2020 Spring Meeting & Vote

Your Voice, Your Vote, Your Co-op

Welcome to the 2020 Spring Member Meeting Page

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, GreenStar’s Board of Directors had to cancel its Annual Spring Member-Owner Meeting and Member Forum. The information traditionally presented at these meetings is available on this page.

Click here for the Spring 2020 Vote results

Click on the image above to see the results. 

Co-op Principle #2: Democratic Member Control

Cooperatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members — those who buy the goods or use the services of the cooperative — who actively participate in setting policies and making decisions.

Voting takes place April 20 – May 20

What is this vote about?

You’ll be selecting who will represent you on GreenStar’s Council (our Board of Directors) and you’ll be voting on two proposed Bylaws amendments.

On this page you’ll find:

  • A digital copy of the 2020 Spring Election Issue for Co-op Member-Owners
  • Videos of our General Manager’s and President’s Report
  • A link to the Treasurer’s Report
  • Information on the Council Candidates and the Bylaws Amendments that you’ll be voting on
Please Note: To prevent the spread of infection, paper ballots will not be available in our stores and you will receive your ballot electronically from noreply@directvote.net after the start of the voting period on April 20.
Questions about the vote? Contact elections@greenstar.coop
Questions about your membership? Contact membership@greenstar.coop
2020 Spring Election Issue

Click on the image above to read the Spring Election Issue.

2020 Spring Member Meeting Reports

General Manager’s Report

President’s Report

Click Here to Read the Treasurer's Report

Council Candidates

One of the most important benefits of being a member-owner is electing your Co-op’s Board of Directors, or GreenStar’s Council. Council works closely with our General Manager to decide on the long-term vision of our Co-op and participating in Council elections is a way that you can help to shape that vision. Because the Annual Member Forum was cancelled, GreenStar’s Membership Engagement Committee selected four additional questions for each Council candidate to answer. 

We have 4 candidates and 3 open seats, each for a 3-year term.*

*On March 1, 2020 we had 9 declared candidates. Since then, only 4 have submitted the necessary materials and met the requirements of being a Council Candidate. 


Steven Henderson
henderson.steventyler@outlook.com

Describe your experience with this cooperative, and cooperatives generally. What makes you passionate about the co-op and/or its mission?
My experience with cooperatives started when I lived in Fayetteville, Arkansas, where I was a member of Ozark Natural Foods. I played a back seat observer role even as my wife’s  career took us to Southeast Kansas to begin a rural grocery cooperative. While in Kansas  I started researching the history of cooperatives and more broadly cooperation. What  makes me most passionate about the cooperative business model is that it provides a  firm transitional step between the current top-down capitalistic society we currently live  under and a bottom-up socialist society.

Please explain how your skills and experience will help you to be an effective Council Member and contribute to the work of Council.
In Kansas, I had established myself as a part of the community by joining (and subsequently being elected president) Kiwanis and CITF. As the president of Kiwanis I was able facilitate an increase in our fundraising totals and establish a new program which provided a free book each month of the school year to children in pre-k through  5th grade. I was also voted to sit on the board of the Housing Authority by the city council in 2018. In that role I was successful in pushing for our staff to receive a 3.8% raise as well as establishing a permanent full-time position with benefits in place of two part-time positions without benefits.

What’s your vision for the future of our cooperative?
My vision for GreenStar is that it becomes a local (and regional) advocate for cooperative  businesses. I envision this taking form in the way of providing resources to new cooperatives along our current value chains.

New candidates: What is your motivation for running for Council?
My motivation for running for Council is simple: I want to do as much good as I can, in all the ways that I can, in as many places I can.

Additional Questions Selected by the Membership Engagement Committee:

Keeping in mind the delineation between Council’s work and operational/staff/management work, do you have any specific goals for your tenure on Council?
It is my belief that for GreanStar to more effectively serve the mission of the historical cooperative movement and to advance the principles set forth by the movement before us, we are obligated to expand the market share of cooperative enterprises. This is not a task that can be carried out solely by a member of Council, the Council in its entirety, nor the General Manager, but will require input and support from the majority of the evergrowning ownership. My goals and responsibilities are simple — provide support and guidance to the General Manager insomuch as their actions are in ordinance with the Bylaws, and create connections within our community and throughout the region that serve the aforementioned beliefs.

