Board Candidates’ Q&A


To help you learn more about the current board candidates, the Co-op Voice sent out questions to each candidate. We asked them to answer at least five questions, so not all questions were answered. Here are the replies of the candidates who sent back their answers: Alexis DeLaTorre, Chris Dorando, Janet Sorell, David Vigoda, and Russell Ziemba.

We’ve organized their responses by question so you can easily compare. Click on a question to go directly to the responses, or scroll through to see everything.

1- Would you support a multi-hour Board orientation by non-Board members? Please describe the orientation you would most wish the new Board to receive.

2- Give an example of how (and why) you have compromised in a group decision-making process – both in terms of the issue then at hand and your participation in the decision.

3- In 2016, the Membership voted to create a member-run newsletter available for member communication, and also voted in changes to the Member Owner Manual to include the Co-op Voice as a way to earn member hours. Do you support the Co-op Voice as a member-run newsletter, independent of the Board and accountable only to Membership?

4- How can the Co-op best balance value to customers and a healthy bottom line, while adhering to the core values of our mission; promoting more equitable, participatory and ecologically sustainable ways of living?

5- Over the past few years many staff members have talked about unionization. What are your thoughts on how to best combine staff empowerment and a vibrant active membership?

6- How can we make the Co-op more accessible to low income people in our community?

7- How would you empower the HWFC staff to participate in store management decisions?

8- How would you uphold the HWFC Food and Product Policy as a member of the Board?

9- Per the Bylaws, the Membership has ultimate authority and responsibility with regard to operations. What is the right balance for a Board member to use in decision making? How does a Board member differentiate between a matter of policy – where Membership has the final word – and a matter of fiscal/legal responsibility where the Board is empowered to act although such actions could be overturned by a Membership vote?

1- Would you support a multi-hour Board orientation by non-Board members? Please describe the orientation you would most wish the new Board to receive.

Dorando: I believe that decisions are best made with as much information as possible. Hence, I would be open to attending a multi-hour orientation from non-board members. This would be most beneficial if the members bring issues and concerns and potential solutions to those issues that are raised. In addition, it would be beneficial to have not just anecdotal information, but quantified and significant data to support their position. Information from the staff, owner-members, and non-member shoppers regarding their views would be very valuable to help inform the best decisions.

Sorell: I would support a number of workshop topics for Board members, provided by non-Board members, past Board members, or current Board members but also would like to see them open to all Member-Owners. This would be a great way to cultivate future Board members. Some areas I think would be helpful are: Restorative Justice, Non-Violent Communication, Finance, Group Facilitation, Mediation, Cooperative and Corporate Law, and Building Consensus.

Vigoda: I support any proposal that can meet some basic requirements: Does it serve our mission well and is it consistent with our bylaws and subsidiary manuals (which are all approved by the membership)? Is its purpose clear? Is it important? The board is already overwhelmed with governance activities, many of them minor, with the result that important core issues struggle to receive sufficient attention. If additional orientation is necessary, I support it.

Russell Ziemba: Yes, I think that could be helpful.  Members who have a long affiliation with the Co-op would be especially useful because of their insights on the mission and practices of the Co-op.  Members remember the institutional history of our organization.  The Co-op has been slowly implementing corporate structures and practices.  The orientation that I would wish the new Board to receive would be about the core principles of co-operation and non-hierarchical decision-making.  There is an immense amount of knowledge and experience among our members, yet we waste it when it is not applied to the governance or management of our Co-op.

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2- Give an example of how (and why) you have compromised in a group decision-making process – both in terms of the issue then at hand and your participation in the decision.

