Branch Coordinator Candidates

(The order was decided by a random number generator.)

Central

Valley

Westside

* Kyle Scott and Jack S-L are running unopposed for the position of Central Branch Coordinator.  Rhett Rob is running unopposed for the position of Valley Branch Coordinator.  They will be declared elected by acclamation.


Central Branch Candidates

 

Kyle Scott

What have you been involved in within DSA? Tell us a little about your experience.

I joined DSA-LA in February of 2017 and have been an active member during the entirety of my time in the chapter. My organizing work was initially centered in the Immigration Justice Committee (IJC) (which was the “Sanctuary City Working Group” at the time). I then eventually began organizing with the Housing and Homelessness Committee (HnH), which has continued to occupy the main chunk of my DSA organizing time up to the present. As a member of HnH, I have led Prop 10 canvasses, participated in various protests and actions, and have been especially active in Street Watch. I also served as an at-large member of the Steering Committee that directly preceded the current one (elected in November 2018), and am currently one of the two Westside Branch Coordinators.

What is your political vision for the Branches in the upcoming year?

1. I want to continue the ongoing restructuring of Branch meetings.

It’s no secret that the Branch meetings (as well as the Chapter meetings which preceded the Branches) continue to be a work in progress. Many incredible chapter leaders have done a lot of invisible labor thinking through the goals of these meetings, experimenting with various formats and programming, and debating how best to structure this important time. These meetings present us with the difficult challenge of creating a block of time that is equally engaging and beneficial for brand new members (or potential members) and longer-term members alike. Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ve ever fully achieved this—although I can recall certain meetings that have come close. Here are some things I think we should keep in mind as we try to more successful achieve this goal:

1a. We need to acknowledge that newer members and longer-term members, by and large, have different needs and are looking to get different things out of the Branch meetings. And we need to be realistic about how difficult it is to effectively balance all of these things within a single block of time. Broadly speaking, there are two main goals of the Branch meetings, as I see it: (1) engaging and re-engaging longer-term members into chapter work, discussion, and decision-making, and (2) bringing newer members up to speed and plugging them into work.

I propose that we delineate the Branch meeting time that we devote to each of these two tasks much more explicitly and clearly. The new member orientations that currently precede the Branch meetings should be extended, and it should be made clear to all that the programming to follow the orientations may presume certain knowledge and geared towards those with more experience in the chapter. The Branch programming should not itself be understood as an extension of new member orientations; rather, it will be beneficial for newer members to the extent that it offers them a glimpse into the actual, ongoing work, debate, and decision-making of the chapter. Accordingly, we should not at all shy away from including programming in the Branch meetings that gets into the nitty-gritty details of chapter work; presumes some background knowledge or experience; and involves discussion and debate around things that have an element of “inside baseball.” In my experience, programming of this kind—far from alienating newer members—has impressed and inspired them, as a concrete demonstration of the dedication, commitment, and thoughtfulness of our active membership.

1b. Branch meetings should not be a place for us to convey information that one could get—often much more easily and efficiently—by simply being handed a flier or linked to something online. If we want to grow our membership and curate a space that people want to return to we need to ensure that everyone who spends their time attending a Branch meeting feels that that time is well-spent. I think we fail to do this when we use that time to communicate updates or relay information that could be much more easily (and memorably) disseminated in written text. Granted there are, of course, exceptions: we should announce (and celebrate) victories together, relay urgent or time-sensitive information in-person (as well as through written message), etc. But on the whole, we should aim to have our Branch programming offer something that cannot easily be replicated via other channels. This includes: in-person debate, small breakout groups with comrades, real-time Q and A, political education in a group setting...and yes, socializing with and meeting your comrades! If we care about these meetings, we need to provide people with a reason to actually attend—and we can do this by offering them a way to engage in chapter work that they can’t by, say, simply reading a chapter email or perusing our website.


