Shirley Johnson’s October Newsletter

Dear SF Bicycle Coalition Member,

Thanks for reading my newsletter. I intend to keep you updated on San Francisco Bicycle Coalition (SFBC) governance and other items of interest. Views in this communication are my own and do not represent the views of the SFBC.

In this newsletter:

  1. Next SFBC board meeting is Tuesday, October 25
  2. Change in board election voting dates
  3. Come to the member meeting/candidate forum on November 17
  4. Board approves change in bylaws
  5. Why I voted against board recommendations for board candidates
  6. Save SF Bike endorses Chema Hernández Gil for SFBC board
  7. SFBC board contact information and 2016 meeting calendar
  8. Share this newsletter

1. Next SFBC board meeting is Tuesday, October 25
The next SFBC board meeting is 6:30pm, Tuesday, October 25 at the SFBC office, 1720 Market Street at Valencia Street. Members are invited to attend, no RSVP needed. Read the agenda here.

2. Change in board election voting dates
Due to a typo in the fall issue of the Tube Times in which the board election was announced, board voting will start November 14 (not November 17) and end December 4. The board approved the change via email between board meetings.

3. Come to the member meeting/board candidate forum on November 17
Save the date for the SFBC member meeting and candidate forum!

Time: 6:00 – 8:00pm, Thursday, November 17
Place: City College Mission Campus, 1125 Valencia St, San Francisco

Board candidates will make short speeches about their candidacy for the board of directors. A similar event was held last year and it was fun and informative. A voting station will be available, so you can vote right then and there, if you wish. Hope to see you there!

4. Board approves change in bylaws
The board unanimously approved a change in the bylaws regarding board elections. Original wording:

approval by ballot shall be valid if a majority of the returned ballots indicate approval of a nominated Director.

New approved wording:

candidates receiving the highest number of votes are elected.

The new wording will solve the problem of last board election when three candidates did not receive a majority of votes to be duly elected according to the bylaws.

5. Why I voted against board recommendations for board candidates
The board approved a process to recommend candidates for the upcoming board election. I was the sole dissenting vote against this process. I wrote a dissenting opinion to include in the board meeting minutes. I have reproduced my dissenting opinion at the bottom of this email as an addendum.

6. Save SF Bike endorses Chema Hernández Gil for SFBC board
Formed in 2015 to uphold SFBC members’ right to vote for the Board of Directors, Save SF Bike remains committed to a democratic and representative San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. Save SF Bike recently announced endorsement of Chema Hernández Gil for SFBC board. Save SF Bike previously announced endorsement of Jeremy Pollock and Jiro Yamamoto.

If you are considering running for the SFBC board and you support Save SF Bike’s platform, you may apply for Save SF Bike endorsement by completing the short application form here. The deadline is October 24.

7. SFBC board contact information and 2016 meeting calendar
You can contact the board at board@sfbike.org. Below are dates for the SFBC board meetings remaining in 2016, all starting at 6:30pm at the SFBC office, 1720 Market Street at Valencia Street:
Tuesday, October 25
Tuesday, November 29
No December meeting

8. Share this newsletter
Please feel free to forward this newsletter to others. Anyone can join my email list. I am always happy to hear from members and I am interested in your input.

Happy pedaling,
Shirley Johnson
SFBC board member

Addendum
Summary:

At the September 27 board meeting, the Board Development Committee proposed a process for the board to recommend candidates for the 2016 board election.

Relevant Bylaws Excerpt:
Article V, Section 4. B.
Nominations by Board of Directors. The Board of directors may adopt a procedure for a (sic) Board-approved nominations.

Board vote:
The board voted 11-1 to approve the proposed process for the board to recommend candidates for the 2016 board election.

Dissenting Opinion (Shirley Johnson):
The board recommending candidates is an attempt to officially influence how members vote. I believe the board, as a body, should remain neutral in the election process, just as staff remains neutral. Individual board members, not acting in their official capacity, would still be free to evaluate and recommend candidates.

There are two primary reasons that I voted against board-approved recommendations of board candidates:

  1. If the board recommends board candidates, we can limit diversity on the board. A diverse board is a strong board, because good decision-making requires looking at issues from many different perspectives. Subjectivity and unconscious bias can result in the board recommending candidates who are similar to us, particularly in terms of viewpoints and opinions. Diversity in opinion arises in part from diversity in age, race, background, and socioeconomic status, all characteristics prone to bias in a board-recommendation process. The process is further complicated by incumbents running for the board, because the board is obliged to recommend fellow board members. This limits opportunities for new people to be recommended and gives the appearance of a privatized club.
  2. In the past, the board-endorsement process has caused some qualified candidates to drop out of the race when they didn’t get endorsed. Even though we may have the best of intentions, the end result has discouraged member engagement. For example, a blog post from the 2014 election states:

    This year, a Board Slate was endorsed including eight individuals for the eight open slots on the board. Several other qualified individuals were not selected for the slate. (All but one of them chose not to run at this time.)

    I believe our goal as a board should be to encourage members to run for the board and to facilitate an open exchange of information about the candidates so that voters can make well-informed decisions to elect a representative board. Instead, the board-endorsement process historically has had the opposite effect. Skewing participation in board elections and limiting diversity on the board expands the gap between the board and the membership, reducing overall membership participation and effectiveness of the SF Bicycle Coalition.

Board members stated that they believe the board provides a service to the membership by recommending candidates. However, the board plans to determine the recommendations in closed session. This closed process does not provide insight to the voting membership, and the membership will not have an opportunity to learn what criteria are ultimately used to determine the recommendations. A closed and unaccountable recommendation process undermines credibility of the board.

Members for More Representative Elections (MMRE), a group of SFBC members who have been working all year to improve board elections, has done extensive analysis of democratic election processes. MMRE does not support board endorsements. I respect the research and analysis of MMRE and agree with the group’s assessment.

For an open and fair democracy, the board should not attempt to officially influence the board election outcome by recommending candidates.