Report 2015 Annual Meeteing
“Cross Roads” Strategy discussion animates HCAO Annual Meeting 2015
Robust discussion characterized the HCAO Annual Meeting May 30 at the SEIU 503 Hall in Portland. From reports on our progress this year to debate on varying strategy options, and from hammering out bylaw amendments to vocal discussion in the election of officers, the meeting reflected the outspoken passion of our statewide advocates.
President Lee Mercer reported on progress this year including HCAO commissioning Dr. Friedman’s study of costs and benefits of an Oregon publicly financed health care system, HCAO now having over 15,000 supporters in the database, the HB2828 study bill having passed the House Health Care Committee, HCAO conducting a very polished hearing for SB631 and the Blues Festival netting over $17,000.
Mercer also outlined a survey of activists and members which indicated support for various strategic paths, including a ballot initiative to amend the Oregon constitution on health care as a human right, a ballot measure creating a universal publicly funded system or continuing to do public education to build voter support until polling indicates we can be successful in such an effort. This survey also indicated that a strong majority supported the criteria created by the board to decide whether to go forward with a ballot measure and that if that criteria isn’t met, we should continue our broad education efforts.
With much discussion, several amendments to the bylaws were voted on by nearly 70 member representatives. The quorum for membership meetings was adjusted to 20% of members (we are now at 110 member organizations). Members were concerned that there still be efforts to encourage as broad an attendance as possible at these meetings so a minority of organizations don’t end up making coalition decisions and rural Oregonians aren’t marginalized.
Other bylaw amendments (1) defined the process whereby member organizations can propose bylaw changes, (2) extended the term of officers from one to two years and (3) added making contributions to HCAO (financial or otherwise) to the requirements of organizational membership.
Bill Whitaker reported on our financial situation, indicating that we are a bit behind in making our budget goals through April. Finance Chair Terry Rogers immediately jumped up and encouraged generous donations, challenging sustaining donors to double their monthly pledges. By the end of the meeting, over $10,000 was tallied from one-time donations and increased monthly pledges!
Cheryl Simpson facilitated reports from several of the local HCAO chapters around the state on actions and events in the past six months. Ken Myers said the Metro Regional Council has been focusing on street fairs, the Blues Festival, the Salem rally and the upcoming Mercy Killers tour. Wes Brain reported the Rogue Valley chapter has been making inroads in the Klamath Falls area, including some upcoming small and large screenings of the Health Care Movie. Lisa Stiller then got the crowd brainstorming on ways local groups can help celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Medicare in July.
Even the elections had some exciting moments, as nominations were made from the floor and several members spoke out on the need for stronger efforts to bring enhanced diversity to the HCAO Board of Directors and Officers. Among newly elected were Nancy Sullivan to the board as Mobilization Committee Chair, Edie Orner to the Nominations and Election Committee and Ben Gerrick and Tim Roach as Vice President and Treasurer respectively. (See article on new leaders in this newsletter).
At lunch Ben Patinkin of Patinkin Research Strategies summarized the results of a voter poll done in March on language for several ballot measure options. The poll indicated we have the majority of likely Oregon voters on our side on several different ballot measure ideas, not enough support to go to ballot with confidence of success if opposed by a well-funded opposition.
Senator Michael Dembrow weighed in on the strategy discussion, agreeing with Patinkin that we must take our polling data seriously in making decisions about moving forward on ballot measures. He did see potential value in collecting signatures as an organizing tactic, however.
Sen. Dembrow also noted progress on bills supported by HCAO, including Basic Health (HB 2934) which had already been approved by the legislature; SB 454, Paid Sick Leave (which has subsequently passed the legislature); and HB 3517, Cover All Kids, which was still not progressing. Alberto Moreno of the Oregon Latino Health Coalition asked HCAO advocates to call Senator Courtney and ask him to release this bill from committee to assure health care for all children in Oregon.
The “Crossroad” Strategy discussion then was framed by Charlie Swanson, speaking for ballot measures on health care as a human right or directing the legislature to act on the results of the HB 3260/HB 2828 study; by David Delk arguing for going directly to a ballot measure creating a comprehensive publicly funded health care system in Oregon; and by Mike Huntington, making the case for waiting on a ballot measure and continuing our efforts to educate the public on our issues.
This kicked off a series of (18) speakers supporting one of these three directions. Great arguments were made by all, after which straw polls indicated that a strong majority of members and activists attending support the long-term education model rather than the ballot measure options proposed for the 2016 election year.
All of the discussion at this meeting will be taken into consideration this summer as the HCAO Board looks at redrafting our long-term strategic plan following the end of the 2015 legislative session. Thanks to all 126 attendees for their participation in the Annual Meeting and the robust strategic discussion we were able to share.
Report by Lee Mercer, HCAO President