The election is a fine excuse to get into the stores and talk to members, so I spent two hours greeting members at the flagship store in Hanover this morning. It was especially gratifying to have one member come up to me and say how much she appreciated my highlighting the word “kindness” in my campaign.
Another member's comment brought me up short, however. This particular fellow fixed me with a level gaze and told emphatically told me he did not approve of the “kamikaze” tactics of Concerned About the Co-op (CATC).
It wasn’t the right time or place to do anything but shrug and smile. But I would like to say a few words about that allegation here.
I have always been among those who disagrees with those who would kill the Co-op in order to save it. When CATC people have done things I thought were harmful to the Co-op and its reputation, I have said so.
But the mere fact that folks from CATC have, at times, been angry and outspoken is not a reason to vilify and condemn them. To the contrary, member activism should be welcomed and encouraged. To state the obvious, when passions run high it a sign that the Co-op really matters to people. Indifference is the real enemy.
It’s really up to the Co-op – and the Board in particular – to respond to and to channel member outrage when it arises. People want to know their views are being heard and respected. One way not to honor member activism is to treat insurgents who get themselves elected to the Board as if they were an enemy that needs to be constrained and thwarted. That’s what happened in the wake of last year’s election, to my great disappointment.
I am on the CATC slate this year for three reasons.
1. Though I disagreed with most of what CATC was saying when it first arose, I took the organization at its word when it assured the public that anyone who was literally concerned about the Co-op was welcome. Sure enough – they were in earnest!
2. Just as with the Watergate Scandal, the cover-up was worse than the crime when it came to the controversial employee firings that caused CATC to coalesce. The Co-op’s spasmodic response to CATC was deeply troubling to me.
3. I find common ground with CATC when it comes to a fundamental challenge for the Co-op: transparency. Yes, some things (personnel records, contracts while under negotiation, &c.) need to be kept secret in an organization that practices voluntary and open membership. But ours has become a “black box” co-op, and I am glad CATC sees this as a problem.
4. When I decided to run in this year’s election, I resolved that I would present myself to CATC, explain my views, and see if the group endorsed me. And then it did. I don’t enjoy universal approval from everyone at CATC – I was memorably called a “chameleon” at one CATC meeting – but there’s enough common ground there, when it comes to the cooperative values and love of the institution, for me to be happy to have CATC’s endorsement.
I’m a bridge candidate – one of only two folks on the ballot who were endorsed not just by CATC but also by the Nominating Committee. I’m ready to collaborate with and to help anyone who gets elected to the Board in 2016.
So I hope you will consider voting for me at mycoopvote.com between now and April 30.