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From the Board | Fall Quarterly 2018

Second Quarter Board Meeting Recaps

Colin Fiske

As always, this quarter’s Board of Directors meetings took on a number of important topics. If you missed them, consider coming to one of our upcoming meetings. The Co-op is a democratically governed organization, but that’s only meaningful when members know how we’re being governed and take the opportunity to have their say about important issues. Here are a few of the things we’ve discussed and acted on at recent meetings.

Co-op Finances
The board receives a report on the state of the Co-op’s finances at each meeting (in addition to quarterly Finance Committee meetings devoted solely to that topic). Over the last few months, it has become increasingly clear that our cash on hand has slipped to unacceptably low levels. At our August meeting, we discussed the levels of cash on hand and what steps we will have to take to bring that number back up to acceptable levels. In short, we need to increase sales, decrease expenditures, and sell off some back stock. Of course, it’s the second part—decreasing expenditures—that’s the hardest, and we’re doing everything we can to limit the impacts to employees and members. 

Responding to Members
Members brought several issues to the board at recent meetings, and the board responded whenever we could. In July, a member came forward to ask us to withdraw our underwriting support until KHSU, the beloved community radio station where the Co-op has long been an underwriter, adequately addresses several issues raised by their volunteers and staff in recent months. After reviewing the situation and being presented with a petition signed by multiple Co-op members, the board voted in August to send a letter to KHSU asking them to address the concerns that had been raised. At our September meeting, we reviewed a response we received from KHSU and decided to take no action to withdraw our support of the station at this time.

In September, a member came forward to ask the Co-op to endorse the “No on Measure M” campaign. Measure M is a ballot measure in Arcata that would prohibit the city from removing the McKinley statue at the center of the Plaza. The member pointed out that local tribes and organizations representing people of color have asked for the statue to be removed, and that keeping it didn’t seem to be in line with cooperative values. Several board members expressed hesitance to get involved in political issues that don’t relate directly to food. However, board members also felt that taking a stance in favor of allowing something more welcoming to all people to be placed in the Plaza—just a block from the Arcata store—would be an important reflection of the commitments we’ve made to work for racial equity in our stores and our community. In the end, the board voted to endorse the “No on Measure M” campaign. By the time you read this, we will have issued an official statement explaining our position in full.

Finally, in August, members attended the board meeting to express their concerns about the recent separation of the Arcata Store Manager. Unfortunately, because the issue involves confidential information about personnel, the board couldn’t respond directly with any additional information or action. However, it was clear that this was an emotional and important issue for many of our members, and the board listened to what everyone had to say.

Helping Low-Income Members
For the last year and a half, the Co-op has piloted the Co-op Access Program (CAP) to help all interested members of the community to access the benefits of Co-op membership and of shopping at the Co-op, including the benefits of access to healthy food and of democratic member ownership, regardless of income. Through the pilot program, interested participants who qualify for assistance through state or federal programs such as CalFresh, WIC, or SSI could sign up for CAP and get 10% off all purchases at the Co-op. The program currently includes about 50 people. If they were not already a member, a membership was gifted to them. 

At our August meeting, Co-op staff presented a proposal for making CAP permanent and opening it up to additional qualifying members. Because the data from the pilot program didn’t demonstrate an accurate prediction of the financial impact the program would have on our bottom line, the proposal had to reflect the highest possible cost, and that cost would be significant. To pay for the new program, staff proposed eliminating the current Tuesday discount for seniors. The senior discount goes to all seniors regardless of their income, while under the new program, folks who qualify could get a discount regardless of their age. It would be a needs-based discount program.

Several members and board members expressed concern about eliminating the
senior discount, as well as the wisdom of adopting a new program with an uncertain budgetary impact at a time when the Co-op’s cash levels are already low. Following extensive discussion at this meeting and the following one, the board agreed to table the proposal for the time being. In the meantime, Board Treasurer James Kloor and I volunteered to try to identify a statistician or other expert who might be able to use the data from the pilot program to predict budgetary impacts more accurately.

Strategic Plan
Much of the July meeting was occupied with discussion of the Co-op’s next Five-Year Strategic Plan. The board reviewed a draft of the plan written by General Manager Melanie Bettenhausen based on input from member surveys and a committee comprised of members, board members, and staff. There was a sense of excitement about the plan from board members and other committee members present, particularly about its focus areas, which include racial and social equity, environmental responsibility, the cooperative economy, a robust local food system, making the Co-op a community hub, and ensuring financial viability. But of course, we also identified a few areas that we thought could be improved. Melanie edited the plan based on the feedback she received and presented it at the next board meeting in August, where the board approved it and referred the final plan to be adopted by the membership at the Annual Membership Meeting & Celebration on October 21. 

Co-op board meetings take place on the first Thursday of every month, and members are always invited to attend. You can find out what’s on the agenda by checking at Customer Service, on our website, or by signing up to receive board agendas by email (just email board@northcoast.coop and ask to be put on the list). I hope to see you at one soon! 

Board of Directors & Committee Meetings

October Meetings
Board of Directors Meeting
October 4 • 6pm, Eureka Store

Member Action Committee 
October 10 • 5:30pm, Ten Pin Building

Earth Action Committee
October 10 • 6:45pm, Ten Pin Building

Annual Membership Meeting
October 21 • 1pm, Arcata Veterans Hall

November Meetings
Board of Directors Meeting
November 1 • 6pm, Ten Pin Building

Policies & Procedures Committee
November 7 • 5:30pm, Arcata Store

Member Action Committee 
November 14 • 5:30pm, Ten Pin Building 

Earth Action Committee
November  14 • 6:45pm, Ten Pin Building

Finance Committee
August 28 • 6pm, Ten Pin Building

December Meetings
Board of Directors Meeting
December 6 • 6pm, Ten Pin Building

Member Action Committee 
December 12 • 5:30pm, Ten Pin Building

Earth Action Committee
December 12 • 6:45pm, Ten Pin Building


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