1c. Branch programming should be centered on open debate and discussion concerning ongoing chapter work and proposals. There are, to be sure, a variety of ways to offer members something at Branch meetings that cannot be easily replicated via other channels. But I believe the most important way to do this is by continuing to transform the Branches from places where we simply inform and update members, into places where chapter work and decision-making actually occurs. In other words: the Branch meetings should be organs of chapter work and decision-making, and not simply the place where that work gets shared and promoted. Some of our recent bylaws changes are conducive to accomplishing this transformation—they will, ideally, result in more member and committee proposals coming under the purview of the entirety of the chapter, producing more opportunities for chapter-wide debate and decision-making.

2. I want to work to continue to turn Branches into full-fledged units of the chapter.

In my view, the issue-based committee structure that DSA-LA currently relies on is not a maximally effective or sustainable way to organize chapter work. As many have noted, there is a powerful “silo-ing” effect that seems to occur under the current committee-based structure, in which members are funneled into committees that remain largely isolated from one another. Members are rarely presented with opportunities to meaningfully connect the work they do in committees to the broader, collective project of the chapter. To be sure, Branches are not a singular solution or cure-all for this deep-rooted problem—which is by no means exclusive to DSA-LA (or DSA more broadly). (Capitalism—as we all know—incessantly atomizes, isolates, and individualizes; it is no surprise that this gets replicated in our attempts to overthrow it). But Branches are nonetheless a step in the right direction. At their full capacity, the Branches could be a powerful space for members to coalesce around work and discussion that pertains to our collective movement—work that is distinctively chapter- and DSA- wide—and not linked only to an isolated issue. They offer a space for initiating and developing local, neighborhood-based work; recruiting, activating and re-activating our comrade neighbors; and tying socialism to the very spaces we navigate on a daily basis. But in order to see this through, we must make sure that the Branches work to cultivate and grow new leaders and build out full-fledged organizing committees committed to organizing the neighborhood. I hope to see the Branches become fully-developed sites of chapter work, powerful units of organization and mobilization in their own right, thereby fulfilling the aim of the original branching resolution.

→ More broadly, I affirm the vision set out in the Red Los Angeles document here (https://bit.ly/34PX677)

Why are you running for Branch Coordinator?

I am running for Branch Coordinator because I believe I have ideas and experience to offer. I think my familiarity with the organizational structure of the chapter, the various issue-based committees, bylaws, and so forth, make me a good source of knowledge for new and experienced members alike. I think my experience as a member of the previous Steering Committee—during which I spent a good chunk of my organizing time planning, discussing, and presenting during branch meetings—makes me a good candidate as well. Finally, I believe my experience as one of the two Westside Branch Coordinators over these past few months has prepared me to continue to do this work in an effective, collaborative way, giving me a firm understanding of the various "behind the scenes" tasks that go into planning, presenting at, and driving turnout to branch meetings. Moreover, I think I have a vision and set of ideas that the chapter would benefit from. I’d be honored to build upon and continue my work as a Branch Coordinator.

 

Jack S-L

What have you been involved in within DSA? Tell us a little about your experience.

I have been a member of DSA since January 2014. I began by organizing a YDSA chapter at my undergraduate school and coordinated multiple national YDSA winter conferences. After graduating in 2017, I moved back to MacArthur Park, a Central American community that I was born and grew up in. I have spent much of my organizing time with DSA-LA’s immigration justice work. That work has ranged over the years from policy engagement in critical support of SB54 (a semi-sanctuary state bill), to direct action in border solidarity and coalition work, to political education about immigration and internationalism. I was also involved in planning the Political Education series on Imperialism and the Class on Class, where I presented units on nationalism and on class & political struggle.

At the national level, I was a member of the National Political Committee for one year, I am a current member of the International Committee, and I coauthored several policy positions of DSA National, most significantly a 2019 resolution that passed at the national convention, committing DSA to building relationships with mass organizations in Latin America.

I’ve learned a great deal about being an effective organizer in these past five years, and I want to contribute the skills that DSA has taught me to build a branch where more of our membership is involved in the daily life of the organization.

What is your political vision for the Branches in the upcoming year?

