Nov 04, 1997 08:47 PM
I found this in the Chicago Tribune.
It sounds vaguely like something we all know about.
Chuck the Heretic
>Date: Tuesday, November 4, 1997
>Source: Eric Zorn.
>Section: METRO CHICAGO
Copyright Chicago Tribune
CLAMPING DOWN ON DISSENT WAS GROUP'S 1ST ERROR
Reduced to a number, the answer to the question, "What's ailing the
Independent Voters of Illinois-Independent Precinct Organization (IVI-IPO)?"
That's the designation of a bylaw adopted in February by the board of the
53-year-old good-government organization.
On its face, Bylaw 2.005 is ordinary enough. It restricts access to the
IVI-IPO membership list to those doing authorized work on behalf of the
Many, if not most, interest groups are protective of their membership
lists, for obvious reasons. But what makes Bylaw 2.005 a big deal here--and
the first issue raised in a 33-page civil complaint pending in Cook County
Circuit Court filed by former leaders of IVI-IPO against the current
leaders--is that it is irreconcilable with a key provision of the
organization's constitution, Article 3 Section 7a.
That section makes meaningful the lofty language in IVI-IPO's statement of
purpose: "We believe that those who are affected by the decisions of
government must be consulted by those who govern . . . (and elected officials
should be) responsive to those who gave them office." The section says that
any decision of the board of directors can be overturned by the membership,
and to begin this process, a member must file a petition signed by 5 percent
of the membership.
Yet, obviously, a dissenting member will have a hard time passing a
petition among his fellow members when the membership list is confidential.
Put another way, 2.005 + 3:7a = Catch-22.
When I shared the results of my math with IVI-IPO state Chairman Robert
Bartell and his administrative Vice Chairman, Marc Lipinski, I received an
earful of complaints about the complainers, who include former state Chairman
Jerome Meites and several alternate board members:
They filed suit because they're bitter over losing a power struggle, the
leaders said. They're obsessed. They were bothering the other members with
their endless whining. New rules were needed to keep them from the draining
internal agitating that lately has cut both fundraising proceeds and
membership ranks in half.
The plaintiffs have their own litany of grievances: The IVI-IPO has been
taken over by a power-hungry cabal that has made a mockery of the spirit of
the organization by clamping down on internal dissent and changing
long-standing rules and procedures to practice rank political cronyism that
has rendered the once-treasured IVI-IPO endorsement meaningless. Membership
has dropped to less than 800 due to disgust with leadership.
It would take far more than one column to sort out the relative truth of
the specifics behind these claims. Indeed, I am looking forward to a lengthy
treatment of the controversy scheduled to be the cover story in this week's
Reader. But even if everything the current leadership says is true, it
remains an inadequate excuse for their imposition of Bylaw 2.005.
The IVI-IPO--which traces back to a voters' association founded in the
mid-1940s by Adlai Stevenson II, Leo Lerner and Paul Douglas (then a Chicago
alderman, later a U.S. senator)--always aspired to reform petty partisan
bickering, machine-style politicking and brute governance. It's known for
promoting a generally liberal ideology, and its endorsements still play a
role in guiding voters through judicial elections.
Internal fighting about changes several years ago in the IVI-IPO's
endorsement process for judges appears to be a major cause of the
organizational rift, which will be back in court for motions Thursday. What's
clear from the passage this year of Bylaw 2.005 and the recent refusal of
leadership to give opposition viewpoints space in the member newsletter is
that it's easier to praise "popular democracy," as the IVI-IPO does in its
constitution, than to practice it during times of group disharmony.
The risk to both parties is that the public squabbling will dilute
IVI-IPO's influence on the electorate. The loyal liberal in me dreads this
and, Rodney King-like, begs them to all just get along. But the cynic in me
looks with suspicion at any group with virtually no membership restrictions
and no action agenda other than ballot endorsements that claims for its
membership worthy and reliable political insight.
Reduced to a gesture, the answer to the question, "What's ailing IVI-IPO?"
is a shrug.
MORE ON THE INTERNET: News archives on the IVI-IPO and reader
correspondence at www.chicago.tribune.com/go/zorn
Keywords: ISSUE GROUP
Document ID: S730819f
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