Posted by Laura Hagen, HWFC Member-Owner
ALERT. ALERT. ALERT.
Tomorrow, Saturday, April 9, 2016 is a Meet the Candidates Forum at Honest Weight Food Co-op, from 1-3pm. Please plan to attend and meet the eight declared candidates for our Board of Directors. Bring questions!
Dear Loyal Grassroots Action Readers,
My life as a professional musician called me away …enticed me away …charmed me away, since my last blog post in late January. Teaching recorder and Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque music and building a music studio demands a lot of time – time I had given over to our co-op since events transpired on October 22, 2015. I don’t regret all the time and energy and research and writing, petitioning and so on, which I have contributed, not for one minute! So many of us did the same thing: sharing of our family, personal and professional time to work together, to re-orient our co-op, to wrestle things in a new, positive, healthy and sustainable direction, so that all of our Member families and the general public can benefit from the community that is our food co-operative.
Juggling life required that I get back to the music stand and practicing, teaching and performing, and getting new students (both young adult musicians and adults) interested in learning to play the recorder and all the incredible and beautiful repertoire for small recorder ensembles composed during the 15th – 18th centuries.
How’s that for esoteric?
And I make music with my colleague Alan Thomson, who is also an HWFC member you all know, who plays awesome piano. We are working on building up local gigs, so if you need music for a party, school event, picnic, wedding or family thing, political happening, English Country Dance, contra or square dance …you know who to call! Recorder and keyboard, you haven’t lived until you’ve heard us!
So, Grassroots Action is back and I can’t wait to hear from you! Please check in below and let us all know how you are doing. I have missed our repartée, your comments, and our dialogue, and our …well our chatting. You remember chatting, right? So, let’s connect back up. And thank you to the many loyal readers who contacted me and urged me to get back to writing again!
Oy, I listened …I’m back!
Look how far we have come! We Members of Honest Weight Food Co-op in Albany, NY are poised to have our annual elections on Sunday, April 17, 2016 at the St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Church at 440 Whitehall Road in Albany, NY.
SAVE THE DATE RIGHT NOW!
GET TO YOUR DAYTIMER, TABLET, I-PHONE, LAPTOP, PAPER CALENDAR or COMPUTER and WRITE IT IN!!! NOW!!!
THIS MEANS YOU.
GET CLEARANCE FROM YOUR FAMILY or BRING YOUR FAMILY! DESSERT IS PART OF THE DEAL! POTLUCK DESSERT, THAT IS, AND YOU KNOW HOW WE ALL LOVE DESSERT.
HWFC MEMBERSHIP MEETING AND ANNUAL ELECTIONS
Sunday, April 17, 2016 at the St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Church at 440 Whitehall Road in Albany, NY.
4:00 – 5:30 pm Meet the Board Candidates. Click here for candidate information and here for the agenda.
5:30 – 6:00 pm Dessert Potluck and opportunity for conversation. Please bring a healthy snack or a dessert item to share. HWFC will provide beverages.
6:00 – 8:00 pm MEMBERSHIP MEETING
Here are the eight declared candidates:
Thank you to these eight candidates for taking the time to decide to run, to clear it with their families, to seek to undertake a job that is demanding, and for all getting their applications in on deadline, as established by the Board.
Hopefully, all eight declared candidates will attend tomorrow’s Meet the Candidates Forum at HWFC from 1-3pm.
Those of you who came to our emergency Special Membership Meeting at St. Sophia’s on November 30, 2015 – the ~720 of you! – know Kate Doyle and Carolynn Presser, who were elected to the Board by a majority of you that night, along with Nate Horwitz. Everyone who voted for Kate and Carolynn that night needs to show up for the elections on Sunday, April 17th. They are both up for election. Why show up?
Carolynn and Kate have been doing yeoman’s work – I mean that they have been putting in hours and hours of their time, daily and weekly, as our Secretary and Treasurer and as part of our Executive Committee. If you have been coming to Board meetings and the Membership Meeting in January, 2016, you know. If you have not, let me tell you that the amount of meeting, reading, research, talking to, listening to, meeting with again, analyzing, responding to, emailing, phone calling, emergency responding, non-emergency responding, attending meetings … they have been doing on our behalf is phenomenal. They are truly working for us – the Membership – to take back our co-op.
