Saturday, December 1, 2007

Herald's Chicken: Co-Op Pledge Drive "Almost There"

posted by Peter Rossi

There is a light at the end of the tunnel for the debt-saddled Hyde Park Co-Op. The Co-Op web site proudly proclaims a total of $26,245 (as of December 1st) has been pledged by members to defray the debt. "We have been surprised at the support the neigborhood has shown us," reported maverick board member Jim Too-Tall Tail. "The pledges we have received so far top our total store revenue for November."

When asked by this Herald reporter why neighbors should support the dying Establishment institution, Mr. Tail responded "People give back in proportion to the contributions that the Co-Op has made to our community."

"The Co-Op's contributions to our community are intangibles that can't be measured by action but must be considered an ethos," added Mr. Tail.

The prospects for the success of the pledge drive are bright, according to Mr. Tail. "At this rate, we may reach $50,000 by the bankruptcy deadline of December 14th. Only the failed 'Save the Point' campaign has raised more money in our community than our drive."

"We hope this signals a return to the hey-day of community activism. Members of our community are putting narrow concerns for their own welfare behind them and reaching out in the cooperative spirit to ensure that we are all worse off."

Tale of the Tape
Co-Op Debt
1.2 million back rent to U of C
2.3 million owed to suppliers
0.685 million 47th store debt
1.01 million owed to Certified
Total: 5.195 million
Pledged: .026 million

"We expect that the fund raising drive will finish successfully around the year 2100," Mr. Tail asserted. "We feel very strongly that there are many lenders who will jump at the opportunity to extend us credit on the strength of this pledge cashflow."

In the past, my Herald's Chicken posts have been commentaries on or parodies of Herald coverage. However, the penchant for NIMBY points of view by Herald reporters and editors allows me to predict future Herald coverage. It is particularly easy to presage Herald articles as most articles do not involve any news content.


chicago pop said...

Check out the "Message A Day from a Boardmember" complete with running tally of donations. Is the entire Board on Board with this? This is too pathetic.

And that's the view from outside, too, even at the Chicago Reader, which you might expect to be more sympathetic:

The cringe-inducing slogan of the Co-Op—aka the Hyde Park Cooperative Society, aka the only real grocery store in Hyde Park—is "a love affair with fine foods." Unpleasant as that sounds, it's all the worse that living with the Co-Op is more like tolerating a loveless marriage of convenience with a clinically-depressed deadbeat.

Peter Rossi said...

There is nothing that unites Hyde Parker's more than hatred of the Co-Op. The Chicago Reader blog entry is vitriolic!

some think we are beating a dead horse, but the fact is that there is a real possibility that the NIMBYs will shot us all inthe foot and we will have a shuttered store!

SR said...

some think we are beating a dead horse

Oh if only you were. The latest Evergreen arrived on my doorstep today, and, reading through all the brain-melting paranoia, delusion, and denial to the substance, I find some evidence that the pro-option B board members are working on talking themselves into ignoring the results of the balloting (which I expect to be very lopsidedly in favor of option A).

First, according to Leon Shernoff's front page article, somehow the explanatory notes accompanying the mailed ballot were written by a U of C pr guy instead of by Coop Board members (how this happened exactly is never explained), so pro-option B board members feel that the vote has been "fraudulently" biased in favor of option A.

Second, in Shernoff's other article in the issue, "The options on the ballot: just the facts," he argues that the Coop is violating its own bylaws in the way it is conducting this vote, and that therefore the current balloting doesn't qualify as a "legitimate vote." I don't think this really changes anything, since this vote has been characterized as advisory-only rather than binding on the Board from the beginning, but I'm not sure.

Either way, you can see the rationale for just ignoring the expressed will of the membership forming up there, not quite ready to be voiced yet since the votes haven't actually been counted and you never know ...

Elizabeth Fama said...

SR, I think the explanation you're looking for was first postulated in James Withrow's 95 Theses (his full-page ad in the Herald ). He explained that he and a fellow board member (last name Chin, I believe) were supposed to be working on the language of the insert that went with the ballot. They got distracted by trying to clean up the membership data base, and the head of the Co-Op board became worried about missing the deadline for the printer. So he allowed a U of C representative to devise the wording, and he checked it (resulting in a couple of small changes). Withrow claims that since the entire board didn't sign off on the language of the insert, it was fraudulent.