Chris Dorando

Dorando: As a Product Manager my job revolved around trying to move projects forward while negotiating between various other stakeholders with multiple competing demands for their resources. It demanded understanding what the customer wanted and needed, what the development team needed to make those wants and needs, and the financial milieu these demands existed within. For example, a major client told their sales person that unless we were able to provide a product similar to what the competition had just released, they were going to take all of their business to the competitor. While we had explored the feasibility of delivering a similar product, it was not in our immediate road map. As losing this customer represented a staggering multi-million dollar hit to my product line, it required changing many priorities for the year. Working with the development team, we fleshed out our preliminary design, and estimated work effort for the minimum product offering, and for additional enhancements. I took this to senior management to get buy-in on required resources, and negotiated with other Product Managers to put this project as a higher priority. I went with Sales to meet the customer and provide them with our design to see if it would meet with their approval—it did—and confirmed their commitment to stay with our product if we delivered the product to meet their deadline. I then stayed in daily contact with development to assure they were meeting project milestones and to help solve any problems that arose, which may have caused us to miss our commitments. In the end, we were able to deliver on time, on a product that exceeded our customer’s expectations, and did so under our original cost expectations.

Sorell: A very recent example concerns the Board’s decision to give away two gift cards at the next three (now two) regular monthly Board meetings. Carolynn Presser’s original proposal involved giving time investment hours for each Owner’s first annual attendance at a Board meeting. When we discussed it, another Board member was reluctant to vote on a proposal where the final actual cost, even if it were a reasonable estimate, was unknown. Our discussion eventually led to a suggestion to offer gift cards – this way, we would encourage attendance and control the cost. I would much prefer to give Owners hours for attending Board meetings. A gift card diminishes the value of participating in governance, while giving hours for attendance more appropriately reflects our cooperative values and rewards active participation. Ultimately, I voted to support the gift card approach because we limited it to three Board meetings and I understood the concern about unknown costs. I hope we will reconsider the original proposal in the near future.

Vigoda: The most important task of group decision-making is a fundamental commitment to fulfill its duties and responsibilities. This requires open-mindedness, fairness and collaboration. A willingness to compromise arises from that. Equally important is a willingness to recognize the merits of proposals and a desire to seek a solution that is best for the coop as a whole, not just part of it. I served on the Board of Directors of Equinox and the Albany-Schenectady League of Arts for at least 12 years and can’t recall a single instance when compromise was required.

I suggest that, wherever possible, ideas arise in or be referred to committees, which are staffed and operated by non-board members. When an item is ready for final consideration and action, it can then be referred to the board. Providing it satisfies basic requirements mentioned in my responses herein, the board can approve it.

Ziemba: Just recently, at the last Board meeting I compromised on changes to the Employee Manual.  The changes are not the best I can envision, yet they are a substantial improvement over what we have.  I felt that it was important to add the revisions and that the document could be further refined in the future.  I also compromised because I didn’t do most of the work on the revisions.  I respected the large amount of work done by others.  If elected I intend to do the work to make improvements.

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3- In 2016, the Membership voted to create a member-run newsletter available for member communication, and also voted in changes to the Member Owner Manual to include the Co-op Voice as a way to earn member hours. Do you support the Co-op Voice as a member-run newsletter, independent of the Board and accountable only to Membership?

Dorando: I believe in the freedom of speech, open communication and a free press. However, I also believe that good journalists ensure they are fact checking their stories and are only reporting the truth to the best of their knowledge.

Sorell: I’ll answer the question first, and then address the statement that came before it.

I support the Co-op Voice as a member-run newsletter and I commend the team for establishing a comprehensive editorial policy. However, the existence of a good policy is not enough. The question is, “How do we achieve accountability ‘only to Membership’ for a monthly newsletter?”

For the sake of brevity, we can set aside the fact that the Board is elected by the Membership and Board members are part of the Membership. Accountability to the Membership through the Board provides accountability to the Membership.

During our 20-year history with the Coop Scoop (pre-dating the past few years), the newsletter was overseen by a three-person Editorial Board comprised of a Coop Scoop Editor, Chair of the Communications Committee, with a third person appointed by agreement of the other two. The Co-op Voice could propose the same Editorial Board structure to the Membership, and this would meet the need for responsive accountability by addressing any concerns on a month-to-month basis before publication. Again, Coop Scoop history shows that this works.