Howard Brent, Tim Corrigan and Rebekah Rice also ran for the Board on November 30th, so please come and support them tomorrow in their bid. Saul Rigberg was recently appointed to the Board – temporary appointment and so needed – he also ran for the Board in November and is now Chairing our Corporate Compliance Committee. I am looking forward to meeting Anastasia Onorata and Richard Donegan as candidates tomorrow, and learning about their positions regarding the importance of strong local food supply and their solutions for our food co-operative.
Nate Horwitz, President and Daniel Morrissey will remain incumbents on the Board as they are not up for election this year. Ned Depew, Vice-President, did not get his candidate application in on time and is not a declared candidate. (04/10/16 UPDATE: Ned Depew attended the Meet the Candidates Forum yesterday and is a declared candidate. His application is tacked to the Member-Owner Bulletin Board, at the back of the co-op. Colin Thomas also attended and is a declared candidate, as well.)
Do you think you can just let things slide and not come out and vote on Sunday, April 17, 2016? Think again.
Our current leadership is in need of more partners to help them tackle the chaos that the former Board left for them. Please remember that four of the (former) Board members just up and quit on January 5, 2016 – with no notice – and offered no help and played no role in transitioning the Board after they up and quit. These are the four Board members who, BTW, received the highest votes of non-confidence and censure (short of the 75% required for removal from the board) at our emergency Special Membership Meeting on November 30, 2015. 
The current Board needs more hands on deck. They need good, solid community-minded people who are willing to dig in, as a team, and solve urgent problems, while exercising creativity.
This is not the time for complacency. This is not the time to assume other co-op Members will pick up your slack so you don’t have to make the effort and come and vote on a Sunday evening (April 17th). Why do I say this?
Because there are rumors that former leaders of our food co-operative are planning a comeback on Sunday, April 17th. There are rumors that people are planning to nominate from the floor, ignoring the co-operative process we have in place to get to know candidates ahead of time. There are rumors that those who believe in strong-arming are going to try muscle again. There are rumors that people who are not at all co-operative-minded are planning to disrupt the process.
Do you want to allow that to happen?
Will you come, be present, and join ranks with the large majority of us who respect and honor our nominations and election process?
Given the rumors, ask yourself this question: why would anyone or a group of anyone’s plan to nominate themselves from the floor on Sunday, April 17, 2016, instead of co-operatively planning ahead, getting their application in on-time, getting their bios up on our website, participating in the process, and give Membership a chance to know their views at Meet the Candidates Forums? The 8 declared candidates all did this: they respect our process. Their bios are up on our website. They have been attending our Meet the Candidates Forums. They will be answering questions posed to them in the brand new online Co-op Voice. They are honoring and respecting the democratic process we have in place.
So why would anyone or a group of anyone’s try to subvert that process from the floor on Sunday, April, 2016 at our annual Membership Meeting and annual Elections?
Our current Board is team-minded. Transparency, factual presentations, and full financial disclosure predominate as they work to uncover – and report out – the things the former Board of Directors did which were never disclosed to Membership. They are equally busy finding creative solutions and are doing so at warp speed.
I have witnessed – of our current Board – truthful guidance, democratic action, sharp awareness, intelligence, a thoughtful, compromising spirit, and a willingness to put in hours every day to right the ship.
I have witnessed the hours and hours of work Kate Doyle, our Treasurer, has put in, trying – and succeeding – in untangling an absolute fiscal mess left by the former Board and its Treasurer. She is charting a sensible course for the future, at the same time. In order to reach that level of clarity, vision and financial organization there is no way but to spend hours & hours of reading, sorting, writing, untangling, adding up, analyzing, and just doing the job. She has done it in an AMAZINGLY short period of time. Four months, guys, just four months.
We are all awaiting Kate’s first Quarterly Financial Report, as she discloses to us the facts she has uncovered relating to the secretive financial actions of the former Board and leadership of Honest Weight Food Coop in 2015: facts which most of us don’t yet know and which will, likely, shock us out of any latent complacency remaining. I will post it here, when it is released.
Carolynn Presser, our Secretary, is working hard to keep Board work and Board actions organized and making sure Membership knows what’s going on. She has formed an amazing Committee, the Corporate Compliance Committee. This Committee is going to take HWFC and go through every nook & cranny of our governance, finances, our policy manuals, bylaws, and so on, so that we will have a smooth sailing ship at the other end. Carolynn has asked me to join that Committee and I immediately accepted. Carolynn’s sharp legal mind, her utter dedication to her job on our Executive Committee, and her commitment to an organic food supply which we control, locally, has given me full confidence and trust in her abilities and decisions.
