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Willy St. Co-op Issues

I've had a couple of requests for my positions on issues facing the co-operative. Here is what I have so far:

Jenifer St. Egress--MAJOR CORRECTION

I learned some things at the last board meeting of the co-op and then talking with neighbors. When the Co-op moved to its current location, the neighbors had a number of concerns about traffic on Jenifer Street. As the neighbors began mobilizing and making their concerns known, the Co-operative presented a new plan with the egress to Jenifer St. blocked. Technically, the Co-op never entered into any agreement with the neighbors, the city or the neighborhood association regarding Jenifer Street and never gave up any property rights regarding the egress. That said, the neighbors also never gave up their right to oppose and stop the egress. Had the Co-op gone forward with its original plan, the egress issue would have been settled by the Common Council. This is a great example of why co-operative should always use a formal dispute resolution process instead of an informal one. The formal process expresses the ethical values of honesty and openness.

The Co-operative agreed with the neighbors living on Jenifer St. to block motor vehicle access to Jenifer St. As the parking lot (and Williamson Street) has become more congested, members have been asking to have that access back. The neighbors still say no, that it would change their neighborhood making Jenifer more congested and less safe. Jenifer Street is also a bus routes with buses traveling down this stretch about every 17 minutes.

I support other methods currently underway to ease access into the parking lot and calm traffic. I don't support opening up Jenifer St. for the following reasons:
  1. The Co-op made an agreement with the neighbors. Until the neighbors change their mind and collectively agree to open Jenifer St., the co-op should honor the right of the people living on the 1200 block to be safe on their street.
  2. I can't believe that allowing cars to exit onto Jenifer St. will ease the parking lot traffic that much, but it will reduce safety on Jenifer Street especially with the high amount of bicycle and bus traffic.
Free Speech and the Tabling Policy

I support free speech. The co-op should be, and is, the central meeting point of the neighborhood. They are the town square. With 16,000 members (and with households, that means likely the almost 15% of the Madison population) and being a member owned entity they have an obligation to act as a town square. I haven't any problem with restrictions on solicitation for funds, but petitions and leaf-letting should be allowed. Co-operative values encourage us to act as an agent of social transformation and, to me, sheltering food consumers from the political world works against that value.

Sourcing Products from Central America vs. Hawaii

The Co-op has a "buy local" policy that defines local as 150 miles from the co-operative. That is good, but doesn't address the origin of most fruits. The Co-op should consider a number of options when purchasing and the purchasing policy should be reviewed to consider such things as domestic vs. foreign, fair trade, organic, and labor practices (SA8000 certification). I don't know if the carbon footprint of getting pineapples from Hawai'i is less than from Guatemala, but we should know that answer. Co-operation cannot be based on exploitation of the environment, the workers, the children or the community and the purchasing policies should reflect that.


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August 2014



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