General Operating Procedures and Ground Rules Puget Sound Conservation District Caucus
Adopted October 27, 2014
- Mission of the Caucus
The mission of the Puget Sound Conservation Districts Caucus (PSCDC) is to support and strengthen the 12 Puget Sound Conservation Districts and partners to foster community and individual stewardship to restore, enhance and maintain the natural resources of Puget Sound – such as working lands, soil, water, marine and fresh water habitat – with a non-regulatory, incentive-based approach, supporting our economy.
The Puget Sound Conservation District Caucus works together to share information, develop and implement programs of Sound-wide importance, and advocate for policies and funding that affect our work.
- Caucus Membership:
The Caucus is made up of one voting representative from each of the twelve Conservation Districts that are signatories to the Interlocal Agreement. Each District shall appoint one Caucus representative and an alternate. District representatives and alternates can be, but are not limited to, District staff or Board Supervisors. Caucus representative and alternate positions will be filled as vacancies arise with names provided to the Caucus Chair as requested.Expectations for Caucus representatives and alternates:
- Representatives and alternates are expected to find ways to work together to solve regional issues.
- Representatives and alternates are expected to communicate Caucus activities and decisions to their own Districts.
- Representatives and alternates are encouraged but not expected to attend all Caucus meetings.
- Representatives and alternates are expected to review all Caucus agendas and minutes to stay informed about what the Caucus is doing and to communicate to the Caucus about issues that are important to their District.
- Representative and alternates s will seek to state their own concerns and interests clearly, listen carefully to others, and explore issues from all points of view before forming conclusions.
- Caucus Chair
The Caucus shall have a Chair, who will serve a one-year term. At the conclusion of the term, the Chair may be re-elected. The election of the Chair will occur at the first meeting of the calendar year or if a vacancy occurs. Over time, each District is encouraged to have its representative serve as Chair. Since budget should not limit a District’s ability to serve, the Chair’s District may request some funding to support its representative’s time commitment.The Caucus Chair is responsible for presiding over Caucus meetings, developing Caucus agendas (in consultation with other Caucus members) and overseeing the development and issuance of Caucus recommendations and action items. In public settings the Chair presents viewpoints consistent with policy and direction set by the Caucus and reports back to Caucus members about the nature and content of presentations.The Chair also reports Caucus opinions and recommendations to the Washington Association of Conservation Districts and the Washington State Conservation Commission as necessary to promote coordination with other Districts.The Chair has signatory authority for Caucus opinions and other communications and is the default representative of Caucus at regional meetings. The Chair is by default a member of any Caucus work group.
- Caucus Agendas and Meeting Summaries
The Chair, in consultation with Caucus members, decides upon the specific agenda items for a given meeting.Requests for agenda items for a particular Caucus meeting should be made at least two weeks in advance of the meeting. Documents requiring review prior to the Caucus meeting must be submitted to the Chair at least two weeks before the meeting. Caucus agendas shall distinguish between action/decision and discussion items. Draft agendas shall be approved by Caucus consensus at the beginning of each meeting. The Chair distributes the agenda and meeting packet to the Caucus and others as needed.The WSCC Regional Manager will provide staff support for meeting summaries. Meeting summaries shall be concise yet complete, and focus on key decisions and discussion items.
- Use of Work Groups
The Caucus may find that work groups are necessary to discuss and review information related to specific priorities, issues, or topic areas. The Caucus may establish work groups at any time. The work groups may invite outside participants to provide expertise or other perspectives. The decision-making and voting rules in Section F below will apply. Recommendations from these work groups will be brought to the full Caucus for decision.
- Decision-Making and Voting
The Caucus will attempt to reach true consensus on all decisions and recommendations. True consensus means that all members fully support the decision. If true consensus cannot be reached, decision-making will occur by the consensus voting procedure described below.Except in the case of the election of the Chair, if it is necessary to vote, each District will have one vote. Each District will express its opinion on the matter using the following options:
- Endorsement (I like it)
- Endorsement – with minor contention (I basically like it)
- Agreement with reservations (I can live with it)
- Stand aside (I don’t like it but I don’t want to stop it)
- Block – I can’t live with it.
A Caucus decision will go forward with the number of 1’s, 2’s, 3’s, and 4’s noted in the meeting record unless a member District chooses option 5 to block the recommendation. If a member District wishes to block the decision that District must try to find a new recommendation that members will not block. If no consensus can be reached on a Caucus decision then individual Districts may express their opinion but no Caucus decision will go forward. Caucus members may give their consensus vote in writing by proxy to another Caucus member that will be attending the meeting. However, Caucus members may only block a decision if they are present at that meeting. A quorum is those members present at a meeting.
