Accountability and Transparency at MCDCC

Despite recent posts highlighting shortfalls of the new Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee (see here and here), the new MCDCC has a lot of potential. MCDCC has a lot of energetic new members as well as ongoing members with valuable experience.

The MCDCC meeting last night revealed some additional strengths. New Chair Kevin Walling did a fine job of running the meeting. He made sure that people were heard even as he worked to make sure that the Committee moved through an ambitious agenda.

In general, despite a diverse range of approaches, MCDCC members seem willing to listen and to learn from each other. Many brought good ideas to the table. And even if there were some bad ones, they at least deserved a respectful hearing.

There are gaps on two fronts, however, that need to be addressed if this potential is to be realized.

Accountability and Assessment

Just as a willingness to try out new ideas is important, the Committee needs to collect information on an ongoing basis that will allow MCDCC members to assess their effectiveness. At the MCDCC meeting, reports lack this critical information.

For example, the report on the precinct organization said that more people were joining than were leaving or dying. But there was no information about the number of vacant slots or how many vacancies were filled or created. Other reports similarly referred to success but provided no hard data on accomplishment.

The fundraising committee did not report. Even the budgetary information provided to MCDCC members was highly limited with no basic breakdown on the sources of funds. And that was not provided in advance of the meeting. Trying new fundraising techniques is great but this sort of information is vital to assess whether they should be repeated.

Additionally, since resources are limited, assessment needs to occur not just as to whether a positive outcome occurred but if this was the smartest, best use of resources. In short, members seem very supportive of one another but need to learn how to build a team even as they make dispassionately these sorts of judgements on the value of various activities.

Not everything is going to be a success. So what? It’s often worth trying new ideas and you can still thank the people for running with them. But declaring everything a success won’t help move the Committee forward.

Chair Kevin Walling alluded to this need to make judgements when MCDCC discussed the issue of whether it should mail the Montgomery Democrat newsletter to all members. The costs versus the benefits–as well as alternative benefits that could be accrued by spending the money otherwise–should be examined. Following through on these sorts of tough discussions is exactly what needs to happen.

Transparency and Inclusiveness

MCDCC needs to become more open not just with Democrats and the media but with each other. Currently, information is increasingly kept within the Executive Committee and not even shared with the broader Committee.

This trend seemed to accelerate after my post critical of their fundraising efforts with a flurry of proposals (that fortunately seem to have died down) on how to gag other members even though the subject of the post was discussed at a public meeting and robocalls were made around the County.

So MCDCC needs to be more willing to consult openly with each other not to mention rank-and-file precinct workers–especially on proposals mooted to change the precinct organization–and even pesky bloggers like me. Hunkering down into an ever shrinking circle is the exact opposite of the inclusive approach advocated strongly by all members of the Committee.

I think MCDCC can do it. No doubt there is a steep learning curve, especially just before a general election. And people who have new ideas also need to listen to members who have more experience. But only with more accountability and transparency will the exciting ideas to move the Democratic Party in Montgomery forward and prove Will Rogers (“I don’t belong to any organized political party. I’m a Democrat.) wrong really have a chance to succeed.