Friday, May 7, 2010

By the time we get to Phoenix...

Report from the May 6 UUA Virtual Board meeting

Ever since SB 1070 was signed by the Arizona governor, the UUA board emails have been non-stop, primarily among ourselves, but also lobbying from various groups urging us to boycott Phoenix, site of the 2012 General Assembly. At least four districts who have had assemblies in the past few weeks have passed resolutions asking the President to "re-examine the decision". [Note: per the by-laws, the decision is the Board's.]

The reasons are compelling. The lack of welcome if not downright fear for the safety of our Latino/Latina community has given all of us a right to question our presence there. Yet many of us (myself included) were reluctant to just walk away, and it was not about money.

The cancellation costs could be as high as $615,000, assuming no mitigation with the hotels. More important were our values, and reasons for boycotting. Is this about sticking by our principles and showing the world what we believe? or is it about overturning this draconian not-yet-law? or both? or something else?

One of the values of the UUA identified by the Board, then-president Sinkford, and the two presidential candidates a few years ago was "transformation". What acts will move us away from fear and reaction towards the Beloved Community? Van Jones' words kept ringing in my ears: prepare to govern, prepare to engage -- you are so good at being against things. Prepare to lead.

The call had a wide-ranging discussion, with excellent input from the staff and a number of Arizona members. In the end, the Board decided to turn the decision over the the General Assembly this summer, recommending that we move General Assembly. The Board's role is to govern between general assemblies, and this was the kind of substantive, values-packed decision that the Board wants more of for assembly delegates. We envision a full discussion of how we both engage and make our values clear, raising the money not only to defray any cancellation penalties, but also support Standing on the Side of Love in Arizona. To that end, the Board also decided to move either the October 10 or January 11 board meeting to Phoenix.

Here is the full text of the resolution that will be considered in mini-assemblies at GA:

Whereas the state of Arizona has recently enacted a law—SB 1070—that runs counter to our first principle, affirming the worth and dignity of every person;

Whereas the Association stands in solidarity with allies using a widespread economic boycott of Arizona as leverage for Love against this hateful legislation;

Be it resolved: we will not meet in a state of fear.

Accordingly, the Assembly hereby:

• Directs the UUA General Assembly Planning Committee to recommend to the Board of Trustees an alternate location for General Assembly 2012 at a location outside the state of Arizona;
• Pledges to generate from Member Congregations the amount sufficient to cancel arrangements in Phoenix for GA 2012;
• Pledges further to generate an equal or greater amount to fund ongoing efforts to Stand on the Side of Love in Arizona.
• Pledges to renew and redouble our efforts to become a multicultural, anti-racist Association; to live as a people standing faithfully in opposition to systemic racism in our congregations, local communities, and in our own lives.


Otto O'Connor said...

Thank you for taking the time to inform us about the UUA board's reasoning behind what is certainly a difficult decision. I am hopeful that we really will hit those two last points of this resolution - that is really what is the most important thing we can do about this. Support efforts in Arizona NOW and pledge to support anti-racist/anti-opressive/multi-cultural ways of being in our own communities & congregations.

Wonderful to meet you (for the second time) today & I look forward to following your blog!

Anonymous said...


Why didn't the Board just make a resolution about Phoenix? Why was the additional fundraising for AR/AO work added? Does the Board really think the member congregations will raise that kind of money in this economic environment?

Also, has the Board dug into the details of what the GAPC has in its contracts compared to other groups? Can a group get an escape clause for certain things? It seems other groups do, but I really do not know. But as the Board affirms these contracts every year (like you just did for Providence, RI) you may know.

Kurt Jensen

Linda Laskowski said...


"Why was the additional fundraising for AR/AO work added? Does the Board really think the member congregations will raise that kind of money in this economic environment?"

I do -- there has already been informal fundraising with significant amounts pledged. People contribute based on what they think is important, not how much their disposable income has gone up or down (assuming they had some to begin with). Just walking away was to most board members not addressing the real issue: the existence of this bill, and the many that are pending in other states. We need to address the cause, not just the symptom.

Good question on the escape clause - somehow I can't see anything that says "unless something happens in your area that violates our value system" as anything a hotel would agree to, regardless of how artfully it is put.

Tom Wilson said...

First, I note that you say that you yourself have mixed views on this, so this is a critique of the Board's recommendation, not necessarily of your views. And just to be clear, I am in vociferous opposition to the Arizona law. Some thoughts:

A boycott by the UUA, while self-satisfying, has a low-profile impact. We would be withdrawing our money from the Phoenix economy, it would get a few small headlines, and that would be the end of it. (We are small potatoes - we have nowhere near the headline potential of, for example, a boycott of this years All-Stars game.)

