Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Death Of The Traditional Precinct Meeting

State Senator, Nathan Dahm visits with Broken Arrow precinct 456 at their afternoon session
   The long tradition of neighborhood precinct meetings is being pressured out of existence by a group of Tulsa County GOP power brokers. While the State GOP permanent rules do say that the precinct leadership is the "supreme authority of the GOP in the local precinct" , the out-going Tulsa County Chairman (Mike McCutchin) and his legal council are making an unusual move to kick out any precinct delegation who did't start & finish their meet in within the short allotted time, at the borrowed facilities that the county chairman personally selected.
   Precinct 456, in Broken Arrow is Tulsa County's most active precinct. They had a great precinct meeting day on January 31st. Their morning session met at Arrow Heights Baptist Church. It was in another House district, because County Chairman McCutchin failed to organize a central location in their own House district (which the Tulsa GOP Executive Committee had voted to establish).

  So after the morning presentations by venue coordinators (at the dozen or so central locations) were followed by distribution of paperwork, the many lawmakers from the 20 house districts took more time to address the many dozen precincts and field questions & comments. Several precincts had 1 or 2 attendees and they just filled out a pile of paperwork then left. Several dozen precincts had no attendees at all.
  But Precinct 456 (near 81st & Aspen, in Broken Arrow) had a dozen precinct committee members and guests, which took extra time to complete their meeting agenda past the 90 minutes which were allotted.

One of several precinct meeting signs
 in Broken Arrow's precinct 456
  Precinct 456 was not even close to finished when the 12 noon deadline came.  Precinct Chairman Larry Williamson had previously created several street signs. These were made because Tulsa GOP Chairman, Michael McCutchin had personally given the group permission just a week prior, to have a precinct meeting inside their own precinct, as they had been doing for decades. With this authorization, they purchased materials and posted signs a week prior to the meeting date, so as to satisfy the requirement that precinct leaders publicly advertise their meeting details at least 5 days prior to the event. But during the following week  McCutchin reversed himself again, and ordered  them not to have any local meeting, even though their signs were all over the precinct.  Party rules forbid a change of venue in the last 5 days, so the signs were left up.
  A great spread of food was awaiting the precinct when they arrived at the site of the afternoon meeting. All of the morning attendees were present when the afternoon session began. Even more visitors showed up for the afternoon session.
  State Representative David Brumbaugh addressed the group first. This was the only political event scheduled in his house district. He would have liked to visit more such groups. He was followed by Senator Nathan Dahm. The residential setting was fun and very family-friendly. Kids were encouraged to ask questions and learn from the discussions.
  I arrived about this time. I had come from across town where my own precinct had met at a Brookside church. I had no problem finding the home where the meeting was held, because every arterial street in the area had redundant signs clearly identifying the location. it was a quiet and modest middle class neighborhood where kids were safe and neighbors visited neighbors while walking their dogs.
  After the senator had completed answering many questions, the meeting moved on to elections. Larry Williamson encouraged people to consider the chairmanship but the group was not at all interested in anyone other than Larry to continue leading the group. He finally gave up asking and called for the vote. He remains the precinct chairman for 2 more years.
  The collection was taken after the elections and most folks had money to share with the needs of the Tulsa County GOP organization. The group next elected to attend the Tulsa GOP Convention as an open delegation and most of the group asked to be listed in the delegation report.
  The folks were excited to volunteer on convention committees and seemed intrigued at the way the party is designed as a "bottom-up" structure where the local delegations decide together how party leadership is chosen.
  The spread of food in the dining room was a continual attraction throughout the afternoon as folks discussed and voted on so many platform planks. By the end of the day the group had carefully crafted over 40 planks to forward on to the county platform committee. [At last report the county platform committee had approved several of the precinct's planks.]

Tulsa Chairman Mike McCutchin
  Larry is coincidently the former precinct chairman of Mike McCutchin's precinct (and mine). Much of McCutchin's passion for grassroots political leadership came from Larry's infectious way of making precinct involvement a fun event. Sadly, my precinct participation has dropped off since Larry moved to Broken Arrow.
   Precinct 456 has several officers and they even created new officers for things like social event organizers (for their June picnic with lawmakers), a new neighbors ambassador, and a few other ideas. The neighborhood does have significant influxes of newcomers partly because it is close to Rhema Bible College.

  Even though 456 is arguably the most active and excited group in the Tulsa GOP, McCutchin is calling an executive committee meeting on February 26th, to kick Williamson & his precinct committee out of the Tulsa GOP organization. McCutchin has secured the legal counsel of Terry Simonson (Mayor Bartlett's former top staffer, and now with the Tulsa Sheriff's department).

Attorney, terry Simonson
Simonson is trying to assert a legal case against these local Republicans despite the clear party rules which puts the case before the County Convention Credentials Committee.
  Tulsa County Republican leaders have never ordered their organized precincts to disband their neighborhood biennial meetings before. This decision was only made as a tentative idea in mid December, by a motion to hold all precinct meetings in "a central location, in each house district". But the executive committee never approved the list that McCutchin came up with.[The Oklahoma GOP rules require the executive committee to approve any specific location that is outside the precinct boundaries.] Instead, McCutchin only selected about half of the locations needed, and ordered many dozens of precincts to travel several miles to remote locations outside even their state house districts. And some were in the corners of the county. Downtown Tulsa precincts were first told to travel out to east Tulsa. But when some Brady Heights participants arrived that morning they were told that a change was made and they were now required to travel up to the Collinsville, Oklahoma  area in order to be included in a delegation. Others never made it to a precinct meeting at all because they required public transit routes which do not go to rural Collinsville, OK.
  It remains a contentious last couple weeks in McCutchin's 2-year term as county chairman. Many years ago, one of Mike's first tasks as a party leader was to become Larry Williamson's assistant (precinct vice chairman). One of McCutchin's last actions may likely be to throw Larry Williamson out of the county convention. McCutchin is a financial expert and employed by Victory Christian Center. Larry Willaimson has been a tireless volunteer worker on hundreds of campaigns since the mid 80s. He is a self-employed businessman.
Concerned citizens may contact Chairman McCutchin at 918-627-5702
Rule 3- Rights and Qualifications of Members and Officers
(a) Members: All citizens of Oklahoma are invited to join the Oklahoma Republican Party to perpetuate this Republic. All qualified voters of this state who are registered Republicans are members of the Oklahoma Republican Party, and shall have the right to participate in the official affairs and governance of the Republican Party in accordance with these rules as set forth herein. Such right shall be sacred and inviolate, and the willful disregard or abridgement of such right by an officer or member of any committee of the Party shall be deemed sufficient cause for the removal of such officer or committee member.
David Van Risseghem

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