then he answered several clarification questions from the delegates.

Lucas at the mic introducing his initial motion...
Lucas at the mic introducing his initial motion…

After all of the three “not-recommended item” proposals were made – higher ed, marijuana, natural resources – three voice votes were taken. Lucas’ motion was the only one that passed. The motion was placed on the agenda for discussion in the afternoon session and for a vote the following morning.


Lunch – Planning to amend for clarity

After listening to the clarification questions asked that morning, Lucas felt that an amendment to clarify the language and meaning of the motion was in order. He discussed the matter over lunch with one of his most vocal supporters, Leslie Smith of Oakland, and the Parliamentarian Jackie Jacobberger. They eventually came up with an amendment with two changes:

  • to limit the proposed study to public universities, ruling out private or for-profit ones
  • to explicitly include the community college system in his proposal with the goal of producing a unified Higher Education program.


1:30pm Plenary Session – Present the motion to amend

Lucas filled out another motion sheet in quadruplicate, performing the same multi-step submission process, and when the time came for him to present his motion, he announced the amendment to the item instead.

photo of the amendment projected on the convention screen
The amendment to the language will insert “public” and “California Community Colleges”

After some debate, the amendment item was passed by voice vote.


2:30pm Plenary Session – Present the Motion (as amended)

In this photo of the Convention projected slide, you can see where "public" and " California Community Colleges" have been added.
You can see where “public” and ” California Community Colleges” have been added.

Next was a spirited debate. Pro speakers underscored the urgent need for a study – higher ed would sink further without action sooner than later. The con speakers highlighted how thinly-spread the League already was with four planned issues for Advocacy and Education – money in politics, pre-k education, healthcare, and water. Con speakers suggested that Lucas come back in two years with a more detailed proposal. After the debate time had elapsed, Lucas and Steve Chessin saw the need for further planning. Lucas submitted an announcement form to the secretary –supporters of the bill should meet outside on the Patio at 5pm. How could they achieve a final vote of a three fifths majority (60%) and pass the motion?


Post Plenary – Gathering of Supporters on the Patio

Over a dozen supporters meet with Lucas and Max on the patio to plan for how to pass the motion with a 3/
Over a dozen supporters meet on the patio to plan for how to pass the higher ed motion with a 60% vote

The supporters, many of them also new League members, had a lively discussion on the patio planning next steps. California League President Jennifer Waggoner also made an appearance, explaining the logistical difficulties of studies. She suggested the supporters examine the official study procedure as found in the convention workbook. She added that supporters should provide answers to some of the “Con” concerns about the proposed study — funding, planning, and scope.

Jeannie Waggoner presents her reservations and those of the board and staff to the supporters
Jenny Waggoner (standing) presents her reservations and those of the board and staff to the supporters

Later that day, a smaller group, including Max, Lucas, Pat Showalter of Los Altos – Mountain View, Donovan Steutel of Pasadena, and Eleanor Yick of Southwest Santa Clara Valley worked on talking points and creating a flyer which would offer some response to Jennifer’s concerns. Eleanor offered to type up the document and print out a hundred copies for distribution before caucus the next morning.

Instead of attending afternoon workshops, Lucas had a lengthy discussion with Jenny Waggoner and Helene Lecar (the founder of the Community College position) on the best ways to proceed. Helen and Jeannie advised Lucas to create slides clarifying the scope of the study for the next morning. These would be projected on the plenary room screens during the debate.


Sunday 9 am Plenary – a flyer for all delegates

Supporters have produced a flyer and placed it on all delegate tables
Supporters produced a flyer and placed it on all delegate tables in the morning

As the delegates returned to their plenary tables on Sunday, the final day of the convention, they found flyers describing the higher education study scope and names of supporters.


Plenary : Lucas introduces his motion for DISCUSSION

Lucas waits to read the amended motion. Supporters Pat Showalter (Los Altos) and Donovan Steutel ( Pasadena ) wait to speak at the PRO mic.
Lucas waits to read the amended motion. Supporters Pat Showalter (Los Altos) and Donovan Steutel ( Pasadena ) wait to speak at the PRO mic.

Finally, the time was at hand! The final discussion and voting on Lucas’ motion began with supporters and opponents lining up. Lucas used his opening time to present the slides made the night before detailing the scope of the project, then let others speak on behalf of his plan.

clarifying the scope of the study - governance and finance.
Produced by Lucas and supporters for clarifying the scope of the study – governance and finance.

Many spoke in favor of the motion for the State League to study higher ed …

A line of speakers at the PRO mic
A line of speakers at the PRO mic 1

But the CON speakers were also strong in number.

The line of CON speakers at mic 2
The line of speakers at the CON mic 2

Eventually, the time for debate elapsed and it was time to vote.


VOTE – Voice vote inconclusive, standing vote also inconclusive

The standing vote - the Pros stand. Too close to call...
The standing vote – the Pros stand. Too close to call…

Even with a standing vote the outcome was still too close to call


So there was a ballot vote

So the the Board officers moved to the last method, a ballot vote (the first of the conference). Delegates cast either a yellow “Yes 1” card or a blue “No 1” card. Once taken, the elections committee took the assembled ballots and left to count them.

Tellers go from table to table collecting ballots in a basket
Volunteers go from table to table collecting ballots in a basket – The Los Altos-Mountain View table


Vote Count is returned – Reading the Results

The vote count is read from the podium
The vote count is read from the podium


Argh! Got 98 of the 99 Votes Needed – FAIL by 1

The elections committee reported an extraordinarily close vote: out of 164 votes cast, 98 (59.75%) of the votes were yes; meaning the motion failed by the slimmest of margins (less than one vote).

Lucas Throws up his hands in dismay. Lost by . Needed98.
Lucas throws up his hands in dismay.


Stuebel asks for Reconsideration of the close vote

With the motion for the higher ed study just barely defeated, the plenary then continued with other business. However, the story was not yet over–Donovan Steutel asked as a point of order whether the vote could be re-taken due to the closeness of the vote and the knowledge that some delegates abstained.

Donovan Steutel makes a motion for reconsideration of the motion
Donovan Steutel makes a motion for reconsideration of the motion

Parliamentarian Jackie Jacobberger investigated her copy of Robert’s Rules of Order and then determined that yes, it was possible.

The parliamentarian says it takes only a majority to agree to a "reconsideration" of the Vote. In other words to request a new vote.
The parliamentarian relates her findings – Yes a motion for reconsideration of the vote is possible

A motion for reconsideration could be made, but only by a member who voted in the majority (that is, someone who voted NO). Once made, a majority vote would allow the defeated motion to return to the order of business one last time. The motion to reconsider passed by voice vote, and the study received one more shot.


Round 2 – short discussion & ballot voting

Discussion before the second vote was abbreviated . Not everyone got to speak again.
The PRO mic. Discussion before the second vote was abbreviated Not everyone got to speak again.

The vote was taken again (using card #3 due to a delegate’s stated comment that they had no card #2 and another stating that they had two such cards). This time, 165 votes were cast (one more), with 100 (60.6%) voting in favor. So the motion was passed because one delegate who had abstained decided to participate and vote yes, and one delegate who had voted no decided to vote yes the second time.


Sweet Victory – 100 votes in favor

Lucas savor the victory with the thumbs up sign
Lucas smiling, savoring the final victory on the second vote with the thumbs up sign


How to Help the Higher Ed Study Move Forward

But now the hard work has just begun–the League now has a new three-year study. You can help Lucas and Max by donating seed money to start the Higher Ed study, by helping with fundraising know-how, and by indentifying other relevant contacts inside and outside the league. Contact Lucas for more information. [email protected]