In our previous post, we noted that Philadelphia Yearly Meeting officials have proposed a budget which includes numerous staff cuts.
Among the positions on the chopping block is the Young Adult Friends Coordinator.
Coming soon to Philadelphia YM?
But the post will not be dropped without a— thee should pardon the expression, Friend — fight.
A “worshipful and loving” fight, it is insisted; but a fight just the same.
A group of YAFs has set up a Facebook page and started a petition to preserve the YAF job. And in keeping with standard Quaker crisis response practice, a group of them has written a Minute (or resolution, in worldly parlance). The “worshipful and loving” phrase is theirs. Another excerpt:
We are aware that this is coming in response to a sizable budget shortfall and that this position was removed along with many others in an attempt to balance the budget for the coming year. While aware of sacrifices being made across the board and the financial situation which necessitated them, we are deeply concerned about the elimination of this position in its entirety. We can accept changes and believe that proportional reduction of this position, though regrettable, is acceptable under the given circumstances. However, it is clear to us that the complete removal of this position not only places the supportive scaffolding for young adult Friends in jeopardy but the current and future vitality of the whole yearly meeting as well.
They’re calling on supporters to attend the PYM Interim Meeting on April 9, and wear special buttons that will say, “YAFs need AND give support!” They are also urging that letters and emails of support be sent to PYM officials.
In sum, they’re setting out to lobby the body to roll back this cut. This is normal defensive budget behavior; happens every working day in Washington, 50 state capitols, and innumerable city halls. When budgets are growing, the jostling can be more decorous. When budgets shrink, especially by large amounts, elbows come into play.
It will be interesting to see how this turns out. If things are as bad as the proposed PYM budget suggests, should the YAFs win their struggle, it will be at the expense of some other program or staff slot. More elbows.
Quakers mostly hate such zero-sum, competitive, win-lose exercises. Along with potluck dinners, avoidance of open conflict is one of our Society’s most Sacred traditions. (I’ll be in trouble for even mentioning this.) But there it is.
Maybe there will be a flurry of behind-the-scenes negotiations to head off a floor fight. We’ll see. But a memory comes to mind:
In the mid-1990s, I sat in on a budget session at PYM, when the Treasurer brought in a budget calling for a substantial spending increase. It was to be paid for by a hike in the amounts to be collected from its 100-plus local Meetings. In those days, this amounted to a tax increase.
But then the unexpected happened: one after another, Friends rose, speaking with some warmth, to say that they were NOT going to pay this increase. It was a spontaneous (so far as I could tell) tax revolt, right there in front of God and everybody.
After half a dozen such ringing declarations, the abashed Treasurer said (approximately), Well, it looks like I’m bringing in a budget with NO spending increase after all; we’ll figure out the details later. And “poof” — there went glimmering about a quarter million bucks out of somebody’s program plans.
I doubt there’s a way to wish the missing million back into this proposed budget. But the lesson is not lost: From Washington to city hall, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. It appears some Philly YAFs understand this. So the course of these deliberations should be interesting indeed.
This is as sharp as Quaker elbows are supposed to get. But sometimes . . . .