"Cooperatives are designed to follow a set of principles [undoubtedly published in some little book somewhere] that include a commitment to community. Don't expect a national chain to be guided by anything but profit."
It may indeed be possible to put aside the expectation of profit; no one has received a Co-Op dividend in a while. The problem, however, is that the Co-Op's kind of commitment to the community has left us with a grocery store that cannot pay its bills.
Mao thought that if every Chinese peasant melted their iron utensils, China could exceed the UK's steel production in 15 years without having to import foreign machinery. Likewise, the Herald would like for the remaining members (including the dead, those who have moved, or who are inactive -- they may all still be on the Co-Op's corrupt membership rolls) to chip in "less than $100 per member" to generate the $3 million it will take to "wipe out debt" without having to take out a loan.
The similarities don't end there. This week's editorial fails to grasp the financial realities of the Co-Op's situation. In fact, it indulges in the kind of homespun economics, unburdened by the constraints of having to make other people's money pay for itself, that got Mao in trouble. Like a dangerously misinformed ministry of planning, the Herald manages to inflate some numbers while fantasizing about others.
Take the inflated membership rolls of the Co-Op, for example, with "membership somewhere around 35,000." If all these folks simply dug in their pockets, shouldn't we be able to save the Co-Op? Unfortunately, given all the known problems with the Co-Op's record keeping, putting this number out there without substantiation is like boosting the figures on grain output from the local agricultural commune to please the Party chief.
For one thing, the Co-Op's membership database is so corrupt that the Board literally has no idea who is or is not a member, who is active or inactive, or who is dead.
Further, as was hazily revealed in July of 2007, the Co-Op somehow "lost" the computer in which the membership database was stored -- whether this "loss" means the computer failed, was trashed by monkeys, or got put in the washing machine, is unclear. But given the extent of the problems afflicting the Co-Op's membership rolls, the figure of 35,000 is a not a reliable benchmark for fundraising efforts.
Now let's move on to the Herald's One Month Plan to raise $3,000,000 to "wipe out debt." Not only will this money supposedly erase the Co-Op's enormous debt burden, but there will be enough left over to go towards "capital improvements on 55th Street." All problems solved.
We suspect that, regardless of their ideological leanings, the monkeys that trashed the Co-Op's computer might have a greater appreciation for the fact that, even if the masses were to achieve this goal, it would do nothing to address the fundamental problem of the $90,000/month rent due on the 47th Street property, which is not going to go away no matter how much "debt" is "wiped out" through charitable donations.
So how did the Herald come away from its courtly reception of Poueymirou thinking that "the loan was intended not only to wipe out debt -- including the debilitating lease on the shuttered 47th Street store," when that lease runs until the 2023 and is not a debt but a lease commitment totaling $16,000,000? Is this kind of incomprehension one of the cooperative principles vaunted in its editorial?
The Herald has never bothered too much about informing us as to the inner workings of the Co-Op, which should come as no surprise, given its disinterest in anything "guided ... by profit." In this case, that editorial disinterest translates into editorial disability. Whatever principles you follow, no one wants to lose money; but that's exactly what these kinds of plans will lead to.
That the Herald's editors should, in such circumstances, beat the fundraising drum when there are a number of people who will likely never recover the value of their Co-Op shares, demonstrates what happens when a neighborhood paper becomes more of a hobby for the ideologically obsolescent, than an exercise of critical journalism.