If Co-op Voice Member-Owners truly believe that being connected to the Board via one-third of the Editorial Board (through the Communications Committee Chair) will hinder open discourse, they could still propose a similar solution to the Membership. In a meeting with the Co-op Voice, I proposed the creation of a team which would consist of one Co-op Voice Editor, one person appointed by the Board, and a third person perhaps appointed by the GRC.

Of course, any proposed solutions must be voted on by the Membership.

I am confident that the Co-op Voice can flourish and provide pointed debate while working within one of the frameworks above. As our former monthly newsletter of 20 years, the Coop Scoop was connected to the Communications Committee and still managed to publish provocative articles, some of which were critical of the Board’s policies. I would like to continue to work toward creating an accountability structure with the Co-op Voice which is, in essence, what the Membership called for at our January 2018 Membership Meeting.

As for the statement included before the question: I remember the course of events differently. On January 5, 2016, at least one Board member said that the Co-op Voice should be entirely independent of the Co-op, as they are now. Archived Board meeting minutes show that others on the Board expected the Co-op Voice to have Board oversight. At the meeting, the Board unanimously voted for the Co-op Voice editors to “produce a more specific proposal including where it will fit in the committee structure.” (emphasis added)

According to the 1/19/16 Board meeting minutes, the Board approved a motion “to approve the creation of a member newsletter for six months. Within the first 30 days, founding members of the newsletter will provide written guidelines for the editorial board and provide the Board with a system for selecting a permanent editorial board.” The Board conditionally approved the creation of the Co-op Voice but, given the Board’s heavy workload, it never re-visited the issue.

In October 2016, the Membership voted on the Bylaws, and one change was 330.6 “Member-Owners have the right to communicate with each other on an ongoing basis about issues relevant to HWFC. The means of communication shall be included in the Member-Owner Manual.”

In January 2017, the Membership approved the Member-Owner Manual. But the M-O Manual does not name the Co-op Voice as the means by which Member-Owners must communicate. On Page 14 and 15, the Manual says, “A wide range of [time investment] opportunities are available … (a list follows). You may also fulfill your commitment by participating in special projects such as mailings, [or] writing for the Coop Scoop or Co-op Voice … Time investment opportunities are available based on the Co-op’s needs; Member-Owners are not guaranteed a specific time investment opportunity.” (emphasis added)

In January of this year, the Membership voted down the Co-op Voice’s petitions that requested approval of, among other things, establishment of an independent board of editors that would still receive time investment credits.

I don’t recall, nor can I find any reference to, a 2016 vote by the Membership to create a member-run newsletter.

David Vigoda

Vigoda:  I presume it’s not news that coop governance receives low marks from a broad spectrum of members, owners, shoppers, employees, and others, who say they dislike and even avoid the coop because of factional in-fighting and ideological wrangling. Imagine how much more successful we could be if we all pulled in the same direction on a few core functions! I do not (yet) know the merits of this proposal, but I believe it was voted down at the last Membership Meeting. It sounds partisan, but I would accept it if that’s what a majority of members want. How exactly is the Co-op Voice accountable to the membership?

It’s also worth noting that members currently constitute all of 7.9% of owners. Of that, most don’t (can’t) vote, because they don’t attend every Membership Meeting. We currently have 12,226 owners. Of those, 969 are member-owners. At the last meeting, 180 voted on three related proposals concerning this question. That’s a turnout of 18.6% of our electorate and all of 1.5% of our direct stakeholders. A small number are governing on behalf of a vastly larger community. I think they owe a duty to those who are not enfranchised to vote responsibly on behalf of the entire coop, not a part of it.

We could conduct periodic online surveys (for which software is available) to learn what members think about particular practices and policies, so as to get wider input, instead of depending on Membership Meetings, which many consider long, inconvenient, and tedious, or cannot attend due to family or work conflicts. Maybe we could even survey our owners—without whom the coop could not survive—what they think.