It is my belief that only a mass organization, not an activist organization, can provide political expression to the working class in Los Angeles. Currently, DSA-LA is primarily an activist organization: our members either dedicate a large amount of time to political activity in the organization, or they are entirely disengaged from the work. Not everyone can engage in DSA work at that level, so it is vital that all our members recognize themselves as workers with the agency to advocate for change in their own lives, and that they be proud and public about being socialists, and learn about the political traditions of democratic socialism.

I believe to effect that change, Branches need to be a meaningful unit of organization in implementing priority resolutions, activating our membership, and engaging in specific branch level campaigns. The branches should be where the general membership can influence and shape our chapter-wide work. As branch coordinator I will work alongside the other Branch Coordinator to build an organizing committee that will take on responsibility for reaching out to all of our branch members and engaging them in priority resolution work where possible, and more generally engage them in DSA as a broader, liberatory organization working to improve all of our lives in this city.

In the medium term, my goals as Branch Coordinator are summarized in this Red Los Angeles Platform: https://bit.ly/34PX677

Why are you running for Branch Coordinator?

I am running for Central Branch Coordinator because I believe we need to transition the Branches into the political organs that will turnout, organize, and engage our members to participate in DSA work rather than serving mostly as the place where membership gets chapter updates. The Branches need to be organs of our chapter where our members concretely plan the next steps to win our campaigns; onboard new members directly into those campaigns; make branch-wide and chapter-wide decisions; and pursue political education and organizer training.


Valley Branch Candidates

 

Rhett Rob

What have you been involved in within DSA? Tell us a little about your experience.

I've been a member since early 2017, but my main contribution has been as interim Branch coordinator for the last two branch meetings.

What is your political vision for the Branches in the upcoming year?

Living in Santa Clarita, it's difficult to maintain an active involvement with many of the committees whose goals I share. My main goal as branch coordinator would be to help build up opportunities for local members to get involved on a regular and meaningful manner.

Why are you running for Branch Coordinator?

I just think its the best way I can be of assistance. Doing the sort of boring and practical work of making sure the meetings happen is more in my wheelhouse than researching city policies or organizing direct actions. It's a thing I can do most reliably.

 


Westside Branch Candidates

 

Benina

What have you been involved in within DSA? Tell us a little about your experience.

I was in the first generation of branch coordinators, helped put on branch meetings/new member orientations with MemCom, and have facilitated and developed various chapter-run trainings.

What is your political vision for the Branches in the upcoming year?

To root our branches in their neighborhoods/geographical regions by working to make our three priority resolutions (LA Green New Deal, Bernie 2020, Organizing for All) a reality. Each branch offers unique perspectives and experiences for how to tackle the problems the resolutions present. I think branches should take on an active role in developing and carrying out these resolutions to root our organizing deeper in our neighborhoods.

In working towards this political vision, I would advocate that branch meetings should devote more time than currently usually allotted to engaging with branch-specific issues and intentionally develop new organizers from the branch membership into resolution work.

Why are you running for Branch Coordinator?

I was organized into being involved with branch work after my first ever DSA meeting (which happened to be at a brand-new westside branch!). I'd like to continue developing new organizers--getting new members passionate about issues, talking to their neighbors, and realizing their own potential as organizers has been one of the most energizing parts of my time in DSA.

 

Walker Uhls

What have you been involved in within DSA? Tell us a little about your experience.

Most of my experience within the DSA has come from my position as the founding co-chair of the YDSA chapter at Palisades Charter High School. This chapter, which has been active for over a year at this point, has organized multiple actions at our local high school that have helped encourage leftist activism on campus. Recently, for example, we invited an Iraq War veteran (and DSA-LA member) to speak about his experience in the military and warn about the military-industrial complex at our school. We have also invited members of the UTLA shortly after the teachers' strike near the beginning of the year to speak, and endorsed as a chapter the student climate strikes in Los Angeles, with much of our membership turning out at the strikes. Our chapter has also begun to coordinate with other YDSA chapters in Los Angeles to help advance the spread of YDSA into more schools across the city. I have also been involved in recent canvassing efforts including the Bernie Sanders and Jackie Goldberg canvasses.

What is your political vision for the Branches in the upcoming year?

