Dear members, affiliates and friends,
This is our annual report letter, organizational and affiliate renewal letter, and appeal for support. I want to begin with excerpts from an excellent conference speech by Mayor Stephen Reed. His entire speech is online at cgocouncil.org/videos.
A Message from Stephen R. Reed, mayor of Harrisburg from 1981-2009"Since you are the prime proponents of having land value tax policies, and you are right in that position, and in your wisdom supporting it, I’m going to do tonight’s presentation focused on the case study of Harrisburg Pennsylvania, and the role that land value tax policies have played here, combined with other policies and programs, in bringing about a nationally recognized urban economic resurgence....
"Inspired entrepreneurial thinking, like yours, endowed with a high public purpose, as is yours, can make a very real difference in a very chaotic world right now that is looking for true leadership. And when you take an unconventional approach, because the land value tax is perceived as an unconventional approach to economic development by a whole lot of folks, -- When you take that approach and you do it armed with the practical effects of the policy you espouse, I think you can advance this cause a lot further along....
"Business as usual is not going to revitalize this country, and it's certainly not going to revitalize the places most in need of renewal, and that would be our cities and our older towns. Bold, strategic thinking and action will bring about changes. And frankly, I consider the Council of Georgist Organizations to be one of those, who based upon the mission and the goals that you have long embraced, have a civic duty to this country to advance land value taxation policies and everything that goes with it, to bring America out of the quagmire in which it finds itself today. That is your charge....
"I wasn't kidding, folks. The Council of Georgist Organizations is in a unique position. You've been around for a while, but consider the America that exists today -- the quagmire, the chaos, the stalemate, the non-productivity of the American political system. People are looking for more than sound-bites; they're looking for answers. They want real leadership, and they're not getting it! You're in a perfect position to step forward. And for the mission that you've embraced all these years, it's your duty to do so, and it is your challenge coming forth from this meeting in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. God bless you."
The 2012 Harrisburg Conference (July 30 – August 3)
The 2012 CGO conference was outstanding in many ways. We heard rousing support for land value tax from Harrisburg’s current mayor, Linda Thompson, from the former mayor, and from Pennsylvania Auditor General Jack Wagner. We also heard excellent reports on Marcellus Shale fracking, debunked arguments for shifting from local property taxes to state sales taxes, and held workshops on strategic planning, marketing, and interacted socially each night in an exceptionally large and comfortable hospitality suite. We would have chosen this hotel for additional conferences except that we were dissatisfied with accessibility for the handicapped.
Videos of Past Conferences
We have videotaped some of our past conference events, and most of this past year’s events. I am personally uploading each event, even though each one takes about a half a day for copying, reformatting for the internet and uploading. As I write this, we have presentations by both mayors Thompson and Reed online, and the panel presentation on Marcellus Shale. We also have the presentation, "Terence Powderly, Henry George and the Catholic Schism," by Maria Mazzenga, outreach librarian of Catholic University of America. Her presentation was the highest rated at the Scranton conference of 2007. They are available at cgocouncil.org/videos. We will be adding many more videos, and also creating highlight videos.
Although we got very good reviews from those who attended, attendance was far lower than usual, and we lost money for the first time since the CGO took charge of the annual conferences. This is not a severe problem, as we have built up just enough of a financial cushion over the years to withstand one total disaster and still have operating money to hold additional conferences. Indeed, if not for a reduction in funding, this conference would have broken even. Even with this year’s reduction in funding, our best attended conferences would have broken even. Still, we like to know why a conference does poorly. We always solicit feedback from our attendees, but we would like feedback from those who decided not to attend.
Our executive committee has kicked this around some. The problem might have been due to the economy, which we can’t do anything about, or to the internet serving some of the needs that the conference serves. However, it might also have been due to the program itself, which had far more concurrent sessions than ever before, to the brochure looking cluttered due to multiple listings of the same session, or to the unusually high number of skills-training sessions, which might not appeal to some. On the first day, people complained about having too many concurrent sessions, but by the end of the conference, more people had found them to be a good feature. Still, we will scale back on the number of concurrent sessions for the immediate future. We are also thinking of holding most of the skills-training sessions on the first day, so people who are not interested in those sessions can attend beginning on the second day.