Saul Rigberg is a co-op friend and colleague from years and years ago. I first met Saul when my husband and I were a part of the effort to stop that former Board from purchasing the old Quail Street Post Office (long story, another day). Saul and I worked together on Committees for a good two years to position the co-op into getting a new place, which ended up being Central Avenue. My husband then worked with Saul as they were both part of the very first Governance Review Council. Saul helped re-write the HWCF bylaws at that time, and did a great job. Saul has been an HWFC member for a long, long time and he is thoughtful, dedicated, he gets the job done, he is team-minded, and he has a sharp legal mind.
And, although Nate Horwitz is not up for election, I would be remiss in not applauding his ability to bring differing sides to common ground, to wield the gavel when it’s time to move on and his ability to reflect on past HWFC history as a means to guide us into the future. Plus, he is almost always cheerful and calm, in the face of any discussion thrown his way!
Nate, Carolynn and Kate are the three people a majority of us voted for on November 30, 2015 at that historic emergency Special Membership Meeting. We did a good job! Saul was asked to join this team and…
…they all need our support again! Carolynn, Kate and Saul need to be elected to the Board on Sunday evening.
And, as you will see in the coming days and months, as I blog more about it, that we did the EXACT RIGHT THING when we called for an emergency Special Membership Meeting. You have NO IDEA how much “right action” that truly was and how it was A Good Thing (to quote Winnie-the Pooh) that we did not waste one minute in taking action to put that former Board down. Chris Colarusso, thank you again for your petition, ready to go on October 23, 2015, less than 24 hours after that Board tacked up their paper notice to try and eliminate us.
One day I will write a post about what could have happened (here it is, that day turned out to be sooner than I expected!) if we Members remained complacent and had NOT immediately responded to that innocent-looking notice tacked up on the Board’s bulletin board on October 22, 2015. The notice that initiated a hellstorm of activity by the former Board, trying to end our Member-Owner Labor Program and …as it turns out…pretty much trying do away with the role Membership plays in our food co-operative: reducing us to mere figureheads who fork over share money, buy lots of food, and go away. But that is a post for another day.
BTW, have you picked a Committee to work with? At our Committee Fair at the January Membership meeting, many people joined up and Committees have new blood, new commitment, new ideas and new teams. I recommend you try it!
Each and every HWFC Member vote is important. Each one counts. You need to show up on Sunday, April 17th and vote. You need to protect what a majority of us did on Monday night, November 30, 2015 when we voted in new Board members, removed a former President, didn’t vote back in a former Secretary, and showed no confidence in the remaining Board members (save two) and no confidence in the three-person Leadership Team and asked for the Board to investigate a new Management structure. We made a powerful statement on that November night.
That was only 4+ months ago.
We need to do it again.
If we all don’t take the time to come, show up, listen and vote we could risk having all that incredible energy from 720+ people (a historic HWFC Membership meeting!) and all that great, powerful decision-making taken away from us.
I am not at all exaggerating when I say that the future of our co-op depends upon it…upon your coming out to vote on Sunday, April 17th.
In the coming week I plan to blog about some of the financial & governance issues which took place at our co-op in 2015 and which our current Board has only been recently uncovering. Please note I said uncovering. They did not take the actions, order the actions, pay for the actions, or perpetrate the actions …they are only uncovering, discovering the actions, and disclosing them to us, the Membership.
You have not heard about some of these things. If you thought the former Board spent too much on consultants & legal teams & Strategic Lobby & PR Firms to help them in their fight to subdue & eliminate the legal powers of Membership and a bunch of grassroots advocate Member-Owners, wait ’til you hear what the current tabulated amount is. It’s way more than the $100,000 we heard as an estimate a few months back. They paid BIG BUCKS to try and put us down. OUR big bucks, BTW. OUR savings. OUR collective, hard-earned savings. Used against us in secret.
If you think everything’s under control and you can go back to life as it was …think again.
Am I trying to scare you? Yes.
Because the fight is NOT over and a Board of Directors which does not have the active support of Membership cannot do the job. That is impossible.
Recent history has taught us all that a Board of Directors that is not also watch-dogged can lead to a Board forgetting that it answers to Membership, forgetting that it has a responsibility to, and serves in a position of public trust to the Membership.