I believe one of the primary challenges that DSA-LA as a chapter has experienced is the sheer size of Los Angeles as a city, and the establishment of the Branches has definitely been a step in the right direction in mitigating that as an issue. However, the issue is far from solved. If we are to advance as a chapter, we will need more action on the branch-level rather than the city-level. As Branch Coordinator, I intend to coordinate with each committee to help organize actions on the local level within the Westside to help prevent geographical barriers from preventing DSA-LA members from participating. In addition, the Branches have a significant potential to be the primary force of recruitment for the chapter, which will be absolutely necessary if the chapter is to grow. Local canvassing efforts, especially for the Bernie campaign, have already begun to prove themselves as a viable means for locating potential DSA-LA members. With this in mind, I hope to take advantage of these canvassing efforts and possibly even organize canvasses for the purpose of DSA recruitment. Overall, the Branches have an significant potential to facilitate the expansion of DSA-LA's activities, and I intend to utilize this potential to the fullest extent.

Why are you running for Branch Coordinator?

I am running to be a Westside Branch Coordinator as I believe the branch system represents a significant opportunity for our chapter and I hope to help the Westside Branch take advantage of this opportunity. The DSA-LA is in the perfect position to expand right now as the 2020 election season continues and the Bernie campaign continues to grow momentum. The growth of the student climate movement and other mass political movements also can act as an opportunity for the growth of DSA-LA. This potential will only be tapped in our chapter if we take advantage of the branch system and the ability to organize on a more regional level within the city, so as to avoid stretching our resources thin. As Branch Coordinator, I hope to help ensure that this advantage is used.

 

Andy P.

What have you been involved in within DSA? Tell us a little about your experience.

I've been involved in a wide array of activities throughout my time in DSA, among them: coordinating the Labor Committee's strike support,helping out with Mutual Aid Brake Light Clinics, assisting in IJC actions and marches, the August 2018 Prison Strike, and currently, bottom-lining our marshalling program.

What is your political vision for the Branches in the upcoming year?

I see the Branches as hubs of political activity we can really bring back into the places where we live. LA, as a metropolis--and Metropolitan area--is on such a grand scale that no member can really keep in touch with the city as a whole. The only way to feasibly address the issues that capitalism causes in our lives--and build real working-class power in the hands of the working class--is to organize locally, within the reach of local people, and within our own reach. We need to ground our issues on a personal, local level, that we can see on the streets outside our door, not just when we drive downtown or to KTown to be in the center of it all. And we need to support our comrades who don’t have the privilege of living within LA City limits, those comrades in Culver City, Santa Monica, Torrance and the South Bay, letting us leverage our political might not just against the huge machinery of Garcetti’s office but also the local political machinery that can hide corruption and oppression within the halls of miniature tyrants. The only way to combat this is to organize in density, to get a concentrated local strategem going, and get organizing the closest to on-the-ground as possible. My strategy is as such:

1. Over the next calendar year, reach out to each committee to have at least two meetings, and one activity, in the Westside branch over the next year, and
2. ...to publicize meetings and activities taking place in the Westside branch and make this available to Westside members, especially those interested in those committees; and
3. To reach out to committees to see if they have any ongoing campaigns with specific components that geographically lie within the Branch, and figure out ways to mobilize to spur on these campaigns, strengthening them through deep local involvement of neighbors within the affected communities; and
4. To bring us together in fellowship and solidarity, by making sure that we can actually see each other in a way that’s convenient, and doesn’t require an entire trip down to central, through additional publicizing of our neighborhood hangouts and the planning of additional social activities.

Why are you running for Branch Coordinator?

I need to give many thanks to the previous Branch Coordinators for shepherding the Westside Branch into fruition. Watching them I have seen nothing but a stream of hard work, often rendered invisible by our organizational structure. While I am under no illusion that our organizational forms are completely fluid thanks to the pervasive nature of capitalism, I know how vital this work is, and feel it is only through doing it can I show how important it is to me.

Given that the organizing is locally based, my experience living within the branch for most of my entire life and extensive knowledge of its geography should help ease in the geographic problems that the Branches were designed to ease.

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