Democracy gives a voice to all, but the majority decides. How will you handle a situation where you strongly disagree with a decision made by Council?

My interest in cooperative businesses is, in large part, because of the alternative it provides to top-down capitalist enterprise. I come into this knowing and expecting that I will not agree with everything the majority supports, and that’s fine. The role of Counselor is not one of absolute power, but rather a role of stewardship of the store we are collectively responsible for. Our alternative to the corporate norm we currently live under has nothing to gain from petty destructive criticism from within, but has everything to lose. Personal experience has taught me to separate personal emotions from decisions made on how to progress towards goals set by the collective and as such I have learned to look forward to the next objective instead of dwelling on disagreements of the past.

One of Council’s goals is to increase its diversity to better match that of its community. Please describe specific steps you would take to help accomplish this, in board recruitment or otherwise.

A truly democratic organization must ensure that each of its members is given an equal voice. I find two layers to this question. The first is in the plain text, but underneath that lies the question of how GreenStar represents the community it occupies. I believe it impossible to achieve an elected body which provides perfect representation of all ideas and habits which exist among the electorate. That being said, GreenStar currently has multiple public image issues which need to be addressed before anything resembling perfect representation can be achieved. Firstly, there is an ongoing union organization effort, and while I will support whatever decision the workers eventually reach, it would be dishonest of me not to mention the negative image this paints of GreenStar in the eyes of community members. Secondly, I have had conversations with several people, representing different demographic groups, who believe GreenStar to be elitist and unwelcoming to individuals who ‘don’t fit the vibe’. The former will not reach a resolution until such a time that a union vote is held. The latter can be investigated and overcome through community engagement.  

In recent years Council has begun to use technology (e.g. email, productivity tools, Google’s GSuite, videoconferencing) to accomplish its work. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, this has become an increasingly important element of Council’s work. Describe your level of familiarity with online productivity tools. Do you use similar technologies in your everyday life?

I use the aforementioned technologies almost daily. 


Diane Hillman
dhillmann@greenstar.coop
(Incumbent)

Describe your experience with this cooperative, and cooperatives generally. What makes you passionate about the co-op and/or its mission?

I was a member of the Syracuse Real Food Co-op in the mid-70’s at the time they leased the neighborhood food market they still use today. When I moved to Ithaca in 1977, I joined the Ithaca Food Co-op. I’m interested in the unique combination of the idealism inherent in Co-ops, combined with the reality of running a business and providing services to members. 

Please explain how your skills and experience will help you to be an effective Council Member and contribute to the work of Council.

I was trained as a librarian and worked in the Cornell Libraries for several decades. During that time I helped develop the Dublin Ore, a metadata standard still used extensively on the Internet. I’ve lived in Jacksonville for over 40 years, and was involved in bringing water to Jacksonville after a gas spill in the late 70’s. I also led the Jacksonville Community Association for a decade.  

What’s your vision for the future of our cooperative?

I think there are exciting and challenging times ahead! The new store is both of those, but I think Co-op members and staff are more than up to it. Future challenges since with managing growth, and engaging the membership fully as change happens. Keeping the balance between the ideals and the services will be much of the task as the Co-op moves forward. 

INCUMBENTS: What do you believe has been your most important contribution to Council during your tenure?

The learning curve has been steep, but I believe my experience with libraries and community organizations gives me an important perspective on the Co-op and its leadership priorities. I’m definitely starting to hit my stride and hope to continue to contribute to the Co-op moving forward. 

Additional Questions Selected by the Membership Engagement Committee:

Keeping in mind the delineation between Council’s work and operational/staff/management work, do you have any specific goals for your tenure on Council?