Members who choose options 2, 3, or 4 agree that although they don’t believe the decision is perfect, they will still support the Caucus decision once it is made.
If an item is added to the agenda at the meeting, then discussion may occur and a straw vote taken. The Chair will reach out to other Districts who were not present at the meeting to determine their vote before the decision becomes final.
Election of the Caucus Chair will occur by simple majority vote at the first meeting of the calendar year or if a vacancy occurs.
If a Caucus recommendation is requested under a very short time frame, the Chair may ask members to assist in formulating a recommendation. Every reasonable effort should be made by the Chair and participating members to solicit opinions from other Caucus members before making a Caucus recommendation. Any Caucus member can choose to block the recommendation if they feel strongly about it. Caucus members may vote on the recommendation by email. The group that worked on the recommendation will report on its deliberations and the result at the next full Caucus meeting.
- Communication Protocols
All members will be mindful of the effects their public and private statements may have on the climate of this effort, particularly the spirit of attempting to solve problems collectively.Members also shall take special care to differentiate between representing Caucus versus personal or District opinions when writing or speaking independently or in other venues. If a person or District disagrees with a Caucus decision, that person or District shall not disparage the Caucus, its decision, or the process.
Correspondence, web material, and other materials produced on behalf of the Caucus shall present content agreed upon in accordance with these operating procedures.The Chair is the default representative of the Caucus. However, all members are empowered to speak on behalf of the Caucus following established protocols. Actual Caucus representation at a particular meeting may depend on geography, relationships, and/or expertise.
- Key Partners
The Washington State Conservation Commission (WSCC) and Washington Association of Conservation Districts (WACD) are the key partners of the Caucus. To the extent possible and practicable, the Caucus will coordinate and cooperate with the WSCC and the WACD to achieve the Caucus’ mission and goals. The Caucus will work to inform the WSCC and WACD of recommendations, decisions, and positions developed by the Caucus in a timely manner.As needed, the Caucus will consult and partner with other entities.Washington Association of Conservation Districts (WACD)
All Caucus members are eligible to be part of the Washington Association of Conservation Districts. This statewide association can support the Caucus’ work, and assist the Caucus with working with other Districts around the state to achieve Caucus goals and build unity of action and purpose across all Districts. The WACD also can work with regional, statewide, and national organizations, agencies, Tribes, and NGOs to help achieve Caucus goals. The WACD and the Caucus should maintain open lines of communication to ensure WACD understands how it can best focus its limited resources to support Caucus activities.
The WACD has established a process of working with Districts to develop goals, policies, positions, and actions via resolutions. Caucus member Boards are encouraged to work through that resolution process to bring ideas to the statewide association and work in concert with WACD staff to build support for its ideas among other Districts.
Because the WACD represents a diverse array of Districts, it is possible that from time to time the Caucus may dissent from a WACD decision or position. In that event, the Caucus is encouraged to bring the issue forward via already established WACD procedures or directly to the WACD Board of Directors through WACD Area Directors.
Washington State Conservation Commission (WSCC)
The WSCC works with all Conservation Districts around the state to encourage voluntary natural resources stewardship on private lands. State law directs the WSCC “to facilitate, promote, assist, harmonize, coordinate, and guide the resource conservation programs and activities of [conservation districts].” Furthermore, state law requires the WSCC to “keep the supervisors of each of the several conservation districts organized and informed of the activities and experience of all other districts organized, and to facilitate an interchange of advice and experience between such districts and cooperation between them.”
The WSCC provides assistance to the Caucus in the following ways:
- Connects the Caucus to state and federal agencies, and Tribes via:
- Representation in state and federal fora
- Connections to agency staff
- Suggestion of topics and speakers for Caucus agendas, provided to the Caucus Chair following these operating procedures
- Seeks and provides funding for activities linked to Puget Sound objectives
- Provides logistics support, such as:
- Meeting locations
- Creation and distribution of meeting summaries
- Staffing assistance, such as:
- Serving as technical writer for Caucus products
- Providing logistics support for Caucus work groups
- Helping ensure follow-through on Caucus work
- Connects the Caucus to state and federal agencies, and Tribes via:
- Caucus Chair
The WSCC and the Caucus should maintain open lines of communication to ensure the Caucus clearly communicates its activities and role in Puget Sound to the WSCC. WSCC will support Caucus efforts to work with other districts around the state to achieve conservation goals, and Caucus efforts to serve as a resource to regional fora, state and federal agencies, Tribes, and others about successful ways to work with landowners to achieve conservation objectives.
- Meeting Frequency and Location
The Caucus meets at least six times per year. To the extent possible and practical, the Caucus will meet in Edmonds.