Friday, 20 November 2015
Vote now to save the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition
If you care about the rights of cyclists in San Francisco, I urge you to join me in voting for the slate of reform candidates endorsed by "Save SF Bike!", to reclaim our organization and restore member control, democracy, transparency, and honesty to SFBC decision-making.
Voting continues through 30 December 2015 on SFbike.org. You can also vote by mail or in person at the SFBC office or at the annual meeting of SFBC members on Thursday evening, December 10th. The agenda for the annual meeting is up to the members who attend to determine once the meeting is called to order, but there are apparently plans to propose an agenda that would include time for a candidates' forum. See you there!
I'm not running for the SFBC Board of Directors this year. Instead, I have endorsed the excellent slate of candidates put together by Save Sf Bike!
I first tried to run for the Board in 2013, but I was lied to about the election deadlines and illegally kept off the ballot by the then Executive Director (and current candidate for the Board on the slate endorsed by the incumbents), Leah Shahum. I tried to run for the Board again last year, but was illegally prevented from communicating with my fellow members about the election until it was over, by action or inaction of the incumbent Board members (including those running for re-election, who as candidates should have recused themselves from decisions about the election) and again by Leah Shahum in some of her final actions as Executive Director.
These are harsh words, and said with sadness, but they are true. It's important for SFBC members to hear them -- especially since the incumbent Board members are, as a body, lying about what happened in last year's election and about what they've done before and since.
I'm distraught by what's happened to the SFBC. I don't want to have to publicly criticize officers of an organization that I've believed in and publicly identified myself with as a dues-paying member (including on my Web site since it was first created, and in the author profiles in each of my books) for almost 20 years. But the incumbent SFBC Board and staff have resolutely refused pleas from members to create an internal communication mechanism that would allow us to share our concerns with our fellow SFBC members without posting them publicly.
I also want to make clear that I have never felt any personal animosity from any of the SFBC Board members or staff, nor do I feel any towards any of them. I believe that they mean well, and that they are acting out of sincere anti-democratic principles and a "corporatist" top-down philosophy of organizational governance rather than out of personal animus towards me. It's the principles that they have articulated, and that they have acted on in their official capacity as members of the Board of Directors, that lead me to urge you not to vote for any of the incumbents or those other candidates who they have endorsed, and instead to vote for the Save SF Bike! slate.
After last year's election for the SFBC Board of Directors, in which I was a candidate on a platform of policy advocacy, bicyclists' rights, and participatory decision-making and internal transparency and democracy within the SFBC, but which was tainted by gross irregularities and violations of state law and the SFBC's own Bylaws, the Board refused to say how many votes each candidate received, but declared that I had been defeated by the slate nominated by the incumbent Board. Have you ever heard of a democratic election where the ballot count was kept secret from both voters and candidates?
The Board then tried to amend the SFBC Bylaws to abolish voting membership and all rights of members, without giving members the notice required by state law of what they were proposing. The Board backed down only after a group of SFBC members, Save SF Bike!, got together to hire a lawyer and threatened to sue.
This year, the incumbent Board members and their supporters (mainly former Board members, staff, and other insiders) are explicitly committed to electing a slate of Board members who will try again to push through a restructuring of the SFBC that abolishes voting membership (they describe it as a "loophole" in our Bylaws) and all member rights.
The incumbents and their supporters -- some of whom have admitted that they regard member control of the organization as a "mistake" -- have offered protection of members' privacy as a pretext for abolishing voting membership. But California state law explicitly provides for other ways for candidates to be able to communicate with fellow members of an organization like ours without disclosing members' personal information, such as "blind" forwarding of messages by the organization. Most membership organization have adopted these legal options, but the SFBC Board has refused to do so, and has steadfastly denied that these options exist in the law.
The incumbent Board members claim that last year, when I asked to be allowed to communicate with my fellow members, "As required, we provided the member contact information to the candidate, after he rejected our alternative offer."
This statement is false, in at least two significant respects, as the Board's own minutes make clear.
