Friday, December 21, 2007
More about ID checks at 2008 UUA General Assembly.
The UUA has posted an extensive list of questions and answers about the ID requirements at the site of the 2008 General Assembly in Ft. Lauderdale. The FAQ addresses a number of the concerns that some trustees and some ministers have raised about the location of next summer's Assembly; make sure to read the whole thing. (My take on the controversy is here.)
[Update: See also this new open letter from Bill Sinkford, Gini Courter, and Beth McGregor to all UUA congregations.]
Several key excerpts follow:
Are there free speech limitations that will be imposed on any areas of the General Assembly?
No. There will be no limitations on free speech in any meetings of the General Assembly including plenaries, workshops, worship, etc. Convention center staff and security staff will not be monitoring any of our meetings to detect "anti-American sentiment." However, if any direct threat is made to the safety of any General Assembly attendee, security personnel will be notified.
Are there any limitations on the right to assemble at General Assembly in Fort Lauderdale?
The right to assemble in Fort Lauderdale is governed by regulations similar to those in effect in other cities which have hosted General Assembly. Groups that wish to assemble in an organized fashion outside of the convention center will require a permit from the City of Fort Lauderdale and must meet in the area designated on the permit. The Port is not the property of Fort Lauderdale, and organized assembly on Port grounds, outside of the Convention Center building itself, is not permitted.
. . .
Given this situation, is there any plan to change the structure of GA to make accommodations for the possibility that some delegates may not be able to enter the convention center?
Efforts are being made to establish a satellite site with a live audio/video connection that would allow the participation of delegates who are unable or unwilling to produce government-issued identification.
Will there be an off-site area for people to report any problems with the security screening to the General Assembly as it is happening? What recourse will anyone who is stopped have?
The pedestrian checkpoint will have a chaplain or other General Assembly personnel present to assist with any issues. Phone numbers for chaplains and the Right Relations Team will be well-publicized.
Did anyone provide assurances that the conference site would not be in the security zone by our GA date in any way that gives us legal recourse?
No. When the General Assembly site selection team visited in 2003, representatives of the Ft. Lauderdale Convention and Visitor's Bureau (CVB) stated that they were working on a plan to remove the security perimeter that would be acceptable to federal authorities. They said they fully expected this to be accomplished by the time of our arrival in 2008. We believe they made these statements in good faith. While the CVB has continued working on this issue, it has proved a much more difficult problem to solve than they originally thought. Just this year they received approval to build a fly-over road that will allow access only to the convention center and not the Port. The fly-over road will be completed in 2011.
Is there any portion of General Assembly, particularly the Service of the Living Tradition, that will not be subject to the security screening?
Worship services will be held in the convention center plenary hall, as that is the largest venue available, and ID will be required for entrance to the convention center. We are currently working to establish a satellite site with a live audio/video connection outside the port perimeter for plenary sessions and worship. The worship services are also streamed and may be viewed on a computer with a web connection.
. . .
Why did the Planning Committee recommend and the Board choose Fort Lauderdale as a GA site?
There were many reasons that made Fort Lauderdale a good choice. Fort Lauderdale was selected as a site in 2003, immediately following the Boston GA where the UUA was faced with hundreds of thousands of dollars in hotel attrition fees. Fort Lauderdale was the only city to guarantee no attrition fees and a heavily subsidized convention center which made it financially attractive. The convention center was large enough and professionally staffed; shuttling to hotels was affordable since the convention center was subsidized. Hotels were of good quality, relatively affordable, and offered a wide range of rates. In addition, the General Assembly had not been to the Florida District since 1991. A culturally and racially diverse community, affordable hotels, a subsidized convention center, and a welcoming community made Ft. Lauderdale a good choice.
Would it be possible to cancel GA, or move it to another site?
Because contracts with hotels have already been signed, the UUA would be obligated to pay cancellation fees (different than attrition fees) in excess of $800,000. We have established relationships with the local volunteer committee, and several years of preparatory work have been done on our justice initiatives of accessibility and environmental sustainability. Finding an alternative site that is large enough and provides the financial safeguards of Fort Lauderdale while meeting our other justice requirements would be impossible this close to the General Assembly.
The FAQ also says that the GA Planning Committee will make financial assistance available to people who cannot afford fees needed to obtain a government-issued ID. An application form will be available March 1.
Copyright © 2007 by Philocrites | Posted 21 December 2007 at 7:29 AM