Since I was appointed to Council last November, my primary goal was to learn enough about the work of the Co-op and Council to figure out where I might be most effective. I’ve learned a lot, particularly in the past few months, about the strengths of both, as well as places where I can contribute. I’ve had a professional career as an organizational technology agent of sorts, and I find that perspective to be as rare in most organizations as it was in my professional life. It’s been wonderful to see how Council has adapted to life under social distancing, but it remains to be seen how that adaptation will evolve post-pandemic.  I look forward to the change coming in GreenStar’s change in its main venue, and participating in Council’s work in managing that change effectively.

Democracy gives a voice to all, but the majority decides. How will you handle a situation where you strongly disagree with a decision made by Council?

I’ve spent a lot of time in my life as a minority voice, with a personal need to use that voice combined with a view of life as a marathon, not a sprint. Under that view, I’ve managed to maintain a positive perspective by seeing many of the issues I care about evolve more towards my point of view. My respect for the experiences and perspectives of people I work with also reminds me that I am capable of evolving as well. Although opinionated, I tend not to be confrontational, so I don’t see disagreement — including strong disagreement — as a reason for drastic action over particular issues. Democracy in the Co-op, as well as in the nation, is a value I support wholeheartedly.

One of Council’s goals is to increase its diversity to better match that of its community. Please describe specific steps you would take to help accomplish this, in board recruitment or otherwise.

One of the things that I’ve already learned from my short stint on Council is that diversity is a much broader idea than I’d originally thought. Certainly there is a need for diversity in regards to race, gender, age, national origin, and other aspects that we traditionally consider. We also need to account for age and generational diversity, because with those can come a host of preferences and predilections that are too often not well acknowledged. As an adoptive parent in this community, I know many multiracial and multicultural families (including mine) where the heads of families are white, but their close family members are not. Similarly, age and generational affiliation does not reflect either knowledge or comfort with technology. Such recognition reminds us that creating a working diverse organization is much more complex than simple counts of obvious membership in particular communities.

In recent years Council has begun to use technology (e.g. email, productivity tools, Google’s GSuite, videoconferencing) to accomplish its work. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, this has become an increasingly important element of Council’s work. Describe your level of familiarity with online productivity tools. Do you use similar technologies in your everyday life?

I have been involved with technology tools since 1973, when I began using computers in my work. This was the mainframe era, but I was also an early user of personal computers (mid 1980’s) and the Internet (early 1990’s). I was using and managing email discussion lists (sometimes known as ‘listservs’ based on the name of early software) from early years of that flavor of social media. From the last years of the twentieth and early years of the present century, I worked as part of several international standards efforts, for which meetings were often held using audio/video conference methods as well as meeting scheduling software that assisted in working across time zones. My use and comfort with technology has grown over 40+ years, and shows no signs of retiring (though I’m mostly retired from my professional work).

Diane Hillman Attendance Record

Diane Hillman Attendance Record

Yvonne LaMontagne
ylamontagne@greenstar.coop
 (Incumbent)

Describe your experience with this cooperative, and cooperatives generally. What makes you passionate about the co-op and/or its mission?
In 1977 I joined GreenStar, a year after moving to Ithaca. For my first twenty years as a member-owner I was a working member, and during that time, in the mid 80’s, I was elected to serve on GreenStar Council. Throughout my years as a member I have made it a point to make as many of my grocery purchases as possible at GreenStar because I wanted to support my cooperative and its mission. I am also a long time member of AFCU and live in a co-housing cooperative on West Hill. So cooperatives are a large part of my life and I am deeply committed to the principle of member owned organizations formed for the benefit of members and the pursuit and manifestation of the organization’s mission. GreenStar’s mission places strong emphasis on healthy, natural, local, and ecologically responsible products. This resonates deeply with me, as does the commitment to provide a fair and supportive workplace and an inclusive and accessible store environment.

Please explain how your skills and experience will help you to be an effective Council Member and contribute to the work of Council.
During my years in Ithaca I have served on four boards, half of these being boards of cooperatives. On two of these I served as Treasurer and kept the financial records, prepared reports, and maintained accounts. My work background includes a position as bookkeeper and accounts manager for the construction of a co-housing project and I currently manage the bookkeeping and accounts for EcoVillage at Ithaca Village Association. I have participated in many, many meetings using various types of decision making, and have attended workshops on decision making, facilitation, and healthy meeting process. I believe my past experiences serving on boards, working collaboratively and extensively within my co-housing community to move through many decisions, and my financial background will all help me to be an effective and contributing Council member.