Ziemba: Yes, I support the Co-op Voice as a member-run newsletter available for member communication, as a way to earn member hours, which is independent of the Board AND management. I played a role in establishing the email list that was a predecessor to the Co-op Voice.  Members were separated from each other and only the Board and management had access to members.  We were only fed the official line and much needed conversation and criticism was absent.

I believe that the relationships between the Co-op Voice and the Board and management have experienced difficult times recently. The Board has felt that the Co-op Voice permitted personal attacks and presented incorrect information that could be damaging to the Co-op.  Although I agree that the Co-op Voice should be accountable only to the membership, I believe that we need to construct a way for that to happen within the Co-op structure.  I also believe in an editorial policy similar to Park Slope’s, and that there should be an Editorial Board that includes a representative of the Board and of management so that there can be better fact checking, and better protection of the Co-op from slander or libel.  I see the Co-op Voice as a way for members and staff to criticize and improve the policies and practices of the Board and management, along with everything else it does.

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4- How can the Co-op best balance value to customers and a healthy bottom line, while adhering to the core values of our mission; promoting more equitable, participatory and ecologically sustainable ways of living?

DeLaTorre: By adhering to the 3P’ business model -People, Planet, Profit. While we are a for-profit organization and need to remain financially sound, it is not at the expense of our People and Planet. When making decisions, we should ask ourselves first, how does this impact our People and our Planet?

Dorando: Co-op prices may not be the lowest relative to other chain grocers, but I believe the value to be far superior. The co-op is a purveyor of local and organic foods that none of those chains provide. I believe our members and owners understand that value, but our challenge is to make our value more visible to the greater community. We need to communicate to the local community about that value and raise awareness of the tremendous resource the Co-op provides for healthful, sustainable food.

Vigoda:  This question seems to imply that there is some contradiction or conflict—something that requires balance—between the two. I need help to see that. We have the best grocery store in the region and are leading the way to “provide the community with affordable, high quality natural foods and products for healthy living.” That’s our mission statement. In pursuit of it we do more to support local farmers and other producers than anyone else, and to connect them with a diverse customer base. That’s how we live our core values. It’s not just about food, it’s about community, the land, our local economy. Every day, we are positively affecting our biological, cultural, and social environment. My only wish is to see us do more.

Would I love to see prices come down? Of course. The way to do that is to move more produce to more consumers. The farm to table ecosystem has seen unbelievable growth, to the point where it is now economically viable. A huge amount of work remains to be done to grow it, so that economies of scale can be reached. This brings more and more produce within the budget of less and less affluent consumers. That’s how our core values are enacted in people’s lives. If anybody sees a shortcut to achieve that, I’m all ears.

Ziemba: If we are frugal, we can afford to be generous.  Unlike corporations we have a triple bottom line: people, planet, and profits.  I think we can start by valuing our employees and member owners more.  By paying people a living wage we retain employees who add value to our store.  It’s costly to have to hire and train 50% of your employees every year which is about what we do now.  Knowledge and proficiency are being thrown away.  Veteran, knowledgeable employees and member owners help customers and reduce their costs by informed suggestions.  Customers are less likely to buy things they don’t need and are directed to more economical alternatives like bulk products.

By creating a non-hierarchical structure we promote participation and equitability.  I am in favor of a $15 an hour minimum wage and a $30 an hour maximum wage, where the managerial duties are distributed among employees rather than concentrated in the hands of a small, highly paid managerial upper class.

An Environment Committee was recently formed at the Co-op.  It is studying practices and will be making suggestions.  Among the areas being studied are energy usage and waste generation.  We hope to reduce both.  Another possibility is becoming part of a community solar network.

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5- Over the past few years many staff members have talked about unionization. What are your thoughts on how to best combine staff empowerment and a vibrant active membership?

