Post G&T vote observations & recommendationsI attended the GVEA meeting last night. I had prepared some observations and recommendations following the G&T vote and got partway through before Rick Schikora asked the chair about cutting me off at 3 minutes. I guess he didn't want to hear anything more that I could offer. Rick's efforts to stifle me may get me to run for the board, which will be an experience I don't think he would enjoy. Another demonstration of the GVEA board valuing their members. By contrast, they allowed a Chugach area individual to go on for 15 minutes the meeting before. I will note that the chair offered that he disagreed with me on some of those observations, but didn't say what or how. I'd be interested in hearing more from him. I'd hope we can respectfully disagree but keep an open mind.
For the record, here were those observations and recommendations.
December 18, 2006
GVEA Board of Directors
Here are some of my observations and recommendations following the membership vote on the GVEA G&T asset transfer proposal.
On the vote:
1. The GVEA President was quoted as saying that those not voting must have been happy with the proposal. However, of 20% voting, 60% were opposed. This is statistically a very reliable sampling of what the membership opinion was. This does NOT translate to 40% of those voting plus the 80% not voting as being in favor and only 60% of those voting opposed. Perhaps there is a tendency to spin the results to make one feel better, but we shouldn’t give into that tendency. Let’s be honest. The members said no because they didn’t think it was a good deal.
2. Those quoted in the News-Miner expressed their view that the proposal wasn’t sold well. I would both agree and disagree.
I would agree that GVEA didn’t present both sides to the membership in publicity. It was so one sided, I view it as intentionally deceptive or incredibly naive. I begged your public relations staff back in late July/early August to present both pros and cons. Rick Schikora indicated his desire that both and cons be presented at one of the bylaw markup meetings. The cons were only mentioned by GVEA staff in meetings I observed where members could ask questions. The difference between the media presentation in media (Ruralite, News-Miner, TV, radio) vs. public meetings with a give-take was striking. I think the membership caught on to that. Selling it well enough – does that mean trying even harder to show only the benefits? If so, I disagree.
I do think that there were those that adequately presented the cons and I am proud to be included in that group. I don’t think that bringing this back before the membership with more extended discussion is in GVEA’s best interest. I estimate, with the cost of media, legal costs, board and staff time (all compensated), GVEA spent about $100,000 on this campaign. I spent about $200 in uncompensated funds for gas to meetings and also for repairs to my camera when I dropped it on the concrete outside the Ops Bldg. taking a picture of the GVEA G&T meeting announcement. It thus cost GVEA $38 for every YES vote and me only a nickel for each NO vote. I would note though that it cost each residential member about a month’s worth of G&T savings just to have this vote.
There must have been some fatal flaws in the G&T, as the membership turned it down. If you say the members didn’t know what they were doing – that’s rather insulting. Accept the membership’s ruling and move on to other things. Don’t try end runs or beat it any further. The only thing that could justify such resurrection would be a way for GVEA members to remain owners of the assets that were to be transferred in the proposal and your attorney already told you THAT would be a fatal flaw.
On engaging the membership:
Now that GVEA has the members’ attention, I strongly urge the board to take separate and collective action to engage the membership. GVEA has a loyal group of members who believe in the co-op principles. GVEA’s presentation on the G&T proposal upset a lot of members. Members want to trust their board members, but it isn’t a given. GVEA may not have lost their total trust, but does need to demonstrate a willingness to engage in meaningful TWO-way communication with members.
1. District meetings – staff attendance isn’t really required. Board members are highly trained as board members and spend enough time on issues to be able to discuss GVEA issues with their members.
2. Quarterly newsletters to each district’s members – express your perspective on what you’ve been doing as a board member for the last quarter and what issues you’d like to both express and hear from your constituents about. This should be in your words, not that of staff. Board members could also have their own blog. You don’t even need GVEA to host it, but a link from your bio on the GVEA webpage would be helpful.
3. An on-line forum for members to ask questions – this is one that staff can readily support – the software is free and widespread. Board members could have their own areas in the forum if they desire. A staff or board member does need to monitor the forum in order to respond to concerns or point out where a board member needs to respond. Such a forum can also serve as an early warning for issues.
4. Scale back the dog and pony show – slick presentations of the annual meeting. The time prior to the meeting itself where board members can mix is good, but limited. Agreed most folks are there for the freebies, but while you have them there, take opportunity for some meaningful education from the various board members’ perspective. Let the board members participate instead of sitting off to the side silently.
5. A lot of folks who come to GVEA annual meetings are elderly and hard of hearing. A hockey rink is not a good place to be heard – the acoustics are terrible, no matter how many thousands of dollars are put into the P.A. Hering Auditorium might have been crowded, but at least we could hear. Hering holds 1100-1200 people. This might be something to ask the members’ preference in an on-line poll.
In conclusion, don’t mistake my critique as being hostile toward GVEA. To the contrary, I am very faithful to my co-op and do what I think members ought to do when they are concerned about a direction taken. I try to be constructive in my suggestions and be informed in my opinions. Yet when I come and talk to you under member comments, you all sit just like you do at the annual meeting – silent. The board representative in my district doesn’t keep me informed, even though he knows of my interest. And I’ve even voted for him, not that this should make a difference.
This is just to demonstrate there is no functional two way communication between the board and those they represent, except maybe one-on-one. There needs to be. It will make your job a bit more demanding, but also more fulfilling.