What’s your vision for the future of our cooperative?
My vision for GreenStar’s future is for GreenStar to provide a financially viable model of an alternative way to conduct a business, a model that puts people and all of life, and the environments that sustain life, first. I envision a model where member-owners, staff and Council work cooperatively, locally, and constructively to provide goods and services that sustain and improve the health and welfare of people and the planet.

INCUMBENTS: What do you believe has been your most important contribution to Council during your tenure?
This past December I was appointed to GreenStar’s Council at Council’s monthly meeting. During the two and a half months since appointment, I have attended as many of the different committee meetings as I could, and I have gained a well-rounded understanding of Council’s current activity. I have also read much of GreenStar’s policy book and studied the whys and wherefores of Policy Governance. I have been showing up prepared to listen and engage, and have expressed my thoughts on several issues, particularly on the importance of member engagement and transparency. My hope is to have the opportunity to contribute in a much larger way if elected, particularly in the areas of member engagement and addressing the current environmental challenges.

Additional Questions Selected by the Membership Engagement Committee:

Keeping in mind the delineation between Council’s work and operational/staff/management work, do you have any specific goals for your tenure on Council?

As a Council member I hope to help put in place ways to create more transparency for the membership around the functioning and decision making of Council and Council’s relationship to management and operations.  There is much information already available, but improvement in ease of accessibility and availability, as well as opportunities for membership to ask questions and be heard, are all areas I feel could be improved.  I would also like to help facilitate the development of opportunities for membership education and information sharing around the significance of cooperative ownership, the important role our store can play in building local resilience, how we can reduce the human impact that is bringing about climate change, and ways in which we, as a Co-op and as individuals, can support the health and regeneration of life on the planet.  In light of the current pandemic, the above would also help in building our local resilience. This topic, how to help facilitate local resilience, and the resilience of our Co-op, in the face of disruption, is one I would also like to discuss and address with the rest of Council.

Democracy gives a voice to all, but the majority decides. How will you handle a situation where you strongly disagree with a decision made by Council?

GreenStar’s Council makes decisions by majority rule.  In my experience so far, Council deliberates and listens to everything brought to the table.  Decisions are not made lightly, and though there is often consensus, there sometimes is not. If a decision were made with which I strongly disagreed, I would support it as a council member and would not undercut or publicly discredit it.  However, I might explore the possibility of reopening the discussion, prepare a counter proposal, and have conversations with other council members about the decision in question. And in the extreme case of a decision being made that I felt would be very detrimental to the co-op, and I felt I had no means within the Council framework to address this, I could find myself in a position of needing to hand in my resignation in order to be able to voice my concern as a member-owner who cares deeply for the future of our cooperative.

One of Council’s goals is to increase its diversity to better match that of its community. Please describe specific steps you would take to help accomplish this, in board recruitment or otherwise.

Diversity and inclusion is a stated commitment of GreenStar, and each GreenLeaf states “We (GreenStar) seek out and welcome people from diverse communities to participate in a community owned cooperative business structure.”  To foster this at the level of Council would, in my opinion, take an ongoing effort on the part of Council and its members to cultivate relationships with members of underrepresented groups, to seek to understand the ways in which individuals of these groups may feel unheard, dismissed, misunderstood, unwelcome, or simply uncomfortable, and address these both personally and in the overall culture of Council.  Council is currently considering trainings in diversity and inclusion, and my hope is that they would involve local leaders with knowledge in this field to really focus on the issues here in Ithaca and the surrounding area. Finally, an advisor or advisory group that Council could periodically check in with that could give an impartial evaluation of progress in fostering understanding and diverse representation could give welcome and needed feedback.

In recent years Council has begun to use technology (e.g. email, productivity tools, Google’s GSuite, videoconferencing) to accomplish its work. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, this has become an increasingly important element of Council’s work. Describe your level of familiarity with online productivity tools. Do you use similar technologies in your everyday life?