First, the Board didn't provide me with any information "as required" by law. I wasn't given the information to which I was entitled until long after the legal deadline for providing it, and after the election was was supposed to have ended. There's no record in the minutes of the Board's meetings that it even considered my request before the expiration of the legal deadline. The only response to my request before the expiration of the legal time limit was a categorical "No" from Leah Shahum, who was then the Executive Director and is now running for the Board. I don't know whether she didn't bother to consult the law, or consulted it and disregarded it. But it doesn't appear that she even cared whether she was violating members' rights to communicate with each other, and she certainly didn't do what the law required.
Second, I didn't reject any "alternative offer" made by the Board -- there was none. If the Board had voted to offer some other way for members to communicate with each other -- as I repeatedly pleaded with them to do -- that vote should be reflected in the minutes of the Board's meetings. If even one member of the Board had made a motion to offer an alternative means of member communication, that motion should be noted in the Board minutes. But none of the minutes contain any indication that the Board ever considered, much less voted on or approved, any proposal to offer any alternative means for members to communicate with each other.
Members are entitled to be provided with the Board meeting minutes on request, and for years I've been urging the Board to post them on the SFbike.org Web site. But whenever I've requested them, I've been met with months of foot-dragging. Before, during and after the 2013 and 2014 Board elections, I repeatedly requested copies of any resolutions or motions adopted by the Board relevant to either election procedures or methods of communication with members, but I never received any records of any decision at all by the Board on these matters. At various times I was told by individual Board members (including President Lawrence Li -- now a candidate for reelection -- and Secretary Deep Jawa) that "we" or "the Board" had made decisions. But in each such case, it turned out when I finally saw the minutes that no such decision had actually been made by the Board.
In preparation for the 2015 Board election, I requested the minutes of all 2015 meetings of the Board and Board committees in writing on 22 September 2015, and again in person during the Board meeting on 13 October 2015. On 6 November 2015, after I had given up and withdrawn my nomination for the Board, I was finally told that the minutes had been posted on the SFbike.org Web site. The Board minutes are linked from in a blog post backdated to 1 January 2015, but neither this page, nor any of the links to it, nor any of the individual files with the minutes were found by the Internet Archive when it most recently crawled the SFbike.org Web site on 1 November 2015. I still haven't received any minutes of Board committees, any itemization of what was hidden in the bundle of items adopted en masse as a "consent calendar" at each meeting, which should be listed individually in the minutes, or the text of any of the adopted resolutions or approved documents.
Any one Board member could have proposed that the SFBC set up alternative ways for members to communicate with each other through "blind" forwarding without disclosing addresses. The minutes give no indication that any of them ever did.
Any one Board member could have voted against any of the proposals that were made for illegal actions by the Board. The minutes give no indication that any of them ever did.
All of the incumbent Board members, and Leah Shahum in her former capacity as Executive Director, are part of the problem and share responsibility for these improper actions.
Don't vote for any of the incumbent Board members or the slate they and their supporters have endorsed. I don't doubt that they believe that they are acting in the best interests of the organization, as they see it. I'm sure they truly believe that they and/or the staff they have hired know better than the membership what's in our interests as cyclists in San Francisco. But good intentions aren't enough. The incumbent Board members and their supporters are committed to taking all control of the organization away from the membership. The Board incumbents don't even want to make decisions about our political advocacy themselves, but want to delegate those decisions entirely to the staff. And they have demonstrated that they believe themselves justified in lying, violating the law and our Bylaws, and ignoring complaints from any members except those who show they are ready to sue.
It's past time to put a stop to this, reclaim our organization, and restore democratic, transparent, and participatory member control of our advocacy agenda.
If you agree with me that democracy is fundamental, it's not enough that the incumbent Board members and their supporters are well-intentioned and sincere in their beliefs. Nor is it enough that they are good people who have done good work on some issues in the past. On the issues of democracy, transparency, and honesty, they are wrong.
The ability of members to discuss and debate the issues that face us and our organization is not a "loophole" that should be "fixed". Transparency is a feature of participatory democracy, not a "bug" as some of the Board candidates have described it.
You don't have to choose between effective advocacy for cyclists and democratic organizational governance. There's a slate of well-qualified candidates for the Board who support both bicycling AND democracy. Please join me in voting for the Save SF Bike! slate of candidates.Link | Posted by Edward on Friday, 20 November 2015, 07:24 ( 7:24 AM) | TrackBack (0)