Twice in the last 6 years, PEC members have been asked to vote on whether they wish to change the current governing model of the cooperative. Twice they have voted NO. Now, according to a meeting notice published in advance of the Monday, August 15 meeting, the Board apparently intends to act in defiance of member wishes. They plan a unilateral action to pass a “single member voting” scheme by invoking a “super-majority” vote (5 board members out of 7) to enact a by-laws change, without so much as formal public comments or another member referendum.
This action is ill-advised and unnecessary. President Emily Pataki’s comments to the Austin American-Statesman on Friday, August 12 smack of an uncharacteristic arrogance.
“I believe the PEC membership is weary of our board pushing questions off to them that we should be answering ourselves”, Pataki said.
Really? Really? Questions of governance should be left to the political whims of those controlling the majority, without member voice? Members have TWICE VOTED in favor of maintaining the current at-large voting system. Perhaps the question should be, aren’t the members weary of the board making key decisions without consulting them? And what other questions might they unilaterally decide? Opt-in to customer choice? Sell the Cooperative to an investor-owned utility?
Editor’s note: [President Pataki is about to preside over her first significant test as a leader. In a leader, trust is essential. Is she prepared to permit her board to essentially ignore the will of the members? Is that how one earns trust? I urge the board to take a step back. Don’t be in such a hurry to use your new power–just because you can.]
Now along comes a new board member in the name of Jim Powers, not known in his elective history to be a big fan of governing democracy. He ran unopposed for a PEC seat last June and won–a feat he could have accomplished merely by voting for himself. Powers has yet to spend 2 months serving, nor has he demonstrated much of any knowledge about cooperative governance and yet it is he who plans to introduce the resolution.
Here is just a handfull of reasons why this action is unnecessary and ill-advised
- Members have already spoken. Twice they were given a choice and twice they voted to maintain the current at-large system. Who is the board to overrule the will of the members? And if they do set such a dangerous precedent, what other actions might they take without the consent of the governed? Customer choice?
- With a single member district model, members have LESS SAY in their cooperative. Unsteasd of voting every year for every board member, they now get to vote every three years for only ONE board member.
- Cooperatives are not governmental bodies like city council. PEC board members are elected to serve the interests of the cooperative whole. Creating single member districts will further politicize and balkanize the cooperative, creating competing fiefdoms among the board at the expense of member interests.
- Single member districts will require enormous time and expense on the part of staff to manage “redistricting” lines. Let’s keep our staff focused on distributing reliable electricity–something they are doing very well.
- What the sponsors of this aren’t admitting to the members is that they are really looking for any POLITICAL advantage to control the board and they see it as cheaper and more efficient to run candidates in one district. Power preservation is not a good reason to make this change.
- Candidates are already given access to the names of members who voted in previous elections–those 20,000 or so names render the argument in the above item, #5 moot.
I urge out Board to review the cooperative principles below and pay particular attention to item 2.