My everyday life involves a considerable amount of email, so I am very familiar with the ins and outs of attachments, embedded links, etc., that go along with it.  I own a laptop and printer/scanner, as well as a smartphone, so I have the technology to facilitate the use of most software and productivity tools. In my work on various committees at EcoVillage I was introduced to Google’s GSuite and had used Google drive and Google docs a bit before my appointment to Council.  In the past month I have become very familiar with Zoom meetings in my community, though this is not the format chosen by Council for it’s meetings Since my Council appointment I have become quite familiar with using Google Drive, Docs, Calendar, and most recently Google Meet, Council’s preferred meeting platform.

Yvonne LaMontagne Attendance Record

Yvonne LaMontagne Attendance Record


Patrick Sewell
psewell@greenstar.coop

Please Note: Council Candidate Statements were due on March 1st, and therefore written and submitted prior to the COVID-19 Outbreak. Pat opted to take a voluntary lay off, and is no longer a GreenStar staff member.

Describe your experience with this cooperative, and cooperatives generally. What makes you passionate about the co-op and/or its mission?

I have been employed at GreenStar since 2004, working in multiple departments including grocery, bulk, and produce. After the Dewitt location opened, I worked there as floor staff and MOD (Manager on Duty). In the last few years I have become a staff sub and work mostly at the satellite locations: Dewitt and Collegetown. Last Spring I was hired to be a Staff Liaison to the Governance Committee and have helped with elections and Council monitoring.

My passion for Co-ops is their vision of an alternative model for enterprise, community engagement, and staff participation. GreenStar has been a leader in these areas, and I look forward to helping it continue this role into the future.

Please explain how your skills and experience will help you to be an effective Council Member and contribute to the work of Council.

An essential job of Council is to create a meaningful and transparent relationship with the Membership, the community, and the cooperative movement at large. My time as a staff member and my involvement with other local organizations allows me to interact regularly with both Members and the broader community to develop and strengthen these relationships.

Additionally, I have experience with labor Unions and regularly negotiate contracts on behalf of a Union at my other employer, Tompkins Cortland Community College. I firmly believe it is possible  to find outcomes that satisfy the needs of multiple parties, and I would use that principle to facilitate Council’s work and its engagement with staff and the broader Membership.

What’s your vision for the future of our cooperative?
Although organic has become incorporated into the mainstream, many of the values that comprised the original organic philosophy have fallen to the wayside. I see GreenStar as a leader in restoring the foundational values inherent in the organic movement, and I believe we can play an increasingly important role in setting a benchmark for fair wages, a sustainable food system, and successful cooperative enterprises.

New candidates: What is your motivation for running for Council?
My work as Governance Committee staff liaison has shown me how important good governance is for the health of the Co-op. Additionally, I would like to strengthen the ties between staff, Members, and Council. I am interested in playing a productive role in helping GreenStar achieve its mission of good food for everyone.

Additional Questions Selected by the Membership Engagement Committee:

Keeping in mind the delineation between Council’s work and operational/staff/management work, do you have any specific goals for your tenure on Council?

A primary goal is to increase communication between members, staff and Council. I hear repeatedly heard from Members and staff that they are unsure of the role of Council, especially as the transition to Policy Governance moves forward. Another goal is to reduce bureaucratic burden for Council members. One of the concerns raised regarding Council is a lack of representative diversity, and I believe this is exacerbated by the level of unnecessary work put on Council Members. 

Democracy gives a voice to all, but the majority decides. How will you handle a situation where you strongly disagree with a decision made by Council? 

I feel like it is very unlikely that this sort of situation would arise because: 

1)    Council already has in place generally agreed upon goals and guidelines, so Council should be operating in a framework of common goals and values.

2)    Before a Council decision is reached, there is the opportunity to discuss different ideas and perspectives, and work towards common understanding across the group. 

In the event that I did disagree with a decision made by Council, I would defer to the concept of Board Holism wherein the Council speaks with one voice when delegating its directions to the General Manager. This is of fundamental importance to good governance so that the General Manager can clearly understand the expectations and outcomes being placed upon them, and I strongly support it.