Pittsburgh 2013 – 100 Years of Land Value Tax in Pennsylvania
From Tuesday, August 6th through Saturday, August 10th, we will be celebrating Pennsylvania’s rich Georgist history at the Pittsburgh Airport Holiday Inn, which hosted us in 2001. The conference will feature both current and historical controversies from the Whiskey Rebellion of 1792 to the Allegheny County assessment battles today. Special attention will be given to Aliquippa, a land-taxing city just a few miles from the hotel, to Clairton, which is on the verge of becoming the first American city with neither municipal nor school taxes on property improvements, and, of course, to Pittsburgh, which led the way for so long, only to lose its land tax due to terrible land assessments.
We hope to be able to upload parts of the 2013 conference to the CGO website shortly after we record them. Edward Miller, Barry Campbell and Jacob Shwartz-Lucas have developed several Facebook discussion pages which have recruited many new Georgists, and we will be commenting from the conference to these pages. This will be the Council’s first attempt at reaching out to non-attendees directly from the conference.
If you have a workshop presentation for Pittsburgh, let the planning committee know immediately, as we will be filling up the schedule soon. Conference Brochures will be emailed and mailed in mid April, 2012.
Newport Beach, California 2014
The 2014 conference will be at Newport Beach, California, July 7-12th. Ted Gwartney, Mason Gaffney, Harry Pollard and other Californians have begun working on program ideas.
Members of the Henry George School of Chicago want to host the 2015 conference. Sue Walton, our administrator, is seeking bids from Chicago area sites.
Importance of the Conferences
Our annual conferences bring us together and strengthen our sense of community. They inspire and motivate our new members especially. To this day, I remember my first conference, at Bryn Mawr College in 1978. To be honest, I don’t remember a thing about the program, but I remember the friendly enthusiasm and impressive expertise of so many Georgists, the personal stature and commanding presence of conference host George Collins, and the sheer joy of being among compatriots for the first time.
Before that, it had felt like Steve Cord and I were alone against the world. Suddenly I was surrounded by people who were bound by dedication to the same cause. This is the glue that keeps movements alive.
The expert program sessions are also important, and will be even more important now that we are putting them online. The information will be widely shared, and the videos will even serve as a recruiting tool for future conferences. Still, the close personal interaction is the most valuable aspect of the conferences.
We work hard to find affordable venues that you can reach on affordable transportation. Hotels give us free function room space, provided we book enough sleeping rooms and meals with them.
We remain open to holding conferences at college campuses, with some reservations. We had very good experiences with the University of British Columbia and, more recently, with the University of Scranton. We use hotels mostly because college campuses have become almost as expensive as hotels are, and because we have had bad experiences with some other campus venues.
Volunteers do a great deal of work to make the conference successful, and are given conference scholarships in return. The work they do for free is worth more than their conference costs, and the scholarships help some people who could not otherwise attend. These scholarships are paid for from contributions to CGO.
The Robert Schalkenbach Foundation and Henry George School of New York had hosted these conferences before the CGO was formed, and they have generously supported CGO’s conferences for many years. However, their ability to continue supporting us has been affected by the recession and more recently by Hurricane Sandy. We need other sources of funding.
Although CGO is tax-exempt, we are not a tax deductible charity. We are wholly dependent on membership contributions, donations and contracts. Please contribute if you are able to do so, and feel free to suggest people whom you believe are worthy of scholarships. The annual dues and donation form is below. Once you fill out this brief form, you will be switched to a PayPal screen on which you may enter your donation and credit card information via a secure connection. Or if you prefer to mail a check, you may download the membership form here. Please contact conference administrators Sue or Scott Walton via email@example.com, or at 847-475-0391 or 888-262-9014, with any questions.
We wish you more than holiday cheer. We wish you peace and comfort in a shared vision of fundamental economic justice and general prosperity.
CGO Officers, 2012-15:
Dan Sullivan, President
Ted Gwartney, Vice President
Paul Justus, Secretary
Toni Gwartney, Treasurer
Sue and Scott Walton, Administrators
ANNUAL MEMBERSHIP and DONATION FORM
(All memberships expire on December 31st)