Mini-assembly offers changes to elections reform

At Friday afternoon’s mini-assembly on proposed changes to the elections process for the UUA president and moderator, delegates recommended several amendments.

A substantial amendment offered by the Board of Trustees explicitly lays out the transition from the current system—which allows a president or moderator to serve for two four-year terms—to the new system of single six-year terms. A new section, 8.3 (c), would make the new terms of office for president effective for the president elected in 2017, and would make the president who is elected in 2013 ineligible to run for election in 2017. (This would allow current UUA President Peter Morales to run for a second four-year term in 2013, but if someone ran against him that year and won, they would be eligible to serve a single term only.) The new terms of office for moderator would take effect in 2013 (i.e., at the end of current Moderator Gini Courter’s second four-year term).

The board’s proposed amendment also includes language that would automatically delete the relevant transitional bylaws in 2013 and 2017, so that Section 8.3 (c) would entirely disappear after the transition to the new system.

The Rev. Wayne Arnason, co-minister of West Shore UU Church in Rocky River, Ohio, and a former UUA trustee, introduced a second amendment that would change the date when nominees for president and moderator would be named. The original resolution proposes that nominees be announced at the General Assembly one year prior to the election; as refined in discussion with the mini-assembly, Arnason’s amendment recommends that nominees be named by February 1 of the year prior to the election, extending the campaign period by almost five months. (Other candidates could enter the race by petition by February 1 of the year of the election, twelve months after the nominating committees would name their candidates.)

The mini-assembly turned down two proposals, one of which spawned a new amendment. Noting that the original resolution would authorize the UU Ministers Association to name one of the seven members of the Presidential Search Committee, a delegate proposed that the Liberal Religious Educators Association also have a spot on the committee. The mini-assembly rejected this idea—and then decided to recommend that the ministers association shouldn’t have a spot, either. The mini-assembly’s recommendation is that the Presidential Search Committee have five members elected by the General Assembly and two appointed by the Board of Trustees.

The other amendment rejected by the mini-assembly would have required the Board of Trustees to nominate two candidates for Moderator, rather than only one as proposed in the original resolution. Several current trustees explained that the pool of people able to take the position is very small. UUA Secretary Tom Loughrey said the board felt they should recommend the very best person for the job. Regina Largent, a delegate from First UU Church in Richmond, Va., argued that “in most congregations, we don’t present a slate with two different board candidates, so I don’t know why we need it at the UUA level.”

Moderator Gini Courter offered some recent history. “Candidates for president are running for a six-figure job,” Courter said; “candidates for moderator are running for a volunteer position that will result, I guarantee, in a net loss to their household income.” Both candidates for moderator in 2001 took out second mortgages on their homes and ended the race in debt, she added.

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