Arizona: Summing Up Where We Are So Far...

I don't know about you, gentle readers, but I'm having trouble keeping track of what's happening with the debate about whether or not to move the UUA General Assembly out of Arizona in 2012.  So for my clarification, I'm going to try to search it all out and sum it up here.

Calling for Boycott:
Against a Boycott:
  • The Valley UU Church in Chandler, AZ, wrote an open letter in opposition to moving GA2012.
  • The Arizona/Las Vegas cluster of UU religious professionals opposes boycott.
  • The Priestley-Kingsbury Chapter of the UUMA believes, with dissenting voices, that boycott isn't the best answer.
  • I believe there are other UUMA and LREDA groups which have stated opposition to boycott, but can't seem to find links for them.
  • The (admittedly newer) Facebook Page "Keep GA in Arizona - Phoenix 2012" has 74 members right now.
Individual ministers and bloggers and other individuals have taken stands on both sides.  And the UUMA remains neutral and supportive.  The Central Midwest and Ballou Channing chapters call for a re-examination of the GA situation, but don't call outright for boycott.

And then, the Rev. Michael Tino has proposed an alternative, that we have GA 2012 at another location and at another time, but that we hold an event of solidarity and justice in Phoenix at the time GA is currently scheduled for. 

And then, after all this, UUA President Peter Morales has issued a new letter.  We've been invited by Puente Arizona to come to Arizona during our GA 2012 time: "We invite you to transform your General Assembly scheduled for June, 2012 in Phoenix into a Unitarian Universalist convergence for human rights in Arizona."  The Rev. Morales concludes, "I believe we are compelled morally to accept this invitation. I recognize that the decision on where to hold GA belongs to the UUA Board of Trustees, but I believe we are called to go to Phoenix and create a GA like no previous GA."  

The Rev. Michael Tino has already outlined some problems with the proposal from the Rev. Morales.  Chief among them, to my mind are that the business of our association ought to be held at a place where all our delegates can come, and many UUs have expressed concern for their personal safety and have said they will not come to Arizona.  Secondly, he argues that it is pretty impossible to legitimately transform our General Assembly into a time significantly focused on this justice work, when we have all the business of our association to contend with.

Right now, I think the Rev. Tino makes a good case.  Our UU groups which represent people of color in this situation are largely on the side of calling for boycott.  I have a hard time believing that it's the right thing to do to hold a General Assembly, where we hold the votes on the business of our association, in a place many people feel legitimately unsafe in going to.  In fact, some people I have talked to in my own area have expressed their own concern with traveling to Arizona under this new law. 

And I hear that it's important, too, that we go to Arizona and protest, and that we've been issued an important invitation to do so.

Which leaves us at something very like the Rev. Tino's proposal of doing GA somewhere else, and going to Arizona with the purpose of working with our allies there to advocate for human rights and reform of this broken system.  If the event we have in Arizona is connected with a General Assembly, it will have to be a General Assembly dramatically reformed.  It will have to include ways for people to vote, on all issues, from out of the state.  It will have to include the setting aside of our usual GA culture and doing interfaith work and justice work instead of the usual workshops and exhibit-hall shopping.  We'll have to spend less time in plenaries highlighting one program after another so that we can spend more time on the streets.


Anonymous said…
Thanks for posting this summary!
Anonymous said…
You have described the main points of this debate very well and I thank you for having done so. Please note that some members of the first FB group favor keeping GA in Phoenix but 'liked' it in order to be in the loop. I know this because I am one of them.
Anonymous said…
You are missing a very important aspect of this debate, the financial impact of moving GA. It is estimated that it will cost the UUA over $600,000 to move GA.

Are the people who are proposing to move GA willing to come up with the money? The UUA does not have this money as shown by their recent staff layoffs.

The money needs to come from somewhere thus the UUA will probably pass the cost onto the Association via the GA registration price or other fees. This will that prevent attendees from registering because they can not afford the extra costs. GA is expensive enough as it is.

It is important to talk about the lives impacted by this terrible law. It is also important to talk about the lives within the UU community that will be impacted as a result of this change as well.

On a side note, it would take a change in the bylaws for people off site from GA to be allowed to vote at GA. Such a large change in the bylaws would at this point be unlikely in time for 2010.

- Jim
Cynthia Landrum said…
Anonymous #1 - Good point. I initially "liked" the Facebook page not knowing where I was on the issue, either. Fans of a page cannot be assumed to be in that page's camp.
Cynthia Landrum said…
Hi Jim,

Yes, I am leaving the money out of it. One minister has been organizing a list of people willing to pledge $100 each to offset the cost, and I have pledged my $100 to do so, even when I wasn't sure if it was the right thing to do, because if it is the right thing to do for other reasons I don't want the money to stand in the way. Obviously we don't have the whole amount of money yet; I'm not mentioning this to be saying that. What I'm saying is that, yes, I'm deliberately ignoring the financial aspect of this in terms of my focus on what is right or wrong, but I'm also willing to do my share to offset the cost of this, should we decide to. $600,000 is a lot of money, but when divided across 200,000 UUs, it can be handled.

And yes, I believe that if it's the will of the congregations, via the votes at GA to boycott, then the congregations will have to bear the financial cost of that. Obviously no single one of the groups that's calling for boycott can independently shoulder that burden. That doesn't mean they shouldn't be allowed to call on us to consider this measure.
Cynthia Landrum said…
However, if we do another event during the time GA was scheduled for, and move GA both in space and time, then we won't lose out on those hotel contract dollars after all. Win-win.
Anonymous said…
Hi Rev Cyn,

When AZ first passed the law I was in favor of a boycott. Then I read the Board proposal that will ask us to raise $1.2M, $600K for cancellation fees to hotels and another $600K for related justice work. I wondered to myself how is it that we can be committed to this much money to hotels more than two years out? On top of that, I wasn't planning to attend the Phoenix GA anyway as the location seemed an awful choice when first presented. Why on earth does the GAPC chooses places like Phoenix, Ft Lauderdale, and Ft Worth time after time? Why does the Board just approve them? The weather is problematic and the political environment in these cities has never been all that welcoming to us. Now I know folks will say these decisions have been made and we have to deal with the present situation. That is certainly true. But, I think a review of the site selection process and Board approval really needs to be done.

I still dont know how I or the other 12 delegates from our congregation will vote. I imagine we will be split. I think Rev Morales has worked to find an acceptable way out of a tricky situation. But it seems many in favor of boycott would rather engage in internet derision. I thank you for a more reasoned approach.
Cynthia Landrum said…
I was unlikely to attend Phoenix, too, for the reasons you cite. I went to Ft. Worth and had a miserable time (worst sprained ankle ever on their crazy curbs), and skipped Ft. Lauderdale. It would be nice if we weren't asked over and over to go to these horribly hot places in late June, I agree. And it does seem several locations in recent years have been problematic locations for social justice reasons.
Anonymous said…
General Assemblies are, of course, planned two years out, but it seems odd to me to plan social justice actions two years out. Isn't it possible that the situation in Arizona may be completely different in 2012? In fact isn't the goal of the social justice actions to get the law repealed? I guess changing the site of GA is itself an action to encourage getting the law repealed. I am also with the third "anonymous" in being confused about why it costs $600,000 to change the location of GA more than 2 years in advance.

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