Dorando: I am a strong supporter of Labor and the working person. However, I also believe that workers only turn to unions when they feel they are treated unfairly. Therefore, it is important to understand the “dissatisfiers”, and work to promote solutions to those issues. If it has not been done, then a staff satisfaction survey should be done immediately, and the high priority issues addressed. By targeting those issues first and doing so quickly, staff satisfaction should rise. I believe this can be done without having to raise prices, or negatively impacting the bottom-line.

The co-op cannot achieve its mission or goals without a dedicated staff to make it happen.

Sorell: Staff empowerment and a vibrant membership are both intrinsic to our cooperative values. Currently, we need to bridge a sizable gap if we hope to fully live up to these values and to our Statements of Conscience. There are many areas for improvement, from staff pay to considerate and courteous communication. Who should take action? Many of us have too many life commitments to offer more than our 3 (M-Os) or 40 (staff) hours each week. Those of us on staff and membership who are able should seek out the gaps between the way we do things now and the ways we need to change to achieve our cooperative ideals. Meanwhile, the simple act of being responsible, accountable, and reliable, both as M-Os and staff, fosters our commitment to each other and to the Co-op.

I believe that staff empowerment ideas should primarily come from staff but I’m sure they would welcome support from the membership. I have asked some staff members what they think of the possible creation of certain bodies and/or policies to provide staff with greater input and influence, or possibly to handle some issues that normally go to HR. The recent changes to Fair Process and to the staff rep job descriptions, proposed by staff and largely approved by the Board, were steps in the right direction.

Member-Owners and staff enjoy a sizable discount, but staff need higher wages. The Board has been working hard with Management to provide better income while meeting our outside financial obligations. Members and staff will work, grow and prosper if together they do everything possible to encourage a fair, collaborative and values-driven work- and time-investment place.

Vigoda:  Having been a member of the American Federation of Teachers and the United Steel Workers of America—and the grandson of a coal miner/ union organizer—I’m a union man. The best way I know to empower workers is to treat them well. We are paying our entry-level employees a dollar above minimum wage—and that is increasing only because state law now requires it. That may be competitive with big-box supermarkets (I don’t know), but is not with shops like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. That we, with our core values and ideals, are not committed to a living wage, is incomprehensible to me.

Based on a ‘back of the envelope’ set of calculations I’ve made (which would need to be confirmed), all we would have to do to give all our employees a $1 per hour raise (above the annual raises already budgeted) is attract 133 new shoppers to the coop (who would spend, on average, $75 per week). How hard would it be for 12,226 owners to bring in 133 new people to enjoy the benefits of our store? I believe we currently have about 4,000 owner shoppers (I don’t know how many non-owner shoppers), so we would need all of 3.3% more (above the 1-2% annual rate of increase already factored into our budget). Bring in 266 new shoppers and give our people a $2 raise. You want to make people happy? Treat them well. You want to be vibrant and active? Make this happen. If elected, I intend to make this a priority.

Ziemba: Over the years, there has been a trend of hiring salaried specialists to do jobs that were once done by staff and member owners.  Although there may be better consistency and follow through, the skills and initiative of many people are now being squandered.  Decisions are now being made by fewer people.   I am in favor of unionization.  Many of the problems that staff currently experience wouldn’t occur with a union, collective bargaining, and a negotiated contract.  There is currently a power imbalance which emulates the corporate model for our industry.  I believe this is harmful for staff and member owner morale and is a destructive force within our Co-op.

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6- How can we make the Co-op more accessible to low income people in our community?

DeLaTorre: Offering requested items and classes, increasing outreach, increasing employment opportunities and coaching/developing opportunities throughout employment. We focus on this be acknowledging the barriers and solidifying ourselves as a place of value.

Dorando: I believe that by educating the community as to the value the co-op provides we can spread the word to low income people in our community. Out reach to religious institutions, schools, and social organizations that currently work in the community can help us to inform people why we are a better choice for their food budget.