Saying that, if I strongly, strongly disagree with a decision, I may also wish to express my opinions to the broader public. In doing so, I would recognize the importance of honoring Council’s decision, and actively avoid disrupting the fulfillment of Council’s expectations in any public communications.

One of Council’s goals is to increase its diversity to better match that of its community. Please describe specific steps you would take to help accomplish this, in board recruitment or otherwise. 

As mentioned in the answer to a previous question, I believe one of the barriers to increasing a diversity of participation is the level of unnecessary work related to Council’s job. But the largest barrier is the de-facto segregation in terms of where we live, work, and shop. This is extraordinarily difficult to overcome because our best means of Board recruitment, in-person invitations and communication through social media, are limited by this segregation. 

Over the last few years, operations has done an excellent job of increasing the diversity of the workforce employed at GreenStar, and I believe Council should work closely with operations to see if the same outcome can be achieved at the Board level.

In recent years Council has begun to use technology (e.g. email, productivity tools, Google’s GSuite, videoconferencing) to accomplish its work. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, this has become an increasingly important element of Council’s work. Describe your level of familiarity with online productivity tools. Do you use similar technologies in your everyday life?

Yes, a little too much these days. One of the unintended consequences of “sheltering-in-place” is learning a great deal about online productivity tools and getting a chance to try them out. Though I still strongly prefer in-person meetings and work, I am realizing the great advantage of working real-time on projects when live meetings are difficult/impossible to schedule. It also seems like online tools are underused as a method for reaching out to Members and the general community about GreenStar, and specifically, Council work, so we may want to look into doing more of it.

NOTE: Council members are expected to attend monthly Council meetings regularly, and to serve on at least one standing committee, which also meets monthly. They can volunteer for a second committee or for a non-standing (or “ad hoc”) committee (for which attendance records are not available). Standing committee chairs are part of the Executive Planning Committee, whose monthly meetings they are expected to attend. For candidates who have not been on Council but have served on a GreenStar committee in the past 3 years, attendance records for that committee are included.

Proposed Bylaws Amendments

Note: GreenStar solicited member-owners for con statements, and none were received, thus only pro statements are presented here.

NOTE: Council members are expected to attend monthly Council meetings regularly, and to serve on at least one standing committee, which also meets monthly. They can volunteer for a second committee or for a non-standing (or “ad hoc”) committee (for which attendance records are not available). Standing committee chairs are part of the Executive Planning Committee, whose monthly meetings they are expected to attend. For candidates who have not been on Council but have served on a GreenStar committee in the past 3 years, attendance records for that committee are included.

QUESTION #1: Certificate of Incorporation/Bylaws Discrepancy

GreenStar Cooperative Market is out of compliance with New York State law, which requires an organization’s bylaws to conform to its Certificate of Incorporation. While GreenStar’s Certificate of Incorporation, filed in 1983, states that “the number of directors shall be twelve,” GreenStar’s bylaws state that “the Council shall consist of not fewer than 12 and not more than 24 members,” and that “until changed by amendment, the Council shall consist of 15 members.”

In order to bring GreenStar’s bylaws into compliance with its Certificate of Incorporation, Council must only have twelve seats. Legal counsel retained in 2020 by GreenStar recommended that the issue be addressed as soon as possible, as this discrepancy represents a violation of New York State law. This vote is considered a “housekeeping” item because even though GreenStar’s member-owners must approve any amendments to its bylaws, we must adjust Council’s seats to twelve regardless of the outcome of this vote. In order to avoid any confusion in our Co-op’s organizational documents, Council is asking GreenStar’s member-owners to approve this amendment.

Read the Pro Statement

QUESTION #2: Removal of Council Member

GreenStar’s bylaws allow for removal of a Council member by only one method: public vote. After considering the matter for a number of years, Council has decided to move forward a bylaws amendment that would allow removal of a Council member by Council vote. This method would be less cumbersome, potentially less publicly humiliating, and less costly to the cooperative.

Read the Pro Statement

Voting takes place April 20 – May 20

Questions about the vote? Contact elections@greenstar.coop
Questions about your membership? Contact membership@greenstar.coop

 

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