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Co-op Members Defeat Proposed Bylaw Change

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by Carla Occaso

2015 Hunger Mountain Coop Annual Meeting at Montpelier City Hall.  Courtesy of Hunger Mountain Coop
2015 Hunger Mountain Coop Annual Meeting at Montpelier City Hall.
Courtesy of Hunger Mountain Coop

MONTPELIER — Hunger Mountain Co-op members had their say and the controversial proposed bylaw change was soundly defeated. The gist of the proposed change was to switch from floor vote style (in which only those who attend in person can vote) to an electronic online or paper ballot vote open to members who do not attend the meeting. They held their annual meeting November 15 at Montpelier City Hall.

The original bylaw reads, “amendments to the warned proposed Bylaws amendments considered at Annual Meeting may be made only with the approval of 90 percent of those present and voting.” The proposed new bylaw read,  “Voting … will be by paper or electronic ballot and will commence ten (10) days after the Annual Meeting or specially-called meeting and will continue for 30 days.”

During the meeting, the options were discussed, according to a report sent to The Bridge by Kari Bradley, general manager of Hunger Mountain Coop. Advantages to widening the vote from just members who attend the meeting to members who do not attend the meeting included that it would allow more members to vote, it is a more convenient way to vote and a longer voting period “allows ideas to be debated and shared more widely.” Advantages of the existing system included “it is more important for the Coop to encourage more members to attend the annual meeting than to offer ballot voting,” in-person deliberation is essential and allowing 30 days in which to deliberate online might lead to a quagmire of large volumes of opinion that would become “impossible for mere mortals to comprehend.”

According to the document titled “Bylaw Change Discussion,” those supporting a change to an online system felt that taking it to the ‘Net would be a move to embrace new technology while those who opposed it cited fears that “discussion may become uncivil.” In any case, those who favored the old New England way of doing things in person at the meeting won out. “It was a clear enough majority,” said Bradley, who said the vote was conducted by a show of hands. About 240 people attended.

In addition to bylaw changes, some new faces were elected to the Hunger Mountain Coop Council, including Carl Etnier, Tyler Strange and Marci Young. Re-elected were Council President Alex Brown and Treasurer Scott Hess. The council has nine member-owners who set policy for the co-op and give recommendations to the general manager, according to the website hungermountain.coop.

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