posted by Richard Gill
My wife and I attended the Dec, 17 Co-Op Board meeting. About 75 people attended, and I estimate at least 25 percent of those were employees.
By my watch, the meeting ran three (3) hours and 18 minutes, broken down as follows: 2 hours, 48 minutes of discussion from the audience; 25 minutes in executive session; 5 minutes of open session, during which the Board voted.
Media were there - Tribune, Channel 7, Herald, maybe others. They stayed for the whole meeting.
Based on audience misbehavior at the meeting, I want to commend: the entire Board for valor in the line of fire; James Withrow for unhesitating adherence to the election results and doing, with a heavy heart, what he thought was right; Jay Mulberry (not a Board member) for openly stating his favorable assessment of the vote-counting process, though the voting results clearly disappointed him; and Board president Jim Poueymirou for extreme courage under fire, patience and restraint in the face of insults and abuse, and clarity in his explanations. Similar praise for Alderman Preckwinkle, who was there and spoke about the realities and was peppered with audience abuse for her efforts.
The final Board vote was 7-to-1 in favor of Option 'A', with Director Mueller casting the lone dissenting vote. Director Stanek was absent.
I won't try to chronicle the whole meeting (you had to be there). Here are just some of the highlights.
Several shouted charges of collusion, corruption, being on-the-take, leveled at the University, the Board, Certified, Alderman Preckwinkle. Most - but not all - of this came from employees and a few "activists". This then was followed by cheering and feel-good yelling. Interruptions by employees got so bad that Bruce Brandfon, the store's general manager, had to try to get them to exercise some civility.
There was much audience speech-making among themselves, much rehashing of history and many words about matters beyond the Board's control.
There were audience attempts to belittle and discredit the election.
Sue Walker, of the Herald, announced that Bruce Sagan would pledge a half-million dollars - which the Board explained more than once was too little, too late.
After a number of audience charges that the Board had not involved enough people, James Withrow asked them where they had been all the years that nobody was volunteering for committee work.
Many in the audience demonstrated either a total misunderstanding of economics, bankruptcy and the law, or willful denial of all of the above. Many made wishful remarks about what if they had more time, what if they could ask for this or that; a lot of what-ifs, which more than one Board member explained, more than once, doesn't pay the bills.
Several in the audience made statements about how the Co-Op had been a community center, a democratic institution, etc. As has been previously observed, the sentimentality went far beyond anything that would be felt for a store. It was more like the Co-Op had been Hyde Park's Mother Ship, and it was now imploding.
There was also much negative talk about Treasure Island and Certified.
Jo Reizner and Susan Campbell, of the U of C, attended the meeting and stayed throughout. They were asked to speak. Ms. Campbell briefly and clearly (amid interruptions) stated the University's position.
Near the end of the audience session, someone suggested that the Board had to vote against Option A because of the general anti-Option A sentiment in the audience. Someone shouted something like, "How come nobody here is speaking for Option A; they didn't even come to the meeting." At that point, I felt I had to say something. I raised my hand and was called upon to speak. First, I stated my name, said I voted for Option A and hoped the Board would do the same. Next I said that people who charged bribe-taking and corruption should be ashamed of themselves for making such unsubstantiated accusations. An employee tried to interrupt me, but I yelled back and wasn't interrupted again. I then said that over 5000 votes had been validated. I said further that there were just a few dozen people in the room who could not claim to be representative of the Co-Op's membership.
When the Board came out of executive session, Mr. Poueymirou said that they had called the University and asked if a time extension might be possible. He said the answer had been 'no.' He said this meant the Board still had only Options A and B from which to choose. The Board then voted for Option A, and the meeting was adjourned.