By Jennie Lusk
Eric Shimamoto, former Ward Chair and newly appointed Chair of Rules Committee of the Democratic Party of Bernalillo County (DPBC), respects the committee’s importance in ensuring fairness at the grassroots level.
His role—facilitating the work of a group whose purpose is perpetuating democratic processes that sustain the Democratic Party even in contentious times—is unlikely to be an easy or comfortable one, especially as the Committee’s work provides the framework for meetings of hundreds of activists pushing particular political agendas, attached to specific candidates with specific ends.
But Shimamoto is not especially worried about the role he plays. He has a background as a community organizer. He’s a facilitator at heart, reluctant to judge prematurely what priorities the currently elected Rules Committee members will set for the coming two years. Rather than championing a set direction, Shimamoto intends to seek consensus among Rules Committee members to help incorporate their priorities into the Party’s business.
The DPBC Rules Committee responds to current problems by creating governance rules, but also shapes the way the Party functions. Rules have long been established for elections, for instance—including the process for selecting a nominee to replace Deb Haaland in the US House of Representatives. Long-established rules also establish the powers and authority of the county Party’s leadership and the operations of precincts and wards. In addition, the Committee can craft rules to address new issues as they arise. County rules with statewide effects bubble up to the statewide rules committee, where they may be passed.
The Rules Committee is comprised of people elected from each of the County’s 64 wards, currently with 11 vacancies. Its members represent most neighborhoods of the county, their priorities, and their people.
Shimamoto expects that the Committee, reinvigorated during this spring’s ward and precinct elections, will set its own course, filling in gaps in the state Democratic Party’s rules and identifying areas for improvement in Party affairs. Among priorities that have already been suggested for the Committee’s focus is creating a Code of Conduct applicable during Party gatherings and, potentially, any time an individual represents the Democratic Party publicly.
Many Blue Review readers are likely familiar with governance under Roberts Rules of Order, a “venerable” means of defining acceptable behavior during meetings. However, Roberts Rules “assume a very old notion of gentlemanly behavior,” Shimamoto said—one that may not quite be workable in these times of meeting virtually as well as in hybrid settings combining in-person with on-line participation. A new Code of Conduct might establish a new foundation for interaction among active Democrats across the county, representing varied views, if Rules Committee agree to create and adopt one.
Meantime, Shimamoto is reviewing county Party rules, including recent updates, and comparing them with those of other Democratic parties across the country and with those of likeminded organizations. He’ll be convening a Rules Committee meeting before long to explore ways to improve the Party’s processes.
Those interested in volunteering on the Committee are first directed to their Ward Chairs. A Ward Chair will know who represents the ward on the committee. If a Rules Committee member has already been elected, that member may welcome additional help. If there’s a vacancy, the Ward Chair may be grateful to hear about the new person’s interest in serving. But Shimamoto welcomes calls from anyone interested in helping define the rules going forward.