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Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op members will likely see only a phony “against” ballot argument when they vote in September on Measure 2, a Board-sponsored bylaws amendment that would bar the store from considering any political views or country of origin in making purchasing or any other decisions.
The elections page on the Co-op website presents a 263-word (the limit is 275) “for” argument from the Board, “countered” by a mere 63-word, sarcastic offering, purportedly from Charles Steven Arevalo, who is unknown to any of the active opponents of Measure 2. Any reader can tell that his true position is in favor, not against.
“This cynical move really takes the organic, honey-sweetened carrot cake,” said David L. Mandel of Co-op Members Matter, who submitted an authentic argument against the measure.
The Co-op Board asserts that it is simply following a rule that the first argument submitted gets published. It disclaims any responsibility for determining whether a submission is genuine.
“Imagine that a measure on the state ballot were accompanied by a printed argument that in fact favored the opposite of what it was labeled,” Mandel said. That would never happen, and it shouldn’t happen at our Co-op either.
Another of the Co-op Members Matter group, Ellen Schwartz, did in fact submit the first “con” argument. But it was rejected because it exceeded the length limit, which was announced only after she had already submitted her argument. “I sent my argument to the Board, but nobody notified me when they subsequently implemented the word limit. They did not “reject” my submission; they never even acknowledged receipt of it, despite two follow-up emails, hard copy submission and telephone calls.” said Schwartz. She and other Co-op members say she should be given the opportunity to shorten it, or to replace it with Mandel’s submission.
“This blatant subversion of any fairness signals that the current board is afraid of giving members a true choice and voice,” Mandel said, noting that it comes on the heels of an ongoing struggle over the board’s refusal, in violation of the Co-op’s bylaws, to place an initiative on the ballot that would let members decide whether to boycott Israeli products, then denying proponents the time-honored right to distribute literature for their cause in front of the store. “Whether one supports or opposes this boycott proposal, Co-op members have the right to hear about the issue and decide on it, as the bylaws provide.”
Measure 2 opens with “anti-discrimination” provisions that are redundant due to existing bylaws, not to mention federal and state law. But it would also prohibit the Co-op from using criteria related to “political opinion” or “national origin” in making purchasing or any other decisions.
The measure is clearly a reaction to the boycott proposal, aimed at preventing any such future efforts. But opponents note that this would also bar favoring local, small producers over imported goods, and that preferencing organic, sustainably grown and fair-trade products reflects political values that most Co-op members share.
“This [Arevalo's] ballot argument completely fails to address the issues, which means Co-op members are being denied the chance to make an informed decision,” said Co-op member Ellen Levy. “If the board has any interest in holding a fair election, they will immediately replace this with a legitimate ballot argument.”
“The controversy surrounding Measure 2 is yet another example of the Board leadership mismanaging a situation and creating more problems with their actions for our Co-op” said Board candidate Cody Potter, who is running with Susan Bush on a pro-democracy platform. “It’s really unfortunate and unnecessary. … Our leadership seems to have lost their spirit of cooperation with the Co-op membership!”