Sorell: The neighborhood clean-ups that we did were a great start. Our next one could go further into the neighborhood rather than focusing on Watervliet Ave. I assume, and maybe I’m wrong, that many people in our neighborhood think HWFC is too expensive for them. We could easily leaflet or go door to door and use targeted mailings to give residents information about our free classes, shopping in the bulk section, and current sales. We could have a neighborhood liaison team so the residents would recognize and get to know the people from the Co-op who knock on their door. We should also consider offering a neighborhood discount, and an extra SNAP discount to residents who use it. We should educate the neighborhood about the benefits of belonging to the Co-op and about different payment plans and ways to invest time. I would love to see us host a neighborhood “Block Party” akin to the Homegrown Happening for the residents in our immediate community. This would be a great way for people to learn about the Co-op.

Vigoda:  Both Capital Roots and the Regional Food Bank, to name two great organizations, have many programs to connect low-income people with food. They already have considerable experience and have developed best practices. Why couldn’t the coop do the same? Maybe we could award investment time for this activity, since it would directly benefit the store.

We could also increase our projected rate of growth. We are a $27 million a year business! That means we are already acting on our aspirations. We could do so much more, though, because we are nowhere close to capacity. That means we could substantially increase sales without a commensurate increase in costs. That means we could lower our prices. That means more people with less money could afford to shop here. It also means we would be supporting local producers more, protecting our environment more, beautifying our land more, making Albany a better place to live and bringing the community closer together. Our store is too much of a well-kept secret. We could change that. That’s another priority for me, if elected.

Ziemba: There currently is a program at the Co-op to set prices for certain staples in each department at lower profit margins than everything else we sell.  The theory is that low income people will better be able to buy the necessities.  This program might be expanded.  There is also an initiative being investigated by the Nutrition and Education Committee which has been instituted by other co-ops.  This program would provide discounts to low income people who are getting food stamps and other government programs.  We can also promote the Co-op more extensively in our surrounding neighborhoods.  Once people are in our store we can make them aware of low cost bulk and produce items, the classes we offer on how to prepare these, and the discounts of member ownership.

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7- How would you empower the HWFC staff to participate in store management decisions?

DeLaTorre: Having resources like Open Book Management brought back is a good start. Additional, we need to work towards solutions to have employees available for meetings like Open Book and the All Staff.

Dorando: HWFC Staff should have input into store operations. They are on the frontline and see opportunities for improvements first hand. One opportunity to get them more involved, if it is not already in place, would be to give staff in good standing Membership status while they are working for the Co-op so they can participate in the Co-op decision-making. There should be rewards for staff that contribute ideas for improving sales or service, or saving expenses. There should be recognition for staff that go above and beyond and who truly represent the Co-op’s ideals.

Vigoda:  Our staff already participates. I saw it myself yesterday at the budget presentation. (At that meeting, by the way, I was the only non-employee member to attend. Why?) More can always be done. What, specifically, one does would be a function of which aspects of management are being addressed.

Ziemba: The Board has the power to establish the management structure of the Co-op.  I am in favor of eliminating the hierarchical structure which currently exists at the Co-op.  As staff members gain experience and talents they should be give more of the tasks and responsibilities which are currently performed by or required of managers.  This would raise and empower the vast majority of the staff.  It would greatly enhance the resiliency of our organization and help to eliminate the resentment and high turnover rates we currently experience.

I work in the Grocery Department and we recently went through a change in managers without a problem.  The reason this happened is that in our department we have a veteran staff who have worked together for years with abundant autonomy in performing their jobs.  I think we could easily function without a manager by just sharing some of the tasks he now performs.

We also have an all staff meeting twice a month.  This could become more of a tool in promoting collective management and workplace democracy.  It is already starting to do that to a limited degree within the framework we now have.

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8- How would you uphold the HWFC Food and Product Policy as a member of the Board?

DeLaTorre: By not advocating for items outside of the scope of the policy and promoting those that are.