We need to all practice “eternal vigilance.”  This Sunday is your chance to begin that practice again, if you have let it slip. Continue the work ~720 of us began on November 30, 2015 by voting on Sunday, April 17, 2016 to re-elect Carolynn Presser and Kate Doyle and electing Saul Rigberg to our Board of Directors.
There are local people, Members of HWFC, who want to continue with the agenda which the former Board initiated and they will be coming out to vote on Sunday, April 17th. They are getting out the vote to their supporters. There are Members who consider the current Board a blip on the radar screen and want things to go back to the way they were.
Remember all my posts about the former Board’s secrecy, secrecy, secrecy and still more secrecy? And there was this most recent gem. (How many times can you find the word secret in that last blogpost? I lose track.)
All that secrecy uncovered before (and after) our awesome, amazing, historic emergency Special Membership Meeting on November 30th?
Do you want those who wish to perpetrate secrecy upon us – again – to win the election next Sunday?
No, I didn’t think so.
If you are unsure, if you are waffling and deciding that you’d rather go for a hike next Sunday or catch a movie (assuming we may get more snow, welcome to the Capital Region) than come to a co-op meeting, please go grab a cup of Joe and re-read those blogposts (it’s way quicker for you to read them than for me to write them, take my word…!)
You cherish our food co-op like I do, like my family does, like many of us and our families do. It is a locally-owned and operated thing of great beauty. 40 years old, this year, BTW!
It’s ours. Let’s keep it ours and make sure that the Members who want to go back to the way things were in 2015 do not prevail.
For example, did you know that there was a secret petition going around HWFC? Yes, it was only presented to certain people to sign. Special people. Selected people. It was kept hidden. No tabling, no open petitioning to everybody and anybody. No attempt at democracy. No making-sure-everybody-at-HWFC-knows-about-it. No, it was kept secret. That’s from the playbook of the former Board and I am doing my part to expose that destructive behavior, when it occurs at HWFC. More communication about the secret petition at another time (maybe); I don’t care to give it anymore precious blogtime right now.
Make sure that the current Board team we have is re-elected and joined by more partners who are like-minded. Give them our full-fledged support.
So, see you tomorrow at 1pm at HWFC when we Meet the Candidates. Expect some small fireworks. Also, expect to meet people who are intelligent, thoughtful, hard-working, committed, friendly and, best of all …kind.
And stay tuned. More blogposts to come before the election on Sunday, April 17th at St. Sophia’s. Information will be revealed that you don’t want to miss.
ACTION ITEM: TOMORROW MORNING, make a list of 5 co-op Member-Owners whom you personally know. Before the weekend is over, please personally call them and get their commitment to come the the Membership Meeting on April 17th. (You all DO remember the Committees of Correspondence?!)  Tell them to each call 5 co-op Member-Owners and do the same.
A thought and a quote for the evening:
We still control our food supply at the local level at HWFC (to a certain degree). We are going to have to band together and fight to retain that right and make it way, way, way stronger. Local organic fruits, vegetables, grass fed, grass-finished beef, pastured meat & eggs, organic, fermented foods, regional cheeses, specialty farm products, local connections, local power, local farmers, local, organic sustainable food and families helping each other, locally. 
“The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt.”
John Philpot Curran 
 The four censured Board members who subsequently quit our Boar d on 01/05/16 are:
Name Percentage of voters voting non-confidence & censure
Acting-President Deb Dennis 67.9%
Treasurer Leif Hartmark 65.2%
Roman Kuchera 67.8%
Rossana Coto-Batres 58.4%
Former President Bill Frye was unseated and Board Secretary John Serio was not re-elected to the Board at our emergency Special Membership Meeting on 11/30/15.
 See the Boston Tea Party Museum here.
 Read the book Foodopoly: The Battle Over the Future of Food and Farming in America, by Wenonah Hauter and read the book description at the Weston A. Price Foundation website, here. You will be shocked at how pertinent this book is to our situation at HWFC.
 You thought you would get away with reading a blogpost of mine without a footnote? Think again, my friend. History is a wonderful companion and teacher. We just need to take the time to search things out and be filled with wonder at how life repeats itself, through the generations, often for our benefit. All we need to do is pay attention, search, look for patterns, listen to the wisdom of our ancestors, and reflect. (Kindness ALWAYS helps.)
 If you need recorder lessons or music coaching or musicians for an event, you know who to call <smile>! Locally-grown historic music with your locally-grown food!