Letters to the editor, September 2001
This article was originally published in September 2001
On executive sessions
As a “veteran” of the ’60s I was thrilled to find PCC (and become a new member), not in small part due to my notion that the last best hope for mankind’s survival lay in his (or her) ability to form “alternative institutions,” based on non-coercive, voluntary cooperation and idealism.
It had seemed to me that after “the big chill” of the ’70s, such alternative institutions would be few and far between and those already dead would be busy dying. Therefore, to me, more than any benefit of organic food, etc., to me the most important part of Joining the PCC was that it would be “owned” by its members and that members would have the last say in its governing.
Suffice to say I was saddened to learn first, rumors that PCC may go the way of Group Health Cooperative, in that it has become “too large,” and second, that portions of the PCC board meeting would be held in “executive session.” Already, I learned that as a PCC member, I was already officially a second class citizen within the PCC, as were most other members, i.e., those not on the board or whoever it is that is meeting in secret.
As a part of the learning curve in the 1960s I was quickly separated from my innocence as well. In particular I learned that when someone purporting to represent you needs to meet in secret, whether it be a government or a coop board, there is a good chance that as one intelligence official put, “matters are discussed and projects are launched that would offend the sensibilities of the average citizen of a democracy.” The examples of how true this is, at least in the case of governments is too lengthy to take the time to list here.
Because I value the ideals that PCC stands for I intend, therefore, to become as active as my time will permit in the PCC. The first thing I will ask and ask other members to support me in, is that there be no more “executive sessions.”
— Richard R. Blake
Dear Mr. Blake,
The PCC Board of Trustees read your letter to the editor and wanted to offer a response to your concerns. You are absolutely right in stating that we represent you and the rest of the PCC membership and that we need to follow a governance process that is transparent and accessible. Per our Board Policy regarding Board Meetings (BP-F), our meetings are open to the public except when in executive session. Unfortunately, issues such as staff contract or salary negotiations, labor agreements, or some business transactions require closed-door discussions to protect the confidentiality of the parties involved. We then go in “executive session” (closed to the public and sometimes to management staff) for the duration of those discussions.
There is usually at least one executive session at each board meeting lasting 30 to 60 minutes, although very sensitive issues can take much longer. In upcoming meetings and when at all possible, we intend to hold those sessions at the end of our meeting for the convenience of members and staff. We also have moved our member comment period to 7 p.m. to better accommodate the schedule of members interested in sharing their views with us. We invite you to attend those sessions whenever you can.
Thank you for your input and best regards,
The PCC Board of Trustees
I’ve wanted to write after reading each recent issue of the newsletter, am finally doing it. I sure appreciate them. It seems the emphasis lately is on the things that make PCC different from other grocery stores — yay! I’m missing Goldie’s home-spun recipes, but respect her expanded role as food educator and advocate. I value learning more about topics like food safety, food/agricultural production, preservation of genetic diversity.
Looking forward, I’d love to hear what the co-op is thinking/doing re: carrying brands owned by mega food conglomerates (Knudsens juice, Minute Maid, Cascadian Farms, Boca Burger…) or tobacco company subs (Miller Beer, Post Cereals, Lifestream). Anything in the works in that area?
I imagine the staff must work hard to balance the interests of those who wish the content was more “radical”, those who don’t like all the “alarmist” messages, and those who wish these tough issues would just go away seems pretty well balanced right now, and there’s always something hopeful in each issue. Keep educating us, keep helping us advocate for healthy food in a healthy environment!
— Ann Kelley
Editor: Thank you for letting us know we’re on track. Look for discussion on food conglomerates in an upcoming issue.
Recycling bags and environmental activism
I have found I recycle deli containers and grocery bags more often when I store them in my car. Even if I’m in the store before I remember to bring them with me, I can go back to the car and get what I need. Maybe others do this too, but those who don’t might if you put this idea in the newspaper.
Please keep up the coverage of PCC’s monitoring of and participation in food safety, from Goldie’s column to announcements about buying from new vendors. Besides the organic food, the reason I shop at PCC is my expectation that PCC administration and buyers make contracts and purchases based on the long-term health of the environment as well as expectation of coop’s continuation. Those in charge of other grocery stores don’t make the environment a priority. If PCC truly does, I think the marketing department should consider an advertising campaign that makes that fact common knowledge. Incorporate it into your newspaper’s flag and make it a consistent part of news articles. I think many more people would make the coop their main grocery store if they understood that difference between PCC and other grocery stores. In terms of features and benefits , being a coop is a feature of PCC. Being an environmental activist with your policies is a benefit of PCC. Make it a bigger part of your image in the city.
— Mae Waldron