Dorando: I became an owner and a regular shopper of the co-op because of the Food and Product Policy. I firmly believe in organic, and local sustainably grown foods and spend my dollars to support that belief. As a board member, I would continue to uphold the Food and Product Policy because it encapsulates my beliefs about food. On a regular basis publications present articles about the health impacts of the foods the big food conglomerates produce. Recently it has been shown that synthetic sugars and sweeteners are changing our micro-biome leading to obesity, glucose intolerance, and diabetes. These “foods” have no place in our diet, and I would work to insure they have no place on the co-op’s shelves either.

Vigoda:  I think I don’t understand this question. I didn’t realize our policy was not already being upheld. I’ll need an education on this. I can say, though, that I regard our Food and Product Policy as one of our strengths, a significant part of what makes us unique and helps shoppers decide to visit our store instead of another. Another part is the expertise our in-store people offer shoppers who have questions about our products.

Ziemba: As a buyer for frozen foods section of the Grocery Department, I am familiar with the products we sell and the processes by which we drop or add products.  I am also the Board liaison to the Nutrition and Education Committee which is tasked with much of the responsibility of creating, updating, implementing, and upholding our Food and Product Policy.  Our Food and Product Policy sets us apart and above our competitors.

The membership has voted to label all GMOs in the store and we haven’t met our completion date of 1/1/18.  In fact we are not too far along in the process.  I have proposed that we more fully use our member owners to identify the GMOs we currently sell and enlist them in member positions to do the research necessary to find non-GMO alternatives.  It takes the eyes of many shoppers, owners, member owners, and staff to stay on top of this.  We also need to create a convenient structure by which all of these groups can easily participate in this process, because it is too much for the buyers to do within the framework of their jobs.

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9- Per the Bylaws, the Membership has ultimate authority and responsibility with regard to operations. What is the right balance for a Board member to use in decision making? How does a Board member differentiate between a matter of policy – where Membership has the final word – and a matter of fiscal/legal responsibility where the Board is empowered to act although such actions could be overturned by a Membership vote?

DeLaTorre: The onus is on the Board to show value to the membership why the Board would move forward in a legal matter and the value for us now and in the future.

Dorando: I believe that the board should represent the views of the Membership as much as possible while protecting the Co-op. I would encourage getting more members involved in decision making, not just at Board and Member meetings, but through greater use of surveys, and voting where possible. We should reach out to Members and Owners to get their opinions on important decisions. I also believe we should survey non-owners to understand their views as well.

Vigoda:  I don’t think I understand these questions either. The whole idea of representative democracy is that the electorate delegates authority to its representatives. Of course the members retain ultimate authority. If they want to control every decision, they can amend the bylaws to eliminate the board.

Clearly, our governance is still afflicted by distrust and even enmity, which continue to sap our strength, create dissatisfaction and unhappiness, and actually depress member participation. Most important, our ability to enact our mission is crippled. That’s why I pledge to dedicate myself to help lower the heat under our disagreements and raise it under our positive enthusiasm. That will require a lot more of a vital nutrient that currently seems in short supply: CHD (common human decency).

Thank you for considering my candidacy. I’d like to hear from you.

Ziemba: This is not easy to determine.  I think a large component is the time frame in which decisions must be made.  Management has the capacity to act quicker than the Board, and the Board has the capacity to act quicker than the membership.  Staff has a more intimate knowledge of the workings of the store, and the Board has more experience with and working knowledge of the bylaws that most members.  Although the membership has ultimate authority, they delegate much of it to the Board which in turn delegates much to management.

For this process to function as intended the membership must be informed and actively involved with the Co-op to hold everyone to our mission.  Because the members are the slowest to act because of the size of the group involved, management and the Board sometime overstep their roles.  It is the duty of management and the Board to keep the membership informed in a timely manner so that they have the time to make decisions.

It sometimes takes brave honesty to make the membership aware of situations that exist and suggest remedies to be implemented.  Direct democracy is a slow and often painful process that we have little experience with in our society.  The Co-op governance for all its shortcomings is one of the few places where a modicum of democracy exists.  My intent is to foster and expand our democracy at the Co-op to be an example for our society at large.

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