Friday, 08 February 2013 17:02
Council - Announcements
By Jessica Rossi,
The beginning of a new year, for many people, brings the promise of new possibilities, opportunities, and commitments. Freshly invigorated by contemplative end-of-year festivities, we push forward with renewed energy into the experiences, twists and turns, and changes life continually brings. Here at GreenStar Cooperative Market, we embrace the promises of the new year by preparing for our annual Council Election. This friendly contest enlists willing member-owners to run for election to the Co-op's board of directors, which we call our "Council."
GreenStar's dedication to running a democratically controlled business with a set of strong ethical values distinguishes us from other grocery stores. The overall purpose of the cooperative, as stated in our bylaws, includes "the operation of one or more cooperative business enterprises and other lawful activities not conducted for profit but for the mutual benefit of the cooperative's members." In addition, GreenStar is guided by ten broad principles, which include Community Involvement and Democratic Operation. These principles, as explained in our bylaws, ensure that the cooperative "will seek out and invite people from all segments of the community to learn the benefits of cooperatives and to become actively involved in them," and that "each Co-op member has a voice in the governance of the Cooperative."
This is what energizes me to serve on GreenStar's Council year after year: our inclusive, collaboratively balanced approach to decision making that encompasses everything we do for the Co-op. Right now is a great time to join, as Council is gearing up to re-draft the goals and visionary "ends" for the Co-op. These "big picture" policies will go beyond directing the General Manager; they will enable Council to capture the various hopes and dreams of all member-owners in our cooperative community and project them outward to any human being on Mother Earth willing to listen and reflect.
While Council members do not make operational decisions (for example, the brands of food we stock, specific personnel issues, or the color of our walls), we do have access to a vast array of informational reports that the management team at GreenStar composes monthly for Council to review. Council governs the Co-op by declaring the results it wants and the actions it wants the General Manager to avoid while achieving those results. Council, therefore, ensures the Co-op's success by verifying, through these reports, that the General Manager remains in compliance with both the "limitations" set by Council and the organizational purposes and goals established by our member-owners and expressed in our bylaws.
Keeping up with everything the General Manager does for the Co-op (through his leadership of staff) involves quite a bit of homework. The typical Council schedule includes a three-hour board meeting once a month, plus (at least) one monthly committee meeting that runs 1-2 hours, as well as twice-a-year Membership Meetings and other member-oriented events. In addition, there's an annual day-long retreat for Council and numerous conferences throughout the year that Council members are encouraged to attend. Council members often attend extra committee meetings to help out with larger projects or simply to have more of a say on a particular "hot topic" agenda item. Taking into account the time necessary to prepare for and report on the various meetings, retreats, and conferences, Council members should expect to spend at least 10-12 hours a month doing work for the Co-op. In recognition of this time commitment, Council members receive a 17.5 percent super-worker discount at GreenStar, a $600 yearly stipend (paid in $150 quarterly checks), reimbursement for expenses incurred while completing Council projects, and money for registration fees, transportation, and room and board to attend cooperative conferences all over the United States.
Any GreenStar member-owner in good standing (whose required monthly capital contribution is paid up to date, and who has not violated the Standards of Conduct posted in our stores) is eligible to run for Council. To appear on the ballot for the April election, a candidate must complete and submit a Declaration of Candidacy form by March 1. If you miss that deadline, it's still possible to be a write-in candidate by submitting the form by March 31. The Declaration form is available here and at either GreenStar store. There will be an optional, informal session for prospective candidates — a chance to discuss what's involved with current Council members — on Monday, Feb. 11, from 6:30 to 7:30 pm, in the small classroom at the West-End store.
Serving on GreenStar's Council definitely exceeds a typical volunteer position. What Council needs are thoughtful, caring individuals willing to work hard and learn the fine (and sometimes quite difficult) art of democracy. GreenStar member-owner Patrice Lockert Anthony, in her article "Reflections" published in the January 2013 GreenLeaf, explains that "belonging to a cooperative grocery store is so easy to take for granted ... Imagine a world where [the ten cooperative principles] are more than just words on paper. Imagine living in a world where taking our measure almost always leaves us satisfied. 2013 is here to offer us another opportunity to embrace the cooperative spirit." I hope her words, in addition to mine, inspire you to take on the Council challenge. I invite you to escape the frustrating modern-American political dogma of Republican vs. Democrat, capitalism vs. socialism, entitlement programs vs. the "fiscal cliff," and build something better — a community!