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Tom Swiss for FSA President

As I previously mentioned, I'm running for President of the Free Spirit Alliance. My complete candidate's statement is now available at

Here's an abbreviated version; the version linked above goes into more detail about my experience in FSA.

    When the Master governs, the people are hardly aware that he exists...When his work is done, the people say, "Amazing: we did it, all by ourselves!" -- Tao Te Ching, Lao-tzu (trans. S. Mitchell)

Hi. I'm Tom Swiss, and I'm currently serving as vice-president, and running for the presidency, of the Free Spirit Alliance. You might not know my name, but odds are that you know my face. You've been to the concerts that I've MCed, or to the Bardic Circles I've hosted, or you've been to one of my workshops on shiatsu or Zen or self-defense, or you've heard one of my Discordian fire circle rants. After the past year or two, you might know me as "that guy in the purple top hat".

From my involvement in our events and in our political process, I've come to believe that 1) we have a lot of smart, determined, hard-working, and productive people in our community -- and 2) we need to do a better job of making it easier for them to participate in this organization.

One of the obstacles I saw was the use of Robert's Rules of Order in our meetings. Last year I began a campaign to replace them with an alternative called "Martha's Rules", a more consensus-oriented approach that encourages dialog and discussion, but still allows for majority rule when deadlocks occur. I'm very pleased that at the most recent business meeting, the membership decided to adopt this alternative on a trial basis.

I also think that we can do a better job in using the Internet to enable communication. As a professional computer geek, I've been involved in on-line discussion groups since the late 1980s, from FidoNet and USENET through mailing lists to web forums and social networking sites. I've recently started working with Eve, our webmaster, to set up a wiki site for FSG staff to record and document procedures and information, and I think we can also expand it as a general community resource.

The past few years I've been trying to promote FSA events within the Baltimore area arts community. As part of that, I've been hanging out with "Burners" -- attendees of Burning Man and of the local Burns, Playa Del Fuego and Wicker Man. This is a community that already overlaps with us -- I've seen many familiar faces at PDF and Wicker Man -- and I think that many other people in it are looking for a spiritual connection in a way that is right in line with what we do.

And I think that we can learn from the radically participatory way that Burns are organized. The Burners have a wonderful term, "do-ocracy": those who do stuff, make the decisions. I would like to bring that idea of radical participation into FSA.

I want to make it so easy for the people of our community to participate and get stuff done, that there ends up not being much for the officers and trustees to do but sign checks and schedule meetings. I want to work hard to make it easy for members to get stuff done so that I can be a supremely lazy President. It's paradoxical, but you should expect that from me by now.

For that to happen, the President must be a highly visible presence. The President acts as the official spokesperson for FSA; as a writer, a performing poet and musician, and with my experience as MC, I believe I have the skills to represent us in any medium or circumstance, from presiding at our scholarships awards to composing press releases to being interviewed by the media. I would like to raise FSA's visibility in the community, and I think I am well suited to act as our representative.

On a more practical note, after this election the first thing the new FSA officers must address is ensuring that our financial records and paperwork are up to date. We recently learned that we may not be in full compliance with tax law changes from 2006, and we have to get right on that. This is why I recruited Alison Chicosky to run for Treasurer.

As of the June meeting, we've got a powerful line-up of candidates for President. (The line-up may have changed by the time you read this; so it goes.) Duckie and Kal have proven their ability in the position; Fred has held the VP slot and worked hard for us in his role as quartermaster. I'd be happy to continue to serve as Vice President with any of them.

But I think I can offer fresh energy and a new direction for this organization.

I would be happy to answer any questions you may have. Please feel free to comment here, or to e-mail me at

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