by Ed Dodson
Our 2009 conference and meetings held in Cleveland, Ohio has come and gone. Some 75 of us gathered for four days of serious discussion on the state of our world, as particularly evident by conditions endured by the people of Cleveland. The presentations made at this conference will soon be available for viewing and/or reading on the CGO website.
On the final morning of the conference, I offered my thoughts on what we might consider as priorities for the coming year. I urged our colleagues associated with the Henry George Schools to make productive use of the recordings made of our conference sessions, which convey to students that there is a vital social movement devoted to implementing the reforms they learn about in the school’s classrooms. As time permits, the CGO will begin to select key sessions to edit and present on the Web and other media.
We “old-timers” were heartened by the attendance of several younger enthusiasts and first-timers. We were also joined by two of our most talented and dedicated Australian colleagues, Phil Anderson and Karl Fitzgerald. We hope they came away from the conference with a feeling that our collective efforts are yielding practical results. The solutions we advance to global problems are needed more now than ever before in history. Our great challenge is how to lift our message onto the global stage as part of the everyday discourse. Walt Rybeck, our banquet speaker, brought this message home to us, as he recalled lessons of past campaigns.
Next year, we will be meeting during July in Albany, New York. New York State, as with most states in the United States, is struggling to balance its budget in the face of declining business activity and rising unemployment. Our colleague Bill Batt, who resides in Albany and has strong ties with state government officials, is part of our conference planning team. We will develop a strategy to make sure as many local officials and activists as possible are introduced to our perspectives well in advance of our conference.
At the Albany conference, we will offer sessions targeted to the interests and priorities of our members. Some members want the opportunity to engage in more intense discussion on subjects that may not appeal to many others. The answer is to allow for break-out sessions that run concurrently and repeat. This means that conference attendees can select sessions based on interest. This structure also offers the opportunity to move from session to session when a presentation proves to be less interesting than anticipated. As one person on the CGO planning team remarked: “People will be able to vote with their feet.”
The amount of time devoted to these break-out sessions will depend on the number of you who express a desire to lead a session. We encourage CGO member organizations to develop a session that highlights your activities and perspectives. And please, don’t procrastinate! The number of participants plays an important role in our requirements for meeting rooms at the hotel and other considerations of session length, breaks, and whether we plan for evening sessions, or allow the evenings as free time.
This year we lost several of our friends – Dick Noyes, Bob Drake and Larry Moss. Dick suffered from ill health for some years and had not been able to attend conferences. Bob Drake’s death was sudden and unexpected, made more tragic because he was (by Georgist standards) still a young man. I never met Larry Moss, but Ted Gwartney and others who knew him well describe him with great fondness and admiration. We stand on the shoulders of these and others who have gone before us and who dedicated much of their lives to the advance of the principles we embrace. We can do no less to honor their memories.
One of my priorities as President of the CGO is to do all I can to bring more people to the conferences. As a first step, I would like to hear from you, and to know how you feel about the annual conference. If you have not been attending for some years, is it because of health concerns, costs involved, demands on your time during the summer months, or other reasons? If you are not able to attend but would be willing to provide a financial scholarship for someone else, this could be very helpful to enable younger people to attend who have the interest but not the financial wherewithal.
I look forward to your comments and suggestions about how to make the CGO more effective.