We also have no idea what the status of the law will be two years from now - we could be spending our deposit money needlessly.

The Board's resolution says "we won't meet in a state of fear." A stronger demonstration of that sentiment would be "we are coming, and we refuse to be afraid." Boycotts, as in the civil rights South or South Africa, are long, slow and sometimes have unintended consequences. Why not show up and make a strong statement, right there in Arizona? As the editorial cartooonist Mark Fiore notes in a U-tube video, most of us might be illlegal Canadians. Don't stay away - encourage people to show up and protest. We have two years to plan. We would have a ready-made crowd of thousands to do protest marches with clever, photo-op grabbing T-shirts, signs and articulate spokespersons.

Anonymous said...


Are you saying the Board approved this resolution without knowing what is in the cancellation clauses of the contracts the UUA signed with the Phoenix convention center and the area hotels?

It is my understanding that most hotels will let a trade show cancel a year out without penalty, which this would certainly be enough time. In fact, do we even have contracts with the hotels yet? The Board should have known this information.

Is the $650K a termination fee for the Convention center? The costs to negotiate somewhere else?

I wouldnt expect the Board to get into all the details, but I would like to believe that the trustees had a good general understanding of these things before you voted.


Linda Laskowski said...


The Board did have those details, and Jan Sneegas (event planning on staff) was on the call. The $615 is only what is spelled out in the contracts with the hotels, which have been signed -- the contract with the convention center has not. It is very possible that the cost would be less if the hotels allow us to use some of the cancellation towards other events or other hotels in their chain. This is what happened when we canceled in Phoenix a number of years ago due to the Martin Luther King holiday. This does not include any additional costs we might incur for finding another place, but staff has identified at least two other locations that are available at this time, and will be identifying others by GA.

ogre said...

I've concluded that--all things remaining the same (which they won't... but that's another story)--I'll be boycotting Phoenix in 2012 if the law's in place. Regardless of what the Assembly votes. (There's a personal price to that--that's the GA where I expect to be in the SLT, entering fellowship.)

I'm all for going to AZ and making a stand and a presence. That's not something that I strongly associate with GA (despite the regular demonstration). Most of it is (naturally) about doing *our* business, being together, etc.

If we want to go to AZ to witness against the law, we should be going to AZ (in collaboration and solidarity with the local communities...) to do so. Not as an add-on.

Mixing the two is, I think, a mistake. GA would look like UUs come to town, hold convention, do their business, complain, make pro forma demonstration, leave.

Going in 2011 to stand against the law (and not, dear god, in high summer. I grew up in a desert much like that one--only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the noon-day sun...) and boycotting in 2012 would be far more meaningful.

Not either/or. Both/and.

Anonymous said...

Dear Linda,

Thank you again for posting this information. Most of the other trustees do not have blogs. Perhaps you could suggest the Board and GAPC to have a mini-assembly on all this? Preferably not during the two days of workshops we have been whittled down to.

Bob Lane said...

Linda, Thanks for keeping us informed about the Board's actions re the proposed boycott. I hope that before GA the Board will consult fully with the UU District Phoenix is in and with individual congregations there about the relative value/effectiveness of coming and demonstrating as opposed to staying away.

Besides the costs we may incur, those most directly affected may be the low income hotel and restaurant workers in Phoenix, many of whom may be immigrants themselves. I hope the Board will also consult with the unions who represent those workers (if they have representation)about the costs and benefits to their members and the communities represented in their membership.

Thanks again for your reporting,
Bob Lane

Karin L. said...

I'm a bit late to the discussion (I don't read your blog as often now that I'm out of the PCD), but wanted to add my thanks for the details on the board decision. Based on the wording of the resolution and the introductory text on the statement, I believe you have considered all the factors thoroughly and I intend to support the resolution at GA.

I may not get much of an audience here, but one thing that is really disturbing me about the discussion among general UUs is how little the voices of UU Latin@s and grassroots immigrant advocacy organizations in AZ are being considered. Do we want to subject Latin@ UUs attending GA to racial profiling? Are we listening to groups like La Raza who are calling for boycott? Or are we falling into the age-old UU trap of deciding we know what's best for those we claim to support?

I believe the UUA board has done its research, and I wish more other UUs would trust their leadership.