SR said...

Hm, I didn't think it was really put that clearly. In his Evergreen article, which appears to be more or less a copy of the ad he ran in the Herald, Withrow says:

“Instead, this was taken out of our hands on the evening after the Town Hall meeting. I was told that the “Fact Sheet” would not be written by Lisa & myself, as the board had directed, but rather would be completed by the public relations consultant the University hired for this project! And that’s what happened ... I refused to approve the document. While Rob Stanek was allowed to suggest a few tweaks, the “Fact Sheet” was not sent to all the directors for approval, despite the claim that it speaks for the Board.” (Emphasis in the original)

What’s missing there is any mention of by whom he “was told” a U of C person would write the insert, and by whom Stanek was “allowed” to suggest changes, making it sound as if the insert just somehow magically found its way into the envelope against everyone’s will, or maybe hired U of C thugs (you know, the kind the President usually keeps milling around the Comptroller's office) suddenly appeared and started commandeering office supplies willy-nilly and malevolently stuffing envelopes.

Presumably somebody on the Board authorized this and they don’t want to say who, maybe because admitting that a Board member did authorize it would just emphasize yet again the incompetence and disarray of the current Board. (Yes, the current Board, not the older Board the current Board likes to blame for everything). I mean more than all the other little tidbits about mismanagement over the past year or so to be found throughout the current Evergreen. Or maybe it just doesn’t make the University look sinister enough if Withrow acknowledges this was done with the foreknowledge and cooperation of several Board members.

I belatedly feel a little odd about emphasizing a fairly small detail in such a great heaping pile of bizarrely self-undermining propaganda as the latest Evergreen though. The thought of even trying to catalog all the crazy in those few pages of newsprint makes my head hurt; I hope nobody at this blog is harmed in any such attempt, if they're thinking of trying it.

chicago pop said...

I belatedly feel a little odd about emphasizing a fairly small detail in such a great heaping pile of bizarrely self-undermining propaganda as the latest Evergreen though. The thought of even trying to catalog all the crazy in those few pages of newsprint makes my head hurt

You know, making fun of the Co-Op mess has kept me busy for a few months now, but I just can't keep up anymore. It's more than one homo sapien can handle. I mean, at some point, they just started parodying themselves better than any of us could, and our roles became superfluous. It's quite the spectacle -- sort of like when the escape pod is jettisoning away from the mother ship that's about to detonate, and you get this long, slow view of the thing as it falls away, and then just blows to all hell...what's there to say???

chicago pop said...

I like SR's discourse analysis showing that unnamed and invisible Board members may actually have had something to do with the "illegitimate fact sheet" purveyed by the Evil Meddling University. These guys make Pakistan look like a model of political consensus. Co-Op rhetoric -- or at least, what's being dished out by the Option B Faction -- has reverted to script -- it's the evil University, and forget about Certified or the majority of those favoring Option A. I get the feeling a lot of more rational shareholders realize this. But for rallying the troops, the anti-University boilerplate is magic. Just like Republicans made it useful to hate the Federal Government.

Elizabeth Fama said...

Oops. I see I leaped to the conclusion that the head of the board fired Withrow and Chin from the job of writing the Fact Sheet, and here's why:

I hate the passive voice ("this was taken out of our hands after the Town Hall meeting" and "I was told that"), and I find I automatically translate in my head as I'm reading, with a true subject and an active verb. In this case, it meant guessing who "took the job out of his hands."

Ptah said...

Yes, the parody has reached critical mass. But if I haven't said it already, I'm grateful just knowing I'm not alone in my amusement/bafflement of local neopaleolithic communatarians.

Today's amusement is the Herald's reporting that $30,575 had been collected (not making it clear that these are only pledges not actual dollars). -however Messrs Withrow and Stanek's $500 and $5000 may have been accepted already (fingers crossed).

I believe the final round in the Co-Op's game of chicken with the University is upon us. But based on the Herald's report, even the info at the town hall meeting was not complete (apparently three loans in additional the the NCB were being/are being negotiated?!).

I must admit, I'm tempted to pledge $2,345,987 just to see the Herald's headline. -grin